The Chessmen of Mars
by Edgar Rice Burroughs
PRELUDE. JOHN CARTER COMES TO EARTH
SHEA had just beaten me at chess, as usual, and, also as usual, I
had gleaned what questionable satisfaction I might by twitting
him with this indication of failing mentality by calling his
attention to the nth time to that theory, propounded by certain
scientists, which is based upon the assertion that phenomenal
chess players are always found to be from the ranks of children
under twelve, adults over seventy-two or the mentally
defective--a theory that is lightly ignored upon those rare
occasions that I win. Shea had gone to bed and I should have
followed suit, for we are always in the saddle here before
sunrise; but instead I sat there before the chess table in the
library, idly blowing smoke at the dishonored head of my defeated
While thus profitably employed I heard the east door of the
living-room open and someone enter. I thought it was Shea
returning to speak with me on some matter of tomorrow's work; but
when I raised my eyes to the doorway that connects the two rooms
I saw framed there the figure of a bronzed giant, his otherwise
naked body trapped with a jewel-encrusted harness from which
there hung at one side an ornate short-sword and at the other a
pistol of strange pattern. The black hair, the steel-gray eyes,
brave and smiling, the noble features--I recognized them at once,
and leaping to my feet I advanced with outstretched hand.
"John Carter!" I cried. "You?"
"None other, my son," he replied, taking my hand in one of his
and placing the other upon my shoulder.
"And what are you doing here?" I asked. "It has been long years
since you revisited Earth, and never before in the trappings of
Mars. Lord! but it is good to see you--and not a day older in
appearance than when you trotted me on your knee in my babyhood.
How do you explain it, John Carter, Warlord of Mars, or do you
try to explain it?"
"Why attempt to explain the inexplicable?" he replied. "As I have
told you before, I am a very old man. I do not know how old I am.
I recall no childhood; but recollect only having been always as
you see me now and as you saw me first when you were five years
old. You, yourself, have aged, though not as much as most men in
a corresponding number of years, which may be accounted for by
the fact that the same blood runs in our veins; but I have not
aged at all. I have discussed the question with a noted Martian
scientist, a friend of mine; but his theories are still only
theories. However, I am content with the fact--I never age, and I
love life and the vigor of youth.
"And now as to your natural question as to what brings me to
Earth again and in this, to earthly eyes, strange habiliment. We
may thank Kar Komak, the bowman of Lothar. It was he who gave me
the idea upon which I have been experimenting until at last I
have achieved success. As you know I have long possessed the
power to cross the void in spirit, but never before have I been
able to impart to inanimate things a similar power. Now, however,
you see me for the first time precisely as my Martian fellows see
me--you see the very short-sword that has tasted the blood of
many a savage foeman; the harness with the devices of Helium and
the insignia of my rank; the pistol that was presented to me by
Tars Tarkas, Jeddak of Thark.
"Aside from seeing you, which is my principal reason for being
here, and satisfying myself that I can transport inanimate things
from Mars to Earth, and therefore animate things if I so desire,
I have no purpose. Earth is not for me. My every interest is upon
Barsoom--my wife, my children, my work; all are there. I will
spend a quiet evening with you and then back to the world I love
even better than I love life."
As he spoke he dropped into the chair upon the opposite side of
the chess table.
"You spoke of children," I said. "Have you more than Carthoris?"
"A daughter," he replied, "only a little younger than Carthoris,
and, barring one, the fairest thing that ever breathed the thin
air of dying Mars. Only Dejah Thoris, her mother, could be more
beautiful than Tara of Helium."
For a moment he fingered the chessmen idly. "We have a game on
Mars similar to chess," he said, "very similar.
And there is a race there that plays it grimly with men and naked
swords. We call the game jetan. It is played on a board like
yours, except that there are a hundred squares and we use twenty
pieces on each side. I never see it played without thinking of
Tara of Helium and what befell her among the chessmen of Barsoom.
Would you like to hear her story?"
I said that I would and so he told it to me, and now I shall try
to re-tell it for you as nearly in the words of The Warlord of
Mars as I can recall them, but in the third person. If there be
inconsistencies and errors, let the blame fall not upon John
Carter, but rather upon my faulty memory, where it belongs. It is
a strange tale and utterly Barsoomian.
CHAPTER I. TARA IN A TANTRUM
TARA of Helium rose from the pile of silks and soft furs upon
which she had been reclining, stretched her lithe body languidly,
and crossed toward the center of the room, where, above a large
table, a bronze disc depended from the low ceiling. Her carriage
was that of health and physical perfection--the effortless
harmony of faultless coordination. A scarf of silken gossamer
crossing over one shoulder was wrapped about her body; her black
hair was piled high upon her head. With a wooden stick she tapped
upon the bronze disc, lightly, and presently the summons was
answered by a slave girl, who entered, smiling, to be greeted
similarly by her mistress.
"Are my father's guests arriving?" asked the princess.
"Yes, Tara of Helium, they come," replied the slave. "I have seen
Kantos Kan, Overlord of the Navy, and Prince Soran of Ptarth, and
Djor Kantos, son of Kantos Kan," she shot a roguish glance at her
mistress as she mentioned Djor Kantos' name, "and--oh, there were
others, many have come."
"The bath, then, Uthia," said her mistress. "And why, Uthia," she
added, "do you look thus and smile when you mention the name of
The slave girl laughed gaily. "It is so plain to all that he
worships you," she replied.
"It is not plain to me," said Tara of Helium. "He is the friend
of my brother, Carthoris, and so he is here much; but not to see
me. It is his friendship for Carthoris that brings him thus often
to the palace of my father."
"But Carthoris is hunting in the north with Talu, Jeddak of
Okar," Uthia reminded her.
"My bath, Uthia!" cried Tara of Helium. "That tongue of yours
will bring you to some misadventure yet."
"The bath is ready, Tara of Helium," the girl responded, her eyes
still twinkling with merriment, for she well knew that in the
heart of her mistress was no anger that could displace the love
of the princess for her slave. Preceding the daughter of The
Warlord she opened the door of an adjoining room where lay the
bath--a gleaming pool of scented water in a marble basin. Golden
stanchions supported a chain of gold encircling it and leading
down into the water on either side of marble steps. A glass dome
let in the sun-light, which flooded the interior, glancing from
the polished white of the marble walls and the procession of
bathers and fishes, which, in conventional design, were inlaid
with gold in a broad band that circled the room.
Tara of Helium removed the scarf from about her and handed it to
the slave. Slowly she descended the steps to the water, the
temperature of which she tested with a symmetrical foot,
undeformed by tight shoes and high heels--a lovely foot, as God
intended that feet should be and seldom are. Finding the water to
her liking, the girl swam leisurely to and fro about the pool.
With the silken ease of the seal she swam, now at the surface,
now below, her smooth muscles rolling softly beneath her clear
skin--a wordless song of health and happiness and grace.
Presently she emerged and gave herself into the hands of the
slave girl, who rubbed the body of her mistress with a sweet
smelling semi-liquid substance contained in a golden urn, until
the glowing skin was covered with a foamy lather, then a quick
plunge into the pool, a drying with soft towels, and the bath was
over. Typical of the life of the princess was the simple elegance
of her bath--no retinue of useless slaves, no pomp, no idle waste
of precious moments. In another half hour her hair was dried and
built into the strange, but becoming, coiffure of her station;
her leathern trappings, encrusted with gold and jewels, had been
adjusted to her figure and she was ready to mingle with the
guests that had been bidden to the midday function at the palace
of The Warlord.
As she left her apartments to make her way to the gardens where
the guests were congregating, two warriors, the insignia of the
House of the Prince of Helium upon their harness, followed a few
paces behind her, grim reminders that the assassin's blade may
never be ignored upon Barsoom, where, in a measure, it
counterbalances the great natural span of human life, which is
estimated at not less than a thousand years.
As they neared the entrance to the garden another woman,
similarly guarded, approached them from another quarter of the
great palace. As she neared them Tara of Helium turned toward her
with a smile and a happy greeting, while her guards knelt with
bowed heads in willing and voluntary adoration of the beloved of
Helium. Thus always, solely at the command of their own hearts,
did the warriors of Helium greet Dejah Thoris, whose deathless
beauty had more than once brought them to bloody warfare with
other nations of Barsoom. So great was the love of the people of
Helium for the mate of John Carter it amounted practically to
worship, as though she were indeed the goddess that she looked.
The mother and daughter exhanged the gentle, Barsoomian, "kaor"
of greeting and kissed. Then together they entered the gardens
where the guests were. A huge warrior drew his short-sword and
struck his metal shield with the flat of it, the brazen sound
ringing out above the laughter and the speech.
"The Princess comes!" he cried. "Dejah Thoris! The Princess
comes! Tara of Helium!" Thus always is royalty announced. The
guests arose; the two women inclined their heads; the guards fell
back upon either side of the entrance-way; a number of nobles
advanced to pay their respects; the laughing and the talking were
resumed and Dejah Thoris and her daughter moved simply and
naturally among their guests, no suggestion of differing rank
apparent in the bearing of any who were there, though there was
more than a single Jeddak and many common warriors whose only
title lay in brave deeds, or noble patriotism. Thus it is upon
Mars where men are judged upon their own merits rather than upon
those of their grandsires, even though pride of lineage be great.
Tara of Helium let her slow gaze wander among the throng of
guests until presently it halted upon one she sought. Was the
faint shadow of a frown that crossed her brow an indication of
displeasure at the sight that met her eyes, or did the brilliant
rays of the noonday sun distress her? Who may say! She had been
reared to believe that one day she should wed Djor Kantos, son of
her father's best friend. It had been the dearest wish of Kantos
Kan and The Warlord that this should be, and Tara of Helium had
accepted it as a matter of all but accomplished fact. Djor Kantos
had seemed to accept the matter in the same way. They had spoken
of it casually as something that would, as a matter of course,
take place in the indefinite future, as, for instance, his
promotion in the navy, in which he was now a padwar; or the set
functions of the court of her grandfather, Tardos Mors, Jeddak of
Helium; or Death. They had never spoken of love and that had
puzzled Tara of Helium upon the rare occasions she gave it
thought, for she knew that people who were to wed were usually
much occupied with the matter of love and she had all of a
woman's curiosity--she wondered what love was like. She was very
fond of Djor Kantos and she knew that he was very fond of her.
They liked to be together, for they liked the same things and the
same people and the same books and their dancing was a joy, not
only to themselves but to those who watched them. She could not
imagine wanting to marry anyone other than Djor Kantos.
So perhaps it was only the sun that made her brows contract just
the tiniest bit at the same instant that she discovered Djor
Kantos sitting in earnest conversation with Olvia Marthis,
daughter of the Jed of Hastor. It was Djor Kantos' duty
immediately to pay his respects to Dejah Thoris and Tara of
Helium; but he did not do so and presently the daughter of The
Warlord frowned indeed. She looked long at Olvia Marthis, and
though she had seen her many times before and knew her well, she
looked at her today through new eyes that saw, apparently for the
first time, that the girl from Hastor was noticeably beautiful
even among those other beautiful women of Helium. Tara of Helium
was disturbed. She attempted to analyze her emotions; but found
it difficult. Olvia Marthis was her friend--she was very fond of
her and she felt no anger toward her. Was she angry with Djor
Kantos? No, she finally decided that she was not. It was merely
surprise, then, that she felt--surprise that Djor Kantos could be
more interested in another than in herself. She was about to
cross the garden and join them when she heard her father's voice
directly behind her.
"Tara of Helium!" he called, and she turned to see him
approaching with a strange warrior whose harness and metal bore
devices with which she was unfamiliar. Even among the gorgeous
trappings of the men of Helium and the visitors from distant
empires those of the stranger were remarkable for their barbaric
splendor. The leather of his harness was completely hidden
beneath ornaments of platinum thickly set with brilliant
diamonds, as were the scabbards of his swords and the ornate
holster that held his long, Martian pistol. Moving through the
sunlit garden at the side of the great Warlord, the scintillant
rays of his countless gems enveloping him as in an aureole of
light imparted to his noble figure a suggestion of godliness.
"Tara of Helium, I bring you Gahan, Jed of Gathol," said John
Carter, after the simple Barsoomian custom of presentation.
"Kaor! Gahan, Jed of Gathol," returned Tara of Helium.
"My sword is at your feet, Tara of Helium," said the young
The Warlord left them and the two seated themselves upon an
ersite bench beneath a spreading sorapus tree.
"Far Gathol," mused the girl. "Ever in my mind has it been
connected with mystery and romance and the half-forgotten lore of
the ancients. I cannot think of Gathol as existing today,
possibly because I have never before seen a Gatholian."
"And perhaps too because of the great distance that separates
Helium and Gathol, as well as the comparative insignificance of
my little free city, which might easily be lost in one corner of
mighty Helium," added Gahan. "But what we lack in power we make
up in pride," he continued, laughing. "We believe ours the oldest
inhabited city upon Barsoom. It is one of the few that has
retained its freedom, and this despite the fact that its ancient
diamond mines are the richest known and, unlike practically all
the other fields, are today apparently as inexhaustible as ever."
"Tell me of Gathol," urged the girl. "The very thought fills me
with interest," nor was it likely that the handsome face of the
young jed detracted anything from the glamour of far Gathol.
Nor did Gahan seem displeased with the excuse for further
monopolizing the society of his fair companion. His eyes seemed
chained to her exquisite features, from which they moved no
further than to a rounded breast, part hid beneath its jeweled
covering, a naked shoulder or the symmetry of a perfect arm,
resplendent in bracelets of barbaric magnificence.
"Your ancient history has doubtless told you that Gathol was
built upon an island in Throxeus, mightiest of the five oceans of
old Barsoom. As the ocean receded Gathol crept down the sides of
the mountain, the summit of which was the island upon which she
had been built, until today she covers the slopes from summit to
base, while the bowels of the great hill are honeycombed with the
galleries of her mines. Entirely surrounding us is a great salt
marsh, which protects us from invasion by land, while the rugged
and ofttimes vertical topography of our mountain renders the
landing of hostile airships a precarious undertaking."
"That, and your brave warriors?" suggested the girl.
Gahan smiled. "We do not speak of that except to enemies," he
said, "and then with tongues of steel rather than of flesh."
"But what practice in the art of war has a people which nature
has thus protected from attack?" asked Tara of Helium, who had
liked the young jed's answer to her previous question, but yet in
whose mind persisted a vague conviction of the possible
effeminacy of her companion, induced, doubtless, by the
magnificence of his trappings and weapons which carried a
suggestion of splendid show rather than grim utility.
"Our natural barriers, while they have doubtless saved us from
defeat on countless occasions, have not by any means rendered us
immune from attack," he explained, "for so great is the wealth of
Gathol's diamond treasury that there yet may be found those who
will risk almost certain defeat in an effort to loot our
unconquered city; so thus we find occasional practice in the
exercise of arms; but there is more to Gathol than the mountain
city. My country extends from Polodona (Equator) north ten karads
and from the tenth karad west of Horz to the twentieth west,
including thus a million square haads, the greater proportion of
which is fine grazing land where run our great herds of thoats
"Surrounded as we are by predatory enemies our herdsmen must
indeed be warriors or we should have no herds, and you may be
assured they get plenty of fighting. Then there is our constant
need of workers in the mines. The Gatholians consider themselves
a race of warriors and as such prefer not to labor in the mines.
The law is, however, that each male Gatholian shall give an hour
a day in labor to the government. That is practically the only
tax that is levied upon them. They prefer however, to furnish a
substitute to perform this labor, and as our own people will not
hire out for labor in the mines it has been necessary to obtain
slaves, and I do not need to tell you that slaves are not won
without fighting. We sell these slaves in the public market, the
proceeds going, half and half, to the government and the warriors
who bring them in. The purchasers are credited with the amount of
labor performed by their particular slaves. At the end of a year
a good slave will have performed the labor tax of his master for
six years, and if slaves are plentiful he is freed and permitted
to return to his own people."
"You fight in platinum and diamonds?" asked Tara, indicating his
gorgeous trappings with a quizzical smile.
Gahan laughed. "We are a vain people," he admitted,
good-naturedly, "and it is possible that we place too much value
on personal appearances. We vie with one another in the splendor
of our accoutrements when trapped for the observance of the
lighter duties of life, though when we take the field our leather
is the plainest I ever have seen worn by fighting men of Barsoom.
We pride ourselves, too, upon our physical beauty, and especially
upon the beauty of our women. May I dare to say, Tara of Helium,
that I am hoping for the day when you will visit Gathol that my
people may see one who is really beautiful?"
"The women of Helium are taught to frown with displeasure upon
the tongue of the flatterer," rejoined the girl, but Gahan, Jed
of Gathol, observed that she smiled as she said it.
A bugle sounded, clear and sweet, above the laughter and the
talk. "The Dance of Barsoom!" exclaimed the young warrior. "I
claim you for it, Tara of Helium."
The girl glanced in the direction of the bench where she had last
seen Djor Kantos. He was not in sight. She inclined her head in
assent to the claim of the Gatholian. Slaves were passing among
the guests, distributing small musical instruments of a single
string. Upon each instrument were characters which indicated the
pitch and length of its tone. The instruments were of skeel, the
string of gut, and were shaped to fit the left forearm of the
dancer, to which it was strapped. There was also a ring wound
with gut which was worn between the first and second joints of
the index finger of the right hand and which, when passed over
the string of the instrument, elicited the single note required
of the dancer.
The guests had risen and were slowly making their way toward the
expanse of scarlet sward at the south end of the gardens where
the dance was to be held, when Djor Kantos came hurriedly toward
Tara of Helium. "I claim--" he exclaimed as he neared her; but
she interrupted him with a gesture.
"You are too late, Djor Kantos," she cried in mock anger. "No
laggard may claim Tara of Helium; but haste now lest thou lose
also Olvia Marthis, whom I have never seen wait long to be
claimed for this or any other dance."
"I have already lost her," admitted Djor Kantos ruefully.
"And you mean to say that you came for Tara of Helium only after
having lost Olvia Marthis?" demanded the girl, still simulating
"Oh, Tara of Helium, you know better than that," insisted the
young man. "Was it not natural that I should assume that you
would expect me, who alone has claimed you for the Dance of
Barsoom for at least twelve times past?"
"And sit and play with my thumbs until you saw fit to come for
me?" she questioned. "Ah, no, Djor Kantos; Tara of Helium is for
no laggard," and she threw him a sweet smile and passed on toward
the assembling dancers with Gahan, Jed of far Gathol.
The Dance of Barsoom bears a relation similar to the more formal
dancing functions of Mars that The Grand March does to ours,
though it is infinitely more intricate and more beautiful. Before
a Martian youth of either sex may attend an important social
function where there is dancing, he must have become proficient
in at least three dances--The Dance of Barsoom, his national
dance, and the dance of his city. In these three dances the
dancers furnish their own music, which never varies; nor do the
steps or figures vary, having been handed down from time
immemorial. All Barsoomian dances are stately and beautiful, but
The Dance of Barsoom is a wondrous epic of motion and
harmony--there is no grotesque posturing, no vulgar or suggestive
movements. It has been described as the interpretation of the
highest ideals of a world that aspired to grace and beauty and
chastity in woman, and strength and dignity and loyalty in man.
Today, John Carter, Warlord of Mars, with Dejah Thoris, his mate,
led in the dancing, and if there was another couple that vied
with them in possession of the silent admiration of the guests it
was the resplendent Jed of Gathol and his beautiful partner. In
the ever-changing figures of the dance the man found himself now
with the girl's hand in his and again with an arm about the lithe
body that the jeweled harness but inadequately covered, and the
girl, though she had danced a thousand dances in the past,
realized for the first time the personal contact of a man's arm
against her naked flesh. It troubled her that she should notice
it, and she looked up questioningly and almost with displeasure
at the man as though it was his fault. Their eyes met and she saw
in his that which she had never seen in the eyes of Djor Kantos.
It was at the very end of the dance and they both stopped
suddenly with the music and stood there looking straight into
each other's eyes. It was Gahan of Gathol who spoke first.
"Tara of Helium, I love you!" he said.
The girl drew herself to her full height. "The Jed of Gathol
forgets himself," she exclaimed haughtily.
"The Jed of Gathol would forget everything but you, Tara of
Helium," he replied. Fiercely he pressed the soft hand that he
still retained from the last position of the dance. "I love you,
Tara of Helium," he repeated. "Why should your ears refuse to
hear what your eyes but just now did not refuse to see--and
"What meanest thou?" she cried. "Are the men of Gathol such
"They are neither boors nor fools," he replied, quietly. "They
know when they love a woman--and when she loves them."
Tara of Helium stamped her little foot in anger. "Go!" she said,
"before it is necessary to acquaint my father with the dishonor
of his guest."
She turned and walked away. "Wait!" cried the man. "Just another
"Of apology?" she asked.
"Of prophecy," he said.
"I do not care to hear it," replied Tara of Helium, and left
him standing there. She was strangely unstrung and shortly
thereafter returned to her own quarter of the palace, where she
stood for a long time by a window looking out beyond the scarlet
tower of Greater Helium toward the northwest.
Presently she turned angrily away. "I hate him!" she exclaimed
"Whom?" inquired the privileged Uthia.
Tara of Helium stamped her foot. "That ill-mannered boor, the Jed
of Gathol," she replied.
Uthia raised her slim brows.
At the stamping of the little foot, a great beast rose from the
corner of the room and crossed to Tara of Helium where it stood
looking up into her face. She placed her hand upon the ugly head.
"Dear old Woola," she said; "no love could be deeper than yours,
yet it never offends. Would that men might pattern themselves
CHAPTER II. AT THE GALE'S MERCY
TARA of Helium did not return to her father's guests, but awaited
in her own apartments the word from Djor Kantos which she knew
must come, begging her to return to the gardens. She would then
refuse, haughtily. But no appeal came from Djor Kantos. At first
Tara of Helium was angry, then she was hurt, and always she was
puzzled. She could not understand. Occasionally she thought of
the Jed of Gathol and then she would stamp her foot, for she was
very angry indeed with Gahan. The presumption of the man! He had
insinuated that he read love for him in her eyes. Never had she
been so insulted and humiliated. Never had she so thoroughly
hated a man. Suddenly she turned toward Uthia.
"My flying leather!" she commanded.
"But the guests!" exclaimed the slave girl. "Your father, The
Warlord, will expect you to return."
"He will be disappointed," snapped Tara of Helium.
The slave hesitated. "He does not approve of your flying alone,"
she reminded her mistress.
The young princess sprang to her feet and seized the unhappy
slave by the shoulders, shaking her. "You are becoming
unbearable, Uthia," she cried. "Soon there will be no alternative
than to send you to the public slave-market. Then possibly you
will find a master to your liking."
Tears came to the soft eyes of the slave girl. "It is because I
love you, my princess," she said softly. Tara of Helium melted.
She took the slave in her arms and kissed her.
"I have the disposition of a thoat, Uthia," she said. "Forgive
me! I love you and there is nothing that I would not do for you
and nothing would I do to harm you. Again, as I have so often in
the past, I offer you your freedom."
"I do not wish my freedom if it will separate me from you, Tara
of Helium," replied Uthia. "I am happy here with you--I think
that I should die without you."
Again the girls kissed. "And you will not fly alone, then?"
questioned the slave.
Tara of Helium laughed and pinched her companion. "You persistent
little pest," she cried. "Of course I shall fly--does not Tara of
Helium always do that which pleases her?"
Uthia shook her head sorrowfully. "Alas! she does," she admitted.
"Iron is the Warlord of Barsoom to the influences of all but two.
In the hands of Dejah Thoris and Tara of Helium he is as potters'
"Then run and fetch my flying leather like the sweet slave you
are," directed the mistress.
Far out across the ochre sea-bottoms beyond the twin cities of
Helium raced the swift flier of Tara of Helium. Thrilling to the
speed and the buoyancy and the obedience of the little craft the
girl drove toward the northwest. Why she should choose that
direction she did not pause to consider. Perhaps because in that
direction lay the least known areas of Barsoom, and, ergo,
Romance, Mystery, and Adventure. In that direction also lay far
Gathol; but to that fact she gave no conscious thought.
She did, however, think occasionally of the jed of that distant
kingdom, but the reaction to these thoughts was scarcely
pleasurable. They still brought a flush of shame to her cheeks
and a surge of angry blood to her heart. She was very angry with
the Jed of Gathol, and though she should never see him again she
was quite sure that hate of him would remain fresh in her memory
forever. Mostly her thoughts revolved about another--Djor Kantos.
And when she thought of him she thought also of Olvia Marthis of
Hastor. Tara of Helium thought that she was jealous of the fair
Olvia and it made her very angry to think that. She was angry
with Djor Kantos and herself, but she was not angry at all with
Olvia Marthis, whom she loved, and so of course she was not
jealous really. The trouble was, that Tara of Helium had failed
for once to have her own way. Djor Kantos had not come running
like a willing slave when she had expected him, and, ah, here was
the nub of the whole thing! Gahan, Jed of Gathol, a stranger, had
been a witness to her humiliation. He had seen her unclaimed at
the beginning of a great function and he had had to come to her
rescue to save her, as he doubtless thought, from the inglorious
fate of a wall-flower. At the recurring thought, Tara of Helium
could feel her whole body burning with scarlet shame and then she
went suddenly white and cold with rage; whereupon she turned her
flier about so abruptly that she was all but torn from her
lashings upon the flat, narrow deck. She reached home just before
dark. The guests had departed. Quiet had descended upon the
palace. An hour later she joined her father and mother at the
"You deserted us, Tara of Helium," said John Carter. "It is not
what the guests of John Carter should expect."
"They did not come to see me," replied Tara of Helium. "I did not
"They were no less your guests," replied her father.
The girl rose, and came and stood beside him and put her arms
about his neck.
"My proper old Virginian," she cried, rumpling his shock of black
"In Virginia you would be turned over your father's knee and
spanked," said the man, smiling.
She crept into his lap and kissed him. "You do not love me any
more," she announced. "No one loves me," but she could not
compose her features into a pout because bubbling laughter
insisted upon breaking through.
"The trouble is there are too many who love you," he said. "And
now there is another."
"Indeed!" she cried. "What do you mean?"
"Gahan of Gathol has asked permission to woo you."
The girl sat up very straight and tilted her chin in the air. "I
would not wed with a walking diamond-mine," she said. "I will not
"I told him as much," replied her father, "and that you were as
good as betrothed to another. He was very courteous about it; but
at the same time he gave me to understand that he was accustomed
to getting what he wanted and that he wanted you very much. I
suppose it will mean another war. Your mother's beauty kept
Helium at war for many years, and--well, Tara of Helium, if I
were a young man I should doubtless be willing to set all Barsoom
afire to win you, as I still would to keep your divine mother,"
and he smiled across the sorapus table and its golden service at
the undimmed beauty of Mars' most beautiful woman.
"Our little girl should not yet be troubled with such matters,"
said Dejah Thoris. "Remember, John Carter, that you are not
dealing with an Earth child, whose span of life would be more
than half completed before a daughter of Barsoom reached actual
"But do not the daughters of Barsoom sometimes marry as early as
twenty?" he insisted.
"Yes, but they will still be desirable in the eyes of men after
forty generations of Earth folk have returned to dust--there is
no hurry, at least, upon Barsoom. We do not fade and decay here
as you tell me those of your planet do, though you, yourself,
belie your own words. When the time seems proper Tara of Helium
shall wed with Djor Kantos, and until then let us give the matter
no further thought."
"No," said the girl, "the subject irks me, and I shall not marry
Djor Kantos, or another--I do not intend to wed."
Her father and mother looked at her and smiled. "When Gahan of
Gathol returns he may carry you off," said the former.
"He has gone?" asked the girl.
"His flier departs for Gathol in the morning," John Carter
"I have seen the last of him then," remarked Tara of Helium with
a sigh of relief.
"He says not," returned John Carter.
The girl dismissed the subject with a shrug and the conversation
passed to other topics. A letter had arrived from Thuvia of
Ptarth, who was visiting at her father's court while Carthoris,
her mate, hunted in Okar. Word had been received that the Tharks
and Warhoons were again at war, or rather that there had been an
engagement, for war was their habitual state. In the memory of
man there had been no peace between these two savage green
hordes--only a single temporary truce. Two new battleships had
been launched at Hastor. A little band of holy therns was
attempting to revive the ancient and discredited religion of
Issus, who they claimed still lived in spirit and had
communicated with them. There were rumors of war from Dusar. A
scientist claimed to have discovered human life on the further
moon. A madman had attempted to destroy the atmosphere plant.
Seven people had been assassinated in Greater Helium during the
last ten zodes, (the equivalent of an Earth day.)
Following the meal Dejah Thoris and The Warlord played at jetan,
the Barsoomian game of chess, which is played upon a board of a
hundred alternate black and orange squares. One player has twenty
black pieces, the other, twenty orange pieces. A brief
description of the game may interest those Earth readers who care
for chess, and will not be lost upon those who pursue this
narrative to its conclusion, since before they are done they will
find that a knowledge of jetan will add to the interest and the
thrills that are in store for them.
The men are placed upon the board as in chess upon the first two
rows next the players. In order from left to right on the line of
squares nearest the players, the jetan pieces are Warrior,
Padwar, Dwar, Flier, Chief, Princess, Flier, Dwar, Padwar,
Warrior. In the next line all are Panthans except the end pieces,
which are called Thoats, and represent mounted warriors.
The Panthans, which are represented as warriors with one feather,
may move one space in any direction except backward; the Thoats,
mounted warriors with three feathers, may move one straight and
one diagonal, and may jump intervening pieces; Warriors, foot
soldiers with two feathers, straight in any direction, or
diagonally, two spaces; Padwars, lieutenants wearing two
feathers, two diagonal in any direction, or combination; Dwars,
captains wearing three feathers, three spaces straight in any
direction, or combination; Fliers, represented by a propellor
with three blades, three spaces in any direction, or combination,
diagonally, and may jump intervening pieces; the Chief, indicated
by a diadem with ten jewels, three spaces in any direction,
straight, or diagonal; Princess, diadem with a single jewel, same
as Chief, and can jump intervening pieces.
The game is won when a player places any of his pieces on the
same square with his opponent's Princess, or when a Chief takes a
Chief. It is drawn when a Chief is taken by any opposing piece
other than the opposing Chief; or when both sides have been
reduced to three pieces, or less, of equal value, and the game is
not terminated in the following ten moves, five apiece. This is
but a general outline of the game, briefly stated.
It was this game that Dejah Thoris and John Carter were playing
when Tara of Helium bid them good night, retiring to her own
quarters and her sleeping silks and furs. "Until morning, my
beloved," she called back to them as she passed from the
apartment, nor little did she guess, nor her parents, that this
might indeed be the last time that they would ever set eyes upon
The morning broke dull and gray. Ominous clouds billowed
restlessly and low. Beneath them torn fragments scudded toward
the northwest. From her window Tara of Helium looked out upon
this unusual scene. Dense clouds seldom overcast the Barsoomian
sky. At this hour of the day it was her custom to ride one of
those small thoats that are the saddle animals of the red
Martians, but the sight of the billowing clouds lured her to a
new adventure. Uthia still slept and the girl did not disturb
her. Instead, she dressed quietly and went to the hangar upon the
roof of the palace directly above her quarters where her own
swift flier was housed. She had never driven through the clouds.
It was an adventure that always she had longed to experience. The
wind was strong and it was with difficulty that she maneuvered
the craft from the hangar without accident, but once away it
raced swiftly out above the twin cities. The buffeting winds
caught and tossed it, and the girl laughed aloud in sheer joy of
the resultant thrills. She handled the little ship like a
veteran, though few veterans would have faced the menace of such
a storm in so light a craft. Swiftly she rose toward the clouds,
racing with the scudding streamers of the storm-swept fragments,
and a moment later she was swallowed by the dense masses
billowing above. Here was a new world, a world of chaos unpeopled
except for herself; but it was a cold, damp, lonely world and she
found it depressing after the novelty of it had been dissipated,
by an overpowering sense of the magnitude of the forces surging
about her. Suddenly she felt very lonely and very cold and very
little. Hurriedly, therefore, she rose until presently her craft
broke through into the glorious sunlight that transformed the
upper surface of the somber element into rolling masses of
burnished silver. Here it was still cold, but without the
dampness of the clouds, and in the eye of the brilliant sun her
spirits rose with the mounting needle of her altimeter. Gazing at
the clouds, now far beneath, the girl experienced the sensation
of hanging stationary in mid-heaven; but the whirring of her
propellor, the wind beating upon her, the high figures that rose
and fell beneath the glass of her speedometer, these told her
that her speed was terrific. It was then that she determined to
The first attempt she made above the clouds, but it was
unsuccessful. To her surprise she discovered that she could not
even turn against the high wind, which rocked and buffeted the
frail craft. Then she dropped swiftly to the dark and wind-swept
zone between the hurtling clouds and the gloomy surface of the
shadowed ground. Here she tried again to force the nose of the
flier back toward Helium, but the tempest seized the frail thing
and hurled it remorselessly about, rolling it over and over and
tossing it as it were a cork in a cataract. At last the girl
succeeded in righting the flier, perilously close to the ground.
Never before had she been so close to death, yet she was not
terrified. Her coolness had saved her, that and the strength of
the deck lashings that held her. Traveling with the storm she was
safe, but where was it bearing her? She pictured the apprehension
of her father and mother when she failed to appear at the morning
meal. They would find her flier missing and they would guess that
somewhere in the path of the storm it lay a wrecked and tangled
mass upon her dead body, and then brave men would go out in
search of her, risking their lives; and that lives would be lost
in the search, she knew, for she realized now that never in her
life-time had such a tempest raged upon Barsoom.
She must turn back! She must reach Helium before her mad lust for
thrills had cost the sacrifice of a single courageous life! She
determined that greater safety and likelihood of success lay
above the clouds, and once again she rose through the chilling,
wind-tossed vapor. Her speed again was terrific, for the wind
seemed to have increased rather than to have lessened. She sought
gradually to check the swift flight of her craft, but though she
finally succeeded in reversing her motor the wind but carried her
on as it would. Then it was that Tara of Helium lost her temper.
Had her world not always bowed in acquiescence to her every wish?
What were these elements that they dared to thwart her? She would
demonstrate to them that the daughter of The Warlord was not to
be denied! They would learn that Tara of Helium might not be
ruled even by the forces of nature!
And so she drove her motor forward again and then with her firm,
white teeth set in grim determination she drove the steering
lever far down to port with the intention of forcing the nose of
her craft straight into the teeth of the wind, and the wind
seized the frail thing and toppled it over upon its back, and
twisted and turned it and hurled it over and over; the propellor
raced for an instant in an air pocket and then the tempest seized
it again and twisted it from its shaft, leaving the girl helpless
upon an unmanageable atom that rose and fell, and rolled and
tumbled--the sport of the elements she had defied. Tara of
Helium's first sensation was one of surprise--that she had failed
to have her own way. Then she commenced to feel concern--not for
her own safety but for the anxiety of her parents and the dangers
that the inevitable searchers must face. She reproached herself
for the thoughtless selfishness that had jeopardized the peace
and safety of others. She realized her own grave danger, too; but
she was still unterrified, as befitted the daughter of Dejah
Thoris and John Carter. She knew that her buoyancy tanks might
keep her afloat indefinitely, but she had neither food nor water,
and she was being borne toward the least-known area of Barsoom.
Perhaps it would be better to land immediately and await the
coming of the searchers, rather than to allow herself to be
carried still further from Helium, thus greatly reducing the
chances of early discovery; but when she dropped toward the
ground she discovered that the violence of the wind rendered an
attempt to land tantamount to destruction and she rose again,
Carried along a few hundred feet above the ground she was better
able to appreciate the Titanic proportions of the storm than when
she had flown in the comparative serenity of the zone above the
clouds, for now she could distinctly see the effect of the wind
upon the surface of Barsoom. The air was filled with dust and
flying bits of vegetation and when the storm carried her across
an irrigated area of farm land she saw great trees and stone
walls and buildings lifted high in air and scattered broadcast
over the devastated country; and then she was carried swiftly on
to other sights that forced in upon her consciousness a rapidly
growing conviction that after all Tara of Helium was a very small
and insignificant and helpless person. It was quite a shock to
her self-pride while it lasted, and toward evening she was ready
to believe that it was going to last forever. There had been no
abatement in the ferocity of the tempest, nor was there
indication of any. She could only guess at the distance she had
been carried for she could not believe in the correctness of the
high figures that had been piled upon the record of her odometer.
They seemed unbelievable and yet, had she known it, they were
quite true--in twelve hours she had flown and been carried by the
storm full seven thousand haads. Just before dark she was carried
over one of the deserted cities of ancient Mars. It was Torquas,
but she did not know it. Had she, she might readily have been
forgiven for abandoning the last vestige of hope, for to the
people of Helium Torquas seems as remote as do the South Sea
Islands to us. And still the tempest, its fury unabated, bore her
All that night she hurtled through the dark beneath the clouds,
or rose to race through the moonlit void beneath the glory of
Barsoom's two satellites. She was cold and hungry and altogether
miserable, but her brave little spirit refused to admit that her
plight was hopeless even though reason proclaimed the truth. Her
reply to reason, sometime spoken aloud in sudden defiance,
recalled the Spartan stubbornness of her sire in the face of
certain annihilation: "I still live!"
That morning there had been an early visitor at the palace of The
Warlord. It was Gahan, Jed of Gathol. He had arrived shortly
after the absence of Tara of Helium had been noted, and in the
excitement he had remained unannounced until John Carter had
happened upon him in the great reception corridor of the palace
as The Warlord was hurrying out to arrange for the dispatch of
ships in search of his daughter.
Gahan read the concern upon the face of The Warlord. "Forgive me
if I intrude, John Carter," he said. "I but came to ask the
indulgence of another day since it would be fool-hardy to attempt
to navigate a ship in such a storm."
"Remain, Gahan, a welcome guest until you choose to leave us,"
replied The Warlord; "but you must forgive any seeming
inattention upon the part of Helium until my daughter is restored
"You daughter! Restored! What do you mean?" exclaimed the
Gatholian. "I do not understand."
"She is gone, together with her light flier. That is all we know.
We can only assume that she decided to fly before the morning
meal and was caught in the clutches of the tempest. You will
pardon me, Gahan, if I leave you abruptly--I am arranging to send
ships in search of her;" but Gahan, Jed of Gathol, was already
speeding in the direction of the palace gate. There he leaped
upon a waiting thoat and followed by two warriors in the metal of
Gathol, he dashed through the avenues of Helium toward the palace
that had been set aside for his entertainment.
CHAPTER III. THE HEADLESS HUMANS
ABOVE the roof of the palace that housed the Jed of Gathol and
his entourage, the cruiser Vanator tore at her stout moorings.
The groaning tackle bespoke the mad fury of the gale, while the
worried faces of those members of the crew whose duties demanded
their presence on the straining craft gave corroborative evidence
of the gravity of the situation. Only stout lashings prevented
these men from being swept from the deck, while those upon the
roof below were constantly compelled to cling to rails and
stanchions to save themselves from being carried away by each new
burst of meteoric fury. Upon the prow of the Vanator was painted
the device of Gathol, but no pennants were displayed in the upper
works since the storm had carried away several in rapid
succession, just as it seemed to the watching men that it must
carry away the ship itself. They could not believe that any
tackle could withstand for long this Titanic force. To each of
the twelve lashings clung a brawny warrior with drawn
short-sword. Had but a single mooring given to the power of the
tempest eleven short-swords would have cut the others; since,
partially moored, the ship was doomed, while free in the tempest
it stood at least some slight chance for life.
"By the blood of Issus, I believe they will hold!" screamed one
warrior to another.
"And if they do not hold may the spirits of our ancestors reward
the brave warriors upon the Vanator," replied another of those
upon the roof of the palace, "for it will not be long from the
moment her cables part before her crew dons the leather of the
dead; but yet, Tanus, I believe they will hold. Give thanks at
least that we did not sail before the tempest fell, since now
each of us has a chance to live."
"Yes," replied Tanus, "I should hate to be abroad today upon the
stoutest ship that sails the Barsoomian sky."
It was then that Gahan the Jed appeared upon the roof. With him
were the balance of his own party and a dozen warriors of Helium.
The young chief turned to his followers.
"I sail at once upon the Vanator," he said, "in search of Tara of
Helium who is thought to have been carried away upon a one-man
flier by the storm. I do not need to explain to you the slender
chances the Vanator has to withstand the fury of the tempest, nor
will I order you to your deaths. Let those who wish remain behind
without dishonor. The others will follow me," and he leaped for
the rope ladder that lashed wildly in the gale.
The first man to follow him was Tanus and when the last reached
the deck of the cruiser there remained upon the palace roof only
the twelve warriors of Helium, who, with naked swords, had taken
the posts of the Gatholians at the moorings.
Not a single warrior who had remained aboard the Vanator would
leave her now.
"I expected no less," said Gahan, as with the help of those
already on the deck he and the others found secure lashings. The
commander of the Vanator shook his head. He loved his trim craft,
the pride of her class in the little navy of Gathol. It was of
her he thought--not of himself. He saw her lying torn and twisted
upon the ochre vegetation of some distant sea-bottom, to be
presently overrun and looted by some savage, green horde. He
looked at Gahan.
"Are you ready, San Tothis?" asked the jed.
"All is ready."
"Then cut away!"
Word was passed across the deck and over the side to the
Heliumetic warriors below that at the third gun they were to cut
away. Twelve keen swords must strike simultaneously and with
equal power, and each must sever completely and instantly three
strands of heavy cable that no loose end fouling a block bring
immediate disaster upon the Vanator.
Boom! The voice of the signal gun rolled down through the
screaming wind to the twelve warriors upon the roof. Boom! Twelve
swords were raised above twelve brawny shoulders. Boom! Twelve
keen edges severed twelve complaining moorings, clean and as one.
The Vanator, her propellors whirling, shot forward with the
storm. The tempest struck her in the stern as with a mailed fist
and stood the great ship upon her nose, and then it caught her
and spun her as a child's top spins; and upon the palace roof the
twelve men looked on in silent helplessness and prayed for the
souls of the brave warriors who were going to their death. And
others saw, from Helium's lofty landing stages and from a
thousand hangars upon a thousand roofs; but only for an instant
did the preparations stop that would send other brave men into
the frightful maelstrom of that apparently hopeless search, for
such is the courage of the warriors of Barsoom.
But the Vanator did not fall to the ground, within sight of the
city at least, though as long as the watchers could see her never
for an instant did she rest upon an even keel. Sometimes she lay
upon one side or the other, or again she hurtled along keel up,
or rolled over and over, or stood upon her nose or her tail at
the caprice of the great force that carried her along. And the
watchers saw that this great ship was merely being blown away
with the other bits of debris great and small that filled the
sky. Never in the memory of man or the annals of recorded history
had such a storm raged across the face of Barsoom.
And in another instant was the Vanator forgotten as the lofty,
scarlet tower that had marked Lesser Helium for ages crashed to
ground, carrying death and demolition upon the city beneath.
Panic reigned. A fire broke out in the ruins. The city's every
force seemed crippled, and it was then that The Warlord ordered
the men that were about to set forth in search of Tara of Helium
to devote their energies to the salvation of the city, for he too
had witnessed the start of the Vanator and realized the futility
of wasting men who were needed sorely if Lesser Helium was to be
saved from utter destruction.
Shortly after noon of the second day the storm commenced to
abate, and before the sun went down, the little craft upon which
Tara of Helium had hovered between life and death these many
hours drifted slowly before a gentle breeze above a landscape of
rolling hills that once had been lofty mountains upon a Martian
continent. The girl was exhausted from loss of sleep, from lack
of food and drink, and from the nervous reaction consequent to
the terrifying experiences through which she had passed. In the
near distance, just topping an intervening hill, she caught a
momentary glimpse of what appeared to be a dome-capped tower.
Quickly she dropped the flier until the hill shut it off from the
view of the possible occupants of the structure she had seen. The
tower meant to her the habitation of man, suggesting the presence
of water and, perhaps, of food. If the tower was the deserted
relic of a bygone age she would scarcely find food there, but
there was still a chance that there might be water. If it was
inhabited, then must her approach be cautious, for only enemies
might be expected to abide in so far distant a land. Tara of
Helium knew that she must be far from the twin cities of her
grandfather's empire, but had she guessed within even a thousand
haads of the reality, she had been stunned by realization of the
utter hopelessness of her state.
Keeping the craft low, for the buoyancy tanks were still intact,
the girl skimmed the ground until the gently-moving wind had
carried her to the side of the last hill that intervened between
her and the structure she had thought a man-built tower. Here she
brought the flier to the ground among some stunted trees, and
dragging it beneath one where it might be somewhat hidden from
craft passing above, she made it fast and set forth to
reconnoiter. Like most women of her class she was armed only with
a single slender blade, so that in such an emergency as now
confronted her she must depend almost solely upon her cleverness
in remaining undiscovered by enemies. With utmost caution she
crept warily toward the crest of the hill, taking advantage of
every natural screen that the landscape afforded to conceal her
approach from possible observers ahead, while momentarily she
cast quick glances rearward lest she be taken by surprise from
She came at last to the summit, where, from the concealment of a
low bush, she could see what lay beyond. Beneath her spread a
beautiful valley surrounded by low hills. Dotting it were
numerous circular towers, dome-capped, and surrounding each tower
was a stone wall enclosing several acres of ground. The valley
appeared to be in a high state of cultivation. Upon the opposite
side of the hill and just beneath her was a tower and enclosure.
It was the roof of the former that had first attracted her
attention. In all respects it seemed identical in construction
with those further out in the valley--a high, plastered wall of
massive construction surrounding a similarly constructed tower,
upon whose gray surface was painted in vivid colors a strange
device. The towers were about forty sofads in diameter,
approximately forty earth-feet, and sixty in height to the base
of the dome. To an Earth man they would have immediately
suggested the silos in which dairy farmers store ensilage for
their herds; but closer scrutiny, revealing an occasional
embrasured opening together with the strange construction of the
domes, would have altered such a conclusion. Tara of Helium saw
that the domes seemed to be faced with innumerable prisms of
glass, those that were exposed to the declining sun scintillating
so gorgeously as to remind her suddenly of the magnificent
trappings of Gahan of Gathol. As she thought of the man she shook
her head angrily, and moved cautiously forward a foot or two that
she might get a less obstructed view of the nearer tower and its
As Tara of Helium looked down into the enclosure surrounding the
nearest tower, her brows contracted momentarily in frowning
surprise, and then her eyes went wide in an expression of
incredulity tinged with horror, for what she saw was a score or
two of human bodies--naked and headless. For a long moment she
watched, breathless; unable to believe the evidence of her own
eyes--that these grewsome things moved and had life! She saw them
crawling about on hands and knees over and across one another,
searching about with their fingers. And she saw some of them at
troughs, for which the others seemed to be searching, and those
at the troughs were taking something from these receptacles and
apparently putting it in a hole where their necks should have
been. They were not far beneath her--she could see them
distinctly and she saw that there were the bodies of both men and
women, and that they were beautifully proportioned, and that
their skin was similar to hers, but of a slightly lighter red. At
first she had thought that she was looking upon a shambles and
that the bodies, but recently decapitated, were moving under the
impulse of muscular reaction; but presently she realized that
this was their normal condition. The horror of them fascinated
her, so that she could scarce take her eyes from them. It was
evident from their groping hands that they were eyeless, and
their sluggish movements suggested a rudimentary nervous system
and a correspondingly minute brain. The girl wondered how they
subsisted for she could not, even by the wildest stretch of
imagination, picture these imperfect creatures as intelligent
tillers of the soil. Yet that the soil of the valley was tilled
was evident and that these things had food was equally so. But
who tilled the soil? Who kept and fed these unhappy things, and
for what purpose? It was an enigma beyond her powers of
The sight of food aroused again a consciousness of her own
gnawing hunger and the thirst that parched her throat. She could
see both food and water within the enclosure; but would she dare
enter even should she find means of ingress? She doubted it,
since the very thought of possible contact with these grewsome
creatures sent a shudder through her frame.
Then her eyes wandered again out across the valley until
presently they picked out what appeared to be a tiny stream
winding its way through the center of the farm lands--a strange
sight upon Barsoom. Ah, if it were but water! Then might she hope
with a real hope, for the fields would give her sustenance which
she could gain by night, while by day she hid among the
surrounding hills, and sometime, yes, sometime she knew, the
searchers would come, for John Carter, Warlord of Barsoom, would
never cease to search for his daughter until every square haad of
the planet had been combed again and again. She knew him and she
knew the warriors of Helium and so she knew that could she but
manage to escape harm until they came, they would indeed come at
She would have to wait until dark before she dare venture into
the valley, and in the meantime she thought it well to search out
a place of safety nearby where she might be reasonably safe from
savage beasts. It was possible that the district was free from
carnivora, but one might never be sure in a strange land. As she
was about to withdraw be hind the brow of the hill her attention
was again attracted to the enclosure below. Two figures had
emerged from the tower. Their beautiful bodies seemed identical
with those of the headless creatures among which they moved, but
the newcomers were not headless. Upon their shoulders were heads
that seemed human, yet which the girl intuitively sensed were not
human. They were just a trifle too far away for her to see them
distinctly in the waning light of the dying day, but she knew
that they were too large, they were out of proportion to the
perfectly proportioned bodies, and they were oblate in form. She
could see that the men wore some manner of harness to which were
slung the customary long-sword and short-sword of the Barsoomian
warrior, and that about their short necks were massive leather
collars cut to fit closely over the shoulders and snugly to the
lower part of the head. Their features were scarce discernible,
but there was a suggestion of grotesqueness about them that
carried to her a feeling of revulsion.
