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9. CHAPTER IX : THE BATTLE IN THE PLAIN
The distance from the bottom of the funnel to the floor of the chamber beneath it could not have been great, for all three of the victims of Tario's wrath alighted unscathed.
Carthoris, still clasping Thuvia tightly to his breast, came to the ground catlike, upon his feet, breaking the shock for the girl. Scarce had his feet touched the rough stone flagging of this new chamber than his sword flashed out ready for instant use. But though the room was lighted, there was no sign of enemy about.
Carthoris looked toward Jav. The man was pasty white with fear.
"What is to be our fate?" asked the Heliumite. "Tell me, man! Shake off your terror long enough to tell me, so I may be prepared to sell my life and that of the Princess of Ptarth as dearly as possible."
"Komal!" whispered Jav. "We are to be devoured by Komal!"
"Your deity?" asked Carthoris.
The Lotharian nodded his head. Then he pointed toward a low doorway at one end of the chamber.
"From thence will he come upon us. Lay aside your puny sword, fool. It will but enrage him the more and make our sufferings the worse."
Carthoris smiled, gripping his long-sword the more firmly.
Presently Jav gave a horrified moan, at the same time pointing toward the door.
"He has come," he whimpered.
Carthoris and Thuvia looked in the direction the Lotharian had indicated, expecting to see some strange and fearful creature in human form; but to their astonishment they saw the broad head and great-maned shoulders of a huge banth, the largest that either ever had seen.
Slowly and with dignity the mighty beast advanced into the room. Jav had fallen to the floor, and was wriggling his body in the same servile manner that he had adopted toward Tario. He spoke to the fierce beast as he would have spoken to a human being, pleading with it for mercy.
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