Part 2 out of 5
reproduce." He turned again to the other kaldanes. "Will you
notify Luud that I am here?" he asked.
"Sept has already gone to Luud. He will tell him," replied one.
"Where did you find this rykor with the strange kaldane that
cannot detach itself?"
The girl's captor narrated once more the story of her capture. He
stated facts just as they had occurred, without embellishment,
his voice as expressionless as his face, and his story was
received in the same manner that it was delivered. The creatures
seemed totally lacking in emotion, or, at least, the capacity to
express it. It was impossible to judge what impression the story
made upon them, or even if they heard it. Their protruding eyes
simply stared and occasionally the muscles of their mouths opened
and closed. Familiarity did not lessen the horror the girl felt
for them. The more she saw of them the more repulsive they
seemed. Often her body was shaken by convulsive shudders as she
looked at the kaldanes, but when her eyes wandered to the
beautiful bodies and she could for a moment expunge the heads
from her consciousness the effect was soothing and refreshing,
though when the bodies lay, headless, upon the floor they were
quite as shocking as the heads mounted on bodies. But by far the
most grewsome and uncanny sight of all was that of the heads
crawling about upon their spider legs. If one of these should
approach and touch her Tara of Helium was positive that she
should scream, while should one attempt to crawl up her
person--ugh! the very idea induced a feeling of faintness.
Sept returned to the chamber. "Luud will see you and the captive.
Come!" he said, and turned toward a door opposite that through
which Tara of Helium had entered the chamber. "What is your
name?" His question was directed to the girl's captor.
"I am Ghek, third foreman of the fields of Luud," he answered.
"I do not know."
"It makes no difference. Come!"
The patrician brows of Tara of Helium went high. It made no
difference, indeed! She, a princess of Helium; only daughter of
The Warlord of Barsoom!
"Wait!" she cried. "It makes much difference who I am. If you are
conducting me into the presence of your jed you may announce The
Princess Tara of Helium, daughter of John Carter, The Warlord of
"Hold your peace!" commanded Sept. "Speak when you are spoken to.
Come with me!"
The anger of Tara of Helium all but choked her. "Come,"
admonished Ghek, and took her by the arm, and Tara of Helium
came. She was naught but a prisoner. Her rank and titles meant
nothing to these inhuman monsters. They led her through a short,
S-shaped passageway into a chamber entirely lined with the white,
tile-like material with which the interior of the light wall was
faced. Close to the base of the walls were numerous smaller
apertures, circular in shape, but larger than those of similar
aspect that she had noted elsewhere. The majority of these
apertures were sealed. Directly opposite the entrance was one
framed in gold, and above it a peculiar device was inlaid in the
same precious metal.
Sept and Ghek halted just within the room, the girl between them,
and all three stood silently facing the opening in the opposite
wall. On the floor beside the aperture lay a headless male body
of almost heroic proportions, and on either side of this stood a
heavily armed warrior, with drawn sword. For perhaps five minutes
the three waited and then something appeared in the opening. It
was a pair of large chelae and immediately thereafter there
crawled forth a hideous kaldane of enormous proportions. He was
half again as large as any that Tara of Helium had yet seen and
his whole aspect infinitely more terrible. The skin of the others
was a bluish gray--this one was of a little bluer tinge and the
eyes were ringed with bands of white and scarlet, as was its
From each nostril a band of white and one of scarlet extended
outward horizontally the width of the face.
No one spoke or moved. The creature crawled to the prostrate body
and affixed itself to the neck. Then the two rose as one and
approached the girl. He looked at her and then he spoke to her
"You are the third foreman of the fields of Luud?" he asked.
"Yes, Luud; I am called Ghek."
"Tell me what you know of this," and he nodded toward Tara of
Ghek did as he was bid and then Luud addressed the girl.
"What were you doing within the borders of Bantoom?" he asked.
"I was blown hither in a great storm that injured my flier and
carried me I knew not where. I came down into the valley at night
for food and drink. The banths came and drove me to the safety of
a tree, and then your people caught me as I was trying to leave
the valley. I do not know why they took me. I was doing no harm.
All I ask is that you let me go my way in peace."
"None who enters Bantoom ever leaves," replied Luud.
"But my people are not at war with yours. I am a princess of
Helium; my great-grandfather is a jeddak; my grandfather a jed;
and my father is Warlord of all Barsoom. You have no right to
keep me and I demand that you liberate me at once."
"None who enters Bantoom ever leaves," repeated the creature
without expression. "I know nothing of the lesser creatures of
Barsoom, of whom you speak. There is but one high race--the race
of Bantoomians. All Nature exists to serve them. You shall do
your share, but not yet--you are too skinny. We shall have to put
some fat upon it, Sept. I tire of rykor. Perhaps this will have a
different flavor. The banths are too rank and it is seldom that
any other creature enters the valley. And you, Ghek; you shall be
rewarded. I shall promote you from the fields to the burrows.
Hereafter you shall remain underground as every Bantoomian longs
to. No more shall you be forced to endure the hated sun, or look
upon the hideous sky, or the hateful growing things that defile
the surface. For the present you shall look after this thing that
you have brought me, seeing that it sleeps and eats--and does
nothing else. You understand me, Ghek; nothing else!"
"I understand, Luud," replied the other.
"Take it away!" commanded the creature.
Ghek turned and led Tara of Helium from the apartment. The girl
was horrified by contemplation of the fate that awaited her--a
fate from which it seemed, there was no escape. It was only too
evident that these creatures possessed no gentle or chivalric
sentiments to which she could appeal, and that she might escape
from the labyrinthine mazes of their underground burrows appeared
Outside the audience chamber Sept overtook them and conversed
with Ghek for a brief period, then her keeper led her through a
confusing web of winding tunnels until they came to a small
"We are to remain here for a while. It may be that Luud will send
for you again. If he does you will probably not be fattened--he
will use you for another purpose." It was fortunate for the
girl's peace of mind that she did not realize what he meant.
"Sing for me," said Ghek, presently.
Tara of Helium did not feel at all like singing, but she sang,
nevertheless, for there was always the hope that she might escape
if given the opportunity and if she could win the friendship of
one of the creatures, her chances would be increased
proportionately. All during the ordeal, for such it was to the
overwrought girl, Ghek stood with his eyes fixed upon her.
"It is wonderful," he said, when she had finished; "but I did not
tell Luud--you noticed that I did not tell Luud about it. Had he
known, he would have had you sing to him and that would have
resulted in your being kept with him that he might hear you sing
whenever he wished; but now I can have you all the time."
"How do you know he would like my singing?" she asked.
"He would have to," replied Ghek. "If I like a thing he has to
like it, for are we not identical--all of us?"
"The people of my race do not all like the same things," said the
"How strange!" commented Ghek. "All kaldanes like the same things
and dislike the same things. If I discover something new and like
it I know that all kaldanes will like it. That is how I know that
Luud would like your singing. You see we are all exactly alike."
"But you do not look like Luud," said the girl.
"Luud is king. He is larger and more gorgeously marked; but
otherwise he and I are identical, and why not? Did not Luud
produce the egg from which I hatched?"
"What?" queried the girl; "I do not understand you."
"Yes," explained Ghek, "all of us are from Luud's eggs, just as
all the swarm of Moak are from Moak's eggs."
"Oh!" exclaimed Tara of Helium understandingly; "you mean that
Luud has many wives and that you are the offspring of one of
"No, not that at all," replied Ghek. "Luud has no wife. He lays
the eggs himself. You do not understand."
Tara of Helium admitted that she did not.
"I will try to explain, then," said Ghek, "if you will promise to
sing to me later."
"I promise," she said.
"We are not like the rykors," he began. "They are creatures of a
low order, like yourself and the banths and such things. We have
no sex--not one of us except our king, who is bi-sexual. He
produces many eggs from which we, the workers and the warriors,
are hatched; and one in every thousand eggs is another king egg,
from which a king is hatched. Did you notice the sealed openings
in the room where you saw Luud? Sealed in each of those is
another king. If one of them escaped he would fall upon Luud and
try to kill him and if he succeeded we should have a new king;
but there would be no difference. His name would be Luud and all
would go on as before, for are we not all alike? Luud has lived a
long time and has produced many kings, so he lets only a few live
that there may be a successor to him when he dies. The others he
"Why does he keep more than one?" queried the girl.
"Sometimes accidents occur," replied Ghek, "and all the kings
that a swarm has saved are killed. When this happens the swarm
comes and obtains another king from a neighboring swarm."
"Are all of you the children of Luud?" she asked.
"All but a few, who are from the eggs of the preceding king, as
was Luud; but Luud has lived a long time and not many of the
others are left."
"You live a long time, or short?" Tara asked.
"A very long time."
"And the rykors, too; they live a long time?"
"No; the rykors live for ten years, perhaps," he said, "if they
remain strong and useful. When they can no longer be of service
to us, either through age or sickness, we leave them in the
fields and the banths come at night and get them."
"How horrible!" she exclaimed.
"Horrible?" he repeated. "I see nothing horrible about that.
The rykors are but brainless flesh. They neither see, nor feel,
nor hear. They can scarce move but for us. If we did not bring
them food they would starve to death. They are less deserving of
thought than our leather. All that they can do for themselves is
to take food from a trough and put it in their mouths, but with
us--look at them!" and he proudly exhibited the noble figure that
he surmounted, palpitant with life and energy and feeling.
"How do you do it?" asked Tara of Helium. "I do not understand it
"I will show you," he said, and lay down upon the floor. Then he
detached himself from the body, which lay as a thing dead. On his
spider legs he walked toward the girl. "Now look," he admonished
her. "Do you see this thing?" and he extended what appeared to be
a bundle of tentacles from the posterior part of his head. "There
is an aperture just back of the rykor's mouth and directly over
the upper end of his spinal column. Into this aperture I insert
my tentacles and seize the spinal cord. Immediately I control
every muscle of the rykor's body--it becomes my own, just as you
direct the movement of the muscles of your body. I feel what the
rykor would feel if he had a head and brain. If he is hurt, I
would suffer if I remained connected with him; but the instant
one of them is injured or becomes sick we desert it for another.