The two carried a long rope to which were fastened, at intervals
of about two sofads, what she later guessed were light manacles,
for she saw the warriors passing among the poor creatures in the
enclosure and about the right wrist of each they fastened one of
the manacles. When all had been thus fastened to the rope one of
the warriors commenced to pull and tug at the loose end as though
attempting to drag the headless company toward the tower, while
the other went among them with a long, light whip with which he
flicked them upon the naked skin. Slowly, dully, the creatures
rose to their feet and between the tugging of the warrior in
front and the lashing of him behind the hopeless band was finally
herded within the tower. Tara of Helium shuddered as she turned
away. What manner of creatures were these?
Suddenly it was night. The Barsoomian day had ended, and then the
brief period of twilight that renders the transition from
daylight to darkness almost as abrupt as the switching off of an
electric light, and Tara of Helium had found no sanctuary. But
perhaps there were no beasts to fear, or rather to avoid--Tara of
Helium liked not the word fear. She would have been glad,
however, had there been a cabin, even a very tiny cabin, upon her
small flier; but there was no cabin. The interior of the hull was
completely taken up by the buoyancy tanks. Ah, she had it! How
stupid of her not to have thought of it before! She could moor
the craft to the tree beneath which it rested and let it rise the
length of the rope. Lashed to the deck rings she would then be
safe from any roaming beast of prey that chanced along. In the
morning she could drop to the ground again before the craft was
As Tara of Helium crept over the brow of the hill down toward the
valley, her presence was hidden by the darkness of the night from
the sight of any chance observer who might be loitering by a
window in the nearby tower. Cluros, the farther moon, was just
rising above the horizon to commence his leisurely journey
through the heavens. Eight zodes later he would set--a trifle
over nineteen and a half Earth hours--and during that time
Thuria, his vivacious mate, would have circled the planet twice
and be more than half way around on her third trip. She had but
just set. It would be more than three and a half hours before she
shot above the opposite horizon to hurtle, swift and low, across
the face of the dying planet. During this temporary absence of
the mad moon Tara of Helium hoped to find both food and water,
and gain again the safety of her flier's deck.
She groped her way through the darkness, giving the tower and its
enclosure as wide a berth as possible. Sometimes she stumbled,
for in the long shadows cast by the rising Cluros objects were
grotesquely distorted though the light from the moon was still
not sufficient to be of much assistance to her. Nor, as a matter
of fact, did she want light. She could find the stream in the
dark, by the simple expedient of going down hill until she walked
into it and she had seen that bearing trees and many crops grew
throughout the valley, so that she would pass food in plenty ere
she reached the stream. If the moon showed her the way more
clearly and thus saved her from an occasional fall, he would,
too, show her more clearly to the strange denizens of the towers,
and that, of course, must not be. Could she have waited until the
following night conditions would have been better, since Cluros
would not appear in the heavens at all and so, during Thuria's
absence, utter darkness would reign; but the pangs of thirst and
the gnawing of hunger could be endured no longer with food and
drink both in sight, and so she had decided to risk discovery
rather than suffer longer.
Safely past the nearest tower, she moved as rapidly as she felt
consistent with safety, choosing her way wherever possible so
that she might take advantage of the shadows of the trees that
grew at intervals and at the same time discover those which bore
fruit. In this latter she met with almost immediate success, for
the very third tree beneath which she halted was heavy with ripe
fruit. Never, thought Tara of Helium, had aught so delicious
impinged upon her palate, and yet it was naught else than the
almost tasteless usa, which is considered to be palatable only
after having been cooked and highly spiced. It grows easily with
little irrigation and the trees bear abundantly. The fruit, which
ranks high in food value, is one of the staple foods of the less
well-to-do, and because of its cheapness and nutritive value
forms one of the principal rations of both armies and navies upon
Barsoom, a use which has won for it a Martian sobriquet which,
freely translated into English, would be, The Fighting Potato.
The girl was wise enough to eat but sparingly, but she filled her
pocket-pouch with the fruit before she continued upon her way.
Two towers she passed before she came at last to the stream, and
here again was she temperate, drinking but little and that very
slowly, contenting herself with rinsing her mouth frequently and
bathing her face, her hands, and her feet; and even though the
night was cold, as Martian nights are, the sensation of
refreshment more than compensated for the physical discomfort of
the low temperature. Replacing her sandals she sought among the
growing track near the stream for whatever edible berries or
tubers might be planted there, and found a couple of varieties
that could be eaten raw. With these she replaced some of the usa
in her pocket-pouch, not only to insure a variety but because she
found them more palatable. Occasionally she returned to the
stream to drink, but each time moderately. Always were her eyes
and ears alert for the first signs of danger, but she had neither
seen nor heard aught to disturb her. And presently the time
approached when she felt she must return to her flier lest she be
caught in the revealing light of low swinging Thuria. She dreaded
leaving the water for she knew that she must become very thirsty
before she could hope to come again to the stream. If she only
had some little receptacle in which to carry water, even a small
amount would tide her over until the following night; but she had
nothing and so she must content herself as best she could with
the juices of the fruit and tubers she had gathered.
After a last drink at the stream, the longest and deepest she had
allowed herself, she rose to retrace her steps toward the hills;
but even as she did so she became suddenly tense with
apprehension. What was that? She could have sworn that she saw
something move in the shadows beneath a tree not far away. For a
long minute the girl did not move--she scarce breathed. Her eyes
remained fixed upon the dense shadows below the tree, her ears
strained through the silence of the night. A low moaning came
down from the hills where her flier was hidden. She knew it
well--the weird note of the hunting banth. And the great
carnivore lay directly in her path. But he was not so close as
this other thing, hiding there in the shadows just a little way
off. What was it? It was the strain of uncertainty that weighed
heaviest upon her. Had she known the nature of the creature
lurking there half its meanace would have vanished. She cast
quickly about her in search of some haven of refuge should the
thing prove dangerous.
Again arose the moaning from the hills, but this time closer.
Almost immediately it was answered from the opposite side of the
valley, behind her, and then from the distance to the right of
her, and twice upon her left. Her eyes had found a tree, quite
near. Slowly, and without taking her eyes from the shadows of
that other tree, she moved toward the overhanging branches that
might afford her sanctuary in the event of need, and at her first
move a low growl rose from the spot she had been watching and she
heard the sudden moving of a big body. Simultaneously the
creature shot into the moonlight in full charge upon her, its
tail erect, its tiny ears laid flat, its great mouth with its
multiple rows of sharp and powerful fangs already yawning for its
prey, its ten legs carrying it forward in great leaps, and now
from the beast's throat issued the frightful roar with which it
seeks to paralyze its prey. It was a banth--the great, maned lion
of Barsoom. Tara of Helium saw it coming and leaped for the tree
toward which she had been moving, and the banth realized her
intention and redoubled his speed. As his hideous roar awakened
the echoes in the hills, so too it awakened echoes in the valley;
but these echoes came from the living throats of others of his
kind, until it seemed to the girl that Fate had thrown her into
the midst of a countless multitude of these savage beasts.
Almost incredbily swift is the speed of a charging banth, and
fortunate it was that the girl had not been caught farther in the
open. As it was, her margin of safety was next to negligible, for
as she swung nimbly to the lower branches the creature in pursuit
of her crashed among the foliage almost upon her as it sprang
upward to seize her. It was only a combination of good fortune
and agility that saved her. A stout branch deflected the raking
talons of the carnivore, but so close was the call that a giant
forearm brushed her flesh in the instant before she scrambled to
the higher branches.
Baffled, the banth gave vent to his rage and disappointment in a
series of frightful roars that caused the very ground to tremble,
and to these were added the roarings and the growlings and the
moanings of his fellows as they approached from every direction,
in the hope of wresting from him whatever of his kill they could
take by craft or prowess. And now he turned snarling upon them as
they circled the tree, while the girl, huddled in a crotch above
them, looked down upon the gaunt, yellow monsters padding on
noiseless feet in a restless circle about her. She wondered now
at the strange freak of fate that had permitted her to come down
this far into the valley by night unharmed, but even more she
wondered how she was to return to the hills. She knew that she
would not dare venture it by night and she guessed, too, that by
day she might be confronted by even graver perils. To depend upon
this valley for sustenance she now saw to be beyond the pale of
possibility because of the banths that would keep her from food
and water by night, while the dwellers in the towers would
doubtless make it equally impossible for her to forage by day.
There was but one solution of her difficulty and that was to
return to her flier and pray that the wind would waft her to some
less terrorful land; but when might she return to the flier? The
banths gave little evidence of relinquishing hope of her, andeven
if they wandered out of sight would she dare risk the attempt?
She doubted it.
Hopeless indeed seemed her situation--hopeless it was.
CHAPTER IV. CAPTURED
AS THURIA, swift racer of the night, shot again into the sky the
scene changed. As by magic a new aspect fell athwart the face of
Nature. It was as though in the instant one had been transported
from one planet to another. It was the age-old miracle of the
Martian nights that is always new, even to Martians--two moons
resplendent in the heavens, where one had been but now;
conflicting, fast-changing shadows that altered the very hills
themselves; far Cluros, stately, majestic, almost stationary,
shedding his steady light upon the world below; Thuria, a great
and glorious orb, swinging swift across the vaulted dome of the
blue-black night, so low that she seemed to graze the hills, a
gorgeous spectacle that held the girl now beneath the spell of
its enchantment as it always had and always would.
"Ah, Thuria, mad queen of heaven!" murmured Tara of Helium. "The
hills pass in stately procession, their bosoms rising and
falling; the trees move in restless circles; the little grasses
describe their little arcs; and all is movement, restless,
mysterious movement without sound, while Thuria passes." The girl
sighed and let her gaze fall again to the stern realities
beneath. There was no mystery in the huge banths. He who had
discovered her squatted there looking hungrily up at her. Most of
the others had wandered away in search of other prey, but a few
remained hoping yet to bury their fangs in that soft body.
The night wore on. Again Thuria left the heavens to her lord and
master, hurrying on to keep her tryst with the Sun in other
skies. But a single banth waited impatiently beneath the tree
which harbored Tara of Helium. The others had left, but their
roars, and growls, and moans thundered or rumbled, or floated
back to her from near and far. What prey found they in this
little valley? There must be something that they were accustomed
to find here that they should be drawn in so great numbers. The
girl wondered what it could be.
How long the night! Numb, cold, and exhausted, Tara of Helium
clung to the tree in growing desperation, for once she had dozed
and almost fallen. Hope was low in her brave little heart. How
much more could she endure? She asked herself the question and
then, with a brave shake of her head, she squared her shoulders.
"I still live!" she said aloud.
The banth looked up and growled.
Came Thuria again and after awhile the great Sun--a flaming
lover, pursuing his heart's desire. And Cluros, the cold husband,
continued his serene way, as placid as before his house had been
violated by this hot Lothario. And now the Sun and both Moons
rode together in the sky, lending their far mysteries to make
weird the Martian dawn. Tara of Helium looked out across the fair
valley that spread upon all sides of her. It was rich and
beautiful, but even as she looked upon it she shuddered, for to
her mind came a picture of the headless things that the towers
and the walls hid. Those by day and the banths by night! Ah, was
it any wonder that she shuddered?
With the coming of the Sun the great Barsoomian lion rose to his
feet. He turned angry eyes upon the girl above him, voiced a
single ominous growl, and slunk away toward the hills. The girl
watched him, and she saw that he gave the towers as wide a berth
as possible and that he never took his eyes from one of them
while he was passing it. Evidently the inmates had taught these
savage creatures to respect them. Presently he passed from sight
in a narrow defile, nor in any direction that she could see was
there another. Momentarily at least the landscape was deserted.
The girl wondered if she dared to attempt to regain the hills and
her flier. She dreaded the coming of the workmen to the fields as
she was sure they would come. She shrank from again seeing the
headless bodies, and found herself wondering if these things
would come out into the fields and work. She looked toward the
nearest tower. There was no sign of life there. The valley lay
quiet now and deserted. She lowered herself stiffly to the
ground. Her muscles were cramped and every move brought a twinge
of pain. Pausing a moment to drink again at the stream she felt
refreshed and then turned without more delay toward the hills. To
cover the distance as quickly as possible seemed the only plan to
pursue. The trees no longer offered concealment and so she did
not go out of her way to be near them. The hills seemed very far
away. She had not thought, the night before, that she had
traveled so far. Really it had not been far, but now, with the
three towers to pass in broad daylight, the distance seemed great
The second tower lay almost directly in her path. To make a
detour would not lessen the chance of detection, it would only
lengthen the period of her danger, and so she laid her course
straight for the hill where her flier was, regardless of the
tower. As she passed the first enclosure she thought that she
heard the sound of movement within, but the gate did not open and
she breathed more easily when it lay behind her. She came then to
the second enclosure, the outer wall of which she must circle, as
it lay across her route. As she passed close along it she
distinctly heard not only movement within, but voices. In the
world-language of Barsoom she heard a man issuing
instructions--so many were to pick usa, so many were to irrigate
this field, so many to cultivate that, and so on, as a foreman
lay out the day's work for his crew.
Tara of Helium had just reached the gate in the outer wall.
Without warning it swung open toward her. She saw that for a
moment it would hide her from those within and in that moment she
turned and ran, keeping close to the wall, until, passing out of
sight beyond the curve of the structure, she came to the opposite
side of the enclosure. Here, panting from her exertion and from
the excitement of her narrow escape, she threw herself among some
tall weeds that grew close to the foot of the wall. There she lay
trembling for some time, not even daring to raise her head and
look about. Never before had Tara of Helium felt the paralyzing
effects of terror. She was shocked and angry at herself, that
she, daughter of John Carter, Warlord of Barsoom, should exhibit
fear. Not even the fact that there had been none there to witness
it lessened her shame and anger, and the worst of it was she knew
that under similar circumstances she would again be equally as
craven. It was not the fear of death--she knew that. No, it was
the thought of those headless bodies and that she might see them
and that they might even touch her--lay hands upon her--seize
her. She shuddered and trembled at the thought.
After a while she gained sufficient command of herself to raise
her head and look about. To her horror she discovered that
everywhere she looked she saw people working in the fields or
preparing to do so. Workmen were coming from other towers. Little
bands were passing to this field and that. They were even some
already at work within thirty ads of her--about a hundred yards.
There were ten, perhaps, in the party nearest her, both men and
women, and all were beautiful of form and grotesque of face. So
meager were their trappings that they were practically naked; a
fact that was in no way remarkable among the tillers of the
fields of Mars. Each wore the peculiar, high leather collar that
completely hid the neck, and each wore sufficient other leather
to support a single sword and a pocket-pouch. The leather was
very old and worn, showing long, hard service, and was absolutely
plain with the exception of a single device upon the left
shoulder. The heads, however, were covered with ornaments of
precious metals and jewels, so that little more than eyes, nose,
and mouth were discernible. These were hideously inhuman and yet
grotesquely human at the same time. The eyes were far apart and
protruding, the nose scarce more than two small, parallel slits
set vertically above a round hole that was the mouth. The heads
were peculiarly repulsive--so much so that it seemed unbelievable
to the girl that they formed an integral part of the beautiful
bodies below them.
So fascinated was Tara of Helium that she could scarce take her
eyes from the strange creatures--a fact that was to prove her
undoing, for in order that she might see them she was forced to
expose a part of her own head and presently, to her
consternation, she saw that one of the creatures had stopped his
work and was staring directly at her. She did not dare move, for
it was still possible that the thing had not seen her, or at
least was only suspicious that some creature lay hid among the
weeds. If she could allay this suspicion by remaining motionless
the creature might believe that he had been mistaken and return
to his work; but, alas, such was not to be the case. She saw the
thing call the attention of others to her and almost immediately
four or five of them started to move in her direction.
It was impossible now to escape discovery. Her only hope lay in
flight. If she could elude them and reach the hills and the flier
ahead of them she might escape, and that could be accomplished in
but one way--flight, immediate and swift. Leaping to her feet she
darted along the base of the wall which she must skirt to the
opposite side, beyond which lay the hill that was her goal. Her
act was greeted by strange whistling sounds from the things
behind her, and casting a glance over her shoulder she saw them
all in rapid pursuit.
There were also shrill commands that she halt, but to these she
paid no attention. Before she had half circled the enclosure she
discovered that her chances for successful escape were great,
since it was evident to her that her pursuers were not so fleet
as she. High indeed then were her hopes as she came in sight of
the hill, but they were soon dashed by what lay before her, for
there, in the fields that lay between, were fully a hundred
creatures similar to those behind her and all were on the alert,
evidently warned by the whistling of their fellows. Instructions
and commands were shouted to and fro, with the result that those
before her spread roughly into a great half circle to intercept
her, and when she turned to the right, hoping to elude the net,
she saw others coming from fields beyond, and to the left the
same was true. But Tara of Helium would not admit defeat. Without
once pausing she turned directly toward the center of the
advancing semi-circle, beyond which lay her single chance of
escape, and as she ran she drew her long, slim dagger. Like her
valiant sire, if die she must, she would die fighting. There were
gaps in the thin line confronting her and toward the widest of
one of these she directed her course. The things on either side
of the opening guessed her intent for they closed in to place
themselves in her path. This widened the openings on either side
of them and as the girl appeared almost to rush into their arms
she turned suddenly at right angles, ran swiftly in the new
direction for a few yards, and then dashed quickly toward the
hill again. Now only a single warrior, with a wide gap on either
side of him, barred her clear way to freedom, though all the
others were speeding as rapidly as they could to intercept her.
If she could pass this one without too much delay she could
escape, of that she was certain. Her every hope hinged on this.
The creature before her realized it, too, for he moved
cautiously, though swiftly, to intercept her, as a Rugby fullback
might maneuver in the realization that he alone stood between the
opposing team and a touchdown.
At first Tara of Helium had hoped that she might dodge him, for
she could not but guess that she was not only more fleet but
infinitely more agile than these strange creatures; but soon
there came to her the realization that in the time consumed in an
attempt to elude his grasp his nearer fellows would be upon her
and escape then impossible, so she chose instead to charge
straight for him, and when he guessed her decision he stood, half
crouching and with outstretched arms, awaiting her. In one hand
was his sword, but a voice arose, crying in tones of authority.
"Take her alive! Do not harm her!" Instantly the fellow returned
his sword to its scabbard and then Tara of Helium was upon him.
Straight for that beautiful body she sprang and in the instant
that the arms closed to seize her her sharp blade drove deep into
the naked chest. The impact hurled them both to the ground and as
Tara of Helium sprang to her feet again she saw, to her horror,
that the loathsome head had rolled from the body and was now
crawling away from her on six short, spider-]ike legs. The body
struggled spasmodically and lay still. As brief as had been the
delay caused by the encounter, it still had been of sufficient
duration to undo her, for even as she rose two more of the things
fell upon her and instantly thereafter she was surrounded. Her
blade sank once more into naked flesh and once more a head rolled
free and crawled away. Then they overpowered her and in another
moment she was surrounded by fully a hundred of the creatures,
all seeking to lay hands upon her. At first she thought that they
wished to tear her to pieces in revenge for her having slain two
of their fellows, but presently she realized that they were
prompted more by curiosity than by any sinister motive.
"Come!" said one of her captors, both of whom had retained a hold
upon her. As he spoke he tried to lead her away with him toward
the nearest tower.
"She belongs to me," cried the other. "Did not I capture her? She
will come with me to the tower of Moak."
"Never!" insisted the first. "She is Luud's. To Luud I will take
her, and whosoever interferes may feel the keenness of my
sword--in the head!" He almost shouted the last three words.
"Come! Enough of this," cried one who spoke with some show of
authority. "She was captured in Luud's fields--she will go to
"She was discovered in Moak's fields, at the very foot of the
tower of Moak," insisted he who had claimed her for Moak.
"You have heard the Nolach speak," cried the Luud. "It shall be
as he says."
"Not while this Moak holds a sword," replied the other. "Rather
will I cut her in twain and take my half to Moak than to
relinquish her all to Luud," and he drew his sword, or rather he
laid his hand upon its hilt in a threatening gesture; but before
ever he could draw it the Luud had whipped his out and with a
fearful blow cut deep into the head of his adversary. Instantly
the big, round head collapsed, almost as a punctured balloon
collapses, as a grayish, semi-fluid matter spurted from it. The
protruding eyes, apparently lidless, merely stared, the
sphincter-like muscle of the mouth opened and closed, and then
the head toppled from the body to the ground. The body stood
dully for a moment and then slowly started to wander aimlessly
about until one of the others seized it by the arm.
One of the two heads crawling about on the ground now approached.
"This rykor belongs to Moak," it said. "I am a Moak. I will take
it," and without further discussion it commenced to crawl up the
front of the headless body, using its six short, spiderlike legs
and two stout chelae which grew just in front of its legs and
strongly resembled those of an Earthly lobster, except that they
were both of the same size. The body in the meantime stood in
passive indifference, its arms hanging idly at its sides. The
head climbed to the shoulders and settled itself inside the
leather collar that now hid its chelae and legs. Almost
immediately the body gave evidence of intelligent animation. It
raised its hands and adjusted the collar more comfortably, it
took the head between its palms and settled it in place and when
it moved around it did not wander aimlessly, but instead its
steps were firm and to some purpose.
The girl watched all these things in growing wonder, and
presently, no other of the Moaks seeming inclined to dispute the
right of the Luud to her, she was led off by her captor toward
the nearest tower. Several accompanied them, including one who
carried the loose head under his arm. The head that was being
carried conversed with the head upon the shoulders of the thing
that carried it. Tara of Helium shivered. It was horrible! All
that she had seen of these frightful creatures was horrible. And
to be a prisoner, wholly in their power. Shadow of her first
ancestor! What had she done to deserve so cruel a fate?
At the wall enclosing the tower they paused while one opened the
gate and then they passed within the enclosure, which, to the
girl's horror, she found filled with headless bodies. The
creature who carried the bodiless head now set its burden upon
the ground and the latter immediately crawled toward one of the
bodies that was lying near by. Some wandered stupidly to and fro,
but this one lay still. It was a female. The head crawled to it
and made its way to the shoulders where it settled itself. At
once the body sprang lightly erect. Another of those who had
accompanied them from the fields approached with the harness and
collar that had been taken from the dead body that the head had
formerly topped. The new body now appropriated these and the
hands deftly adjusted them. The creature was now as good as
before Tara of Helium had struck down its former body with her
slim blade. But there was a difference. Before it had been
male--now it was female. That, however, seemed to make no
difference to the head. In fact, Tara of Helium had noticed
during the scramble and the fight about her that sex differences
seemed of little moment to her captors. Males and females had
taken equal part in her pursuit, both were identically harnessed
and both carried swords, and she had seen as many females as
males draw their weapons at the moment that a quarrel between the
two factions seemed imminent.
The girl was given but brief opportunity for further observation
of the pitiful creatures in the enclosure as her captor, after
having directed the others to return to the fields, led her
toward the tower, which they entered, passing into an apartment
about ten feet wide and twenty long, in one end of which was a
stairway leading to an upper level and in the other an opening to
a similar stairway leading downward. The chamber, though on a
level with the ground, was brilliantly lighted by windows in its
inner wall, the light coming from a circular court in the center
of the tower. The walls of this court appeared to be faced with
what resembled glazed, white tile and the whole interior of it
was flooded with dazzling light, a fact which immediately
explained to the girl the purpose of the glass prisms of which
the domes were constructed. The stairways themselves were
sufficient to cause remark, since in nearly all Barsoomian
architecture inclined runways are utilized for purposes of
communication between different levels, and especially is this
true of the more ancient forms and of those of remote districts
where fewer changes have come to alter the customs of antiquity.
Down the stairway her captor led Tara of Helium. Down and down
through chambers still lighted from the brilliant well.
Occasionally they passed others going in the opposite direction
and these always stopped to examine the girl and ask questions of
"I know nothing but that she was found in the fields and that I
caught her after a fight in which she slew two rykors and in
which I slew a Moak, and that I take her to Luud, to whom, of
course, she belongs. If Luud wishes to question her that is for
Luud to do--not for me." Thus always he answered the curious.
Presently they reached a room from which a circular tunnel led
away from the tower, and into this the creature conducted her.
The tunnel was some seven feet in diameter and flattened on the
bottom to form a walk. For a hundred feet from the tower it was
lined with the same tile-like material of the light well and
amply illuminated by reflected light from that source. Beyond it
was faced with stone of various shapes and sizes, neatly cut and
fitted together--a very fine mosaic without a pattern. There were
branches, too, and other tunnels which crossed this, and
occasionally openings not more than a foot in diameter; these
latter being usually close to the floor. Above each of these
smaller openings was painted a different device, while upon the
walls of the larger tunnels at all intersections and points of
convergence hieroglyphics appeared. These the girl could not read
though she guessed that they were the names of the tunnels, or
notices indicating the points to which they led. She tried to
study some of them out, but there was not a character that was
familiar to her, which seemed strange, since, while the written
languages of the various nations of Barsoom differ, it still is
true that they have many characters and words in common.
She had tried to converse with her guard but he had not seemed
inclined to talk with her and she had finally desisted. She could
not but note that he had offered her no indignities, nor had he
been either unnecessarily rough or in any way cruel. The fact
that she had slain two of the bodies with her dagger had
apparently aroused no animosity or desire for revenge in the
minds of the strange heads that surmounted the bodies--even those
whose bodies had been killed. She did not try to understand it,
since she could not approach the peculiar relationship between
the heads and the bodies of these creatures from the basis of any
past knowledge or experience of her own. So far their treatment
of her seemed to augur naught that might arouse her fears.
Perhaps, after all, she had been fortunate to fall into the hands
of these strange people, who might not only protect her from
harm, but even aid her in returning to Helium. That they were
repulsive and uncanny she could not forget, but if they meant her
no harm she could, at least, overlook their repulsiveness.
Renewed hope aroused within her a spirit of greater cheerfulness,
and it was almost blithely now that she moved at the side of her
weird companion. She even caught herself humming a gay little
tune that was then popular in Helium. The creature at her side
turned its expressionless eyes upon her.
"What is that noise that you are making?" it asked.
"I was but humming an air," she replied.
"'Humming an air,'" he repeated. "I do not know what you mean;
but do it again, I like it."
This time she sang the words, while her companion listened
intently. His face gave no indication of what was passing in that
strange head. It was as devoid of expression as that of a spider.
It reminded her of a spider. When she had finished he turned
toward her again.
"That was different," he said. "I liked that better, even, than
the other. How do you do it?"
"Why," she said, "it is singing. Do you not know what song is?"
"No," he replied. "Tell me how you do it."
"It is difficult to explain," she told him. "since any
explanation of it presupposes some knowledge of melody and of
music, while your very question indicates that you have no
knowledge of either."
"No," he said, "I do not know what you are talking about; but
tell me how you do it."
"It is merely the melodious modulations of my voice," she
explained. "Listen!" and again she sang.
"I do not understand," he insisted; "but I like it. Could you
teach me to do it?"
"I do not know, but I shall be glad to try."
"We will see what Luud does with you," he said. "If he does not
want you I will keep you and you shall teach me to make sounds
At his request she sang again as they continued their way along
the winding tunnel, which was now lighted by occasional bulbs
which appeared to be similar to the radium bulbs with which she
was familiar and which were common to all the nations of Barsoom,
insofar as she knew, having been perfected at so remote a period
that their very origin was lost in antiquity. They consist,
usually, of a hemispherical bowl of heavy glass in which is
packed a compound containing what, according to John Carter, must
be radium. The bowl is then cemented into a metal plate with a
heavily insulated back and the whole affair set in the masonry of
wall or ceiling as desired, where it gives off light of greater
or less intensity, according to the composition of the filling
material, for an almost incalculable period of time.
As they proceeded they met a greater number of the inhabitants of
this underground world, and the girl noted that among many of
these the metal and harness were more ornate than had been those
of the workers in the fields above. The heads and bodies,
however, were similar, even identical, she thought. No one
offered her harm and she was now experiencing a feeling of relief
almost akin to happiness, when her guide turned suddenly into an
opening on the right side of the tunnel and she found herself in
a large, well lighted chamber.
CHAPTER V. THE PERFECT BRAIN
THE song that had been upon her lips as she entered died
there--frozen by the sight of horror that met her eyes. In the
center of the chamber a headless body lay upon the floor--a body
that had been partially devoured--while over and upon it crawled
a half a dozen heads upon their short, spider legs, and they tore
at the flesh of the woman with their chelae and carried the bits
to their awful mouths. They were eating human flesh--eating it
Tara of Helium gasped in horror and turning away covered her eyes
with her palms.
"Come!" said her captor. "What is the matter?"
"They are eating the flesh of the woman," she whispered in tones
"Why not?" he inquired. "Did you suppose that we kept the rykor
for labor alone? Ah, no. They are delicious when kept and
fattened. Fortunate, too, are those that are bred for food, since
they are never called upon to do aught but eat."
"It is hideous!" she cried.
He looked at her steadily for a moment, but whether in surprise,
in anger, or in pity his expressionless face did not reveal. Then
he led her on across the room past the frightful thing, from
which she turned away her eyes. Lying about the floor near the
walls were half a dozen headless bodies in harness. These she
guessed had been abandoned temporarily by the feasting heads
until they again required their services. In the walls of this
room there were many of the small, round openings she had noticed
in various parts of the tunnels, the purpose of which she could
They passed through another corridor and then into a second
chamber, larger than the first and more brilliantly illuminated.
Within were several of the creatures with heads and bodies
assembled, while many headless bodies lay about near the walls.
Here her captor halted and spoke to one of the occupants of the
"I seek Luud," he said. "I bring to Luud a creature that I
captured in the fields above."
The others crowded about to examine Tara of Helium. One of them
whistled, whereupon the girl learned something of the smaller
openings in the walls, for almost immediately there crawled from
them, like giant spiders, a score or more of the hideous heads.
Each sought one of the recumbent bodies and fastened itself in
place. Immediately the bodies reacted to the intelligent
direction of the heads. They arose, the hands adjusted the
leather collars and put the balance of the harness in order, then
the creatures crossed the room to where Tara of Helium stood. She
noted that their leather was more highly ornamented than that
worn by any of the others she had previously seen, and so she
guessed that these must be higher in authority than the others.
Nor was she mistaken. The demeanor of her captor indicated it. He
addressed them as one who holds intercourse with superiors.
Several of those who examined her felt her flesh, pinching it
gently between thumb and forefinger, a familiarity that the girl
resented. She struck down their hands. "Do not touch me!" she
cried, imperiously, for was she not a princess of Helium? The
expression on those terrible faces did not change. She could not
tell whether they were angry or amused, whether her action had
filled them with respect for her, or contempt. Only one of them
"She will have to be fattened more," he said.
The girl's eyes went wide with horror. She turned upon her
captor. "Do these frightful creatures intend to devour me?" she
"That is for Luud to say," he replied, and then he leaned closer
so that his mouth was near her ear. "That noise you made which
you called song pleased me," he whispered, "and I will repay you
by warning you not to antagonize these kaldanes. They are very
powerful. Luud listens to them. Do not call them frightful. They
are very handsome. Look at their wonderful trappings, their gold,
"Thank you," she said. "You called them kaldanes--what does that
"We are all kaldanes," he replied.
"You, too?" and she pointed at him, her slim finger directed
toward his chest.
"No, not this," he explained, touching his body; "this is a
rykor; but this," and he touched his head, "is a kaldane. It is
the brain, the intellect, the power that directs all things. The
rykor," he indicated his body, "is nothing. It is not so much
even as the jewels upon our harness; no, not so much as the
harness itself. It carries us about. It is true that we would
find difficulty getting along without it; but it has less value
than harness or jewels because it is less difficult to
reproduce." He turned again to the other kaldanes. "Will you
notify Luud that I am here?" he asked.
"Sept has already gone to Luud. He will tell him," replied one.
"Where did you find this rykor with the strange kaldane that
cannot detach itself?"
The girl's captor narrated once more the story of her capture. He
stated facts just as they had occurred, without embellishment,
his voice as expressionless as his face, and his story was
received in the same manner that it was delivered. The creatures
seemed totally lacking in emotion, or, at least, the capacity to
express it. It was impossible to judge what impression the story
made upon them, or even if they heard it. Their protruding eyes
simply stared and occasionally the muscles of their mouths opened
and closed. Familiarity did not lessen the horror the girl felt
for them. The more she saw of them the more repulsive they
seemed. Often her body was shaken by convulsive shudders as she
looked at the kaldanes, but when her eyes wandered to the
beautiful bodies and she could for a moment expunge the heads
from her consciousness the effect was soothing and refreshing,
though when the bodies lay, headless, upon the floor they were
quite as shocking as the heads mounted on bodies. But by far the
most grewsome and uncanny sight of all was that of the heads
crawling about upon their spider legs. If one of these should
approach and touch her Tara of Helium was positive that she
should scream, while should one attempt to crawl up her
person--ugh! the very idea induced a feeling of faintness.
Sept returned to the chamber. "Luud will see you and the captive.
Come!" he said, and turned toward a door opposite that through
which Tara of Helium had entered the chamber. "What is your
name?" His question was directed to the girl's captor.
"I am Ghek, third foreman of the fields of Luud," he answered.
"I do not know."
"It makes no difference. Come!"
The patrician brows of Tara of Helium went high. It made no
difference, indeed! She, a princess of Helium; only daughter of
The Warlord of Barsoom!
"Wait!" she cried. "It makes much difference who I am. If you are
conducting me into the presence of your jed you may announce The
Princess Tara of Helium, daughter of John Carter, The Warlord of
"Hold your peace!" commanded Sept. "Speak when you are spoken to.
Come with me!"
The anger of Tara of Helium all but choked her. "Come,"
admonished Ghek, and took her by the arm, and Tara of Helium
came. She was naught but a prisoner. Her rank and titles meant
nothing to these inhuman monsters. They led her through a short,
S-shaped passageway into a chamber entirely lined with the white,
tile-like material with which the interior of the light wall was
faced. Close to the base of the walls were numerous smaller
apertures, circular in shape, but larger than those of similar
aspect that she had noted elsewhere. The majority of these
apertures were sealed. Directly opposite the entrance was one
framed in gold, and above it a peculiar device was inlaid in the
same precious metal.
Sept and Ghek halted just within the room, the girl between them,
and all three stood silently facing the opening in the opposite
wall. On the floor beside the aperture lay a headless male body
of almost heroic proportions, and on either side of this stood a
heavily armed warrior, with drawn sword. For perhaps five minutes
the three waited and then something appeared in the opening. It
was a pair of large chelae and immediately thereafter there
crawled forth a hideous kaldane of enormous proportions. He was
half again as large as any that Tara of Helium had yet seen and
his whole aspect infinitely more terrible. The skin of the others
was a bluish gray--this one was of a little bluer tinge and the
eyes were ringed with bands of white and scarlet, as was its
From each nostril a band of white and one of scarlet extended
outward horizontally the width of the face.
No one spoke or moved. The creature crawled to the prostrate body
and affixed itself to the neck. Then the two rose as one and
approached the girl. He looked at her and then he spoke to her
"You are the third foreman of the fields of Luud?" he asked.
"Yes, Luud; I am called Ghek."
"Tell me what you know of this," and he nodded toward Tara of
Ghek did as he was bid and then Luud addressed the girl.
"What were you doing within the borders of Bantoom?" he asked.
"I was blown hither in a great storm that injured my flier and
carried me I knew not where. I came down into the valley at night
for food and drink. The banths came and drove me to the safety of
a tree, and then your people caught me as I was trying to leave
the valley. I do not know why they took me. I was doing no harm.
All I ask is that you let me go my way in peace."
"None who enters Bantoom ever leaves," replied Luud.
"But my people are not at war with yours. I am a princess of
Helium; my great-grandfather is a jeddak; my grandfather a jed;
and my father is Warlord of all Barsoom. You have no right to
keep me and I demand that you liberate me at once."
"None who enters Bantoom ever leaves," repeated the creature
without expression. "I know nothing of the lesser creatures of
Barsoom, of whom you speak. There is but one high race--the race
of Bantoomians. All Nature exists to serve them. You shall do
your share, but not yet--you are too skinny. We shall have to put
some fat upon it, Sept. I tire of rykor. Perhaps this will have a
different flavor. The banths are too rank and it is seldom that
any other creature enters the valley. And you, Ghek; you shall be
rewarded. I shall promote you from the fields to the burrows.
Hereafter you shall remain underground as every Bantoomian longs
to. No more shall you be forced to endure the hated sun, or look
upon the hideous sky, or the hateful growing things that defile
the surface. For the present you shall look after this thing that
you have brought me, seeing that it sleeps and eats--and does
nothing else. You understand me, Ghek; nothing else!"
"I understand, Luud," replied the other.
"Take it away!" commanded the creature.
Ghek turned and led Tara of Helium from the apartment. The girl
was horrified by contemplation of the fate that awaited her--a
fate from which it seemed, there was no escape. It was only too
evident that these creatures possessed no gentle or chivalric
sentiments to which she could appeal, and that she might escape
from the labyrinthine mazes of their underground burrows appeared
Outside the audience chamber Sept overtook them and conversed
with Ghek for a brief period, then her keeper led her through a
confusing web of winding tunnels until they came to a small
"We are to remain here for a while. It may be that Luud will send
for you again. If he does you will probably not be fattened--he
will use you for another purpose." It was fortunate for the
girl's peace of mind that she did not realize what he meant.
"Sing for me," said Ghek, presently.
Tara of Helium did not feel at all like singing, but she sang,
nevertheless, for there was always the hope that she might escape
if given the opportuntiy and if she could win the friendship of
one of the creatures, her chances would be increased
proportionately. All during the ordeal, for such it was to the
overwrought girl, Ghek stood with his eyes fixed upon her.
"It is wonderful," he said, when she had finished; "but I did not
tell Luud--you noticed that I did not tell Luud about it. Had he
known, he would have had you sing to him and that would have
resulted in your being kept with him that he might hear you sing
whenever he wished; but now I can have you all the time."
"How do you know he would like my singing?" she asked.
"He would have to," replied Ghek. "If I like a thing he has to
like it, for are we not identical--all of us?"
"The people of my race do not all like the same things," said the
"How strange!" commented Ghek. "All kaldanes like the same things
and dislike the same things. If I discover something new and like
it I know that all kaldanes will like it. That is how I know that
Luud would like your singing. You see we are all exactly alike."
"But you do not look like Luud," said the girl.
"Luud is king. He is larger and more gorgeously marked; but
otherwise he and I are identical, and why not? Did not Luud
produce the egg from which I hatched?"
"What?" queried the girl; "I do not understand you."
"Yes," explained Ghek, "all of us are from Luud's eggs, just as
all the swarm of Moak are from Moak's eggs."
"Oh!" exclaimed Tara of Helium understandingly; "you mean that
Luud has many wives and that you are the offspring of one of
"No, not that at all," replied Ghek. "Luud has no wife. He lays
the eggs himself. You do not understand."
Tara of Helium admitted that she did not.
"I will try to explain, then," said Ghek, "if you will promise to
sing to me later."
"I promise," she said.
"We are not like the rykors," he began. "They are creatures of a
low order, like yourself and the banths and such things. We have
no sex--not one of us except our king, who is bi-sexual. He
produces many eggs from which we, the workers and the warriors,
are hatched; and one in every thousand eggs is another king egg,
from which a king is hatched. Did you notice the sealed openings
in the room where you saw Luud? Sealed in each of those is
another king. If one of them escaped he would fall upon Luud and
try to kill him and if he succeeded we should have a new king;
but there would be no difference. His name would be Luud and all
would go on as before, for are we not all alike? Luud has lived a
long time and has produced many kings, so he lets only a few live
that there may be a successor to him when he dies. The others he
"Why does he keep more than one?" queried the girl.
"Sometimes accidents occur," replied Ghek, "and all the kings
that a swarm has saved are killed. When this happens the swarm
comes and obtains another king from a neighboring swarm."
"Are all of you the children of Luud?" she asked.
"All but a few, who are from the eggs of the preceding king, as
was Luud; but Luud has lived a long time and not many of the
others are left."
"You live a long time, or short?" Tara asked.
"A very long time."
"And the rykors, too; they live a long time?"
"No; the rykors live for ten years, perhaps," he said, "if they
remain strong and useful. When they can no longer be of service
to us, either through age or sickness, we leave them in the
fields and the banths come at night and get them."
"How horrible!" she exclaimed.
"Horrible?" he repeated. "I see nothing horrible about that.
The rykors are but brainless flesh. They neither see, nor feel,
nor hear. They can scarce move but for us. If we did not bring
them food they would starve to death. They are less deserving of
thought than our leather. All that they can do for themselves is
to take food from a trough and put it in their mouths, but with
us--look at them!" and he proudly exhibited the noble figure that
he surmounted, palpitant with life and energy and feeling.
"How do you do it?" asked Tara of Helium. "I do not understand it
"I will show you," he said, and lay down upon the floor. Then he
detached himself from the body, which lay as a thing dead. On his
spider legs he walked toward the girl. "Now look," he admonished
her. "Do you see this thing?" and he extended what appeared to be
a bundle of tentacles from the posterior part of his head. "There
is an aperture just back of the rykor's mouth and directly over
the upper end of his spinal column. Into this aperture I insert
my tentacles and seize the spinal cord. Immediately I control
every muscle of the rykor's body--it becomes my own, just as you
direct the movement of the muscles of your body. I feel what the
rykor would feel if he had a head and brain. If he is hurt, I
would suffer if I remained connected with him; but the instant
one of them is injured or becomes sick we desert it for another.
As we would suffer the pains of their physical injuries,
similarly do we enjoy the physical pleasures of the rykors. When
your body becomes fatigued you are comparatively useless; it is
sick, you are sick; if it is killed, you die. You are the slave
of a mass of stupid flesh and bone and blood. There is nothing
more wonderful about your carcass than there is about the carcass
of a banth. It is only your brain that makes you superior to the
banth, but your brain is bound by the limitations of your body.
Not so, ours. With us brain is everything. Ninety per centum of
our volume is brain. We have only the simplest of vital organs
and they are very small for they do not have to assist in the
support of a complicated system of nerves, muscles, flesh and
bone. We have no lungs, for we do not require air. Far below the
levels to which we can take the rykors is a vast network of
burrows where the real life of the kaldane is lived. There the
air-breathing rykor would perish as you would perish. There we
have stored vast quantities of food in hermetically sealed
chambers. It will last forever. Far beneath the surface is water
that will flow for countless ages after the surface water is
exhausted. We are preparing for the time we know must come--the
time when the last vestige of the Barsoomian atmosphere is
spent--when the waters and the food are gone. For this purpose
were we created, that there might not perish from the planet
Nature's divinest creation--the perfect brain."
"But what purpose can you serve when that time comes?" asked the
"You do not understand," he said. "It is too big for you to
grasp, but I will try to explain it. Barsoom, the moons, the sun,
the stars, were created for a single purpose. From the beginning
of time Nature has labored arduously toward the consummation of
this purpose. At the very beginning things existed with life, but
with no brain. Gradually rudimentary nervous systems and minute
brains evolved. Evolution proceeded. The brains became larger and
more powerful. In us you see the highest development; but there
are those of us who believe that there is yet another step--that
some time in the far future our race shall develop into the
super-thing--just brain. The incubus of legs and chelae and vital
organs will be removed. The future kaldane will be nothing but a
great brain. Deaf, dumb, and blind it will lie sealed in its
buried vault far beneath the surface of Barsoom--just a great,
wonderful, beautiful brain with nothing to distract it from
"You mean it will just lie there and think?" cried Tara of
"Just that!" he exclaimed. "Could aught be more wonderful?"
"Yes," replied the girl, "I can think of a number of things that
would be infinitely more wonderful."
CHAPTER VI. IN THE TOILS OF HORROR
WHAT the creature had told her gave Tara of Helium food for
thought. She had been taught that every created thing fulfilled
some useful purpose, and she tried conscientiously to discover
just what was the rightful place of the kaldane in the universal
scheme of things. She knew that it must have its place but what
that place was it was beyond her to conceive. She had to give it
up. They recalled to her mind a little group of people in Helium
who had forsworn the pleasures of life in the pursuit of
knowledge. They were rather patronizing in their relations with
those whom they thought not so intellectual. They considered
themselves quite superior. She smiled at recollection of a remark
her father had once made concerning them, to the effect that if
one of them ever dropped his egotism and broke it it would take a
week to fumigate Helium. Her father liked normal people--people
who knew too little and people who knew too much were equally a
bore. Tara of Helium was like her father in this respect and like
him, too, she was both sane and normal.
Outside of her personal danger there was much in this strange
world that interested her. The rykors aroused her keenest pity,
and vast conjecture. How and from what form had they evolved? She
"Sing to me again and I will tell you," he said. "If Luud would
let me have you, you should never die. I should keep you always
to sing to me."
The girl marvelled at the effect her voice had upon the creature.
Somewhere in that enormous brain there was a chord that was
touched by melody. It was the sole link between herself and the
brain when detatched from the rykor. When it dominated the rykor
it might have other human instincts; but these she dreaded even
to think of. After she had sung she waited for Ghek to speak. For
a long time he was silent, just looking at her through those
"I wonder," he said presently, "if it might not be pleasant to be
of your race. Do you all sing?"
"Nearly all, a little," she said; "but we do many other
interesting and enjoyable things. We dance and play and work and
love and sometimes we fight, for we are a race of warriors."
"Love!" said the kaldane. "I think I know what you mean; but we,
fortunately, are above sentiment--when we are detached. But when
we dominate the rykor--ah, that is different, and when I hear you
sing and look at your beautiful body I know what you mean by
love. I could love you."
The girl shrank from him. "You promised to tell me the origin of
the rykor," she reminded him.
"Ages ago," he commenced, "our bodies were larger and our heads
smaller. Our legs were very weak and we could not travel fast or
far. There was a stupid creature that went upon four legs. It
lived in a hole in the ground, to which it brought its food, so
we ran our burrows into this hole and ate the food it brought;
but it did not bring enough for all--for itself and all the
kaldanes that lived upon it, so we had also to go abroad and get
food. This was hard work for our weak legs. Then it was that we
commenced to ride upon the backs of these primitive rykors. It
took many ages, undoubtedly, but at last came the time when the
kaldane had found means to guide the rykor, until presently the
latter depended entirely upon the superior brain of his master to
guide him to food. The brain of the rykor grew smaller as time
went on. His ears went and his eyes, for he no longer had use for
them--the kaldane saw and heard for him. By similar steps the
rykor came to go upon its hind feet that the kaldane might be
able to see farther. As the brain shrank, so did the head. The
mouth was the only feature of the head that was used and so the
mouth alone remains. Members of the red race fell into the hands
of our ancestors from time to time. They saw the beauties and the
advantages of the form that nature had given the red race over
that which the rykor was developing into. By intelligent crossing
the present rykor was achieved. He is really solely the product
of the super-intelligence of the kaldane--he is our body, to do
with as we see fit, just as you do what you see fit with your
body, only we have the advantage of possessing an unlimited
supply of bodies. Do you not wish that you were a kaldane?"
For how long they kept her in the subterranean chamber Tara of
Helium did not know. It seemed a very long time. She ate and
slept and watched the interminable lines of creatures that passed
the entrance to her prison. There was a laden line passing from
above carrying food, food, food. In the other line they returned
empty handed. When she saw them she knew that it was daylight
above. When they did not pass she knew it was night, and that the
banths were about devouring the rykors that had been abandoned in
the fields the previous day. She commenced to grow pale and thin.
She did not like the food they gave her--it was not suited to her
kind--nor would she have eaten overmuch palatable food, for the
fear of becoming fat. The idea of plumpness had a new
significance here--a horrible significance.
Ghek noted that she was growing thin and white. He spoke to her
about it and she told him that she could not thrive thus beneath
the ground--that she must have fresh air and sunshine, or she
would wither and die. Evidently he carried her words to Luud,
since it was not long after that he told her that the king had
ordered that she be confined in the tower and to the tower she
was taken. She had hoped against hope that this very thing might
result from her conversation with Ghek. Even to see the sun again
was something, but now there sprang to her breast a hope that she
had not dared to nurse before, while she lay in the terrible
labyrinth from which she knew she could never have found her way
to the outer world; but now there was some slight reason to hope.
At least she could see the hills and if she could see them might
there not come also the opportunity to reach them? If she could
have but ten minutes--just ten little minutes! The flier was
still there--she knew that it must be. Just ten minutes and she
would be free--free forever from this frightful place; but the
days wore on and she was never alone, not even for half of ten
minutes. Many times she planned her escape. Had it not been for
the banths it had been easy of accomplishment by night. Ghek
always detached his body then and sank into what seemed a
semi-comatose condition. It could not be said that he slept, or
at least it did not appear like sleep, since his lidless eyes
were unchanged; but he lay quietly in a corner. Tara of Helium
enacted a thousand times in her mind the scene of her escape. She
would rush to the side of the rykor and seize the sword that hung
in its harness. Before Ghek knew what she purposed, she would
have this and then before he could give an alarm she would drive
the blade through his hideous head. It would take but a moment to
reach the enclosure. The rykors could not stop her, for they had
no brains to tell them that she was escaping. She had watched
from her window the opening and closing of the gate that led from
the enclosure out into the fields and she knew how the great
latch operated. She would pass through and make a quick dash for
the hill. It was so near that they could not overtake her. It was
so easy! Or it would have been but for the banths! The banths at
night and the workers in the fields by day.
Confined to the tower and without proper exercise or food, the
girl failed to show the improvement that her captors desired.
