released prisoners to keep careful watch.
In an instant I was asleep.
Chapter V - Corridors of Peril
How long I slept upon the floor of the storeroom I do not know, but it
must have been many hours.
I was awakened with a start by cries of alarm, and scarce were my eyes
opened, nor had I yet sufficiently collected my wits to quite realize
where I was, when a fusillade of shots rang out, reverberating through
the subterranean corridors in a series of deafening echoes.
In an instant I was upon my feet. A dozen lesser therns confronted us
from a large doorway at the opposite end of the storeroom from which we
had entered. About me lay the bodies of my companions, with the
exception of Thuvia and Tars Tarkas, who, like myself, had been asleep
upon the floor and thus escaped the first raking fire.
As I gained my feet the therns lowered their wicked rifles, their faces
distorted in mingled chagrin, consternation, and alarm.
Instantly I rose to the occasion.
“What means this?” I cried in tones of fierce anger. “Is Sator Throg
to be murdered by his own vassals?”
“Have mercy, O Master of the Tenth Cycle!” cried one of the fellows,
while the others edged toward the doorway as though to attempt a
surreptitious escape from the presence of the mighty one.
“Ask them their mission here,” whispered Thuvia at my elbow.
“What do you here, fellows?” I cried.
“Two from the outer world are at large within the dominions of the
therns. We sought them at the command of the Father of Therns. One
was white with black hair, the other a huge green warrior,” and here
the fellow cast a suspicious glance toward Tars Tarkas.
“Here, then, is one of them,” spoke Thuvia, indicating the Thark, “and
if you will look upon this dead man by the door perhaps you will
recognize the other. It was left for Sator Throg and his poor slaves
to accomplish what the lesser therns of the guard were unable to do—we
have killed one and captured the other; for this had Sator Throg given
us our liberty. And now in your stupidity have you come and killed all
but myself, and like to have killed the mighty Sator Throg himself.”
The men looked very sheepish and very scared.
“Had they not better throw these bodies to the plant men and then
return to their quarters, O Mighty One?” asked Thuvia of me.
“Yes; do as Thuvia bids you,” I said.
As the men picked up the bodies I noticed that the one who stooped to
gather up the late Sator Throg started as his closer scrutiny fell upon
the upturned face, and then the fellow stole a furtive, sneaking glance
in my direction from the corner of his eye.
That he suspicioned something of the truth I could have sworn; but that
it was only a suspicion which he did not dare voice was evidenced by
Again, as he bore the body from the room, he shot a quick but searching
glance toward me, and then his eyes fell once more upon the bald and
shiny dome of the dead man in his arms. The last fleeting glimpse that
I obtained of his profile as he passed from my sight without the
chamber revealed a cunning smile of triumph upon his lips.
Only Tars Tarkas, Thuvia, and I were left. The fatal marksmanship of
the therns had snatched from our companions whatever slender chance
they had of gaining the perilous freedom of the world without.
So soon as the last of the gruesome procession had disappeared the girl
urged us to take up our flight once more.
She, too, had noted the questioning attitude of the thern who had borne
Sator Throg away.
“It bodes no good for us, O Prince,” she said. “For even though this
fellow dared not chance accusing you in error, there be those above
with power sufficient to demand a closer scrutiny, and that, Prince
would indeed prove fatal.”
I shrugged my shoulders. It seemed that in any event the outcome of
our plight must end in death. I was refreshed from my sleep, but still
weak from loss of blood. My wounds were painful. No medicinal aid