The Chessmen of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 129

throne a score of warriors
rose as though to rush forward to intercept them. "Stay!" cried Ghek,
"or your jeddak dies," and they halted in their tracks, waiting the
will of this strange, uncanny creature.

Presently Ghek took his eyes from the eyes of O-Tar and the jeddak
shook himself as one who would be rid of a bad dream and straightened
up, half dazed still.

"Look," said Ghek, then, "I have given your jeddak his life, nor have I
harmed one of those whom I might easily have slain when they were in my
power. No harm have I or my friends done in the city of Manator. Why
then should you persecute us? Give us our lives. Give us our liberty."

O-Tar, now in command of his faculties, stooped and regained his sword.
In the room was silence as all waited to hear the jeddak's answer.

"Just are the laws of Manator," he said at last. "Perhaps, after all,
there is truth in the words of the stranger. Return him then to the
pits and pursue the others and capture them. Through the mercy of O-Tar
they shall be permitted to win their freedom upon the Field of Jetan,
in the coming games."

Still ashen was the face of the jeddak as Ghek was led away and his
appearance was that of a man who had been snatched from the brink of
eternity into which he has gazed, not with the composure of great
courage, but with fear. There were those in the throne room who knew
that the execution of the three prisoners had but been delayed and the
responsibility placed upon the shoulders of others, and one of those
who knew was U-Thor, the great jed of Manatos. His curling lip
betokened his scorn of the jeddak who had chosen humiliation rather
than death. He knew that O-Tar had lost more of prestige in those few
moments than he could regain in a lifetime, for the Martians are
jealous of the courage of their chiefs--there can be no evasions of
stern duty, no temporizing with honor. That there were others in the
room who shared U-Thor's belief was evidenced by the silence and the
grim scowls.

O-Tar glanced quickly around. He must have sensed the hostility and
guessed its cause, for he went suddenly angry, and as one who seeks by
the vehemence of his words to establish the courage of his heart he
roared forth what could be considered as naught other than a challenge.

"The will of O-Tar, the jeddak, is the law of Manator," he cried, "and
the laws of

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