Ghek questioned her in an effort to learn why it was that she did
not grow round and plump; that she did not even look as well as
when they had captured her. His concern was prompted by repeated
inquiries on the part of Luud and finally resulted in suggesting
to Tara of Helium a plan whereby she might find a new opportunity
"I am accustomed to walking in the fresh air and the sunlight,"
she told Ghek. "I cannot become as I was before if I am to be
always shut away in this one chamber, breathing poor air and
getting no proper exercise. Permit me to go out in the fields
every day and walk about while the sun is shining. Then, I am
sure, I shall become nice and fat."
"You would run away," he said.
"But how could I if you were always with me?" she asked. "And
even if I wished to run away where could I go? I do not know even
the direction of Helium. It must be very far. The very first
night the banths would get me, would they not?"
"They would," said Ghek. "I will ask Luud about it."
The following day he told her that Luud had said that she was to
be taken into the fields. He would try that for a time and see if
"If you do not grow fatter he will send for you anyway," said
Ghek; "but he will not use you for food."
Tara of Helium shuddered.
That day and for many days thereafter she was taken from the
tower, through the enclosure and out into the fields. Always was
she alert for an opportunity to escape; but Ghek was always close
by her side. It was not so much his presence that deterred her
from making the attempt as the number of workers that were always
between her and the hills where the flier lay. She could easily
have eluded Ghek, but there were too many of the others. And
then, one day, Ghek told her as he accompanied her into the open
that this would be the last time.
"Tonight you go to Luud," he said. "I am sorry as I shall not
hear you sing again."
"Tonight!" She scarce breathed the word, yet it was vibrant with
She glanced quickly toward the hills. They were so dose! Yet
between were the inevitable workers--perhaps a score of them.
"Let us walk over there?" she said, indicating them. "I should
like to see what they are doing."
"It is too far," said Ghek. "I hate the sun. It is much
pleasanter here where I can stand beneath the shade of this
"All right," she agreed; "then you stay here and I will walk
over. It will take me but a minute."
"No," he answered. "I will go with you. You want to escape; but
you are not going to."
"I cannot escape," she said.
"I know it," agreed Ghek; "but you might try. I do not wish you
to try. Possibly it will be better if we return to the tower at
once. It would go hard with me should you escape."
Tara of Helium saw her last chance fading into oblivion. There
would never be another after today. She cast about for some
pretext to lure him even a little nearer to the hills.
"It is very little that I ask," she said. "Tonight you will want
me to sing to you. It will be the last time, if you do not let me
go and see what those kaldanes are doing I shall never sing to
Ghek hesitated. "I will hold you by the arm all the time, then,"
"Why, of course, if you wish," she assented. "Come!"
The two moved toward the workers and the hills. The little party
was digging tubers from the ground. She had noted this and that
nearly always they were stooped low over their work, the hideous
eyes bent upon the upturned soil. She led Ghek quite close to
them, pretending that she wished to see exactly how they did the
work, and all the time he held her tightly by her left wrist.
"It is very interesting," she said, with a sigh, and then,
suddenly; "Look, Ghek!" and pointed quickly back in the direction
of the tower. The kaldane, still holding her turned half away
from her to look in the direction she had indicated and
simultaneously, with the quickness of a banth, she struck him
with her right fist, backed by every ounce of strength she
possessed--struck the back of the pulpy head just above the
collar. The blow was sufficient to accomplish her design,
dislodging the kaldane from its rykor and tumbling it to the
ground. Instantly the grasp upon her wrist relaxed as the body,
no longer controlled by the brain of Ghek, stumbled aimlessly
about for an instant before it sank to its knees and then rolled
over on its back; but Tara of Helium waited not to note the full
results of her act. The instant the fingers loosened upon her
wrist she broke away and dashed toward the hills. Simultaneously
a warning whistle broke from Ghek's lips and in instant response
the workers leaped to their feet, one almost in the girl's path.
She dodged the outstretched arms and was away again toward the
hills and freedom, when her foot caught in one of the hoe-like
instruments with which the soil had been upturned and which had
been left, half imbedded in the ground. For an instant she ran
on, stumbling, in a mad effort to regain her equilibrium, but the
upturned furrows caught her feet--again she stumbled and this
time went down, and as she scrambled to rise again a heavy body
fell upon her and seized her arms. A moment later she was
surrounded and dragged to her feet and as she looked around she
saw Ghek crawling to his prostrate rykor. A moment later he
advanced to her side.
The hideous face, incapable of registering emotion, gave no clue
to what was passing in the enormous brain. Was he nursing
thoughts of anger, of hate, of revenge? Tara of Helium could not
guess, nor did she care. The worst had happened. She had tried to
escape and she had failed. There would never be another
"Come!" said Ghek. "We will return to the tower." The deadly
monotone of his voice was unbroken. It was worse than anger, for
it revealed nothing of his intentions. It but increased her
horror of these great brains that were beyond the possibility of
And so she was dragged back to her prison in the tower and Ghek
took up his vigil again, squatting by the doorway, but now he
carried a naked sword in his hand and did not quit his rykor,
only to change to another that be had brought to him when the
first gave indications of weariness. The girl sat looking at him.
He had not been unkind to her, but she felt no sense of
gratitude, nor, on the other hand, any sense of hatred. The
brains, incapable themselves of any of the finer sentiments,
awoke none in her. She could not feel gratitude, or affection, or
hatred of them. There was only the same unceasing sense of horror
in their presence. She had heard great scientists discuss the
future of the red race and she recalled that some had maintained
that eventually the brain would entirely dominate the man. There
would be no more instinctive acts or emotions, nothing would be
done on impulse; but on the contrary reason would direct our
every act. The propounder of the theory regretted that he might
never enjoy the blessings of such a state, which, he argued,
would result in the ideal life for mankind.
Tara of Helium wished with all her heart that this learned
scientist might be here to experience to the full the practical
results of the fulfillment of his prophecy. Between the purely
physical rykor and the purely mental kaldane there was little
choice; but in the happy medium of normal, and imperfect man, as
she knew him, lay the most desirable state of existence. It would
have been a splendid object lesson, she thought, to all those
idealists who seek mass perfection in any phase of human
endeavor, since here they might discover the truth that absolute
perfection is as little to be desired as is its antithesis.
Gloomy were the thoughts that filled the mind of Tara of Helium
as she awaited the summons from Luud--the summons that could mean
for her but one thing; death. She guessed why he had sent for her
and she knew that she must find the means for self-destruction
before the night was over; but still she clung to hope and to
life. She would not give up until there was no other way. She
startled Ghek once by exclaiming aloud, almost fiercely: "I still
"What do you mean?" asked the kaldane.
"I mean just what I say," she replied. "I still live and while I
live I may still find a way. Dead, there is no hope."
"Find a way to what?" he asked.
"To life and liberty and mine own people," she responded.
"None who enters Bantoom ever leaves," he droned.
She did not reply and after a time he spoke again. "Sing to me,"
It was while she was singing that four warriors came to take her
to Luud. They told Ghek that he was to remain where he was.
"Why?" asked Ghek.
"You have displeased Luud," replied one of the warriors.
"How?" demanded Ghek.
"You have demonstrated a lack of uncontaminated reasoning power.
You have permitted sentiment to influence you, thus demonstrating
that you are a defective. You know the fate of defectives."
"I know the fate of defectives, but I am no defective," insisted
"You permitted the strange noises which issue from her throat to
please and soothe you, knowing well that their origin and purpose
had nothing whatever to do with logic or the powers of reason.
This in itself constitutes an unimpeachable indictment of
weakness, Then, influenced doubtless by an illogical feeling of
sentiment, you permitted her to walk abroad in the fields to a
place where she was able to make an almost successful attmept to
escape. Your own reasoning power, were it not defective, would
convince you that you are unfit. The natural, and reasonable,
consequence is destruction. Therefore you will be destroyed in
such a way that the example will be beneficial to all other
kaldanes of the swarm of Luud. In the meantime you will remain
where you are."
"You are right," said Ghek. "I will remain here until Luud sees
fit to destroy me in the most reasonable manner."
Tara of Helium shot a look of amazement at him as they led her
from the chamber. Over her shoulder she called back to him:
"Remember, Ghek, you still live!" Then they led her along the
interminable tunnels to where Luud awaited her.
When she was conducted into his presence he was squatting in a
corner of the chamber upon his six spidery legs. Near the
opposite wall lay his rykor, its beautiful form trapped in
gorgeous harness--a dead thing without a guiding kaldane. Luud
dismissed the warriors who had accompanied the prisoner. Then he
sat with his terrible eyes fixed upon her and without speaking
for some time. Tara of Helium could but wait. What was to come
she could only guess. When it came would be sufficiently the time
to meet it. There was no neccessity for anticipating the end.
Presently Luud spoke.
"You think to escape," he said, in the deadly, expressionless
monotone of his kind--the only possible result of orally
expressing reason uninfluenced by sentiment. "You will not
escape. You are merely the embodiment of two imperfect things--an
imperfect brain and an imperfect body. The two cannot exist
together in perfection. There you see a perfect body." He pointed
toward the rykor. "It has no brain. Here," and he raised one of
his chelae to his head, "is the perfect brain. It needs no body
to function perfectly and properly as a brain. You would pit your
feeble intellect against mine! Even now you are planning to slay
me. If you are thwarted in that you expect to slay yourself. You
will learn the power of mind over matter. I am the mind. You are
the matter. What brain you have is too weak and ill-developed to
deserve the name of brain. You have permitted it to be weakened
by impulsive acts dictated by sentiment. It has no value. It has
practically no control over your existence. You will not kill me.
You will not kill yourself. When I am through with you you shall
be killed if it seems the logical thing to do. You have no
conception of the possibilities for power which lie in a
perfectly developed brain. Look at that rykor. He has no brain.
He can move but slightly of his own volition. An inherent
mechanical instinct that we have permitted to remain in him
allows him to carry food to his mouth; but he could not find food
for himself. We have to place it within his reach and always in
the same place. Should we put food at his feet and leave him
alone he would starve to death. But now watch what a real brain
He turned his eyes upon the rykor and squatted there glaring at
the insensate thing. Presently, to the girl's horror, the
headless body moved. It rose slowly to its feet and crossed the
room to Luud; it stooped and took the hideous head in its hands;
it raised the head and set it on its shoulders.
"What chance have you against such power?" asked Luud. "As I did
with the rykor so can I do with you."
Tara of Helium made no reply. Evidently no vocal reply was
"You doubt my ability!" stated Luud, which was precisely the
fact, though the girl had only thought it--she had not said it.
Luud crossed the room and lay down. Then he detached himself from
the body and crawled across the floor until he stood directly in
front of the circular opening through which she had seen him
emerge the day that she had first been brought to his presence.
He stopped there and fastened his terrible eyes upon her. He did
not speak, but his eyes seemed to be boring straight to the
center of her brain. She felt an almost irresistible force urging
her toward the kaldane. She fought to resist it; she tried to
turn away her eyes, but she could not. They were held as in
horrid fascination upon the glittering, lidless orbs of the great
brain that faced her. Slowly, every step a painful struggle of
resistance, she moved toward the horrific monster. She tried to
cry aloud in an effort to awaken her numbing faculties, but no
sound passed her lips. If those eyes would but turn away, just
for an instant, she felt that she might regain the power to
control her steps; but the eyes never left hers. They seemed but
to burn deeper and deeper, gathering up every vestige of control
of her entire nervous system.
As she approached the thing it backed slowly away upon its spider
legs. She noticed that its chelae waved slowly to and fro before
it as it backed, backed, backed, through the round aperture in
the wall. Must she follow it there, too? What new and nameless
horror lay concealed in that hidden chamber? No! she would not do
it. Yet before she reached the wall she found herself down and
crawling upon her hands and knees straight toward the hole from
which the two eyes still clung to hers. At the very threshold of
the opening she made a last, heroic stand, battling against the
force that drew her on; but in the end she succumbed. With a gasp
that ended in a sob Tara of Helium passed through the aperture
into the chamber beyond.
The opening was but barely large enough to admit her. Upon the
opposite side she found herself in a small chamber. Before her
squatted Luud. Against the opposite wall lay a large and
beautiful male rykor. He was without harness or other trappings.
"You see now," said Luud, "the futility of revolt."
The words seemed to release her momentarily from the spell.
Quickly she turned away her eyes.
"Look at me!" commanded Luud.
Tara of Helium kept her eyes averted. She felt a new strength, or
at least a diminution of the creature's power over her. Had she
stumbled upon the secret of its uncanny domination over her will?
She dared not hope. With eyes averted she turned toward the
aperture through which those baleful eyes had drawn her. Again
Luud commanded her to stop, but the voice alone lacked all
authority to influence her. It was not like the eyes. She heard
the creature whistle and knew that it was summoning assistance,
but because she did not dare look toward it she did not see it
turn and concentrate its gaze upon the great, headless body lying
by the further wall.
The girl was still slightly under the spell of the creature's
influence--she had not regained full and independent domination
of her powers. She moved as one in the throes of some hideous
nightmare--slowly, painfully, as though each limb was hampered by
a great weight, or as she were dragging her body through a
viscous fluid. The aperture was close, ah, so close, yet,
struggle as she would, she seemed to be making no appreciable
progress toward it.
Behind her, urged on by the malevolent power of the great brain,
the headless body crawled upon all-fours toward her. At last she
had reached the aperture. Something seemed to tell her that once
beyond it the domination of the kaldane would be broken. She was
almost through into the adjoining chamber when she felt a heavy
hand close upon her ankle. The rykor had reached forth and seized
her, and though she struggled the thing dragged her back into the
room with Luud. It held her tight and drew her close, and then,
to her horror, it commenced to caress her.
"You see now," she heard Luud's dull voice, "the futility of
revolt--and its punishment."
Tara of Helium fought to defend herself, but pitifully weak were
her muscles against this brainless incarnation of brute power.
Yet she fought, fought on in the face of hopeless odds for the
honor of the proud name she bore--fought alone, she whom the
fighting men of a mighty empire, the flower of Martian chivalry,
would gladly have lain down their lives to save.
CHAPTER VII. A REPELLENT SIGHT
THE cruiser Vanator careened through the tempest That she had not
been dashed to the ground, or twisted by the force of the
elements into tangled wreckage, was due entirely to the caprice
of Nature. For all the duration of the storm she rode, a helpless
derelict, upon those storm-tossed waves of wind. But for all the
dangers and vicissitudes they underwent, she and her crew might
have borne charmed lives up to within an hour of the abating of
the hurricane. It was then that the catastrophe occurred--a
catastrophe indeed to the crew of the Vanator and the kingdom of
The men had been without food or drink since leaving Helium, and
they had been hurled about and buffeted in their lashings until
all were worn to exhaustion. There was a brief lull in the storm
during which one of the crew attempted to reach his quarters,
after releasing the lashings which had held him to the precarious
safety of the deck. The act in itself was a direct violation of
orders and, in the eyes of the other members of the crew, the
effect, which came with startling suddenness, took the form of a
swift and terrible retribution. Scarce had the man released the
safety snaps ere a swift arm of the storm-monster encircled the
ship, rolling it over and over, with the result that the
foolhardy warrior went overboard at the first turn.
Unloosed from their lashing by the constant turning and twisting
of the ship and the force of the wind, the boarding and landing
tackle had been trailing beneath the keel, a tangled mass of
cordage and leather. Upon the occasions that the Vanator rolled
completely over, these things would be wrapped around her until
another revolution in the opposite direction, or the wind itself,
carried them once again clear of the deck to trail, whipping in
the storm, beneath the hurtling ship.
Into this fell the body of the warrior, and as a drowning man
clutches at a straw so the fellow clutched at the tangled cordage
that caught him and arrested his fall. With the strength of
desperation he clung to the cordage, seeking frantically to
entangle his legs and body in it. With each jerk of the ship his
hand holds were all but torn loose, and though he knew that
eventually they would be and that he must be dashed to the ground
beneath, yet he fought with the madness that is born of
hopelessness for the pitiful second which but prolonged his
It was upon this sight then that Gahan of Gathol looked, over the
edge of the careening deck of the Vanator, as he sought to learn
the fate of his warrior. Lashed to the gunwale close at hand a
single landing leather that had not fouled the tangled mass
beneath whipped free from the ship's side, the hook snapping at
its outer end. The Jed of Gathol grasped the situation in a
single glance. Below him one of his people looked into the eyes
of Death. To the jed's hand lay the means for succor.
There was no instant's hesitation. Casting off his deck lashings,
he seized the landing leather and slipped over the ship's side.
Swinging like a bob upon a mad pendulum he swung far out and back
again, turning and twisting three thousand feet above the surface
of Barsoom, and then, at last, the thing he had hoped for
occurred. He was carried within reach of the cordage where the
warrior still clung, though with rapidly diminishing strength.
Catching one leg on a loop of the tangled strands Gahan pulled
himself close enough to seize another quite near to the fellow.
Clinging precariously to this new hold the jed slowly drew in the
landing leather, down which he had clambered until he could grasp
the hook at its end. This he fastened to a ring in the warrior's
harness, just before the man's weakened fingers slipped from
their hold upon the cordage.
Temporarily, at least, he had saved the life of his subject,
and now he turned his attention toward insuring his own safety.
Inextricably entangled in the mess to which he was clinging were
numerous other landing hooks such as he had attached to the
warrior's harness, and with one of these he sought to secure
himself until the storm should abate sufficiently to permit him
to climb to the deck, but even as he reached for one that swung
near him the ship was caught in a renewed burst of the storm's
fury, the thrashing cordage whipped and snapped to the lunging of
the great craft and one of the heavy metal hooks, lashing through
the air, struck the Jed of Gathol fair between the eyes.
Momentarily stunned, Gahan's fingers slipped from their hold upon
the cordage and the man shot downward through the thin air of
dying Mars toward the ground three thousand feet beneath, while
upon the deck of the rolling Vanator his faithful warriors clung
to their lashings all unconscious of the fate of their beloved
leader; nor was it until more than an hour later, after the storm
had materially subsided, that they realized he was lost, or knew
the self-sacrificing heroism of the act that had sealed his doom.
The Vanator now rested upon an even keel as she was carried along
by a strong, though steady, wind. The warriors had cast off their
deck lashings and the officers were taking account of losses and
damage when a weak cry was heard from oversides, attracting their
attention to the man hanging in the cordage beneath the keel.
Strongs arms hoisted him to the deck and then it was that the
crew of the Vanator learned of the heroism of their jed and his
end. How far they had traveled since his loss they could only
vaguely guess, nor could they return in search of him in the
disabled condition of the ship. It was a saddened company that
drifted onward through the air toward whatever destination Fate
was to choose for them.
And Gahan, Jed of Gathol--what of him? Plummet-like he fell for a
thousand feet and then the storm seized him in its giant clutch
and bore him far aloft again. As a bit of paper borne upon a gale
he was tossed about in mid-air, the sport and plaything of the
wind. Over and over it turned him and upward and downward it
carried him, but after each new sally of the element he was
brought nearer to the ground. The freaks of cyclonic storms are
the rule of cyclonic storms, demolish giant trees, and in the
same gust they transport frail infants for miles and deposit them
unharmed in their wake.
And so it was with Gahan of Gathol. Expecting momentarily to be
dashed to destruction he presently found himself deposited gently
upon the soft, ochre moss of a dead sea-bottom, bodily no worse
off for his harrowing adventure than in the possession of a
slight swelling upon his forehead where the metal hook had struck
him. Scarcely able to believe that Fate had dealt thus gently
with him, the jed arose slowly, as though more than half
convinced that he should discover crushed and splintered bones
that would not support his weight. But he was intact. He looked
about him in a vain effort at orientation. The air was filled
with flying dust and debris. The Sun was obliterated. His vision
was confined to a radius of a few hundred yards of ochre moss and
dust-filled air. Five hundred yards away in any direction there
might have arisen the walls of a great city and he not known it.
It was useless to move from where he was until the air cleared,
since he could not know in what direction he was moving, and so
he stretched himself upon the moss and waited, pondering the fate
of his warriors and his ship, but giving little thought to his
own precarious situation.
Lashed to his harness were his swords, his pistols, and a dagger,
and in his pocket-pouch a small quantity of the concentrated
rations that form a part of the equipment of the fighting men of
Barsoom. These things together with trained muscles, high
courage, and an undaunted spirit sufficed him for whatever
misadventures might lie between him and Gathol, which lay in what
direction he knew not, nor at what distance.
The wind was falling rapidly and with it the dust that obscured
the landscape. That the storm was over he was convinced, but he
chafed at the inactivity the low visibility put upon him, nor did
conditions better materially before night fell, so that he was
forced to await the new day at the very spot at which the tempest
had deposited him. Without his sleeping silks and furs he spent a
far from comfortable night, and it was with feelings of unmixed
relief that he saw the sudden dawn burst upon him. The air was
now clear and in the light of the new day he saw an undulating
plain stretching in all directions about him, while to the
northwest there were barely discernible the outlines of low
hills. Toward the southeast of Gathol was such a country, and as
Gahan surmised the direction and the velocity of the storm to
have carried him somewhere in the vicinity of the country he
thought he recognized, he assumed that Gathol lay behind the
hills he now saw, whereas, in reality, it lay far to the
It was two days before Gahan had crossed the plain and reached
the summit of the hills from which he hoped to see his own
country, only to meet at last with disappointment. Before him
stretched another plain, of even greater proportions than that he
had but just crossed, and beyond this other hills. In one
material respect this plain differed from that behind him in that
it was dotted with occasional isolated hills. Convinced, however,
that Gathol lay somewhere in the direction of his search he
descended into the valley and bent his steps toward the
For weeks Gahan of Gathol crossed valleys and hills in search of
some familiar landmark that might point his way toward his native
land, but the summit of each succeeding ridge revealed but
another unfamiliar view. He saw few animals and no men, until he
finally came to the belief that he had fallen upon that fabled
area of ancient Barsoom which lay under the curse of her olden
gods--the once rich and fertile country whose people in their
pride and arrogance had denied the deities, and whose punishment
had been extermination.
And then, one day, he scaled low hills and looked into an
inhabited valley--a valley of trees and cultivated fields and
plots of ground enclosed by stone walls surrounding strange
towers. He saw people working in the fields, but he did not rush
down to greet them. First he must know more of them and whether
they might be assumed to be friends or enemies. Hidden by
concealing shrubbery he crawled to a vantage point upon a hill
that projected further into the valley,
and here he lay upon his belly watching the workers closest to
him. They were still quite a distance from him and he could not
be quite sure of them, but there was something verging upon the
unnatural about them. Their heads seemed out of proportion to
their bodies--too large.
For a long time he lay watching them and ever more forcibly it
was borne in upon his consciousness that they were not as he, and
that it would be rash to trust himself among them. Presently he
saw a couple appear from the nearest enclosure and slowly
approach those who were working nearest to the hill where he lay
in hiding. Immediately he was aware that one of these differed
from all the others. Even at the greater distance he noted that
the head was smaller and as they approached, he was confident
that the harness of one of them was not as the harness of its
companion or of that of any of those who tilled the fields.
The two stopped often, apparently in argument, as though one
would proceed in the direction that they were going while the
other demurred. But each time the smaller won reluctant consent
from the other, and so they came closer and closer to the last
line of workers toiling between the enclosure from which they had
come and the hill where Gahan of Gathol lay watching, and then
suddenly the smaller figure struck its companion full in the
face. Gahan, horrified, saw the latter's head topple from its
body, saw the body stagger and fall to the ground. The man half
rose from his concealment the better to view the happening in the
valley below. The creature that had felled its companion was
dashing madly in the direction of the hill upon which he was
hidden, it dodged one of the workers that sought to seize it.
Gahan hoped that it would gain its liberty, why he did not know
other than at closer range it had every appearance of being a
creature of his own race. Then he saw it stumble and go down and
instantly its pursuers were upon it. Then it was that Gahan's
eyes chanced to return to the figure of the creature the fugitive
What horror was this that he was witnessing? Or were his eyes
playing some ghastly joke upon him? No, impossible though it
was--it was true--the head was moving slowly to the fallen body.
It placed itself upon the shoulders, the body rose, and the
creature, seemingly as good as new, ran quickly to where its
fellows were dragging the hapless captive to its feet.
The watcher saw the creature take its prisoner by the arm and
lead it back to the enclosure, and even across the distance that
separated them from him he could note dejection and utter
hopelessness in the bearing of the prisoner, and, too, he was
half convinced that it was a woman, perhaps a red Martian of his
own race. Could he be sure that this was true he must make some
effort to rescue her even though the customs of his strange world
required it only in case she was of his own country; but he was
not sure; she might not be a red Martian at all, or, if she were,
it was as possible that she sprang from an enemy people as not.
His first duty was to return to his own people with as little
personal risk as possible, and though the thought of adventure
stirred his blood he put the temptation aside with a sigh and
turned away from the peaceful and beautiful valley that he longed
to enter, for it was his intention to skirt its eastern edge and
continue his search for Gathol beyond.
As Gahan of Gathol turned his steps along the southern slopes of
the hills that bound Bantoom upon the south and east, his
attention was attracted toward a small cluster of trees a short
distance to his right. The low sun was casting long shadows. It
would soon be night. The trees were off the path that he had
chosen and he had little mind to be diverted from his way; but as
he looked again he hesitated. There was something there besides
boles of trees, and underbrush. There were suggestions of
familiar lines of the handicraft of man. Gahan stopped and
strained his eyes in the direction of the thing that had arrested
his attention. No, he must be mistaken--the branches of the trees
and a low bush had taken on an unnatural semblance in the
horizontal rays of the setting sun. He turned and continued upon
his way; but as he cast another side glance in the direction of
the object of his interest, the sun's rays were shot back into
his eyes from a glistening point of radiance among the trees.
Gahan shook his head and walked quickly toward the mystery,
determined now to solve it. The shining object still lured him on
and when he had come closer to it his eyes went wide in surprise,
for the thing they saw was naught else than the jewel-encrusted
emblem upon the prow of a small flier. Gahan, his hand upon his
short-sword, moved silently forward, but as he neared the craft
he saw that he had naught to fear, for it was deserted. Then he
turned his attention toward the emblem. As its significance was
flashed to his understanding his face paled and his heart went
cold --it was the insignia of the house of The Warlord of
Barsoom. Instantly he saw the dejected figure of the captive
being led back to her prison in the valley just beyond the hills.
Tara of Helium! And he had been so near to deserting her to her
fate. The cold sweat stood in beads upon his brow.
A hasty examination of the deserted craft unfolded to the young
jed the whole tragic story. The same tempest that had proved his
undoing had borne Tara of Helium to this distant country. Here,
doubtless, she had landed in hope of obtaining food and water
since, without a propellor, she could not hope to reach her
native city, or any other friendly port, other than by the merest
caprice of Fate. The flier seemed intact except for the missing
propellor and the fact that it had been carefully moored in the
shelter of the clump of trees indicated that the girl had
expected to return to it, while the dust and leaves upon its deck
spoke of the long days, and even weeks, since she had landed.
Mute yet eloquent proofs, these things, that Tara of Helium was a
prisoner, and that she was the very prisoner whose bold dash for
liberty he had so recently witnessed he now had not the slightest
The question now revolved solely about her rescue. He knew to
which tower she had been taken--that much and no more. Of the
number, the kind, or the disposition of her captors he renew
nothing; nor did he care--for Tara of Helium he would face a
hostile world alone. Rapidly he considered several plans for
succoring her; but the one that appealed most strongly to him was
that which offered the greatest chance of escape for the girl
should he be successful in reaching her. His decision reached he
turned his attention quickly toward the flier. Casting off its
lashings he dragged it out from beneath the trees, and, mounting
to the deck tested out the various controls. The motor started at
a touch and purred sweetly, the buoyancy tanks were well stocked,
and the ship answered perfectly to the controls which regulated
her altitude. There was nothing needed but a propellor to make
her fit for the long voyage to Helium. Gahan shrugged
impatiently--there must not be a propellor within a thousand
haads. But what mattered it? The craft even without a propellor
would still answer the purpose his plan required of it--provided
the captors of Tara of Helium were a people without ships, and he
had seen nothing to suggest that they had ships. The architecture
of their towers and enclosures assured him that they had not.
The sudden Barsoomian night had fallen. Cluros rode majestically
the high heavens. The rumbling roar of a banth reverberated among
the hills. Gahan of Gathol let the ship rise a few feet from the
ground, then, seizing a bow rope, he dropped over the side. To
tow the little craft was now a thing of ease, and as Gahan moved
rapidly toward the brow of the hill above Bantoom the flier
floated behind him as lightly as a swan upon a quiet lake. Now
down the hill toward the tower dimly visible in the moonlight the
Gatholian turned his steps. Closer behind him sounded the roar of
the hunting banth. He wondered if the beast sought him or was
following some other spoor. He could not be delayed now by any
hungry beast of prey, for what might that very instant be
befalling Tara of Helium he could not guess; and so he hastened
his steps. But closer and closer came the horrid screams of the
great carnivore, and now he heard the swift fall of padded feet
upon the hillside behind him. He glanced back just in time to see
the beast break into a rapid charge. His hand leaped to the hilt
of his long-sword, but he did not draw, for in the same instant
he saw the futility of armed resistance, since behind the first
banth came a herd of at least a dozen others. There was but a
single alternative to a futile stand and that he grasped in the
instant that he saw the overwhelming numbers of his antagonists.
Springing lightly from the ground he swarmed up the rope toward
the bow of the flier. His weight drew the craft slightly lower
and at the very instant that the man drew himself to the deck at
the bow of the vessel, the leading banth sprang for the stern.
Gahan leaped to his feet and rushed toward the great beast in the
hope of dislodging it before it had succeeded in clambering
aboard. At the same instant he saw that others of the banths were
racing toward them with the quite evident intention of following
their leader to the ship's deck. Should they reach it in any
numbers he would be lost. There was but a single hope. Leaping
for the altitude control Gahan pulled it wide. Simultaneously
three banths leaped for the deck. The craft rose swiftly. Gahan
felt the impact of a body against the keel, followed by the soft
thuds of the great bodies as they struck the ground beneath. His
act had not been an instant too soon. And now the leader had
gained the deck and stood at the stern with glaring eyes and
snarling jaws. Gahan drew his sword. The beast, possibly
disconcerted by the novelty of its position, did not charge.
Instead it crept slowly toward its intended prey. The craft was
rising and Gahan placed a foot upon the control and stopped the
ascent. He did not wish to chance rising to some higher air
current that would bear him away. Already the craft was moving
slowly toward the tower, carried thither by the impetus of the
banth's heavy body leaping upon it from astern.
The man watched the slow approach of the monster, the slavering
jowls, the malignant expression of the devilish face. The
creature, finding the deck stable, appeared to be gaining
confidence, and then the man leaped suddenly to one side of the
deck and the tiny flier heeled as suddenly in response. The banth
slipped and clutched frantically at the deck. Gahan leaped in
with his naked sword; the great beast caught itself and reared
upon its hind legs to reach forth and seize this presumptuous
mortal that dared question its right to the flesh it craved; and
then the man sprang to the opposite side of the deck. The banth
toppled sideways at the same instant that it attempted to spring;
a raking talon passed close to Gahan's head at the moment that
his sword lunged through the savage heart, and as the warrior
wrenched his blade from the carcass it slipped silently over the
side of the ship.
A glance below showed that the vessel was drifting in the
direction of the tower to which Gahan had seen the prisoner led.
In another moment or two it would be directly over it. The man
sprang to the control and let the craft drop quickly toward the
ground where followed the banths, still hot for their prey. To
land outside the enclosure spelled certain death, while inside he
could see many forms huddled upon the ground as in sleep. The
ship floated now but a few feet above the wall of the enclosure.
There was nothing for it but to risk all on a bold bid for
fortune, or drift helplessly past without hope of returning
through the banth-infested valley, from many points of which he
could now hear the roars and growls of these fierce Barsoomian
Slipping over the side Gahan descended by the trailing
anchor-rope until his feet touched the top of the wall, where he
had no difficulty in arresting the slow drifting of the ship.
Then he drew up the anchor and lowered it inside the enclosure.
Still there was no movement upon the part of the sleepers
beneath--they lay as dead men. Dull lights shone from openings in
the tower; but there was no sign of guard or waking inmate.
Clinging to the rope Gahan lowered himself within the enclosure,
where he had his first close view of the creatures lying there in
what he had thought sleep. With a half smothered exclamation of
horror the man drew back from the headless bodies of the rykors.
At first he thought them the corpses of decapitated humans like
himself, which was quite bad enough; but when he saw them move
and realized that they were endowed with life, his horror and
disgust became even greater.
Here then was the explanation of the thing he had witnessed that
afternoon, when Tara of Helium had struck the back to its body.
And to think that the pearl of Helium was in the power of such
hideous things as these. Again the man shuddered, but he hastened
to make fast the flier, clamber again to its deck and lower it to
the floor of the enclosure. Then he strode toward a door in the
base of the tower, stepping lightly over the recumbent forms of
the unconscious rykors, and crossing the threshold disappeared
CHAPTER VIII. CLOSE WORK
GHEK, in his happier days third foreman of the fields of Luud,
sat nursing his anger and his humiliation. Recently something had
awakened within him the existence of which he had never before
even dreamed. Had the influence of the strange captive woman
aught to do with this unrest and dissatisfaction? He did not
know. He missed the soothing influence of the noise she called
singing. Could it be that there were other things more desirable
than cold logic and undefiled brain power? Was well balanced
imperfection more to be sought after then, than the high
development of a single characteristic? He thought of the great,
ultimate brain toward which all kaldanes were striving. It would
be deaf, and dumb, and blind. A thousand beautiful strangers
might sing and dance about it, but it could derive no pleasure
from the singing or the dancing since it would possess no
perceptive faculties. Already had the kaldanes shut themselves
off from most of the gratifications of the senses. Ghek wondered
if much was to be gained by denying themselves still further, and
with the thought came a question as to the whole fabric of their
theory. After all perhaps the girl was right; what purpose could
a great brain serve sealed in the bowels of the earth?
And he, Ghek, was to die for this theory. Luud had decreed it.
The injustice of it overwhelmed him with rage. But he was
helpless. There was no escape. Beyond the enclosure the banths
awaited him; within, his own kind, equally as merciless and
ferocious. Among them there was no such thing as love, or
loyalty, or friendship--they were just brains. He might kill
Luud; but what would that profit him? Another king would be
loosed from his sealed chamber and Ghek would be killed. He did
not know it but he would not even have the poor satisfaction of
satisfied revenge, since he was not capable of feeling so
abstruse a sentiment.
Ghek, mounted upon his rykor, paced the floor of the tower
chamber in which he had been ordered to remain. Ordinarily he
would have accepted the sentence of Luud with perfect equanimity,
since it was but the logical result of reason; but now it seemed
different. The stranger woman had bewitched him. Life appeared a
pleasant thing--there were great possibilities in it. The dream
of the ultimate brain had receded into a tenuous haze far in the
background of his thoughts.
At that moment there appeared in the doorway of the chamber a red
warrior with naked sword. He was a male counterpart of the
prisoner whose sweet voice had undermined the cold, calculating
reason of the kaldane.
"Silence!" admonished the newcomer, his straight brows gathered
in an ominous frown and the point of his longsword playing
menacingly before the eyes of the kaldane. "I seek the woman,
Tara of Helium. Where is she? If you value your life speak
quickly and speak the truth."
If he valued his life! It was a truth that Ghek had but just
learned. He thought quickly. After all, a great brain is not
without its uses. Perhaps here lay escape from the sentence of
"You are of her kind?" he asked. "You come to rescue her?"
"Listen, then. I have befriended her, and because of this I am to
die. If I help you to liberate her, will you take me with you?"
Gahan of Gathol eyed the weird creature from crown to foot--the
perfect body, the grotesque head, the expressionless face. Among
such as these had the beautiful daughter of Helium been held
captive for days and weeks.
"If she lives and is unharmed," he said, "I will take you with
"When they took her from me she was alive and unharmed," replied
Ghek. "I cannot say what has befallen her since. Luud sent for
"Who is Luud? Where is he? Lead me to him." Gahan spoke quickly
in tones vibrant with authority.
"Come, then," said Ghek, leading the way from the apartment and
down a stairway toward the underground burrows of the kaldanes.
"Luud is my king. I will take you to his chambers."
"Hasten!" urged Gahan.
"Sheathe your sword," warned Ghek, "so that should we pass others
of my kind I may say to them that you are a new prisoner with
some likelihood of winning their belief."
Gahan did as he was bid, but warning the kaldane that his hand
was ever ready at his dagger's hilt.
"You need have no fear of treachery," said Ghek "My only hope of
life lies in you."
"And if you fail me," Gahan admonished him, "I can promise you as
sure a death as even your king might guarantee you."
Ghek made no reply, but moved rapidly through the winding
subterranean corridors until Gahan began to realize how truly was
he in the hands of this strange monster. If the fellow should
prove false it would profit Gahan nothing to slay him, since
without his guidance the red man might never hope to retrace his
way to the tower and freedom.
Twice they met and were accosted by other kaldanes; but in both
instances Ghek's simple statement that he was taking a new
prisoner to Luud appeared to allay all suspicion, and then at
last they came to the ante-chamber of the king.
"Here, now, red man, thou must fight, if ever," whispered Ghek.
"Enter there!" and he pointed to a doorway before them.
"And you?" asked Gahan, still fearful of treachery.
"My rykor is powerful," replied the kaldane. "I shall accompany
you and fight at your side. As well die thus as in torture later
at the will of Luud. Come!"
But Gahan had already crossed the room and entered the chamber
beyond. Upon the opposite side of the room was a circular opening
guarded by two warriors. Beyond this opening he could see two
figures struggling upon the floor, and the fleeting glimpse he
had of one of the faces suddenly endowed him with the strength of
ten warriors and the ferocity of a wounded banth. It was Tara of
Helium, fighting for her honor or her life.
The warriors, startled by the unexpected appearance of a red man,
stood for a moment in dumb amazement, and in that moment Gahan of
Gathol was upon them, and one was down, a sword-thrust through
"Strike at the heads," whispered the voice of Ghek in Gahan's
ear. The latter saw the head of the fallen warrior crawl quickly
within the aperture leading to the chamber where he had seen Tara
of Helium in the clutches of a headless body. Then the sword of
Ghek struck the kaldane of the remaining warrior from its rykor
and Gahan ran his sword through the repulsive head.
Instantly the red warrior leaped for the aperture, while close
behind him came Ghek.
"Look not upon the eyes of Luud," warned the kaldane, "or you are
Within the chamber Gahan saw Tara of Helium in the clutches of a
mighty body, while close to the wall upon the opposite side of
the apartment crouched the hideous, spider-like Luud. Instantly
the king realized the menace to himself and sought to fasten his
eyes upon the eyes of Gahan, and in doing so he was forced to
relax his concentration upon the rykor in whose embraces Tara
struggled, so that almost immediately the girl found herself able
to tear away from the awful, headless thing.
As she rose quickly to her feet she saw for the first time the
cause of the interruption of Luud's plans. A red warrior! Her
heart leaped in rejoicing and thanksgiving. What miracle of fate
had sent him to her? She did not recognize him, though, this
travel-worn warrior in the plain harness which showed no single
jewel. How could she have guessed him the same as the scintillant
creature of platinum and diamonds that she had seen for a brief
hour under such different circumstances at the court of her
Luud saw Ghek following the strange warrior into the chamber.
"Strike him down, Ghek!" commanded the king. "Strike down the
stranger and your life shall be yours."
Gahan glanced at the hideous face of the king.
"Seek not his eyes," screamed Tara in warning; but it was too
late. Already the horrid hypnotic gaze of the king kaldane had
seized upon the eyes of Gahan. The red warrior hesitated in his
stride. His sword point drooped slowly toward the floor. Tara
glanced toward Ghek. She saw the creature glaring with his
expressionless eyes upon the broad back of the stranger. She saw
the hand of the creature's rykor creeping stealthily toward the
hilt of its dagger.
And then Tara of Helium raised her eyes aloft and poured forth
the notes of Mars' most beautiful melody, The Song of Love.
Ghek drew his dagger from its sheath. His eyes turned toward the
singing girl. Luud's glance wavered from the eyes of the man to
the face of Tara, and the instant that the latter's song
distracted his attention from his victim, Gahan of Gathol shook
himself and as with a supreme effort of will forced his eyes to
the wall above Luud's hideous head. Ghek raised his dagger above
his right shoulder, took a single quick step forward, and struck.
The girl's song ended in a stifled scream as she leaped forward
with the evident intention of frustrating the kaldane's purpose;
but she was too late, and well it was, for an instant later she
realized the purpose of Ghek's act as she saw the dagger fly from
his hand, pass Gahan's shoulder, and sink full to the guard in
the soft face of Luud.
"Come!" cried the assassin, "we have no time to lose," and
started for the aperture through which they had entered the
chamber; but in his stride he paused as his glance was arrested
by the form of the mighty rykor Iying prone upon the floor--a
king's rykor; the most beautiful, the most powerful, that the
breeders of Bantoom could produce. Ghek realized that in his
escape he could take with him but a single rykor, and there was
none in Bantoom that could give him better service than this
giant Iying here. Quickly he transferred himself to the shoulders
of the great, inert hulk. Instantly the latter was transformed to
a sentient creature, filled with pulsing life and alert energy.
"Now," said the kaldane, "we are ready. Let whoso would revert to
nothingness impede me." Even as he spoke he stooped and crawled
into the chamber beyond, while Gahan, taking Tara by the arm,
motioned her to follow. The girl looked him full in the eyes for
the first time. "The Gods of my people have been kind," she said;
"you came just in time. To the thanks of Tara of Helium shall be
added those of The Warlord of Barsoom and his people. Thy reward
shall surpass thy greatest desires."
Gahan of Gathol saw that she did not recognize him, and quickly
he checked the warm greeting that had been upon his lips.
"Be thou Tara of Helium or another," he replied, "is immaterial,
to serve thus a red woman of Barsoom is in itself sufficient
As they spoke the girl was making her way through the aperture
after Ghek, and presently all three had quitted the apartments of
Luud and were moving rapidly along the winding corridors toward
the tower. Ghek repeatedly urged them to greater speed, but the
red men of Barsoom were never keen for retreat, and so the two
that followed him moved all too slowly for the kaldane.
"There are none to impede our progress," urged Gahan, "so why tax
the strength of the Princess by needless haste?"
"I fear not so much opposition ahead, for there are none there
who know the thing that has been done in Luud's chambers this
night; but the kaldane of one of the warriors who stood guard
before Luud's apartment escaped, and you may count it a truth
that he lost no time in seeking aid. That it did not come before
we left is due solely to the rapidity with which events
transpired in the king's* room. Long before we reach the tower
they will be upon us from behind, and that they will come in
numbers far superior to ours and with great and powerful rykors I
* I have used the word king in describing the rulers or chiefs of
the Bantoomian swarms, since the word itself is unpronounceable
in English, nor does jed or jeddak of the red Martian tongue have
quite the same meaning as the Bantoomian word, which has
practically the same significance as the English word queen as
applied to the leader of a swarm of bees.--J. C.
Nor was Ghek's prophecy long in fulfilment. Presently the sounds
of pursuit became audible in the distant clanking of
accouterments and the whistling call to arms of the kaldanes.
"The tower is but a short distance now," cried Ghek. "Make haste
while yet you may, and if we can barricade it until the sun rises
we may yet escape."
"We shall need no barricades for we shall not linger in the
tower," replied Gahan, moving more rapidly as he realized from
the volume of sound behind them the great number of their
"But we may not go further than the tower tonight," insisted
Ghek. "Beyond the tower await the banths and certain death."
Gahan smiled. "Fear not the banths," he assured them. "Can we but
reach the enclosure a little ahead of our pursuers we have naught
to fear from any evil power within this accursed valley."
Ghek made no reply, nor did his expressionless face denote either
belief or skepticism. The girl looked into the face of the man
questioningly. She did not understand.
"Your flier," he said. "It is moored before the tower."
Her face lighted with pleasure and relief. "You found it!" she
exclaimed. "What fortune!"
"It was fortune indeed," he replied. "Since it not only told that
you were a prisoner here; but it saved me from the banths as I
was crossing the valley from the hills to this tower into which I
saw them take you this afternoon after your brave attempt at
"How did you know it was I?" she asked, her puzzled brows
scanning his face as though she sought to recall from past
memories some scene in which he figured.
"Who is there but knows of the loss of the Princess Tara of
Helium?" he replied. "And when I saw the device upon your flier I
knew at once, though I had not known when I saw you among them in
the fields a short time earlier. Too great was the distance for
me to make certain whether the captive was man or woman. Had
chance not divulged the hiding place of your flier I had gone my
way, Tara of Helium. I shudder to think how close was the chance
at that. But for the momentary shining of the sun upon the
emblazoned device on the prow of your craft, I had passed on
The girl shuddered. "The Gods sent you," she whispered
"The Gods sent me, Tara of Helium," he replied.
"But I do not recognize you," she said. "I have tried to recall
you, but I have failed. Your name, what may it be?"
"It is not strange that so great a princess should not recall the
face of every roving panthan of Barsoom," he replied with a
"But your name?" insisted the girt
"Call me Turan," replied the man, for it had come to him that if
Tara of Helium recognized him as the man whose impetuous avowal
of love had angered her that day in the gardens of The Warlord,
her situation might be rendered infinitely less bearable than
were she to believe him a total stranger. Then, too, as a simple
panthan* he might win a greater degree of her confidence by his
loyalty and faithfulness and a place in her esteem that seemed to
have been closed to the resplendent Jed of Gathol.
* Soldier of Fortune; free-lance warrior.
They had reached the tower now, and as they entered it from the
subterranean corridor a backward glance revealed the van of their
pursuers--hideous kaldanes mounted upon swift and powerful
rykors. As rapidly as might be the three ascended the stairways
leading to the ground level, but after them, even more rapidly,
came the minions of Luud. Ghek led the way, grasping one of
Tara's hands the more easily to guide and assist her, while Gahan
of Gathol followed a few paces in their rear, his bared sword
ready for the assault that all realized must come upon them now
before ever they reached the enclosure and the flier.
"Let Ghek drop behind to your side," said Tara, "and fight with
"There is but room for a single blade in these narrow corridors,"
replied the Gatholian. "Hasten on with Ghek and win to the deck
of the flier. Have your hand upon the control, and if I come far
enough ahead of these to reach the dangling cable you can rise at
my word and I can clamber to the deck at my leisure; but if one
of them emerges first into the enclosure you will know that I
shall never come, and you will rise quickly and trust to the Gods
of our ancestors to give you a fair breeze in the direction of a
more hospitable people."
Tara of Helium shook her head. "We will not desert you, panthan,"
Gahan, ignoring her reply, spoke above her head to Ghek. "Take
her to the craft moored within the enclosure," he commanded. "It
is our only hope. Alone, I may win to its deck; but have I to
wait upon you two at the last moment the chances are that none of
us will escape. Do as I bid." His tone was haughty and
arrogant--the tone of a man who has commanded other men from
birth, and whose will has been law. Tara of Helium was both
angered and vexed. She was not accustomed to being either
commanded or ignored, but with all her royal pride she was no
fool, and she knew the man was right, that he was risking his
life to save hers, so she hastened on with Ghek as she was bid,
and after the first flush of anger she smiled, for the
realization came to her that this fellow was but a rough
untutored warrior, skilled not in the finer usages of cultured
courts. His heart was right, though; a brave and loyal heart, and
gladly she forgave him the offense of his tone and manner. But
what a tone! Recollection of it gave her sudden pause. Panthans
were rough and ready men. Often they rose to positions of high
command, so it was not the note of authority in the fellow's
voice that seemed remarkable; but something else--a quality that
was indefinable, yet as distinct as it was familiar. She had
heard it before when the voice of her great-grandsire, Tardos
Mors, Jeddak of Helium, had risen in command; and in the voice of
her grandfather, Mors Kajak, the jed; and in the ringing tones of
her illustrious sire, John Carter, Warlord of Barsoom, when he
addressed his warriors.
But now she had no time to speculate upon so trivial a thing, for
behind her came the sudden clash of arms and she knew that Turan,
the panthan, had crossed swords with the first of their pursuers.
As she glanced back he was still visible
beyond a turn in the stairway, so that she could see the quick
swordplay that ensued. Daughter of a world's greatest swordsman,
she knew well the finest points of the art. She saw the clumsy
attack of the kaldane and the quick, sure return of the panthan.
As she looked down from above upon his almost naked body, trapped
only in the simplest of unadorned harness, and saw the play of
the lithe muscles beneath the red-bronze skin, and witnessed the
quick and delicate play of his sword point, to her sense of
obligation was added a spontaneous admission of admiration that
was but the natural tribute of a woman to skill and bravery and,
perchance, some trifle to manly symmetry and strength.
Three times the panthan's blade changed its position--once to
fend a savage cut; once to feint; and once to thrust. And as he
withdrew it from the last position the kaldane rolled lifeless
from its stumbling rykor and Turan sprang quickly down the steps
to engage the next behind, and then Ghek had drawn Tara upward
and a turn in the stairway shut the battling panthan from her
view; but still she heard the ring of steel on steel, the clank
of accouterments and the shrill whistling of the kaldanes. Her
heart moved her to turn back to the side of her brave defender;
but her judgment told her that she could serve him best by being
ready at the control of the flier at the moment he reached the
CHAPTER IX. ADRIFT OVER STRANGE REGIONS
PRESENTLY Ghek pushed aside a door that opened from the stairway,
and before them Tara saw the moonlight flooding the walled court
where the headless rykors lay beside their feeding-troughs. She
saw the perfect bodies, muscled as the best of her father's
fighting men, and the females whose figures would have been the
envy of many of Helium's most beautiful women. Ah, if she could
but endow these with the power to act! Then indeed might the
safety of the panthan be assured; but they were only poor lumps
of clay, nor had she the power to quicken them to life. Ever must
they lie thus until dominated by the cold, heartless brain of the
kaldane. The girl sighed in pity even as she shuddered in disgust
as she picked her way over and among the sprawled creatures
toward the flier.
