The Chessmen of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 20

ship was
doomed, while free in the tempest it stood at least some slight chance
for life.

"By the blood of Issus, I believe they will hold!" screamed one warrior
to another.

"And if they do not hold may the spirits of our ancestors reward the
brave warriors upon the Vanator," replied another of those upon the
roof of the palace, "for it will not be long from the moment her cables
part before her crew dons the leather of the dead; but yet, Tanus, I
believe they will hold. Give thanks at least that we did not sail
before the tempest fell, since now each of us has a chance to live."

"Yes," replied Tanus, "I should hate to be abroad today upon the
stoutest ship that sails the Barsoomian sky."

It was then that Gahan the Jed appeared upon the roof. With him were
the balance of his own party and a dozen warriors of Helium. The young
chief turned to his followers.

"I sail at once upon the Vanator," he said, "in search of Tara of
Helium who is thought to have been carried away upon a one-man flier by
the storm. I do not need to explain to you the slender chances the
Vanator has to withstand the fury of the tempest, nor will I order you
to your deaths. Let those who wish remain behind without dishonor. The
others will follow me," and he leaped for the rope ladder that lashed
wildly in the gale.

The first man to follow him was Tanus and when the last reached the
deck of the cruiser there remained upon the palace roof only the twelve
warriors of Helium, who, with naked swords, had taken the posts of the
Gatholians at the moorings.

Not a single warrior who had remained aboard the Vanator would leave
her now.

"I expected no less," said Gahan, as with the help of those already on
the deck he and the others found secure lashings. The commander of the
Vanator shook his head. He loved his trim craft, the pride of her class
in the little navy of Gathol. It was of her he thought--not of himself.
He saw her lying torn and twisted upon the ochre vegetation of some
distant sea-bottom, to be presently overrun and looted by some savage,
green horde. He looked at Gahan.

"Are you ready, San Tothis?" asked the jed.

"All is ready."

"Then cut away!"

Word was passed across the deck and over the side to the Heliumetic
warriors below that at the third gun they were to cut away. Twelve keen
swords must strike simultaneously and with equal

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