Warlord of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 27

vassals
and dependents, dispensed the spiritual words among the half dozen
nations of Barsoom that still clung tenaciously to their false and
discredited religion.

Darkness was just falling as we came in sight of the seemingly
impregnable walls of this mountain stronghold, and lest we be seen
I drew back with Woola behind a jutting granite promontory, into
a clump of the hardy, purple scrub that thrives upon the barren
sides of Otz.

Here we lay until the quick transition from daylight to darkness
had passed. Then I crept out to approach the fortress walls in
search of a way within.

Either through carelessness or over-confidence in the supposed
inaccessibility of their hiding place, the triple-barred gate stood
ajar. Beyond were a handful of guards, laughing and talking over
one of their incomprehensible Barsoomian games.

I saw that none of the guardsmen had been of the party that
accompanied Thurid and Matai Shang; and so, relying entirely upon
my disguise, I walked boldly through the gateway and up to the
thern guard.

The men stopped their game and looked up at me, but there was no
sign of suspicion. Similarly they looked at Woola, growling at my
heel.

"Kaor!" I said in true Martian greeting, and the warriors arose and
saluted me. "I have but just found my way hither from the Golden
Cliffs," I continued, "and seek audience with the hekkador, Matai
Shang, Father of Therns. Where may he be found?"

"Follow me," said one of the guard, and, turning, led me across
the outer courtyard toward a second buttressed wall.

Why the apparent ease with which I seemingly deceived them did
not rouse my suspicions I know not, unless it was that my mind was
still so full of that fleeting glimpse of my beloved princess that
there was room in it for naught else. Be that as it may, the fact
is that I marched buoyantly behind my guide straight into the jaws
of death.

Afterward I learned that thern spies had been aware of my coming
for hours before I reached the hidden fortress.

The gate had been purposely left ajar to tempt me on. The guards
had been schooled well in their part of the conspiracy; and I,
more like a schoolboy than a seasoned warrior, ran headlong into
the trap.

At the far side of the outer court a narrow door let into the
angle made by one of the buttresses with the wall. Here my guide
produced a key and opened the way within; then, stepping back, he
motioned me to enter.

"Matai Shang is in the temple court beyond,"

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