Quickly she and Ghek mounted to the deck after the latter had
cast off the moorings. Tara tested the control, raising and
lowering the ship a few feet within the walled space. It
responded perfectly. Then she lowered it to the ground again and
waited. From the open doorway came the sounds of conflict, now
nearing them, now receding. The girl, having witnessed her
champion's skill, had little fear of the outcome. Only a single
antagonist could face him at a time upon the narrow stairway, he
had the advantage of position and of the defensive, and he was a
master of the sword while they were clumsy bunglers by
comparison. Their sole advantage was in their numbers, unless
they might find a way to come upon him from behind.
She paled at the thought. Could she have seen him she might have
been further perturbed, for he took no advantage of many
opportunities to win nearer the enclosure. He fought coolly, but
with a savage persistence that bore little semblance to purely
defensive action. Often he clambered over the body of a fallen
foe to leap against the next behind, and once there lay five dead
kaldanes behind him, so far had he pushed back his antagonists.
They did not know it; these kaldanes that he fought, nor did the
girl awaiting him upon the flier, but Gahan of Gathol was engaged
in a more alluring sport than winning to freedom, for he was
avenging the indignities that had been put upon the woman he
loved; but presently he realized that he might be jeopardizing
her safety uselessly, and so he struck down another before him
and turning leaped quickly up the stairway, while the leading
kaldanes slipped upon the brain-covered floor and stumbled in
Gahan reached the enclosure twenty paces ahead of them and raced
toward the flier. "Rise!" he shouted to the girl. "I will ascend
Slowly the small craft rose from the ground as Gahan leaped the
inert bodies of the rykors lying in his path. The first of the
pursuers sprang from the tower just as Gahan seized the trailing
"Faster!" he shouted to the girl above, "or they will drag us
down!" But the ship seemed scarcely to move, though in reality
she was rising as rapidly as might have been expected of a
one-man flier carrying a load of three. Gahan swung free above
the top of the wall, but the end of the rope still dragged the
ground as the kaldanes reached it. They were pouring in a steady
stream from the tower into the enclosure. The leader seized the
"Quick!" he cried. "Lay hold and we will drag them down."
It needed but the weight of a few to accomplish his design. The
ship was stopped in its flight and then, to the horror of the
girl, she felt it being dragged steadily downward. Gahan, too,
realized the danger and the necessity for instant action.
Clinging to the rope with his left hand, he had wound a leg about
it, leaving his right hand free for his long-sword which he had
not sheathed. A downward cut clove the soft head of a kaldane,
and another severed the taut rope beneath the panthan's feet. The
girl heard a sudden renewal of the shrill whistling of her foes,
and at the same time she realized that the craft was rising
again. Slowly it drifted upward, out of reach of the enemy, and a
moment later she saw the figure of Turan clamber over the side.
For the first time in many weeks her heart was filled with the
joy of thanksgiving; but her first thought was of another.
"You are not wounded?" she asked.
'No, Tara of Helium," he replied. "They were scarce worth the
effort of my blade, and never were they a menace to me because of
"They should have slain you easily," said Ghek. "So great and
highly developed is the power of reason among us that they should
have known before you struck just where, logically, you must seek
to strike, and so they should have been able to parry your every
thrust and easily find an opening to your heart."
"But they did not, Ghek," Gahan reminded him. "Their theory of
development is wrong, for it does not tend toward a perfectly
balanced whole. You have developed the brain and neglected the
body and you can never do with the hands of another what you can
do with your own hands. Mine are trained to the sword--every
muscle responds instantly and accurately, and almost
mechanically, to the need of the instant. I am scarcely
objectively aware that I think when I fight, so quickly does my
point take advantage of every opening, or spring to my defense if
I am threatened that it is almost as though the cold steel had
eyes and brains. You, with your kaldane brain and your rykor
body, never could hope to achieve in the same degree of
perfection those things that I can achieve. Development of the
brain should not be the sum total of human endeavor. The richest
and happiest peoples will be those who attain closest to
well-balanced perfection of both mind and body, and even these
must always be short of perfection. In absolute and general
perfection lies stifling monotony and death. Nature must have
contrasts; she must have shadows as well as high lights; sorrow
with happiness; both wrong and right; and sin as well as virtue."
"Always have I been taught differently," replied Ghek; "but since
I have known this woman and you, of another race, I have come to
believe that there may be other standards fully as high and
desirable as those of the kaldanes. At least I have had a glimpse
of the thing you call happiness and I realize that it may be good
even though I have no means of expressing it. I cannot laugh nor
smile, and yet within me is a sense of contentment when this
woman sings--a sense that seems to open before me wondrous vistas
of beauty and unguessed pleasure that far transcend the cold joys
of a perfectly functioning brain. I would that I had been born of
Caught by a gentle current of air the flier was drifting slowly
toward the northeast across the valley of Bantoom. Below them lay
the cultivated fields, and one after another they passed over the
strange towers of Moak and Nolach and the other kings of the
swarms that inhabited this weird and terrible land. Within each
enclosure surrounding the towers grovelled the rykors, repellent,
headless things, beautiful yet hideous.
"A lesson, those," remarked Gahan, indicating the rykors in an
enclosure above which they were drifting at the time, "to that
fortunately small minority of our race which worships the flesh
and makes a god of appetite. You know them, Tara of Helium; they
can tell you exactly what they had at the midday meal two weeks
ago, and how the loin of the thoat should be prepared, and what
drink should be served with the rump of the zitidar."
Tara of Helium laughed. "But not one of them could tell you the
name of the man whose painting took the Jeddak's Award in The
Temple of Beauty this year," she said. "Like the rykors, their
development has not been balanced."
"Fortunate indeed are those in which there is combined a little
good and a little bad, a little knowledge of many things outside
their own callings, a capacity for love and a capacity for hate,
for such as these can look with tolerance upon all, unbiased by
the egotism of him whose head is so heavy on one side that all
his brains run to that point."
As Gahan ceased speaking Ghek made a little noise in his throat
as one does who would attract attention. "You speak as one who
has thought much upon many subjects. Is it, then, possible that
you of the red race have pleasure in thought? Do you know aught
of the joys of introspection? Do reason and logic form any part
of your lives?"
"Most assuredly," replied Gahan, "but not to the extent of
occupying all our time--at least not objectively. You, Ghek, are
an example of the egotism of which I spoke. Because you and your
kind devote your lives to the worship of mind, you believe that
no other created beings think. And possibly we do not in the
sense that you do, who think only of yourselves and your great
brains. We think of many things that concern the welfare of a
world. Had it not been for the red men of Barsoom even the
kaldanes had perished from the planet, for while you may live
without air the things upon which you depend for existence
cannot, and there had been no air in sufficient quantities upon
Barsoom these many ages had not a red man planned and built the
great atmosphere plant which gave new life to a dying world.
"What have all the brains of all the kaldanes that have ever
lived done to compare with that single idea of a single red man?"
Ghek was stumped. Being a kaldane he knew that brains spelled the
sum total of universal achievement, but it had never occurred to
him that they should be put to use in practical and profitable
ways. He turned away and looked down upon the valley of his
ancestors across which he was slowly drifting, into what unknown
world? He should be a veritable god among the underlings, he
knew; but somehow a doubt assailed him. It was evident that these
two from that other world were ready to question his preeminence.
Even through his great egotism was filtering a suspicion that
they patronized him; perhaps even pitied him. Then he began to
wonder what was to become of him. No longer would he have many
rykors to do his bidding. Only this single one and when it died
there could not be another. When it tired, Ghek must lie almost
helpless while it rested. He wished that he had never seen this
red woman. She had brought him only discontent and dishonor and
now exile. Presently Tara of Helium commenced to hum a tune and
Ghek, the kaldane, was content.
Gently they drifted beneath the hurtling moons above the mad
shadows of a Martian night. The roaring of the banths came in
diminishing volume to their ears as their craft passed on beyond
the boundaries of Bantoom, leaving behind the terrors of that
unhappy land. But to what were they being borne? The girl looked
at the man sitting cross-legged upon the deck of the tiny flier,
gazing off into the night ahead, apparently absorbed in thought.
"Where are we?" she asked. "Toward what are we drifting?"
Turan shrugged his broad shoulders. "The stars tell me that we
are drifting toward the northeast," he replied, "but where we
are, or what lies in our path I cannot even guess. A week since I
could have sworn that I knew what lay behind each succeeding
ridge that I approached; but now I admit in all humility that I
have no conception of what lies a mile in any direction. Tara of
Helium, I am lost, and that is all that I can tell you."
He was smiling and the girl smiled back at him. There was a
slightly puzzled expression on her face--there was something
tantalizingly familiar about that smile of his. She had met many
a panthan--they came and went, following the fighting of a
world--but she could not place this one.
"From what country are you, Turan?" she asked suddenly.
"Know you not, Tara of Helium," he countered, "that a panthan has
no country? Today he fights beneath the banner of one master,
tomorrow beneath that of another."
"But you must own allegiance to some country when you are not
fighting," she insisted. "What banner, then, owns you now?"
He rose and stood before her, then, bowing low. "And I am
acceptable," he said, "I serve beneath the banner of the daughter
of The Warlord now--and forever."
She reached forth and touched his arm with a slim brown hand.
"Your services are accepted," she said; "and if ever we reach
Helium I promise that your reward shall be all that your heart
"I shall serve faithfully, hoping for that reward," he said;
but Tara of Helium did not guess what was in his mind, thinking
rather that he was mercenary. For how could the proud daughter of
The Warlord guess that a simple panthan aspired to her hand and
The dawn found them moving rapidly over an unfamiliar landscape.
The wind had increased during the night and had borne them far
from Bantoom. The country below them was rough and inhospitable.
No water was visible and the surface of the ground was cut by
deep gorges, while nowhere was any but the most meager vegetation
discernible. They saw no life of any nature, nor was there any
indication that the country could support life. For two days they
drifted over this horrid wasteland. They were without food or
water and suffered accordingly. Ghek had temporarily abandoned
his rykor after enlisting Turan's assistance in lashing it safely
to the deck. The less he used it the less would its vitality be
spent. Already it was showing the effects of privation. Ghek
crawled about the vessel like a great spider--over the side, down
beneath the keel, and up over the opposite rail. He seemed
equally at home one place as another. For his companions,
however, the quarters were cramped, for the deck of a one-man
flier is not intended for three.
Turan sought always ahead for signs of water. Water they must
have, or that water-giving plant which makes life possible upon
many of the seemingly arid areas of Mars; but there was neither
the one nor the other for these two days and now the third night
was upon them. The girl did not complain, but Turan knew that she
must be suffering and his heart was heavy within him. Ghek
suffered least of all, and he explained to them that his kind
could exist for long periods without food or water. Turan almost
cursed him as he saw the form of Tara of Helium slowly wasting
away before his eyes, while the hideous kaldane seemed as full of
vitality as ever.
"There are circumstances," remarked Ghek, "under which a gross
and material body is less desirable than a highly developed
Turan looked at him, but said nothing. Tara of Helium smiled
faintly. "One cannot blame him," she said, "were we not a bit
boastful in the pride of our superiority? When our stomachs were
filled," she added.
"Perhaps there is something to be said for their system," Turan
admitted. "If we could but lay aside our stomachs when they cried
for food and water I have no doubt but that we should do so."
"I should never miss mine now," assented Tara; "it is mighty poor
A new day had dawned, revealing a less desolate country and
renewing again the hope that had been low within them. Suddenly
Turan leaned forward, pointing ahead.
"Look, Tara of Helium!" he cried. "A city! As I am Ga--as I am
Turan the panthan, a city."
Far in the distance the domes and walls and slender towers of a
city shone in the rising sun. Quickly the man seized the control
and the ship dropped rapidly behind a low range of intervening
hills, for well Turan knew that they must not be seen until they
could discover whether friend or foe inhabited the strange city.
Chances were that they were far from the abode of friends and so
must the panthan move with the utmost caution; but there was a
city and where a city was, was water, even though it were a
deserted city, and food if it were inhabited.
To the red man food and water, even in the citadel of an enemy,
meant food and drink for Tara of Helium. He would accept it from
friends or he would take it from enemies. Just so long as it was
there he would have it--and there was shown the egotism of the
fighting man, though Turan did not see it, nor Tara who came from
a long line of fighting men; but Ghek might have smiled had he
Turan permitted the flier to drift closer behind the screening
hills, and then when he could advance no farther without fear of
discovery, he dropped the craft gently to ground in a little
ravine, and leaping over the side made her fast to a stout tree.
For several moments they discussed their plans--whether it would
be best to wait where they were until darkness hid their
movements and then approach the city in search of food and water,
or approach it now, taking advantage of what cover they could,
until they could glean something of the nature of its
It was Turan's plan which finally prevailed. They would approach
as close as safety dictated in the hope of finding water outside
the city; food, too, perhaps. If they did not they could at least
reconnoiter the ground by daylight, and then when night came
Turan could quickly come close to the city and in comparative
safety prosecute his search for food and drink.
Following the ravine upward they finally topped the summit of the
ridge, from which they had an excellent view of that part of the
city which lay nearest them, though themselves hidden by the
brush behind which they crouched. Ghek had resumed his rykor,
which had suffered less than either Tara or Turan through their
The first glance at the city, now much closer than when they had
first discovered it, revealed the fact that it was inhabited.
Banners and pennons broke from many a staff. People were moving
about the gate before them. The high white walls were paced by
sentinels at far intervals. Upon the roofs of higher buildings
the women could be seen airing the sleeping silks and furs. Turan
watched it all in silence for some time.
"I do not know them," he said at last. "I cannot guess what city
this may be. But it is an ancient city. Its people have no fliers
and no firearms. It must be old indeed."
"How do you know they have not these things?" asked the girl.
"There are no landing-stages upon the roofs--not one that can be
seen from here; while were we looking similarly at Helium we
would see hundreds. And they have no firearms because their
defenses are all built to withstand the attack of spear and
arrow, with spear and arrow. They are an ancient people."
"If they are ancient perhaps they are friendly," suggested the
girl. "Did we not learn as children in the history of our planet
that it was once peopled by a friendly, peace-loving race?"
"But I fear they are not as ancient as that," replied Turan,
laughing. "It has been long ages since the men of Barsoom loved
"My father loves peace," returned the girl.
"And yet he is always at war," said the man.
She laughed. "But he says he likes peace."
"We all like peace," he rejoined; "peace with honor; but our
neighbors will not let us have it, and so we must fight."
"And to fight well men must like to fight," she added.
"And to like to fight they must know how to fight," he said, "for
no man likes to do the thing that he does not know how to do
"Or that some other man can do better than he."
"And so always there will be wars and men will fight," he
concluded, "for always the men with hot blood in their veins will
practice the art of war."
"We have settled a great question," said the girl, smiling; "but
our stomachs are still empty."
"Your panthan is neglecting his duty," replied Turan; "and how
can he with the great reward always before his eyes!"
She did not guess in what literal a sense he spoke.
"I go forthwith," he continued, "to wrest food and drink from the
"No," she cried, laying a hand upon his arm, "not yet. They would
slay you or make you prisoner. You are a brave panthan and a
mighty one, but you cannot overcome a city singlehanded."
She smiled up into his face and her hand still lay upon his arm.
He felt the thrill of hot blood coursing through his veins. He
could have seized her in his arms and crushed her to him. There
was only Ghek the kaldane there, but there was something stronger
within him that restrained his hand. Who may define it--that
inherent chivalry that renders certain men the natural protectors
From their vantage point they saw a body of armed warriors ride
forth from the gate, and winding along a well-beaten road pass
from sight about the foot of the hill from which they watched.
The men were red, like themselves, and they rode the small saddle
thoats of the red race. Their trappings were barbaric and
magnificent, and in their head-dress were many feathers as had
been the custom of ancients. They were armed with swords and long
spears and they rode almost naked, their bodies being painted in
ochre and blue and white. There were, perhaps, a score of them in
the party and as they galloped away on their tireless mounts they
presented a picture at once savage and beautiful.
"They have the appearance of splendid warriors," said Turan. "I
have a great mind to walk boldly into their city and seek
Tara shook her head. "Wait," she admonished. "What would I do
without you, and if you were captured how could you collect your
"I should escape," he said. "At any rate I shall try it," and he
started to rise.
"You shall not," said the girl, her tone all authority.
The man looked at her quickly--questioningly.
"You have entered my service," she said, a trifle haughtily.
"You have entered my service for hire and you shall do as I bid
Turan sank down beside her again with a half smile upon his lips.
"It is yours to command, Princess," he said.
The day passed. Ghek, tiring of the sunlight, had deserted his
rykor and crawled down a hole he had discovered close by. Tara
and Turan reclined beneath the scant shade of a small tree. They
watched the people coming and going through the gate. The party
of horsemen did not return. A small herd of zitidars was driven
into the city during the day, and once a caravan of broad-wheeled
carts drawn by these huge animals wound out of the distant
horizon and came down to the city. It, too, passed from their
sight within the gateway. Then darkness came and Tara of Helium
bid her panthan search for food and drink; but she cautioned him
against attempting to enter the city. Before he left her he bent
and kissed her hand as a warrior may kiss the hand of his queen.
CHAPTER X. ENTRAPPED
TURAN the panthan approached the strange city under cover of the
darkness. He entertained little hope of finding either food or
water outside the wall, but he would try and then, if he failed,
he would attempt to make his way into the city, for Tara of
Helium must have sustenance and have it soon. He saw that the
walls were poorly sentineled, but they were sufficiently high to
render an attempt to scale them foredoomed to failure. Taking
advantage of underbrush and trees, Turan managed to reach the
base of the wall without detection. Silently he moved north past
the gateway which was closed by a massive gate which effectively
barred even the slightest glimpse within the city beyond. It was
Turan's hope to find upon the north side of the city away from
the hills a level plain where grew the crops of the inhabitants,
and here too water from their irrigating system, but though he
traveled far along that seemingly interminable wall he found no
fields nor any water. He searched also for some means of ingress
to the city, yet here, too, failure was his only reward, and now
as he went keen eyes watched him from above and a silent stalker
kept pace with him for a time upon the summit of the wall; but
presently the shadower descended to the pavement within and
hurrying swiftly raced ahead of the stranger without.
He came presently to a small gate beside which was a low building
and before the doorway of the building a warrior standing guard.
He spoke a few quick words to the warrior and then entered the
building only to return almost immediately to the street,
followed by fully forty warriors. Cautiously opening the gate the
fellow peered carefully along the wall upon the outside in the
direction from which he had come. Evidently satisfied, he issued
a few words of instruction to those behind him, whereupon half
the warriors returned to the interior of the building, while the
other half followed the man stealthily through the gateway where
they crouched low among the shrubbery in a half circle just north
of the gateway which they had left open. Here they waited in
utter silence, nor had they long to wait before Turan the panthan
came cautiously along the base of the wall. To the very gate he
came and when he found it and that it was open he paused for a
moment, listening; then he approached and looked within. Assured
that there was none within sight to apprehend him he stepped
through the gateway into the city.
He found himself in a narrow street that paralleled the wall.
Upon the opposite side rose buildings of an architecture unknown
to him, yet strangely beautiful. While the buildings were packed
closely together there seemed to be no two alike and their fronts
were of all shapes and heights and of many hues. The skyline was
broken by spire and dome and minaret and tall, slender towers,
while the walls supported many a balcony and in the soft light of
Cluros, the farther moon, now low in the west, he saw, to his
surprise and consternation, the figures of people upon the
balconies. Directly opposite him were two women and a man. They
sat leaning upon the rail of the balcony looking, apparently,
directly at him; but if they saw him they gave no sign.
Turan hesitated a moment in the face of almost certain discovery
and then, assured that they must take him for one of their own
people, he moved boldly into the avenue. Having no idea of the
direction in which he might best hope to find what he sought, and
not wishing to arouse suspicion by further hesitation, he turned
to the left and stepped briskly along the pavement with the
intention of placing himself as quickly as possible beyond the
observation of those nocturnal watchers. He knew that the night
must be far spent; and so he could not but wonder why people
should sit upon their balconies when they should have been asleep
among their silks and furs. At first he had thought them the late
guests of some convivial host; but the windows behind them were
shrouded in darkness and utter quiet prevailed, quite upsetting
such a theory. And as he proceeded he passed many another group
sitting silently upon other balconies. They paid no attention to
him, seeming not even to note his passing. Some leaned with a
single elbow upon the rail, their chins resting in their palms;
others leaned upon both arms across the balcony, looking down
into the street, while several that he saw held musical
instruments in their hands, but their fingers moved not upon the
And then Turan came to a point where the avenue turned to the
right, to skirt a building that jutted from the inside of the
city wall, and as he rounded the corner he came full upon two
warriors standing upon either side of the entrance to a building
upon his right. It was impossible for them not to be aware of his
presence, yet neither moved, nor gave other evidence that they
had seen him. He stood there waiting, his hand upon the hilt of
his long-sword, but they neither challenged nor halted him. Could
it be that these also thought him one of their own kind? Indeed
upon no other grounds could he explain their inaction.
As Turan had passed through the gateway into the city and taken
his unhindered way along the avenue, twenty warriors had entered
the city and closed the gate behind them, and then one had taken
to the wall and followed along its summit in the rear of Turan,
and another had followed him along the avenue, while a third had
crossed the street and entered one of the buildings upon the
The balance of them, with the exception of a single sentinel
beside the gate, had re-entered the building from which they had
been summoned. They were well built, strapping, painted fellows,
their naked figures covered now by gorgeous robes against the
chill of night. As they spoke of the stranger they laughed at the
ease with which they had tricked him, and were still laughing as
they threw themselves upon their sleeping silks and furs to
resume their broken slumber. It was evident that they constituted
a guard detailed for the gate beside which they slept, and it was
equally evident that the gates were guarded and the city watched
much more carefully than Turan had believed. Chagrined indeed had
been the Jed of Gathol had he dreamed that he was being so neatly
As Turan proceeded along the avenue he passed other sentries
beside other doors but now he gave them small heed, since they
neither challenged nor otherwise outwardly noted his passing; but
while at nearly every turn of the erratic avenue he passed one or
more of these silent sentinels he could not guess that he had
passed one of them many times and that his every move was watched
by silent, clever stalkers. Scarce had he passed a certain one of
these rigid guardsmen before the fellow awoke to sudden life,
bounded across the avenue, entered a narrow opening in the outer
wall where he swiftly followed a corridor built within the wall
itself until presently he emerged a little distance ahead of
Turan, where he assumed the stiff and silent attitude of a
soldier upon guard. Nor did Turan know that a second followed in
the shadows of the buildings behind him, nor of the third who
hastened ahead of him upon some urgent mission.
And so the panthan moved through the silent streets of the
strange city in search of food and drink for the woman he loved.
Men and women looked down upon him from shadowy balconies, but
spoke not; and sentinels saw him pass and did not challenge.
Presently from along the avenue before him came the familiar
sound of clanking accouterments, the herald of marching warriors,
and almost simultaneously he saw upon his right an open doorway
dimly lighted from within. It was the only available place where
he might seek to hide from the approaching company, and while he
had passed several sentries unquestioned he could scarce hope to
escape scrutiny and questioning from a patrol, as he naturally
assumed this body of men to be.
Inside the doorway he discovered a passage turning abruptly to
the right and almost immediately thereafter to the left. There
was none in sight within and so he stepped cautiously around the
second turn the more effectually to be hidden from the street.
Before him stretched a long corridor, dimly lighted like the
entrance. Waiting there he heard the party approach the building,
he heard someone at the entrance to his hiding place, and then he
heard the door past which he had come slam to. He laid his hand
upon his sword, expecting momentarily to hear footsteps
approaching along the corridor; but none came. He approached the
turn and looked around it; the corridor was empty to the closed
door. Whoever had closed it had remained upon the outside.
Turan waited, listening. He heard no sound. Then he advanced to
the door and placed an ear against it. All was silence in the
street beyond. A sudden draft must have closed the door, or
perhaps it was the duty of the patrol to see to such things. It
was immaterial. They had evidently passed on and now he would
return to the street and continue upon his way. Somewhere there
would be a public fountain where he could obtain water, and the
chance of food lay in the strings of dried vegetables and meat
which hung before the doorways of nearly every Barsoomian home of
the poorer classes that he had ever seen. It was this district he
was seeking, and it was for this reason his search had led him
away from the main gate of the city which he knew would not be
located in a poor district.
He attempted to open the door only to find that it resisted his
every effort--it was locked upon the outside. Here indeed was a
sorry contretemps. Turan the panthan scratched his head. "Fortune
frowns upon me," he murmured; but beyond the door, Fate, in the
form of a painted warrior, stood smiling. Neatly had he tricked
the unwary stranger. The lighted doorway, the marching
patrol--these had been planned and timed to a nicety by the third
warrior who had sped ahead of Turan along another avenue, and the
stranger had done precisely what the fellow had thought he would
do--no wonder, then, that he smiled.
This exit barred to him Turan turned back into the corridor. He
followed it cautiously and silently. Occasionally there was a
door on one side or the other. These he tried only to find each
securely locked. The corridor wound more erratically the farther
he advanced. A locked door barred his way at its end, but a door
upon his right opened and he stepped into a dimly-lighted
chamber, about the walls of which were three other doors, each of
which he tried in turn. Two were locked; the other opened upon a
runway leading downward. It was spiral and he could see no
farther than the first turn. A door in the corridor he had
quitted opened after he had passed, and the third warrior stepped
out and followed after him. A faint smile still lingered upon the
fellow's grim lips.
Turan drew his short-sword and cautiously descended. At the
bottom was a short corridor with a closed door at the end. He
approached the single heavy panel and listened. No sound came to
him from beyond the mysterious portal. Gently he tried the door,
which swung easily toward him at his touch. Before him was a
low-ceiled chamber with a dirt floor. Set in its walls were
several other doors and all were closed. As Turan stepped
cautiously within, the third warrior descended the spiral runway
behind him. The panthan crossed the room quickly and tried a
door. It was locked. He heard a muffled click behind him and
turned about with ready sword. He was alone; but the door through
which he had entered was closed--it was the click of its lock
that he had heard.
With a bound he crossed the room and attempted to open it; but to
no avail. No longer did he seek silence, for he knew now that the
thing had gone beyond the sphere of chance. He threw his weight
against the wooden panel; but the thick skeel of which it was
constructed would have withstood a battering ram. From beyond
came a low laugh.
Rapidly Turan examined each of the other doors. They were all
locked. A glance about the chamber revealed a wooden table and a
bench. Set in the walls were several heavy rings to which rusty
chains were attached--all too significant of the purpose to which
the room was dedicated. In the dirt floor near the wall were two
or three holes resembling the mouths of burrows--doubtless the
habitat of the giant Martian rat. He had observed this much when
suddenly the dim light was extinguished, leaving him in darkness
utter and complete. Turan, groping about, sought the table and
the bench. Placing the latter against the wall he drew the table
in front of him and sat down upon the bench, his long-sword
gripped in readiness before him. At least they should fight
before they took him.
For some time he sat there waiting for he knew not what. No sound
penetrated to his subterranean dungeon. He slowly revolved in his
mind the incidents of the evening--the open, unguarded gate; the
lighted doorway--the only one he had seen thus open and lighted
along the avenue he had followed; the advance of the warriors at
precisely the moment that he could find no other avenue of escape
or concealment; the corridors and chambers that led past many
locked doors to this underground prison leaving no other path for
him to pursue.
"By my first ancestor!" he swore; "but it was simple and I a
simpleton. They tricked me neatly and have taken me without
exposing themselves to a scratch; but for what purpose?"
He wished that he might answer that question and then his
thoughts turned to the girl waiting there on the hill beyond the
city for him--and he would never come. He knew the ways of the
more savage peoples of Barsoom. No, he would never come, now. He
had disobeyed her. He smiled at the sweet recollection of those
words of command that had fallen from her dear lips. He had
disobeyed her and now he had lost the reward.
But what of her? What now would be her fate--starving before a
hostile city with only an inhuman kaldane for company? Another
thought--a horrid thought--obtruded itself upon him. She had told
him of the hideous sights she had witnessed in the burrows of the
kaldanes and he knew that they ate human flesh. Ghek was
starving. Should he eat his rykor he would be helpless;
but--there was sustenance there for them both, for the rykor and
the kaldane. Turan cursed himself for a fool. Why had he left
her? Far better to have remained and died with her, ready always
to protect her, than to have left her at the mercy of the hideous
Now Turan detected a heavy odor in the air. It oppressed him with
a feeling of drowsiness. He would have risen to fight off the
creeping lethargy, but his legs seemed weak, so that he sank
again to the bench. Presently his sword slipped from his fingers
and he sprawled forward upon the table his head resting upon his
Tara of Helium, as the night wore on and Turan did not return,
became more and more uneasy, and when dawn broke with no sign of
him she guessed that he had failed. Something more than her own
unhappy predicament brought a feeling of sorrow to her heart--of
sorrow and loneliness. She realized now how she had come to
depend upon this panthan not only for protection but for
companionship as well. She missed him, and in missing him
realized suddenly that he had meant more to her than a mere hired
warrior. It was as though a friend had been taken from her--an
old and valued friend. She rose from her place of concealment
that she might have a better view of the city.
U-Dor, dwar of the 8th Utan of O-Tar, Jeddak of Manator, rode
back in the early dawn toward Manator from a brief excursion to a
neighboring village. As he was rounding the hills south of the
city, his keen eyes were attracted by a slight movement among the
shrubbery close to the summit of the nearest hill. He halted his
vicious mount and watched more closely. He saw a figure rise
facing away from him and peer down toward Manator beyond the
"Come!" he signalled to his followers, and with a word to this
thoat turned the beast at a rapid gallop up the hillside. In his
wake swept his twenty savage warriors, the padded feet of their
mounts soundless upon the soft turf. It was the rattle of
sidearms and harness that brought Tara of Helium suddenly about,
facing them. She saw a score of warriors with couched lances
bearing down upon her.
She glanced at Ghek. What would the spiderman do in this
emergency? She saw him crawl to his rykor and attach himself.
Then he arose, the beautiful body once again animated and alert.
She thought that the creature was preparing for flight. Well, it
made little difference to her. Against such as were streaming up
the hill toward them a single mediocre swordsman such as Ghek was
worse than no defense at all.
"Hurry, Ghek!" she admonished him. "Back into the hills! You may
find there a hiding-place;" but the creature only stepped between
her and the oncoming riders, drawing his long-sword.
"It is useless, Ghek," she said, when she saw that he intended to
defend her. "What can a single sword accomplish against such
"I can die but once," replied the kaldane. "You and your panthan
saved me from Luud and I but do what your panthan would do were
he here to protect you."
"It is brave, but it is useless," she replied. "Sheathe your
sword. They may not intend us harm."
Ghek let the point of his weapon drop to the ground, but he did
not sheathe it, and thus the two stood waiting as U-Dor the dwar
stopped his thoat before them while his twenty warriors formed a
rough circle about. For a long minute U-Dor sat his mount in
silence, looking searchingly first at Tara of Helium and then at
her hideous companion.
"What manner of creature are you?" he asked presently. "And what
do you before the gates of Manator?"
"We are from far countries," replied the girl, "and we are lost
and starving. We ask only food and rest and the privilege to go
our way seeking our own homes."
U-Dor smiled a grim smile. "Manator and the hills which guard it
alone know the age of Manator," he said; "yet in all the ages
that have rolled by since Manator first was, there be no record
in the annals of Manator of a stranger departing from Manator."
"But I am a princess," cried the girl haughtily, "and my country
is not at war with yours. You must give me and my companions aid
and assist us to return to our own land. It is the law of
"Manator knows only the laws of Manator," replied U-Dor; "but
come. You shall go with us to the city, where you, being
beautiful, need have no fear. I, myself, will protect you if
O-Tar so decrees. And as for your companion--but hold! You said
'companions'--there are others of your party then?"
"You see what you see," replied Tara haughtily.
"Be that as it may," said U-Dor. "If there be more they shall not
escape Manator; but as I was saying, if your companion fights
well he too may live, for O-Tar is just, and just are the laws of
"It is useless," said the girl, seeing that he would have stood
his ground and fought them. "Let us go with them. Why pit your
puny blade against their mighty ones when there should lie in
your great brain the means to outwit them?" She spoke in a low
"You are right, Tara of Helium," he replied and sheathed his
And so they moved down the hillside toward the gates of
Manator--Tara, Princess of Helium, and Ghek, the kaldane of
Bantoom--and surrounding them rode the savage, painted warriors
of U-Dor, dwar of the 8th Utan of O-Tar, Jeddak of Manator.
CHAPTER XI. THE CHOICE OF TARA
THE dazzling sunlight of Barsoom clothed Manator in an aureole of
splendor as the girl and her captors rode into the city through
The Gate of Enemies. Here the wall was some fifty feet thick, and
the sides of the passageway within the gate were covered with
parallel shelves of masonry from bottom to top. Within these
shelves, or long, horizontal niches, stood row upon row of small
figures, appearing like tiny, grotesque statuettes of men, their
long, black hair falling below their feet and sometimes trailing
to the shelf beneath. The figures were scarce a foot in height
and but for their diminutive proportions might have been the
mummified bodies of once living men. The girl noticed that as
they passed, the warriors saluted the figures with their spears
after the manner of Barsoomian fighting men in extending a
military courtesy, and then they rode on into the avenue beyond,
which ran, wide and stately, through the city toward the east.
On either side were great buildings wondrously wrought. Paintings
of great beauty and antiquity covered many of the walls, their
colors softened and blended by the suns of ages. Upon the
pavement the life of the newly-awakened city was already afoot.
Women in brilliant trappings, befeathered warriors, their bodies
daubed with paint; artisans, armed but less gaily caparisoned,
took their various ways upon the duties of the day. A giant
zitidar, magnificent in rich harness, rumbled its broad-wheeled
cart along the stone pavement toward The Gate of Enemies. Life
and color and beauty wrought together a picture that filled the
eyes of Tara of Helium with wonder and with admiration, for here
was a scene out of the dead past of dying Mars. Such had been the
cities of the founders of her race before Throxeus, mightiest of
oceans, had disappeared from the face of a world. And from
balconies on either side men and women looked down in silence
upon the scene below.
The people in the street looked at the two prisoners, especially
at the hideous Ghek, and called out in question or comment to
their guard; but the watchers upon the balconies spoke not, nor
did one so much as turn a head to note their passing. There were
many balconies on each building and not a one that did not hold
its silent party of richly trapped men and women, with here and
there a child or two, but even the children maintained the
uniform silence and immobility of their elders. As they
approached the center of the city the girl saw that even the
roofs bore companies of these idle watchers, harnessed and
bejeweled as for some gala-day of laughter and music, but no
laughter broke from those silent lips, nor any music from the
strings of the instruments that many of them held in jeweled
And now the avenue widened into an immense square, at the far end
of which rose a stately edifice gleaming white in virgin marble
among the gaily painted buildings surrounding it and its scarlet
sward and gaily-flowering, green-foliaged shrubbery. Toward this
U-Dor led his prisoners and their guard to the great arched
entrance before which a line of fifty mounted warriors barred the
way. When the commander of the guard recognized U-Dor the
guardsmen fell back to either side leaving a broad avenue through
which the party passed. Directly inside the entrance were
inclined runways leading upward on either side. U-Dor turned to
the left and led them upward to the second floor and down a long
corridor. Here they passed other mounted men and in chambers upon
either side they saw more. Occasionally there was another runway
leading either up or down. A warrior, his steed at full gallop,
dashed into sight from one of these and raced swiftly past them
upon some errand.
Nowhere as yet had Tara of Helium seen a man afoot in this great
building; but when at a turn, U-Dor led them to the third floor
she caught glimpses of chambers in which many riderless thoats
were penned and others adjoining where dismounted warriors lolled
at ease or played games of skill or chance and many there were
who played at jetan, and then the party passed into a long, wide
hall of state, as magnificent an apartment as even a princess of
mighty Helium ever had seen. The length of the room ran an arched
ceiling ablaze with countless radium bulbs. The mighty spans
extended from wall to wall leaving the vast floor unbroken by a
single column. The arches were of white marble, apparently
quarried in single, huge blocks from which each arch was cut
complete. Between the arches, the ceiling was set solid about the
radium bulbs with precious stones whose scintillant fire and
color and beauty filled the whole apartment. The stones were
carried down the walls in an irregular fringe for a few feet,
where they appeared to hang like a beautiful and gorgeous drapery
against the white marble of the wall. The marble ended some six
or seven feet from the floor, the walls from that point down
being wainscoted in solid gold. The floor itself was of marble
richly inlaid with gold. In that single room was a vast treasure
equal to the wealth of many a large city.
But what riveted the girl's attention even more than the fabulous
treasure of decorations were the files of gorgeously harnessed
warriors who sat their thoats in grim silence and immobility on
either side of the central aisle, rank after rank of them to the
farther walls, and as the party passed between them she could not
note so much as the flicker of an eyelid, or the twitching of a
"The Hall of Chiefs," whispered one of her guard, evidently
noting her interest. There was a note of pride in the fellow's
voice and something of hushed awe. Then they passed through a
great doorway into the chamber beyond, a large, square room in
which a dozen mounted warriors lolled in their saddles.
As U-Dor and his party entered the room, the warriors came
quickly erect in their saddles and formed a line before another
door upon the opposite side of the wall. The padwar commanding
them saluted U-Dor who, with his party, had halted facing the
"Send one to O-Tar announcing that U-Dor brings two prisoners
worthy of the observation of the great jeddak," said U-Dor; "one
because of her extreme beauty, the other because of his extreme
"O-Tar sits in council with the lesser chiefs," replied the
lieutenant; "but the words of U-Dor the dwar shall be carried to
him," and he turned and gave instructions to one who sat his
thoat behind him.
"What manner of creature is the male?" he asked of U-Dor. "It
cannot be that both are of one race."
"They were together in the hills south of the city," explained
U-Dor, "and they say that they are lost and starving."
"The woman is beautiful," said the padwar. "She will not long go
begging in the city of Manator," and then they spoke of other
matters--of the doings of the palace, of the expedition of U-Dor,
until the messenger returned to say that O-Tar bade them bring
the prisoners to him.
They passed then through a massive doorway, which, when opened,
revealed the great council chamber of O-Tar, Jeddak of Manator,
beyond. A central aisle led from the doorway the full length of
the great hall, terminating at the steps of a marble dais upon
which a man sat in a great throne-chair. Upon either side of the
aisle were ranged rows of highly carved desks and chairs of skeel
a hard wood of great beauty. Only a few of the desks were
occupied--those in the front row, just below the rostrum.
At the entrance U-Dor dismounted with four of his followers who
formed a guard about the two prisoners who were then conducted
toward the foot of the throne, following a few paces behind
U-Dor. As they halted at the foot of the marble steps, the proud
gaze of Tara of Helium rested upon the enthroned figure of the
man above her. He sat erect without stiffness--a commanding
presence trapped in the barbaric splendor that the Barsoomian
chieftain loves. He was a large man, the perfection of whose
handsome face was marred only by the hauteur of his cold eyes and
the suggestion of cruelty imparted by too thin lips. It needed no
second glance to assure the least observing that here indeed was
a ruler of. men--a fighting jeddak whose people might worship but
not love, and for whose slightest favor warriors would vie with
one another to go forth and die. This was O-Tar, Jeddak of
Manator, and as Tara of Helium saw him for the first time she
could not but acknowledge a certain admiration for this savage
chieftain who so virilely personified the ancient virtues of the
God of War.
U-Dor and the jeddak interchanged the simple greetings of
Barsoom, and then the former recounted the details of the
discovery and capture of the prisoners. O-Tar scrutinized them
both intently during U-Dor's narration of events, his expression
revealing naught of what passed in the brain behind those
inscrutable eyes. When the officer had finished the jeddak
fastened his gaze upon Ghek.
"And you," he asked, "what manner of thing are you? From what
country? Why are you in Manator?"
"I am a kaldane," replied Ghek; "the highest type of created
creature upon the face of Barsoom; I am mind, you are matter. I
come from Bantoom. I am here because we were lost and starving."
"And you!" O-Tar turned suddenly on Tara "You, too, are a
"I am a princess of Helium," replied the girl. "I was a prisoner
in Bantoom. This kaldane and a warrior of my own race rescued me.
The warrior left us to search for food and water. He has
doubtless fallen into the hands of your people. I ask you to free
him and give us food and drink and let us go upon our way. I am a
granddaughter of a jeddak, the daughter of a jeddak of jeddaks,
The Warlord of Barsoom. I ask only the treatment that my people
would accord you or yours."
"Helium," repeated O-Tar. "I know naught of Helium, nor does the
Jeddak of Helium rule Manator. I, O-Tar, am Jeddak of Manator. I
alone rule. I protect my own. You have never seen a woman or a
warrior of Manator captive in Helium! Why should I protect the
people of another jeddak? It is his duty to protect them. If he
cannot, he is weak, and his people must fall into the hands of
the strong. I, O-Tar, am strong. I will keep you. That --" he
pointed at Ghek--"can it fight?"
"It is brave," replied Tara of Helium, "but it has not the skill
at arms which my people possess."
"There is none then to fight for you?" asked O-Tar. "We are a
just people," he continued without waiting for a reply, "and had
you one to fight for you he might win to freedom for himself and
you as well."
"But U-Dor assured me that no stranger ever had departed from
Manator," she answered.
O-Tar shrugged. "That does not disprove the justice of the laws
of Manator," replied O-Tar, "but rather that the warriors of
Manator are invincible. Had there come one who could defeat our
warriors that one had won to liberty."
"And you fetch my warrior," cried Tara haughtily, "you shall see
such swordplay as doubtless the crumbling walls of your decaying
city never have witnessed, and if there be no trick in your offer
we are already as good as free."
O-Tar smiled more broadly than before and U-Dor smiled, too, and
the chiefs and warriors who looked on nudged one another and
whispered, laughing. And Tara of Helium knew then that there was
trickery in their justice; but though her situation seemed
hopeless she did not cease to hope, for was she not the daughter
of John Carter, Warlord of Barsoom, whose famous challenge to
Fate, "I still live!" remained the one irreducible defense
against despair? At thought of her noble sire the patrician chin
of Tara of Helium rose a shade higher. Ah! if he but knew where
she was there were little to fear then. The hosts of Helium would
batter at the gates of Manator, the great green warriors of John
Carter's savage allies would swarm up from the dead sea bottoms
lusting for pillage and for loot, the stately ships of her
beloved navy would soar above the unprotected towers and minarets
of the doomed city which only capitulation and heavy tribute
could then save.
But John Carter did not know! There was only one other to whom
she might hope to look--Turan the panthan; but where was he? She
had seen his sword in play and she knew that it had been wielded
by a master hand, and who should know swordplay better than Tara
of Helium, who had learned it well under the constant tutorage of
John Carter himself. Tricks she knew that discounted even far
greater physical prowess than her own, and a method of attack
that might have been at once the envy and despair of the
cleverest of warriors. And so it was that her thoughts turned to
Turan the panthan, though not alone because of the protection he
might afford her. She had realized, since he had left her in
search of food, that there had grown between them a certain
comradeship that she now missed. There had been that about him
which seemed to have bridged the gulf between their stations in
life. With him she had failed to consider that he was a panthan
or that she was a princess--they had been comrades. Suddenly she
realized that she missed him for himself more than for his sword.
She turned toward O-Tar.
"Where is Turan, my warrior?" she demanded.
"You shall not lack for warriors," replied the jeddak. "One of
your beauty will find plenty ready to fight for her. Possibly it
shall not be necessary to look farther than the jeddak of
Manator. You please me, woman. What say you to such an honor?"
Through narrowed lids the Princess of Helium scrutinized the
Jeddak of Manator, from feathered headdress to sandaled foot and
back to feathered headdress.
"'Honor'!" she mimicked in tones of scorn. "I please thee, do I?
Then know, swine, that thou pleaseth me not--that the daughter of
John Carter is not for such as thou!"
A sudden, tense silence fell upon the assembled chiefs. Slowly
the blood receded from the sinister face of O-Tar, Jeddak of
Manator, leaving him a sickly purple in his wrath. His eyes
narrowed to two thin slits, his lips were compressed to a
bloodless line of malevolence. For a long moment there was no
sound in the throne room of the palace at Manator. Then the
jeddak turned toward U-Dor.
"Take her away," he said in a level voice that belied his
appearance of rage. "Take her away, and at the next games let the
prisoners and the common warriors play at Jetan for her."
"And this?" asked U-Dor, pointing at Ghek.
"To the pits until the next games," replied O-Tar.
"So this is your vaunted justice!" cried Tara of Helium; "that
two strangers who have not wronged you shall be sentenced without
trial? And one of them is a woman. The swine of Manator are as
just as they are brave."
"Away with her!" shouted O-Tar, and at a sign from U-Dor the
guards formed about the two prisoners and conducted them from the
Outside the palace, Ghek and Tara of Helium were separated. The
girl was led through long avenues toward the center of the city
and finally into a low building, topped by lofty towers of
massive construction. Here she was turned over to a warrior who
wore the insignia of a dwar, or captain.
"It is O-Tar's wish," explained U-Dor to this one, "that she be
kept until the next games, when the prisoners and the common
warriors shall play for her. Had she not the tongue of a thoat
she had been a worthy stake for our noblest steel," and U-Dor
sighed. "Perhaps even yet I may win a pardon for her. It were too
bad to see such beauty fall to the lot of some common fellow. I
would have honored her myself."
"If I am to be imprisoned, imprison me," said the girl. "I do not
recall that I was sentenced to listen to the insults of every
low-born boor who chanced to admire me."
"You see, A-Kor," cried U-Dor, "the tongue that she has. Even so
and worse spoke she to O-Tar the jeddak."
"I see," replied A-Kor, whom Tara saw was with difficulty
restraining a smile. "Come, then, with me, woman," he said, "and
we shall find a safe place within The Towers of Jetan--but stay!
what ails thee?"
The girl had staggered and would have fallen had not the man
caught her in his arms. She seemed to gather herself then and
bravely sought to stand erect without support. A-Kor glanced at
U-Dor. "Knew you the woman was ill?" he asked.
"Possibly it is lack of food," replied the other. "She mentioned,
I believe, that she and her companions had not eaten for several
"Brave are the warriors of O-Tar," sneered A-Kor; "lavish their
hospitality. U-Dor, whose riches are uncounted, and the brave
O-Tar, whose squealing thoats are stabled within marble halls and
fed from troughs of gold, can spare no crust to feed a starving
The black haired U-Dor. scowled. "Thy tongue will yet pierce thy
heart, son of a slave!" he cried. "Once too often mayst thus try
the patience of the just O-Tar. Hereafter guard thy speech as
well as thy towers."
"Think not to taunt me with my mother's state," said A-Kor. "'Tis
the blood of the slave woman that fills my veins with pride, and
my only shame is that I am also the son of thy jeddak."
"And O-Tar heard this?" queried U-Dor.
"O-Tar has already heard it from my own lips," replied A-Kor;
"this, and more."
He turned upon his heel, a supporting arm still around the waist
of Tara of Helium and thus he half led, half carried her into The
Towers of Jetan, while U-Dor wheeled his thoat and galloped back
in the direction of the palace.
Within the main entrance to The Tower of Jetan lolled a
half-dozen warriors. To one of these spoke A-Kor, keeper of the
towers. "Fetch Lan-O, the slave girl, and bid her bring food and
drink to the upper level of the Thurian tower," then he lifted
the half-fainting girl in his arms and bore her along the spiral,
inclined runway that led upward within the tower.
Somewhere in the long ascent Tara lost consciousness. When it
returned she found herself in a large, circular chamber, the
stone walls of which were pierced by windows at regular intervals
about the entire circumference of the room. She was lying upon a
pile of sleeping silks and furs while there knelt above her a
young woman who was forcing drops of some cooling beverage
between her parched lips. Tara of Helium half rose upon an elbow
and looked about. In the first moments of returning consciousness
there were swept from the screen of recollection the happenings
of many weeks. She thought that she awoke in the palace of The
Warlord at Helium. Her brows knit as she scrutinized the strange
face bending over her.
"Who are you?" she asked, and, "Where is Uthia?"
"I am Lan-O the slave girl," replied the other. "I know none by
the name of Uthia."
Tara of Helium sat erect and looked about her. This rough stone
was not the marble of her father's halls. "Where am I?" she
"In The Thurian Tower," replied the girl, and then seeing that
the other still did not understand she guessed the truth. "You
are a prisoner in The Towers of Jetan in the city of Manator,"
she explained. "You were brought to this chamber, weak and
fainting, by A-Kor, Dwar of The Towers of Jetan, who sent me to
you with food and drink, for kind is the heart of A-Kor."
"I remember, now," said Tara, slowly. "I remember; but where is
Turan, my warrior? Did they speak of him?"
"I heard naught of another," replied Lan-O; "you alone were
brought to the towers. In that you are fortunate, for there be no
nobler man in Manator than A-Kor. It is his mother's blood that
makes him so. She was a slave girl from Gathol."
"Gathol!" exclaimed Tara of Helium. "Lies Gathol close by
"Not close, yet still the nearest country," replied Lan-O. "About
twenty-two degrees* east, it lies."
* Approximately 814 Earth Miles.
"Gathol!" murmured Tara, "Far Gathol!"
"But you are not from Gathol," said the slave girl; "your harness
is not of Gathol."
"I am from Helium," said Tara
"It is far from Helium to Gathol;" said the slave girl, "but
in our studies we learned much of the greatness of Helium, we of
Gathol, so it seems not so far away."
