The Chessmen of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 194

the throne room, other than to die with
her? There could be no hope of rescue.

The dignitary lifted the golden handcuffs from the pillow upon which
they reposed. He blessed them and reached for Tara's wrist. The time
had come! The thing could go no further, for alive or dead, by all the
laws of Barsoom she would be the wife of O-Tar of Manator the instant
the two were locked together. Even should rescue come then or later she
could never dissolve those bonds and Turan would be lost to her as
surely as though death separated them.

Her hand stole toward the hidden blade, but instantly the hand of the
groom shot out and seized her wrist. He had guessed her intention.
Through the slits in the grotesque mask she could see his eyes upon her
and she guessed the sardonic smile that the mask hid. For a tense
moment the two stood thus. The people below them kept breathless
silence for the play before the throne had not passed unnoticed.

Dramatic as was the moment it was suddenly rendered trebly so by the
noisy opening of the doors leading to The Hall of Chiefs. All eyes
turned in the direction of the interruption to see another figure
framed in the massive opening--a half-clad figure buckling the
half-adjusted harness hurriedly in place--the figure of O-Tar, Jeddak
of Manator.

"Stop!" he screamed, springing forward along the aisle toward the
throne. "Seize the impostor!"

All eyes shot to the figure of the groom before the throne. They saw
him raise his hand and snatch off the golden mask, and Tara of Helium
in wide-eyed incredulity looked up into the face of Turan the panthan.

"Turan the slave," they cried then. "Death to him! Death to him!"

"Wait!" shouted Turan, drawing his sword, as a dozen warriors leaped
forward.

"Wait!" screamed another voice, old and cracked, as I-Gos, the ancient
taxidermist, sprang from among the guests and reached the throne steps
ahead of the foremost warriors.

At sight of the old man the warriors paused, for age is held in great
veneration among the peoples of Barsoom, as is true, perhaps, of all
peoples whose religion is based to any extent upon ancestor worship.
But O-Tar gave no heed to him, leaping instead swiftly toward the
throne. "Stop, coward!" cried I-Gos.

The people looked at the little old man in amazement. "Men of Manator,"
he cackled in his thin, shrill voice, "wouldst be ruled by a coward and
a liar?"

"Down with him!" shouted O-Tar.

"Not until I have spoken," retorted I-Gos. "It is my right. If I fail
my life is

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