As we would suffer the pains of their physical injuries,
similarly do we enjoy the physical pleasures of the rykors. When
your body becomes fatigued you are comparatively useless; it is
sick, you are sick; if it is killed, you die. You are the slave
of a mass of stupid flesh and bone and blood. There is nothing
more wonderful about your carcass than there is about the carcass
of a banth. It is only your brain that makes you superior to the
banth, but your brain is bound by the limitations of your body.
Not so, ours. With us brain is everything. Ninety per centum of
our volume is brain. We have only the simplest of vital organs
and they are very small for they do not have to assist in the
support of a complicated system of nerves, muscles, flesh and
bone. We have no lungs, for we do not require air. Far below the
levels to which we can take the rykors is a vast network of
burrows where the real life of the kaldane is lived. There the
air-breathing rykor would perish as you would perish. There we
have stored vast quantities of food in hermetically sealed
chambers. It will last forever. Far beneath the surface is water
that will flow for countless ages after the surface water is
exhausted. We are preparing for the time we know must come--the
time when the last vestige of the Barsoomian atmosphere is
spent--when the waters and the food are gone. For this purpose
were we created, that there might not perish from the planet
Nature's divinest creation--the perfect brain."
"But what purpose can you serve when that time comes?" asked the
"You do not understand," he said. "It is too big for you to
grasp, but I will try to explain it. Barsoom, the moons, the sun,
the stars, were created for a single purpose. From the beginning
of time Nature has labored arduously toward the consummation of
this purpose. At the very beginning things existed with life, but
with no brain. Gradually rudimentary nervous systems and minute
brains evolved. Evolution proceeded. The brains became larger and
more powerful. In us you see the highest development; but there
are those of us who believe that there is yet another step--that
some time in the far future our race shall develop into the
super-thing--just brain. The incubus of legs and chelae and vital
organs will be removed. The future kaldane will be nothing but a
great brain. Deaf, dumb, and blind it will lie sealed in its
buried vault far beneath the surface of Barsoom--just a great,
wonderful, beautiful brain with nothing to distract it from
"You mean it will just lie there and think?" cried Tara of
"Just that!" he exclaimed. "Could aught be more wonderful?"
"Yes," replied the girl, "I can think of a number of things that
would be infinitely more wonderful."
IN THE TOILS OF HORROR
What the creature had told her gave Tara of Helium food for
thought. She had been taught that every created thing fulfilled
some useful purpose, and she tried conscientiously to discover
just what was the rightful place of the kaldane in the universal
scheme of things. She knew that it must have its place but what
that place was it was beyond her to conceive. She had to give it
up. They recalled to her mind a little group of people in Helium
who had forsworn the pleasures of life in the pursuit of
knowledge. They were rather patronizing in their relations with
those whom they thought not so intellectual. They considered
themselves quite superior. She smiled at recollection of a remark
her father had once made concerning them, to the effect that if
one of them ever dropped his egotism and broke it it would take a
week to fumigate Helium. Her father liked normal people--people
who knew too little and people who knew too much were equally a
bore. Tara of Helium was like her father in this respect and like
him, too, she was both sane and normal.
Outside of her personal danger there was much in this strange
world that interested her. The rykors aroused her keenest pity,
and vast conjecture. How and from what form had they evolved? She
"Sing to me again and I will tell you," he said. "If Luud would
let me have you, you should never die. I should keep you always
to sing to me."
The girl marvelled at the effect her voice had upon the creature.
Somewhere in that enormous brain there was a chord that was
touched by melody. It was the sole link between herself and the
brain when detached from the rykor. When it dominated the rykor
it might have other human instincts; but these she dreaded even
to think of. After she had sung she waited for Ghek to speak. For
a long time he was silent, just looking at her through those
"I wonder," he said presently, "if it might not be pleasant to be
of your race. Do you all sing?"
"Nearly all, a little," she said; "but we do many other
interesting and enjoyable things. We dance and play and work and
love and sometimes we fight, for we are a race of warriors."
"Love!" said the kaldane. "I think I know what you mean; but we,
fortunately, are above sentiment--when we are detached. But when
we dominate the rykor--ah, that is different, and when I hear you
sing and look at your beautiful body I know what you mean by
love. I could love you."
The girl shrank from him. "You promised to tell me the origin of
the rykor," she reminded him.
"Ages ago," he commenced, "our bodies were larger and our heads
smaller. Our legs were very weak and we could not travel fast or
far. There was a stupid creature that went upon four legs. It
lived in a hole in the ground, to which it brought its food, so
we ran our burrows into this hole and ate the food it brought;
but it did not bring enough for all--for itself and all the
kaldanes that lived upon it, so we had also to go abroad and get
food. This was hard work for our weak legs. Then it was that we
commenced to ride upon the backs of these primitive rykors. It
took many ages, undoubtedly, but at last came the time when the
kaldane had found means to guide the rykor, until presently the
latter depended entirely upon the superior brain of his master to
guide him to food. The brain of the rykor grew smaller as time
went on. His ears went and his eyes, for he no longer had use for
them--the kaldane saw and heard for him. By similar steps the
rykor came to go upon its hind feet that the kaldane might be
able to see farther. As the brain shrank, so did the head. The
mouth was the only feature of the head that was used and so the
mouth alone remains. Members of the red race fell into the hands
of our ancestors from time to time. They saw the beauties and the
advantages of the form that nature had given the red race over
that which the rykor was developing into. By intelligent crossing
the present rykor was achieved. He is really solely the product
of the super-intelligence of the kaldane--he is our body, to do
with as we see fit, just as you do what you see fit with your
body, only we have the advantage of possessing an unlimited
supply of bodies. Do you not wish that you were a kaldane?"
For how long they kept her in the subterranean chamber Tara of
Helium did not know. It seemed a very long time. She ate and
slept and watched the interminable lines of creatures that passed
the entrance to her prison. There was a laden line passing from
above carrying food, food, food. In the other line they returned
empty handed. When she saw them she knew that it was daylight
above. When they did not pass she knew it was night, and that the
banths were about devouring the rykors that had been abandoned in
the fields the previous day. She commenced to grow pale and thin.
She did not like the food they gave her--it was not suited to her
kind--nor would she have eaten overmuch palatable food, for the
fear of becoming fat. The idea of plumpness had a new
significance here--a horrible significance.
Ghek noted that she was growing thin and white. He spoke to her
about it and she told him that she could not thrive thus beneath
the ground--that she must have fresh air and sunshine, or she
would wither and die. Evidently he carried her words to Luud,
since it was not long after that he told her that the king had
ordered that she be confined in the tower and to the tower she
was taken. She had hoped against hope that this very thing might
result from her conversation with Ghek. Even to see the sun again
was something, but now there sprang to her breast a hope that she
had not dared to nurse before, while she lay in the terrible
labyrinth from which she knew she could never have found her way
to the outer world; but now there was some slight reason to hope.
At least she could see the hills and if she could see them might
there not come also the opportunity to reach them? If she could
have but ten minutes--just ten little minutes! The flier was
still there--she knew that it must be. Just ten minutes and she
would be free--free forever from this frightful place; but the
days wore on and she was never alone, not even for half of ten
minutes. Many times she planned her escape. Had it not been for
the banths it had been easy of accomplishment by night. Ghek
always detached his body then and sank into what seemed a
semi-comatose condition. It could not be said that he slept, or
at least it did not appear like sleep, since his lidless eyes
were unchanged; but he lay quietly in a corner. Tara of Helium
enacted a thousand times in her mind the scene of her escape. She
would rush to the side of the rykor and seize the sword that hung
in its harness. Before Ghek knew what she purposed, she would
have this and then before he could give an alarm she would drive
the blade through his hideous head. It would take but a moment to
reach the enclosure. The rykors could not stop her, for they had
no brains to tell them that she was escaping. She had watched
from her window the opening and closing of the gate that led from
the enclosure out into the fields and she knew how the great
latch operated. She would pass through and make a quick dash for
the hill. It was so near that they could not overtake her. It was
so easy! Or it would have been but for the banths! The banths at
night and the workers in the fields by day.
Confined to the tower and without proper exercise or food, the
girl failed to show the improvement that her captors desired.
Ghek questioned her in an effort to learn why it was that she did
not grow round and plump; that she did not even look as well as
when they had captured her. His concern was prompted by repeated
inquiries on the part of Luud and finally resulted in suggesting
to Tara of Helium a plan whereby she might find a new opportunity
"I am accustomed to walking in the fresh air and the sunlight,"
she told Ghek. "I cannot become as I was before if I am to be
always shut away in this one chamber, breathing poor air and
getting no proper exercise. Permit me to go out in the fields
every day and walk about while the sun is shining. Then, I am
sure, I shall become nice and fat."
"You would run away," he said.
"But how could I if you were always with me?" she asked. "And
even if I wished to run away where could I go? I do not know even
the direction of Helium. It must be very far. The very first
night the banths would get me, would they not?"
"They would," said Ghek. "I will ask Luud about it."
The following day he told her that Luud had said that she was to
be taken into the fields. He would try that for a time and see if
"If you do not grow fatter he will send for you anyway," said
Ghek; "but he will not use you for food."
Tara of Helium shuddered.
That day and for many days thereafter she was taken from the
tower, through the enclosure and out into the fields. Always was
she alert for an opportunity to escape; but Ghek was always close
by her side. It was not so much his presence that deterred her
from making the attempt as the number of workers that were always
between her and the hills where the flier lay. She could easily
have eluded Ghek, but there were too many of the others. And
then, one day, Ghek told her as he accompanied her into the open
that this would be the last time.
"Tonight you go to Luud," he said. "I am sorry as I shall not
hear you sing again."
"Tonight!" She scarce breathed the word, yet it was vibrant with
She glanced quickly toward the hills. They were so close! Yet
between were the inevitable workers--perhaps a score of them.
"Let us walk over there?" she said, indicating them. "I should
like to see what they are doing."
"It is too far," said Ghek. "I hate the sun. It is much
pleasanter here where I can stand beneath the shade of this
"All right," she agreed; "then you stay here and I will walk
over. It will take me but a minute."
"No," he answered. "I will go with you. You want to escape; but
you are not going to."
"I cannot escape," she said.
"I know it," agreed Ghek; "but you might try. I do not wish you
to try. Possibly it will be better if we return to the tower at
once. It would go hard with me should you escape."
