The Chessmen of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 26

Helium crept over the brow of the hill down toward the
valley, her presence was hidden by the darkness of the night from the
sight of any chance observer who might be loitering by a window in the
nearby tower. Cluros, the farther moon, was just rising above the
horizon to commence his leisurely journey through the heavens. Eight
zodes later he would set--a trifle over nineteen and a half Earth
hours--and during that time Thuria, his vivacious mate, would have
circled the planet twice and be more than half way around on her third
trip. She had but just set. It would be more than three and a half
hours before she shot above the opposite horizon to hurtle, swift and
low, across the face of the dying planet. During this temporary absence
of the mad moon Tara of Helium hoped to find both food and water, and
gain again the safety of her flier's deck.

She groped her way through the darkness, giving the tower and its
enclosure as wide a berth as possible. Sometimes she stumbled, for in
the long shadows cast by the rising Cluros objects were grotesquely
distorted though the light from the moon was still not sufficient to be
of much assistance to her. Nor, as a matter of fact, did she want
light. She could find the stream in the dark, by the simple expedient
of going down hill until she walked into it and she had seen that
bearing trees and many crops grew throughout the valley, so that she
would pass food in plenty ere she reached the stream. If the moon
showed her the way more clearly and thus saved her from an occasional
fall, he would, too, show her more clearly to the strange denizens of
the towers, and that, of course, must not be. Could she have waited
until the following night conditions would have been better, since
Cluros would not appear in the heavens at all and so, during Thuria's
absence, utter darkness would reign; but the pangs of thirst and the
gnawing of hunger could be endured no longer with food and drink both
in sight, and so she had decided to risk discovery rather than suffer
longer.

Safely past the nearest tower, she moved as rapidly as she felt
consistent with safety, choosing her way wherever possible so that she
might take advantage of the shadows of the trees that grew at intervals
and at the same time discover those which bore fruit. In this latter
she met with almost immediate success, for the very third tree beneath
which she halted

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