The Chessmen of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 185

stood still within his breast and the
cold sweat broke from the clammy skin of his forehead, for from within
there came to his affrighted ears the sound of muffled breathing. Then
it was that O-Tar of Manator came near to fleeing from the nameless
horror that he could not see, but that he knew lay waiting for him in
that chamber just ahead. But again came the fear of the wrath and
contempt of his warriors and his chiefs. They would degrade him and
they would slay him into the bargain. There was no doubt of what his
fate would be should he flee the apartments of O-Mai in terror. His
only hope, therefore, lay in daring the unknown in preference to the
known.

He moved forward. A few steps took him to the doorway. The chamber
before him was darker than the corridor, so that he could just
indistinctly make out the objects in the room. He saw a sleeping dais
near the center, with a darker blotch of something lying on the marble
floor beside it. He moved a step farther into the doorway and the
scabbard of his sword scraped against the stone frame. To his horror he
saw the sleeping silks and furs upon the central dais move. He saw a
figure slowly arising to a sitting posture from the death bed of O-Mai
the Cruel. His knees shook, but he gathered all his moral forces, and
gripping his sword more tightly in his trembling fingers prepared to
leap across the chamber upon the horrid apparition. He hesitated just a
moment. He felt eyes upon him--ghoulish eyes that bored through the
darkness into his withering heart--eyes that he could not see. He
gathered himself for the rush--and then there broke from the thing upon
the couch an awful shriek, and O-Tar sank senseless to the floor.

Gahan rose from the couch of O-Mai, smiling, only to swing quickly
about with drawn sword as the shadow of a noise impinged upon his keen
ears from the shadows behind him. Between the parted hangings he saw a
bent and wrinkled figure. It was I-Gos.

"Sheathe your sword, Turan," said the old man. "You have naught to fear
from I-Gos."

"What do you here?" demanded Gahan.

"I came to make sure that the great coward did not cheat us. Ey, and he
called me 'doddering fool;' but look at him now! Stricken insensible by
terror, but, ey, one might forgive him that who had heard your uncanny
scream. It all but blasted my own courage. And it was you, then, who
moaned and screamed when

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