"You, too, are from Gathol?" asked Tara.
"Many of us are from Gathol who are slaves in Manator," replied
the girl. "It is to Gathol, nearest country, that the Manatorians
look for slaves most often. They go in great numbers at intervals
of three or seven years and haunt the roads that lead to Gathol,
and thus they capture whole caravans leaving none to bear warning
to Gathol of their fate. Nor do any ever escape from Manator to
carry word of us back to Gahan our jed."
Tara of Helium ate slowly and in silence. The girl's words
aroused memories of the last hours she had spent in her father's
palace and the great midday function at which she had met Gahan
of Gathol. Even now she flushed as she recalled his daring words.
Upon her reveries the door opened and a burly warrior appeared in
the opening--a hulking fellow, with thick lips and an evil,
leering face. The slave girl sprang to her feet, facing him.
"What does this mean, E-Med?" she cried, "was it not the will of
A-Kor that this woman be not disturbed?"
"The will of A-Kor, indeed!" and the man sneered. "The will of
A-Kor is without power in The Towers of Jetan, or elsewhere, for
A-Kor lies now in the pits of O-Tar, and E-Med is dwar of the
Tara of Helium saw the face of the slave girl pale and the terror
in her eyes.
CHAPTER XII. GHEK PLAYS PRANKS
WHILE Tara of Helium was being led to The Towers of Jetan, Ghek
was escorted to the pits beneath the palace where he was
imprisoned in a dimly-lighted chamber. Here he found a bench and
a table standing upon the dirt floor near the wall, and set in
the wall several rings from which depended short lengths of
chain. At the base of the walls were several holes in the dirt
floor. These, alone, of the several things he saw, interested
him. Ghek sat down upon the bench and waited in silence,
listening. Presently the lights were extinguished. If Ghek could
have smiled he would have then, for Ghek could see as well in the
dark as in the light--better, perhaps. He watched the dark
openings of the holes in the floor and waited. Presently he
detected a change in the air about him--it grew heavy with a
strange odor, and once again might Ghek have smiled, could he
Let them replace all the air in the chamber with their most
deadly fumes; it would be all the same to Ghek, the kaldane, who,
having no lungs, required no air. With the rykor it might be
different. Deprived of air it would die; but if only a sufficient
amount of the gas was introduced to stupefy an ordinary creature
it would have no effect upon the rykor, who had no objective mind
to overcome. So long as the excess of carbon dioxide in the blood
was not sufficient to prevent heart action, the rykor would
suffer only a diminution of vitality; but would still respond to
the exciting agency of the kaldane's brain.
Ghek caused the rykor to assume a sitting position with its back
against the wall where it might remain without direction from his
brain. Then he released his contact with its spinal cord; but
remained in position upon its shoulders, waiting and watching,
for the kaldane's curiosity was aroused. He had not long to wait
before the lights were flashed on arid one of the locked doors
opened to admit a half-dozen warriors. They approached him
rapidly and worked quickly. First they removed all his weapons
and then, snapping a fetter about one of the rykor's ankles,
secured him to the end of one of the chains hanging from the
walls. Next they dragged the long table to a new position and
there bolted it to the floor so that an end, instead of the
middle, was directly before the prisoner. On the table before him
they set food and water and upon the opposite end of the table
they laid the key to the fetter. Then they unlocked and opened
all the doors and departed.
When Turan the panthan regained consciousness it was to the
realization of a sharp pain in one of his forearms. The effects
of the gas departed as rapidly as they had overcome him so that
as he opened his eyes he was in full possession of all his
faculties. The lights were on again and in their glow there was
revealed to the man the figure of a giant Martian rat crouching
upon the table and gnawing upon his arm. Snatching his arm away
he reached for his short-sword, while the rat, growling, sought
to seize his arm again. It was then that Turan discovered that
his weapons had been removed--short-sword, long-sword, dagger,
and pistol. The rat charged him then and striking the creature
away with his hand the man rose and backed off, searching for
something with which to strike a harder blow. Again the rat
charged and as Turan stepped quickly back to avoid the menacing
jaws, something seemed to jerk suddenly upon his right ankle, and
as he drew his left foot back to regain his equilibrium his heel
caught upon a taut chain and he fell heavily backward to the
floor just as the rat leaped upon his breast and sought his
The Martian rat is a fierce and unlovely thing. It is many-legged
and hairless, its hide resembling that of a newborn mouse in
repulsiveness. In size and weight it is comparable to a large
Airedale terrier. Its eyes are small and close-set, and almost
hidden in deep, fleshy apertures. But its most ferocious and
repulsive feature is its jaws, the entire bony structure of which
protrudes several inches beyond the flesh, revealing five sharp,
spadelike teeth in the upper jaw and the same number of similar
teeth in the lower, the whole suggesting the appearance of a
rotting face from which much of the flesh has sloughed away.
It was such a thing that leaped upon the breast of the panthan to
tear at his jugular. Twice Turan struck it away as he sought to
regain his feet, but both times it returned with increased
ferocity to renew the attack. Its only weapons are its jaws since
its broad, splay feet are armed with blunt talons. With its
protruding jaws it excavates its winding burrows and with its
broad feet it pushes the dirt behind it. To keep the jaws from
his flesh then was Turan's only concern and this he succeeded in
doing until chance gave him a hold upon the creature's throat.
After that the end was but a matter of moments. Rising at last he
flung the lifeless thing from him with a shudder of disgust.
Now he turned his attention to a hurried inventory of the new
conditions which surrounded him since the moment of his
incarceration. He realized vaguely what had happened. He had been
anaesthetized and stripped of his weapons, and as he rose to his
feet he saw that one ankle was fettered to a chain in the wall.
He looked about the room. All the doors swung wide open! His
captors would render his imprisonment the more cruel by leaving
ever before him tempting glimpses of open aisles to the freedom
he could not attain. Upon the end of the table and within easy
reach was food and drink. This at least was attainable and at
sight of it his starved stomach seemed almost to cry aloud for
sustenance. It was with difficulty that he ate and drank in
As he devoured the food his eyes wandered about the confines of
his prison until suddenly they seized upon a thing that lay on
the table at the end farthest from him. It was a key. He raised
his fettered ankle and examined the lock. There could be no doubt
of it! The key that lay there on the table before him was the key
to that very lock. A careless warrior had laid it there and
Hope surged high in the breast of Gahan of Gathol, of Turan the
panthan. Furtively his eyes sought the open doorways. There was
no one in sight. Ah, if he could but gain his freedom! He would
find some way from this odious city back to her side and never
again would he leave her until he had won safety for her or death
He rose and moved cautiously toward the opposite end of the table
where lay the coveted key. The fettered ankle halted his first
step, but he stretched at full length along the table, extending
eager fingers toward the prize. They almost laid hold upon it--a
little more and they would touch it. He strained and stretched,
but still the thing lay just beyond his reach. He hurled himself
forward until the iron fetter bit deep into his flesh, but all
futilely. He sat back upon the bench then and glared at the open
doors and the key, realizing now that they were part of a
well-laid scheme of refined torture, none the less demoralizing
because it inflicted no physical suffering.
For just a moment the man gave way to useless regret and
foreboding, then he gathered himself together, his brows cleared,
and he returned to his unfinished meal. At least they should not
have the satisfaction of knowing how sorely they had hit him. As
he ate it occurred to him that by dragging the table along the
floor he could bring the key within his reach, but when he
essayed to do so, he found that the table had been securely
bolted to the floor during the period of his unconsciousness,
Again Gahan smiled and shrugged and resumed his eating.
When the warriors had departed from the prison in which Ghek was
confined, the kaldane crawled from the shoulders of the rykor to
the table. Here he drank a little water and then directed the
hands of the rykor to the balance of it and to the food, upon
which the brainless thing fell with avidity. While it was thus
engaged Ghek took his spider-like way along the table to the
opposite end where lay the key to the fetter. Seizing it in a
chela he leaped to the floor and scurried rapidly toward the
mouth of one of the burrows against the wall, into which he
disappeared. For long had the brain been contemplating these
burrow entrances. They appealed to his kaldanean tastes, and
further, they pointed a hiding place for the key and a lair for
the only kind of food that the kaldane relished--flesh and blood.
Ghek had never seen an ulsio, since these great Martian rats had
long ago disappeared from Bantoom, their flesh and blood having
been greatly relished by the kaldanes; but Ghek had inherited,
almost unimpaired, every memory of every ancestor, and so he knew
that ulsio inhabited these lairs and that ulsio was good to eat,
and he knew what ulsio looked like and what his habits were,
though he had never seen him nor any picture of him. As we breed
animals for the transmission of physical attributes, so the
Kaldanes breed themselves for the transmission of attributes of
the mind, including memory and the power of recollection, and
thus have they raised what we term instinct, above the level of
the threshold of the objective mind where it may be commanded and
utilized by recollection. Doubtless in our own subjective minds
lie many of the impressions and experiences of our forebears.
These may impinge upon our consciousness in dreams only, or in
vague, haunting suggestions that we have before experienced some
transient phase of our present existence. Ah, if we had but the
power to recall them! Before us would unfold the forgotten story
of the lost eons that have preceded us. We might even walk with
God in the garden of His stars while man was still but a budding
idea within His mind.
Ghek descended into the burrow at a steep incline for some ten
feet, when he found himself in an elaborate and delightful
network of burrows! The kaldane was elated. This indeed was life!
He moved rapidly and fearlessly and he went as straight to his
goal as you could to the kitchen of your own home. This goal lay
at a low level in a spheroidal cavity about the size of a large
barrel. Here, in a nest of torn bits of silk and fur lay six baby
When the mother returned there were but five babies and a great
spider-like creature, which she immediately sprang to attack only
to be met by powerful chelae which seized and held her so that
she could not move. Slowly they dragged her throat toward a
hideous mouth and in a little moment she was dead.
Ghek might have remained in the nest for a long time, since there
was ample food for many days; but he did not do so. Instead he
explored the burrows. He followed them into many subterranean
chambers of the city of Manator, and upward through walls to
rooms above the ground. He found many ingeniously devised traps,
and he found poisoned food and other signs of the constant battle
that the inhabitants of Manator waged against these repulsive
creatures that dwelt beneath their homes and public buildings.
His exploration revealed not only the vast proportions of the
net-work of runways that apparently traversed every portion of
the city, but the great antiquity of the majority of them. Tons
upon tons of dirt must have been removed, and for a long time he
wondered where it had been deposited, until in following downward
a tunnel of great size and length he sensed before him the
thunderous rush of subterranean waters, and presently came to the
bank of a great, underground river, tumbling onward, no doubt,
the length of a world to the buried sea of Omean. Into this
torrential sewer had unthinkable generations of ulsios pushed
their few handsful of dirt in the excavating of their vast
For only a moment did Ghek tarry by the river, for his seemingly
aimless wanderings were in reality prompted by a definite
purpose, and this he pursued with vigor and singleness of design.
He followed such runways as appeared to terminate in the pits or
other chambers of the inhabitants of the city, and these he
explored, usually from the safety of a burrow's mouth, until
satisfied that what he sought was not there. He moved swiftly
upon his spider legs and covered remarkable distances in short
periods of time.
His search not being rewarded with immediate success, he decided
to return to the pit where his rykor lay chained and look to its
wants. As he approached the end of the burrow that terminated in
the pit he slackened his pace, stopping just within the entrance
of the runway that he might scan the interior of the chamber
before entering it. As he did so he saw the figure of a warrior
appear suddenly in an opposite doorway. The rykor sprawled upon
the table, his hands groping blindly for more food. Ghek saw the
warrior pause and gaze in sudden astonishment at the rykor; he
saw the fellow's eyes go wide and an ashen hue replace the copper
bronze of his cheek. He stepped back as though someone had struck
him in the face. For an instant only he stood thus as in a
paralysis of fear, then he uttered a smothered shriek and turned
and fled. Again was it a catastrophe that Ghek, the kaldane,
could not smile.
Quickly entering the room he crawled to the table top and affixed
himself to the shoulders of his rykor, and there he waited; and
who may say that Ghek, though he could not smile, possessed not a
sense of humor? For a half-hour he sat there, and then there came
to him the sound of men approaching along corridors of stone. He
could hear their arms clank against the rocky walls and he knew
that they came at a rapid pace; but just before they reached the
entrance to his prison they paused and advanced more slowly. In
the lead was an officer, and just behind him, wide-eyed and
perhaps still a little ashen, the warrior who had so recently
departed in haste. At the doorway they halted and the officer
turned sternly upon the warrior. With upraised finger he pointed
"There sits the creature! Didst thou dare lie, then, to thy
"I swear," cried the warrior, "that I spoke the truth. But a
moment since the thing groveled, headless, upon this very table!
And may my first ancestor strike me dead upon the spot if I speak
other than a true word!"
The officer looked puzzled. The men of Mars seldom if ever lie.
He scratched his head. Then he addressed Ghek. "How long have you
been here?" he asked.
"Who knows better than those who placed me here and chained me to
a wall?" he returned in reply.
"Saw you this warrior enter here a few minutes since?"
"I saw him," replied Ghek.
"And you sat there where you sit now?" continued the officer.
"Look thou to my chain and tell me then where else might I sit!"
cried Ghek. "Art the people of thy city all fools?"
Three other warriors pressed behind the two in front, craning
their necks to view the prisoner while they grinned at the
discomfiture of their fellow. The officer scowled at Ghek.
"Thy tongue is as venomous as that of the she-banth O-Tar sent to
The Towers of Jetan," he said.
You speak of the young woman who was captured with me?" asked
Ghek, his expressionless monotone and face revealing naught of
the interest he felt.
"I speak of her," replied the dwar, and then turning to the
warrior who had summoned him: "return to thy quarters and remain
there until the next games. Perhaps by that time thy eyes may
have learned not to deceive thee."
The fellow cast a venomous glance at Ghek and turned away. The
officer shook his head. "I do not understand it," he muttered.
"Always has U-Van been a true and dependable warrior. Could it
be--?" he glanced piercingly at Ghek. "Thou hast a strange head
that misfits thy body, fellow," he cried. "Our legends tell us of
those ancient creatures that placed hallucinations upon the mind
of their fellows. If thou be such then maybe U-Van suffered from
thy forbidden powers. If thou be such O-Tar will know well how to
deal with thee." He wheeled about and motioned his warriors to
"Wait!" cried Ghek. "Unless I am to be starved, send me food."
"You have had food," replied the warrior.
"Am I to be fed but once a day?" asked Ghek. "I require food
oftener than that. Send me food."
"You shall have food," replied the officer. "None may say that
the prisoners of Manator are ill-fed. Just are the laws of
Manator," and he departed.
No sooner had the sounds of their passing died away in the
distance than Ghek clambered from the shoulders of his rykor, and
scurried to the burrow where he had hidden the key. Fetching it
he unlocked the fetter from about the creature's ankle, locked it
empty and carried the key farther down into the burrow. Then he
returned to his place upon his brainless servitor. After a while
he heard footsteps approaching, whereupon he rose and passed into
another corridor from that down which he knew the warrior was
coming. Here he waited out of sight, listening. He heard the man
enter the chamber and halt. He heard a muttered exclamation,
followed by the jangle of metal dishes as a salver was slammed
upon a table; then rapidly retreating footsteps, which quickly
died away in the distance.
Ghek lost no time in returning to the chamber, recovering the
key, relocking the rykor to his chain. Then he replaced the key
in the burrow and squatting on the table beside his headless
body, directed its hands toward the food. While the rykor ate
Ghek sat listening for the scraping sandals and clattering arms
that he knew soon would come. Nor had he long to wait. Ghek
scrambled to the shoulders of his rykor as he heard them coming.
Again it was the officer who had been summoned by U-Van and with
him were three warriors. The one directly behind him was
evidently the same who had brought the food, for his eyes went
wide when he saw Ghek sitting at the table and he looked very
foolish as the dwar turned his stern glance upon him.
"It is even as I said," he cried. "He was not here when I brought
"But he is here now," said the officer grimly, "and his fetter is
locked about his ankle. Look! it has not been opened--but where
is the key? It should be upon the table at the end opposite him.
Where is the key, creature?" he shouted at Ghek.
"How should I, a prisoner, know better than my jailer the
whereabouts of the key to my fetters?" he retorted.
"But it lay here," cried the officer, pointing to the other end
of the table.
"Did you see it?" asked Ghek.
The officer hesitated. "No but it must have been there," he
"Did you see the key lying there?" asked Ghek, pointing to
The fellow shook his head negatively. "And you? and you?"
continued the kaldane addressing the others.
They both admitted that they never had seen the key. "And if it
had been there how could I have reached it?" he continued.
"No, he could not have reached it," admitted the officer; "but
there shall be no more of this! I-Zav, you will remain here on
guard with this prisoner until you are relieved."
I-Zav looked anything but happy as this intelligence was
transmitted to him, and he eyed Ghek suspiciously as the dwar and
the other warriors turned and left him to his unhappy lot.
CHAPTER XIII. A DESPERATE DEED
E-MED crossed the tower chamber toward Tara of Helium and the
slave girl, Lan-O. He seized the former roughly by a shoulder.
"Stand!" he commanded. Tara struck his hand from her and rising,
"Lay not your hand upon the person of a princess of Helium,
beast!" she warned.
E-Med laughed. "Think you that I play at jetan for you without
first knowing something of the stake for which I play?" he
demanded. "Come here!"
The girl drew herself to her full height, folding her arms across
her breast, nor did E-Med note that the slim fingers of her right
hand were inserted beneath the broad leather strap of her harness
where it passed over her left shoulder.
"And O-Tar learns of this you shall rue it, E-Med," cried the
slave girl; "there be no law in Manator that gives you this girl
before you shall have won her fairly."
"What cares O-Tar for her fate?" replied E-Med. "Have I not
heard? Did she not flout the great jeddak, heaping abuse upon
him? By my first ancestor, I think O-Tar might make a jed of the
man who subdued her," and again he advanced toward Tara.
"Wait!" said the girl in low, even tone. "Perhaps you know not
what you do. Sacred to the people of Helium are the persons of
the women of Helium. For the honor of the humblest of them would
the great jeddak himself unsheathe his sword. The greatest
nations of Barsoom have trembled to the thunders of war in
defense of the person of Dejah Thoris, my mother. We are but
mortal and so may die; but we may not be defiled. You may play at
jetan for a princess of Helium, but though you may win the match,
never may you claim the reward. If thou wouldst possess a dead
body press me too far, but know, man of Manator, that the blood
of The Warlord flows not in the veins of Tara of Helium for
naught. I have spoken."
"I know naught of Helium and O-Tar is our warlord," replied
E-Med; "but I do know that I would examine more closely the prize
that I shall play for and win. I would test the lips of her who
is to be my slave after the next games; nor is it well, woman, to
drive me too far to anger." His eyes narrowed as he spoke, his
visage taking on the semblance of that of a snarling beast. "If
you doubt the truth of my words ask Lan-O, the slave girl."
"He speaks truly, O woman of Helium," interjected Lan-O. "Try not
the temper of E-Med, if you value your life."
But Tara of Helium made no reply. Already had she spoken. She
stood in silence now facing the burly warrior who approached her.
He came close and then quite suddenly he seized her and, bending,
tried to draw her lips to his.
Lan-O saw the woman from Helium half turn, and with a quick
movement jerk her right hand from where it had lain upon her
breast. She saw the hand shoot from beneath the arm of E-Med and
rise behind his shoulder and she saw in the hand a long, slim
blade. The lips of the warrior were drawing closer to those of
the woman, but they never touched them, for suddenly the man
straightened, stiffly, a shriek upon his lips, and then he
crumpled like an empty fur and lay, a shrunken heap, upon the
floor. Tara of Helium stooped and wiped her blade upon his
Lan-O, wide-eyed, looked with horror upon the corpse. "For this
we shall both die," she cried.
"And who would live a slave in Manator?" asked Tara of Helium.
"I am not so brave as thou," said the slave girl, "and life is
sweet and there is always hope."
"Life is sweet," agreed Tara of Helium, "but honor is sacred. But
do not fear. When they come I shall tell them the truth--that you
had no hand in this and no opportunity to prevent it."
For a moment the slave girl seemed to be thinking deeply.
Suddenly her eyes lighted. "There is a way, perhaps," she said,
"to turn suspicion from us. He has the key to this chamber upon
him. Let us open the door and drag him out--maybe we shall find a
place to hide him."
"Good!" exclaimed Tara of Helium, and the two immediately set
about the matter Lan-O had suggested. Quickly they found the key
and unlatched the door and then, between them, they half carried,
half dragged, the corpse of E-Med from the room and down the
stairway to the next level where Lan-O said there were vacant
chambers. The first door they tried was unlatched, and through
this the two bore their grisly burden into a small room lighted
by a single window. The apartment bore evidence of having been
utilized as a living-room rather than as a cell, being furnished
with a degree of comfort and even luxury. The walls were paneled
to a height of about seven feet from the floor, while the plaster
above and the ceiling were decorated with faded paintings of
As Tara's eyes ran quickly over the interior her attention was
drawn to a section of paneling that seemed to be separated at one
edge from the piece next adjoining it. Quickly she crossed to it,
discovering that one vertical edge of an entire panel projected a
half-inch beyond the others. There was a possible explanation
which piqued her curiosity, and acting upon its suggestion she
seized upon the projecting edge and pulled outward. Slowly the
panel swung toward her, revealing a dark aperture in the wall
"Look, Lan-O!" she cried. "See what I have found--a hole in which
we may hide the thing upon the floor."
Lan-O joined her and together the two investigated the dark
aperture, finding a small platform from which a narrow runway led
downward into Stygian darkness. Thick dust covered the floor
within the doorway, indicating that a great period of time had
elapsed since human foot had trod it--a secret way, doubtless,
unknown to living Manatorians. Here they dragged the corpse of
E-Med, leaving it upon the platform, and as they left the dark
and forbidden closet Lan-O would have slammed to the panel had
not Tara prevented.
"Wait!" she said, and fell to examining the door frame and the
"Hurry!" whispered the slave girl. "If they come we are lost."
"It may serve us well to know how to open this place again,"
replied Tara of Helium, and then suddenly she pressed a foot
against a section of the carved base at the right of the open
panel. "Ah!" she breathed, a note of satisfaction in her tone,
and closed the panel until it fitted snugly in its place. "Come!"
she said and turned toward the outer doorway of the chamber.
They reached their own cell without detection, and closing the
door Tara locked it from the inside and placed the key in a
secret pocket in her harness.
"Let them come," she said. "Let them question us! What could two
poor prisoners know of the whereabouts of their noble jailer? I
ask you, Lan-O, what could they?"
"Nothing," admitted Lan-O, smiling with her companion.
"Tell me of these men of Manator," said Tara presently. "Are they
all like E-Med, or are some of them like A-Kor, who seemed a
brave and chivalrous character?"
"They are not unlike the peoples of other countries," replied
Lan-O. "There be among them both good and bad. They are brave
warriors and mighty. Among themselves they are not without
chivalry and honor, but in their dealings with strangers they
know but one law--the law of might. The weak and unfortunate of
other lands fill them with contempt and arouse all that is worst
in their natures, which doubtless accounts for their treatment of
us, their slaves."
"But why should they feel contempt for those who have suffered
the misfortune of falling into their hands?" queried Tara.
"I do not know," said Lan-O; "A-Kor says that he believes that it
is because their country has never been invaded by a victorious
foe. In their stealthy raids never have they been defeated,
because they have never waited to face a powerful force; and so
they have come to believe themselves invincible, and the other
peoples are held in contempt as inferior in valor and the
practice of arms."
"Yet A-Kor is one of them," said Tara.
"He is a son of O-Tar, the jeddak," replied Lan-O; "but his
mother was a high born Gatholian, captured and made slave by
O-Tar, and A-Kor boasts that in his veins runs only the blood of
his mother, and indeed is he different from the others. His
chivalry is of a gentler form, though not even his worst enemy
has dared question his courage, while his skill with the sword,
and the spear, and the thoat is famous throughout the length and
breadth of Manator."
"What think you they will do with him?" asked Tara of Helium.
"Sentence him to the games," replied Lan-O. "If O-Tar be not
greatly angered he may be sentenced to but a single game, in
which case he may come out alive; but if O-Tar wishes really to
dispose of him he will be sentenced to the entire series, and no
warrior has ever survived the full ten, or rather none who was
under a sentence from O-Tar."
"What are the games? I do not understand," said Tara "I have
heard them speak of playing at jetan, but surely no one can be
killed at jetan. We play it often at home."
"But not as they play it in the arena at Manator," replied Lan-O.
"Come to the window," and together the two approached an aperture
facing toward the east.
Below her Tara of Helium saw a great field entirely surrounded by
the low building, and the lofty towers of which that in which she
was imprisoned was but a unit. About the arena were tiers of
seats; but the a thing that caught her attention was a gigantic
jetan board laid out upon the floor of the arena in great squares
of alternate orange and black.
"Here they play at jetan with living pieces. They play for great
stakes and usually for a woman--some slave of exceptional beauty.
O-Tar himself might have played for you had you not angered him,
but now you will be played for in an open game by slaves and
criminals, and you will belong to the side that wins--not to a
single warrior, but to all who survive the game."
The eyes of Tara of Helium flashed, but she made no comment.
"Those who direct the play do not necessarily take part in it,"
continued the slave girl, "but sit in those two great thrones
which you see at either end of the board and direct their pieces
from square to square."
"But where lies the danger?" asked Tara of Helium. "If a piece be
taken it is merely removed from the board--this is a rule of
jetan as old almost as the civilization of Barsoom."
"But here in Manator, when they play in the great arena with
living men, that rule is altered," explained Lan-O. "When a
warrior is moved to a square occupied by an opposing piece, the
two battle to the death for possession of the square and the one
that is successful advantages by the move. Each is caparisoned to
simulate the piece he represents and in addition he wears that
which indicates whether he be slave, a warrior serving a
sentence, or a volunteer. If serving a sentence the number of
games he must play is also indicated, and thus the one directing
the moves knows which pieces to risk and which to conserve, and
further than this, a man's chances are affected by the position
that is assigned him for the game. Those whom they wish to die
are always Panthans in the game, for the Panthan has the least
chance of surviving."
"Do those who direct the play ever actually take part in it?"
"Oh, yes," said Lan-O. "Often when two warriors, even of the
highest class, hold a grievance against one another O-Tar compels
them to settle it upon the arena. Then it is that they take
active part and with drawn swords direct their own players from
the position of Chief. They pick their own players, usually the
best of their own warriors and slaves, if they be powerful men
who possess such, or their friends may volunteer, or they may
obtain prisoners from the pits. These are games indeed--the very
best that are seen. Often the great chiefs themselves are slain."
"It is within this amphitheater that the justice of Manator is
meted, then?" asked Tara.
"Very largely," replied Lan-O.
"How, then, through such justice, could a prisoner win his
liberty?" continued the girl from Helium.
"If a man, and he survived ten games his liberty would be his,"
"But none ever survives?" queried Tara. "And if a woman?"
"No stranger within the gates of Manator ever has survived ten
games," replied the slave girl. "They are permitted to offer
themselves into perpetual slavery if they prefer that to fighting
at jetan. Of course they may be called upon, as any warrior, to
take part in a game, but their chances then of surviving are
increased, since they may never again have the chance of winning
"But a woman," insisted Tara; "how may a woman win her freedom?"
Lan-O laughed. "Very simply," she cried. derisively. "She has but
to find a warrior who will fight through ten consecutive games
for her and survive."
"'Just are the laws of Manator,'" quoted Tara, scornfully.
Then it was that they heard footsteps outside their cell and a
moment later a key turned in the lock and the door opened. A
warrior faced them.
"Hast seen E-Med the dwar?" he asked.
"Yes," replied Tara, "he was here some time ago."
The man glanced quickly about the bare chamber and then
searchingly first at Tara of Helium and then at the slave girl,
Lan-O. The puzzled expression upon his face increased. He
scratched his head. "It is strange," he said. "A score of men saw
him ascend into this tower; and though there is but a single
exit, and that well guarded, no man has seen him pass out."
Tara of Helium hid a yawn with the back of a shapely hand. "The
Princess of Helium is hungry, fellow," she drawled; "tell your
master that she would eat."
It was an hour later that food was brought, an officer and
several warriors accompanying the bearer. The former examined the
room carefully, but there was no sign that aught amiss had
occurred there. The wound that had sent E-Med the dwar to his
ancestors had not bled, fortunately for Tara of Helium.
"Woman," cried the officer, turning upon Tara, "you were the last
to see E-Med the dwar. Answer me now and answer me truthfully.
Did you see him leave this room?"
"I did," answered Tara of Helium.
"Where did he go from here?"
"How should I know? Think you that I can pass through a locked
door of skeel?" the girl's tone was scornful.
"Of that we do not know," said the officer. "Strange things have
happened in the cell of your companion in the pits of Manator.
Perhaps you could pass through a locked door of skeel as easily
as he performs seemingly more impossible feats."
"Whom do you mean," she cried; "Turan the panthan? He lives,
then? Tell me, is he here in Manator unharmed?"
"I speak of that thing which calls itself Ghek the kaldane,"
replied the officer.
"But Turan! Tell me, padwar, have you heard aught of him?" Tara's
tone was insistent and she leaned a little forward toward the
officer, her lips slightly parted in expectancy.
Into the eyes of the slave girl, Lan-O, who was watching her,
there crept a soft light of understanding; but the officer
ignored Tara's question--what was the fate of another slave to
him? "Men do not disappear into thin air," he growled, "and if
E-Med be not found soon O-Tar himself may take a hand in this. I
warn you, woman, if you be one of those horrid Corphals that by
commanding the spirits of the wicked dead gains evil mastery over
the living, as many now believe the thing called Ghek to be, that
lest you return E-Med, O-Tar will have no mercy on you."
"What foolishness is this?" cried the girl. "I am a princess
of Helium, as I have told you all a score of times. Even if the
fabled Corphals existed, as none but the most ignorant now
believes, the lore of the ancients tells us that they entered
only into the bodies of wicked criminals of the lowest class. Man
of Manator, thou art a fool, and thy jeddak and all his people,"
and she turned her royal back upon the padwar, and gazed through
the window across the Field of Jetan and the roofs of Manator
through the low hills and the rolling country and freedom.
"And you know so much of Corphals, then," he cried, "you know
that while no common man dare harm them they may be slain by the
hand of a jeddak with impunity!"
The girl did not reply, nor would she speak again, for all his
threats and rage, for she knew now that none in all Manator dared
harm her save O-Tar, the jeddak, and after a while the padwar
left, taking his men with him. And after they had gone Tara stood
for long looking out upon the city of Manator, and wondering what
more of cruel wrongs Fate held in store for her. She was standing
thus in silent meditation when there rose to her the strains of
martial music from the city below--the deep, mellow tones of the
long war trumpets of mounted troops, the clear, ringing notes of
foot-soldiers' music. The girl raised her head and looked about,
listening, and Lan-O, standing at an opposite window, looking
toward the west, motioned Tara to join her. Now they could see
across roofs and avenues to The Gate of Enemies, through which
troops were marching into the city.
"The Great Jed is coming," said Lan-O, "none other dares enter
thus, with blaring trumpets, the city of Manator. It is U-Thor,
Jed of Manatos, second city of Manator. They call him The Great
Jed the length and breadth of Manator, and because the people
love him, O-Tar hates him. They say, who know, that it would need
but slight provocation to inflame the two to war. How such a war
would end no one could guess; for the people of Manator worship
the great O-Tar, though they do not love him. U-Thor they love,
but he is not the jeddak," and Tara understood, as only a Martian
may, how much that simple statement encompassed.
The loyalty of a Martian to his jeddak is almost an instinct, and
second not even to the instinct of self-preservation at that. Nor
is this strange in a race whose religion includes ancestor
worship, and where families trace their origin back into remote
ages and a jeddak sits upon the same throne that his direct
progenitors have occupied for, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of
years, and rules the descendants of the same people that his
forebears ruled. Wicked jeddaks have been dethroned, but seldom
are they replaced by other than members of the imperial house,
even though the law gives to the jeds the right to select whom
"U-Thor is a just man and good, then?" asked Tara of Helium.
"There be none nobler," replied Lan-O. "In Manatos none but
wicked criminals who deserve death are forced to play at jetan,
and even then the play is fair and they have their chance for
freedom. Volunteers may play, but the moves are not necessarily
to the death--a wound, and even sometimes points in swordplay,
deciding the issue. There they look upon jetan as a martial
sport--here it is but butchery. And U-Thor is opposed to the
ancient slave raids and to the policy that keeps Manator forever
isolated from the other nations of Barsoom; but U-Thor is not
jeddak and so there is no change."
The two girls watched the column moving up the broad avenue from
The Gate of Enemies toward the palace of O-Tar. A gorgeous,
barbaric procession of painted warriors in jewel-studded harness
and waving feathers; vicious, squealing thoats caparisoned in
rich trappings; far above their heads the long lances of their
riders bore fluttering pennons; foot-soldiers swinging easily
along the stone pavement, their sandals of zitidar hide giving
forth no sound; and at the rear of each utan a train of painted
chariots, drawn by mammoth zitidars, carrying the equipment of
the company to which they were attached. Utan after utan entered
through the great gate, and even when the head of the column
reached the palace of O-Tar they were not all within the city.
"I have been here many years," said the girl, Lan-O; "but never
have I seen even The Great Jed bring so many fighting men into
the city of Manator."
Through half-closed eyes Tara of Helium watched the warriors
marching up the broad avenue, trying to imagine them the fighting
men of her beloved Helium coming to the rescue of their princess.
That splendid figure upon the great thoat might be John Carter,
himself, Warlord of Barsoom, and behind him utan after utan of
the veterans of the empire, and then the girl opened her eyes
again and saw the host of painted, befeathered barbarians, and
sighed. But yet she watched, fascinated by the martial scene, and
now she noted again the groups of silent figures upon the
balconies. No waving silks; no cries of welcome; no showers of
flowers and jewels such as would have marked the entry of such a
splendid, friendly pageant into the twin cities of her birth.
"The people do not seem friendly to the warriors of Manatos," she
remarked to Lan-O; "I have not seen a single welcoming sign from
the people on the balconies."
The slave girl looked at her in surprise. "It cannot be that you
do not know!" she exclaimed. "Why, they are--" but she got no
further. The door swung open and an officer stood before them.
"The slave girl, Tara, is summoned to the presence of O-Tar, the
jeddak!" he announced.
CHAPTER XIV. AT GHEK'S COMMAND
TURAN the panthan chafed in his chains. Time dragged; silence and
monotony prolonged minutes into hours. Uncertainty of the fate of
the woman he loved turned each hour into an eternity of hell. He
listened impatiently for the sound of approaching footsteps that
he might see and speak to some living creature and learn,
perchance, some word of Tara of Helium. After torturing hours his
ears were rewarded by the rattle of harness and arms. Men were
coming! He waited breathlessly. Perhaps they were his
executioners; but he would welcome them notwithstanding. He would
question them. But if they knew naught of Tara he would not
divulge the location of the hiding place in which he had left
Now they came--a half-dozen warriors and an officer, escorting an
unarmed man; a prisoner, doubtless. Of this Turan was not left
long in doubt, since they brought the newcomer and chained him to
an adjoining ring. Immediately the panthan commenced to question
the officer in charge of the guard.
"Tell me," he demanded, "why I have been made prisoner, and if
other strangers were captured since I entered your city."
"What other prisoners?" asked the officer.
"A woman, and a man with a strange head," replied Turan.
"It is possible," said the officer; "but what were their names?"
"The woman was Tara, Princess of Helium, and the man was Ghek, a
kaldane, of Bantoom."
"These were your friends?" asked the officer.
"Yes," replied Turan.
"It is what I would know," said the officer, and with a curt
command to his men to follow him he turned and left the cell.
"Tell me of them!" cried Turan after him. "Tell me of Tara of
Helium! Is she safe?" but the man did not answer and soon the
sound of their departure died in the distance.
"Tara of Helium was safe, but a short time since," said the
prisoner chained at Turan's side.
The panthan turned toward the speaker, seeing a large man,
handsome of face and with a manner both stately and dignified.
"You have seen her?" he asked. "They captured her then? She is in
"She is being held in The Towers of Jetan as a prize for the next
games," replied the stranger.
"And who are you?" asked Turan. "And why are you here, a
"I am A-Kor the dwar, keeper of The Towers of Jetan," replied the
other. "I am here because I dared speak the truth of O-Tar the
jeddak, to one of his officers."
"And your punishment?" asked Turan.
"I do not know. O-Tar has not yet spoken. Doubtless the
games--perhaps the full ten, for O-Tar does not love A-Kor, his
"You are the jeddak's son?" asked Turan.
"I am the son of O-Tar and of a slave, Haja of Gathol, who was a
princess in her own land."
Turan looked searchingly at the speaker. A son of Haja of Gathol!
A son of his mother's sister, this man, then, was his own cousin.
Well did Gahan remember the mysterious disappearance of the
Princess Haja and an entire utan of her personal troops. She had
been upon a visit far from the city of Gathol and returning home
had vanished with her whole escort from the sight of man. So this
was the secret of the seeming mystery? Doubtless it explained
many other similar disappearances that extended nearly as far
back as the history of Gathol. Turan scrutinized his companion,
discovering many evidences of resemblance to his mother's people.
A-Kor might have been ten years younger than he, but such
differences in age are scarce accounted among a people who seldom
or never age outwardly after maturity and whose span of life may
be a thousand years.
"And where lies Gathol?" asked Turan.
"Almost due east of Manator," replied A-Kor.
"And how far?"
"Some twenty-one degrees it is from the city of Manator to the
city of Gathol," replied A-Kor; "but little more than ten degrees
between the boundaries of the two countries. Between them,
though, there lies a country of torn rocks and yawning chasms."
Well did Gahan know this country that bordered his upon the
west--even the ships of the air avoided it because of the
treacherous currents that rose from the deep chasms, and the
almost total absence of safe landings. He knew now where Manator
lay and for the first time in long weeks the way to his own
Gathol, and here was a man, a fellow prisoner, in whose veins
flowed the blood of his own ancestors--a man who knew Manator;
its people, its customs and the country surrounding it--one who
could aid him, with advice at least, to find a plan for the
rescue of Tara of Helium and for escape. But would A-Kor--could
he dare broach the subject? He could do no less than try.
"And O-Tar you think will sentence you to death?" he asked; "and
"He would like to," replied A-Kor, "for the people chafe beneath
his iron hand and their loyalty is but the loyalty of a people to
the long line of illustrious jeddaks from which he has sprung. He
is a jealous man and has found the means of disposing of most of
those whose blood might entitle them to a claim upon the throne,
and whose place in the affections of the people endowed them with
any political significance. The fact that I was the son of a
slave relegated me to a position of minor importance in the
consideration of O-Tar, yet I am still the son of a jeddak and
might sit upon the throne of Manator with as perfect congruity as
O-Tar himself. Combined with this is the fact that of recent
years the people, and especially many of the younger warriors,
have evinced a growing affection for me, which I attribute to
certain virtues of character and training derived from my mother,
but which O-Tar assumes to be the result of an ambition upon my
part to occupy the throne of Manator.
"And now, I am firmly convinced, he has seized upon my criticism
of his treatment of the slave girl Tara as a pretext for ridding
himself of me."
"But if you could escape and reach Gathol," suggested Turan.
"I have thought of that," mused A-Kor; "but how much better off
would I be? In the eyes of the Gatholians I would be, not a
Gatholian; but a stranger and doubtless they would accord me the
same treatment that we of Manator accord strangers."
"Could you convince them that you are the son of the Princess
Haja your welcome would be assured," said Turan; "while on the
other hand you could purchase your freedom and citizenship with a
brief period of labor in the diamond mines."
"How know you all these things?" asked A-Kor. "I thought you were
"I am a panthan," replied Turan, "and I have served many
countries, among them Gathol."
"It is what the slaves from Gathol have told me," said A-Kor,
thoughtfully, "and my mother, before O-Tar sent her to live at
Manatos. I think he must have feared her power and influence
among the slaves from Gathol and their descendants, who number
perhaps a million people throughout the land of Manator."
"Are these slaves organized?" asked Turan.
A-Kor looked straight into the eyes of the panthan for a long
moment before he replied. "You are a man of honor," he said; "I
read it in your face, and I am seldom mistaken in my estimate of
a man; but--" and he leaned closer to the other--"even the walls
have ears," he whispered, and Turan's question was answered.
It was later in the evening that warriors came and unlocked the
fetter from Turan's ankle and led him away to appear before
O-Tar, the jeddak. They conducted him toward the palace along
narrow, winding streets and broad avenues; but always from the
balconies there looked down upon them in endless ranks the silent
people of the city. The palace itself was filled with life and
activity. Mounted warriors galloped through the corridors and up
and down the runways connecting adjacent floors. It seemed that
no one walked within the palace other than a few slaves.
Squealing, fighting thoats were stabled in magnificent halls
while their riders, if not upon some duty of the palace, played
at jetan with small figures carved from wood.
Turan noted the magnificence of the interior architecture of the
palace, the lavish expenditure of precious jewels and metals, the
gorgeous mural decorations which depicted almost exclusively
martial scenes, and principally duels which seemed to be fought
upon jetan boards of heroic size. The capitals of many of the
columns supporting the ceilings of the corridors and chambers
through which they passed were wrought into formal likenesses of
jetan pieces--everywhere there seemed a suggestion of the game.
Along the same path that Tara of Helium had been led Turan was
conducted toward the throne room of O-Tar the jeddak, and when he
entered the Hall of Chiefs his interest turned to wonder and
admiration as he viewed the ranks of statuesque thoatmen decked
in their gorgeous, martial panoply. Never, he thought, had he
seen upon Barsoom more soldierly figures or thoats so perfectly
trained to perfection of immobility as these. Not a muscle
quivered, not a tail lashed, and the riders were as motionless as
their mounts--each warlike eye straight to the front, the great
spears inclined at the same angle. It was a picture to fill the
breast of a fighting man with awe and reverence. Nor did it fail
in its effect upon Turan as they conducted him the length of the
chamber, where he waited before great doors until he should be
summoned into the presence of the ruler of Manator.
When Tara of Helium was ushered into the throne room of O-Tar she
found the great hall filled with the chiefs and officers of O-Tar
and U-Thor, the latter occupying the place of honor at the foot
of the throne, as was his due. The girl was conducted to the foot
of the aisle and halted before the jeddak, who looked down upon
her from his high throne with scowling brows and fierce, cruel
"The laws of Manator are just," said O-Tar, addressing her; "thus
is it that you have been summoned here again to be judged by the
highest authority of Manator. Word has reached me that you are
suspected of being a Corphal. What word have you to say in
refutation of the charge?"
Tara of Helium could scarce restrain a sneer as she answered the
ridiculous accusation of witchcraft. "So ancient is the culture
of my people," she said, "that authentic history reveals no
defense for that which we know existed only in the ignorant and
superstitious minds of the most primitive peoples of the past. To
those who are yet so untutored as to believe in the existence of
Corphals, there can be no argument that will convince them of
their error--only long ages of refinement and culture can
accomplish their release from the bondage of ignorance. I have
"Yet you do not deny the accusation," said O-Tar.
"It is not worthy the dignity of a denial," she responded
"And I were you, woman," said a deep voice at her side, "I
should, nevertheless, deny it."
Tara of Helium turned to see the eyes of U-Thor, the great jed of
Manatos, upon her. Brave eyes they were, but neither cold nor
cruel. O-Tar rapped impatiently upon the arm of his throne.
"U-Thor forgets," he cried, "that O-Tar is the jeddak."
"U-Thor remembers," replied the jed of Manatos, "that the laws of
Manator permit any who may be accused to have advice and counsel
before their judge."
Tara of Helium saw that for some reason this man would have
assisted her, and so she acted upon his advice.
"I deny the charge," she said, "I am no Corphal."
"Of that we shall learn," snapped O-Tar. "U-Dor, where are those
who have knowledge of the powers of this woman?"
And U-Dor brought several who recounted the little that was known
of the disappearance of E-Med, and others who told of the capture
of Ghek and Tara, suggesting by deduction that having been found
together they had sufficient in common to make it reasonably
certain that one was as bad as the other, and that, therefore, it
remained but to convict one of them of Corphalism to make certain
the guilt of both. And then O-Tar called for Ghek, and
immediately the hideous kaldane was dragged before him by
warriors who could not conceal the fear in which they held this
"And you!" said O-Tar in cold accusing tones. "Already have I
been told enough of you to warrant me in passing through your
heart the jeddak's steel--of how you stole the brains from the
warrior U-Van so that he thought he saw your headless body still
endowed with life; of how you caused another to believe that you
had escaped, making him to see naught but an empty bench and a
blank wall where you had been."
"Ah, O-Tar, but that is as nothing!" cried a young padwar who had
come in command of the escort that brought Ghek. "The thing which
he did to I-Zav, here, would prove his guilt alone."
"What did he to the warrior I-Zav?" demanded O-Tar. "Let I-Zav
The warrior I-Zav, a great fellow of bulging muscles and thick
neck, advanced to the foot of the throne. He was pale and still
trembling visibly as from a nervous shock.
"Let my first ancestor be my witness, O-Tar, that I speak the
truth," he began. "I was left to guard this creature, who sat
upon a bench, shackled to the wall. I stood by the open doorway
at the opposite side of the chamber. He could not reach me, yet,
O-Tar, may Iss engulf me if he did not drag me to him helpless as
an unhatched egg. He dragged me to him, greatest of jeddaks, with
his eyes! With his eyes he seized upon my eyes and dragged me to
him and he made me lay my swords and dagger upon the table and
back off into a corner, and still keeping his eyes upon my eyes
his head quitted his body and crawling upon six short legs it
descended to the floor and backed part way into the hole of an
ulsio, but not so far that the eyes were not still upon me and
then it returned with the key to its fetter and after resuming
its place upon its own shoulders it unlocked the fetter and again
dragged me across the room and made me to sit upon the bench
where it had been and there it fastened the fetter about my
ankle, and I could do naught for the power of its eyes and the
fact that it wore my two swords and my dagger. And then the head
disappeared down the hole of the ulsio with the key, and when it
returned, it resumed its body and stood guard over me at the
doorway until the padwar came to fetch it hither."
"It is enough!" said O-Tar, sternly. "Both shall receive the
jeddak's steel," and rising from his throne he drew his long
sword and descended the marble steps toward them, while two
brawny warriors seized Tara by either arm and two seized Ghek,
holding them facing the naked blade of the jeddak.
"Hold, just O-Tar!" cried U-Dor. "There be yet another to be
judged. Let us confront him who calls himself Turan with these
his fellows before they die."
"Good!" exclaimed O-Tar, pausing half way down the steps. "Fetch
Turan, the slave!"
When Turan had been brought into the chamber he was placed a
little to Tara's left and a step nearer the throne. O-Tar eyed
"You are Turan," he asked, "friend and companion of these?"
The panthan was about to reply when Tara of Helium spoke. "I know
not this fellow," she said. "Who dares say that he be a friend
and companion of the Princess Tara of Helium?"
Turan and Ghek looked at her in surprise, but at Turan she did
not look, and to Ghek she passed a quick glance of warning, as to
say: "Hold thy peace."
The panthan tried not to fathom her purpose for the head is
useless when the heart usurps its functions, and Turan knew only
that the woman he loved had denied him, and though he tried not
even to think it his foolish heart urged but a single
explanation--that she refused to recognize him lest she be
involved in his difficulties.
O-Tar looked first at one and then at another of them; but none
of them spoke.
"Were they not captured together?" he asked of U-Dor.
"No," replied the dwar. "He who is called Turan was found seeking
entrance to the city and was enticed to the pits. The following
morning I discovered the other two upon the hill beyond The Gate
"But they are friends and companions," said a young padwar, "for
this Turan inquired of me concerning these two, calling them by
name and saying that they were his friends."
"It is enough," stated O-Tar, "all three shall die," and he took
another step downward from the throne.
"For what shall we die?" asked Ghek. "Your people prate of the
just laws of Manator, and yet you would slay three strangers
without telling them of what crime they are accused."
"He is right," said a deep voice. It was the voice of U-Thor, the
great jed of Manatos. O-Tar looked at him and scowled; but there
came voices from other portions of the chamber seconding the
demand for justice.
"Then know, though you shall die anyway," cried O-Tar, "that all
three are convicted of Corphalism and that as only a jeddak may
slay such as you in safety you are about to be honored with the
steel of O-Tar."
"Fool!" cried Turan. "Know you not that in the veins of this
woman flows the blood of ten thousand jeddaks--that greater than
yours is her power in her own land? She is Tara, Princess of
Helium, great-granddaughter of Tardos Mors, daughter of John
Carter, Warlord of Barsoom. She cannot be a Corphal. Nor is this
creature Ghek, nor am I. And you would know more, I can prove my
right to be heard and to be believed if I may have word with the
Princess Haja of Gathol, whose son is my fellow prisoner in the
pits of O-Tar, his father."
At this U-Thor rose to his feet and faced O-Tar. "What means
this?" he asked. "Speaks the man the truth? Is the son of Haja a
prisoner in thy pits, O-Tar?"
"And what is it to the jed of Manatos who be the prisoners in the
pits of his jeddak?" demanded O-Tar, angrily.
