Warlord of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 68

entrance to the eighth chamber, while I deliberately
showed myself to the guardian apt as he looked toward our retreat.
Then I sprang to the opposite side of the entrance, flattening my
body close to the wall.

Without a sound the great beast moved rapidly toward the seventh
cave to see what manner of intruder had thus rashly penetrated so
far within the precincts of his habitation.

As he poked his head through the narrow aperture that connects the
two caves a heavy long-sword was awaiting him upon either hand,
and before he had an opportunity to emit even a single growl his
severed head rolled at our feet.

Quickly we glanced into the eighth chamber--not an apt had moved.
Crawling over the carcass of the huge beast that blocked the doorway
Thuvan Dihn and I cautiously entered the forbidding and dangerous
den.

Like snails we wound our silent and careful way among the huge,
recumbent forms. The only sound above our breathing was the sucking
noise of our feet as we lifted them from the ooze of decaying flesh
through which we crept.

Halfway across the chamber and one of the mighty beasts directly
before me moved restlessly at the very instant that my foot was
poised above his head, over which I must step.

Breathlessly I waited, balancing upon one foot, for I did not dare
move a muscle. In my right hand was my keen short-sword, the point
hovering an inch above the thick fur beneath which beat the savage
heart.

Finally the apt relaxed, sighing, as with the passing of a bad dream,
and resumed the regular respiration of deep slumber. I planted my
raised foot beyond the fierce head and an instant later had stepped
over the beast.

Thuvan Dihn followed directly after me, and another moment found
us at the further door, undetected.

The Carrion Caves consist of a series of twenty-seven connecting
chambers, and present the appearance of having been eroded by
running water in some far-gone age when a mighty river found its
way to the south through this single breach in the barrier of rock
and ice that hems the country of the pole.

Thuvan Dihn and I traversed the remaining nineteen caverns without
adventure or mishap.

We were afterward to learn that but once a month is it possible to
find all the apts of the Carrion Caves in a single chamber.

At other times they roam singly or in pairs in and out of the
caves, so that it would have been practically impossible for two
men to have passed through the entire twenty-seven chambers without
encountering an apt in

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