The Chessmen of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 151

mind. He dared not
speak, the ethics of the game forbade it, but what his lips might not
voice his eyes expressed in martial fire, and eloquently: "The honor of
the Black and the safety of our Princess are secure with me!"

Gahan hesitated no longer. "Chief's Odwar to Princess' Odwar's fourth!"
he commanded. It was the courageous move of a leader who had taken up
the gauntlet thrown down by his opponent.

The warrior sprang forward and leaped into the square occupied by
U-Dor's piece. It was the first disputed square of the game. The eyes
of the players were fastened upon the contestants, the spectators
leaned forward in their seats after the first applause that had greeted
the move, and silence fell upon the vast assemblage. If the Black went
down to defeat, U-Dor could move his victorious piece on to the square
occupied by Tara of Helium and the game would be over--over in four
moves and lost to Gahan of Gathol. If the Orange lost U-Dor would have
sacrificed one of his most important pieces and more than lost what
advantage the first move might have given him.

Physically the two men appeared perfectly matched and each was fighting
for his life, but from the first it was apparent that the Black Odwar
was the better swordsman, and Gahan knew that he had another and
perhaps a greater advantage over his antagonist. The latter was
fighting for his life only, without the spur of chivalry or loyalty.
The Black Odwar had these to strengthen his arm, and besides these the
knowledge of the thing that Gahan had whispered into the ears of his
players before the game, and so he fought for what is more than life to
the man of honor.

It was a duel that held those who witnessed it in spellbound silence.
The weaving blades gleamed in the brilliant sunlight, ringing to the
parries of cut and thrust. The barbaric harness of the duelists lent
splendid color to the savage, martial scene. The Orange Odwar, forced
upon the defensive, was fighting madly for his life. The Black, with
cool and terrible efficiency, was forcing him steadily, step by step,
into a corner of the square--a position from which there could be no
escape. To abandon the square was to lose it to his opponent and win
for himself ignoble and immediate death before the jeering populace.
Spurred on by the seeming hopelessness of his plight, the Orange Odwar
burst into a sudden fury of offense that forced the Black back a half
dozen steps, and then the sword of U-Dor's

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