Warlord of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 28

he said; and as Woola
and I passed through, the fellow closed the door quickly upon us.

The nasty laugh that came to my ears through the heavy planking of
the door after the lock clicked was my first intimation that all
was not as it should be.

I found myself in a small, circular chamber within the buttress.
Before me a door opened, presumably, upon the inner court beyond.
For a moment I hesitated, all my suspicions now suddenly, though
tardily, aroused; then, with a shrug of my shoulders, I opened the
door and stepped out into the glare of torches that lighted the
inner court.

Directly opposite me a massive tower rose to a height of three
hundred feet. It was of the strangely beautiful modern Barsoomian
style of architecture, its entire surface hand carved in bold
relief with intricate and fanciful designs. Thirty feet above
the courtyard and overlooking it was a broad balcony, and there,
indeed, was Matai Shang, and with him were Thurid and Phaidor,
Thuvia, and Dejah Thoris--the last two heavily ironed. A handful
of thern warriors stood just behind the little party.

As I entered the enclosure the eyes of those in the balcony were
full upon me.

An ugly smile distorted the cruel lips of Matai Shang. Thurid
hurled a taunt at me and placed a familiar hand upon the shoulder
of my princess. Like a tigress she turned upon him, striking the
beast a heavy blow with the manacles upon her wrist.

He would have struck back had not Matai Shang interfered, and then
I saw that the two men were not over-friendly; for the manner of
the thern was arrogant and domineering as he made it plain to the
First Born that the Princess of Helium was the personal property
of the Father of Therns. And Thurid's bearing toward the ancient
hekkador savored not at all of liking or respect.

When the altercation in the balcony had subsided Matai Shang turned
again to me.

"Earth man," he cried, "you have earned a more ignoble death than
now lies within our weakened power to inflict upon you; but that the
death you die tonight may be doubly bitter, know you that when you
have passed, your widow becomes the wife of Matai Shang, Hekkador
of the Holy Therns, for a Martian year.

"At the end of that time, as you know, she shall be discarded,
as is the law among us, but not, as is usual, to lead a quiet and
honored life as high priestess of some hallowed shrine. Instead,
Dejah Thoris, Princess of

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