The Chessmen of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 155

a point and brought blood to
his opponent's copper hide until both were red with gore; but neither
seemed able to administer the coup de grace.

From her position upon the opposite side of the field Tara of Helium
watched the long-drawn battle. Always it seemed to her that the Black
Chief fought upon the defensive, or when he assumed to push his
opponent, he neglected a thousand openings that her practiced eye
beheld. Never did he seem in real danger, nor never did he appear to
exert himself to quite the pitch needful for victory. The duel already
had been long contested and the day was drawing to a close. Presently
the sudden transition from daylight to darkness which, owing to the
tenuity of the air upon Barsoom, occurs almost without the warning
twilight of Earth, would occur. Would the fight never end? Would the
game be called a draw after all? What ailed the Black Chief?

Tara wished that she might answer at least the last of these questions
for she was sure that Turan the panthan, as she knew him, while
fighting brilliantly, was not giving of himself all that he might. She
could not believe that fear was restraining his hand, but that there
was something beside inability to push U-Dor more fiercely she was
confident. What it was, however, she could not guess.

Once she saw Gahan glance quickly up toward the sinking sun. In thirty
minutes it would be dark. And then she saw and all those others saw a
strange transition steal over the swordplay of the Black Chief. It was
as though he had been playing with the great dwar, U-Dor, all these
hours, and now he still played with him but there was a difference. He
played with him terribly as a carnivore plays with its victim in the
instant before the kill. The Orange Chief was helpless now in the hands
of a swordsman so superior that there could be no comparison, and the
people sat in open-mouthed wonder and awe as Gahan of Gathol cut his
foe to ribbons and then struck him down with a blow that cleft him to
the chin.

In twenty minutes the sun would set. But what of that?



CHAPTER XVIII

A TASK FOR LOYALTY

Long and loud was the applause that rose above the Field of Jetan at
Manator, as The Keeper of the Towers summoned the two Princesses and
the victorious Chief to the center of the field and presented to the
latter the fruits of his prowess, and then, as custom demanded, the
victorious players, headed by Gahan and

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