Part 3 out of 5
It was Turan's plan which finally prevailed. They would approach
as close as safety dictated in the hope of finding water outside
the city; food, too, perhaps. If they did not they could at least
reconnoiter the ground by daylight, and then when night came
Turan could quickly come close to the city and in comparative
safety prosecute his search for food and drink.
Following the ravine upward they finally topped the summit of the
ridge, from which they had an excellent view of that part of the
city which lay nearest them, though themselves hidden by the
brush behind which they crouched. Ghek had resumed his rykor,
which had suffered less than either Tara or Turan through their
The first glance at the city, now much closer than when they had
first discovered it, revealed the fact that it was inhabited.
Banners and pennons broke from many a staff. People were moving
about the gate before them. The high white walls were paced by
sentinels at far intervals. Upon the roofs of higher buildings
the women could be seen airing the sleeping silks and furs. Turan
watched it all in silence for some time.
"I do not know them," he said at last. "I cannot guess what city
this may be. But it is an ancient city. Its people have no fliers
and no firearms. It must be old indeed."
"How do you know they have not these things?" asked the girl.
"There are no landing-stages upon the roofs--not one that can be
seen from here; while were we looking similarly at Helium we
would see hundreds. And they have no firearms because their
defenses are all built to withstand the attack of spear and
arrow, with spear and arrow. They are an ancient people."
"If they are ancient perhaps they are friendly," suggested the
girl. "Did we not learn as children in the history of our planet
that it was once peopled by a friendly, peace-loving race?"
"But I fear they are not as ancient as that," replied Turan,
laughing. "It has been long ages since the men of Barsoom loved
"My father loves peace," returned the girl.
"And yet he is always at war," said the man.
She laughed. "But he says he likes peace."
"We all like peace," he rejoined; "peace with honor; but our
neighbors will not let us have it, and so we must fight."
"And to fight well men must like to fight," she added.
"And to like to fight they must know how to fight," he said, "for
no man likes to do the thing that he does not know how to do
"Or that some other man can do better than he."
"And so always there will be wars and men will fight," he
concluded, "for always the men with hot blood in their veins will
practice the art of war."
"We have settled a great question," said the girl, smiling; "but
our stomachs are still empty."
"Your panthan is neglecting his duty," replied Turan; "and how
can he with the great reward always before his eyes!"
She did not guess in what literal a sense he spoke.
"I go forthwith," he continued, "to wrest food and drink from the
"No," she cried, laying a hand upon his arm, "not yet. They would
slay you or make you prisoner. You are a brave panthan and a
mighty one, but you cannot overcome a city singlehanded."
She smiled up into his face and her hand still lay upon his arm.
He felt the thrill of hot blood coursing through his veins. He
could have seized her in his arms and crushed her to him. There
was only Ghek the kaldane there, but there was something stronger
within him that restrained his hand. Who may define it--that
inherent chivalry that renders certain men the natural protectors
From their vantage point they saw a body of armed warriors ride
forth from the gate, and winding along a well-beaten road pass
from sight about the foot of the hill from which they watched.
The men were red, like themselves, and they rode the small saddle
thoats of the red race. Their trappings were barbaric and
magnificent, and in their head-dress were many feathers as had
been the custom of ancients. They were armed with swords and long
spears and they rode almost naked, their bodies being painted in
ochre and blue and white. There were, perhaps, a score of them in
the party and as they galloped away on their tireless mounts they
presented a picture at once savage and beautiful.
"They have the appearance of splendid warriors," said Turan. "I
have a great mind to walk boldly into their city and seek
Tara shook her head. "Wait," she admonished. "What would I do
without you, and if you were captured how could you collect your
"I should escape," he said. "At any rate I shall try it," and he
started to rise.
"You shall not," said the girl, her tone all authority.
The man looked at her quickly--questioningly.
"You have entered my service," she said, a trifle haughtily.
"You have entered my service for hire and you shall do as I bid
Turan sank down beside her again with a half smile upon his lips.
"It is yours to command, Princess," he said.
The day passed. Ghek, tiring of the sunlight, had deserted his
rykor and crawled down a hole he had discovered close by. Tara
and Turan reclined beneath the scant shade of a small tree. They
watched the people coming and going through the gate. The party
of horsemen did not return. A small herd of zitidars was driven
into the city during the day, and once a caravan of broad-wheeled
carts drawn by these huge animals wound out of the distant
horizon and came down to the city. It, too, passed from their
sight within the gateway. Then darkness came and Tara of Helium
bid her panthan search for food and drink; but she cautioned him
against attempting to enter the city. Before he left her he bent
and kissed her hand as a warrior may kiss the hand of his queen.
Turan the panthan approached the strange city under cover of the
darkness. He entertained little hope of finding either food or
water outside the wall, but he would try and then, if he failed,
he would attempt to make his way into the city, for Tara of
Helium must have sustenance and have it soon. He saw that the
walls were poorly sentineled, but they were sufficiently high to
render an attempt to scale them foredoomed to failure. Taking
advantage of underbrush and trees, Turan managed to reach the
base of the wall without detection. Silently he moved north past
the gateway which was closed by a massive gate which effectively
barred even the slightest glimpse within the city beyond. It was
Turan's hope to find upon the north side of the city away from
the hills a level plain where grew the crops of the inhabitants,
and here too water from their irrigating system, but though he
traveled far along that seemingly interminable wall he found no
fields nor any water. He searched also for some means of ingress
to the city, yet here, too, failure was his only reward, and now
as he went keen eyes watched him from above and a silent stalker
kept pace with him for a time upon the summit of the wall; but
presently the shadower descended to the pavement within and
hurrying swiftly raced ahead of the stranger without.
He came presently to a small gate beside which was a low building
and before the doorway of the building a warrior standing guard.
He spoke a few quick words to the warrior and then entered the
building only to return almost immediately to the street,
followed by fully forty warriors. Cautiously opening the gate the
fellow peered carefully along the wall upon the outside in the
direction from which he had come. Evidently satisfied, he issued
a few words of instruction to those behind him, whereupon half
the warriors returned to the interior of the building, while the
other half followed the man stealthily through the gateway where
they crouched low among the shrubbery in a half circle just north
of the gateway which they had left open. Here they waited in
utter silence, nor had they long to wait before Turan the panthan
came cautiously along the base of the wall. To the very gate he
came and when he found it and that it was open he paused for a
moment, listening; then he approached and looked within. Assured
that there was none within sight to apprehend him he stepped
through the gateway into the city.
He found himself in a narrow street that paralleled the wall.
Upon the opposite side rose buildings of an architecture unknown
to him, yet strangely beautiful. While the buildings were packed
closely together there seemed to be no two alike and their fronts
were of all shapes and heights and of many hues. The skyline was
broken by spire and dome and minaret and tall, slender towers,
while the walls supported many a balcony and in the soft light of
Cluros, the farther moon, now low in the west, he saw, to his
surprise and consternation, the figures of people upon the
balconies. Directly opposite him were two women and a man. They
sat leaning upon the rail of the balcony looking, apparently,
directly at him; but if they saw him they gave no sign.
Turan hesitated a moment in the face of almost certain discovery
and then, assured that they must take him for one of their own
people, he moved boldly into the avenue. Having no idea of the
direction in which he might best hope to find what he sought, and
not wishing to arouse suspicion by further hesitation, he turned
to the left and stepped briskly along the pavement with the
intention of placing himself as quickly as possible beyond the
observation of those nocturnal watchers. He knew that the night
must be far spent; and so he could not but wonder why people
should sit upon their balconies when they should have been asleep
among their silks and furs. At first he had thought them the late
guests of some convivial host; but the windows behind them were
shrouded in darkness and utter quiet prevailed, quite upsetting
such a theory. And as he proceeded he passed many another group
sitting silently upon other balconies. They paid no attention to
him, seeming not even to note his passing. Some leaned with a
single elbow upon the rail, their chins resting in their palms;
others leaned upon both arms across the balcony, looking down
into the street, while several that he saw held musical
instruments in their hands, but their fingers moved not upon the
And then Turan came to a point where the avenue turned to the
right, to skirt a building that jutted from the inside of the
city wall, and as he rounded the corner he came full upon two
warriors standing upon either side of the entrance to a building
upon his right. It was impossible for them not to be aware of his
presence, yet neither moved, nor gave other evidence that they
had seen him. He stood there waiting, his hand upon the hilt of
his long-sword, but they neither challenged nor halted him. Could
it be that these also thought him one of their own kind? Indeed
upon no other grounds could he explain their inaction.
As Turan had passed through the gateway into the city and taken
his unhindered way along the avenue, twenty warriors had entered
the city and closed the gate behind them, and then one had taken
to the wall and followed along its summit in the rear of Turan,
and another had followed him along the avenue, while a third had
crossed the street and entered one of the buildings upon the
The balance of them, with the exception of a single sentinel
beside the gate, had re-entered the building from which they had
been summoned. They were well built, strapping, painted fellows,
their naked figures covered now by gorgeous robes against the
chill of night. As they spoke of the stranger they laughed at the
ease with which they had tricked him, and were still laughing as
they threw themselves upon their sleeping silks and furs to
resume their broken slumber. It was evident that they constituted
a guard detailed for the gate beside which they slept, and it was
equally evident that the gates were guarded and the city watched
much more carefully than Turan had believed. Chagrined indeed had
been the Jed of Gathol had he dreamed that he was being so neatly
As Turan proceeded along the avenue he passed other sentries
beside other doors but now he gave them small heed, since they
neither challenged nor otherwise outwardly noted his passing; but
while at nearly every turn of the erratic avenue he passed one or
more of these silent sentinels he could not guess that he had
passed one of them many times and that his every move was watched
by silent, clever stalkers. Scarce had he passed a certain one of
these rigid guardsmen before the fellow awoke to sudden life,
bounded across the avenue, entered a narrow opening in the outer
wall where he swiftly followed a corridor built within the wall
itself until presently he emerged a little distance ahead of
Turan, where he assumed the stiff and silent attitude of a
soldier upon guard. Nor did Turan know that a second followed in
the shadows of the buildings behind him, nor of the third who
hastened ahead of him upon some urgent mission.
