The Gods of Mars HTML version
Chapter 2. A Forest Battle
Tars Tarkas and I found no time for an exchange of experiences as we stood there before
the great boulder surrounded by the corpses of our grotesque assailants, for from all
directions down the broad valley was streaming a perfect torrent of terrifying creatures in
response to the weird call of the strange figure far above us.
"Come," cried Tars Tarkas, "we must make for the cliffs. There lies our only hope of
even temporary escape; there we may find a cave or a narrow ledge which two may
defend for ever against this motley, unarmed horde."
Together we raced across the scarlet sward, I timing my speed that I might not
outdistance my slower companion. We had, perhaps, three hundred yards to cover
between our boulder and the cliffs, and then to search out a suitable shelter for our stand
against the terrifying things that were pursuing us.
They were rapidly overhauling us when Tars Tarkas cried to me to hasten ahead and
discover, if possible, the sanctuary we sought. The suggestion was a good one, for thus
many valuable minutes might be saved to us, and, throwing every ounce of my earthly
muscles into the effort, I cleared the remaining distance between myself and the cliffs in
great leaps and bounds that put me at their base in a moment.
The cliffs rose perpendicular directly from the almost level sward of the valley. There
was no accumulation of fallen debris, forming a more or less rough ascent to them, as is
the case with nearly all other cliffs I have ever seen. The scattered boulders that had
fallen from above and lay upon or partly buried in the turf, were the only indication that
any disintegration of the massive, towering pile of rocks ever had taken place.
My first cursory inspection of the face of the cliffs filled my heart with forebodings, since
nowhere could I discern, except where the weird herald stood still shrieking his shrill
summons, the faintest indication of even a bare foothold upon the lofty escarpment.
To my right the bottom of the cliff was lost in the dense foliage of the forest, which
terminated at its very foot, rearing its gorgeous foliage fully a thousand feet against its
stern and forbidding neighbour.
To the left the cliff ran, apparently unbroken, across the head of the broad valley, to be
lost in the outlines of what appeared to be a range of mighty mountains that skirted and
confined the valley in every direction.
Perhaps a thousand feet from me the river broke, as it seemed, directly from the base of
the cliffs, and as there seemed not the remotest chance for escape in that direction I
turned my attention again toward the forest.