The Chessmen of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 68

nothing for it but to risk all on a bold bid for
fortune, or drift helplessly past without hope of returning through the
banth-infested valley, from many points of which he could now hear the
roars and growls of these fierce Barsoomian lions.

Slipping over the side Gahan descended by the trailing anchor-rope
until his feet touched the top of the wall, where he had no difficulty
in arresting the slow drifting of the ship. Then he drew up the anchor
and lowered it inside the enclosure. Still there was no movement upon
the part of the sleepers beneath--they lay as dead men. Dull lights
shone from openings in the tower; but there was no sign of guard or
waking inmate. Clinging to the rope Gahan lowered himself within the
enclosure, where he had his first close view of the creatures lying
there in what he had thought sleep. With a half smothered exclamation
of horror the man drew back from the headless bodies of the rykors. At
first he thought them the corpses of decapitated humans like himself,
which was quite bad enough; but when he saw them move and realized that
they were endowed with life, his horror and disgust became even greater.

Here then was the explanation of the thing he had witnessed that
afternoon, when Tara of Helium had struck the head from her captor and
Gahan had seen the head crawl back to its body. And to think that the
pearl of Helium was in the power of such hideous things as these. Again
the man shuddered, but he hastened to make fast the flier, clamber
again to its deck and lower it to the floor of the enclosure. Then
he strode toward a door in the base of the tower, stepping lightly
over the recumbent forms of the unconscious rykors, and crossing
the threshold disappeared within.



Ghek, in his happier days third foreman of the fields of Luud, sat
nursing his anger and his humiliation. Recently something had awakened
within him the existence of which he had never before even dreamed. Had
the influence of the strange captive woman aught to do with this unrest
and dissatisfaction? He did not know. He missed the soothing influence
of the noise she called singing. Could it be that there were other
things more desirable than cold logic and undefiled brain power? Was
well balanced imperfection more to be sought after then, than the high
development of a single characteristic? He thought of the great,
ultimate brain toward which all kaldanes were striving. It would be
deaf, and dumb, and blind.

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