And so the panthan moved through the silent streets of the
strange city in search of food and drink for the woman he loved.
Men and women looked down upon him from shadowy balconies, but
spoke not; and sentinels saw him pass and did not challenge.
Presently from along the avenue before him came the familiar
sound of clanking accouterments, the herald of marching warriors,
and almost simultaneously he saw upon his right an open doorway
dimly lighted from within. It was the only available place where
he might seek to hide from the approaching company, and while he
had passed several sentries unquestioned he could scarce hope to
escape scrutiny and questioning from a patrol, as he naturally
assumed this body of men to be.
Inside the doorway he discovered a passage turning abruptly to
the right and almost immediately thereafter to the left. There
was none in sight within and so he stepped cautiously around the
second turn the more effectually to be hidden from the street.
Before him stretched a long corridor, dimly lighted like the
entrance. Waiting there he heard the party approach the building,
he heard someone at the entrance to his hiding place, and then he
heard the door past which he had come slam to. He laid his hand
upon his sword, expecting momentarily to hear footsteps
approaching along the corridor; but none came. He approached the
turn and looked around it; the corridor was empty to the closed
door. Whoever had closed it had remained upon the outside.
Turan waited, listening. He heard no sound. Then he advanced to
the door and placed an ear against it. All was silence in the
street beyond. A sudden draft must have closed the door, or
perhaps it was the duty of the patrol to see to such things. It
was immaterial. They had evidently passed on and now he would
return to the street and continue upon his way. Somewhere there
would be a public fountain where he could obtain water, and the
chance of food lay in the strings of dried vegetables and meat
which hung before the doorways of nearly every Barsoomian home of
the poorer classes that he had ever seen. It was this district he
was seeking, and it was for this reason his search had led him
away from the main gate of the city which he knew would not be
located in a poor district.
He attempted to open the door only to find that it resisted his
every effort--it was locked upon the outside. Here indeed was a
sorry contretemps. Turan the panthan scratched his head. "Fortune
frowns upon me," he murmured; but beyond the door, Fate, in the
form of a painted warrior, stood smiling. Neatly had he tricked
the unwary stranger. The lighted doorway, the marching
patrol--these had been planned and timed to a nicety by the third
warrior who had sped ahead of Turan along another avenue, and the
stranger had done precisely what the fellow had thought he would
do--no wonder, then, that he smiled.
This exit barred to him Turan turned back into the corridor. He
followed it cautiously and silently. Occasionally there was a
door on one side or the other. These he tried only to find each
securely locked. The corridor wound more erratically the farther
he advanced. A locked door barred his way at its end, but a door
upon his right opened and he stepped into a dimly-lighted
chamber, about the walls of which were three other doors, each of
which he tried in turn. Two were locked; the other opened upon a
runway leading downward. It was spiral and he could see no
farther than the first turn. A door in the corridor he had
quitted opened after he had passed, and the third warrior stepped
out and followed after him. A faint smile still lingered upon the
fellow's grim lips.
Turan drew his short-sword and cautiously descended. At the
bottom was a short corridor with a closed door at the end. He
approached the single heavy panel and listened. No sound came to
him from beyond the mysterious portal. Gently he tried the door,
which swung easily toward him at his touch. Before him was a
low-ceiled chamber with a dirt floor. Set in its walls were
several other doors and all were closed. As Turan stepped
cautiously within, the third warrior descended the spiral runway
behind him. The panthan crossed the room quickly and tried a
door. It was locked. He heard a muffled click behind him and
turned about with ready sword. He was alone; but the door through
which he had entered was closed--it was the click of its lock
that he had heard.
With a bound he crossed the room and attempted to open it; but to
no avail. No longer did he seek silence, for he knew now that the
thing had gone beyond the sphere of chance. He threw his weight
against the wooden panel; but the thick skeel of which it was
constructed would have withstood a battering ram. From beyond
came a low laugh.
Rapidly Turan examined each of the other doors. They were all
locked. A glance about the chamber revealed a wooden table and a
bench. Set in the walls were several heavy rings to which rusty
chains were attached--all too significant of the purpose to which
the room was dedicated. In the dirt floor near the wall were two
or three holes resembling the mouths of burrows--doubtless the
habitat of the giant Martian rat. He had observed this much when
suddenly the dim light was extinguished, leaving him in darkness
utter and complete. Turan, groping about, sought the table and
the bench. Placing the latter against the wall he drew the table
in front of him and sat down upon the bench, his long-sword
gripped in readiness before him. At least they should fight
before they took him.
For some time he sat there waiting for he knew not what. No sound
penetrated to his subterranean dungeon. He slowly revolved in his
mind the incidents of the evening--the open, unguarded gate; the
lighted doorway--the only one he had seen thus open and lighted
along the avenue he had followed; the advance of the warriors at
precisely the moment that he could find no other avenue of escape
or concealment; the corridors and chambers that led past many
locked doors to this underground prison leaving no other path for
him to pursue.
"By my first ancestor!" he swore; "but it was simple and I a
simpleton. They tricked me neatly and have taken me without
exposing themselves to a scratch; but for what purpose?"
He wished that he might answer that question and then his
thoughts turned to the girl waiting there on the hill beyond the
city for him--and he would never come. He knew the ways of the
more savage peoples of Barsoom. No, he would never come, now. He
had disobeyed her. He smiled at the sweet recollection of those
words of command that had fallen from her dear lips. He had
disobeyed her and now he had lost the reward.
But what of her? What now would be her fate--starving before a
hostile city with only an inhuman kaldane for company? Another
thought--a horrid thought--obtruded itself upon him. She had told
him of the hideous sights she had witnessed in the burrows of the
kaldanes and he knew that they ate human flesh. Ghek was
starving. Should he eat his rykor he would be helpless;
but--there was sustenance there for them both, for the rykor and
the kaldane. Turan cursed himself for a fool. Why had he left
her? Far better to have remained and died with her, ready always
to protect her, than to have left her at the mercy of the hideous
Now Turan detected a heavy odor in the air. It oppressed him with
a feeling of drowsiness. He would have risen to fight off the
creeping lethargy, but his legs seemed weak, so that he sank
again to the bench. Presently his sword slipped from his fingers
and he sprawled forward upon the table his head resting upon his
* * * * *
Tara of Helium, as the night wore on and Turan did not return,
became more and more uneasy, and when dawn broke with no sign of
him she guessed that he had failed. Something more than her own
unhappy predicament brought a feeling of sorrow to her heart--of
sorrow and loneliness. She realized now how she had come to
depend upon this panthan not only for protection but for
companionship as well. She missed him, and in missing him
realized suddenly that he had meant more to her than a mere hired
warrior. It was as though a friend had been taken from her--an
old and valued friend. She rose from her place of concealment
that she might have a better view of the city.
U-Dor, dwar of the 8th Utan of O-Tar, Jeddak of Manator, rode
back in the early dawn toward Manator from a brief excursion to a
neighboring village. As he was rounding the hills south of the
city, his keen eyes were attracted by a slight movement among the
shrubbery close to the summit of the nearest hill. He halted his
vicious mount and watched more closely. He saw a figure rise
facing away from him and peer down toward Manator beyond the
"Come!" he signalled to his followers, and with a word to this
thoat turned the beast at a rapid gallop up the hillside. In his
wake swept his twenty savage warriors, the padded feet of their
mounts soundless upon the soft turf. It was the rattle of
sidearms and harness that brought Tara of Helium suddenly about,
facing them. She saw a score of warriors with couched lances
bearing down upon her.
She glanced at Ghek. What would the spiderman do in this
emergency? She saw him crawl to his rykor and attach himself.
Then he arose, the beautiful body once again animated and alert.
She thought that the creature was preparing for flight. Well, it
made little difference to her. Against such as were streaming up
the hill toward them a single mediocre swordsman such as Ghek was
worse than no defense at all.
"Hurry, Ghek!" she admonished him. "Back into the hills! You may
find there a hiding-place;" but the creature only stepped between
her and the oncoming riders, drawing his long-sword.
"It is useless, Ghek," she said, when she saw that he intended to
defend her. "What can a single sword accomplish against such
"I can die but once," replied the kaldane. "You and your panthan
saved me from Luud and I but do what your panthan would do were
he here to protect you."
"It is brave, but it is useless," she replied. "Sheathe your
sword. They may not intend us harm."
Ghek let the point of his weapon drop to the ground, but he did
not sheathe it, and thus the two stood waiting as U-Dor the dwar
stopped his thoat before them while his twenty warriors formed a
rough circle about. For a long minute U-Dor sat his mount in
silence, looking searchingly first at Tara of Helium and then at
her hideous companion.
"What manner of creature are you?" he asked presently. "And what
do you before the gates of Manator?"
"We are from far countries," replied the girl, "and we are lost
and starving. We ask only food and rest and the privilege to go
our way seeking our own homes."
U-Dor smiled a grim smile. "Manator and the hills which guard it
alone know the age of Manator," he said; "yet in all the ages
that have rolled by since Manator first was, there be no record
in the annals of Manator of a stranger departing from Manator."
"But I am a princess," cried the girl haughtily, "and my country
is not at war with yours. You must give me and my companions aid
and assist us to return to our own land. It is the law of
"Manator knows only the laws of Manator," replied U-Dor; "but
come. You shall go with us to the city, where you, being
beautiful, need have no fear. I, myself, will protect you if
O-Tar so decrees. And as for your companion--but hold! You said
'companions'--there are others of your party then?"
"You see what you see," replied Tara haughtily.
"Be that as it may," said U-Dor. "If there be more they shall not
escape Manator; but as I was saying, if your companion fights
well he too may live, for O-Tar is just, and just are the laws of
"It is useless," said the girl, seeing that he would have stood
his ground and fought them. "Let us go with them. Why pit your
puny blade against their mighty ones when there should lie in
your great brain the means to outwit them?" She spoke in a low
"You are right, Tara of Helium," he replied and sheathed his
And so they moved down the hillside toward the gates of
Manator--Tara, Princess of Helium, and Ghek, the kaldane of
Bantoom--and surrounding them rode the savage, painted warriors
of U-Dor, dwar of the 8th Utan of O-Tar, Jeddak of Manator.