Tara of Helium saw her last chance fading into oblivion. There
would never be another after today. She cast about for some
pretext to lure him even a little nearer to the hills.
"It is very little that I ask," she said. "Tonight you will want
me to sing to you. It will be the last time, if you do not let me
go and see what those kaldanes are doing I shall never sing to
Ghek hesitated. "I will hold you by the arm all the time, then,"
"Why, of course, if you wish," she assented. "Come!"
The two moved toward the workers and the hills. The little party
was digging tubers from the ground. She had noted this and that
nearly always they were stooped low over their work, the hideous
eyes bent upon the upturned soil. She led Ghek quite close to
them, pretending that she wished to see exactly how they did the
work, and all the time he held her tightly by her left wrist.
"It is very interesting," she said, with a sigh, and then,
suddenly; "Look, Ghek!" and pointed quickly back in the direction
of the tower. The kaldane, still holding her turned half away
from her to look in the direction she had indicated and
simultaneously, with the quickness of a banth, she struck him
with her right fist, backed by every ounce of strength she
possessed--struck the back of the pulpy head just above the
collar. The blow was sufficient to accomplish her design,
dislodging the kaldane from its rykor and tumbling it to the
ground. Instantly the grasp upon her wrist relaxed as the body,
no longer controlled by the brain of Ghek, stumbled aimlessly
about for an instant before it sank to its knees and then rolled
over on its back; but Tara of Helium waited not to note the full
results of her act. The instant the fingers loosened upon her
wrist she broke away and dashed toward the hills. Simultaneously
a warning whistle broke from Ghek's lips and in instant response
the workers leaped to their feet, one almost in the girl's path.
She dodged the outstretched arms and was away again toward the
hills and freedom, when her foot caught in one of the hoe-like
instruments with which the soil had been upturned and which had
been left, half imbedded in the ground. For an instant she ran
on, stumbling, in a mad effort to regain her equilibrium, but the
upturned furrows caught her feet--again she stumbled and this
time went down, and as she scrambled to rise again a heavy body
fell upon her and seized her arms. A moment later she was
surrounded and dragged to her feet and as she looked around she
saw Ghek crawling to his prostrate rykor. A moment later he
advanced to her side.
The hideous face, incapable of registering emotion, gave no clue
to what was passing in the enormous brain. Was he nursing
thoughts of anger, of hate, of revenge? Tara of Helium could not
guess, nor did she care. The worst had happened. She had tried to
escape and she had failed. There would never be another
"Come!" said Ghek. "We will return to the tower." The deadly
monotone of his voice was unbroken. It was worse than anger, for
it revealed nothing of his intentions. It but increased her
horror of these great brains that were beyond the possibility of
And so she was dragged back to her prison in the tower and Ghek
took up his vigil again, squatting by the doorway, but now he
carried a naked sword in his hand and did not quit his rykor,
only to change to another that he had brought to him when the
first gave indications of weariness. The girl sat looking at him.
He had not been unkind to her, but she felt no sense of
gratitude, nor, on the other hand, any sense of hatred. The
brains, incapable themselves of any of the finer sentiments,
awoke none in her. She could not feel gratitude, or affection, or
hatred of them. There was only the same unceasing sense of horror
in their presence. She had heard great scientists discuss the
future of the red race and she recalled that some had maintained
that eventually the brain would entirely dominate the man. There
would be no more instinctive acts or emotions, nothing would be
done on impulse; but on the contrary reason would direct our
every act. The propounder of the theory regretted that he might
never enjoy the blessings of such a state, which, he argued,
would result in the ideal life for mankind.
Tara of Helium wished with all her heart that this learned
scientist might be here to experience to the full the practical
results of the fulfillment of his prophecy. Between the purely
physical rykor and the purely mental kaldane there was little
choice; but in the happy medium of normal, and imperfect man, as
she knew him, lay the most desirable state of existence. It would
have been a splendid object lesson, she thought, to all those
idealists who seek mass perfection in any phase of human
endeavor, since here they might discover the truth that absolute
perfection is as little to be desired as is its antithesis.
Gloomy were the thoughts that filled the mind of Tara of Helium
as she awaited the summons from Luud--the summons that could mean
for her but one thing; death. She guessed why he had sent for her
and she knew that she must find the means for self-destruction
before the night was over; but still she clung to hope and to
life. She would not give up until there was no other way. She
startled Ghek once by exclaiming aloud, almost fiercely: "I still
"What do you mean?" asked the kaldane.
"I mean just what I say," she replied. "I still live and while I
live I may still find a way. Dead, there is no hope."
"Find a way to what?" he asked.
"To life and liberty and mine own people," she responded.
"None who enters Bantoom ever leaves," he droned.
She did not reply and after a time he spoke again. "Sing to me,"
It was while she was singing that four warriors came to take her
to Luud. They told Ghek that he was to remain where he was.
"Why?" asked Ghek.
"You have displeased Luud," replied one of the warriors.
"How?" demanded Ghek.
"You have demonstrated a lack of uncontaminated reasoning power.
You have permitted sentiment to influence you, thus demonstrating
that you are a defective. You know the fate of defectives."
"I know the fate of defectives, but I am no defective," insisted
"You permitted the strange noises which issue from her throat to
please and soothe you, knowing well that their origin and purpose
had nothing whatever to do with logic or the powers of reason.
This in itself constitutes an unimpeachable indictment of
weakness. Then, influenced doubtless by an illogical feeling of
sentiment, you permitted her to walk abroad in the fields to a
place where she was able to make an almost successful attempt to
escape. Your own reasoning power, were it not defective, would
convince you that you are unfit. The natural, and reasonable,
consequence is destruction. Therefore you will be destroyed in
such a way that the example will be beneficial to all other
kaldanes of the swarm of Luud. In the meantime you will remain
where you are."
"You are right," said Ghek. "I will remain here until Luud sees
fit to destroy me in the most reasonable manner."
Tara of Helium shot a look of amazement at him as they led her
from the chamber. Over her shoulder she called back to him:
"Remember, Ghek, you still live!" Then they led her along the
interminable tunnels to where Luud awaited her.
When she was conducted into his presence he was squatting in a
corner of the chamber upon his six spidery legs. Near the
opposite wall lay his rykor, its beautiful form trapped in
gorgeous harness--a dead thing without a guiding kaldane. Luud
dismissed the warriors who had accompanied the prisoner. Then he
sat with his terrible eyes fixed upon her and without speaking
for some time. Tara of Helium could but wait. What was to come
she could only guess. When it came would be sufficiently the time
to meet it. There was no necessity for anticipating the end.
Presently Luud spoke.
"You think to escape," he said, in the deadly, expressionless
monotone of his kind--the only possible result of orally
expressing reason uninfluenced by sentiment. "You will not
escape. You are merely the embodiment of two imperfect things--an
imperfect brain and an imperfect body. The two cannot exist
together in perfection. There you see a perfect body." He pointed
toward the rykor. "It has no brain. Here," and he raised one of
his chelae to his head, "is the perfect brain. It needs no body
to function perfectly and properly as a brain. You would pit your
feeble intellect against mine! Even now you are planning to slay
me. If you are thwarted in that you expect to slay yourself. You
will learn the power of mind over matter. I am the mind. You are
the matter. What brain you have is too weak and ill-developed to
deserve the name of brain. You have permitted it to be weakened
by impulsive acts dictated by sentiment. It has no value. It has
practically no control over your existence. You will not kill me.
You will not kill yourself. When I am through with you you shall
be killed if it seems the logical thing to do. You have no
conception of the possibilities for power which lie in a
perfectly developed brain. Look at that rykor. He has no brain.
He can move but slightly of his own volition. An inherent
mechanical instinct that we have permitted to remain in him
allows him to carry food to his mouth; but he could not find food
for himself. We have to place it within his reach and always in
the same place. Should we put food at his feet and leave him
alone he would starve to death. But now watch what a real brain
He turned his eyes upon the rykor and squatted there glaring at
the insensate thing. Presently, to the girl's horror, the
headless body moved. It rose slowly to its feet and crossed the
room to Luud; it stooped and took the hideous head in its hands;
it raised the head and set it on its shoulders.
"What chance have you against such power?" asked Luud. "As I did
with the rykor so can I do with you."
Tara of Helium made no reply. Evidently no vocal reply was
"You doubt my ability!" stated Luud, which was precisely the
fact, though the girl had only thought it--she had not said it.
Luud crossed the room and lay down. Then he detached himself from
the body and crawled across the floor until he stood directly in
front of the circular opening through which she had seen him
emerge the day that she had first been brought to his presence.
He stopped there and fastened his terrible eyes upon her. He did
not speak, but his eyes seemed to be boring straight to the
center of her brain. She felt an almost irresistible force urging
her toward the kaldane. She fought to resist it; she tried to
turn away her eyes, but she could not. They were held as in
horrid fascination upon the glittering, lidless orbs of the great
brain that faced her. Slowly, every step a painful struggle of
resistance, she moved toward the horrific monster. She tried to
cry aloud in an effort to awaken her numbing faculties, but no
sound passed her lips. If those eyes would but turn away, just
for an instant, she felt that she might regain the power to
control her steps; but the eyes never left hers. They seemed but
to burn deeper and deeper, gathering up every vestige of control
of her entire nervous system.
As she approached the thing it backed slowly away upon its spider
legs. She noticed that its chelae waved slowly to and fro before
it as it backed, backed, backed, through the round aperture in
the wall. Must she follow it there, too? What new and nameless
horror lay concealed in that hidden chamber? No! she would not do
it. Yet before she reached the wall she found herself down and
crawling upon her hands and knees straight toward the hole from
which the two eyes still clung to hers. At the very threshold of
the opening she made a last, heroic stand, battling against the
force that drew her on; but in the end she succumbed. With a gasp
that ended in a sob Tara of Helium passed through the aperture
into the chamber beyond.
The opening was but barely large enough to admit her. Upon the
opposite side she found herself in a small chamber. Before her
squatted Luud. Against the opposite wall lay a large and
beautiful male rykor. He was without harness or other trappings.
"You see now," said Luud, "the futility of revolt."
The words seemed to release her momentarily from the spell.
Quickly she turned away her eyes.
"Look at me!" commanded Luud.
