The Chessmen of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 25

trifle too far away for her to
see them distinctly in the waning light of the dying day, but she knew
that they were too large, they were out of proportion to the perfectly
proportioned bodies, and they were oblate in form. She could see that
the men wore some manner of harness to which were slung the customary
long-sword and short-sword of the Barsoomian warrior, and that about
their short necks were massive leather collars cut to fit closely over
the shoulders and snugly to the lower part of the head. Their features
were scarce discernible, but there was a suggestion of grotesqueness
about them that carried to her a feeling of revulsion.

The two carried a long rope to which were fastened, at intervals of
about two sofads, what she later guessed were light manacles, for she
saw the warriors passing among the poor creatures in the enclosure and
about the right wrist of each they fastened one of the manacles. When
all had been thus fastened to the rope one of the warriors commenced to
pull and tug at the loose end as though attempting to drag the headless
company toward the tower, while the other went among them with a long,
light whip with which he flicked them upon the naked skin. Slowly,
dully, the creatures rose to their feet and between the tugging of the
warrior in front and the lashing of him behind the hopeless band was
finally herded within the tower. Tara of Helium shuddered as she turned
away. What manner of creatures were these?

Suddenly it was night. The Barsoomian day had ended, and then the brief
period of twilight that renders the transition from daylight to
darkness almost as abrupt as the switching off of an electric light,
and Tara of Helium had found no sanctuary. But perhaps there were no
beasts to fear, or rather to avoid--Tara of Helium liked not the word
fear. She would have been glad, however, had there been a cabin, even a
very tiny cabin, upon her small flier; but there was no cabin. The
interior of the hull was completely taken up by the buoyancy tanks. Ah,
she had it! How stupid of her not to have thought of it before! She
could moor the craft to the tree beneath which it rested and let it
rise the length of the rope. Lashed to the deck rings she would then be
safe from any roaming beast of prey that chanced along. In the morning
she could drop to the ground again before the craft was discovered.

As Tara of

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