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A Princess of Mars

One chieftain alone had hesitated before departing; I saw him standing in the shadows of
a mighty column, his fingers nervously toying with the hilt of his great-sword and his
cruel eyes bent in implacable hatred upon Tal Hajus. It was Tars Tarkas, and I could read
his thoughts as they were an open book for the undisguised loathing upon his face. He
was thinking of that other woman who, forty years ago, had stood before this beast, and
could I have spoken a word into his ear at that moment the reign of Tal Hajus would have
been over; but finally he also strode from the room, not knowing that he left his own
daughter at the mercy of the creature he most loathed.
Tal Hajus arose, and I, half fearing, half anticipating his intentions, hurried to the winding
runway which led to the floors below. No one was near to intercept me, and I reached the
main floor of the chamber unobserved, taking my station in the shadow of the same
column that Tars Tarkas had but just deserted. As I reached the floor Tal Hajus was
speaking.
"Princess of Helium, I might wring a mighty ransom from your people would I but return
you to them unharmed, but a thousand times rather would I watch that beautiful face
writhe in the agony of torture; it shall be long drawn out, that I promise you; ten days of
pleasure were all too short to show the love I harbor for your race. The terrors of your
death shall haunt the slumbers of the red men through all the ages to come; they will
shudder in the shadows of the night as their fathers tell them of the awful vengeance of
the green men; of the power and might and hate and cruelty of Tal Hajus. But before the
torture you shall be mine for one short hour, and word of that too shall go forth to Tardos
Mors, Jeddak of Helium, your grandfather, that he may grovel upon the ground in the
agony of his sorrow. Tomorrow the torture will commence; tonight thou art Tal Hajus';
come!"
He sprang down from the platform and grasped her roughly by the arm, but scarcely had
he touched her than I leaped between them. My short-sword, sharp and gleaming was in
my right hand; I could have plunged it into his putrid heart before he realized that I was
upon him; but as I raised my arm to strike I thought of Tars Tarkas, and, with all my rage,
with all my hatred, I could not rob him of that sweet moment for which he had lived and
hoped all these long, weary years, and so, instead, I swung my good right fist full upon
the point of his jaw. Without a sound he slipped to the floor as one dead.
In the same deathly silence I grasped Dejah Thoris by the hand, and motioning Sola to
follow we sped noiselessly from the chamber and to the floor above. Unseen we reached
a rear window and with the straps and leather of my trappings I lowered, first Sola and
then Dejah Thoris to the ground below. Dropping lightly after them I drew them rapidly
around the court in the shadows of the buildings, and thus we returned over the same
course I had so recently followed from the distant boundary of the city.
We finally came upon my thoats in the courtyard where I had left them, and placing the
trappings upon them we hastened through the building to the avenue beyond. Mounting,
Sola upon one beast, and Dejah Thoris behind me upon the other, we rode from the city
of Thark through the hills to the south.
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