The Chessmen of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 43

was naught
but a prisoner. Her rank and titles meant nothing to these inhuman
monsters. They led her through a short, S-shaped passageway into a
chamber entirely lined with the white, tile-like material with which
the interior of the light wall was faced. Close to the base of the
walls were numerous smaller apertures, circular in shape, but larger
than those of similar aspect that she had noted elsewhere. The majority
of these apertures were sealed. Directly opposite the entrance was one
framed in gold, and above it a peculiar device was inlaid in the same
precious metal.

Sept and Ghek halted just within the room, the girl between them, and
all three stood silently facing the opening in the opposite wall. On
the floor beside the aperture lay a headless male body of almost heroic
proportions, and on either side of this stood a heavily armed warrior,
with drawn sword. For perhaps five minutes the three waited and then
something appeared in the opening. It was a pair of large chelae and
immediately thereafter there crawled forth a hideous kaldane of
enormous proportions. He was half again as large as any that Tara of
Helium had yet seen and his whole aspect infinitely more terrible. The
skin of the others was a bluish gray--this one was of a little bluer
tinge and the eyes were ringed with bands of white and scarlet, as was
its mouth.

From each nostril a band of white and one of scarlet extended outward
horizontally the width of the face.

No one spoke or moved. The creature crawled to the prostrate body and
affixed itself to the neck. Then the two rose as one and approached the
girl. He looked at her and then he spoke to her captor.

"You are the third foreman of the fields of Luud?" he asked.

"Yes, Luud; I am called Ghek."

"Tell me what you know of this," and he nodded toward Tara of Helium.

Ghek did as he was bid and then Luud addressed the girl.

"What were you doing within the borders of Bantoom?" he asked.

"I was blown hither in a great storm that injured my flier and carried
me I knew not where. I came down into the valley at night for food and
drink. The banths came and drove me to the safety of a tree, and then
your people caught me as I was trying to leave the valley. I do not
know why they took me. I was doing no harm. All I ask is that you let
me go my way in peace."

"None who enters Bantoom ever

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