Tara of Helium kept her eyes averted. She felt a new strength, or
at least a diminution of the creature's power over her. Had she
stumbled upon the secret of its uncanny domination over her will?
She dared not hope. With eyes averted she turned toward the
aperture through which those baleful eyes had drawn her. Again
Luud commanded her to stop, but the voice alone lacked all
authority to influence her. It was not like the eyes. She heard
the creature whistle and knew that it was summoning assistance,
but because she did not dare look toward it she did not see it
turn and concentrate its gaze upon the great, headless body lying
by the further wall.
The girl was still slightly under the spell of the creature's
influence--she had not regained full and independent domination
of her powers. She moved as one in the throes of some hideous
nightmare--slowly, painfully, as though each limb was hampered by
a great weight, or as she were dragging her body through a
viscous fluid. The aperture was close, ah, so close, yet,
struggle as she would, she seemed to be making no appreciable
progress toward it.
Behind her, urged on by the malevolent power of the great brain,
the headless body crawled upon all-fours toward her. At last she
had reached the aperture. Something seemed to tell her that once
beyond it the domination of the kaldane would be broken. She was
almost through into the adjoining chamber when she felt a heavy
hand close upon her ankle. The rykor had reached forth and seized
her, and though she struggled the thing dragged her back into the
room with Luud. It held her tight and drew her close, and then,
to her horror, it commenced to caress her.
"You see now," she heard Luud's dull voice, "the futility of
revolt--and its punishment."
Tara of Helium fought to defend herself, but pitifully weak were
her muscles against this brainless incarnation of brute power.
Yet she fought, fought on in the face of hopeless odds for the
honor of the proud name she bore--fought alone, she whom the
fighting men of a mighty empire, the flower of Martian chivalry,
would gladly have lain down their lives to save.
A REPELLENT SIGHT
The cruiser Vanator careened through the tempest. That she had not
been dashed to the ground, or twisted by the force of the
elements into tangled wreckage, was due entirely to the caprice
of Nature. For all the duration of the storm she rode, a helpless
derelict, upon those storm-tossed waves of wind. But for all the
dangers and vicissitudes they underwent, she and her crew might
have borne charmed lives up to within an hour of the abating of
the hurricane. It was then that the catastrophe occurred--a
catastrophe indeed to the crew of the Vanator and the kingdom of
The men had been without food or drink since leaving Helium, and
they had been hurled about and buffeted in their lashings until
all were worn to exhaustion. There was a brief lull in the storm
during which one of the crew attempted to reach his quarters,
after releasing the lashings which had held him to the precarious
safety of the deck. The act in itself was a direct violation of
orders and, in the eyes of the other members of the crew, the
effect, which came with startling suddenness, took the form of a
swift and terrible retribution. Scarce had the man released the
safety snaps ere a swift arm of the storm-monster encircled the
ship, rolling it over and over, with the result that the
foolhardy warrior went overboard at the first turn.
Unloosed from their lashing by the constant turning and twisting
of the ship and the force of the wind, the boarding and landing
tackle had been trailing beneath the keel, a tangled mass of
cordage and leather. Upon the occasions that the Vanator rolled
completely over, these things would be wrapped around her until
another revolution in the opposite direction, or the wind itself,
carried them once again clear of the deck to trail, whipping in
the storm, beneath the hurtling ship.
Into this fell the body of the warrior, and as a drowning man
clutches at a straw so the fellow clutched at the tangled cordage
that caught him and arrested his fall. With the strength of
desperation he clung to the cordage, seeking frantically to
entangle his legs and body in it. With each jerk of the ship his
hand holds were all but torn loose, and though he knew that
eventually they would be and that he must be dashed to the ground
beneath, yet he fought with the madness that is born of
hopelessness for the pitiful second which but prolonged his
It was upon this sight then that Gahan of Gathol looked, over the
edge of the careening deck of the Vanator, as he sought to learn
the fate of his warrior. Lashed to the gunwale close at hand a
single landing leather that had not fouled the tangled mass
beneath whipped free from the ship's side, the hook snapping at
its outer end. The Jed of Gathol grasped the situation in a
single glance. Below him one of his people looked into the eyes
of Death. To the jed's hand lay the means for succor.
There was no instant's hesitation. Casting off his deck lashings,
he seized the landing leather and slipped over the ship's side.
Swinging like a bob upon a mad pendulum he swung far out and back
again, turning and twisting three thousand feet above the surface
of Barsoom, and then, at last, the thing he had hoped for
occurred. He was carried within reach of the cordage where the
warrior still clung, though with rapidly diminishing strength.
Catching one leg on a loop of the tangled strands Gahan pulled
himself close enough to seize another quite near to the fellow.
Clinging precariously to this new hold the jed slowly drew in the
landing leather, down which he had clambered until he could grasp
the hook at its end. This he fastened to a ring in the warrior's
harness, just before the man's weakened fingers slipped from
their hold upon the cordage.
Temporarily, at least, he had saved the life of his subject,
and now he turned his attention toward insuring his own safety.
Inextricably entangled in the mess to which he was clinging were
numerous other landing hooks such as he had attached to the
warrior's harness, and with one of these he sought to secure
himself until the storm should abate sufficiently to permit him
to climb to the deck, but even as he reached for one that swung
near him the ship was caught in a renewed burst of the storm's
fury, the thrashing cordage whipped and snapped to the lunging of
the great craft and one of the heavy metal hooks, lashing through
the air, struck the Jed of Gathol fair between the eyes.
Momentarily stunned, Gahan's fingers slipped from their hold upon
the cordage and the man shot downward through the thin air of
dying Mars toward the ground three thousand feet beneath, while
upon the deck of the rolling Vanator his faithful warriors clung
to their lashings all unconscious of the fate of their beloved
leader; nor was it until more than an hour later, after the storm
had materially subsided, that they realized he was lost, or knew
the self-sacrificing heroism of the act that had sealed his doom.
The Vanator now rested upon an even keel as she was carried along
by a strong, though steady, wind. The warriors had cast off their
deck lashings and the officers were taking account of losses and
damage when a weak cry was heard from oversides, attracting their
attention to the man hanging in the cordage beneath the keel.
Strong arms hoisted him to the deck and then it was that the
crew of the Vanator learned of the heroism of their jed and his
end. How far they had traveled since his loss they could only
vaguely guess, nor could they return in search of him in the
disabled condition of the ship. It was a saddened company that
drifted onward through the air toward whatever destination Fate
was to choose for them.
And Gahan, Jed of Gathol--what of him? Plummet-like he fell for a
thousand feet and then the storm seized him in its giant clutch
and bore him far aloft again. As a bit of paper borne upon a gale
he was tossed about in mid-air, the sport and plaything of the
wind. Over and over it turned him and upward and downward it
carried him, but after each new sally of the element he was
brought nearer to the ground. The freaks of cyclonic storms are
the rule of cyclonic storms, demolish giant trees, and in the
same gust they transport frail infants for miles and deposit them
unharmed in their wake.
And so it was with Gahan of Gathol. Expecting momentarily to be
dashed to destruction he presently found himself deposited gently
upon the soft, ochre moss of a dead sea-bottom, bodily no worse
off for his harrowing adventure than in the possession of a
slight swelling upon his forehead where the metal hook had struck
him. Scarcely able to believe that Fate had dealt thus gently
with him, the jed arose slowly, as though more than half
convinced that he should discover crushed and splintered bones
that would not support his weight. But he was intact. He looked
about him in a vain effort at orientation. The air was filled
with flying dust and debris. The Sun was obliterated. His vision
was confined to a radius of a few hundred yards of ochre moss and
dust-filled air. Five hundred yards away in any direction there
might have arisen the walls of a great city and he not known it.
It was useless to move from where he was until the air cleared,
since he could not know in what direction he was moving, and so
he stretched himself upon the moss and waited, pondering the fate
of his warriors and his ship, but giving little thought to his
own precarious situation.
Lashed to his harness were his swords, his pistols, and a dagger,
and in his pocket-pouch a small quantity of the concentrated
rations that form a part of the equipment of the fighting men of
Barsoom. These things together with trained muscles, high
courage, and an undaunted spirit sufficed him for whatever
misadventures might lie between him and Gathol, which lay in what
direction he knew not, nor at what distance.
The wind was falling rapidly and with it the dust that obscured
the landscape. That the storm was over he was convinced, but he
chafed at the inactivity the low visibility put upon him, nor did
conditions better materially before night fell, so that he was
forced to await the new day at the very spot at which the tempest
had deposited him. Without his sleeping silks and furs he spent a
far from comfortable night, and it was with feelings of unmixed
relief that he saw the sudden dawn burst upon him. The air was
now clear and in the light of the new day he saw an undulating
plain stretching in all directions about him, while to the
northwest there were barely discernible the outlines of low
hills. Toward the southeast of Gathol was such a country, and as
Gahan surmised the direction and the velocity of the storm to
have carried him somewhere in the vicinity of the country he
thought he recognized, he assumed that Gathol lay behind the
hills he now saw, whereas, in reality, it lay far to the
It was two days before Gahan had crossed the plain and reached
the summit of the hills from which he hoped to see his own
country, only to meet at last with disappointment. Before him
stretched another plain, of even greater proportions than that he
had but just crossed, and beyond this other hills. In one
material respect this plain differed from that behind him in that
it was dotted with occasional isolated hills. Convinced, however,
that Gathol lay somewhere in the direction of his search he
descended into the valley and bent his steps toward the
For weeks Gahan of Gathol crossed valleys and hills in search of
some familiar landmark that might point his way toward his native
land, but the summit of each succeeding ridge revealed but
another unfamiliar view. He saw few animals and no men, until he
finally came to the belief that he had fallen upon that fabled
area of ancient Barsoom which lay under the curse of her olden
gods--the once rich and fertile country whose people in their
pride and arrogance had denied the deities, and whose punishment
had been extermination.
And then, one day, he scaled low hills and looked into an
inhabited valley--a valley of trees and cultivated fields and
plots of ground enclosed by stone walls surrounding strange
towers. He saw people working in the fields, but he did not rush
down to greet them. First he must know more of them and whether
they might be assumed to be friends or enemies. Hidden by
concealing shrubbery he crawled to a vantage point upon a hill
that projected further into the valley, and here he lay upon
his belly watching the workers closest to him. They were still
quite a distance from him and he could not be quite sure of them,
but there was something verging upon the unnatural about them.
