The Chessmen of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 108

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 at Ghek.

"There sits the creature! Didst thou dare lie, then, to thy dwar?"

"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.

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