THE CHOICE OF TARA
The dazzling sunlight of Barsoom clothed Manator in an aureole of
splendor as the girl and her captors rode into the city through
The Gate of Enemies. Here the wall was some fifty feet thick, and
the sides of the passageway within the gate were covered with
parallel shelves of masonry from bottom to top. Within these
shelves, or long, horizontal niches, stood row upon row of small
figures, appearing like tiny, grotesque statuettes of men, their
long, black hair falling below their feet and sometimes trailing
to the shelf beneath. The figures were scarce a foot in height
and but for their diminutive proportions might have been the
mummified bodies of once living men. The girl noticed that as
they passed, the warriors saluted the figures with their spears
after the manner of Barsoomian fighting men in extending a
military courtesy, and then they rode on into the avenue beyond,
which ran, wide and stately, through the city toward the east.
On either side were great buildings wondrously wrought. Paintings
of great beauty and antiquity covered many of the walls, their
colors softened and blended by the suns of ages. Upon the
pavement the life of the newly-awakened city was already afoot.
Women in brilliant trappings, befeathered warriors, their bodies
daubed with paint; artisans, armed but less gaily caparisoned,
took their various ways upon the duties of the day. A giant
zitidar, magnificent in rich harness, rumbled its broad-wheeled
cart along the stone pavement toward The Gate of Enemies. Life
and color and beauty wrought together a picture that filled the
eyes of Tara of Helium with wonder and with admiration, for here
was a scene out of the dead past of dying Mars. Such had been the
cities of the founders of her race before Throxeus, mightiest of
oceans, had disappeared from the face of a world. And from
balconies on either side men and women looked down in silence
upon the scene below.
The people in the street looked at the two prisoners, especially
at the hideous Ghek, and called out in question or comment to
their guard; but the watchers upon the balconies spoke not, nor
did one so much as turn a head to note their passing. There were
many balconies on each building and not a one that did not hold
its silent party of richly trapped men and women, with here and
there a child or two, but even the children maintained the
uniform silence and immobility of their elders. As they
approached the center of the city the girl saw that even the
roofs bore companies of these idle watchers, harnessed and
bejeweled as for some gala-day of laughter and music, but no
laughter broke from those silent lips, nor any music from the
strings of the instruments that many of them held in jeweled
And now the avenue widened into an immense square, at the far end
of which rose a stately edifice gleaming white in virgin marble
among the gaily painted buildings surrounding it and its scarlet
sward and gaily-flowering, green-foliaged shrubbery. Toward this
U-Dor led his prisoners and their guard to the great arched
entrance before which a line of fifty mounted warriors barred the
way. When the commander of the guard recognized U-Dor the
guardsmen fell back to either side leaving a broad avenue through
which the party passed. Directly inside the entrance were
inclined runways leading upward on either side. U-Dor turned to
the left and led them upward to the second floor and down a long
corridor. Here they passed other mounted men and in chambers upon
either side they saw more. Occasionally there was another runway
leading either up or down. A warrior, his steed at full gallop,
dashed into sight from one of these and raced swiftly past them
upon some errand.
Nowhere as yet had Tara of Helium seen a man afoot in this great
building; but when at a turn, U-Dor led them to the third floor
she caught glimpses of chambers in which many riderless thoats
were penned and others adjoining where dismounted warriors lolled
at ease or played games of skill or chance and many there were
who played at jetan, and then the party passed into a long, wide
hall of state, as magnificent an apartment as even a princess of
mighty Helium ever had seen. The length of the room ran an arched
ceiling ablaze with countless radium bulbs. The mighty spans
extended from wall to wall leaving the vast floor unbroken by a
single column. The arches were of white marble, apparently
quarried in single, huge blocks from which each arch was cut
complete. Between the arches, the ceiling was set solid about the
radium bulbs with precious stones whose scintillant fire and
color and beauty filled the whole apartment. The stones were
carried down the walls in an irregular fringe for a few feet,
where they appeared to hang like a beautiful and gorgeous drapery
against the white marble of the wall. The marble ended some six
or seven feet from the floor, the walls from that point down
being wainscoted in solid gold. The floor itself was of marble
richly inlaid with gold. In that single room was a vast treasure
equal to the wealth of many a large city.
But what riveted the girl's attention even more than the fabulous
treasure of decorations were the files of gorgeously harnessed
warriors who sat their thoats in grim silence and immobility on
either side of the central aisle, rank after rank of them to the
farther walls, and as the party passed between them she could not
note so much as the flicker of an eyelid, or the twitching of a
"The Hall of Chiefs," whispered one of her guard, evidently
noting her interest. There was a note of pride in the fellow's
voice and something of hushed awe. Then they passed through a
great doorway into the chamber beyond, a large, square room in
which a dozen mounted warriors lolled in their saddles.
As U-Dor and his party entered the room, the warriors came
quickly erect in their saddles and formed a line before another
door upon the opposite side of the wall. The padwar commanding
them saluted U-Dor who, with his party, had halted facing the
"Send one to O-Tar announcing that U-Dor brings two prisoners
worthy of the observation of the great jeddak," said U-Dor; "one
because of her extreme beauty, the other because of his extreme
"O-Tar sits in council with the lesser chiefs," replied the
lieutenant; "but the words of U-Dor the dwar shall be carried to
him," and he turned and gave instructions to one who sat his
thoat behind him.
"What manner of creature is the male?" he asked of U-Dor. "It
cannot be that both are of one race."
"They were together in the hills south of the city," explained
U-Dor, "and they say that they are lost and starving."
"The woman is beautiful," said the padwar. "She will not long go
begging in the city of Manator," and then they spoke of other
matters--of the doings of the palace, of the expedition of U-Dor,
until the messenger returned to say that O-Tar bade them bring
the prisoners to him.
They passed then through a massive doorway, which, when opened,
revealed the great council chamber of O-Tar, Jeddak of Manator,
beyond. A central aisle led from the doorway the full length of
the great hall, terminating at the steps of a marble dais upon
which a man sat in a great throne-chair. Upon either side of the
aisle were ranged rows of highly carved desks and chairs of skeel
a hard wood of great beauty. Only a few of the desks were
occupied--those in the front row, just below the rostrum.
At the entrance U-Dor dismounted with four of his followers who
formed a guard about the two prisoners who were then conducted
toward the foot of the throne, following a few paces behind
U-Dor. As they halted at the foot of the marble steps, the proud
gaze of Tara of Helium rested upon the enthroned figure of the
man above her. He sat erect without stiffness--a commanding
presence trapped in the barbaric splendor that the Barsoomian
chieftain loves. He was a large man, the perfection of whose
handsome face was marred only by the hauteur of his cold eyes and
the suggestion of cruelty imparted by too thin lips. It needed no
second glance to assure the least observing that here indeed was
a ruler of men--a fighting jeddak whose people might worship but
not love, and for whose slightest favor warriors would vie with
one another to go forth and die. This was O-Tar, Jeddak of
Manator, and as Tara of Helium saw him for the first time she
could not but acknowledge a certain admiration for this savage
chieftain who so virilely personified the ancient virtues of the
God of War.
U-Dor and the jeddak interchanged the simple greetings of
Barsoom, and then the former recounted the details of the
discovery and capture of the prisoners. O-Tar scrutinized them
both intently during U-Dor's narration of events, his expression
revealing naught of what passed in the brain behind those
inscrutable eyes. When the officer had finished the jeddak
fastened his gaze upon Ghek.
"And you," he asked, "what manner of thing are you? From what
country? Why are you in Manator?"
"I am a kaldane," replied Ghek; "the highest type of created
creature upon the face of Barsoom; I am mind, you are matter. I
come from Bantoom. I am here because we were lost and starving."
"And you!" O-Tar turned suddenly on Tara "You, too, are a
"I am a princess of Helium," replied the girl. "I was a prisoner
in Bantoom. This kaldane and a warrior of my own race rescued me.
The warrior left us to search for food and water. He has
doubtless fallen into the hands of your people. I ask you to free
him and give us food and drink and let us go upon our way. I am a
granddaughter of a jeddak, the daughter of a jeddak of jeddaks,
The Warlord of Barsoom. I ask only the treatment that my people
would accord you or yours."
"Helium," repeated O-Tar. "I know naught of Helium, nor does the
Jeddak of Helium rule Manator. I, O-Tar, am Jeddak of Manator. I
alone rule. I protect my own. You have never seen a woman or a
warrior of Manator captive in Helium! Why should I protect the
people of another jeddak? It is his duty to protect them. If he
cannot, he is weak, and his people must fall into the hands of
the strong. I, O-Tar, am strong. I will keep you. That--" he
pointed at Ghek--"can it fight?"
"It is brave," replied Tara of Helium, "but it has not the skill
at arms which my people possess."
"There is none then to fight for you?" asked O-Tar. "We are a
just people," he continued without waiting for a reply, "and had
you one to fight for you he might win to freedom for himself and
you as well."
"But U-Dor assured me that no stranger ever had departed from
Manator," she answered.
O-Tar shrugged. "That does not disprove the justice of the laws
of Manator," replied O-Tar, "but rather that the warriors of
Manator are invincible. Had there come one who could defeat our
warriors that one had won to liberty."
"And you fetch my warrior," cried Tara haughtily, "you shall see
such swordplay as doubtless the crumbling walls of your decaying
city never have witnessed, and if there be no trick in your offer
we are already as good as free."
