The Chessmen of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 69

A thousand beautiful strangers might sing
and dance about it, but it could derive no pleasure from the singing or
the dancing since it would possess no perceptive faculties. Already had
the kaldanes shut themselves off from most of the gratifications of the
senses. Ghek wondered if much was to be gained by denying themselves
still further, and with the thought came a question as to the whole
fabric of their theory. After all perhaps the girl was right; what
purpose could a great brain serve sealed in the bowels of the earth?

And he, Ghek, was to die for this theory. Luud had decreed it. The
injustice of it overwhelmed him with rage. But he was helpless. There
was no escape. Beyond the enclosure the banths awaited him; within, his
own kind, equally as merciless and ferocious. Among them there was no
such thing as love, or loyalty, or friendship--they were just brains.
He might kill Luud; but what would that profit him? Another king would
be loosed from his sealed chamber and Ghek would be killed. He did not
know it but he would not even have the poor satisfaction of satisfied
revenge, since he was not capable of feeling so abstruse a sentiment.

Ghek, mounted upon his rykor, paced the floor of the tower chamber in
which he had been ordered to remain. Ordinarily he would have accepted
the sentence of Luud with perfect equanimity, since it was but the
logical result of reason; but now it seemed different. The stranger
woman had bewitched him. Life appeared a pleasant thing--there were
great possibilities in it. The dream of the ultimate brain had receded
into a tenuous haze far in the background of his thoughts.

At that moment there appeared in the doorway of the chamber a red
warrior with naked sword. He was a male counterpart of the prisoner
whose sweet voice had undermined the cold, calculating reason of the
kaldane.

"Silence!" admonished the newcomer, his straight brows gathered in an
ominous frown and the point of his longsword playing menacingly before
the eyes of the kaldane. "I seek the woman, Tara of Helium. Where is
she? If you value your life speak quickly and speak the truth."

If he valued his life! It was a truth that Ghek had but just learned.
He thought quickly. After all, a great brain is not without its uses.
Perhaps here lay escape from the sentence of Luud.

"You are of her kind?" he asked. "You come to rescue her?"

"Yes."

"Listen, then. I have befriended her, and because of this I am to die.
If I help

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