The Chessmen of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 172

their mad retreat before they
stumbled, weak and trembling, into the banquet hall of O-Tar. At sight
of them the warriors who had remained with the jeddak leaped to their
feet with drawn swords, thinking that their fellows were pursued by
many enemies; but no one followed them into the room, and the three
chieftains came and stood before O-Tar with bowed heads and trembling
knees.

"Well?" demanded the jeddak. "What ails you? Speak!"

"O-Tar," cried one of them when at last he could master his voice.
"When have we three failed you in battle or combat? Have our swords
been not always among the foremost in defense of your safety and your
honor?"

"Have I denied this?" demanded O-Tar.

"Listen, then, O Jeddak, and judge us with leniency. We followed the
two slaves to the apartments of O-Mai the Cruel. We entered the
accursed chambers and still we did not falter. We came at last to that
horrid chamber no human eye had scanned before in fifty centuries and
we looked upon the dead face of O-Mai lying as he has lain for all this
time. To the very death chamber of O-Mai the Cruel we came and yet we
were ready to go farther; when suddenly there broke upon our horrified
ears the moans and the shrieking that mark these haunted chambers and
the hangings moved and rustled in the dead air. O-Tar, it was more than
human nerves could endure. We turned and fled. We threw away our swords
and fought with one another to escape. With sorrow, but without shame,
I tell it, for there be no man in all Manator that would not have done
the same. If these slaves be Corphals they are safe among their fellow
ghosts. If they be not Corphals, then already are they dead in the
chambers of O-Mai, and there may they rot for all of me, for I would
not return to that accursed spot for the harness of a jeddak and the
half of Barsoom for an empire. I have spoken."

O-Tar knitted his scowling brows. "Are all my chieftains cowards and
cravens?" he demanded presently in sneering tones.

From among those who had not been of the searching party a chieftain
arose and turned a scowling face upon O-Tar.

"The jeddak knows," he said, "that in the annals of Manator her jeddaks
have ever been accounted the bravest of her warriors. Where my jeddak
leads I will follow, nor may any jeddak call me a coward or a craven
unless I refuse to go where he dares to go. I have spoken."

After he

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