O-Tar smiled more broadly than before and U-Dor smiled, too, and
the chiefs and warriors who looked on nudged one another and
whispered, laughing. And Tara of Helium knew then that there was
trickery in their justice; but though her situation seemed
hopeless she did not cease to hope, for was she not the daughter
of John Carter, Warlord of Barsoom, whose famous challenge to
Fate, "I still live!" remained the one irreducible defense
against despair? At thought of her noble sire the patrician chin
of Tara of Helium rose a shade higher. Ah! if he but knew where
she was there were little to fear then. The hosts of Helium would
batter at the gates of Manator, the great green warriors of John
Carter's savage allies would swarm up from the dead sea bottoms
lusting for pillage and for loot, the stately ships of her
beloved navy would soar above the unprotected towers and minarets
of the doomed city which only capitulation and heavy tribute
could then save.
But John Carter did not know! There was only one other to whom
she might hope to look--Turan the panthan; but where was he? She
had seen his sword in play and she knew that it had been wielded
by a master hand, and who should know swordplay better than Tara
of Helium, who had learned it well under the constant tutorage of
John Carter himself. Tricks she knew that discounted even far
greater physical prowess than her own, and a method of attack
that might have been at once the envy and despair of the
cleverest of warriors. And so it was that her thoughts turned to
Turan the panthan, though not alone because of the protection he
might afford her. She had realized, since he had left her in
search of food, that there had grown between them a certain
comradeship that she now missed. There had been that about him
which seemed to have bridged the gulf between their stations in
life. With him she had failed to consider that he was a panthan
or that she was a princess--they had been comrades. Suddenly she
realized that she missed him for himself more than for his sword.
She turned toward O-Tar.
"Where is Turan, my warrior?" she demanded.
"You shall not lack for warriors," replied the jeddak. "One of
your beauty will find plenty ready to fight for her. Possibly it
shall not be necessary to look farther than the jeddak of
Manator. You please me, woman. What say you to such an honor?"
Through narrowed lids the Princess of Helium scrutinized the
Jeddak of Manator, from feathered headdress to sandaled foot and
back to feathered headdress.
"'Honor'!" she mimicked in tones of scorn. "I please thee, do I?
Then know, swine, that thou pleaseth me not--that the daughter of
John Carter is not for such as thou!"
A sudden, tense silence fell upon the assembled chiefs. Slowly
the blood receded from the sinister face of O-Tar, Jeddak of
Manator, leaving him a sickly purple in his wrath. His eyes
narrowed to two thin slits, his lips were compressed to a
bloodless line of malevolence. For a long moment there was no
sound in the throne room of the palace at Manator. Then the
jeddak turned toward U-Dor.
"Take her away," he said in a level voice that belied his
appearance of rage. "Take her away, and at the next games let the
prisoners and the common warriors play at Jetan for her."
"And this?" asked U-Dor, pointing at Ghek.
"To the pits until the next games," replied O-Tar.
"So this is your vaunted justice!" cried Tara of Helium; "that
two strangers who have not wronged you shall be sentenced without
trial? And one of them is a woman. The swine of Manator are as
just as they are brave."
"Away with her!" shouted O-Tar, and at a sign from U-Dor the
guards formed about the two prisoners and conducted them from the
Outside the palace, Ghek and Tara of Helium were separated. The
girl was led through long avenues toward the center of the city
and finally into a low building, topped by lofty towers of
massive construction. Here she was turned over to a warrior who
wore the insignia of a dwar, or captain.
"It is O-Tar's wish," explained U-Dor to this one, "that she be
kept until the next games, when the prisoners and the common
warriors shall play for her. Had she not the tongue of a thoat
she had been a worthy stake for our noblest steel," and U-Dor
sighed. "Perhaps even yet I may win a pardon for her. It were too
bad to see such beauty fall to the lot of some common fellow. I
would have honored her myself."
"If I am to be imprisoned, imprison me," said the girl. "I do not
recall that I was sentenced to listen to the insults of every
low-born boor who chanced to admire me."
"You see, A-Kor," cried U-Dor, "the tongue that she has. Even so
and worse spoke she to O-Tar the jeddak."
"I see," replied A-Kor, whom Tara saw was with difficulty
restraining a smile. "Come, then, with me, woman," he said, "and
we shall find a safe place within The Towers of Jetan--but stay!
what ails thee?"
The girl had staggered and would have fallen had not the man
caught her in his arms. She seemed to gather herself then and
bravely sought to stand erect without support. A-Kor glanced at
U-Dor. "Knew you the woman was ill?" he asked.
"Possibly it is lack of food," replied the other. "She mentioned,
I believe, that she and her companions had not eaten for several
"Brave are the warriors of O-Tar," sneered A-Kor; "lavish their
hospitality. U-Dor, whose riches are uncounted, and the brave
O-Tar, whose squealing thoats are stabled within marble halls and
fed from troughs of gold, can spare no crust to feed a starving
The black haired U-Dor. scowled. "Thy tongue will yet pierce thy
heart, son of a slave!" he cried. "Once too often mayst thus try
the patience of the just O-Tar. Hereafter guard thy speech as
well as thy towers."
"Think not to taunt me with my mother's state," said A-Kor. "'Tis
the blood of the slave woman that fills my veins with pride, and
my only shame is that I am also the son of thy jeddak."
"And O-Tar heard this?" queried U-Dor.
"O-Tar has already heard it from my own lips," replied A-Kor;
"this, and more."
He turned upon his heel, a supporting arm still around the waist
of Tara of Helium and thus he half led, half carried her into The
Towers of Jetan, while U-Dor wheeled his thoat and galloped back
in the direction of the palace.
Within the main entrance to The Tower of Jetan lolled a
half-dozen warriors. To one of these spoke A-Kor, keeper of the
towers. "Fetch Lan-O, the slave girl, and bid her bring food and
drink to the upper level of the Thurian tower," then he lifted
the half-fainting girl in his arms and bore her along the spiral,
inclined runway that led upward within the tower.
Somewhere in the long ascent Tara lost consciousness. When it
returned she found herself in a large, circular chamber, the
stone walls of which were pierced by windows at regular intervals
about the entire circumference of the room. She was lying upon a
pile of sleeping silks and furs while there knelt above her a
young woman who was forcing drops of some cooling beverage
between her parched lips. Tara of Helium half rose upon an elbow
and looked about. In the first moments of returning consciousness
there were swept from the screen of recollection the happenings
of many weeks. She thought that she awoke in the palace of The
Warlord at Helium. Her brows knit as she scrutinized the strange
face bending over her.
"Who are you?" she asked, and, "Where is Uthia?"
"I am Lan-O the slave girl," replied the other. "I know none by
the name of Uthia."
Tara of Helium sat erect and looked about her. This rough stone
was not the marble of her father's halls. "Where am I?" she
"In The Thurian Tower," replied the girl, and then seeing that
the other still did not understand she guessed the truth. "You
are a prisoner in The Towers of Jetan in the city of Manator,"
she explained. "You were brought to this chamber, weak and
fainting, by A-Kor, Dwar of The Towers of Jetan, who sent me to
you with food and drink, for kind is the heart of A-Kor."
"I remember, now," said Tara, slowly. "I remember; but where is
Turan, my warrior? Did they speak of him?"
"I heard naught of another," replied Lan-O; "you alone were
brought to the towers. In that you are fortunate, for there be no
nobler man in Manator than A-Kor. It is his mother's blood that
makes him so. She was a slave girl from Gathol."
"Gathol!" exclaimed Tara of Helium. "Lies Gathol close by
"Not close, yet still the nearest country," replied Lan-O. "About
twenty-two degrees* east, it lies."
* Approximately 814 Earth Miles.
"Gathol!" murmured Tara, "Far Gathol!"
"But you are not from Gathol," said the slave girl; "your harness
is not of Gathol."
"I am from Helium," said Tara
"It is far from Helium to Gathol;" said the slave girl, "but
in our studies we learned much of the greatness of Helium, we of
Gathol, so it seems not so far away."
"You, too, are from Gathol?" asked Tara.
"Many of us are from Gathol who are slaves in Manator," replied
the girl. "It is to Gathol, nearest country, that the Manatorians
look for slaves most often. They go in great numbers at intervals
of three or seven years and haunt the roads that lead to Gathol,
and thus they capture whole caravans leaving none to bear warning
to Gathol of their fate. Nor do any ever escape from Manator to
carry word of us back to Gahan our jed."
Tara of Helium ate slowly and in silence. The girl's words
aroused memories of the last hours she had spent in her father's
palace and the great midday function at which she had met Gahan
of Gathol. Even now she flushed as she recalled his daring words.
Upon her reveries the door opened and a burly warrior appeared in
the opening--a hulking fellow, with thick lips and an evil,
leering face. The slave girl sprang to her feet, facing him.
"What does this mean, E-Med?" she cried, "was it not the will of
A-Kor that this woman be not disturbed?"
"The will of A-Kor, indeed!" and the man sneered. "The will of
A-Kor is without power in The Towers of Jetan, or elsewhere, for
A-Kor lies now in the pits of O-Tar, and E-Med is dwar of the
Tara of Helium saw the face of the slave girl pale and the terror
in her eyes.
GHEK PLAYS PRANKS
While Tara of Helium was being led to The Towers of Jetan, Ghek
was escorted to the pits beneath the palace where he was
imprisoned in a dimly-lighted chamber. Here he found a bench and
a table standing upon the dirt floor near the wall, and set in
the wall several rings from which depended short lengths of
chain. At the base of the walls were several holes in the dirt
floor. These, alone, of the several things he saw, interested
him. Ghek sat down upon the bench and waited in silence,
listening. Presently the lights were extinguished. If Ghek could
have smiled he would have then, for Ghek could see as well in the
dark as in the light--better, perhaps. He watched the dark
openings of the holes in the floor and waited. Presently he
detected a change in the air about him--it grew heavy with a
strange odor, and once again might Ghek have smiled, could he
Let them replace all the air in the chamber with their most
deadly fumes; it would be all the same to Ghek, the kaldane, who,
having no lungs, required no air. With the rykor it might be
different. Deprived of air it would die; but if only a sufficient
amount of the gas was introduced to stupefy an ordinary creature
it would have no effect upon the rykor, who had no objective mind
to overcome. So long as the excess of carbon dioxide in the blood
was not sufficient to prevent heart action, the rykor would
suffer only a diminution of vitality; but would still respond to
the exciting agency of the kaldane's brain.
