The Chessmen of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 169

close to the chamber. To their chagrin they found this avenue
of escape barred.

Now indeed were they in a sorry plight, for should the searchers have
information leading them to this room they were lost. Again leading
Tara to the door behind which were the jetan players Gahan drew his
sword and waited, listening. The sound of the party in the corridor
came distinctly to their ears--they must be quite close, and doubtless
they were coming in force. Beyond the door were but four warriors who
might be readily surprised. There could, then, be but one choice and
acting upon it Gahan quietly opened the door again, stepped through
into the adjoining chamber, Tara's hand in his, and closed the door
behind them. The four at the jetan board evidently failed to hear them.
One player had either just made or was contemplating a move, for his
fingers grasped a piece that still rested upon the board. The other
three were watching his move. For an instant Gahan looked at them,
playing jetan there in the dim light of this forgotten and forbidden
chamber, and then a slow smile of understanding lighted his face.

"Come!" he said to Tara. "We have nothing to fear from these. For more
than five thousand years they have sat thus, a monument to the
handiwork of some ancient taxidermist."

As they approached more closely they saw that the lifelike figures were
coated with dust, but that otherwise the skin was in as fine a state of
preservation as the most recent of I-Gos' groups, and then they heard
the door of the chamber they had quitted open and knew that the
searchers were close upon them. Across the room they saw the opening of
what appeared to be a corridor and which investigation proved to be a
short passageway, terminating in a chamber in the center of which was
an ornate sleeping dais. This room, like the others, was but poorly
lighted, time having dimmed the radiance of its bulbs and coated them
with dust. A glance showed that it was hung with heavy goods and
contained considerable massive furniture in addition to the sleeping
platform, a second glance at which revealed what appeared to be the
form of a man lying partially on the floor and partially on the dais.
No doorways were visible other than that at which they had entered,
though both knew that others might be concealed by the hangings.

Gahan, his curiosity aroused by the legends surrounding this portion of
the palace, crossed to the dais to examine the figure that apparently
had fallen from

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