Their heads seemed out of proportion to their bodies--too large.
For a long time he lay watching them and ever more forcibly it
was borne in upon his consciousness that they were not as he, and
that it would be rash to trust himself among them. Presently he
saw a couple appear from the nearest enclosure and slowly
approach those who were working nearest to the hill where he lay
in hiding. Immediately he was aware that one of these differed
from all the others. Even at the greater distance he noted that
the head was smaller and as they approached, he was confident
that the harness of one of them was not as the harness of its
companion or of that of any of those who tilled the fields.
The two stopped often, apparently in argument, as though one
would proceed in the direction that they were going while the
other demurred. But each time the smaller won reluctant consent
from the other, and so they came closer and closer to the last
line of workers toiling between the enclosure from which they had
come and the hill where Gahan of Gathol lay watching, and then
suddenly the smaller figure struck its companion full in the
face. Gahan, horrified, saw the latter's head topple from its
body, saw the body stagger and fall to the ground. The man half
rose from his concealment the better to view the happening in the
valley below. The creature that had felled its companion was
dashing madly in the direction of the hill upon which he was
hidden, it dodged one of the workers that sought to seize it.
Gahan hoped that it would gain its liberty, why he did not know
other than at closer range it had every appearance of being a
creature of his own race. Then he saw it stumble and go down and
instantly its pursuers were upon it. Then it was that Gahan's
eyes chanced to return to the figure of the creature the fugitive
What horror was this that he was witnessing? Or were his eyes
playing some ghastly joke upon him? No, impossible though it
was--it was true--the head was moving slowly to the fallen body.
It placed itself upon the shoulders, the body rose, and the
creature, seemingly as good as new, ran quickly to where its
fellows were dragging the hapless captive to its feet.
The watcher saw the creature take its prisoner by the arm and
lead it back to the enclosure, and even across the distance that
separated them from him he could note dejection and utter
hopelessness in the bearing of the prisoner, and, too, he was
half convinced that it was a woman, perhaps a red Martian of his
own race. Could he be sure that this was true he must make some
effort to rescue her even though the customs of his strange world
required it only in case she was of his own country; but he was
not sure; she might not be a red Martian at all, or, if she were,
it was as possible that she sprang from an enemy people as not.
His first duty was to return to his own people with as little
personal risk as possible, and though the thought of adventure
stirred his blood he put the temptation aside with a sigh and
turned away from the peaceful and beautiful valley that he longed
to enter, for it was his intention to skirt its eastern edge and
continue his search for Gathol beyond.
As Gahan of Gathol turned his steps along the southern slopes of
the hills that bound Bantoom upon the south and east, his
attention was attracted toward a small cluster of trees a short
distance to his right. The low sun was casting long shadows. It
would soon be night. The trees were off the path that he had
chosen and he had little mind to be diverted from his way; but as
he looked again he hesitated. There was something there besides
boles of trees, and underbrush. There were suggestions of
familiar lines of the handicraft of man. Gahan stopped and
strained his eyes in the direction of the thing that had arrested
his attention. No, he must be mistaken--the branches of the trees
and a low bush had taken on an unnatural semblance in the
horizontal rays of the setting sun. He turned and continued upon
his way; but as he cast another side glance in the direction of
the object of his interest, the sun's rays were shot back into
his eyes from a glistening point of radiance among the trees.
Gahan shook his head and walked quickly toward the mystery,
determined now to solve it. The shining object still lured him on
and when he had come closer to it his eyes went wide in surprise,
for the thing they saw was naught else than the jewel-encrusted
emblem upon the prow of a small flier. Gahan, his hand upon his
short-sword, moved silently forward, but as he neared the craft
he saw that he had naught to fear, for it was deserted. Then he
turned his attention toward the emblem. As its significance was
flashed to his understanding his face paled and his heart went
cold--it was the insignia of the house of The Warlord of
Barsoom. Instantly he saw the dejected figure of the captive
being led back to her prison in the valley just beyond the hills.
Tara of Helium! And he had been so near to deserting her to her
fate. The cold sweat stood in beads upon his brow.
A hasty examination of the deserted craft unfolded to the young
jed the whole tragic story. The same tempest that had proved his
undoing had borne Tara of Helium to this distant country. Here,
doubtless, she had landed in hope of obtaining food and water
since, without a propellor, she could not hope to reach her
native city, or any other friendly port, other than by the merest
caprice of Fate. The flier seemed intact except for the missing
propellor and the fact that it had been carefully moored in the
shelter of the clump of trees indicated that the girl had
expected to return to it, while the dust and leaves upon its deck
spoke of the long days, and even weeks, since she had landed.
Mute yet eloquent proofs, these things, that Tara of Helium was a
prisoner, and that she was the very prisoner whose bold dash for
liberty he had so recently witnessed he now had not the slightest
The question now revolved solely about her rescue. He knew to
which tower she had been taken--that much and no more. Of the
number, the kind, or the disposition of her captors he knew
nothing; nor did he care--for Tara of Helium he would face a
hostile world alone. Rapidly he considered several plans for
succoring her; but the one that appealed most strongly to him was
that which offered the greatest chance of escape for the girl
should he be successful in reaching her. His decision reached he
turned his attention quickly toward the flier. Casting off its
lashings he dragged it out from beneath the trees, and, mounting
to the deck tested out the various controls. The motor started at
a touch and purred sweetly, the buoyancy tanks were well stocked,
and the ship answered perfectly to the controls which regulated
her altitude. There was nothing needed but a propellor to make
her fit for the long voyage to Helium. Gahan shrugged
impatiently--there must not be a propellor within a thousand
haads. But what mattered it? The craft even without a propellor
would still answer the purpose his plan required of it--provided
the captors of Tara of Helium were a people without ships, and he
had seen nothing to suggest that they had ships. The architecture
of their towers and enclosures assured him that they had not.
The sudden Barsoomian night had fallen. Cluros rode majestically
the high heavens. The rumbling roar of a banth reverberated among
the hills. Gahan of Gathol let the ship rise a few feet from the
ground, then, seizing a bow rope, he dropped over the side. To
tow the little craft was now a thing of ease, and as Gahan moved
rapidly toward the brow of the hill above Bantoom the flier
floated behind him as lightly as a swan upon a quiet lake. Now
down the hill toward the tower dimly visible in the moonlight the
Gatholian turned his steps. Closer behind him sounded the roar of
the hunting banth. He wondered if the beast sought him or was
following some other spoor. He could not be delayed now by any
hungry beast of prey, for what might that very instant be
befalling Tara of Helium he could not guess; and so he hastened
his steps. But closer and closer came the horrid screams of the
great carnivore, and now he heard the swift fall of padded feet
upon the hillside behind him. He glanced back just in time to see
the beast break into a rapid charge. His hand leaped to the hilt
of his long-sword, but he did not draw, for in the same instant
he saw the futility of armed resistance, since behind the first
banth came a herd of at least a dozen others. There was but a
single alternative to a futile stand and that he grasped in the
instant that he saw the overwhelming numbers of his antagonists.
Springing lightly from the ground he swarmed up the rope toward
the bow of the flier. His weight drew the craft slightly lower
and at the very instant that the man drew himself to the deck at
the bow of the vessel, the leading banth sprang for the stern.
Gahan leaped to his feet and rushed toward the great beast in the
hope of dislodging it before it had succeeded in clambering
aboard. At the same instant he saw that others of the banths were
racing toward them with the quite evident intention of following
their leader to the ship's deck. Should they reach it in any
numbers he would be lost. There was but a single hope. Leaping
for the altitude control Gahan pulled it wide. Simultaneously
three banths leaped for the deck. The craft rose swiftly. Gahan
felt the impact of a body against the keel, followed by the soft
thuds of the great bodies as they struck the ground beneath. His
act had not been an instant too soon. And now the leader had
gained the deck and stood at the stern with glaring eyes and
snarling jaws. Gahan drew his sword. The beast, possibly
disconcerted by the novelty of its position, did not charge.
Instead it crept slowly toward its intended prey. The craft was
rising and Gahan placed a foot upon the control and stopped the
ascent. He did not wish to chance rising to some higher air
current that would bear him away. Already the craft was moving
slowly toward the tower, carried thither by the impetus of the
banth's heavy body leaping upon it from astern.
The man watched the slow approach of the monster, the slavering
jowls, the malignant expression of the devilish face. The
creature, finding the deck stable, appeared to be gaining
confidence, and then the man leaped suddenly to one side of the
deck and the tiny flier heeled as suddenly in response. The banth
slipped and clutched frantically at the deck. Gahan leaped in
with his naked sword; the great beast caught itself and reared
upon its hind legs to reach forth and seize this presumptuous
mortal that dared question its right to the flesh it craved; and
then the man sprang to the opposite side of the deck. The banth
toppled sideways at the same instant that it attempted to spring;
a raking talon passed close to Gahan's head at the moment that
his sword lunged through the savage heart, and as the warrior
wrenched his blade from the carcass it slipped silently over the
side of the ship.
A glance below showed that the vessel was drifting in the
direction of the tower to which Gahan had seen the prisoner led.
In another moment or two it would be directly over it. The man
sprang to the control and let the craft drop quickly toward the
ground where followed the banths, still hot for their prey. To
land outside the enclosure spelled certain death, while inside he
could see many forms huddled upon the ground as in sleep. The
ship floated now but a few feet above the wall of the enclosure.
There was nothing for it but to risk all on a bold bid for
fortune, or drift helplessly past without hope of returning
through the banth-infested valley, from many points of which he
could now hear the roars and growls of these fierce Barsoomian
Slipping over the side Gahan descended by the trailing
anchor-rope until his feet touched the top of the wall, where he
had no difficulty in arresting the slow drifting of the ship.
Then he drew up the anchor and lowered it inside the enclosure.
Still there was no movement upon the part of the sleepers
beneath--they lay as dead men. Dull lights shone from openings in
the tower; but there was no sign of guard or waking inmate.
Clinging to the rope Gahan lowered himself within the enclosure,
where he had his first close view of the creatures lying there in
what he had thought sleep. With a half smothered exclamation of
horror the man drew back from the headless bodies of the rykors.