Ghek caused the rykor to assume a sitting position with its back
against the wall where it might remain without direction from his
brain. Then he released his contact with its spinal cord; but
remained in position upon its shoulders, waiting and watching,
for the kaldane's curiosity was aroused. He had not long to wait
before the lights were flashed on and one of the locked doors
opened to admit a half-dozen warriors. They approached him
rapidly and worked quickly. First they removed all his weapons
and then, snapping a fetter about one of the rykor's ankles,
secured him to the end of one of the chains hanging from the
walls. Next they dragged the long table to a new position and
there bolted it to the floor so that an end, instead of the
middle, was directly before the prisoner. On the table before him
they set food and water and upon the opposite end of the table
they laid the key to the fetter. Then they unlocked and opened
all the doors and departed.
* * * * *
When Turan the panthan regained consciousness it was to the
realization of a sharp pain in one of his forearms. The effects
of the gas departed as rapidly as they had overcome him so that
as he opened his eyes he was in full possession of all his
faculties. The lights were on again and in their glow there was
revealed to the man the figure of a giant Martian rat crouching
upon the table and gnawing upon his arm. Snatching his arm away
he reached for his short-sword, while the rat, growling, sought
to seize his arm again. It was then that Turan discovered that
his weapons had been removed--short-sword, long-sword, dagger,
and pistol. The rat charged him then and striking the creature
away with his hand the man rose and backed off, searching for
something with which to strike a harder blow. Again the rat
charged and as Turan stepped quickly back to avoid the menacing
jaws, something seemed to jerk suddenly upon his right ankle, and
as he drew his left foot back to regain his equilibrium his heel
caught upon a taut chain and he fell heavily backward to the
floor just as the rat leaped upon his breast and sought his
The Martian rat is a fierce and unlovely thing. It is many-legged
and hairless, its hide resembling that of a newborn mouse in
repulsiveness. In size and weight it is comparable to a large
Airedale terrier. Its eyes are small and close-set, and almost
hidden in deep, fleshy apertures. But its most ferocious and
repulsive feature is its jaws, the entire bony structure of which
protrudes several inches beyond the flesh, revealing five sharp,
spadelike teeth in the upper jaw and the same number of similar
teeth in the lower, the whole suggesting the appearance of a
rotting face from which much of the flesh has sloughed away.
It was such a thing that leaped upon the breast of the panthan to
tear at his jugular. Twice Turan struck it away as he sought to
regain his feet, but both times it returned with increased
ferocity to renew the attack. Its only weapons are its jaws since
its broad, splay feet are armed with blunt talons. With its
protruding jaws it excavates its winding burrows and with its
broad feet it pushes the dirt behind it. To keep the jaws from
his flesh then was Turan's only concern and this he succeeded in
doing until chance gave him a hold upon the creature's throat.
After that the end was but a matter of moments. Rising at last he
flung the lifeless thing from him with a shudder of disgust.
Now he turned his attention to a hurried inventory of the new
conditions which surrounded him since the moment of his
incarceration. He realized vaguely what had happened. He had been
anaesthetized and stripped of his weapons, and as he rose to his
feet he saw that one ankle was fettered to a chain in the wall.
He looked about the room. All the doors swung wide open! His
captors would render his imprisonment the more cruel by leaving
ever before him tempting glimpses of open aisles to the freedom
he could not attain. Upon the end of the table and within easy
reach was food and drink. This at least was attainable and at
sight of it his starved stomach seemed almost to cry aloud for
sustenance. It was with difficulty that he ate and drank in
As he devoured the food his eyes wandered about the confines of
his prison until suddenly they seized upon a thing that lay on
the table at the end farthest from him. It was a key. He raised
his fettered ankle and examined the lock. There could be no doubt
of it! The key that lay there on the table before him was the key
to that very lock. A careless warrior had laid it there and
Hope surged high in the breast of Gahan of Gathol, of Turan the
panthan. Furtively his eyes sought the open doorways. There was
no one in sight. Ah, if he could but gain his freedom! He would
find some way from this odious city back to her side and never
again would he leave her until he had won safety for her or death
He rose and moved cautiously toward the opposite end of the table
where lay the coveted key. The fettered ankle halted his first
step, but he stretched at full length along the table, extending
eager fingers toward the prize. They almost laid hold upon it--a
little more and they would touch it. He strained and stretched,
but still the thing lay just beyond his reach. He hurled himself
forward until the iron fetter bit deep into his flesh, but all
futilely. He sat back upon the bench then and glared at the open
doors and the key, realizing now that they were part of a
well-laid scheme of refined torture, none the less demoralizing
because it inflicted no physical suffering.
For just a moment the man gave way to useless regret and
foreboding, then he gathered himself together, his brows cleared,
and he returned to his unfinished meal. At least they should not
have the satisfaction of knowing how sorely they had hit him. As
he ate it occurred to him that by dragging the table along the
floor he could bring the key within his reach, but when he
essayed to do so, he found that the table had been securely
bolted to the floor during the period of his unconsciousness.
Again Gahan smiled and shrugged and resumed his eating.
* * * * *
When the warriors had departed from the prison in which Ghek was
confined, the kaldane crawled from the shoulders of the rykor to
the table. Here he drank a little water and then directed the
hands of the rykor to the balance of it and to the food, upon
which the brainless thing fell with avidity. While it was thus
engaged Ghek took his spider-like way along the table to the
opposite end where lay the key to the fetter. Seizing it in a
chela he leaped to the floor and scurried rapidly toward the
mouth of one of the burrows against the wall, into which he
disappeared. For long had the brain been contemplating these
burrow entrances. They appealed to his kaldanean tastes, and
further, they pointed a hiding place for the key and a lair for
the only kind of food that the kaldane relished--flesh and blood.
Ghek had never seen an ulsio, since these great Martian rats had
long ago disappeared from Bantoom, their flesh and blood having
been greatly relished by the kaldanes; but Ghek had inherited,
almost unimpaired, every memory of every ancestor, and so he knew
that ulsio inhabited these lairs and that ulsio was good to eat,
and he knew what ulsio looked like and what his habits were,
though he had never seen him nor any picture of him. As we breed
animals for the transmission of physical attributes, so the
Kaldanes breed themselves for the transmission of attributes of
the mind, including memory and the power of recollection, and
thus have they raised what we term instinct, above the level of
the threshold of the objective mind where it may be commanded and
utilized by recollection. Doubtless in our own subjective minds
lie many of the impressions and experiences of our forebears.
These may impinge upon our consciousness in dreams only, or in
vague, haunting suggestions that we have before experienced some
transient phase of our present existence. Ah, if we had but the
power to recall them! Before us would unfold the forgotten story
of the lost eons that have preceded us. We might even walk with
God in the garden of His stars while man was still but a budding
idea within His mind.
Ghek descended into the burrow at a steep incline for some ten
feet, when he found himself in an elaborate and delightful
network of burrows! The kaldane was elated. This indeed was life!
He moved rapidly and fearlessly and he went as straight to his
goal as you could to the kitchen of your own home. This goal lay
at a low level in a spheroidal cavity about the size of a large
barrel. Here, in a nest of torn bits of silk and fur lay six baby
When the mother returned there were but five babies and a great
spider-like creature, which she immediately sprang to attack only
to be met by powerful chelae which seized and held her so that
she could not move. Slowly they dragged her throat toward a
hideous mouth and in a little moment she was dead.
Ghek might have remained in the nest for a long time, since there
was ample food for many days; but he did not do so. Instead he
explored the burrows. He followed them into many subterranean
chambers of the city of Manator, and upward through walls to
rooms above the ground. He found many ingeniously devised traps,
and he found poisoned food and other signs of the constant battle
that the inhabitants of Manator waged against these repulsive
creatures that dwelt beneath their homes and public buildings.
His exploration revealed not only the vast proportions of the
network of runways that apparently traversed every portion of
the city, but the great antiquity of the majority of them. Tons
upon tons of dirt must have been removed, and for a long time he
wondered where it had been deposited, until in following downward
a tunnel of great size and length he sensed before him the
thunderous rush of subterranean waters, and presently came to the
bank of a great, underground river, tumbling onward, no doubt,
the length of a world to the buried sea of Omean. Into this
torrential sewer had unthinkable generations of ulsios pushed
their few handsful of dirt in the excavating of their vast
For only a moment did Ghek tarry by the river, for his seemingly
aimless wanderings were in reality prompted by a definite
purpose, and this he pursued with vigor and singleness of design.
He followed such runways as appeared to terminate in the pits or
other chambers of the inhabitants of the city, and these he
explored, usually from the safety of a burrow's mouth, until
satisfied that what he sought was not there. He moved swiftly
upon his spider legs and covered remarkable distances in short
periods of time.
His search not being rewarded with immediate success, he decided
to return to the pit where his rykor lay chained and look to its
wants. As he approached the end of the burrow that terminated in
the pit he slackened his pace, stopping just within the entrance
of the runway that he might scan the interior of the chamber
before entering it. As he did so he saw the figure of a warrior
appear suddenly in an opposite doorway. The rykor sprawled upon
the table, his hands groping blindly for more food. Ghek saw the
warrior pause and gaze in sudden astonishment at the rykor; he
saw the fellow's eyes go wide and an ashen hue replace the copper
bronze of his cheek. He stepped back as though someone had struck
him in the face. For an instant only he stood thus as in a
paralysis of fear, then he uttered a smothered shriek and turned
and fled. Again was it a catastrophe that Ghek, the kaldane,
could not smile.
Quickly entering the room he crawled to the table top and affixed
himself to the shoulders of his rykor, and there he waited; and
who may say that Ghek, though he could not smile, possessed not a
sense of humor? For a half-hour he sat there, and then there came
to him the sound of men approaching along corridors of stone. He
could hear their arms clank against the rocky walls and he knew
that they came at a rapid pace; but just before they reached the
entrance to his prison they paused and advanced more slowly. In
the lead was an officer, and just behind him, wide-eyed and
perhaps still a little ashen, the warrior who had so recently
departed in haste. At the doorway they halted and the officer
turned sternly upon the warrior. With upraised finger he pointed
"There sits the creature! Didst thou dare lie, then, to thy
"I swear," cried the warrior, "that I spoke the truth. But a
moment since the thing groveled, headless, upon this very table!
