The Chessmen of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 171

courage they possessed, and now that they were
within the very chambers of O-Mai their nerves were pitched to the
highest key--another turn and they would snap; for the people of
Manator are filled with weird superstitions. As they entered the outer
chamber they moved slowly, with drawn swords, no one seeming anxious to
take the lead, and the twelve warriors hanging back in unconcealed and
shameless terror, while the three chiefs, spurred on by fear of O-Tar
and by pride, pressed together for mutual encouragement as they slowly
crossed the dimly-lighted room.

Following the tracks of Gahan and Tara they found that though each
doorway had been approached only one threshold had been crossed and
this door they gingerly opened, revealing to their astonished gaze the
four warriors at the jetan table. For a moment they were on the verge
of flight, for though they knew what they were, coming as they did upon
them in this mysterious and haunted suite, they were as startled as
though they had beheld the very ghosts of the departed. But they
presently regained their courage sufficiently to cross this chamber too
and enter the short passageway that led to the ancient sleeping
apartment of O-Mai the Cruel. They did not know that this awful chamber
lay just before them, or it were doubtful that they would have
proceeded farther; but they saw that those they sought had come this
way and so they followed, but within the gloomy interior of the chamber
they halted, the three chiefs urging their followers, in low whispers,
to close in behind them, and there just within the entrance they stood
until, their eyes becoming accustomed to the dim light, one of them
pointed suddenly to the thing lying upon the floor with one foot
tangled in the coverings of the dais.

"Look!" he gasped. "It is the corpse of O-Mai! Ancestor of ancestors!
we are in the forbidden chamber." Simultaneously there came from behind
the hangings beyond the grewsome dead a hollow moan followed by a
piercing scream, and the hangings shook and bellied before their eyes.

With one accord, chieftains and warriors, they turned and bolted for
the doorway; a narrow doorway, where they jammed, fighting and
screaming in an effort to escape. They threw away their swords and
clawed at one another to make a passage for escape; those behind
climbed upon the shoulders of those in front; and some fell and were
trampled upon; but at last they all got through, and, the swiftest
first, they bolted across the two intervening chambers to the outer
corridor beyond, nor did they halt

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