The Chessmen of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 115

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?" asked
Tara.

"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," replied
Lan-O.

"But none ever survives?" queried Tara. "And if a woman?"

"No stranger

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