To attempt to pass through the midst of that fierce herd seemed, even to me, the height of folly, and so I proposed to Thuvan Dihn that he return to the outer world with Woola, that the two might find their way to civilization and come again with a sufficient force to overcome not only the apts, but any further obstacles that might lie between us and our goal.
From where we stood we saw that the fighting among the apts was growing less, and that many that had been feeding had ceased and lain down to sleep.
We were afterward to learn that but once a month is it possible to find all the apts of the Carrion Caves in a single chamber.
Shortly after this we came upon the hugest apt that we had seen.
Even when their bellies are full and they can eat no more, they kill purely for the pleasure which they derive from taking life, and so when this particular apt failed to charge us, and instead wheeled and trotted away as we neared him, I should have been greatly surprised had I not chanced to glimpse the sheen of a golden collar about its neck.
Only man could have placed that collar there, and as no race of Martians of which we knew aught ever had attempted to domesticate the ferocious apt, he must belong to a people of the north of whose very existence we were ignorant--possibly to the fabled yellow men of Barsoom; that once powerful race which was supposed to be extinct, though sometimes, by theorists, thought still to exist in the frozen north.
One by one the remaining brutes stretched themselves upon the bubbling decomposition that covered the mass of bones upon the floor of their den, until but a single apt remained awake.
To this end Thuvan Dihn placed himself close against the cave's wall, beside the entrance to the eighth chamber, while I deliberately showed myself to the guardian apt as he looked toward our retreat.
Quickly we glanced into the eighth chamber--not an apt had moved.
Finally the apt relaxed, sighing, as with the passing of a bad dream, and resumed the regular respiration of deep slumber.
At other times they roam singly or in pairs in and out of the caves, so that it would have been practically impossible for two men to have passed through the entire twenty-seven chambers without encountering an apt in nearly every one of them.
All were clothed in magnificent furs--the six in the black and yellow striped hide of the orluk, while he who approached alone was resplendent in the pure white skin of an apt.