Thuvia, Maid of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 99

no possibility could they have
intercepted him. Carthoris, fearful lest Vas Kor might similarly
elude him, or Astok return immediately with reinforcements, sprang
viciously in upon his antagonist, and a moment later the headless
body of the Dusarian noble rolled upon the ersite floor.

"Come!" cried Carthoris. "There is no time to be lost. Astok will
be back in a moment with enough warriors to overpower me."

But Astok had no such plan in mind, for such a move would have
meant the spreading of the fact among the palace gossips that the
Ptarthian princess was a prisoner in the east tower. Quickly would
the word have come to his father, and no amount of falsifying could
have explained away the facts that the jeddak's investigation would
have brought to light.

Instead Astok was racing madly through a long corridor to reach
the door of the tower-room before Carthoris and Thuvia left the
apartment. He had seen the girl remove the key and place it in
her pocket-pouch, and he knew that a dagger point driven into the
keyhole from the opposite side would imprison them in the secret
chamber till eight dead worlds circled a cold, dead sun.

As fast as he could run Astok entered the main corridor that led
to the tower chamber. Would he reach the door in time? What if
the Heliumite should have already emerged and he should run upon
him in the passageway? Astok felt a cold chill run up his spine.
He had no stomach to face that uncanny blade.

He was almost at the door. Around the next turn of the corridor
it stood. No, they had not left the apartment. Evidently Vas Kor
was still holding the Heliumite!

Astok could scarce repress a grin at the clever manner in which he
had outwitted the noble and disposed of him at the same time. And
then he rounded the turn and came face to face with an auburn-haired,
white giant.

The fellow did not wait to ask the reason for his coming; instead
he leaped upon him with a long-sword, so that Astok had to parry a
dozen vicious cuts before he could disengage himself and flee back
down the runway.

A moment later Carthoris and Thuvia entered the corridor from the
secret chamber.

"Well, Kar Komak?" asked the Heliumite.

"It is fortunate that you left me here, red man," said the bowman.
"I but just now intercepted one who seemed over-anxious to reach
this door--it was he whom they call Astok, Prince of Dusar."

Carthoris smiled.

"Where is he now?"

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