The Chessmen of Mars
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Part 4 out of 5
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. From 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!"
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!"
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
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 Manatorians 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?
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
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
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