At first he thought them the corpses of decapitated humans like
himself, which was quite bad enough; but when he saw them move
and realized that they were endowed with life, his horror and
disgust became even greater.
Here then was the explanation of the thing he had witnessed that
afternoon, when Tara of Helium had struck the back to its body.
And to think that the pearl of Helium was in the power of such
hideous things as these. Again the man shuddered, but he hastened
to make fast the flier, clamber again to its deck and lower it to
the floor of the enclosure. Then he strode toward a door in the
base of the tower, stepping lightly over the recumbent forms of
the unconscious rykors, and crossing the threshold disappeared
Ghek, in his happier days third foreman of the fields of Luud,
sat nursing his anger and his humiliation. Recently something had
awakened within him the existence of which he had never before
even dreamed. Had the influence of the strange captive woman
aught to do with this unrest and dissatisfaction? He did not
know. He missed the soothing influence of the noise she called
singing. Could it be that there were other things more desirable
than cold logic and undefiled brain power? Was well balanced
imperfection more to be sought after then, than the high
development of a single characteristic? He thought of the great,
ultimate brain toward which all kaldanes were striving. It would
be deaf, and dumb, and blind. A thousand beautiful strangers
might sing and dance about it, but it could derive no pleasure
from the singing or the dancing since it would possess no
perceptive faculties. Already had the kaldanes shut themselves
off from most of the gratifications of the senses. Ghek wondered
if much was to be gained by denying themselves still further, and
with the thought came a question as to the whole fabric of their
theory. After all perhaps the girl was right; what purpose could
a great brain serve sealed in the bowels of the earth?
And he, Ghek, was to die for this theory. Luud had decreed it.
The injustice of it overwhelmed him with rage. But he was
helpless. There was no escape. Beyond the enclosure the banths
awaited him; within, his own kind, equally as merciless and
ferocious. Among them there was no such thing as love, or
loyalty, or friendship--they were just brains. He might kill
Luud; but what would that profit him? Another king would be
loosed from his sealed chamber and Ghek would be killed. He did
not know it but he would not even have the poor satisfaction of
satisfied revenge, since he was not capable of feeling so
abstruse a sentiment.
Ghek, mounted upon his rykor, paced the floor of the tower
chamber in which he had been ordered to remain. Ordinarily he
would have accepted the sentence of Luud with perfect equanimity,
since it was but the logical result of reason; but now it seemed
different. The stranger woman had bewitched him. Life appeared a
pleasant thing--there were great possibilities in it. The dream
of the ultimate brain had receded into a tenuous haze far in the
background of his thoughts.
At that moment there appeared in the doorway of the chamber a red
warrior with naked sword. He was a male counterpart of the
prisoner whose sweet voice had undermined the cold, calculating
reason of the kaldane.
"Silence!" admonished the newcomer, his straight brows gathered
in an ominous frown and the point of his longsword playing
menacingly before the eyes of the kaldane. "I seek the woman,
Tara of Helium. Where is she? If you value your life speak
quickly and speak the truth."
If he valued his life! It was a truth that Ghek had but just
learned. He thought quickly. After all, a great brain is not
without its uses. Perhaps here lay escape from the sentence of
"You are of her kind?" he asked. "You come to rescue her?"
"Listen, then. I have befriended her, and because of this I am to
die. If I help you to liberate her, will you take me with you?"
Gahan of Gathol eyed the weird creature from crown to foot--the
perfect body, the grotesque head, the expressionless face. Among
such as these had the beautiful daughter of Helium been held
captive for days and weeks.
"If she lives and is unharmed," he said, "I will take you with
"When they took her from me she was alive and unharmed," replied
Ghek. "I cannot say what has befallen her since. Luud sent for
"Who is Luud? Where is he? Lead me to him." Gahan spoke quickly
in tones vibrant with authority.
"Come, then," said Ghek, leading the way from the apartment and
down a stairway toward the underground burrows of the kaldanes.
"Luud is my king. I will take you to his chambers."
"Hasten!" urged Gahan.
"Sheathe your sword," warned Ghek, "so that should we pass others
of my kind I may say to them that you are a new prisoner with
some likelihood of winning their belief."
Gahan did as he was bid, but warning the kaldane that his hand
was ever ready at his dagger's hilt.
"You need have no fear of treachery," said Ghek "My only hope of
life lies in you."
"And if you fail me," Gahan admonished him, "I can promise you as
sure a death as even your king might guarantee you."
Ghek made no reply, but moved rapidly through the winding
subterranean corridors until Gahan began to realize how truly was
he in the hands of this strange monster. If the fellow should
prove false it would profit Gahan nothing to slay him, since
without his guidance the red man might never hope to retrace his
way to the tower and freedom.
Twice they met and were accosted by other kaldanes; but in both
instances Ghek's simple statement that he was taking a new
prisoner to Luud appeared to allay all suspicion, and then at
last they came to the ante-chamber of the king.
"Here, now, red man, thou must fight, if ever," whispered Ghek.
"Enter there!" and he pointed to a doorway before them.
"And you?" asked Gahan, still fearful of treachery.
"My rykor is powerful," replied the kaldane. "I shall accompany
you and fight at your side. As well die thus as in torture later
at the will of Luud. Come!"
But Gahan had already crossed the room and entered the chamber
beyond. Upon the opposite side of the room was a circular opening
guarded by two warriors. Beyond this opening he could see two
figures struggling upon the floor, and the fleeting glimpse he
had of one of the faces suddenly endowed him with the strength of
ten warriors and the ferocity of a wounded banth. It was Tara of
Helium, fighting for her honor or her life.
The warriors, startled by the unexpected appearance of a red man,
stood for a moment in dumb amazement, and in that moment Gahan of
Gathol was upon them, and one was down, a sword-thrust through
"Strike at the heads," whispered the voice of Ghek in Gahan's
ear. The latter saw the head of the fallen warrior crawl quickly
within the aperture leading to the chamber where he had seen Tara
of Helium in the clutches of a headless body. Then the sword of
Ghek struck the kaldane of the remaining warrior from its rykor
and Gahan ran his sword through the repulsive head.
Instantly the red warrior leaped for the aperture, while close
behind him came Ghek.
"Look not upon the eyes of Luud," warned the kaldane, "or you are
Within the chamber Gahan saw Tara of Helium in the clutches of a
mighty body, while close to the wall upon the opposite side of
the apartment crouched the hideous, spider-like Luud. Instantly
the king realized the menace to himself and sought to fasten his
eyes upon the eyes of Gahan, and in doing so he was forced to
relax his concentration upon the rykor in whose embraces Tara
struggled, so that almost immediately the girl found herself able
to tear away from the awful, headless thing.
As she rose quickly to her feet she saw for the first time the
cause of the interruption of Luud's plans. A red warrior! Her
heart leaped in rejoicing and thanksgiving. What miracle of fate
had sent him to her? She did not recognize him, though, this
travel-worn warrior in the plain harness which showed no single
jewel. How could she have guessed him the same as the scintillant
creature of platinum and diamonds that she had seen for a brief
hour under such different circumstances at the court of her
Luud saw Ghek following the strange warrior into the chamber.
"Strike him down, Ghek!" commanded the king. "Strike down the
stranger and your life shall be yours."
Gahan glanced at the hideous face of the king.
"Seek not his eyes," screamed Tara in warning; but it was too
late. Already the horrid hypnotic gaze of the king kaldane had
seized upon the eyes of Gahan. The red warrior hesitated in his
stride. His sword point drooped slowly toward the floor. Tara
glanced toward Ghek. She saw the creature glaring with his
expressionless eyes upon the broad back of the stranger. She saw
the hand of the creature's rykor creeping stealthily toward the
hilt of its dagger.
And then Tara of Helium raised her eyes aloft and poured forth
the notes of Mars' most beautiful melody, The Song of Love.
Ghek drew his dagger from its sheath. His eyes turned toward the
singing girl. Luud's glance wavered from the eyes of the man to
the face of Tara, and the instant that the latter's song
distracted his attention from his victim, Gahan of Gathol shook
himself and as with a supreme effort of will forced his eyes to
the wall above Luud's hideous head. Ghek raised his dagger above
his right shoulder, took a single quick step forward, and struck.
The girl's song ended in a stifled scream as she leaped forward
with the evident intention of frustrating the kaldane's purpose;
but she was too late, and well it was, for an instant later she
realized the purpose of Ghek's act as she saw the dagger fly from
his hand, pass Gahan's shoulder, and sink full to the guard in
the soft face of Luud.
"Come!" cried the assassin, "we have no time to lose," and
started for the aperture through which they had entered the
chamber; but in his stride he paused as his glance was arrested
by the form of the mighty rykor lying prone upon the floor--a
king's rykor; the most beautiful, the most powerful, that the
breeders of Bantoom could produce. Ghek realized that in his
escape he could take with him but a single rykor, and there was
none in Bantoom that could give him better service than this
giant lying here. Quickly he transferred himself to the shoulders
of the great, inert hulk. Instantly the latter was transformed to
a sentient creature, filled with pulsing life and alert energy.
"Now," said the kaldane, "we are ready. Let whoso would revert to
nothingness impede me." Even as he spoke he stooped and crawled
into the chamber beyond, while Gahan, taking Tara by the arm,
motioned her to follow. The girl looked him full in the eyes for
the first time. "The Gods of my people have been kind," she said;
"you came just in time. To the thanks of Tara of Helium shall be
added those of The Warlord of Barsoom and his people. Thy reward
shall surpass thy greatest desires."
Gahan of Gathol saw that she did not recognize him, and quickly
he checked the warm greeting that had been upon his lips.
"Be thou Tara of Helium or another," he replied, "is immaterial,
to serve thus a red woman of Barsoom is in itself sufficient
As they spoke the girl was making her way through the aperture
after Ghek, and presently all three had quitted the apartments of
Luud and were moving rapidly along the winding corridors toward
the tower. Ghek repeatedly urged them to greater speed, but the
red men of Barsoom were never keen for retreat, and so the two
that followed him moved all too slowly for the kaldane.
"There are none to impede our progress," urged Gahan, "so why tax
the strength of the Princess by needless haste?"
