The Chessmen of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 175

that would
apprise the creature of his presence. He wished that there might be
even the slightest lessening of the darkness. If he could see but the
outline of the thing that approached him he would feel that he had a
fairer chance in the meeting; but he could see nothing, and then
because he could see nothing the end of his scabbard struck the stone
side of the runway, giving off a sound that the stillness and the
narrow confines of the passage and the darkness seemed to magnify to a
terrific clatter.

Instantly the shuffling sound of approach ceased. For a moment Gahan
stood in silent waiting, then casting aside discretion he moved on
again down the spiral. The thing, whatever it might be, gave forth no
sound now by which Gahan might locate it. At any moment it might be
upon him and so he kept his sword in readiness. Down, ever downward the
steep spiral led. The darkness and the silence of the tomb surrounded
him, yet somewhere ahead was something. He was not alone in that horrid
place--another presence that he could not hear or see hovered before
him--of that he was positive. Perhaps it was the thing that had stolen
Tara. Perhaps Tara herself, still in the clutches of some nameless
horror, was just ahead of him. He quickened his pace--it became almost
a run at the thought of the danger that threatened the woman he loved,
and then he collided with a wooden door that swung open to the impact.
Before him was a lighted corridor. On either side were chambers. He had
advanced but a short distance from the bottom of the spiral when he
recognized that he was in the pits below the palace. A moment later he
heard behind him the shuffling sound that had attracted his attention
in the spiral runway. Wheeling about he saw the author of the sound
emerging from a doorway he had just passed. It was Ghek the kaldane.

"Ghek!" exclaimed Gahan. "It was you in the runway? Have you seen Tara
of Helium?"

"It was I in the spiral," replied the kaldane; "but I have not seen
Tara of Helium. I have been searching for her. Where is she?"

"I do not know," replied the Gatholian; "but we must find her and take
her from this place."

"We may find her," said Ghek; "but I doubt our ability to take her
away. It is not so easy to leave Manator as it is to enter it. I may
come and go at will, through the ancient burrows of the ulsios;

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