"It is this to the jed of Manatos," replied U-Thor in a voice so
low as to be scarce more than a whisper and yet that was heard
the whole length and breadth of the great throne room of O-Tar,
Jeddak of Manator. "You gave me a slave woman, Haja, who had been
a princess in Gathol, because you feared her influence among the
slaves from Gathol. I have made of her a free woman, and I have
married her and made her thus a princess of Manatos. Her son is
my son, O-Tar, and though thou be my jeddak, I say to you that
for any harm that befalls A-Kor you shall answer to U-Thor of
O-Tar looked long at U-Thor, but he made no reply. Then he turned
again to Turan. "If one be a Corphal," he said, "then all of you
be Corphals, and we know well from the things that this creature
has done," he pointed at Ghek, "that he is a Corphal, for no
mortal has such powers as he. And as you are all Corphals you
must all die." He took another step downward, when Ghek spoke.
"These two have no such powers as I," he said. "They are but
ordinary, brainless things such as yourself. I have done all the
things that your poor, ignorant warriors have told you; but this
only demonstrates that I am of a higher order than yourselves, as
is indeed the fact. I am a kaldane, not a Corphal. There is
nothing supernatural or mysterious about me, other than that to
the ignorant all things which they cannot understand are
mysterious. Easily might I have eluded your warriors and escaped
your pits; but I remained in the hope that I might help these two
foolish creatures who have not the brains to escape without help.
They befriended me and saved my life. I owe them this debt. Do
not slay them--they are harmless. Slay me if you will. I offer my
life if it will appease your ignorant wrath. I cannot return to
Bantoom and so I might as well die, for there is no pleasure in
intercourse with the feeble intellects that cumber the face of
the world outside the valley of Bantoom."
"Hideous egotist," said O-Tar, "prepare to die and assume not to
dictate to O-Tar the jeddak. He has passed sentence and all three
of you shall feel the jeddak's naked steel. I have spoken!"
He took another step downward and then a strange thing happened.
He paused, his eyes fixed upon the eyes of Ghek. His sword
slipped from nerveless fingers, and still he stood there swaying
forward and back. A jed rose to rush to his side; but Ghek
stopped him with a word.
"Wait!" he cried. "The life of your jeddak is in my hands. You
believe me a Corphal and so you believe, too, that only the sword
of a jeddak may slay me, therefore your blades are useless
against me. Offer harm to any one of us, or seek to approach your
jeddak until I have spoken, and he shall sink lifeless to the
marble. Release the two prisoners and let them come to my side--I
would speak to them, privately. Quick! do as I say; I would as
lief as not slay O-Tar. I but let him live that I may gain
freedom for my friends--obstruct me and he dies."
The guards fell back, releasing Tara and Turan, who came close to
"Do as I tell you and do it quickly," whispered the kaldane. "I
cannot hold this fellow long, nor could I kill him thus. There
are many minds working against mine and presently mine will tire
and O-Tar will be himself again. You must make the best of your
opportunity while you may. Behind the arras that you see hanging
in the rear of the throne above you is a secret opening. Prom it
a corridor leads to the pits of the palace, where there are
storerooms containing food and drink. Few people go there. From
these pits lead others to all parts of the city. Follow one that
runs due west and it will bring you to The Gate of Enemies. The
rest will then lie with you. I can do no more; hurry before my
waning powers fail me--I am not as Luud, who was a king. He could
have held this creature forever. Make haste! Go!"
CHAPTER XV. THE OLD MAN OF THE PITS
"I SHALL not desert you, Ghek," said Tara of Helium, simply.
"Go! Go!" whispered the kaldane. "You can do me no good. Go, or
all I have done is for naught."
Tara shook her head. "I cannot," she said.
"They will slay her," said Ghek to Turan, and the panthan, torn
between loyalty to this strange creature who had offered its life
for him, and love of the woman, hesitated but a moment, then he
swept Tara from her feet and lifting her in his arms leaped up
the steps that led to the throne of Manator. Behind the throne he
parted the arras and found the secret opening. Into this he bore
the girl and down a long, narrow corridor and winding runways
that led to lower levels until they came to the pits of the
palace of O-Tar. Here was a labyrinth of passages and chambers
presenting a thousand hiding-places.
As Turan bore Tara up the steps toward the throne a score of
warriors rose as though to rush forward to intercept them.
"Stay!" cried Ghek, "or your jeddak dies," and they halted in
their tracks, waiting the will of this strange, uncanny creature.
Presently Ghek took his eyes from the eyes of O-Tar and the
jeddak shook himself as one who would be rid of a bad dream and
straightened up, half dazed still.
"Look," said Ghek, then, "I have given your jeddak his life,
nor have I harmed one of those whom I might easily have slain
when they were in my power. No harm have I or my friends done in
the city of Manator. Why then should you persecute us? Give us
our lives. Give us our liberty."
O-Tar, now in command of his faculties, stooped and regained his
sword. In the room was silence as all waited to hear the jeddak's
"Just are the laws of Manator," he said at last. "Perhaps, after
all, there is truth in the words of the stranger. Return him then
to the pits and pursue the others and capture them. Through the
mercy of O-Tar they shall be permitted to win their freedom upon
the Field of Jetan, in the coming games."
Still ashen was the face of the jeddak as Ghek was led away and
his appearance was that of a man who had been snatched from the
brink of eternity into which he has gazed, not with the composure
of great courage, but with fear. There were those in the throne
room who knew that the execution of the three prisoners had but
been delayed and the responsibility placed upon the shoulders of
others, and one of those who knew was U-Thor, the great jed of
Manatos. His curling lip betokened his scorn of the jeddak who
had chosen humiliation rather than death. He knew that O-Tar had
lost more of prestige in those few moments than he could regain
in a lifetime, for the Martians are jealous of the courage of
their chiefs--there can be no evasions of stern duty, no
temporizing with honor. That there were others in the room who
shared U-Thor's belief was evidenced by the silence and the grim
O-Tar glanced quickly around. He must have sensed the hostility
and guessed its cause, for he went suddenly angry, and as one who
seeks by the vehemence of his words to establish the courage of
his heart he roared forth what could be considered as naught
other than a challenge.
"The will of O-Tar, the jeddak, is the law of Manator," he cried,
"and the laws of Manator are just--they cannot err. U-Dor,
dispatch those who will search the palace, the pits, and the
city, and return the fugitives to their cells.
"And now for you, U-Thor of Manatos! Think you with impunity to
threaten your jeddak--to question his right to punish traitors
and instigators of treason? What am I to think of your own
loyalty, who takes to wife a woman I have banished from my court
because of her intrigues against the authority of her jeddak and
her master? But O-Tar is just. Make your explanations and your
peace, then, before it is too late."
"U-Thor has nothing to explain," replied the jed of Manatos; "nor
is he at war with his jeddak; but he has the right that every jed
and every warrior enjoys, of demanding justice at the hands of
the jeddak for whomsoever he believes to be persecuted. With
increasing rigor has the jeddak of Manator persecuted the slaves
from Gathol since he took to himself the unwilling Princess Haja.
If the slaves from Gathol have harbored thoughts of vengeance and
escape 'tis no more than might be expected from a proud and
courageous people Ever have I counselled greater fairness in our
treatment of our slaves, many of whom, in their own lands, are
people of great distinction and power; but always has O-Tar, the
jeddak, flouted with arrogance my every suggestion. Though it has
been through none of my seeking that the question has arisen now
I am glad that it has, for the time was bound to come when the
jeds of Manator would demand from O-Tar the respect and
consideration that is their due from the man who holds his high
office at their pleasure. Know, then, O-Tar, that you must free
A-Kor, the dwar, forthwith or bring him to fair trial before the
assembled jeds of Manator. I have spoken."
"You have spoken well and to the point, U-Thor," cried O-Tar,
"for you have revealed to your jeddak and your fellow jeds the
depth of the disloyalty that I have long suspected. A-Kor already
has been tried and sentenced by the supreme tribunal of
Manator--O-Tar, the jeddak; and you too shall receive justice
from the same unfailing source. In the meantime you are under
arrest. To the pits with him! To the pits with U-Thor the false
jed!" He clapped his hands to summon the surrounding warriors to
do his bidding. A score leaped forward to seize U-Thor. They were
warriors of the palace, mostly; but two score leaped to defend
U-Thor, and with ringing steel they fought at the foot of the
steps to the throne of Manator where stood O-Tar, the jeddak,
with drawn sword ready to take his part in the
At the clash of steel, palace guards rushed to the scene from
other parts of the great building until those who would have
defended U-Thor were outnumbered two to one, and then the jed of
Manatos slowly withdrew with his forces, and fighting his way
through the corridors and chambers of the palace came at last to
the avenue. Here he was reinforced by the little army that had
marched with him into Manator. Slowly they retreated toward The
Gate of Enemies between the rows of silent people looking down
upon them from the balconies and there, within the city walls,
they made their stand.
In a dimly-lighted chamber beneath the palace of O-Tar the
jeddak, Turan the panthan lowered Tara of Helium from his arms
and faced her. "I am sorry, Princess," he said, "that I was
forced to disobey your commands, or to abandon Ghek; but there
was no other way. Could he have saved you I would have stayed in
his place. Tell me that you forgive me."
"How could I do less?" she replied graciously. "But it seemed
cowardly to abandon a friend."
"Had we been three fighting men it had been different," he said.
"We could only have remained and died together, fighting; but you
know, Tara of Helium, that we may not jeopardize a woman's safety
even though we risk the loss of honor."
"I know that, Turan," she said; "but no one may say that you have
risked honor, who knows the honor and bravery that are yours."
He heard her with surprise for these were the first words that
she had spoken to him that did not savor of the attitude of a
princess to a panthan--though it was more in her tone than the
actual words that he apprehended the difference. How at variance
were they to her recent repudiation of him! He could not fathom
her, and so he blurted out the question that had been in his mind
since she had told O-Tar that she did not know him.
"Tara of Helium," he said, "your words are balm to the wound you
gave me in the throne room of O-Tar. Tell me, Princess, why you
She turned her great, deep eyes up to his and in them was a
little of reproach.
"You did not guess," she asked, "that it was my lips alone and
not my heart that denied you? O-Tar had ordered that I die, more
because I was a companion of Ghek than because of any evidence
against me, and so I knew that if I acknowledged you as one of
us, you would be slain, too."
"It was to save me, then?" he cried, his face suddenly lighting.
"It was to save my brave panthan," she said in a low voice.
"Tara of Helium," said the warrior, dropping to one knee, "your
words are as food to my hungry heart," and he took her fingers in
his and pressed them to his lips.
Gently she raised him to his feet. "You need not tell me,
kneeling," she said, softly.
Her hand was still in his as he rose and they were very close,
and the man was still flushed with the contact of her body since
he had carried her from the throne room of O-Tar. He felt his
heart pounding in his breast and the hot blood surging through
his veins as he looked at her beautiful face, with its downcast
eyes and the half-parted lips that he would have given a kingdom
to possess, and then he swept her to him and as he crushed her
against his breast his lips smothered hers with kisses.
But only for an instant. Like a tigress the girl turned upon
him, striking him, and thrusting him away. She stepped back, her
head high and her eyes flashing fire. "You would dare?" she
cried. "You would dare thus defile a princess of Helium?"
His eyes met hers squarely and there was no shame and no remorse
"Yes, I would dare," he said. "I would dare love Tara of Helium;
but I would not dare defile her or any woman with kisses that
were not prompted by love of her alone." He stepped closer to her
and laid his hands upon her shoulders. "Look into my eyes,
daughter of The Warlord," he said, "and tell me that you do not
wish the love of Turan, the panthan."
"I do not wish your love," she cried, pulling away. "I hate you!"
and then turning away she bent her head into the hollow of her
arm, and wept.
The man took a step toward her as though to comfort her when he
was arrested by the sound of a crackling laugh behind him.
Wheeling about, he discovered a strange figure of a man standing
in a doorway. It was one of those rarities occasionally to be
seen upon Barsoom--an old man with the signs of age upon him.
Bent and wrinkled, he had more the appearance of a mummy than a
"Love in the pits of O-Tar!" he cried, and again his thin
laughter jarred upon the silence of the subterranean vaults. "A
strange place to woo! A strange place to woo, indeed! When I was
a young man we roamed in the gardens beneath giant pimalias and
stole our kisses in the brief shadows of hurtling Thuria. We came
not to the gloomy pits to speak of love; but times have changed
and ways have changed, though I had never thought to live to see
the time when the way of a man with a maid, or a maid with a man
would change. Ah, but we kissed them then! And what if they
objected, eh? What if they objected? Why, we kissed them more.
Ey, ey, those were the days!" and he cackled again. "Ey, well do
I recall the first of them I ever kissed, and I've kissed an army
of them since; she was a fine girl, but she tried to slip a
dagger into me while I was kissing her. Ey, ey, those were the
days! But I kissed her. She's been dead over a thousand years
now, but she was never kissed again like that while she lived,
I'll swear, not since she's been dead, either. And then there was
that other --" but Turan, seeing a thousand or more years of
osculatory memoirs portending, interrupted.
"Tell me, ancient one," he said, "not of thy loves but of
thyself. Who are you? What do you here in the pits of O-Tar?"
"I might ask you the same, young man," replied the other. "Few
there are who visit the pits other than the dead, except my
pupils--ey! That is it--you are new pupils! Good! But never
before have they sent a woman to learn the great art from the
greatest artist. But times have changed. Now, in my day the women
did no work--they were just for kissing and loving. Ey, those
were the women. I mind the one we captured in the south--ey! she
was a devil, but how she could love. She had breasts of marble
and a heart of fire. Why, she --"
"Yes, yes," interrupted Turan; "we are pupils, and we are anxious
to get to work. Lead on and we will follow."
"Ey, yes! Ey, yes! Come! All is rush and hurry as though there
were not another countless myriad of ages ahead. Ey, yes! as many
as lie behind. Two thousand years have passed since I broke my
shell and always rush, rush, rush, yet I cannot see that aught
has been accomplished. Manator is the same today as it was
then--except the girls. We had the girls then. There was one that
I gained upon The Fields of Jetan. Ey, but you should have seen
"Lead on!" cried Turan. "After we are at work you shall tell us
"Ey, yes," said the old fellow and shuffled off down a dimly
lighted passage. "Follow me!"
"You are going with him?" asked Tara.
"Why not?" replied Turan. "We know not where we are, or the way
from these pits; for I know not east from west; but he doubtless
knows and if we are shrewd we may learn from him that which we
would know. At least we cannot afford to arouse his suspicions";
and so they followed him--followed along winding corridors and
through many chambers, until they came at last to a room in which
there were several marble slabs raised upon pedestals some three
feet above the floor and upon each slab lay a human corpse.
"Here we are," exclaimed the old man. "These are fresh and we
shall have to get to work upon them soon. I am working now on one
for The Gate of Enemies. He slew many of our warriors. Truly is
he entitled to a place in The Gate. Come, you shall see him."
He led them to an adjoining apartment. Upon the floor were many
fresh, human bones and upon a marble slab a mass of shapeless
"You will learn this later," announced the old man; "but it will
not harm you to watch me now, for there are not many thus
prepared, and it may be long before you will have the opportunity
to see another prepared for The Gate of Enemies. First, you see,
I remove all the bones, carefully that the skin may be damaged as
little as possible. The skull is the most difficult, but it can
be removed by a skilful artist. You see, I have made but a single
opening. This I now sew up, and that done, the body is hung so,"
and he fastened a piece of rope to the hair of the corpse and
swung the horrid thing to a ring in the ceiling. Directly below
it was a circular manhole in the floor from which he removed the
cover revealing a well partially filled with a reddish liquid.
"Now we lower it into this, the formula for which you shall learn
in due time. We fasten it thus to the bottom of the cover, which
we now replace. In a year it will be ready; but it must be
examined often in the meantime and the liquid kept above the
level of its crown. It will be a very beautiful piece, this one,
when it is ready.
"And you are fortunate again, for there is one to come out
today." He crossed to the opposite side of the room and raised
another cover, reached in and dragged a grotesque looking figure
from the hole. It was a human body, shrunk by the action of the
chemical in which it had been immersed, to a little figure scarce
a foot high.
"Ey! is it not fine?" cried the little old man. "Tomorrow it will
take its place in The Gate of Enemies." He dried it off with
cloths and packed it away carefully in a basket. "Perhaps you
would like to see some of my life work," he suggested, and
without waiting for their assent led them to another apartment, a
large chamber in which were forty or fifty people. All were
sitting or standing quietly about the walls, with the exception
of one huge warrior who bestrode a great thoat in the very center
of the room, and all were motionless. Instantly there sprang to
the minds of Tara and Turan the rows of silent people upon the
balconies that lined the avenues of the city, and the noble array
of mounted warriors in The Hall of Chiefs, and the same
explanation came to both but neither dared voice the question
that was in his mind, for fear of revealing by his ignorance the
fact that they were strangers in Manator and therefore impostors
in the guise of pupils.
"It is very wonderful," said Turan. "It must require great skill
and patience and time."
"That it does," replied the old man, "though having done it so
long I am quicker than most; but mine are the most natural. Why,
I would defy the wife of that warrior to say that insofar as
appearances are concerned he does not live," and he pointed at
the man upon the thoat. "Many of them, of course, are brought
here wasted or badly wounded and these I have to repair. That is
where great skill is required, for everyone wants his dead to
look as they did at their best in life; but you shall learn--to
mount them and paint them and repair them and sometimes to make
an ugly one look beautiful. And it will be a great comfort to be
able to mount your own. Why, for fifteen hundred years no one has
mounted my own dead but myself.
"I have many, my balconies are crowded with them; but I keep a
great room for my wives. I have them all, as far back as the
first one, and many is the evening I spend with them--quiet
evenings and very pleasant. And then the pleasure of preparing
them and making them even more beautiful than in life partially
recompenses one for their loss. I take my time with them, looking
for a new one while I am working on the old. When I am not sure
about a new one I bring her to the chamber where my wives are,
and compare her charms with theirs, and there is always a great
satisfaction at such times in knowing that they will not object.
I love harmony."
"Did you prepare all the warriors in The Hall of Chiefs?" asked
"Yes, I prepare them and repair them," replied the old man.
"O-Tar will trust no other. Even now I have two in another room
who were damaged in some way and brought down to me. O-Tar does
not like to have them gone long, since it leaves two riderless
thoats in the Hall; but I shall have them ready presently. He
wants them all there in the event any momentous question arises
upon which the living jeds cannot agree, or do not agree with
O-Tar. Such questions he carries to the jeds in The Hall of
Chiefs. There he shuts himself up alone with the great chiefs who
have attained wisdom through death. It is an excellent plan and
there is never any friction or misunderstandings. O-Tar has said
that it is the finest deliberative body upon Barsoom--much more
intelligent than that composed of the living jeds. But come, we
must get to work; come into the next chamber and I will begin
He led the way into the chamber in which lay the several corpses
upon their marble slabs, and going to a cabinet he donned a pair
of huge spectacles and commenced to select various tools from
little compartments. This done he turned again toward his two
"Now let me have a look at you," he said. "My eyes are not what
they once were, and I need these powerful lenses for my work, or
to see distinctly the features of those around me."
He turned his eyes upon the two before him. Turan held his breath
for he knew that now the man must discover that they wore not the
harness or insignia of Manator. He had wondered before why the
old fellow had not noticed it, for he had not known that he was
half blind. The other examined their faces, his eyes lingering
long upon the beauty of Tara of Helium, and then they drifted to
the harness of the two. Turan thought that he noted an
appreciable start of surprise on the part of the taxidermist, but
if the old man noticed anything his next words did not reveal it.
"Come with I-Gos," he said to Turan, "I have materials in the
next room that I would have you fetch hither. Remain here, woman,
we shall be gone but a moment."
He led the way to one of the numerous doors opening into the
chamber and entered ahead of Turan. Just inside the door he
stopped, and pointing to a bundle of silks and furs upon the
opposite side of the room directed Turan to fetch them. The
latter had crossed the room and was stooping to raise the bundle
when he heard the click of a lock behind him. Wheeling instantly
he saw that he was alone in the room and that the single door was
closed. Running rapidly to it he strove to open it, only to find
that he was a prisoner.
I-Gos, stepping out and locking the door behind him, turned
"Your leather betrayed you," he said, laughing his cackling
laugh. "You sought to deceive old I-Gos, but you found that
though his eyes are weak his brain is not. But it shall not go
ill with you. You are beautiful and I-Gos loves beautiful women.
I might not have you elsewhere in Manator, but here there is none
to deny old I-Gos. Few come to the pits of the dead--only those
who bang the dead and they hasten away as fast as they can. No
one will know that I-Gos has a beautiful woman locked with his
dead. I shall ask you no questions and then I will not have to
give you up, for I will not know to whom you belong, eh? And when
you die I shall mount you beautifully and place you in the
chamber with my other women. Will not that be fine, eh?" He had
approached until he stood close beside the horrified girl.
"Come!" he cried, seizing her by the wrist. "Come to I-Gos!"
CHAPTER XVI. ANOTHER CHANGE OF NAME
TURAN dashed himself against the door of his prison in a vain
effort to break through the solid skeel to the side of Tara whom
he knew to be in grave danger, but the heavy panels held and he
succeeded only in bruising his shoulders and his arms. At last he
desisted and set about searching his prison for some other means
of escape. He found no other opening in the stone walls, but his
search revealed a heterogeneous collection of odds and ends of
arms and apparel, of harness and ornaments and insignia, and
sleeping silks and furs in great quantities. There were swords
and spears and several large, two-bladed battle-axes, the heads
of which bore a striking resemblance to the propellor of a small
flier. Seizing one of these he attacked the door once more with
great fury. He expected to hear something from I-Gos at this
ruthless destruction, but no sound came to him from beyond the
door, which was, he thought, too thick for the human voice to
penetrate; but he would have wagered much that I-Gos heard him.
Bits of the hard wood splintered at each impact of the heavy axe,
but it was slow work and heavy. Presently he was compelled to
rest, and so it went for what seemed hours--working almost to the
verge of exhaustion and then resting for a few minutes; but ever
the hole grew larger though he could see nothing of the interior
of the room beyond because of the hanging that I-Gos had drawn
across it after he had locked Turan within.
At last, however, the panthan had hewn an opening through which
his body could pass, and seizing a long-sword that he had brought
close to the door for the purpose he crawled through into the
next room. Flinging aside the arras he stood ready, sword in
hand, to fight his way to the side of Tara of Helium--but she was
not there. In the center of the room lay I-Gos, dead upon the
floor; but Tara of Helium was nowhere to be seen.
Turan was nonplussed. It must have been her hand that had struck
down the old man, yet she had made no effort to release Turan
from his prison. And then he thought of those last words of hers:
"I do not want your love! I hate you," and the truth dawned upon
him--she had seized upon this first opportunity to escape him.
With downcast heart Turan turned away. What should he do? There
could be but one answer. While he lived and she lived he must
still leave no stone unturned to effect her escape and safe
return to the land of her people. But how? How was he even to
find his way from this labyrinth? How was he to find her again?
He walked to the nearest doorway. It chanced to be that which led
into the room containing the mounted dead, awaiting
transportation to balcony or grim room or whatever place was to
receive them. His eyes travelled to the great, painted warrior on
the thoat and as they ran over the splendid trappings and the
serviceable arms a new light came into the pain-dulled eyes of
the panthan. With a quick step he crossed to the side of the dead
warrior and dragged him from his mount. With equal celerity he
stripped him of his harness and his arms, and tearing off his
own, donned the regalia of the dead man. Then he hastened back to
the room in which he had been trapped, for there he had seen that
which he needed to make his disguise complete. In a cabinet he
found them--pots of paint that the old taxidermist had used to
place the war-paint in its wide bands across the cold faces of
A few moments later Gahan of Gathol emerged from the room a
warrior of Manator in every detail of harness, equipment, and
ornamentation. He had removed from the leather of the dead man
the insignia of his house and rank so that he might pass, with
the least danger of arousing suspicion, as a common warrior.
To search for Tara of Helium in the vast, dim labyrinth of the
pits of O-Tar seemed to the Gatholian a hopeless quest,
foredoomed to failure. It would be wiser to seek the streets of
Manator where he might hope to learn first if she had been
recaptured and, if not, then he could return to the pits and
pursue the hunt for her. To find egress from the maze he must
perforce travel a considerable distance through the winding
corridors and chambers, since he had no idea as to the location
or direction of any exit. In fact, he could not have retraced his
steps a hundred yards toward the point at which he and Tara had
entered the gloomy caverns, and so he set out in the hope that he
might find by accident either Tara of Helium or a way to the
street level above.
For a time he passed room after room filled with the cunningly
preserved dead of Manator, many of which were piled in tiers
after the manner that firewood is corded, and as he moved through
corridor and chamber he noticed hieroglyphics painted upon the
walls above every opening and at each fork or crossing of
corridors, until by observation he reached the conclusion that
these indicated the designations of passageways, so that one who
understood them might travel quickly and surely through the pits;
but Turan did not understand them. Even could he have read the
language of Manator they might not materially have aided one
unfamiliar with the city; but he could not read them at all
since, though there is but one spoken language upon Barsoom,
there are as many different written languages as there are
nations. One thing, however, soon became apparent to him--the
hieroglyphic of a corridor remained the same until the corridor
It was not long before Turan realized from the distance that he
had traveled that the pits were part of a vast system
undermining, possibly, the entire city. At least he was convinced
that he had passed beyond the precincts of the palace. The
corridors and chambers varied in appearance and architecture from
time to time. All were lighted, though usually quite dimly, with
radium bulbs. For a long time he saw no signs of life other than
an occasional ulsio, then quite suddenly he came face to face
with a warrior at one of the numerous crossings. The fellow
looked at him, nodded, and passed on. Turan breathed a sigh of
relief as he realized that his disguise was effective, but he was
caught in the middle of it by a hail from the warrior who had
stopped and turned toward him. The panthan was glad that a sword
hung at his side, and glad too that they were buried in the dim
recesses of the pits and that there would be but a single
antagonist, for time was precious.
"Heard you any word of the other?'' called the warrior to him.
"No," replied Turan, who had not the faintest idea to whom or
what the fellow referred.
"He cannot escape," continued the warrior. "The woman ran
directly into our arms, but she swore that she knew not where her
companion might be found."
"They took her back to O-Tar?" asked Turan, for now he knew whom
the other meant, and he would know more.
"They took her back to The Towers of Jetan," replied the warrior.
"Tomorrow the games commence and doubtless she will be played
for, though I doubt if any wants her, beautiful as she is. She
fears not even O-Tar. By Cluros! but she would make a hard slave
to subdue--a regular she-banth she is. Not for me," and he
continued on his way shaking his head.
Turan hurried on searching for an avenue that led to the level of
the streets above when suddenly he came to the open doorway of a
small chamber in which sat a man who was chained to the wall.
Turan voiced a low exclamation of surprise and pleasure as he
recognized that the man was A-Kor, and that he had stumbled by
accident upon the very cell in which he had been imprisoned.
A-Kor looked at him questioningly. It was evident that he did not
recognize his fellow prisoner. Turan crossed to the table and
leaning close to the other whispered to him.
"I am Turan the panthan," he said, "who was chained beside you."
A-Kor looked at him closely. "Your own mother would never know
you!" he said; "but tell me, what has transpired since they took
Turan recounted his experiences in the throne room of O-Tar and
in the pits beneath, "and now," he continued, "I must find these
Towers of Jetan and see what may be done toward liberating the
Princess of Helium."
A-Kor shook his head. "Long was I dwar of the Towers," he said,
"and I can say to you, stranger, that you might as well attempt
to reduce Manator, single handed, as to rescue a prisoner from
The Towers of Jetan."
"But I must," replied Turan.
"Are you better than a good swordsman?" asked A-Kor presently.
"I am accounted so," replied Turan.
"Then there is a way--sst!" he was suddenly silent and pointing
toward the base of the wall at the end of the room.
Turan looked in the direction the other's forefinger indicated,
to see projecting from the mouth of an ulsio's burrow two large
chelae and a pair of protruding eyes.
"Ghek!" he cried and immediately the hideous kaldane crawled out
upon the floor and approached the table. A-Kor drew back with a
half-stifled ejaculation of repulsion. "Do not fear," Turan
reassured him. "It is my friend--he whom I told you held O-Tar
while Tara and I escaped."
Ghek climbed to the table top and squatted between the two
warriors. "You are safe in assuming," he said addressing A-Kor,
"that Turan the panthan has no master in all Manator where the
art of sword-play is concerned. I overheard your conversation--go
"You are his friend," continued A-Kor, "and so I may explain
safely in your presence the only plan I know whereby he may hope
to rescue the Princess of Helium. She is to be the stake of one
of the games and it is O-Tar's desire that she be won by slaves
and common warriors, since she repulsed him. Thus would he punish
her. Not a single man, but all who survive upon the winning side
are to possess her. With money, however, one may buy off the
others before the game. That you could do, and if your side won
and you survived she would become your slave."
"But how may a stranger and a hunted fugitive accomplish this?"
"No one will recognize you. You will go tomorrow to the keeper of
the Towers and enlist in that game for which the girl is to be
the stake, telling the keeper that you are from Manataj, the
farthest city of Manator. If he questions you, you may say that
you saw her when she was brought into the city after her capture.
If you win her, you will find thoats stabled at my palace and you
will carry from me a token that will place all that is mine at
"But how can I buy off the others in the game without money?"
asked Turan. "I have none--not even of my own country."
A-Kor opened his pocket-pouch and drew forth a packet of
"Here is sufficient to buy them off twice over," he said, handing
a portion of it to Turan.
"But why do you do this for a stranger?" asked the panthan.
"My mother was a captive princess here," replied A-Kor. "I but do
for the Princess of Helium what my mother would have me do."
"Under the circumstances, then, Manatorian," replied Turan, "I
cannot but accept your generosity on behalf of Tara of Helium and
live in hope that some day I may do for you something in return."
"Now you must be gone," advised A-Kor. "At any minute a guard may
come and discover you here. Go directly to the Avenue of Gates,
which circles the city just within the outer wall. There you will
find many places devoted to the lodging of strangers. You will
know them by the thoat's head carved above the doors. Say that
you are here from Manataj to witness the games. Take the name of
U-Kal--it will arouse no suspicion, nor will you if you can avoid
conversation. Early in the morning seek the keeper of The Towers
of Jetan. May the strength and fortune of all your ancestors be
Bidding good-bye to Ghek and A-Kor, the panthan, following
directions given him by A-Kor, set out to find his way to the
Avenue of Gates, nor had he any great difficulty. On the way he
met several warriors, but beyond a nod they gave him no heed.
With ease he found a lodging place where there were many
strangers from other cities of Manator. As he had had no sleep
since the previous night he threw himself among the silks and
furs of his couch to gain the rest which he must have, was he to
give the best possible account of himself in the service of Tara
of Helium the following day.
It was already morning when he awoke, and rising he paid for his
lodgings, sought a place to eat, and a short time later was on
his way toward The Towers of Jetan, which he had no difficulty in
finding owing to the great crowds that were winding along the
avenues toward the games. The new keeper of The Towers who had
succeeded E-Med was too busy to scrutinize entries closely, for
in addition to the many volunteer players there were scores of
slaves and prisoners being forced into the games by their owners
or the government. The name of each must be recorded as well as
the position he was to play and the game or games in which he was
to be entered, and then there were the substitutes for each that
was entered in more than a single game--one for each additional
game that an individual was entered for, that no succeeding game
might be delayed by the death or disablement of a player.
"Your name?" asked a clerk as Turan presented himself.
"U-Kal," replied the panthan.
The keeper, who was standing beside the clerk, looked at Turan.
"You have come a great way to play at jetan," he said. "It is
seldom that the men of Manataj attend other than the decennial
games. Tell me of O-Zar! Will he attend next year? Ah, but he was
a noble fighter. If you be half the swordsman, U-Kal, the fame of
Manataj will increase this day. But tell me, what of O-Zar?"
"He is well," replied Turan, glibly, "and he sent greetings to
his friends in Manator."
"Good!" exclaimed the keeper, "and now in what game would you
"I would play for the Heliumetic princess, Tara," replied Turan.
"But man, she is to be the stake of a game for slaves and
criminals," cried the keeper. "You would not volunteer for such a
"But I would," replied Turan. "I saw here when she was brought
into the city and even then I vowed to possess her."
"But you will have to share her with the survivors even if your
color wins," objected the other.
"They may be brought to reason," insisted Turan.
"And you will chance incurring the wrath of O-Tar, who has no
love for this savage barbarian," explained the keeper.
"And I win her O-Tar will be rid of her," said Turan.
The keeper of The Towers of Jetan shook his head. "You are rash,"
he said. "I would that I might dissuade the friend of my friend
O-Zar from such madness."
"Would you favor the friend of O-Zar?" asked Turan.
"Gladly!" exclaimed the other. "What may I do for him?"
"Make me chief of the Black and give me for my pieces all slaves
from Gathol, for I understand that those be excellent warriors,"
replied the panthan.
"It is a strange request," said the keeper, "but for my friend
O-Zar I would do even more, though of course --" he
hesitated--"it is customary for one who would be chief to make
some slight payment."
"Certainly," Turan hastened to assure him; "I had not forgotten
that. I was about to ask you what the customary amount is."
"For the friend of my friend it shall be nominal," replied the
keeper, naming a figure that Gahan, accustomed to the high price
of wealthy Gathol, thought ridiculously low.
"Tell me," he said, handing the money to the keeper, "when the
game for the Heliumite is to be played."
"It is the second in order of the day's games; and now if you
will come with me you may select your pieces."
Turan followed the keeper to a large court which lay between the
towers and the jetan field, where hundreds of warriors were
assembled. Already chiefs for the games of the day were selecting
their pieces and assigning them to positions, though for the
principal games these matters had been arranged for weeks before.
The keeper led Turan to a part of the courtyard where the
majority of the slaves were assembled.
"Take your choice of those not assigned," said the keeper, "and
when you have your quota conduct them to the field. Your place
will be assigned you by an officer there, and there you will
remain with your pieces until the second game is called. I wish
you luck, U-Kal, though from what I have heard you will be more
lucky to lose than to win the slave from Helium."
After the fellow had departed Turan approached the slaves. "I
seek the best swordsmen for the second game," he announced. "Men
from Gathol I wish, for I have heard that these be noble
A slave rose and approached him. "It is all the same in which
game we die," he said. "I would fight for you as a panthan in the
Another came. "I am not from Gathol," he said. "I am from Helium,
and I would fight for the honor of a princess of Helium."
"Good!" exclaimed Turan. "Art a swordsman of repute in Helium?"
"I was a dwar under the great Warlord, and I have fought at his
side in a score of battles from The Golden Cliffs to The Carrion
Caves. My name is Val Dor. Who knows Helium, knows my prowess."
The name was well known to Gahan, who had heard the man spoken of
on his last visit to Helium, and his mysterious disappearance
discussed as well as his renown as a fighter.
"How could I know aught of Helium?" asked Turan; "but if you be
such a fighter as you say no position could suit you better than
that of Flier. What say you?"
The man's eyes denoted sudden surprise. He looked keenly at
Turan, his eyes running quickly over the other's harness. Then he
stepped quite close so that his words might not be overheard.
"Methinks you may know more of Helium than of Manator," he
"What mean you, fellow?" demanded Turan, seeking to cudgel his
brains for the source of this man's knowledge, guess, or
"I mean," replied Val Dor, "that you are not of Manator and that
if you wish to hide the fact it is well that you speak not to a
Manatorian as you did just speak to me of--Fliers! There be no
Fliers in Manator and no piece in their game of Jetan bearing
that name. Instead they call him who stands next to the Chief or
Princess, Odwar. The piece has the same moves and power that the
Flier has in the game as played outside Manator. Remember this
then and remember, too, that if you have a secret it be safe in
the keeping of Val Dor of Helium."
Turan made no reply but turned to the task of selecting the
remainder of his pieces. Val Dor, the Heliumite, and Floran, the
volunteer from Gathol, were of great assistance to him, since one
or the other of them knew most of the slaves from whom his
selection was to be made. The pieces all chosen, Turan led them
to the place beside the playing field where they were to wait
their turn, and here he passed the word around that they were to
fight for more than the stake he offered for the princess should
they win. This stake they accepted, so that Turan was sure of
possessing Tara if his side was victorious, but he knew that
these men would fight even more valorously for chivalry than for
money, nor was it difficult to enlist the interest even of the
Gatholians in the service of the princess. And now he held out
the possibility of a still further reward.
"I cannot promise you," he explained, "but I may say I have heard
that this day which makes it possible that should we win this
game we may even win your freedom!"
They leaped to their feet and crowded around him with many
"It may not be spoken of aloud," he said; "but Floran and Val Dor
know and they assure me that you may all be trusted. Listen! What
I would tell you places my life in your hands, but you must know
that every man will realize that he is fighting today the
greatest battle of his life--for the honor and the freedom of
Barsoom's most wondrous princess and for his own freedom as
well--for the chance to return each to his own country and to the
woman who awaits him there.
"First, then, is my secret. I am not of Manator. Like yourselves
I am a slave, though for the moment disguised as a Manatorian
from Manataj. My country and my identity must remain undisclosed
for reasons that have no bearing upon our game today. I, then, am
one of you. I fight for the same things that you will fight for.
"And now for that which I have but just learned. U-Thor, the
great jed of Manatos, quarreled with O-Tar in the palace the day
before yesterday and their warriors set upon one another. U-Thor
was driven as far as The Gate of Enemies, where he now lies
encamped. At any moment the fight may be renewed; but it is
thought that U-Thor has sent to Manatos for reinforcements. Now,
men of Gathol, here is the thing that interests you. U-Thor has
recently taken to wife the Princess Haja of Gathol, who was slave
to O-Tar and whose son, A-Kor, was dwar of The Towers of Jetan.
Haja's heart is filled with loyalty for Gathol and compassion for
her sons who are here enslaved, and this latter sentiment she has
to some extent transmitted to U-Thor. Aid me, therefore, in
freeing the Princess Tara of Helium and I believe that I can aid
you and her and myself to escape the city. Bend close your ears,
slaves of O-Tar, that no cruel enemy may hear my words," and
Gahan of Gathol whispered in low tones the daring plan he had
conceived. "And now," he demanded, when he had finished, "let him
who does not dare speak now." None replied. "Is there none?"
"And it would not betray you should I cast my sword at thy feet,
it had been done ere this," said one in low tones pregnant with
"And I!" "And I!" "And I!" chorused the others in vibrant
CHAPTER XVII. A PLAY TO THE DEATH
CLEAR and sweet a trumpet spoke across The Fields of Jetan. From
The High Tower its cool voice floated across the city of Manator
and above the babel of human discords rising from the crowded
mass that filled the seats of the stadium below. It called the
players for the first game, and simultaneously there fluttered to
the peaks of a thousand staffs on tower and battlement and the
great wall of the stadium the rich, gay pennons of the fighting
chiefs of Manator. Thus was marked the opening of The Jeddak's
Games, the most important of the year and second only to the
Grand Decennial Games.
Gahan of Gathol watched every play with eagle eye. The match was
an unimportant one, being but to settle some petty dispute
between two chiefs, and was played with professional jetan
players for points only. No one was killed and there was but
little blood spilled. It lasted about an hour and was terminated
by the chief of the losing side deliberately permitting himself
to be out-pointed, that the game might be called a draw.
Again the trumpet sounded, this time announcing the second and
last game of the afternoon. While this was not considered an
important match, those being reserved for the fourth and fifth
days of the games, it promised to afford sufficient excitement
since it was a game to the death. The vital difference between
the game played with living men and that in which inanimate
pieces are used, lies in the fact that while in the latter the
mere placing of a piece upon a square occupied by an opponent
piece terminates the move, in the former the two pieces thus
brought together engage in a duel for possession of the square.
Therefore there enters into the former game not only the strategy
of jetan but the personal prowess and bravery of each individual
piece, so that a knowledge not only of one's own men but of each
player upon the opposing side is of vast value to a chief.
In this respect was Gahan handicapped, though the loyalty of his
players did much to offset his ignorance of them, since they
aided him in arranging the board to the best advantage and told
him honestly the faults and virtues of each. One fought best in a
losing game; another was too slow; another too impetuous; this
one had fire and a heart of steel, but lacked endurance. Of the
opponents, though, they knew little or nothing, and now as the
two sides took their places upon the black and orange squares of
the great jetan board Gahan obtained, for the first time, a close
view of those who opposed him. The Orange Chief had not yet
entered the field, but his men were all in place. Val Dor turned
to Gahan. "They are all criminals from the pits of Manator," he
said. "There is no slave among them. We shall not have to fight
against a single fellow-countryman and every life we take will be
the life of an enemy."
"It is well," replied Gahan; "but where is their Chief, and where
the two Princesses?"
"They are coming now, see?" and he pointed across the field to
where two women could be seen approaching under guard.
As they came nearer Gahan saw that one was indeed Tara of Helium,
but the other he did not recognize, and then they were brought to
the center of the field midway between the two sides and there
waited until the Orange Chief arrived.
Floran voiced an exclamation of surprise when he recognized him.
"By my first ancestor if it is not one of their great chiefs," he
said, "and we were told that slaves and criminals were to play
for the stake of this game."
His words were interrupted by the keeper of The Towers whose duty
it was not only to announce the games and the stakes, but to act
as referee as well.
"Of this, the second game of the first day of the Jeddak's Games
in the four hundred and thirty-third year of O-Tar, Jeddak of
Manator, the Princesses of each side shall be the sole stakes and
to the survivors of the winning side shall belong both the
Princesses, to do with as they shall see fit. The Orange Princess
is the slave woman Lan-O of Gathol; the Black Princess is the
slave woman Tara, a princess of Helium. The Black Chief is U-Kal
of Manataj, a volunteer player; the Orange Chief is the dwar
U-Dor of the 8th Utan of the jeddak of Manator, also a volunteer
player. The squares shall be contested to the death. Just are the
laws of Manator! I have spoken."
The initial move was won by U-Dor, following which the two Chiefs
escorted their respective Princesses to the square each was to
occupy. It was the first time Gahan had been alone with Tara
since she had been brought upon the field. He saw her
scrutinizing him closely as he approached to lead her to her
place and wondered if she recognized him: but if she did she gave
no sign of it. He could not but remember her last words--"I hate
you!" and her desertion of him when he had been locked in the
room beneath the palace by I-Gos, the taxidermist, and so he did
not seek to enlighten her as to his identity. He meant to fight
for her--to die for her, if necessary--and if he did not die to
go on fighting to the end for her love. Gahan of Gathol was not
easily to be discouraged, but he was compelled to admit that his
chances of winning the love of Tara of Helium were remote.
Already had she repulsed him twice. Once as jed of Gathol and
again as Turan the panthan. Before his love, however, came her
safety and the former must be relegated to the background until
the latter had been achieved.
Passing among the players already at their stations the two took
their places upon their respective squares. At Tara's left was
the Black Chief, Gahan of Gathol; directly in front of her the
Princess' Panthan, Floran of Gathol; and at her right the
Princess' Odwar, Val Dor of Helium. And each of these knew the
part that he was to play, win or lose, as did each of the other
Black players. As Tara took her place Val Dor bowed low. "My
sword is at your feet, Tara of Helium," he said.
She turned and looked at him, an expression of surprise and
incredulity upon her face. "Val Dor, the dwar!" she exclaimed.
"Val Dor of Helium--one of my father's trusted captains! Can it
be possible that my eyes speak the truth?"
"It is Val Dor, Princess," the warrior replied, "and here to die
for you if need be, as is every wearer of the Black upon this
field of jetan today. Know Princess," he whispered, "that upon
this side is no man of Manator, but each and every is an enemy of
She cast a quick, meaning glance toward Gahan. "But what of him?"
she whispered, and then she caught her breath quickly in
surprise. "Shade of the first jeddak!" she exclaimed. "I did but
just recognize him through his disguise."
"And you trust him?" asked Val Dor. "I know him not; but he spoke
fairly, as an honorable warrior, and we have taken him at his
"You have made no mistake," replied Tara of Helium. "I would
trust him with my life--with my soul; and you, too, may trust
Happy indeed would have been Gahan of Gathol could he have heard
those words; but Fate, who is usually unkind to the lover in such
matters, ordained it otherwise, and then the game was on.
U-Dor moved his Princess' Odwar three squares diagonally to the
right, which placed the piece upon the Black Chief's Odwar's
seventh. The move was indicative of the game that U-Dor intended
playing--a game of blood, rather than of science--and evidenced
his contempt for his opponents.
Gahan followed with his Odwar's Panthan one square straight
forward, a more scientific move, which opened up an avenue for
himself through his line of Panthans, as well as announcing to
the players and spectators that he intended having a hand in the
fighting himself even before the exigencies of the game forced it
upon him. The move elicited a ripple of applause from those
sections of seats reserved for the common warriors and their
women, showing perhaps that U-Dor was none too popular with
these, and, too, it had its effect upon the morale of Gahan's
pieces. A Chief may, and often does, play almost an entire game
without leaving his own square, where, mounted upon a thoat, he
may overlook the entire field and direct each move, nor may he be
reproached for lack of courage should he elect thus to play the
game since, by the rules, were he to be slain or so badly wounded
as to be compelled to withdraw, a game that might otherwise have
been won by the science of his play and the prowess of his men
would be drawn. To invite personal combat, therefore, denotes
confidence in his own swordsmanship, and great courage, two
attributes that were calculated to fill the Black players with
hope and valor when evinced by their Chief thus early in the
U-Dor's next move placed Lan-O's Odwar upon Tara's Odwar's
fourth--within striking distance of the Black Princess.
Another move and the game would be lost to Gahan unless the
Orange Odwar was overthrown, or Tara moved to a position of
safety; but to move his Princess now would be to admit his belief
in the superiority of the Orange. In the three squares allowed
him he could not place himself squarely upon the square occupied
by the Odwar of U-Dor's Princess. There was only one player upon
the Black side that might dispute the square with the enemy and
that was the Chief's Odwar, who stood upon Gahan's left. Gahan
turned upon his thoat and looked at the man. He was a splendid
looking fellow, resplendent in the gorgeous trappings of an
Odwar, the five brilliant feathers which denoted his position
rising defiantly erect from his thick, black hair. In common with
every player upon the field and every spectator in the crowded
stands he knew what was passing in his Chief's mind. He dared not
speak, the ethics of the game forbade it, but what his lips might
not voice his eyes expressed in martial fire, and eloquently:
"The honor of the Black and the safety of our Princess are secure
Gahan hesitated no longer. "Chief's Odwar to Princess' Odwar's
fourth!" he commanded. It was the courageous move of a leader who
had taken up the gauntlet thrown down by his opponent.
The warrior sprang forward and leaped into the square occupied by
U-Dor's piece. It was the first disputed square of the game. The
eyes of the players were fastened upon the contestants, the
spectators leaned forward in their seats after the first applause
that had greeted the move, and silence fell upon the vast
assemblage. If the Black went down to defeat, U-Dor could move
his victorious piece on to the square occupied by Tara of Helium
and the game would be over--over in four moves and lost to Gahan
of Gathol. If the Orange lost U-Dor would have sacrificed one of
his most important pieces and more than lost what advantage the
first move might have given him.
Physically the two men appeared perfectly matched and each was
fighting for his life, but from the first it was apparent that
the Black Odwar was the better swordsman, and Gahan knew that he
had another and perhaps a greater advantage over his antagonist.
The latter was fighting for his life only, without the spur of
chivalry or loyalty. The Black Odwar had these to strengthen his
arm, and besides these the knowledge of the thing that Gahan had
whispered into the ears of his players before the game, and so he
fought for what is more than life to the man of honor.
It was a duel that held those who witnessed it in spellbound
silence. The weaving blades gleamed in the brilliant sunlight,
ringing to the parries of cut and thrust. The barbaric harness of
the duelists lent splendid color to the savage, martial scene.
The Orange Odwar, forced upon the defensive, was fighting madly
for his life. The Black, with cool and terrible efficiency, was
forcing him steadily, step by step, into a corner of the
square--a position from which there could be no escape. To
abandon the square was to lose it to his opponent and win for
himself ignoble and immediate death before the jeering populace.
Spurred on by the seeming hopelessness of his plight, the Orange
Odwar burst into a sudden fury of offense that forced the Black
back a half dozen steps, and then the sword of U-Dor's piece
leaped in and drew first blood, from the shoulder of his
merciless opponent. An ill-smothered cry of encouragement went up
from U-Dor's men; the Orange Odwar, encouraged by his single
success, sought to bear down the Black by the rapidity of his
attack. There was a moment in which the swords moved with a
rapidity that no man's eye might follow, and then the Black Odwar
made a lightning parry of a vicious thrust, leaned quickly
forward into the opening he had effected, and drove his sword
through the heart of the Orange Odwar--to the hilt he drove it
through the body of the Orange Odwar.
A shout arose from the stands, for wherever may have been the
favor of the spectators, none there was who could say that it had
not been a pretty fight, or that the better man had not won. And
from the Black players came a sigh of relief as they relaxed from
the tension of the past moments.
I shall not weary you with the details of the game--only the high
features of it are necessary to your understanding of the
outcome. The fourth move after the victory of the Black Odwar
found Gahan upon U-Dor's fourth; an Orange Panthan was on the
adjoining square diagonally to his right and the only opposing
piece that could engage him other than U-Dor himself.
It had been apparent to both players and spectators for the past
two moves, that Gahan was moving straight across the field into
the enemy's country to seek personal combat with the Orange
Chief--that he was staking all upon his belief in the superiority
of his own swordsmanship, since if the two Chiefs engage, the
outcome decides the game. U-Dor could move out and engage Gahan,
or he could move his Princess' Panthan upon the square occupied
by Gahan in he hope that the former would defeat the Black Chief
and thus draw the game, which is the outcome if any other than a
Chief slays the opposing Chief, or he could move away and escape,
temporarily, the necessity for personal combat, or at least that
is evidently what he had in mind as was obvious to all who saw
him scanning the board about him; and his disappointment was
apparent when he finally discovered that Gahan had so placed
himself that there was no square to which U-Dor could move that
it was not within Gahan's power to reach at his own next move.
