Dungeon crawling on Barsoom

Michael Whelan's cover for "A Fighting Man of Mars"

“We reached the city of Warhoon after some three days’ march and I was immediately cast into a dungeon and heavily chained to the floor and walls. Food was brought me at intervals but owing to the utter darkness of the place I do not know whether I lay there days, or weeks, or months. It was the most horrible experience of all my life and that my mind did not give way to the terrors of that inky blackness has been a wonder to me ever since. The place was filled with creeping, crawling things; cold, sinuous bodies passed over me when I lay down, and in the darkness I occasionally caught glimpses of gleaming, fiery eyes, fixed in horrible intentness upon me.” — A Princess of Mars, Chapter 18, “Chained in Warhoon”

“‘Labyrinthine passages connect these caves with the luxurious palaces of the Holy Therns, and through them pass upon their many duties the lesser therns, and hordes of slaves, and prisoners, and fierce beasts; the grim inhabitants of this sunless world.

“‘There be within this vast network of winding passages and countless chambers men, women, and beasts who, born within its dim and gruesome underworld, have never seen the light of day–nor ever shall.'” — The Gods of Mars, Chapter 4, “Thuvia”

“The room was filled with specimens of the strange beings that inhabit this underworld; a heterogeneous collection of hybrids–the offspring of the prisoners from the outside world; red and green Martians and the white race of therns.

“Constant confinement below ground had wrought odd freaks upon their skins. They more resemble corpses than living beings. Many are deformed, others maimed, while the majority, Thuvia explained, are sightless.

…”‘Why is it that we see no therns?’ I asked of Thuvia.

“‘They seldom traverse the underworld at night, for then it is that the great banths prowl the dim corridors seeking their prey. The therns fear the awful denizens of this cruel and hopeless world that they have fostered and allowed to grow beneath their feet.'” — The Gods of Mars, Chapter 5, “Corridors of Peril”

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