Книга Thuvia, Maid of Mars. Содержание - VIII The Hall of Doom

«And Komal is a man?» asked Carthoris.

«He is All, I told you,» replied Jav. «I know not how to explain him in words that you will understand. He is the beginning and the end. All life emanates from Komal, since the substance which feeds the brain with imaginings radiates from the body of Komal.

«Should Komal cease to eat, all life upon Barsoom would cease to be. He cannot die, but he might cease to eat, and, thus, to radiate.»

«And he feeds upon the men and women of your belief?» cried Carthoris.

«Women!» exclaimed Jav. «There are no women in Lothar. The last of the Lotharian females perished ages since, upon that cruel and terrible journey across the muddy plains that fringed the half-dried seas, when the green hordes scourged us across the world to this our last hiding-place-our impregnable fortress of Lothar.

«Scarce twenty thousand men of all the countless millions of our race lived to reach Lothar. Among us were no women and no children. All these had perished by the way.

«As time went on, we, too, were dying and the race fast approaching extinction, when the Great Truth was revealed to us, that mind is all. Many more died before we perfected our powers, but at last we were able to defy death when we fully understood that death was merely a state of mind.

«Then came the creation of mind-people, or rather the materialization of imaginings. We first put these to practical use when the Torquasians discovered our retreat, and fortunate for us it was that it required ages of search upon their part before they found the single tiny entrance to the valley of Lothar.

«That day we threw our first bowmen against them. The intention was purely to frighten them away by the vast numbers of bowmen which we could muster upon our walls. All Lothar bristled with the bows and arrows of our ethereal host.

«But the Torquasians did not frighten. They are lower than the beasts-they know no fear. They rushed upon our walls, and standing upon the shoulders of others they built human approaches to the wall tops, and were on the very point of surging in upon us and overwhelming us.

«Not an arrow had been discharged by our bowmen-we did but cause them to run to and fro along the wall top, screaming taunts and threats at the enemy.

«Presently I thought to attempt the thing-THE GREAT THING. I centred all my mighty intellect upon the bowmen of my own creation-each of us produces and directs as many bowmen as his mentality and imagination is capable of.

«I caused them to fit arrows to their bows for the first time. I made them take aim at the hearts of the green men. I made the green men see all this, and then I made them see the arrows fly, and I made them think that the points pierced their hearts.

«It was all that was necessary. By hundreds they toppled from our walls, and when my fellows saw what I had done they were quick to follow my example, so that presently the hordes of Torquas had retreated beyond the range of our arrows.

«We might have killed them at any distance, but one rule of war we have maintained from the first-the rule of realism. We do nothing, or rather we cause our bowmen to do nothing within sight of the enemy that is beyond the understanding of the foe. Otherwise they might guess the truth, and that would be the end of us.

«But after the Torquasians had retreated beyond bowshot, they turned upon us with their terrible rifles, and by constant popping at us made life miserable within our walls.

«So then I bethought the scheme to hurl our bowmen through the gates upon them. You have seen this day how well it works. For ages they have come down upon us at intervals, but always with the same results.»

«And all this is due to your intellect, Jav?» asked Carthoris. «I should think that you would be high in the councils of your people.»

«I am,» replied Jav, proudly. «I am next to Tario.»

«But why, then, your cringing manner of approaching the throne?»

«Tario demands it. He is jealous of me. He only awaits the slightest excuse to feed me to Komal. He fears that I may some day usurp his power.»

Carthoris suddenly sprang from the table.

«Jav!» he exclaimed. «I am a beast! Here I have been eating my fill, while the Princess of Ptarth may perchance be still without food. Let us return and find some means of furnishing her with nourishment.»

The Lotharian shook his head.

«Tario would not permit it,» he said. «He will, doubtless, make an etherealist of her.»

«But I must go to her,» insisted Carthoris. «You say that there are no women in Lothar. Then she must be among men, and if this be so I intend to be near where I may defend her if the need arises.»

«Tario will have his way,» insisted Jav. «He sent you away and you may not return until he sends for you.»

«Then I shall go without waiting to be sent for.»

«Do not forget the bowmen,» cautioned Jav.

«I do not forget them,» replied Carthoris, but he did not tell Jav that he remembered something else that the Lotharian had let drop-something that was but a conjecture, possibly, and yet one well worth pinning a forlorn hope to, should necessity arise.

Carthoris started to leave the room. Jav stepped before him, barring his way.

«I have learned to like you, red man,» he said; «but do not forget that Tario is still my jeddak, and that Tario has commanded that you remain here.»

Carthoris was about to reply, when there came faintly to the ears of both a woman's cry for help.

With a sweep of his arm the Prince of Helium brushed the Lotharian aside, and with drawn sword sprang into the corridor without.

VIII The Hall of Doom

As Thuvia of Ptarth saw Carthoris depart from the presence of Tario, leaving her alone with the man, a sudden qualm of terror seized her.

There was an air of mystery pervading the stately chamber. Its furnishings and appointments bespoke wealth and culture, and carried the suggestion that the room was often the scene of royal functions which filled it to its capacity.

And yet nowhere about her, in antechamber or corridor, was there sign of any other being than herself and the recumbent figure of Tario, the jeddak, who watched her through half-closed eyes from the gorgeous trappings of his regal couch.

For a time after the departure of Jav and Carthoris the man eyed her intently. Then he spoke.

«Come nearer,» he said, and, as she approached: «Whose creature are you? Who has dared materialize his imaginings of woman? It is contrary to the customs and the royal edicts of Lothar. Tell me, woman, from whose brain have you sprung? Jav's? No, do not deny it. I know that it could be no other than that envious realist. He seeks to tempt me. He would see me fall beneath the spell of your charms, and then he, your master, would direct my destiny and-my end. I see it all! I see it all!»

The blood of indignation and anger had been rising to Thuvia's face. Her chin was up, a haughty curve upon her perfect lips.

«I know naught,» she cried, «of what you are prating! I am Thuvia, Princess of Ptarth. I am no man's 'creature.' Never before to-day did I lay eyes upon him you call Jav, nor upon your ridiculous city, of which even the greatest nations of Barsoom have never dreamed.

«My charms are not for you, nor such as you. They are not for sale or barter, even though the price were a real throne. And as for using them to win your worse than futile power-«She ended her sentence with a shrug of her shapely shoulders, and a little scornful laugh.

When she had finished Tario was sitting upon the edge of his couch, his feet upon the floor. He was leaning forward with eyes no longer half closed, but wide with a startled expression in them.

He did not seem to note the LESE MAJESTE of her words and manner. There was evidently something more startling and compelling about her speech than that.

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