U-Dor had placed his own Princess four squares east of Gahan when
her position had been threatened, and he had hoped to lure the
Black Chief after her and away from U-Dor; but in that he had
failed. He now discovered that he might play his own Odwar into
personal combat with Gahan; but he had already lost one Odwar and
could ill spare the other. His position was a delicate one, since
he did not wish to engage Gahan personally, while it appeared
that there was little likelihood of his being able to escape.
There was just one hope and that lay in his Princess' Panthan,
so, without more deliberation he ordered the piece onto the
square occupied by the Black Chief.
The sympathies of the spectators were all with Gahan now. If he
lost, the game would be declared a draw, nor do they think better
of drawn games upon Barsoom than do Earth men. If he won, it
would doubtless mean a duel between the two Chiefs, a development
for which they all were hoping. The game already bade fair to be
a short one and it would be an angry crowd should it be decided a
draw with only two men slain. There were great, historic games on
record where of the forty pieces on the field when the game
opened only three survived--the two Princesses and the victorious
They blamed U-Dor, though in fact he was well within his rights
in directing his play as he saw fit, nor was a refusal on his
part to engage the Black Chief necessarily an imputation of
cowardice. He was a great chief who had conceived a notion to
possess the slave Tara. There was no honor that could accrue to
him from engaging in combat with slaves and criminals, or an
unknown warrior from Manataj, nor was the stake of sufficient
import to warrant the risk.
But now the duel between Gahan and the Orange Panthan was on and
the decision of the next move was no longer in other hands than
theirs. It was the first time that these Mana-Atorians had seen
Gahan of Gathol fight, but Tara of Helium knew that he was master
of his sword. Could he have seen the proud light in her eyes as
he crossed blades with the wearer of the Orange, he might easily
have wondered if they were the same eyes that had flashed fire
and hatred at him that time he had covered her lips with mad
kisses, in the pits of the palace of O-Tar. As she watched him
she could not but compare his swordplay with that of the greatest
swordsman of two worlds--her father, John Carter, of Virginia, a,
Prince of Helium, Warlord of Barsoom--and she knew that the skill
of the Black Chief suffered little by the comparison.
Short and to the point was the duel that decided possession of
the Orange Chief's fourth. The spectators had settled themselves
for an interesting engagement of at least average duration when
they were brought almost standing by a brilliant flash of rapid
swordplay that was over ere one could catch his breath. They saw
the Black Chief step quickly back, his point upon the ground,
while his opponent, his sword slipping from his fingers, clutched
his breast, sank to his knees and then lunged forward upon his
And then Gahan of Gathol turned his eyes directly upon U-Dor of
Manator, three squares away. Three squares is a Chief's
move--three squares in any direction or combination of
directions, only provided that he does not cross the same square
twice in a given move. The people saw and guessed Gahan's
intention. They rose and roared forth their approval as he moved
deliberately across the intervening squares toward the Orange
O-Tar, in the royal enclosure, sat frowning upon the scene. O-Tar
was angry. He was angry with U-Dor for having entered this game
for possession of a slave, for whom it had been his wish only
slaves and criminals should strive. He was angry with the warrior
from Manataj for having so far out-generaled and out-fought the
men from Manator. He was angry with the populace because of their
open hostility toward one who had basked in the sunshine of his
favor for long years. O-Tar the jeddak had not enjoyed the
afternoon. Those who surrounded him were equally glum--they, too,
scowled upon the field, the players, and the people. Among them
was a bent and wrinkled old man who gazed through weak and watery
eyes upon the field and the players.
As Gahan entered his square, U-Dor leaped toward him with drawn
sword with such fury as might have overborne a less skilled and
powerful swordsman. For a minute the fighting was fast and
furious and by comparison reducing to insignificance all that had
gone before. Here indeed were two magnificent swordsmen, and here
was to be a battle that bade fair to make up for whatever the
people felt they had been defrauded of by the shortness of the
game. Nor had it continued long before many there were who would
have prophesied that they were witnessing a duel that was to
become historic in the annals of jetan at Manator. Every trick,
every subterfuge, known to the art of fence these men employed.
Time and again each scored a point and brought blood to his
opponent's copper hide until both were red with gore; but neither
seemed able to administer the coup de grace.
From her position upon the opposite side of the field Tara of
Helium watched the long-drawn battle. Always it seemed to her
that the Black Chief fought upon the defensive, or when he
assumed to push his opponent, he neglected a thousand openings
that her practiced eye beheld. Never did he seem in real danger,
nor never did he appear to exert himself to quite the pitch
needful for victory. The duel already had been long contested and
the day was drawing to a close. Presently the sudden transition
from daylight to darkness which, owing to the tenuity of the air
upon Barsoom, occurs almost without the warning twilight of
Earth, would occur. Would the fight never end? Would the game be
called a draw after all? What ailed the Black Chief?
Tara wished that she might answer at least the last of these
questions for she was sure that Turan the panthan, as she knew
him, while fighting brilliantly, was not giving of himself all
that he might. She could not believe that fear was restraining
his hand, but that there was something beside inability to push
U-Dor more fiercely she was confident. What it was, however, she
could not guess.
Once she saw Gahan glance quickly up toward the sinking sun. In
thirty minutes it would be dark. And then she saw and all those
others saw a strange transition steal over the swordplay of the
Black Chief. It was as though he had been playing with the great
dwar, U-Dor, all these hours, and now he still played with him
but there was a difference. He played with him terribly as a
carnivore plays with its victim in the instant before the kill.
The Orange Chief was helpless now in the hands of a swordsman so
superior that there could be no comparison, and the people sat in
open-mouthed wonder and awe as Gahan of Gathol cut his foe to
ribbons and then struck him down with a blow that cleft him to
In twenty minutes the sun would set. But what of that?
CHAPTER XVIII. A TASK FOR LOYALTY
LONG and loud was the applause that rose above the Field of Jetan
at Manator, as The Keeper of the Towers summoned the two
Princesses and the victorious Chief to the center of the field
and presented to the latter the fruits of his prowess, and then,
as custom demanded, the victorious players, headed by Gahan and
the two Princesses, formed in procession behind The Keeper of the
Towers and were conducted to the place of victory before the
royal enclosure that they might receive the commendation of the
jeddak. Those who were mounted gave up their thoats to slaves as
all must be on foot for this ceremony. Directly beneath the royal
enclosure are the gates to one of the tunnels that, passing
beneath the seats, give ingress or egress to or from the Field.
Before this gate the party halted while O-Tar looked down upon
them from above. Val Dor and Floran, passing quietly ahead of the
others, went directly to the gates, where they were hidden from
those who occupied the enclosure with O-Tar. The Keeper of the
Towers may have noticed them, but so occupied was he with the
formality of presenting the victorious Chief to the jeddak that
he paid no attention to them.
"I bring you, O-Tar, Jeddak of Manator, U-Kal of Manataj," he
cried in a loud voice that might be heard by as many as possible,
"victor over the Orange in the second of the Jeddak's Games of
the four hundred and thirty-third year of O-Tar, and the slave
woman Tara and the slave woman Lan-O that you may bestow these,
the stakes, upon U-Kal."
As he spoke, a little, wrinkled, old man peered over the rail of
the enclosure down upon the three who stood directly behind The
Keeper, and strained his weak and watery eyes in an effort to
satisfy the curiosity of old age in a matter of no particular
import, for what were two slaves and a common warrior from
Manataj to any who sat with O-Tar the jeddak?
"U-Kal of Manataj," said O-Tar, "you have deserved the stakes.
Seldom have we looked upon more noble swordplay. And you tire of
Manataj there be always here in the city of Manator a place for
you in The Jeddak's Guard."
While the jeddak was speaking the little, old man, failing
clearly to discern the features of the Black Chief, reached into
his pocket-pouch and drew forth a pair of thick-lensed
spectacles, which he placed upon his nose. For a moment he
scrutinized Gahan closely, then he leaped to his feet and
addressing O-Tar pointed a shaking finger it Gahan. As he rose
Tara of Helium clutched the Black Chief's arm.
"Turan!" she whispered. "It is I-Gos, whom I thought to have
slain in the pits of O-Tar. It is I-Gos and he recognizes you and
But what I-Gos would do was already transpiring. In his falsetto
voice he fairly screamed: "It is the slave Turan who stole the
woman Tara from your throne room, O-Tar. He desecrated the dead
chief I-Mal and wears his harness now!"
Instantly all was pandemonium. Warriors drew their swords and
leaped to their feet. Gahan's victorious players rushed forward
in a body, sweeping The Keeper of the Towers from his feet. Val
Dor and Floran threw open the gates beneath the royal enclosure,
opening the tunnel that led to the avenue in the city beyond the
Towers. Gahan, surrounded by his men, drew Tara and Lan-O into
the passageway, and at a rapid pace the party sought to reach the
opposite end of the tunnel before their escape could be cut off.
They were successful and when they emerged into the city the sun
had set and darkness had come, relieved only by an antiquated and
ineffective lighting system, which cast but a pale glow over the
Now it was that Tara of Helium guessed why the Black Chief had
drawn out his duel with U-Dor and realized that he might have
slain his man at almost any moment he had elected. The whole plan
that Gahan had whispered to his players before the game was
thoroughly understood. They were to make their way to The Gate of
Enemies and there offer their services to U-Thor, the great Jed
of Manatos. The fact that most of them were Gatholians and that
Gahan could lead rescuers to the pit where A-Kor, the son of
U-Thor's wife, was confined, convinced the Jed of Gathol that
they would meet with no rebuff at the hands of U-Thor. But even
should he refuse them, still were they bound together to go on
toward freedom, if necessary cutting their way through the forces
of U-Thor at The Gate of Enemies--twenty men against a small
army; but of such stuff are the warriors of Barsoom.
They had covered a considerable distance along the almost
deserted avenue before signs of pursuit developed and then there
came upon them suddenly from behind a dozen warriors mounted on
thoats--a detachment, evidently, from The Jeddak's Guard.
Instantly the avenue was a pandemonium of clashing blades,
cursing warriors, and squealing thoats. In the first onslaught
life blood was spilled upon both sides. Two of Gahan's men went
down, and upon the enemies' side three riderless thoats attested
at least a portion of their casualties.
Gahan was engaged with a fellow who appeared to have been
selected to account for him only, since he rode straight for him
and sought to cut him down without giving the slightest heed to
several who slashed at him as he passed them. The Gatholian,
practiced in the art of combating a mounted warrior from the
ground, sought to reach the left side of the fellow's thoat a
little to the rider's rear, the only position in which he would
have any advantage over his antagonist, or rather the position
that would most greatly reduce the advantage of the mounted man,
and, similarly, the Manatorian strove to thwart his design. And
so the guardsman wheeled and turned his vicious, angry mount
while Gahan leaped in and out in an effort to reach the coveted
vantage point, but always seeking some other opening in his foe's
And while they jockeyed for position a rider swept swiftly past
them. As he passed behind Gahan the latter heard a cry of alarm.
"Turan, they have me!" came to his ears in the voice of Tara of
A quick glance across his shoulder showed him the galloping
thoatman in the act of dragging Tara to the withers of the beast,
and then, with the fury of a demon, Gahan of Gathol leaped for
his own man, dragged him from his mount and as he fell smote his
head from his shoulders with a single cut of his keen sword.
Scarce had the body touched the pavement when the Gatholian was
upon the back of the dead warrior's mount, and galloping swiftly
down the avenue after the diminishing figures of Tara and her
abductor, the sounds of the fight waning in the distance as he
pursued his quarry along the avenue that passes the palace of
O-Tar and leads to The Gate of Enemies.
Gahan's mount, carrying but a single rider, gained upon that of
the Manatorian, so that as they neared the palace Gahan was
scarce a hundred yards behind, and now, to his consternation, he
saw the fellow turn into the great entrance-way. For a moment
only was he halted by the guards and then he disappeared within.
Gahan was almost upon him then, but evidently he had warned the
guards, for they leaped out to intercept the Gatholian. But no!
the fellow could not have known that he was pursued, since he had
not seen Gahan seize a mount, nor would he have thought that
pursuit would come so soon. If he had passed then, so could Gahan
pass, for did he not wear the trappings of a Manatorian? The
Gatholian thought quickly, and stopping his thoat called to the
guardsmen to let him pass, "In the name of O-Tar!" They hesitated
"Aside!" cried Gahan. "Must the jeddak's messenger parley for the
right to deliver his message?"
"To whom would you deliver it?" asked the padwar of the guard.
"Saw you not him who just entered?" cried Gahan, and without
waiting for a reply urged his thoat straight past them into the
palace, and while they were deliberating what was best to be
done, it was too late to do anything--which is not unusual.
Along the marble corridors Gahan guided his thoat, and because he
had gone that way before, rather than because he knew which way
Tara had been taken, he followed the runways and passed through
the chambers that led to the throne room of O-Tar. On the second
level he met a slave.
"Which way went he who carried the woman before him?" he asked.
The slave pointed toward a nearby runway that led to the third
level and Gahan dashed rapidly on in pursuit. At the same moment
a thoatman, riding at a furious pace, approached the palace and
halted his mount at the gate.
"Saw you aught of a warrior pursuing one who carried a woman
before him on his thoat?" he shouted to the guard.
"He but just passed in," replied the padwar, "saying that he was
"He lied," cried the newcomer. "He was Turan, the slave, who
stole the woman from the throne room two days since.
Arouse the palace! He must be seized, and alive if possible. It
is O-Tar's command."
Instantly warriors were dispatched to search for the Gatholian
and warn the inmates of the palace to do likewise. Owing to the
games there were comparatively few retainers in the great
building, but those whom they found were immediately enlisted in
the search, so that presently at least fifty warriors were
seeking through the countless chambers and corridors of the
palace of O-Tar.
As Gahan's thoat bore him to the third Level the man glimpsed the
hind quarters of another thoat disappearing at the turn of a
corridor far ahead. Urging his own animal forward he raced
swiftly in pursuit and making the turn discovered only an empty
corridor ahead. Along this he hurried to discover near its
farther end a runway to the fourth level, which he followed
upward. Here he saw that he had gained upon his quarry who was
just turning through a doorway fifty yards ahead. As Gahan
reached the opening he saw that the warrior had dismounted and
was dragging Tara toward a small door on the opposite side of the
chamber. At the same instant the clank of harness to his rear
caused him to cast a glance behind where, along the corridor he
had just traversed, he saw three warriors approaching on foot at
a run. Leaping from his thoat Gahan sprang into the chamber where
Tara was struggling to free herself from the grasp of her captor,
slammed the door behind him, shot the great bolt into its seat,
and drawing his sword crossed the room at a run to engage the
Manatorian. The fellow, thus menaced, called aloud to Gahan to
halt, at the same time thrusting Tara at arm's length and
threatening her heart with the point of his short-sword.
"Stay!" he cried, "or the woman dies, for such is the command of
O-Tar, rather than that she again fall into your hands."
Gahan stopped. But a few feet separated him from Tara and her
captor, yet he was helpless to aid her. Slowly the warrior backed
toward the open doorway behind him, dragging Tara with him. The
girl struggled and fought, but the warrior was a powerful man and
having seized her by the harness from behind was able to hold her
in a position of helplessness.
"Save me, Turan!" she cried. "Let them not drag me to a fate
worse than death. Better that I die now while my eyes behold a
brave friend than later, fighting alone among enemies in defense
of my honor."
He took a step nearer. The warrior made a threatening gesture
with his sword close to the soft, smooth skin of the princess,
and Gahan halted.
"I cannot, Tara of Helium," he cried. "Think not ill of me that I
am weak--that I cannot see you die. Too great is my love for you,
daughter of Helium."
The Manatorian warrior, a derisive grin upon his lips, backed
steadily away. He had almost reached the doorway when Gahan saw
another warrior in the chamber toward which Tara was being
borne--a fellow who moved silently, almost stealthily, across the
marble floor as he approached Tara's captor from behind. In his
right hand he grasped a long-sword.
"Two to one," thought Gahan, and a grim smile touched his lips,
for he had no doubt that once they had Tara safely in the
adjoining chamber the two would set upon him. If he could not
save her, he could at least die for her.
And then, suddenly, Gahan's eyes fastened with amazement upon the
figure of the warrior behind the grinning fellow who held Tara
and was forcing her to the doorway. He saw the newcomer step
almost within arm's reach of the other. He saw him stop, an
expression of malevolent hatred upon his features. He saw the
great sword swing through the arc of a great circle, gathering
swift and terrific momentum from its own weight backed by the
brawn of the steel thews that guided it; he saw it pass through
the feathered skull of the Manatorian, splitting his sardonic
grin in twain, and open him to the middle of his breast bone.
As the dead hand relaxed its grasp upon Tara's wrist the girl
leaped forward, without a backward glance, to Gahan's side. His
left arm encircled her, nor did she draw away, as with ready
sword the Gatholian awaited Fate's next decree. Before them
Tara's deliverer was wiping the blood from his sword upon the
hair of his victim. He was evidently a Manatorian, his trappings
those of the Jeddak's Guard, and so his act was inexplicable to
Gahan and to Tara. Presently he sheathed his sword and approached
"When a man chooses to hide his identity behind an assumed name,"
he said, looking straight into Gahan's eyes, "whatever friend
pierces the deception were no friend if he divulged the other's
He paused as though awaiting a reply.
"Your integrity has perceived and your lips voiced an unalterable
truth," replied Gahan, whose mind was filled with wonder if the
implication could by any possibility be true--that this
Manatorian had guessed his identity.
"We are thus agreed," continued the other, "and I may tell you
that though I am here known as A-Sor, my real name is Tasor." He
paused and watched Gahan's face intently for any sign of the
effect of this knowledge and was rewarded with a quick, though
guarded expression of recognition.
Tasor! Friend of his youth. The son of that great Gatholian noble
who had given his life so gloriously, however futilely, in an
attempt to defend Gahan's sire from the daggers of the assassins.
Tasor an under-padwar in the guard of O-Tar, Jeddak of Manator!
It was inconceivable--and yet it was he; there could be no doubt
of it. "Tasor," Gahan repeated aloud. "But it is no Manatorian
name." The statement was half interrogatory, for Gahan's
curiosity was aroused. He would know how his friend and loyal
subject had become a Manatorian. Long years had passed since
Tasor had disappeared as mysteriously as the Princess Haja and
many other of Gahan's subjects. The Jed of Gathol had long
supposed him dead.
"No," replied Tasor, "nor is it a Manatorian name. Come, while I
search for a hiding place for you in some forgotten chamber in
one of the untenanted portions of the palace, and as we go I will
tell you briefly how Tasor the Gatholian became A-Sor the
"It befell that as I rode with a dozen of my warriors along the
western border of Gathol searching for zitidars that had strayed
from my herds, we were set upon and surrounded by a great company
of Manatorians. They overpowered us, though not before half our
number was slain and the balance helpless from wounds. And so I
was brought a prisoner to Manataj, a distant city of Manator, and
there sold into slavery. A woman bought me--a princess of Manataj
whose wealth and position were unequaled in the city of her
birth. She loved me and when her husband discovered her
infatuation she beseeched me to slay him, and when I refused she
hired another to do it. Then she married me; but none would have
aught to do with her in Manataj, for they suspected her guilty
knowledge of her husband's murder. And so we set out from Manataj
for Manatos accompanied by a great caravan bearing all her
worldly goods and jewels and precious metals, and on the way she
caused the rumor to be spread that she and I had died. Then we
came to Manator instead, she taking a new name and I the name
A-Sor, that we might not be traced through our names. With her
great wealth she bought me a post in The Jeddak's Guard and none
knows that I am not a Manatorian, for she is dead. She was
beautiful, but she was a devil."
"And you never sought to return to your native city?" asked
"Never has the hope been absent from my heart, or my mind empty
of a plan," replied Tasor. "I dream of it by day and by night,
but always must I return to the same conclusion--that there can
be but a single means for escape. I must wait until Fortune
favors me with a place in a raiding party to Gathol. Then, once
within the boundaries of my own country, they shall see me no
"Perhaps your opportunity lies already within your grasp," said
Gahan, "has not your fealty to your own Jed been undermined by
years of association with the men of Manator." The statement was
"And my Jed stood before me now," cried Tasor, "and my avowal
could be made without violating his confidence, I should cast my
sword at his feet and beg the high privilege of dying for him as
my sire died for his sire."
There could be no doubt of his sincerity nor any that he was
cognizant of Gahan's identity. The Jed of Gathol smiled. "And if
your Jed were here there is little doubt but that he would
command you to devote your talents and your prowess to the rescue
of the Princess Tara of Helium," he said, meaningly. "And he
possessed the knowledge I have gained during my captivity he
would say to you, 'Go, Tasor, to the pit where A-kor, son of Haja
of Gathol, is confined and set him free and with him arouse the
slaves from Gathol and march to The Gate of Enemies and offer
your services to U-Thor of Manataj, who is wed to Haja of Gathol,
and ask of him in return that he attack the palace of O-Tar and
rescue Tara of Helium and when that thing is accomplished that he
free the slaves of Gathol and furnish them with the arms and the
means to return to their own country.' That, Tasor of Gathol, is
what Gahan your Jed would demand of you."
"And that, Turan the slave, is what I shall bend my every effort
to accomplish after I have found a safe refuge for Tara of Helium
and her panthan," replied Tasor.
Gahan's glance carried to Tasor an intimation of his Jed's
gratification and filled him with a chivalrous determination to
do the thing required of him, or die, for he considered that he
had received from the lips of his beloved ruler a commission that
placed upon his shoulders a responsibility that encompassed not
alone the life of Gahan and Tara but the welfare, perhaps the
whole future, of Gathol. And so he hastened them onward through
the musty corridors of the old palace where the dust of ages lay
undisturbed upon the marble tiles. Now and again he tried a door
until he found one that was unlocked. Opening it he ushered them
into a chamber, heavy with dust. Crumbling silks and furs adorned
the walls, with ancient weapons, and great paintings whose colors
were toned by age to wondrous softness.
"This be as good as any place," he said. "No one comes here.
Never have I been here before, so I know no more of the other
chambers than you; but this one, at least, I can find again when
I bring you food and drink. O-Mai the Cruel occupied this portion
of the palace during his reign, five thousand years before O-Tar.
In one of these apartments he was found dead, his face contorted
in an expression of fear so horrible that it drove to madness
those who looked upon it; yet there was no mark of violence upon
him Since then the quarters of O-Mai have been shunned for the
legends have it that the ghosts of Corphals pursue the spirit of
the wicked Jeddak nightly through these chambers, shrieking and
moaning as they go. But," he added, as though to reassure himself
as well as his companions, "such things may not be countenanced
by the culture of Gathol or Helium."
Gahan laughed. "And if all who looked upon him were driven mad,
who then was there to perform the last rites or prepare the body
of the Jeddak for them?"
"There was none," replied Tasor. "Where they found him they left
him and there to this very day his mouldering bones lie hid in
some forgotten chamber of this forbidden suite."
Tasor left them then assuring them that he would seek the first
opportunity to speak with A-Kor, and upon the following day he
would bring them food and drink.*
* Those who have read John Carter's description of the Green
Martians in A Princess of Mars will recall that these strange
people could exist for considerable periods of time without food
or water, and to a lesser degree is the same true of all
After Tasor had gone Tara turned to Gahan and approaching laid a
hand upon his arm. "So swiftly have events transpired since I
recognized you beneath your disguise," she said, "that I have had
no opportunity to assure you of my gratitude and the high esteem
that your valor has won for you in my consideration. Let me now
acknowledge my indebtedness; and if promises be not vain from one
whose life and liberty are in grave jeopardy, accept my assurance
of the great reward that awaits you at the hand of my father in
"I desire no reward," he replied, "other than the happiness of
knowing that the woman I love is happy."
For an instant the eyes of Tara of Helium blazed as she drew
herself haughtily to her full height, and then they softened and
her attitude relaxed as she shook her head sadly.
"I have it not in my heart to reprimand you, Turan," she said,
"however great your fault, for you have been an honorable and a
loyal friend to Tara of Helium; but you must not say what my ears
must not hear."
"You mean," he asked, "that the ears of a Princess must not
listen to words of love from a panthan?"
"It is not that, Turan," she replied; "but rather that I may
not in honor listen to words of love from another than him to
whom I am betrothed--a fellow countryman, Djor Kantos."
"You mean, Tara of Helium," he cried, "that were it not for that
you would --"
"Stop!" she commanded. "You have no right to assume aught else
than my lips testify."
"The eyes are ofttimes more eloquent than the lips, Tara," he
replied; "and in yours I have read that which is neither hatred
nor contempt for Turan the panthan, and my heart tells me that
your lips bore false witness when they cried in anger: 'I hate
"I do not hate you, Turan, nor yet may I love you," said the
"When I broke my way out from the chamber of I-Gos I was indeed
upon the verge of believing that you did hate me," he said, "for
only hatred, it seemed to me, could account for the fact that you
had gone without making an effort to liberate me; but presently
both my heart and my judgment told me that Tara of Helium could
not have deserted a companion in distress, and though I still am
in ignorance of the facts I know that it was beyond your power to
"It was indeed," said the girl. "Scarce had I-Gos fallen at the
bite of my dagger than I heard the approach of warriors. I ran
then to hide until they had passed, thinking to return and
liberate you; but in seeking to elude the party I had heard I ran
full into the arms of another. They questioned me as to your
whereabouts, and I told them that you had gone ahead and that I
was following you and thus I led them from you."
"I knew," was Gahan's only comment, but his heart was glad with
elation, as a lover's must be who has heard from the lips of his
divinity an avowal of interest and loyalty, however little tinged
by a suggestion of warmer regard it may be. To be abused, even,
by the mistress of one's heart is better than to be ignored.
As the two conversed in the ill-lit chamber, the dim bulbs of
which were encrusted with the accumulated dust of centuries, a
bent and withered figure traversed slowly the gloomy corridors
without, his weak and watery eyes peering through thick lenses at
the signs of passage written upon the dusty floor.
CHAPTER XIX. THE MENACE OF THE DEAD
THE night was still young when there came one to the entrance of
the banquet hall where O-Tar of Manator dined with his chiefs,
and brushing past the guards entered the great room with the
insolence of a privileged character, as in truth he was. As he
approached the head of the long board O-Tar took notice of him.
"Well, hoary one!" he cried. "What brings you out of your beloved
and stinking burrow again this day. We thought that the sight of
the multitude of living men at the games would drive you back to
your corpses as quickly as you could go."
The cackling laugh of I-Gos acknowledged the royal sally. "Ey,
ey, O-Tar," squeaked the ancient one, "I-Gos goes out not upon
pleasure bound; but when one does ruthlessly desecrate the dead
of I-Gos, vengeance must be had!"
"You refer to the act of the slave Turan?" demanded O-Tar.
"Turan, yes, and the slave Tara, who slipped beneath my hide a
murderous blade. Another fraction of an inch, O-Tar, and I-Gos'
ancient and wrinkled covering were even now in some apprentice
tanner's hands, ey, ey!"
"But they have again eluded us," cried O-Tar. "Even in the palace
of the great jeddak twice have they escaped the stupid knaves I
call The Jeddak's Guard." O-Tar had risen and was angrily
emphasizing his words with heavy blows upon the table, dealt with
a golden goblet.
"Ey, O-Tar, they elude thy guard but not the wise old calot,
"What mean you? Speak!" commanded O-Tar.
"I know where they are hid," said the ancient taxidermist. "In
the dust of unused corridors their feet have betrayed them."
"You followed them? You have seen them?" demanded the jeddak.
"I followed them and I heard them speaking beyond a closed door,"
replied I-Gos; "but I did not see them."
"Where is that door?" cried O-Tar. "We will send at once and
fetch them," he looked about the table as though to decide to
whom he would entrust this duty. A dozen warrior chiefs arose and
laid their hands upon their swords.
"To the chambers of O-Mai the Cruel I traced them," squeaked
I-Gos. "There you will find them where the moaning Corphals
pursue the shrieking ghost of O-Mai; ey!" and he turned his eyes
from O-Tar toward the warriors who had arisen, only to discover
that, to a man, they were hurriedly resuming their seats.
The cackling laughter of I-Gos broke derisively the hush that had
fallen on the room. The warriors looked sheepishly at the food
upon their plates of gold. O-Tar snapped his fingers impatiently.
"Be there only cravens among the chiefs of Manator?" he cried.
"Repeatedly have these presumptuous slaves flouted the majesty of
your jeddak. Must I command one to go and fetch them?"
Slowly a chief arose and two others followed his example, though
with ill-concealed reluctance. "All, then, are not cowards,"
commented O-Tar. "The duty is distasteful. Therefore all three of
you shall go, taking as many warriors as you wish."
"But do not ask for volunteers," interrupted I-Gos, "or you will
The three chiefs turned and left the banquet hall, walking slowly
like doomed men to their fate.
Gahan and Tara remained in the chamber to which Tasor had led
them, the man brushing away the dust from a deep and comfortable
bench where they might rest in comparative comfort. He had found
the ancient sleeping silks and furs too far gone to be of any
service, crumbling to powder at a touch, thus removing any chance
of making a comfortable bed for the girl, and so the two sat
together, talking in low tones, of the adventures through which
they already had passed and speculating upon the future; planning
means of escape and hoping Tasor would not be long gone. They
spoke of many things--of Hastor, and Helium, and Ptarth, and
finally the conversation reminded Tara of Gathol.
"You have served there?" she asked.
"Yes," replied Turan.
"I met Gahan the Jed of Gathol at my father's palace," she said,
"the very day before the storm snatched me from Helium--he was a
presumptuous fellow, magnificently trapped in platinum and
diamonds. Never in my life saw I so gorgeous a harness as his,
and you must well know, Turan, that the splendor of all Barsoom
passes through the court at Helium; but in my mind I could not
see so resplendent a creature drawing that jeweled sword in
mortal combat. I fear me that the Jed of Gathol, though a pretty
picture of a man, is little else."
In the dim light Tara did not perceive the wry expression upon
the half-averted face of her companion.
"You thought little then of the Jed of Gathol?" he asked.
"Then or now," she replied, and with a little laugh; "how it
would pique his vanity to know, if he might, that a poor panthan
had won a higher place in the regard of Tara of Helium," and she
laid her fingers gently upon his knee.
He seized the fingers in his and carried them to his lips. "O,
Tara of Helium," he cried. "Think you that I am a man of stone?"
One arm slipped about her shoulders and drew the yielding body
"May my first ancestor forgive me my weakness," she cried, as her
arms stole about his neck and she raised her panting lips to his.
For long they clung there in love's first kiss and then she
pushed him away, gently. "I love you, Turan," she half sobbed; "I
love you so! It is my only poor excuse for having done this wrong
to Djor Kantos, whom now I know I never loved, who knew not the
meaning of love. And if you love me as you say, Turan, your love
must protect me from greater dishonor, for I am but as clay in
Again he crushed her to him and then as suddenly released her,
and rising, strode rapidly to and fro across the chamber as
though he endeavored by violent exercise to master and subdue
some evil spirit that had laid hold upon him. Ringing through his
brain and heart and soul like some joyous paean were those words
that had so altered the world for Gahan of Gathol: "I love you,
Turan; I love you so!" And it had come so suddenly. He had
thought that she felt for him only gratitude for his loyalty and
then, in an instant, her barriers were all down, she was no
longer a princess; but instead a--his reflections were
interrupted by a sound from beyond the closed door. His sandals
of zitidar hide had given forth no sound upon the marble floor he
strode, and as his rapid pacing carried him past the entrance to
the chamber there came faintly from the distance of the long
corridor the sound of metal on metal--the unmistakable herald of
the approach of armed men.
For a moment Gahan listened intently, close to the door, until
there could be no doubt but that a party of warriors was
approaching. From what Tasor had told him he guessed correctly
that they would be coming to this portion of the palace but for a
single purpose--to search for Tara and himself--and it behooved
him therefore to seek immediate means for eluding them. The
chamber in which they were had other doorways beside that at
which they had entered, and to one of these he must look for some
safer hiding place. Crossing to Tara he acquainted her with his
suspicion, leading her to one of the doors which they found
unsecured. Beyond it lay a dimly-lighted chamber at the threshold
of which they halted in consternation, drawing back quickly into
the chamber they had just quitted, for their first glance
revealed four warriors seated around a jetan board.
That their entrance had not been noted was attributed by Gahan to
the absorption of the two players and their friends in the game.
Quietly closing the door the fugitives moved silently to the
next, which they found locked. There was now but another door
which they had not tried, and this they approached quickly as
they knew that the searching party must be close to the chamber.
To their chagrin they found this avenue of escape barred.
Now indeed were they in a sorry plight, for should the searchers
have information leading them to this room they were lost. Again
leading Tara to the door behind which were the jetan players
Gahan drew his sword and waited, listening. The sound of the
party in the corridor came distinctly to their ears--they must be
quite close, and doubtless they were coming in force. Beyond the
door were but four warriors who might be readily surprised. There
could, then, be but one choice and acting upon it Gahan quietly
opened the door again, stepped through into the adjoining
chamber, Tara's hand in his, and closed the door behind them. The
four at the jetan board evidently failed to hear them. One player
had either just made or was contemplating a move, for his fingers
grasped a piece that still rested upon the board. The other three
were watching his move. For an instant Gahan looked at them,
playing jetan there in the dim light of this forgotten and
forbidden chamber, and then a slow smile of understanding lighted
"Come!" he said to Tara. "We have nothing to fear from these. For
more than five thousand years they have sat thus, a monument to
the handiwork of some ancient taxidermist."
As they approached more closely they saw that the lifelike
figures were coated with dust, but that otherwise the skin was in
as fine a state of preservation as the most recent of I-Gos'
groups, and then they heard the door of the chamber they had
quitted open and knew that the searchers were close upon them.
Across the room they saw the opening of what appeared to be a
corridor and which investigation proved to be a short passageway,
terminating in a chamber in the center of which was an ornate
sleeping dais. This room, like the others, was but poorly
lighted, time having dimmed the radiance of its bulbs and coated
them with dust. A glance showed that it was hung with heavy goods
and contained considerable massive furniture in addition to the
sleeping platform, a second glance at which revealed what
appeared to be the form of a man lying partially on the floor and
partially on the dais. No doorways were visible other than that
at which they had entered, though both knew that others might be
concealed by the hangings.
Gahan, his curiosity aroused by the legends surrounding this
portion of the palace, crossed to the dais to examine the figure
that apparently had fallen from it, to find the dried and
shrivelled corpse of a man lying upon his back on the floor with
arms outstretched and fingers stiffly outspread. One of his feet
was doubled partially beneath him, while the other was still
entangled in the sleeping silks and furs upon the dais. After
five thousand years the expression of the withered face and the
eyeless sockets retained the aspect of horrid fear to such an
extent, that Gahan knew that he was looking upon the body of
O-Mai the Cruel.
Suddenly Tara, who stood close beside him, clutched his arm and
pointed toward a far corner of the room. Gahan looked and looking
felt the hairs upon his neck rising. He threw his left arm about
the girl and with bared sword stood between her and the hangings
that they watched, and then slowly Gahan of Gathol backed away,
for in this grim and somber chamber, which no human foot had trod
for five thousand years and to which no breath of wind might
enter, the heavy hangings in the far corner had moved. Not gently
had they moved as a draught might have moved them had there been
a draught, but suddenly they had bulged out as though pushed
against from behind. To the opposite corner backed Gahan until
they stood with their backs against the hangings there, and then
hearing the approach of their pursuers across the chamber beyond
Gahan pushed Tara through the hangings and, following her, kept
open with his left hand, which he had disengaged from the girl's
grasp, a tiny opening through which he could view the apartment
and the doorway upon the opposite side through which the pursuers
would enter, if they came this far.
Behind the hangings there was a space of about three feet in
width between them and the wall, making a passageway entirely
around the room, broken only by the single entrance opposite
them; this being a common arrangement especially in the sleeping
apartments of the rich and powerful upon Barsoom. The purposes of
this arrangement were several. The passageway afforded a station
for guards in the same room with their master without intruding
entirely upon his privacy; it concealed secret exits from the
chamber; it permitted the occupant of the room to hide
eavesdroppers and assassins for use against enemies that he might
lure to his chamber.
The three chiefs with a dozen warriors had had no difficulty in
following the tracks of the fugitives through the dust of the
corridors and chambers they had traversed. To enter this portion
of the palace at all had required all the courage they possessed,
and now that they were within the very chambers of O-Mai their
nerves were pitched to the highest key--another turn and they
would snap; for the people of Manator are filled with weird
superstitions. As they entered the outer chamber they moved
slowly, with drawn swords, no one seeming anxious to take the
lead, and the twelve warriors hanging back in unconcealed and
shameless terror, while the three chiefs, spurred on by fear of
O-Tar and by pride, pressed together for mutual encouragement as
they slowly crossed the dimly-lighted room.
Following the tracks of Gahan and Tara they found that though
each doorway had been approached only one threshold had been
crossed and this door they gingerly opened, revealing to their
astonished gaze the four warriors at the jetan table. For a
moment they were on the verge of flight, for though they knew
what they were, coming as they did upon them in this mysterious
and haunted suite, they were as startled as though they had
beheld the very ghosts of the departed. But they presently
regained their courage sufficiently to cross this chamber too and
enter the short passageway that led to the ancient sleeping
apartment of O-Mai the Cruel. They did not know that this awful
chamber lay just before them, or it were doubtful that they would
have proceeded farther; but they saw that those they sought had
come this way and so they followed, but within the gloomy
interior of the chamber they halted, the three chiefs urging
their followers, in low whispers, to close in behind them, and
there just within the entrance they stood until, their eyes
becoming accustomed to the dim light, one of them pointed
suddenly to the thing lying upon the floor with one foot tangled
in the coverings of the dais.
"Look!" he gasped. "It is the corpse of O-Mai! Ancestor of
ancestors! we are in the forbidden chamber." Simultaneously there
came from behind the hangings beyond the grewsome dead a hollow
moan followed by a piercing scream, and the hangings shook and
bellied before their eyes.
With one accord, chieftains and warriors, they turned and bolted
for the doorway; a narrow doorway, where they jammed, fighting
and screaming in an effort to escape. They threw away their
swords and clawed at one another to make a passage for escape;
those behind climbed upon the shoulders of those in front; and
some fell and were trampled upon; but at last they all got
through, and, the swiftest first, they bolted across the two
intervening chambers to the outer corridor beyond, nor did they
halt their mad retreat before they stumbled, weak and trembling,
into the banquet hall of O-Tar. At sight of them the warriors who
had remained with the jeddak leaped to their feet with drawn
swords, thinking that their fellows were pursued by many enemies;
but no one followed them into the room, and the three chieftains
came and stood before O-Tar with bowed heads and trembling knees.
"Well?" demanded the jeddak. "What ails you? Speak!"
"O-Tar," cried one of them when at last he could master his
voice. "When have we three failed you in battle or combat? Have
our swords been not always among the foremost in defense of your
safety and your honor?"
"Have I denied this?" demanded O-Tar.
"Listen, then, O Jeddak, and judge us with leniency. We followed
the two slaves to the apartments of O-Mai the Cruel. We entered
the accursed chambers and still we did not falter. We came at
last to that horrid chamber no human eye had scanned before in
fifty centuries and we looked upon the dead face of O-Mai lying
as he has lain for all this time. To the very death chamber of
O-Mai the Cruel we came and yet we were ready to go farther; when
suddenly there broke upon our horrified ears the moans and the
shrieking that mark these haunted chambers and the hangings moved
and rustled in the dead air. O-Tar, it was more than human nerves
could endure. We turned and fled. We threw away our swords and
fought with one another to escape. With sorrow, but without
shame, I tell it, for there be no man in all Manator that would
not have done the same. If these slaves be Corphals they are safe
among their fellow ghosts. If they be not Corphals, then already
are they dead in the chambers of O-Mai, and there may they rot
for all of me, for I would not return to that accursed spot for
the harness of a jeddak and the half of Barsoom for an empire. I
O-Tar knitted his scowling brows. "Are all my chieftains cowards
and cravens?" he demanded presently in sneering tones.
From among those who had not been of the searching party a
chieftain arose and turned a scowling face upon O-Tar.
"The jeddak knows,'' he said, "that in the annals of Manator her
jeddaks have ever been accounted the bravest of her warriors.
Where my jeddak leads I will follow, nor may any jeddak call me a
coward or a craven unless I refuse to go where he dares to go. I
After he had resumed his seat there was a painful silence, for
all knew that the speaker had challenged the courage of O-Tar the
Jeddak of Manator and all awaited the reply of their ruler. In
every mind was the same thought--O-Tar must lead them at once to
the chamber of O-Mai the Cruel, or accept forever the stigma of
cowardice, and there could be no coward upon the throne of
Manator. That they all knew and that O-Tar knew, as well.
But O-Tar hesitated. He looked about upon the faces of those
around him at the banquet board; but he saw only the grim visages
of relentless warriors. There was no trace of leniency in the
face of any. And then his eyes wandered to a small entrance at
one side of the great chamber. An expression of relief expunged
the scowl of anxiety from his features.
"Look!" he exclaimed. "See who has come!"
CHAPTER XX. THE CHARGE OF COWARDICE
GAHAN, watching through the aperture between the hangings, saw
the frantic flight of their pursuers. A grim smile rested upon
his lips as he viewed the mad scramble for safety and saw them
throw away their swords and fight with one another to be first
from the chamber of fear, and when they were all gone he turned
back toward Tara, the smile still upon his lips; but the smile
died the instant that he turned, for he saw that Tara had
"Tara!" he called in a loud voice, for he knew that there was no
danger that their pursuers would return; but there was no
response, unless it was a faint sound as of cackling laughter
from afar. Hurriedly he searched the passageway behind the
hangings finding several doors, one of which was ajar. Through
this he entered the adjoining chamber which was lighted more
brilliantly for the moment by the soft rays of hurtling Thuria
taking her mad way through the heavens. Here he found the dust
upon the floor disturbed, and the imprint of sandals. They had
come this way--Tara and whatever the creature was that had stolen
But what could it have been? Gahan, a man of culture and high
intelligence, held few if any superstitions. In common with
nearly all races of Barsoom he clung, more or less inherently, to
a certain exalted form of ancestor worship, though it was rather
the memory or legends of the virtues and heroic deeds of his
forebears that he deified rather than themselves. He never
expected any tangible evidence of their existence after death; he
did not believe that they had the power either for good or for
evil other than the effect that their example while living might
have had upon following generations; he did not believe therefore
in the materialization of dead spirits. If there was a life
hereafter he knew nothing of it, for he knew that science had
demonstrated the existence of some material cause for every
seemingly supernatural phenomenon of ancient religions and
superstitions. Yet he was at a loss to know what power might have
removed Tara so suddenly and mysteriously from his side in a
chamber that had not known the presence of man for five thousand
In the darkness he could not see whether there were the imprints
of other sandals than Tara's--only that the dust was
disturbed--and when it led him into gloomy corridors he lost the
trail altogether. A perfect labyrinth of passages and apartments
were now revealed to him as he hurried on through the deserted
quarters of O-Mai. Here was an ancient bath--doubtless that of
the jeddak himself, and again he passed through a room in which a
meal had been laid upon a table five thousand years before--the
untasted breakfast of O-Mai, perhaps. There passed before his
eyes in the brief moments that he traversed the chambers, a
wealth of ornaments and jewels and precious metals that surprised
even the Jed of Gathol whose harness was of diamonds and platinum
and whose riches were the envy of a world. But at last his search
of O-Mai's chambers ended in a small closet in the floor of which
was the opening to a spiral runway leading straight down into
Stygian darkness. The dust at the entrance of the closet had been
freshly disturbed, and as this was the only possible indication
that Gahan had of the direction taken by the abductor of Tara it
seemed as well to follow on as to search elsewhere. So, without
hesitation, he descended into the utter darkness below. Feeling
with a foot before taking a forward step his descent was
necessarily slow, but Gahan was a Barsoomian and so knew the
pitfalls that might await the unwary in such dark, forbidden
portions of a jeddak's palace.
He had descended for what he judged might be three full levels
and was pausing, as he occasionally did, to listen, when he
distinctly heard a peculiar shuffling, scraping sound approaching
him from below. Whatever the thing was it was ascending the
runway at a steady pace and would soon be near him. Gahan laid
his hand upon the hilt of his sword and drew it slowly from its
scabbard that he might make no noise that would apprise the
creature of his presence. He wished that there might be even the
slightest lessening of the darkness. If he could see but the
outline of the thing that approached him he would feel that he
had a fairer chance in the meeting; but he could see nothing, and
then because he could see nothing the end of his scabbard struck
the stone side of the runway, giving off a sound that the
stillness and the narrow confines of the passage and the darkness
seemed to magnify to a terrific clatter.
Instantly the shuffling sound of approach ceased. For a moment
Gahan stood in silent waiting, then casting aside discretion he
moved on again down the spiral. The thing, whatever it might be,
gave forth no sound now by which Gahan might locate it. At any
moment it might be upon him and so he kept his sword in
readiness. Down, ever downward the steep spiral led. The darkness
and the silence of the tomb surrounded him, yet somewhere ahead
was something. He was not alone in that horrid place--another
presence that he could not hear or see hovered before him--of
that he was positive. Perhaps it was the thing that had stolen
Tara. Perhaps Tara herself, still in the clutches of some
nameless horror, was just ahead of him. He quickened his pace--it
became almost a run at the thought of the danger that threatened
the woman he loved, and then he collided with a wooden door that
swung open to the impact. Before him was a lighted corridor. On
either side were chambers. He had advanced but a short distance
from the bottom of the spiral when he recognized that he was in
the pits below the palace. A moment later he heard behind him the
shuffling sound that had attracted his attention in the spiral
runway. Wheeling about he saw the author of the sound emerging
from a doorway he had just passed. It was Ghek the kaldane.
"Ghek!" exclaimed Gahan. "It was you in the runway? Have you seen
Tara of Helium?"
"It was I in the spiral," replied the kaldane; "but I have not
seen Tara of Helium. I have been searching for her. Where is
"I do not know," replied the Gatholian; "but we must find her and
take her from this place."
"We may find her," said Ghek; "but I doubt our ability to take
her away. It is not so easy to leave Manator as it is to enter
it. I may come and go at will, through the ancient burrows of the
ulsios; but you are too large for that and your lungs need more
air than may be found in some of the deeper runways."
"But U-Thor!" exclaimed Gahan. "Have you heard aught of him or
"I have heard much," replied Ghek. "He camps at The Gate of
Enemies. That spot he holds and his warriors lie just beyond The
Gate; but he has not sufficient force to enter the city and take
the palace. An hour since and you might have made your way to
him; but now every avenue is strongly guarded since O-Tar learned
that A-Kor had escaped to U-Thor."
"A-Kor has escaped and joined U-Thor!" exclaimed Gahan.
"But little more than an hour since. I was with him when a
warrior came--a man whose name is Tasor--who brought a message
from you. It was decided that Tasor should accompany A-Kor in an
attempt to reach the camp of U-Thor, the great jed of Manatos,
and exact from him the assurances you required. Then U-Thor was
to return and take food to you and the Princess of Helium. I
accompanied them. We won through easily and found U-Thor more
than willing to respect your every wish, but when Tasor would
have returned to you the way was blocked by the warriors of
O-Tar. Then it was that I volunteered to come to you and report
and find food and drink and then go forth among the Gatholian
slaves of Manator and prepare them for their part in the plan
that U-Thor and Tasor conceived."
"And what was this plan?"
"U-Thor has sent for reinforcements. To Manatos he has sent and
to all the outlying districts that are his. It will take
a month to collect and bring them hither and in the meantime the
slaves within the city are to organize secretly, stealing and
hiding arms against the day that the reinforcements arrive. When
that day comes the forces of U-Thor will enter the Gate of
Enemies and as the warriors of O-Tar rush to repulse them the
slaves from Gathol will fall upon them from the rear with the
majority of their numbers, while the balance will assault the
palace. They hope thus to divert so many from The Gate that
U-Thor will have little difficulty in forcing an entrance to the
"Perhaps they will succeed," commented Gahan; "but the warriors
of O-Tar are many, and those who fight in defense of their homes
and their jeddak have always an advantage. Ah, Ghek, would that
we had the great warships of Gathol or of Helium to pour their
merciless fire into the streets of Manator while U-Thor marched
to the palace over the corpses of the slain." He paused, deep in
thought, and then turned his gaze again upon the kaldane. "Heard
you aught of the party that escaped with me from The Field of
Jetan--of Floran, Val Dor, and the others? What of them?"
"Ten of these won through to U-Thor at The Gate of Enemies and
were well received by him. Eight fell in the fighting upon the
way. Val Dor and Floran live, I believe, for I am sure that I
heard U-Thor address two warriors by these names."
"Good!" exclaimed Gahan. "Go then, through the burrows of the
ulsios, to The Gate of Enemies and carry to Floran the message
that I shall write in his own language. Come, while I write the
In a nearby room they found a bench and table and there Gahan sat
and wrote in the strange, stenographic characters of Martian
script a message to Floran of Gathol. "Why," he asked, when he
had finished it, "did you search for Tara through the spiral
runway where we nearly met?"
"Tasor told me where you were to be found, and as I have explored
the greater part of the palace by means of the ulsio runways and
the darker and less frequented passages I knew precisely where
you were and how to reach you. This secret spiral ascends from
the pits to the roof of the loftiest of the palace towers. It has
secret openings at every level; but there is no living
Manatorian, I believe, who knows of its existence. At least never
have I met one within it and I have used it many times. Thrice
have I been in the chamber where O-Mai lies, though I knew
nothing of his identity or the story of his death until Tasor
told it to us in the camp of U-Thor."