And may my first ancestor strike me dead upon the spot if I speak
other than a true word!"
The officer looked puzzled. The men of Mars seldom if ever lie.
He scratched his head. Then he addressed Ghek. "How long have you
been here?" he asked.
"Who knows better than those who placed me here and chained me to
a wall?" he returned in reply.
"Saw you this warrior enter here a few minutes since?"
"I saw him," replied Ghek.
"And you sat there where you sit now?" continued the officer.
"Look thou to my chain and tell me then where else might I sit!"
cried Ghek. "Art the people of thy city all fools?"
Three other warriors pressed behind the two in front, craning
their necks to view the prisoner while they grinned at the
discomfiture of their fellow. The officer scowled at Ghek.
"Thy tongue is as venomous as that of the she-banth O-Tar sent to
The Towers of Jetan," he said.
"You speak of the young woman who was captured with me?" asked
Ghek, his expressionless monotone and face revealing naught of
the interest he felt.
"I speak of her," replied the dwar, and then turning to the
warrior who had summoned him: "return to thy quarters and remain
there until the next games. Perhaps by that time thy eyes may
have learned not to deceive thee."
The fellow cast a venomous glance at Ghek and turned away. The
officer shook his head. "I do not understand it," he muttered.
"Always has U-Van been a true and dependable warrior. Could it
be--?" he glanced piercingly at Ghek. "Thou hast a strange head
that misfits thy body, fellow," he cried. "Our legends tell us of
those ancient creatures that placed hallucinations upon the mind
of their fellows. If thou be such then maybe U-Van suffered from
thy forbidden powers. If thou be such O-Tar will know well how to
deal with thee." He wheeled about and motioned his warriors to
"Wait!" cried Ghek. "Unless I am to be starved, send me food."
"You have had food," replied the warrior.
"Am I to be fed but once a day?" asked Ghek. "I require food
oftener than that. Send me food."
"You shall have food," replied the officer. "None may say that
the prisoners of Manator are ill-fed. Just are the laws of
Manator," and he departed.
No sooner had the sounds of their passing died away in the
distance than Ghek clambered from the shoulders of his rykor, and
scurried to the burrow where he had hidden the key. Fetching it
he unlocked the fetter from about the creature's ankle, locked it
empty and carried the key farther down into the burrow. Then he
returned to his place upon his brainless servitor. After a while
he heard footsteps approaching, whereupon he rose and passed into
another corridor from that down which he knew the warrior was
coming. Here he waited out of sight, listening. He heard the man
enter the chamber and halt. He heard a muttered exclamation,
followed by the jangle of metal dishes as a salver was slammed
upon a table; then rapidly retreating footsteps, which quickly
died away in the distance.
Ghek lost no time in returning to the chamber, recovering the
key, relocking the rykor to his chain. Then he replaced the key
in the burrow and squatting on the table beside his headless
body, directed its hands toward the food. While the rykor ate
Ghek sat listening for the scraping sandals and clattering arms
that he knew soon would come. Nor had he long to wait. Ghek
scrambled to the shoulders of his rykor as he heard them coming.
Again it was the officer who had been summoned by U-Van and with
him were three warriors. The one directly behind him was
evidently the same who had brought the food, for his eyes went
wide when he saw Ghek sitting at the table and he looked very
foolish as the dwar turned his stern glance upon him.
"It is even as I said," he cried. "He was not here when I brought
"But he is here now," said the officer grimly, "and his fetter is
locked about his ankle. Look! it has not been opened--but where
is the key? It should be upon the table at the end opposite him.
Where is the key, creature?" he shouted at Ghek.
"How should I, a prisoner, know better than my jailer the
whereabouts of the key to my fetters?" he retorted.
"But it lay here," cried the officer, pointing to the other end
of the table.
"Did you see it?" asked Ghek.
The officer hesitated. "No but it must have been there," he
"Did you see the key lying there?" asked Ghek, pointing to
The fellow shook his head negatively. "And you? and you?"
continued the kaldane addressing the others.
They both admitted that they never had seen the key. "And if it
had been there how could I have reached it?" he continued.
"No, he could not have reached it," admitted the officer; "but
there shall be no more of this! I-Zav, you will remain here on
guard with this prisoner until you are relieved."
I-Zav looked anything but happy as this intelligence was
transmitted to him, and he eyed Ghek suspiciously as the dwar and
the other warriors turned and left him to his unhappy lot.
A DESPERATE DEED
E-Med crossed the tower chamber toward Tara of Helium and the
slave girl, Lan-O. He seized the former roughly by a shoulder.
"Stand!" he commanded. Tara struck his hand from her and rising,
"Lay not your hand upon the person of a princess of Helium,
beast!" she warned.
E-Med laughed. "Think you that I play at jetan for you without
first knowing something of the stake for which I play?" he
demanded. "Come here!"
The girl drew herself to her full height, folding her arms across
her breast, nor did E-Med note that the slim fingers of her right
hand were inserted beneath the broad leather strap of her harness
where it passed over her left shoulder.
"And O-Tar learns of this you shall rue it, E-Med," cried the
slave girl; "there be no law in Manator that gives you this girl
before you shall have won her fairly."
"What cares O-Tar for her fate?" replied E-Med. "Have I not
heard? Did she not flout the great jeddak, heaping abuse upon
him? By my first ancestor, I think O-Tar might make a jed of the
man who subdued her," and again he advanced toward Tara.
"Wait!" said the girl in low, even tone. "Perhaps you know not
what you do. Sacred to the people of Helium are the persons of
the women of Helium. For the honor of the humblest of them would
the great jeddak himself unsheathe his sword. The greatest
nations of Barsoom have trembled to the thunders of war in
defense of the person of Dejah Thoris, my mother. We are but
mortal and so may die; but we may not be defiled. You may play at
jetan for a princess of Helium, but though you may win the match,
never may you claim the reward. If thou wouldst possess a dead
body press me too far, but know, man of Manator, that the blood
of The Warlord flows not in the veins of Tara of Helium for
naught. I have spoken."
"I know naught of Helium and O-Tar is our warlord," replied
E-Med; "but I do know that I would examine more closely the prize
that I shall play for and win. I would test the lips of her who
is to be my slave after the next games; nor is it well, woman, to
drive me too far to anger." His eyes narrowed as he spoke, his
visage taking on the semblance of that of a snarling beast. "If
you doubt the truth of my words ask Lan-O, the slave girl."
"He speaks truly, O woman of Helium," interjected Lan-O. "Try not
the temper of E-Med, if you value your life."
But Tara of Helium made no reply. Already had she spoken. She
stood in silence now facing the burly warrior who approached her.
He came close and then quite suddenly he seized her and, bending,
tried to draw her lips to his.
Lan-O saw the woman from Helium half turn, and with a quick
movement jerk her right hand from where it had lain upon her
breast. She saw the hand shoot from beneath the arm of E-Med and
rise behind his shoulder and she saw in the hand a long, slim
blade. The lips of the warrior were drawing closer to those of
the woman, but they never touched them, for suddenly the man
straightened, stiffly, a shriek upon his lips, and then he
crumpled like an empty fur and lay, a shrunken heap, upon the
floor. Tara of Helium stooped and wiped her blade upon his
Lan-O, wide-eyed, looked with horror upon the corpse. "For this
we shall both die," she cried.
"And who would live a slave in Manator?" asked Tara of Helium.
"I am not so brave as thou," said the slave girl, "and life is
sweet and there is always hope."
"Life is sweet," agreed Tara of Helium, "but honor is sacred. But
do not fear. When they come I shall tell them the truth--that you
had no hand in this and no opportunity to prevent it."
For a moment the slave girl seemed to be thinking deeply.
Suddenly her eyes lighted. "There is a way, perhaps," she said,
"to turn suspicion from us. He has the key to this chamber upon
him. Let us open the door and drag him out--maybe we shall find a
place to hide him."
"Good!" exclaimed Tara of Helium, and the two immediately set
about the matter Lan-O had suggested. Quickly they found the key
and unlatched the door and then, between them, they half carried,
half dragged, the corpse of E-Med from the room and down the
stairway to the next level where Lan-O said there were vacant
chambers. The first door they tried was unlatched, and through
this the two bore their grisly burden into a small room lighted
by a single window. The apartment bore evidence of having been
utilized as a living-room rather than as a cell, being furnished
with a degree of comfort and even luxury. The walls were paneled
to a height of about seven feet from the floor, while the plaster
above and the ceiling were decorated with faded paintings of
As Tara's eyes ran quickly over the interior her attention was
drawn to a section of paneling that seemed to be separated at one
edge from the piece next adjoining it. Quickly she crossed to it,
discovering that one vertical edge of an entire panel projected a
half-inch beyond the others. There was a possible explanation
which piqued her curiosity, and acting upon its suggestion she
seized upon the projecting edge and pulled outward. Slowly the
panel swung toward her, revealing a dark aperture in the wall
"Look, Lan-O!" she cried. "See what I have found--a hole in which
we may hide the thing upon the floor."
Lan-O joined her and together the two investigated the dark
aperture, finding a small platform from which a narrow runway led
downward into Stygian darkness. Thick dust covered the floor
within the doorway, indicating that a great period of time had
elapsed since human foot had trod it--a secret way, doubtless,
unknown to living Manatorians. Here they dragged the corpse of
E-Med, leaving it upon the platform, and as they left the dark
and forbidden closet Lan-O would have slammed to the panel had
not Tara prevented.
"Wait!" she said, and fell to examining the door frame and the
"Hurry!" whispered the slave girl. "If they come we are lost."
"It may serve us well to know how to open this place again,"
replied Tara of Helium, and then suddenly she pressed a foot
against a section of the carved base at the right of the open
panel. "Ah!" she breathed, a note of satisfaction in her tone,
and closed the panel until it fitted snugly in its place. "Come!"
she said and turned toward the outer doorway of the chamber.