"I fear not so much opposition ahead, for there are none there
who know the thing that has been done in Luud's chambers this
night; but the kaldane of one of the warriors who stood guard
before Luud's apartment escaped, and you may count it a truth
that he lost no time in seeking aid. That it did not come before
we left is due solely to the rapidity with which events
transpired in the king's* room. Long before we reach the tower
they will be upon us from behind, and that they will come in
numbers far superior to ours and with great and powerful rykors I
* I have used the word king in describing the rulers or chiefs of
the Bantoomian swarms, since the word itself is unpronounceable
in English, nor does jed or jeddak of the red Martian tongue have
quite the same meaning as the Bantoomian word, which has
practically the same significance as the English word queen as
applied to the leader of a swarm of bees.--J. C.
Nor was Ghek's prophecy long in fulfilment. Presently the sounds
of pursuit became audible in the distant clanking of
accouterments and the whistling call to arms of the kaldanes.
"The tower is but a short distance now," cried Ghek. "Make haste
while yet you may, and if we can barricade it until the sun rises
we may yet escape."
"We shall need no barricades for we shall not linger in the
tower," replied Gahan, moving more rapidly as he realized from
the volume of sound behind them the great number of their
"But we may not go further than the tower tonight," insisted
Ghek. "Beyond the tower await the banths and certain death."
Gahan smiled. "Fear not the banths," he assured them. "Can we but
reach the enclosure a little ahead of our pursuers we have naught
to fear from any evil power within this accursed valley."
Ghek made no reply, nor did his expressionless face denote either
belief or skepticism. The girl looked into the face of the man
questioningly. She did not understand.
"Your flier," he said. "It is moored before the tower."
Her face lighted with pleasure and relief. "You found it!" she
exclaimed. "What fortune!"
"It was fortune indeed," he replied. "Since it not only told that
you were a prisoner here; but it saved me from the banths as I
was crossing the valley from the hills to this tower into which I
saw them take you this afternoon after your brave attempt at
"How did you know it was I?" she asked, her puzzled brows
scanning his face as though she sought to recall from past
memories some scene in which he figured.
"Who is there but knows of the loss of the Princess Tara of
Helium?" he replied. "And when I saw the device upon your flier I
knew at once, though I had not known when I saw you among them in
the fields a short time earlier. Too great was the distance for
me to make certain whether the captive was man or woman. Had
chance not divulged the hiding place of your flier I had gone my
way, Tara of Helium. I shudder to think how close was the chance
at that. But for the momentary shining of the sun upon the
emblazoned device on the prow of your craft, I had passed on
The girl shuddered. "The Gods sent you," she whispered
"The Gods sent me, Tara of Helium," he replied.
"But I do not recognize you," she said. "I have tried to recall
you, but I have failed. Your name, what may it be?"
"It is not strange that so great a princess should not recall the
face of every roving panthan of Barsoom," he replied with a
"But your name?" insisted the girl.
"Call me Turan," replied the man, for it had come to him that if
Tara of Helium recognized him as the man whose impetuous avowal
of love had angered her that day in the gardens of The Warlord,
her situation might be rendered infinitely less bearable than
were she to believe him a total stranger. Then, too, as a simple
panthan* he might win a greater degree of her confidence by his
loyalty and faithfulness and a place in her esteem that seemed to
have been closed to the resplendent Jed of Gathol.
* Soldier of Fortune; free-lance warrior.
They had reached the tower now, and as they entered it from the
subterranean corridor a backward glance revealed the van of their
pursuers--hideous kaldanes mounted upon swift and powerful
rykors. As rapidly as might be the three ascended the stairways
leading to the ground level, but after them, even more rapidly,
came the minions of Luud. Ghek led the way, grasping one of
Tara's hands the more easily to guide and assist her, while Gahan
of Gathol followed a few paces in their rear, his bared sword
ready for the assault that all realized must come upon them now
before ever they reached the enclosure and the flier.
"Let Ghek drop behind to your side," said Tara, "and fight with
"There is but room for a single blade in these narrow corridors,"
replied the Gatholian. "Hasten on with Ghek and win to the deck
of the flier. Have your hand upon the control, and if I come far
enough ahead of these to reach the dangling cable you can rise at
my word and I can clamber to the deck at my leisure; but if one
of them emerges first into the enclosure you will know that I
shall never come, and you will rise quickly and trust to the Gods
of our ancestors to give you a fair breeze in the direction of a
more hospitable people."
Tara of Helium shook her head. "We will not desert you, panthan,"
Gahan, ignoring her reply, spoke above her head to Ghek. "Take
her to the craft moored within the enclosure," he commanded. "It
is our only hope. Alone, I may win to its deck; but have I to
wait upon you two at the last moment the chances are that none of
us will escape. Do as I bid." His tone was haughty and
arrogant--the tone of a man who has commanded other men from
birth, and whose will has been law. Tara of Helium was both
angered and vexed. She was not accustomed to being either
commanded or ignored, but with all her royal pride she was no
fool, and she knew the man was right, that he was risking his
life to save hers, so she hastened on with Ghek as she was bid,
and after the first flush of anger she smiled, for the
realization came to her that this fellow was but a rough
untutored warrior, skilled not in the finer usages of cultured
courts. His heart was right, though; a brave and loyal heart, and
gladly she forgave him the offense of his tone and manner. But
what a tone! Recollection of it gave her sudden pause. Panthans
were rough and ready men. Often they rose to positions of high
command, so it was not the note of authority in the fellow's
voice that seemed remarkable; but something else--a quality that
was indefinable, yet as distinct as it was familiar. She had
heard it before when the voice of her great-grandsire, Tardos
Mors, Jeddak of Helium, had risen in command; and in the voice of
her grandfather, Mors Kajak, the jed; and in the ringing tones of
her illustrious sire, John Carter, Warlord of Barsoom, when he
addressed his warriors.
But now she had no time to speculate upon so trivial a thing, for
behind her came the sudden clash of arms and she knew that Turan,
the panthan, had crossed swords with the first of their pursuers.
As she glanced back he was still visible beyond a turn in the
stairway, so that she could see the quick swordplay that ensued.
Daughter of a world's greatest swordsman, she knew well the
finest points of the art. She saw the clumsy attack of the
kaldane and the quick, sure return of the panthan. As she looked
down from above upon his almost naked body, trapped only in the
simplest of unadorned harness, and saw the play of the lithe
muscles beneath the red-bronze skin, and witnessed the quick and
delicate play of his sword point, to her sense of obligation was
added a spontaneous admission of admiration that was but the
natural tribute of a woman to skill and bravery and, perchance,
some trifle to manly symmetry and strength.
Three times the panthan's blade changed its position--once to
fend a savage cut; once to feint; and once to thrust. And as he
withdrew it from the last position the kaldane rolled lifeless
from its stumbling rykor and Turan sprang quickly down the steps
to engage the next behind, and then Ghek had drawn Tara upward
and a turn in the stairway shut the battling panthan from her
view; but still she heard the ring of steel on steel, the clank
of accouterments and the shrill whistling of the kaldanes. Her
heart moved her to turn back to the side of her brave defender;
but her judgment told her that she could serve him best by being
ready at the control of the flier at the moment he reached the
ADRIFT OVER STRANGE REGIONS
Presently Ghek pushed aside a door that opened from the stairway,
and before them Tara saw the moonlight flooding the walled court
where the headless rykors lay beside their feeding-troughs. She
saw the perfect bodies, muscled as the best of her father's
fighting men, and the females whose figures would have been the
envy of many of Helium's most beautiful women. Ah, if she could
but endow these with the power to act! Then indeed might the
safety of the panthan be assured; but they were only poor lumps
of clay, nor had she the power to quicken them to life. Ever must
they lie thus until dominated by the cold, heartless brain of the
kaldane. The girl sighed in pity even as she shuddered in disgust
as she picked her way over and among the sprawled creatures
toward the flier.
Quickly she and Ghek mounted to the deck after the latter had
cast off the moorings. Tara tested the control, raising and
lowering the ship a few feet within the walled space. It
responded perfectly. Then she lowered it to the ground again and
waited. From the open doorway came the sounds of conflict, now
nearing them, now receding. The girl, having witnessed her
champion's skill, had little fear of the outcome. Only a single
antagonist could face him at a time upon the narrow stairway, he
had the advantage of position and of the defensive, and he was a
master of the sword while they were clumsy bunglers by
comparison. Their sole advantage was in their numbers, unless
they might find a way to come upon him from behind.
She paled at the thought. Could she have seen him she might have
been further perturbed, for he took no advantage of many
opportunities to win nearer the enclosure. He fought coolly, but
with a savage persistence that bore little semblance to purely
defensive action. Often he clambered over the body of a fallen
foe to leap against the next behind, and once there lay five dead
kaldanes behind him, so far had he pushed back his antagonists.
They did not know it; these kaldanes that he fought, nor did the
girl awaiting him upon the flier, but Gahan of Gathol was engaged
in a more alluring sport than winning to freedom, for he was
avenging the indignities that had been put upon the woman he
loved; but presently he realized that he might be jeopardizing
her safety uselessly, and so he struck down another before him
and turning leaped quickly up the stairway, while the leading
kaldanes slipped upon the brain-covered floor and stumbled in
Gahan reached the enclosure twenty paces ahead of them and raced
toward the flier. "Rise!" he shouted to the girl. "I will ascend
Slowly the small craft rose from the ground as Gahan leaped the
inert bodies of the rykors lying in his path. The first of the
pursuers sprang from the tower just as Gahan seized the trailing
"Faster!" he shouted to the girl above, "or they will drag us
down!" But the ship seemed scarcely to move, though in reality
she was rising as rapidly as might have been expected of a
one-man flier carrying a load of three. Gahan swung free above
the top of the wall, but the end of the rope still dragged the
ground as the kaldanes reached it. They were pouring in a steady
stream from the tower into the enclosure. The leader seized the
"Quick!" he cried. "Lay hold and we will drag them down."
It needed but the weight of a few to accomplish his design. The
ship was stopped in its flight and then, to the horror of the
girl, she felt it being dragged steadily downward. Gahan, too,
realized the danger and the necessity for instant action.
Clinging to the rope with his left hand, he had wound a leg about
it, leaving his right hand free for his long-sword which he had
not sheathed. A downward cut clove the soft head of a kaldane,
and another severed the taut rope beneath the panthan's feet. The
girl heard a sudden renewal of the shrill whistling of her foes,
and at the same time she realized that the craft was rising
again. Slowly it drifted upward, out of reach of the enemy, and a
moment later she saw the figure of Turan clamber over the side.