"You know the palace thoroughly then?" Gahan interrupted.
"Better than O-Tar himself or any of his servants."
"Good! And you would serve the Princess Tara, Ghek, you may serve
her best by accompanying Floran and following his instructions. I
will write them here at the close of my message to him, for the
walls have ears, Ghek, while none but a Gatholian may read what I
have written to Floran. He will transmit it to you. Can I trust
"I may never return to Bantoom," replied Ghek. "Therefore I have
but two friends in all Barsoom. What better may I do than serve
them faithfully? You may trust me, Gatholian, who with a woman of
your kind has taught me that there be finer and nobler things
than perfect mentality uninfluenced by the unreasoning tuitions
of the heart. I go."
As O-Tar pointed to the little doorway all eyes turned in the
direction he indicated and surprise was writ large upon the faces
of the warriors when they recognized the two who had entered the
banquet hall. There was I-Gos, and he dragged behind him one who
was gagged and whose hands were fastened behind with a ribbon of
tough silk. It was the slave girl. I-Gos' cackling laughter rose
above the silence of the room.
"Ey, ey!" he shrilled. "What the young warriors of O-Tar cannot
do, old I-Gos does alone."
"Only a Corphal may capture a Corphal," growled one of the chiefs
who had fled from the chambers of O-Mai.
I-Gos laughed. "Terror turned your heart to water," he replied;
"and shame your tongue to libel. This be no Corphal, but only a
woman of Helium; her companion a warrior who can match blades
with the best of you and cut your putrid hearts. Not so in the
days of I-Gos' youth. Ah, then were there men in Manator. Well do
I recall that day that I --"
"Peace, doddering fool!" commanded O-Tar. "Where is the man?"
"Where I found the woman--in the death chamber of O-Mai. Let your
wise and brave chieftains go thither and fetch him. I am an old
man, and could bring but one."
"You have done well, I-Gos," O-Tar hastened to assure him, for
when he learned that Gahan might still be in the haunted chambers
he wished to appease the wrath of I-Gos, knowing well the
vitriolic tongue and temper of the ancient one. "You think she is
no Corphal, then, I-Gos?" he asked, wishing to carry the subject
from the man who was still at large.
"No more than you," replied the ancient taxidermist.
O-Tar looked long and searchingly at Tara of Helium. All the
beauty that was hers seemed suddenly to be carried to every fibre
of his consciousness. She was still garbed in the rich harness of
a Black Princess of Jetan, and as O-Tar the Jeddak gazed upon her
he realized that never before had his eyes rested upon a more
perfect figure--a more beautiful face.
"She is no Corphal," he murmured to himself. "She is no Corphal
and she is a princess--a princess of Helium, and, by the golden
hair of the Holy Hekkador, she is beautiful. Take the gag from
her mouth and release her hands," he commanded aloud. "Make room
for the Princess Tara of Helium at the side of O-Tar of Manator.
She shall dine as becomes a princess."
Slaves did as O-Tar bid and Tara of Helium stood with flashing
eyes behind the chair that was offered her. "Sit!" commanded
The girl sank into the chair. "I sit as a prisoner," she said;
"not as a guest at the board of my enemy, O-Tar of Manator."
O-Tar motioned his followers from the room. "I would speak alone
with the Princess of Helium," he said. The company and the slaves
withdrew and once more the Jeddak of Manator turned toward the
girl. "O-Tar of Manator would be your friend," he said.
Tara of Helium sat with arms folded upon her small, firm breasts,
her eyes flashing from behind narrowed lids, nor did she deign to
answer his overture. O-Tar leaned closer to her. He noted the
hostility of her bearing and he recalled his first encounter with
her. She was a she-banth, but she was beautiful. She was by far
the most desirable woman that O-Tar had ever looked upon and he
was determined to possess her. He told her so.
"I could take you as my slave," he said to her; "but it pleases
me to make you my wife. You shall be Jeddara of Manator. You
shall have seven days in which to prepare for the great honor
that O-Tar is conferring upon you, and at this hour of the
seventh day you shall become an empress and the wife of O-Tar in
the throne room of the jeddaks of Manator." He struck a gong that
stood beside him upon the table and when a slave appeared he bade
him recall the company. Slowly the chiefs filed in and took their
places at the table. Their faces were grim and scowling, for
there was still unanswered the question of their jeddak's
courage. If O-Tar had hoped they would forget he had been
mistaken in his men.
O-Tar arose. "In seven days," he announced, "there will be a
great feast in honor of the new Jeddara of Manator," and he waved
his hand toward Tara of Helium. "The ceremony will occur at the
beginning of the seventh zode* in the throne room. In the
meantime the Princess of Helium will be cared for in the tower of
the women's quarters of the palace. Conduct her thither, E-Thas,
with a suitable guard of honor and see to it that slaves and
eunuchs be placed at her disposal, who shall attend upon all her
wants and guard her carefully from harm."
* About 8:30 P. M. Earth Time.
Now E-Thas knew that the real meaning concealed in these fine
words was that he should conduct the prisoner under a strong
guard to the women's quarters and confine her there in the tower
for seven days, placing about her trustworthy guards who would
prevent her escape or frustrate any attempted rescue.
As Tara was departing from the chamber with E-Thas and the guard,
O-Tar leaned close to her ear and whispered: "Consider well
during these seven days the high honor I have offered you,
and--its sole alternative." As though she had not heard him the
girl passed out of the banquet hall, her head high and her eyes
straight to the front.
After Ghek had left him Gahan roamed the pits and the ancient
corridors of the deserted portions of the palace seeking some
clue to the whereabouts or the fate of Tara of Helium. He
utilized the spiral runway in passing from level to level until
he knew every foot of it from the pits to the summit of the high
tower, and into what apartments it opened at the various levels
as well as the ingenious and hidden mechanism that operated the
locks of the cleverly concealed doors leading to it. For food he
drew upon the stores he found in the pits and when he slept he
lay upon the royal couch of O-Mai in the forbidden chamber
sharing the dais with the dead foot of the ancient jeddak.
In the palace about him seethed, all unknown to Gahan, a vast
unrest. Warriors and chieftains pursued the duties of their
vocations with dour faces, and little knots of them were
collecting here and there and with frowns of anger discussing
some subject that was uppermost in the minds of all. It was upon
the fourth day following Tara's incarceration in the tower that
E-Thas, the major-domo of the palace and one of O-Tar's
creatures, came to his master upon some trivial errand. O-Tar was
alone in one of the smaller chambers of his personal suite when
the major-domo was announced, and after the matter upon which
E-Thas had come was disposed of the jeddak signed him to remain.
"From the position of an obscure warrior I have elevated you,
E-Thas, to the honors of a chief. Within the confines of the
palace your word is second only to mine. You are not loved for
this, E-Thas, and should another jeddak ascend the throne of
Manator what would become of you, whose enemies are among the
most powerful of Manator?"
"Speak not of it, O-Tar," begged E-Thas. "These last few days I
have thought upon it much and I would forget it; but I have
sought to appease the wrath of. my worst enemies. I have been
very kind and indulgent with them."
"You, too, read the voiceless message in the air?" demanded the
E-Thas was palpably uneasy and he did not reply.
"Why did you not come to me with your apprehensions?" demanded
O-Tar. "Be this loyalty?"
"I feared, O mighty jeddak!" replied E-Thas. "I feared that you
would not understand and that you would be angry."
"What know you? Speak the whole truth!" commanded O-Tar.
"There is much unrest among the chieftains and the warriors,"
replied E-Thas. "Even those who were your friends fear the power
of those who speak against you."
"What say they?" growled the jeddak.
"They say that you are afraid to enter the apartments of O-Mai in
search of the slave Turan--oh, do not be angry with me, Jeddak;
it is but what they say that I repeat. I, your loyal E-Thas,
believe no such foul slander."
"No, no; why should I fear?" demanded O-Tar. "We do not know that
he is there. Did not my chiefs go thither and see nothing of
"But they say that you did not go," pursued E-Thas, "and that
they will have none of a coward upon the throne of Manator."
"They said that treason?" O-Tar almost shouted.
"They said that and more, great jeddak," answered the major-domo.
"They said that not only did you fear to enter the chambers of
O-Mai, but that you feared the slave Turan, and they blame you
for your treatment of A-Kor, whom they all believe to have been
murdered at your command. They were fond of A-Kor and there are
many now who say aloud that A-Kor would have made a wondrous
"They dare?" screamed O-Tar. "They dare suggest the name of a
slave's bastard for the throne of O-Tar!"
"He is your son, O-Tar," E-Thas reminded him, "nor is there a
more beloved man in Manator--I but speak to you of facts which
may not be ignored, and I dare do so because only when you
realize the truth may you seek a cure for the ills that draw
about your throne."
O-Tar had slumped down upon his bench--suddenly he looked
shrunken and tired and old. "Cursed be the day," he cried, "that
saw those three strangers enter the city of Manator. Would that
U-Dor had been spared to me. He was strong--my enemies feared
him; but he is gone--dead at the hands of that hateful slave,
Turan; may the curse of Issus be upon him!"
"My jeddak, what shall we do?" begged E-Thas. "Cursing the slave
will not solve your problems."
"But the great feast and the marriage is but three days off,"
plead O-Tar. "It shall be a great gala occasion. The warriors and
the chiefs all know that--it is the custom. Upon that day gifts
and honors shall be bestowed. Tell me, who are most bitter
against me? I will send you among them and let it be known that I
am planning rewards for their past services to the throne. We
will make jeds of chiefs and chiefs of warriors, and grant them
palaces and slaves. Eh, E-Thas?"
The other shook his head. "It will not do, O-Tar. They will have
nothing of your gifts or honors. I have heard them say as much."
"What do they want?" demanded O-Tar.
"They want a jeddak as brave as the bravest," replied E-Thas,
though his knees shook as he said it.
"They think I am a coward?" cried the jeddak.
"They say you are afraid to go to the apartments of O-mai the
For a long time O-Tar sat, his head sunk upon his breast, staring
blankly at the floor.
"Tell them," he said at last in a hollow voice that sounded not
at all like the voice of a great jeddak; "tell them that I will
go to the chambers of O-Mai and search for Turan the slave."
CHAPTER XXI. A RISK FOR LOVE
"EY, ey, he is a craven and he called me 'doddering fool'!" The
speaker was I-Gos and he addressed a knot of chieftains in one of
the chambers of the palace of O-Tar, Jeddak of Manator: "If A-Kor
was alive there were a jeddak for us!"
"Who says that A-Kor is dead?" demanded one of the chiefs.
"Where is he then?" asked I-Gos. "Have not others disappeared
whom O-Tar thought too well beloved for men so near the throne as
The chief shook his head. "And I thought that, or knew it,
rather; I'd join U-Thor at The Gate of Enemies."
"S-s-st," cautioned one; "here comes the licker of feet," and all
eyes were turned upon the approaching E-Thas.
"Kaor, friends!" he exclaimed as he stopped among them, but his
friendly greeting elicited naught but a few surly nods. "Have you
heard the news?" he continued, unabashed by treatment to which he
was becoming accustomed.
"What--has O-Tar seen an ulsio and fainted?" demanded I-Gos with
"Men have died for less than that, ancient one," E-Thas reminded
"I am safe," retorted I-Gos, "for I am not a brave and popular
son of the jeddak of Manator."
This was indeed open treason, but E-Thas feigned not to hear it.
He ignored I-Gos and turned to the others. "O-Tar goes to the
chamber of O-Mai this night in search of Turan the slave," he
said. "He sorrows that his warriors have not the courage for so
mean a duty and that their jeddak is thus compelled to arrest a
common slave," with which taunt E-Thas passed on to spread the
word in other parts of the palace. As a matter of fact the latter
part of his message was purely original with himself, and he took
great delight in delivering it to the discomfiture of his
enemies. As he was leaving the little group of men I-Gos called
after him. "At what hour does O-Tar intend visiting the chambers
of O-Mai?" he asked.
"Toward the end of the eighth zode*," replied the major-domo, and
went his way.
* About 1:00 A. M. Earth Time.
"We shall see," stated I-Gos.
"What shall we see?" asked a warrior.
"We shall see whether O-Tar visits the chamber of O-Mai."
"I shall be there myself and if I see him I will know that he has
been there. If I don't see him I will know that he has not,"
explained the old taxidermist.
"Is there anything there to fill an honest man with fear?" asked
a chieftain. "What have you seen?"
"It was not so much what I saw, though that was bad enough, as
what I heard," said I-Gos.
"Tell us! What heard and saw you?"
"I saw the dead O-Mai," said I-Gos. The others shuddered.
"And you went not mad?" they asked.
"Am I mad?" retorted I-Gos.
"And you will go again?"
"Then indeed you are mad," cried one.
"You saw the dead O-Mai; but what heard you that was worse?"
"I saw the dead O-Mai lying upon the floor of his sleeping
chamber with one foot tangled in the sleeping silks and furs upon
his couch. I heard horrid moans and frightful screams."
"And you are not afraid to go there again?" demanded several.
"The dead cannot harm me," said I-Gos. "He has lain thus for five
thousand years. Nor can a sound harm me. I heard it once and
live--I can hear it again. It came from almost at my side where I
hid behind the hangings and watched the slave Turan before I
snatched the woman away from him."
"I-Gos, you are a very brave man," said a chieftain.
"O-Tar called me 'doddering fool' and I would face worse dangers
than lie in the forbidden chambers of O-Mai to know it if he does
not visit the chamber of O-Mai. Then indeed shall O-Tar fall!"
The night came and the zodes dragged and the time approached when
O-Tar, Jeddak of Manator, was to visit the chamber of O-Mai in
search of the slave Turan. To us, who may doubt the existence of
malignant spirits, his fear may seem unbelievable, for he was a
strong man, an excellent swordsman, and a warrior of great
repute; but the fact remained that O-Tar of Manator was nervous
with apprehension as he strode the corridors of his palace toward
the deserted halls of O-Mai and when he stood at last with his
hand upon the door that opened from the dusty corridor to the
very apartments themselves he was almost paralyzed with terror.
He had come alone for two very excellent reasons, the first of
which was that thus none might note his terror-stricken state nor
his defection should he fail at the last moment, and the other
was that should he accomplish the thing alone or be able to make
his chiefs believe that he had, the credit would be far greater
than were he to be accompanied by warriors.
But though he had started alone he had become aware that he was
being followed, and he knew that it was because his people had no
faith in either his courage or his veracity. He did not believe
that he would find the slave Turan. He did not very much want to
find him, for though O-Tar was an excellent swordsman and a brave
warrior in physical combat, he had seen how Turan had played with
U-Dor and he had no stomach for a passage at arms with one whom
he knew outclassed him.
And so O-Tar stood with his hand upon the door--afraid to enter;
afraid not to. But at last his fear of his own warriors, watching
behind him, grew greater than the fear of the unknown behind the
ancient door and he pushed the heavy skeel aside and entered.
Silence and gloom and the dust of centuries lay heavy upon the
chamber. From his warriors he knew the route that he must take to
the horrid chamber of O-Mai and so he forced his unwilling feet
across the room before him, across the room where the jetan
players sat at their eternal game, and came to the short corridor
that led into the room of O-Mai. His naked sword trembled in his
grasp. He paused after each forward step to listen and when he
was almost at the door of the ghost-haunted chamber, his heart
stood still within his breast and the cold sweat broke from the
clammy skin of his forehead, for from within there came to his
affrighted ears the sound of muffled breathing. Then it was that
O-Tar of Manator came near to fleeing from the nameless horror
that he could not see, but that he knew lay waiting for him in
that chamber just ahead. But again came the fear of the wrath and
contempt of his warriors and his chiefs. They would degrade him
and they would slay him into the bargain. There was no doubt of
what his fate would be should he flee the apartments of O-Mai in
terror. His only hope, therefore, lay in daring the unknown in
preference to the known.
He moved forward. A few steps took him to the doorway. The
chamber before him was darker than the corridor, so that he could
just indistinctly make out the objects in the room. He saw a
sleeping dais near the center, with a darker blotch of something
lying on the marble floor beside it. He moved a step farther into
the doorway and the scabbard of his sword scraped against the
stone frame. To his horror he saw the sleeping silks and furs
upon the central dais move. He saw a figure slowly arising to a
sitting posture from the death bed of O-Mai the Cruel. His knees
shook, but he gathered all his moral forces, and gripping his
sword more tightly in his trembling fingers prepared to leap
across the chamber upon the horrid apparition. He hesitated just
a moment. He felt eyes upon him--ghoulish eyes that bored through
the darkness into his withering heart--eyes that he could not
see. He gathered himself for the rush--and then there broke from
the thing upon the couch an awful shriek, and O-Tar sank
senseless to the floor.
Gahan rose from the couch of O-Mai, smiling, only to swing
quickly about with drawn sword as the shadow of a noise impinged
upon his keen ears from the shadows behind him. Between the
parted hangings he saw a bent and wrinkled figure. It was I-Gos.
"Sheathe your sword, Turan," said the old man. "You have naught
to fear from I-Gos."
"What do you here?" demanded Gahan.
"I came to make sure that the great coward did not cheat us. Ey,
and he called me 'doddering fool;' but look at him now! Stricken
insensible by terror, but, ey, one might forgive him that who had
heard your uncanny scream. It all but blasted my own courage. And
it was you, then, who moaned and screamed when the chiefs came
the day that I stole Tara from you?"
"It was you, then, old scoundrel?" demanded Gahan, moving
threateningly toward I-Gos.
"Come, come!" expostulated the old man; "it was I, but then I was
your enemy. I would not do it now. Conditions have changed."
"How have they changed? What has changed them?" asked Gahan.
"Then I did not fully realize the cowardice of my jeddak, or the
bravery of you and the girl. I am an old man from another age and
I love courage. At first I resented the girl's attack upon me,
but later I came to see the bravery of it and it won my
admiration, as have all her acts. She feared not O-tar, she
feared not me, she feared not all the warriors of Manator. And
you! Blood of a million sires! how you fight! I am sorry that I
exposed you at The Fields of Jetan. I am sorry that I dragged the
girl Tara back to O-Tar. I would make amends. I would be your
friend. Here is my sword at your feet," and drawing his weapon
I-Gos cast it to the floor in front of Gahan.
The Gatholian knew that scarce the most abandoned of knaves would
repudiate this solemn pledge, and so he stooped, and picking up
the old man's sword returned it to him, hilt first, in acceptance
of his friendship.
"Where is the Princess Tara of Helium?" asked Gahan. "Is she
"She is confined in the tower of the women's quarters awaiting
the ceremony that is to make her Jeddara of Manator," replied
"This thing dared think that Tara of Helium would mate with him?"
growled Gahan. "I will make short work of him if he is not
already dead from fright," and he stepped toward the fallen O-Tar
to run his sword through the jeddak's heart.
"No!" cried I-Gos. "Slay him not and pray that he be not dead if
you would save your princess."
"How is that?" asked Gahan.
"If word of O-Tar's death reached the quarters of the women the
Princess Tara would be lost. They know O-Tar's intention of
taking her to wife and making her Jeddara of Manator, so you may
rest assured that they all hate her with the hate of jealous
women. Only O-Tar's power protects her now from harm. Should
O-Tar die they would turn her over to the warriors and the male
slaves, for there would be none to avenge her."
Gahan sheathed his sword. "Your point is well taken; but what
shall we do with him?"
"Leave him where he lies," counseled I-Gos. "He is not dead. When
he revives he will return to his quarters with a fine tale of his
bravery and there will be none to impugn his boasts--none but
I-Gos. Come! he may revive at any moment and he must not find us
I-Gos crossed to the body of his jeddak, knelt beside it for an
instant, and then returned past the couch to Gahan. The two quit
the chamber of O-Mai and took their way toward the spiral runway.
Here I-Gos led Gahan to a higher level and out upon the roof of
that portion of the palace from where he pointed to a high tower
quite close by. "There," he said, "lies the Princess of Helium,
and quite safe she will be until the time of the ceremony."
"Safe, possibly, from other hands, but not from her own," said
Gahan. "She will never become Jeddara of Manator--first will she
"She would do that?" asked I-Gos.
"She will, unless you can get word to her that I still live and
that there is yet hope," replied Gahan.
"I cannot get word to her," said I-Gos. "The quarters of his
women O-Tar guards with jealous hand. Here are his most trusted
slaves and warriors, yet even so, thick among them are countless
spies, so that no man knows which be which. No shadow falls
within those chambers that is not marked by a hundred eyes."
Gahan stood gazing at the lighted windows of the high tower in
the upper chambers of which Tara of Helium was confined. "I will
find a way, I-Gos," he said.
"There is no way," replied the old man.
For some time they stood upon the roof beneath the brilliant
stars and hurtling moons of dying Mars, laying their plans
against the time that Tara of Helium should be brought from the
high tower to the throne room of O-Tar. It was then, and then
alone, argued I-Gos, that any hope of rescuing her might be
entertained. Just how far he might trust the other Gahan did not
know, and so he kept to himself the knowledge of the plan that he
had forwarded to Floran and Val Dor by Ghek, but he assured the
ancient taxidermist that if he were sincere in his oft-repeated
declaration that O-Tar should be denounced and superseded he
would have his opportunity on the night that the jeddak sought to
wed the Heliumetic princess.
"Your time shall come then, I-Gos," Gahan assured the other, "and
if you have any party that thinks as you do, prepare them for the
eventuality that will succeed O-Tar's presumptuous attempt to wed
the daughter of The Warlord. Where shall I see you again, and
when? I go now to speak with Tara, Princess of Helium."
"I like your boldness," said I-Gos; "but it will avail you
naught. You will not speak with Tara, Princess of Helium, though
doubtless the blood of many Manatorians will drench the floors of
the women's quarters before you are slain."
Gahan smiled. "I shall not be slain. Where and when shall we
meet? But you may find me in O-Mai's chamber at night. That seems
the safest retreat in all Manator for an enemy of the jeddak in
whose palace it lies. I go!"
"And may the spirits of your ancestors surround you," said I-Gos.
After the old man had left him Gahan made his way across the roof
to the high tower, which appeared to have been constructed of
concrete and afterward elaborately carved, its entire surface
being covered with intricate designs cut deep into the stone-like
material of which it was composed. Though wrought ages since, it
was but little weather-worn owing to the aridity of the Martian
atmosphere, the infrequency of rains, and the rarity of dust
storms. To scale it, though, presented difficulties and danger
that might have deterred the bravest of men--that would,
doubtless, have deterred Gahan, had he not felt that the life of
the woman he loved depended upon his accomplishing the hazardous
Removing his sandals and laying aside all of his harness and
weapons other than a single belt supporting a dagger, the
Gatholian essayed the dangerous ascent. Clinging to the carvings
with hands and feet he worked himself slowly aloft, avoiding the
windows and keeping upon the shadowy side of the tower, away from
the light of Thuria and Cluros. The tower rose some fifty feet
above the roof of the adjacent part of the palace, comprising
five levels or floors with windows looking in every direction. A
few of the windows were balconied, and these more than the others
he sought to avoid, although, it being now near the close of the
ninth zode, there was little likelihood that many were awake
within the tower.
His progress was noiseless and he came at last, undetected, to
the windows of the upper level. These, like several of the others
he had passed at lower levels, were heavily barred, so that there
was no possibility of his gaining ingress to the apartment where
Tara was confined. Darkness hid the interior behind the first
window that he approached. The second opened upon a lighted
chamber where he could see a guard sleeping at his post outside a
door. Here also was the top of the runway leading to the next
level below. Passing still farther around the tower Gahan
approached another window, but now he clung to that side of the
tower which ended in a courtyard a hundred feet below and in a
short time the light of Thuria would reach him. He realized that
he must hasten and he prayed that behind the window he now
approached he would find Tara of Helium.
Coming to the opening he looked in upon a small chamber dimly
lighted. In the center was a sleeping dais upon which a human
form lay beneath silks and furs. A bare arm, protruding from the
coverings, lay exposed against a black and yellow striped orluk
skin--an arm of wondrous beauty about which was clasped an armlet
that Gahan knew. No other creature was visible within the
chamber, all of which was exposed to Gahan's view. Pressing his
face to the bars the Gatholian whispered her dear name. The girl
stirred, but did not awaken. Again he called, but this time
louder. Tara sat up and looked about and at the same instant a
huge eunuch leaped to his feet from where he had been lying on
the floor close by that side of the dais farthest from Gahan.
Simultaneously the brilliant light of Thuria flashed full upon
the window where Gahan clung silhouetting him plainly to the two
Both sprang to their feet. The eunuch drew his sword and leaped
for the window where the helpless Gahan would have fallen an easy
victim to a single thrust of the murderous weapon the fellow
bore, had not Tara of Helium leaped upon her guard dragging him
back. At the same time she drew the slim dagger from its hiding
place in her harness and even as the eunuch sought to hurl her
aside its keen point found his heart. Without a sound he died and
lunged forward to the floor. Then Tara ran to the window.
"Turan, my chief!" she cried. "What awful risk is this you take
to seek me here, where even your brave heart is powerless to aid
"Be not so sure of that, heart of my heart," he replied. "While I
bring but words to my love, they be the forerunner of deeds, I
hope, that will give her back to me forever. I feared that you
might destroy yourself, Tara of Helium, to escape the dishonor
that O-Tar would do you, and so I came to give you new hope and
to beg that you live for me through whatever may transpire, in
the knowledge that there is yet a way and that if all goes well
we shall be freed at last. Look for me in the throne room of
O-Tar the night that he would wed you. And now, how may we
dispose of this fellow?" He pointed to the dead eunuch upon the
"We need not concern ourselves about that," she replied. "None
dares harm me for fear of the wrath of O-Tar--otherwise I should
have been dead so soon as ever I entered this portion of the
palace, for the women hate me. O-Tar alone may punish me, and
what cares O-Tar for the life of a eunuch? No, fear not upon this
Their hands were clasped between the bars and now Gahan drew her
nearer to him.
"One kiss," he said, "before I go, my princess," and the proud
daughter of Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, and The Warlord of
Barsoom whispered: "My chieftain!" and pressed her lips to the
lips of Turan, the common panthan.
CHAPTER XXII. AT THE MOMENT OF MARRIAGE
THE silence of the tomb lay heavy about him as O-Tar, Jeddak of
Manator, opened his eyes in the chamber of O-Mai. Recollection of
the frightful apparition that had confronted him swept to his
consciousness. He listened, but heard naught. Within the range of
his vision there was nothing apparent that might cause alarm.
Slowly he lifted his head and looked about. Upon the floor beside
the couch lay the thing that had at first attracted his attention
and his eyes closed in terror as he recognized it for what it
was; but it moved not, nor spoke. O-Tar opened his eyes again and
rose to his feet. He was trembling in every limb. There was
nothing on the dais from which he had seen the thing arise.
O-Tar backed slowly from the room. At last he gained the outer
corridor. It was empty. He did not know that it had emptied
rapidly as the loud scream with which his own had mingled had
broken upon the startled ears of the warriors who had been sent
to spy upon him. He looked at the timepiece set in a massive
bracelet upon his left forearm. The ninth zode was nearly half
gone. O-Tar had lain for an hour unconscious. He had spent an
hour in the chamber of O-Mai and he was not dead! He had looked
upon the face of his predecessor and was still sane! He shook
himself and smiled. Rapidly he subdued his rebelliously shaking
nerves, so that by the time he reached the tenanted portion of
the palace he had gained control of himself. He walked with chin
high and something of a swagger. To the banquet hall he went,
knowing that his chiefs awaited him there and as he entered they
arose and upon the faces of many were incredulity and amaze, for
they had not thought to see O-Tar the jeddak again after what the
spies had told them of the horrid sounds issuing from the chamber
of O-Mai. Thankful was O-Tar that he had gone alone to that
chamber of fright, for now no one could deny the tale that he
E-Thas rushed forward to greet him, for E-Thas had seen black
looks directed toward him as the tals slipped by and his
benefactor failed to return.
"O brave and glorious jeddak!" cried the major-domo. "We rejoice
at your safe return and beg of you the story of your adventure."
"It was naught," exclaimed O-Tar. "I searched the chambers
carefully and waited in hiding for the return of the slave,
Turan, if he were temporarily away; but he came not. He is not
there and I doubt if he ever goes there. Few men would choose to
remain long in such a dismal place."
"You were not attacked?" asked E-Thas. "You heard no screams, nor
"I heard hideous noises and saw phantom figures; but they fled
before me so that never could I lay hold of one, and I looked
upon the face of O-Mai and I am not mad. I even rested in the
chamber beside his corpse."
In a far corner of the room a bent and wrinkled old man hid a
smile behind a golden goblet of strong brew.
"Come! Let us drink!" cried O-Tar and reached for the dagger, the
pommel of which he was accustomed to use to strike the gong which
summoned slaves, but the dagger was not in its scabbard. O-Tar
was puzzled. He knew that it had been there just before he
entered the chamber of O-Mai, for he had carefully felt of all
his weapons to make sure that none was missing. He seized instead
a table utensil and struck the gong, and when the slaves came
bade them bring the strongest brew for O-Tar and his chiefs.
Before the dawn broke many were the expressions of admiration
bellowed from drunken lips--admiration for the courage of their
jeddak; but some there were who still looked glum.
Came at last the day that O-Tar would take the Princess Tara of
Helium to wife. For hours slaves prepared the unwilling bride.
Seven perfumed baths occupied three long and weary hours, then
her whole body was anointed with the oil of pimalia blossoms and
massaged by the deft fingers of a slave from distant Dusar. Her
harness, all new and wrought for the occasion was of the white
hide of the great white apes of Barsoom, hung heavily with
platinum and diamonds--fairly encrusted with them. The glossy
mass of her jet hair had been built into a coiffure of stately
and becoming grandeur, into which diamond-headed pins were stuck
until the whole scintillated as the stars in heaven upon a
But it was a sullen and defiant bride that they led from the high
tower toward the throne room of O-Tar. The corridors were filled
with slaves and warriors, and the women of the palace and the
city who had been commanded to attend the ceremony. All the power
and pride, wealth and beauty of Manator were there.
Slowly Tara, surrounded by a heavy guard of honor, moved along
the marble corridors filled with people. At the entrance to The
Hall of Chiefs E-Thas, the major-domo, received her. The Hall was
empty except for its ranks of dead chieftains upon their dead
mounts. Through this long chamber E-Thas escorted her to the
throne room which also was empty, the marriage ceremony in
Manator differing from that of other countries of Barsoom. Here
the bride would await the groom at the foot of the steps leading
to the throne. The guests followed her in and took their places,
leaving the central aisle from The Hall of Chiefs to the throne
clear, for up this O-Tar would approach his bride alone after a
short solitary communion with the dead behind closed doors in The
Hall of Chiefs. It was the custom.
The guests had all filed through The Hall of Chiefs; the doors at
both ends had been closed. Presently those at the lower end of
the hall opened and O-Tar entered. His black harness was
ornamented with rubies and gold; his face was covered by a
grotesque mask of the precious metal in which two enormous rubies
were set for eyes, though below them were narrow slits through
which the wearer could see. His crown was a fillet supporting
carved feathers of the same metal as the mask. To the least
detail his regalia was that demanded of a royal bridegroom by the
customs of Manator, and now in accordance with that same custom
he came alone to The Hall of Chiefs to receive the blessings and
the council of the great ones of Manator who had preceded him.
As the doors at the lower end of the Hall closed behind him O-Tar
the Jeddak stood alone with the great dead. By the dictates of
ages no mortal eye might look upon the scene enacted within that
sacred chamber. As the mighty of Manator respected the traditions
of Manator, let us, too, respect those traditions of a proud and
sensitive people. Of what concern to us the happenings in that
solemn chamber of the dead?
Five minutes passed. The bride stood silently at the foot of the
throne. The guests spoke together in low whispers until the room
was filled with the hum of many voices. At length the doors
leading into The Hall of Chiefs swung open, and the resplendent
bridegroom stood framed for a moment in the massive opening. A
hush fell upon the wedding guests. With measured and impressive
step the groom approached the bride. Tara felt the muscles of her
heart contract with the apprehension that had been growing upon
her as the coils of Fate settled more closely about her and no
sign came from Turan. Where was he? What, indeed, could he
accomplish now to save her? Surrounded by the power of O-Tar with
never a friend among them, her position seemed at last without
vestige of hope.
"I still live!" she whispered inwardly in a last brave attempt to
combat the terrible hopelessness that was overwhelming her, but
her fingers stole for reassurance to the slim blade that she had
managed to transfer, undetected, from her old harness to the new.
And now the groom was at her side and taking her hand was leading
her up the steps to the throne, before which they halted and
stood facing the gathering below. Came then, from the back of the
room a procession headed by the high dignitary whose office it
was to make these two man and wife, and directly behind him a
richly-clad youth bearing a silken pillow on which lay the golden
handcuffs connected by a short length of chain-of-gold with which
the ceremony would be concluded when the dignitary clasped a
handcuff about the wrist of each symbolizing their indissoluble
union in the holy bonds of wedlock.
Would Turan's promised succor come too late? Tara listened to the
long, monotonous intonation of the wedding service. She heard the
virtues of O-Tar extolled and the beauties of the bride. The
moment was approaching and still no sign of Turan. But what could
he accomplish should he succeed in reaching the throne room,
other than to die with her? There could be no hope of rescue.
The dignitary lifted the golden handcuffs from the pillow upon
which they reposed. He blessed them and reached for Tara's wrist.
The time had come! The thing could go no further, for alive or
dead, by all the laws of Barsoom she would be the wife of O-Tar
of Manator the instant the two were locked together. Even should
rescue come then or later she could never dissolve those bonds
and Turan would be lost to her as surely as though death
Her hand stole toward the hidden blade, but instantly the hand of
the groom shot out and seized her wrist. He had guessed her
intention. Through the slits in the grotesque mask she could see
his eyes upon her and she guessed the sardonic smile that the
mask hid. For a tense moment the two stood thus. The people below
them kept breathless silence for the play before the throne had
not passed un-noticed.
Dramatic as was the moment it was suddenly rendered trebly so by
the noisy opening of the doors leading to The Hall of Chiefs. All
eyes turned in the direction of the interruption to see another
figure framed in the massive opening--a half-clad figure buckling
the half-adjusted harness hurriedly in place--the figure of
O-Tar, Jeddak of Manator.
"Stop!" he screamed, springing forward along the aisle toward the
throne. "Seize the impostor!"
All eyes shot to the figure of the groom before the throne. They
saw him raise his hand and snatch off the golden mask, and Tara
of Helium in wide-eyed incredulity looked up into the face of
Turan the panthan.
"Turan the slave," they cried then. "Death to him! Death to him!"
"Wait!" shouted Turan, drawing his sword, as a dozen warriors
"Wait!" screamed another voice, old and cracked, as I-Gos, the
ancient taxidermist, sprang from among the guests and reached the
throne steps ahead of the foremost warriors.
At sight of the old man the warriors paused, for age is held in
great veneration among the peoples of Barsoom, as is true,
perhaps, of all peoples whose religion is based to any extent
upon ancestor worship. But O-Tar gave no heed to him, leaping
instead swiftly toward the throne. "Stop, coward!" cried I-Gos.
The people looked at the little old man in amazement. "Men of
Manator," he cackled in his thin, shrill voice, "wouldst be ruled
by a coward and a liar?"
"Down with him!" shouted O-Tar.
"Not until I have spoken," retorted I-Gos. "It is my right. If I
fail my life is forfeit--that you all know and I know. I demand
therefore to be heard. It is my right!"
"It is his right," echoed the voices of a score of warriors in
various parts of the chamber.
"That O-Tar is a coward and a liar I can prove," continued I-Gos.
"He said that he faced bravely the horrors of the chamber of
O-Mai and saw nothing of the slave Turan. I was there, hiding
behind the hangings, and I saw all that transpired. Turan had
been hiding in the chamber and was even then lying upon the couch
of O-Mai when O-Tar, trembling with fear, entered the room.
Turan, disturbed, arose to a sitting position at the same time
voicing a piercing shriek. O-Tar screamed and swooned."
"It is a lie!" cried O-Tar.
"It is not a lie and I can prove it," retorted I-Gos. "Didst
notice the night that he returned from the chambers of O-Mai and
was boasting of his exploit, that when he would summon slaves to
bring wine he reached for his dagger to strike the gong with its
pommel as is always his custom? Didst note that, any of you? And
that he had no dagger? O-Tar, where is the dagger that you
carried into the chamber of O-Mai? You do not know; but I know.
While you lay in the swoon of terror I took it from your harness
and hid it among the sleeping silks upon the couch of O-Mai.
There it is even now, and if any doubt it let them go thither and
there they will find it and know the cowardice of their jeddak."
"But what of this impostor?" demanded one. "Shall he stand with
impunity upon the throne of Manator whilst we squabble about our
"It is through his bravery that you have learned the cowardice of
O-Tar," replied I-Gos, "and through him you will be given a
"We will choose our own jeddak. Seize and slay the slave!" There
were cries of approval from all parts of the room. Gahan was
listening intently, as though for some hoped-for sound. He saw
the warriors approaching the dais, where he now stood with drawn
sword and with one arm about Tara of Helium. He wondered if his
plans had miscarried after all. If they had it would mean death
for him, and he knew that Tara would take her life if he fell.
Had he, then, served her so futilely after all his efforts?
Several warriors were urging the necessity for sending at once to
the chamber of O-Mai to search for the dagger that would prove,
if found, the cowardice of O-Tar. At last three consented to go.
"You need not fear," I-Gos assured them. "There is naught there
to harm you. I have been there often of late and Turan the slave
has slept there for these many nights. The screams and moans that
frightened you and O-Tar were voiced by Turan to drive you away
from his hiding place." Shamefacedly the three left the apartment
to search for O-Tar's dagger.
And now the others turned their attention once more to Gahan.
They approached the throne with bared swords, but they came
slowly for they had seen this slave upon the Field of Jetan and
they knew the prowess of his arm. They had reached the foot of
the steps when from far above there sounded a deep boom, and
another, and another, and Turan smiled and breathed a sigh of
relief. Perhaps, after all, it had not come too late. The
warriors stopped and listened as did the others in the chamber.
Now there broke upon their ears a loud rattle of musketry and it
all came from above as though men were fighting upon the roofs of
"What is it?" they demanded, one of the other.
"A great storm has broken over Manator," said one.
"Mind not the storm until you have slain the creature who dares
stand upon the throne of your jeddak," demanded O-Tar. "Seize
Even as he ceased speaking the arras behind the throne parted and
a warrior stepped forth upon the dais. An exclamation of surprise
and dismay broke from the lips of the warriors of O-Tar.
"U-Thor!" they cried. "What treason is this?"
"It is no treason," said U-Thor in his deep voice. "I bring you a
new jeddak for all of Manator. No lying poltroon, but a
courageous man whom you all love."
He stepped aside then and another emerged from the corridor
hidden by the arras. It was A-Kor, and at sight of him there rose
exclamations of surprise, of pleasure, and of anger, as the
various factions recognized the coup d'etat that had been
arranged so cunningly. Behind A-Kor came other warriors until the
dais was crowded with them--all men of Manator from the city of
O-Tar was exhorting his warriors to attack, when a bloody and
disheveled padwar burst into the chamber through a side entrance.
"The city has fallen!" he cried aloud. "The hordes of Manatos
pour through The Gate of Enemies. The slaves from Gathol have
arisen and destroyed the palace guards. Great ships are landing
warriors upon the palace roof and in the Fields of Jetan. The men
of Helium and Gathol are marching through Manator. They cry aloud
for the Princess of Helium and swear to leave Manator a blazing
funeral pyre consuming the bodies of all our people. The skies
are black with ships. They come in great processions from the
east and from the south."
And then once more the doors from The Hall of Chiefs swung wide
and the men of Manator turned to see another figure standing upon
the threshold--a mighty figure of a man with white skin, and
black hair, and gray eyes that glittered now like points of steel
and behind him The Hall of Chiefs was filled with fighting men
wearing the harness of far countries. Tara of Helium saw him and
her heart leaped in exultation, for it was John Carter, Warlord
of Barsoom, come at the head of a victorious host to the rescue
of his daughter, and at his side was Djor Kantos to whom she had
The Warlord eyed the assemblage for a moment before he spoke.
"Lay down your arms, men of Manator," he said. "I see my daughter
and that she lives, and if no harm has befallen her no blood need
be shed. Your city is filled with the fighting men of U-Thor, and
those from Gathol and from Helium. The palace is in the hands of
the slaves from Gathol, beside a thousand of my own warriors who
fill the halls and chambers surrounding this room. The fate of
your jeddak lies in your own hands. I have no wish to interfere.
I come only for my daughter and to free the slaves from Gathol. I
have spoken!" and without waiting for a reply and as though the
room had been filled with his own people rather than a hostile
band he strode up the broad main aisle toward Tara of Helium.
The chiefs of Manator were stunned. They looked to O-Tar; but he
could only gaze helplessly about him as the enemy entered from
The Hall of Chiefs and circled the throne room until they had
surrounded the entire company. And then a dwar of the army of
"We have captured three chiefs," he reported to The Warlord, "who
beg that they be permitted to enter the throne room and report to
their fellows some matter which they say will decide the fate of
"Fetch them," ordered The Warlord.
They came, heavily guarded, to the foot of the steps leading to
the throne and there they stopped and the leader turned toward
the others of Manator and raising high his right hand displayed a
jeweled dagger. "We found it," he said, "even where I-Gos said
that we would find it," and he looked menacingly upon O-Tar.
"A-Kor, jeddak of Manator!" cried a voice, and the cry was taken
up by a hundred hoarse-throated warriors.
"There can be but one jeddak in Manator," said the chief who held
the dagger; his eyes still fixed upon the hapless O-Tar he
crossed to where the latter stood and holding the dagger upon an
outstretched palm proffered it to the discredited ruler. "There
can be but one jeddak in Manator," he repeated meaningly.
O-Tar took the proffered blade and drawing himself to his full
height plunged it to the guard into his breast, in that single
act redeeming himself in the esteem of his people and winning an
eternal place in The Hall of Chiefs.
As he fell all was silence in the great room, to be broken
presently by the voice of U-Thor. "O-Tar is dead!" he cried. "Let
A-Kor rule until the chiefs of all Manator may be summoned to
choose a new jeddak. What is your answer?"
"Let A-Kor rule! A-Kor, Jeddak of Manator!" The cries filled the
room and there was no dissenting voice.
A-Kor raised his sword for silence. "It is the will of A-Kor," he
said, "and that of the Great Jed of Manatos, and the commander of
the fleet from Gathol, and of the illustrious John Carter,
Warlord of Barsoom, that peace lie upon the city of Manator and
so I decree that the men of Manator go forth and welcome the
fighting men of these our allies as guests and friends and show
them the wonders of our ancient city and the hospitality of
Manator. I have spoken." And U-Thor and John Carter dismissed
their warriors and bade them accept the hospitality of Manator.
As the room emptied Djor Kantos reached the side of Tara of
Helium. The girl's happiness at rescue had been blighted by sight
of this man whom her virtuous heart told her she had wronged. She
dreaded the ordeal that lay before her and the dishonor that she
must admit before she could hope to be freed from the
understanding that had for long existed between them. And now
Djor Kantos approached and kneeling raised her fingers to his
"Beautiful daughter of Helium," he said, "how may I tell you the
thing that I must tell you--of the dishonor that I have all
unwittingly done you? I can but throw myself upon your generosity
for forgiveness; but if you demand it I can receive the dagger as
honorably as did O-Tar."
"What do you mean?" asked Tara of Helium. "What are you talking
about--why speak thus in riddles to one whose heart is already
Her heart already breaking! The outlook was anything but
promising, and the young padwar wished that he had died before
ever he had had to speak the words he now must speak.
"Tara of Helium," he continued, "we all thought you dead. For a
long year have you been gone from Helium. I mourned you truly and
then, less than a moon since, I wed with Olvia Marthis." He
stopped and looked at her with eyes that might have said: "Now,
strike me dead!"
"Oh, foolish man!" cried Tara. "Nothing you could have done could
have pleased me more. Djor Kantos, I could kiss you!"
"I do not think that Olvia Marthis would mind," he said, his face
now wreathed with smiles. As they spoke a body of men had entered
the throne room and approached the dais. They were tall men
trapped in plain harness, absolutely without ornamentation. Just
as their leader reached the dais Tara had turned to Gahan,
motioning him to join them.
"Djor Kantos," she said, "I bring you Turan the panthan, whose
loyalty and bravery have won my love."
John Carter and the leader of the new come warriors, who were
standing near, looked quickly at the little group. The former
smiled an inscrutable smile, the latter addressed the Princess of
Helium. "'Turan the panthan!'" he cried. "Know you not, fair
daughter of Helium, that this man you call panthan is Gahan, Jed
For just a moment Tara of Helium looked her surprise; and then
she shrugged her beautiful shoulders as she turned her head to
cast her eyes over one of them at Gahan of Gathol.
"Jed or panthan," she said; "what difference does it make what
one's slave has been?" and she laughed roguishly into the smiling
face of her lover.
His story finished, John Carter rose from the chair opposite me,
stretching his giant frame like some great forest-bred lion.
"You must go?" I cried, for I hated to see him leave and it
seemed that he had been with me but a moment.
"The sky is already red beyond those beautiful hills of yours,"
he replied, "and it will soon be day."
"Just one question before you go," I begged.
"Well?" he assented, good-naturedly.
"How was Gahan able to enter the throne room garbed in O-Tar's
trappings?" I asked.
"It was simple--for Gahan of Gathol," replied The Warlord. "With
the assistance of I-Gos he crept into The Hall of Chiefs before
the ceremony, while the throne room and Hall of Chiefs were
vacated to receive the bride. He came from the pits through the
corridor that opened behind the arras at the rear of the throne,
and passing into The Hall of Chiefs took his place upon the back
of a riderless thoat, whose warrior was in I-Gos' repair room.
When O-Tar entered and came near him Gahan fell upon him and
struck him with the butt of a heavy spear. He thought that he had
killed him and was surprised when O-Tar appeared to denounce
"And Ghek? What became of Ghek?" I insisted.
"After leading Val Dor and Floran to Tara's disabled flier which
they repaired, he accompanied them to Gathol from where a message
was sent to me in Helium. He then led a large party including
A-Kor and U-Thor from the roof, where our ships landed them, down
a spiral runway into the palace and guided them to the throne
room. We took him back to Helium with us, where he still lives,
with his single rykor which we found all but starved to death in
the pits of Manator. But come! No more questions now."
I accompanied him to the east arcade where the red dawn was
glowing beyond the arches.
"Good-bye!" he said.
"I can scarce believe that it is really you," I exclaimed.
"Tomorrow I will be sure that I have dreamed all this."
He laughed and drawing his sword scratched a rude cross upon the
concrete of one of the arches.
"If you are in doubt tomorrow," he said, "come and see if you
A moment later he was gone.
JETAN, OR MARTIAN CHESS
FOR those who care for such things, and would like to try the
game, I give the rules of Jetan as they were given me by John
Carter. By writing the names and moves of the various pieces on
bits of paper and pasting them on ordinary checkermen the game
may be played quite as well as with the ornate pieces used upon
THE BOARD: Square board consisting of one hundred alternate black
and orange squares.
THE PIECES: In order, as they stand upon the board in the first
row, from left to right of each player.
Warrior: 2 feathers; 2 spaces straight in any direction or
Padwar: 2 feathers; 2 spaces diagonal in any direction or
Dwar: 3 feathers; 3 spaces straight in any direction or
Flier: 3 bladed propellor; 3 spaces diagonal in any direction or
combination; and may jump intervening pieces.
Chief: Diadem with ten jewels; 3 spaces in any direction;
straight or diagonal or combination.
Princess: Diadem with one jewel; same as Chief, except may jump
Flier: See above.
Dwar: See above.
Padwar: See above.
Warrior: See above.
And in the second row from left to right:
Thoat: Mounted warrior 2 feathers; 2 spaces, one straight and one
diagonal in any direction.
Panthans: (8 of them): 1 feather; 1 space, forward, side, or
diagonal, but not backward.
Thoat: See above.
The game is played with twenty black pieces by one player and
twenty orange by his opponent, and is presumed to have originally
represented a battle between the Black race of the south and the
Yellow race of the north. On Mars the board is usually arranged
so that the Black pieces are played from the south and the Orange
from the north.
The game is won when any piece is placed on same square with
opponent's Princess, or a Chief takes a Chief.
The game is drawn when either Chief is taken by a piece other
than the opposing Chief, or when both sides are reduced to three
pieces, or less, of equal value and the game is not won in the
ensuing ten moves, five apiece.
The Princess may not move onto a threatened square, nor may she
take an opposing piece. She is entitled to one ten-space move at
any time during the game. This move is called the escape.
Two pieces may not occupy the same square except in the final
move of a game where the Princess is taken.
When a player, moving properly and in order, places one of his
pieces upon a square occupied by an opponent piece, the opponent
piece is considered to have been killed and is removed from the
The moves explained. Straight moves mean due north, south, east,
or west; diagonal moves mean northeast, southeast, southwest, or
northwest. A Dwar might move straight north three spaces, or
north one space and east two spaces, or any similar combination
of straight moves, so long as he did not cross the same square
twice in a single move. This example explains combination moves.
The first move may be decided in any way that is agreeable to
both players; after the first game the winner of the preceding
game moves first if he chooses, or may instruct his opponent to
make the first move.
Gambling: The Martians gamble at Jetan in several ways. Of course
the outcome of the game indicates to whom the main stake belongs;
but they also put a price upon the head of each piece, according
to its value, and for each piece that a player loses he pays its
value to his opponent.