They reached their own cell without detection, and closing the
door Tara locked it from the inside and placed the key in a
secret pocket in her harness.
"Let them come," she said. "Let them question us! What could two
poor prisoners know of the whereabouts of their noble jailer? I
ask you, Lan-O, what could they?"
"Nothing," admitted Lan-O, smiling with her companion.
"Tell me of these men of Manator," said Tara presently. "Are they
all like E-Med, or are some of them like A-Kor, who seemed a
brave and chivalrous character?"
"They are not unlike the peoples of other countries," replied
Lan-O. "There be among them both good and bad. They are brave
warriors and mighty. Among themselves they are not without
chivalry and honor, but in their dealings with strangers they
know but one law--the law of might. The weak and unfortunate of
other lands fill them with contempt and arouse all that is worst
in their natures, which doubtless accounts for their treatment of
us, their slaves."
"But why should they feel contempt for those who have suffered
the misfortune of falling into their hands?" queried Tara.
"I do not know," said Lan-O; "A-Kor says that he believes that it
is because their country has never been invaded by a victorious
foe. In their stealthy raids never have they been defeated,
because they have never waited to face a powerful force; and so
they have come to believe themselves invincible, and the other
peoples are held in contempt as inferior in valor and the
practice of arms."
"Yet A-Kor is one of them," said Tara.
"He is a son of O-Tar, the jeddak," replied Lan-O; "but his
mother was a high born Gatholian, captured and made slave by
O-Tar, and A-Kor boasts that in his veins runs only the blood of
his mother, and indeed is he different from the others. His
chivalry is of a gentler form, though not even his worst enemy
has dared question his courage, while his skill with the sword,
and the spear, and the thoat is famous throughout the length and
breadth of Manator."
"What think you they will do with him?" asked Tara of Helium.
"Sentence him to the games," replied Lan-O. "If O-Tar be not
greatly angered he may be sentenced to but a single game, in
which case he may come out alive; but if O-Tar wishes really to
dispose of him he will be sentenced to the entire series, and no
warrior has ever survived the full ten, or rather none who was
under a sentence from O-Tar."
"What are the games? I do not understand," said Tara "I have
heard them speak of playing at jetan, but surely no one can be
killed at jetan. We play it often at home."
"But not as they play it in the arena at Manator," replied Lan-O.
"Come to the window," and together the two approached an aperture
facing toward the east.
Below her Tara of Helium saw a great field entirely surrounded by
the low building, and the lofty towers of which that in which she
was imprisoned was but a unit. About the arena were tiers of
seats; but the a thing that caught her attention was a gigantic
jetan board laid out upon the floor of the arena in great squares
of alternate orange and black.
"Here they play at jetan with living pieces. They play for great
stakes and usually for a woman--some slave of exceptional beauty.
O-Tar himself might have played for you had you not angered him,
but now you will be played for in an open game by slaves and
criminals, and you will belong to the side that wins--not to a
single warrior, but to all who survive the game."
The eyes of Tara of Helium flashed, but she made no comment.
"Those who direct the play do not necessarily take part in it,"
continued the slave girl, "but sit in those two great thrones
which you see at either end of the board and direct their pieces
from square to square."
"But where lies the danger?" asked Tara of Helium. "If a piece be
taken it is merely removed from the board--this is a rule of
jetan as old almost as the civilization of Barsoom."
"But here in Manator, when they play in the great arena with
living men, that rule is altered," explained Lan-O. "When a
warrior is moved to a square occupied by an opposing piece, the
two battle to the death for possession of the square and the one
that is successful advantages by the move. Each is caparisoned to
simulate the piece he represents and in addition he wears that
which indicates whether he be slave, a warrior serving a
sentence, or a volunteer. If serving a sentence the number of
games he must play is also indicated, and thus the one directing
the moves knows which pieces to risk and which to conserve, and
further than this, a man's chances are affected by the position
that is assigned him for the game. Those whom they wish to die
are always Panthans in the game, for the Panthan has the least
chance of surviving."
"Do those who direct the play ever actually take part in it?"
"Oh, yes," said Lan-O. "Often when two warriors, even of the
highest class, hold a grievance against one another O-Tar compels
them to settle it upon the arena. Then it is that they take
active part and with drawn swords direct their own players from
the position of Chief. They pick their own players, usually the
best of their own warriors and slaves, if they be powerful men
who possess such, or their friends may volunteer, or they may
obtain prisoners from the pits. These are games indeed--the very
best that are seen. Often the great chiefs themselves are slain."
"It is within this amphitheater that the justice of Manator is
meted, then?" asked Tara.
"Very largely," replied Lan-O.
"How, then, through such justice, could a prisoner win his
liberty?" continued the girl from Helium.
"If a man, and he survived ten games his liberty would be his,"
"But none ever survives?" queried Tara. "And if a woman?"
"No stranger within the gates of Manator ever has survived ten
games," replied the slave girl. "They are permitted to offer
themselves into perpetual slavery if they prefer that to fighting
at jetan. Of course they may be called upon, as any warrior, to
take part in a game, but their chances then of surviving are
increased, since they may never again have the chance of winning
"But a woman," insisted Tara; "how may a woman win her freedom?"
Lan-O laughed. "Very simply," she cried, derisively. "She has but
to find a warrior who will fight through ten consecutive games
for her and survive."
"'Just are the laws of Manator,'" quoted Tara, scornfully.
Then it was that they heard footsteps outside their cell and a
moment later a key turned in the lock and the door opened. A
warrior faced them.
"Hast seen E-Med the dwar?" he asked.
"Yes," replied Tara, "he was here some time ago."
The man glanced quickly about the bare chamber and then
searchingly first at Tara of Helium and then at the slave girl,
Lan-O. The puzzled expression upon his face increased. He
scratched his head. "It is strange," he said. "A score of men saw
him ascend into this tower; and though there is but a single
exit, and that well guarded, no man has seen him pass out."
Tara of Helium hid a yawn with the back of a shapely hand. "The
Princess of Helium is hungry, fellow," she drawled; "tell your
master that she would eat."
It was an hour later that food was brought, an officer and
several warriors accompanying the bearer. The former examined the
room carefully, but there was no sign that aught amiss had
occurred there. The wound that had sent E-Med the dwar to his
ancestors had not bled, fortunately for Tara of Helium.
"Woman," cried the officer, turning upon Tara, "you were the last
to see E-Med the dwar. Answer me now and answer me truthfully.
Did you see him leave this room?"
"I did," answered Tara of Helium.
"Where did he go from here?"
"How should I know? Think you that I can pass through a locked
door of skeel?" the girl's tone was scornful.
"Of that we do not know," said the officer. "Strange things have
happened in the cell of your companion in the pits of Manator.
Perhaps you could pass through a locked door of skeel as easily
as he performs seemingly more impossible feats."
"Whom do you mean," she cried; "Turan the panthan? He lives,
then? Tell me, is he here in Manator unharmed?"
"I speak of that thing which calls itself Ghek the kaldane,"
replied the officer.
"But Turan! Tell me, padwar, have you heard aught of him?" Tara's
tone was insistent and she leaned a little forward toward the
officer, her lips slightly parted in expectancy.
Into the eyes of the slave girl, Lan-O, who was watching her,
there crept a soft light of understanding; but the officer
ignored Tara's question--what was the fate of another slave to
him? "Men do not disappear into thin air," he growled, "and if
E-Med be not found soon O-Tar himself may take a hand in this. I
warn you, woman, if you be one of those horrid Corphals that by
commanding the spirits of the wicked dead gains evil mastery over
the living, as many now believe the thing called Ghek to be, that
lest you return E-Med, O-Tar will have no mercy on you."
"What foolishness is this?" cried the girl. "I am a princess
of Helium, as I have told you all a score of times. Even if the
fabled Corphals existed, as none but the most ignorant now
believes, the lore of the ancients tells us that they entered
only into the bodies of wicked criminals of the lowest class. Man
of Manator, thou art a fool, and thy jeddak and all his people,"
and she turned her royal back upon the padwar, and gazed through
the window across the Field of Jetan and the roofs of Manator
through the low hills and the rolling country and freedom.
"And you know so much of Corphals, then," he cried, "you know
that while no common man dare harm them they may be slain by the
hand of a jeddak with impunity!"
The girl did not reply, nor would she speak again, for all his
threats and rage, for she knew now that none in all Manator dared
harm her save O-Tar, the jeddak, and after a while the padwar
left, taking his men with him. And after they had gone Tara stood
for long looking out upon the city of Manator, and wondering what
more of cruel wrongs Fate held in store for her. She was standing
thus in silent meditation when there rose to her the strains of
martial music from the city below--the deep, mellow tones of the
long war trumpets of mounted troops, the clear, ringing notes of
foot-soldiers' music. The girl raised her head and looked about,
listening, and Lan-O, standing at an opposite window, looking
toward the west, motioned Tara to join her. Now they could see
across roofs and avenues to The Gate of Enemies, through which
troops were marching into the city.
"The Great Jed is coming," said Lan-O, "none other dares enter
thus, with blaring trumpets, the city of Manator. It is U-Thor,
Jed of Manatos, second city of Manator. They call him The Great
Jed the length and breadth of Manator, and because the people
love him, O-Tar hates him. They say, who know, that it would need
but slight provocation to inflame the two to war. How such a war
would end no one could guess; for the people of Manator worship
the great O-Tar, though they do not love him. U-Thor they love,
but he is not the jeddak," and Tara understood, as only a Martian
may, how much that simple statement encompassed.
The loyalty of a Martian to his jeddak is almost an instinct, and
second not even to the instinct of self-preservation at that. Nor
is this strange in a race whose religion includes ancestor
worship, and where families trace their origin back into remote
ages and a jeddak sits upon the same throne that his direct
progenitors have occupied for, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of
years, and rules the descendants of the same people that his
forebears ruled. Wicked jeddaks have been dethroned, but seldom
are they replaced by other than members of the imperial house,
even though the law gives to the jeds the right to select whom
"U-Thor is a just man and good, then?" asked Tara of Helium.