For the first time in many weeks her heart was filled with the
joy of thanksgiving; but her first thought was of another.
"You are not wounded?" she asked.
"No, Tara of Helium," he replied. "They were scarce worth the
effort of my blade, and never were they a menace to me because of
"They should have slain you easily," said Ghek. "So great and
highly developed is the power of reason among us that they should
have known before you struck just where, logically, you must seek
to strike, and so they should have been able to parry your every
thrust and easily find an opening to your heart."
"But they did not, Ghek," Gahan reminded him. "Their theory of
development is wrong, for it does not tend toward a perfectly
balanced whole. You have developed the brain and neglected the
body and you can never do with the hands of another what you can
do with your own hands. Mine are trained to the sword--every
muscle responds instantly and accurately, and almost
mechanically, to the need of the instant. I am scarcely
objectively aware that I think when I fight, so quickly does my
point take advantage of every opening, or spring to my defense if
I am threatened that it is almost as though the cold steel had
eyes and brains. You, with your kaldane brain and your rykor
body, never could hope to achieve in the same degree of
perfection those things that I can achieve. Development of the
brain should not be the sum total of human endeavor. The richest
and happiest peoples will be those who attain closest to
well-balanced perfection of both mind and body, and even these
must always be short of perfection. In absolute and general
perfection lies stifling monotony and death. Nature must have
contrasts; she must have shadows as well as highlights; sorrow
with happiness; both wrong and right; and sin as well as virtue."
"Always have I been taught differently," replied Ghek; "but since
I have known this woman and you, of another race, I have come to
believe that there may be other standards fully as high and
desirable as those of the kaldanes. At least I have had a glimpse
of the thing you call happiness and I realize that it may be good
even though I have no means of expressing it. I cannot laugh nor
smile, and yet within me is a sense of contentment when this
woman sings--a sense that seems to open before me wondrous vistas
of beauty and unguessed pleasure that far transcend the cold joys
of a perfectly functioning brain. I would that I had been born of
Caught by a gentle current of air the flier was drifting slowly
toward the northeast across the valley of Bantoom. Below them lay
the cultivated fields, and one after another they passed over the
strange towers of Moak and Nolach and the other kings of the
swarms that inhabited this weird and terrible land. Within each
enclosure surrounding the towers grovelled the rykors, repellent,
headless things, beautiful yet hideous.
"A lesson, those," remarked Gahan, indicating the rykors in an
enclosure above which they were drifting at the time, "to that
fortunately small minority of our race which worships the flesh
and makes a god of appetite. You know them, Tara of Helium; they
can tell you exactly what they had at the midday meal two weeks
ago, and how the loin of the thoat should be prepared, and what
drink should be served with the rump of the zitidar."
Tara of Helium laughed. "But not one of them could tell you the
name of the man whose painting took the Jeddak's Award in The
Temple of Beauty this year," she said. "Like the rykors, their
development has not been balanced."
"Fortunate indeed are those in which there is combined a little
good and a little bad, a little knowledge of many things outside
their own callings, a capacity for love and a capacity for hate,
for such as these can look with tolerance upon all, unbiased by
the egotism of him whose head is so heavy on one side that all
his brains run to that point."
As Gahan ceased speaking Ghek made a little noise in his throat
as one does who would attract attention. "You speak as one who
has thought much upon many subjects. Is it, then, possible that
you of the red race have pleasure in thought? Do you know aught
of the joys of introspection? Do reason and logic form any part
of your lives?"
"Most assuredly," replied Gahan, "but not to the extent of
occupying all our time--at least not objectively. You, Ghek, are
an example of the egotism of which I spoke. Because you and your
kind devote your lives to the worship of mind, you believe that
no other created beings think. And possibly we do not in the
sense that you do, who think only of yourselves and your great
brains. We think of many things that concern the welfare of a
world. Had it not been for the red men of Barsoom even the
kaldanes had perished from the planet, for while you may live
without air the things upon which you depend for existence
cannot, and there had been no air in sufficient quantities upon
Barsoom these many ages had not a red man planned and built the
great atmosphere plant which gave new life to a dying world.
"What have all the brains of all the kaldanes that have ever
lived done to compare with that single idea of a single red man?"
Ghek was stumped. Being a kaldane he knew that brains spelled the
sum total of universal achievement, but it had never occurred to
him that they should be put to use in practical and profitable
ways. He turned away and looked down upon the valley of his
ancestors across which he was slowly drifting, into what unknown
world? He should be a veritable god among the underlings, he
knew; but somehow a doubt assailed him. It was evident that these
two from that other world were ready to question his preeminence.
Even through his great egotism was filtering a suspicion that
they patronized him; perhaps even pitied him. Then he began to
wonder what was to become of him. No longer would he have many
rykors to do his bidding. Only this single one and when it died
there could not be another. When it tired, Ghek must lie almost
helpless while it rested. He wished that he had never seen this
red woman. She had brought him only discontent and dishonor and
now exile. Presently Tara of Helium commenced to hum a tune and
Ghek, the kaldane, was content.
Gently they drifted beneath the hurtling moons above the mad
shadows of a Martian night. The roaring of the banths came in
diminishing volume to their ears as their craft passed on beyond
the boundaries of Bantoom, leaving behind the terrors of that
unhappy land. But to what were they being borne? The girl looked
at the man sitting cross-legged upon the deck of the tiny flier,
gazing off into the night ahead, apparently absorbed in thought.
"Where are we?" she asked. "Toward what are we drifting?"
Turan shrugged his broad shoulders. "The stars tell me that we
are drifting toward the northeast," he replied, "but where we
are, or what lies in our path I cannot even guess. A week since I
could have sworn that I knew what lay behind each succeeding
ridge that I approached; but now I admit in all humility that I
have no conception of what lies a mile in any direction. Tara of
Helium, I am lost, and that is all that I can tell you."
He was smiling and the girl smiled back at him. There was a
slightly puzzled expression on her face--there was something
tantalizingly familiar about that smile of his. She had met many
a panthan--they came and went, following the fighting of a
world--but she could not place this one.
"From what country are you, Turan?" she asked suddenly.
"Know you not, Tara of Helium," he countered, "that a panthan has
no country? Today he fights beneath the banner of one master,
tomorrow beneath that of another."
"But you must own allegiance to some country when you are not
fighting," she insisted. "What banner, then, owns you now?"
He rose and stood before her, then, bowing low. "And I am
acceptable," he said, "I serve beneath the banner of the daughter
of The Warlord now--and forever."
She reached forth and touched his arm with a slim brown hand.
"Your services are accepted," she said; "and if ever we reach
Helium I promise that your reward shall be all that your heart
"I shall serve faithfully, hoping for that reward," he said;
but Tara of Helium did not guess what was in his mind, thinking
rather that he was mercenary. For how could the proud daughter of
The Warlord guess that a simple panthan aspired to her hand and
The dawn found them moving rapidly over an unfamiliar landscape.
The wind had increased during the night and had borne them far
from Bantoom. The country below them was rough and inhospitable.
No water was visible and the surface of the ground was cut by
deep gorges, while nowhere was any but the most meager vegetation
discernible. They saw no life of any nature, nor was there any
indication that the country could support life. For two days they
drifted over this horrid wasteland. They were without food or
water and suffered accordingly. Ghek had temporarily abandoned
his rykor after enlisting Turan's assistance in lashing it safely
to the deck. The less he used it the less would its vitality be
spent. Already it was showing the effects of privation. Ghek
crawled about the vessel like a great spider--over the side, down
beneath the keel, and up over the opposite rail. He seemed
equally at home one place as another. For his companions,
however, the quarters were cramped, for the deck of a one-man
flier is not intended for three.
Turan sought always ahead for signs of water. Water they must
have, or that water-giving plant which makes life possible upon
many of the seemingly arid areas of Mars; but there was neither
the one nor the other for these two days and now the third night
was upon them. The girl did not complain, but Turan knew that she
must be suffering and his heart was heavy within him. Ghek
suffered least of all, and he explained to them that his kind
could exist for long periods without food or water. Turan almost
cursed him as he saw the form of Tara of Helium slowly wasting
away before his eyes, while the hideous kaldane seemed as full of
vitality as ever.
"There are circumstances," remarked Ghek, "under which a gross
and material body is less desirable than a highly developed
Turan looked at him, but said nothing. Tara of Helium smiled
faintly. "One cannot blame him," she said, "were we not a bit
boastful in the pride of our superiority? When our stomachs were
filled," she added.
"Perhaps there is something to be said for their system," Turan
admitted. "If we could but lay aside our stomachs when they cried
for food and water I have no doubt but that we should do so."
"I should never miss mine now," assented Tara; "it is mighty poor
A new day had dawned, revealing a less desolate country and
renewing again the hope that had been low within them. Suddenly
Turan leaned forward, pointing ahead.
"Look, Tara of Helium!" he cried. "A city! As I am Ga--as I am
Turan the panthan, a city."
Far in the distance the domes and walls and slender towers of a
city shone in the rising sun. Quickly the man seized the control
and the ship dropped rapidly behind a low range of intervening
hills, for well Turan knew that they must not be seen until they
could discover whether friend or foe inhabited the strange city.
Chances were that they were far from the abode of friends and so
must the panthan move with the utmost caution; but there was a
city and where a city was, was water, even though it were a
deserted city, and food if it were inhabited.
To the red man food and water, even in the citadel of an enemy,
meant food and drink for Tara of Helium. He would accept it from
friends or he would take it from enemies. Just so long as it was
there he would have it--and there was shown the egotism of the
fighting man, though Turan did not see it, nor Tara who came from
a long line of fighting men; but Ghek might have smiled had he
Turan permitted the flier to drift closer behind the screening
hills, and then when he could advance no farther without fear of
discovery, he dropped the craft gently to ground in a little
ravine, and leaping over the side made her fast to a stout tree.
For several moments they discussed their plans--whether it would
be best to wait where they were until darkness hid their
movements and then approach the city in search of food and water,
or approach it now, taking advantage of what cover they could,
until they could glean something of the nature of its