The Chessmen of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 149

of him when he had been
locked in the room beneath the palace by I-Gos, the taxidermist, and so
he did not seek to enlighten her as to his identity. He meant to fight
for her--to die for her, if necessary--and if he did not die to go on
fighting to the end for her love. Gahan of Gathol was not easily to be
discouraged, but he was compelled to admit that his chances of winning
the love of Tara of Helium were remote. Already had she repulsed him
twice. Once as jed of Gathol and again as Turan the panthan. Before his
love, however, came her safety and the former must be relegated to the
background until the latter had been achieved.

Passing among the players already at their stations the two took their
places upon their respective squares. At Tara's left was the Black
Chief, Gahan of Gathol; directly in front of her the Princess' Panthan,
Floran of Gathol; and at her right the Princess' Odwar, Val Dor of
Helium. And each of these knew the part that he was to play, win or
lose, as did each of the other Black players. As Tara took her place
Val Dor bowed low. "My sword is at your feet, Tara of Helium," he said.

She turned and looked at him, an expression of surprise and incredulity
upon her face. "Val Dor, the dwar!" she exclaimed. "Val Dor of
Helium--one of my father's trusted captains! Can it be possible that my
eyes speak the truth?"

"It is Val Dor, Princess," the warrior replied, "and here to die for
you if need be, as is every wearer of the Black upon this field of
jetan today. Know Princess," he whispered, "that upon this side is no
man of Manator, but each and every is an enemy of Manator."

She cast a quick, meaning glance toward Gahan. "But what of him?" she
whispered, and then she caught her breath quickly in surprise. "Shade
of the first jeddak!" she exclaimed. "I did but just recognize him
through his disguise."

"And you trust him?" asked Val Dor. "I know him not; but he spoke
fairly, as an honorable warrior, and we have taken him at his word."

"You have made no mistake," replied Tara of Helium. "I would trust him
with my life--with my soul; and you, too, may trust him."

Happy indeed would have been Gahan of Gathol could he have heard those
words; but Fate, who is usually unkind to the lover in such matters,
ordained it otherwise, and then the game was on.

U-Dor moved his Princess'

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