"There be none nobler," replied Lan-O. "In Manatos none but
wicked criminals who deserve death are forced to play at jetan,
and even then the play is fair and they have their chance for
freedom. Volunteers may play, but the moves are not necessarily
to the death--a wound, and even sometimes points in swordplay,
deciding the issue. There they look upon jetan as a martial
sport--here it is but butchery. And U-Thor is opposed to the
ancient slave raids and to the policy that keeps Manator forever
isolated from the other nations of Barsoom; but U-Thor is not
jeddak and so there is no change."
The two girls watched the column moving up the broad avenue from
The Gate of Enemies toward the palace of O-Tar. A gorgeous,
barbaric procession of painted warriors in jewel-studded harness
and waving feathers; vicious, squealing thoats caparisoned in
rich trappings; far above their heads the long lances of their
riders bore fluttering pennons; foot-soldiers swinging easily
along the stone pavement, their sandals of zitidar hide giving
forth no sound; and at the rear of each utan a train of painted
chariots, drawn by mammoth zitidars, carrying the equipment of
the company to which they were attached. Utan after utan entered
through the great gate, and even when the head of the column
reached the palace of O-Tar they were not all within the city.
"I have been here many years," said the girl, Lan-O; "but never
have I seen even The Great Jed bring so many fighting men into
the city of Manator."
Through half-closed eyes Tara of Helium watched the warriors
marching up the broad avenue, trying to imagine them the fighting
men of her beloved Helium coming to the rescue of their princess.
That splendid figure upon the great thoat might be John Carter,
himself, Warlord of Barsoom, and behind him utan after utan of
the veterans of the empire, and then the girl opened her eyes
again and saw the host of painted, befeathered barbarians, and
sighed. But yet she watched, fascinated by the martial scene, and
now she noted again the groups of silent figures upon the
balconies. No waving silks; no cries of welcome; no showers of
flowers and jewels such as would have marked the entry of such a
splendid, friendly pageant into the twin cities of her birth.
"The people do not seem friendly to the warriors of Manatos," she
remarked to Lan-O; "I have not seen a single welcoming sign from
the people on the balconies."
The slave girl looked at her in surprise. "It cannot be that you
do not know!" she exclaimed. "Why, they are--" but she got no
further. The door swung open and an officer stood before them.
"The slave girl, Tara, is summoned to the presence of O-Tar, the
jeddak!" he announced.
AT GHEK'S COMMAND
Turan the panthan chafed in his chains. Time dragged; silence and
monotony prolonged minutes into hours. Uncertainty of the fate of
the woman he loved turned each hour into an eternity of hell. He
listened impatiently for the sound of approaching footsteps that
he might see and speak to some living creature and learn,
perchance, some word of Tara of Helium. After torturing hours his
ears were rewarded by the rattle of harness and arms. Men were
coming! He waited breathlessly. Perhaps they were his
executioners; but he would welcome them notwithstanding. He would
question them. But if they knew naught of Tara he would not
divulge the location of the hiding place in which he had left
Now they came--a half-dozen warriors and an officer, escorting an
unarmed man; a prisoner, doubtless. Of this Turan was not left
long in doubt, since they brought the newcomer and chained him to
an adjoining ring. Immediately the panthan commenced to question
the officer in charge of the guard.
"Tell me," he demanded, "why I have been made prisoner, and if
other strangers were captured since I entered your city."
"What other prisoners?" asked the officer.
"A woman, and a man with a strange head," replied Turan.
"It is possible," said the officer; "but what were their names?"
"The woman was Tara, Princess of Helium, and the man was Ghek, a
kaldane, of Bantoom."
"These were your friends?" asked the officer.
"Yes," replied Turan.
"It is what I would know," said the officer, and with a curt
command to his men to follow him he turned and left the cell.
"Tell me of them!" cried Turan after him. "Tell me of Tara of
Helium! Is she safe?" but the man did not answer and soon the
sound of their departure died in the distance.
"Tara of Helium was safe, but a short time since," said the
prisoner chained at Turan's side.
The panthan turned toward the speaker, seeing a large man,
handsome of face and with a manner both stately and dignified.
"You have seen her?" he asked. "They captured her then? She is in
"She is being held in The Towers of Jetan as a prize for the next
games," replied the stranger.
"And who are you?" asked Turan. "And why are you here, a
"I am A-Kor the dwar, keeper of The Towers of Jetan," replied the
other. "I am here because I dared speak the truth of O-Tar the
jeddak, to one of his officers."
"And your punishment?" asked Turan.
"I do not know. O-Tar has not yet spoken. Doubtless the
games--perhaps the full ten, for O-Tar does not love A-Kor, his
"You are the jeddak's son?" asked Turan.
"I am the son of O-Tar and of a slave, Haja of Gathol, who was a
princess in her own land."
Turan looked searchingly at the speaker. A son of Haja of Gathol!
A son of his mother's sister, this man, then, was his own cousin.
Well did Gahan remember the mysterious disappearance of the
Princess Haja and an entire utan of her personal troops. She had
been upon a visit far from the city of Gathol and returning home
had vanished with her whole escort from the sight of man. So this
was the secret of the seeming mystery? Doubtless it explained
many other similar disappearances that extended nearly as far
back as the history of Gathol. Turan scrutinized his companion,
discovering many evidences of resemblance to his mother's people.
A-Kor might have been ten years younger than he, but such
differences in age are scarce accounted among a people who seldom
or never age outwardly after maturity and whose span of life may
be a thousand years.
"And where lies Gathol?" asked Turan.
"Almost due east of Manator," replied A-Kor.
"And how far?"
"Some twenty-one degrees it is from the city of Manator to the
city of Gathol," replied A-Kor; "but little more than ten degrees
between the boundaries of the two countries. Between them,
though, there lies a country of torn rocks and yawning chasms."
Well did Gahan know this country that bordered his upon the
west--even the ships of the air avoided it because of the
treacherous currents that rose from the deep chasms, and the
almost total absence of safe landings. He knew now where Manator
lay and for the first time in long weeks the way to his own
Gathol, and here was a man, a fellow prisoner, in whose veins
flowed the blood of his own ancestors--a man who knew Manator;
its people, its customs and the country surrounding it--one who
could aid him, with advice at least, to find a plan for the
rescue of Tara of Helium and for escape. But would A-Kor--could
he dare broach the subject? He could do no less than try.
"And O-Tar you think will sentence you to death?" he asked; "and
"He would like to," replied A-Kor, "for the people chafe beneath
his iron hand and their loyalty is but the loyalty of a people to
the long line of illustrious jeddaks from which he has sprung. He
is a jealous man and has found the means of disposing of most of
those whose blood might entitle them to a claim upon the throne,
and whose place in the affections of the people endowed them with
any political significance. The fact that I was the son of a
slave relegated me to a position of minor importance in the
consideration of O-Tar, yet I am still the son of a jeddak and
might sit upon the throne of Manator with as perfect congruity as
O-Tar himself. Combined with this is the fact that of recent
years the people, and especially many of the younger warriors,
have evinced a growing affection for me, which I attribute to
certain virtues of character and training derived from my mother,
but which O-Tar assumes to be the result of an ambition upon my
part to occupy the throne of Manator.
"And now, I am firmly convinced, he has seized upon my criticism
of his treatment of the slave girl Tara as a pretext for ridding
himself of me."
"But if you could escape and reach Gathol," suggested Turan.
"I have thought of that," mused A-Kor; "but how much better off
would I be? In the eyes of the Gatholians I would be, not a
Gatholian; but a stranger and doubtless they would accord me the
same treatment that we of Manator accord strangers."
"Could you convince them that you are the son of the Princess
Haja your welcome would be assured," said Turan; "while on the
other hand you could purchase your freedom and citizenship with a
brief period of labor in the diamond mines."
"How know you all these things?" asked A-Kor. "I thought you were
"I am a panthan," replied Turan, "and I have served many
countries, among them Gathol."
"It is what the slaves from Gathol have told me," said A-Kor,
thoughtfully, "and my mother, before O-Tar sent her to live at
Manatos. I think he must have feared her power and influence
among the slaves from Gathol and their descendants, who number
perhaps a million people throughout the land of Manator."
"Are these slaves organized?" asked Turan.
A-Kor looked straight into the eyes of the panthan for a long
moment before he replied. "You are a man of honor," he said; "I
read it in your face, and I am seldom mistaken in my estimate of
a man; but--" and he leaned closer to the other--"even the walls
have ears," he whispered, and Turan's question was answered.
It was later in the evening that warriors came and unlocked the
fetter from Turan's ankle and led him away to appear before
O-Tar, the jeddak. They conducted him toward the palace along
narrow, winding streets and broad avenues; but always from the
balconies there looked down upon them in endless ranks the silent
people of the city. The palace itself was filled with life and
activity. Mounted warriors galloped through the corridors and up
and down the runways connecting adjacent floors. It seemed that
no one walked within the palace other than a few slaves.
Squealing, fighting thoats were stabled in magnificent halls
while their riders, if not upon some duty of the palace, played
at jetan with small figures carved from wood.
Turan noted the magnificence of the interior architecture of the
palace, the lavish expenditure of precious jewels and metals, the
gorgeous mural decorations which depicted almost exclusively
martial scenes, and principally duels which seemed to be fought
upon jetan boards of heroic size. The capitals of many of the
columns supporting the ceilings of the corridors and chambers
through which they passed were wrought into formal likenesses of
jetan pieces--everywhere there seemed a suggestion of the game.
Along the same path that Tara of Helium had been led Turan was
conducted toward the throne room of O-Tar the jeddak, and when he
entered the Hall of Chiefs his interest turned to wonder and
admiration as he viewed the ranks of statuesque thoatmen decked
in their gorgeous, martial panoply. Never, he thought, had he
seen upon Barsoom more soldierly figures or thoats so perfectly
trained to perfection of immobility as these. Not a muscle