The Chessmen of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 72

the stranger. She saw the hand of the creature's rykor creeping
stealthily toward the hilt of its dagger.

And then Tara of Helium raised her eyes aloft and poured forth the
notes of Mars' most beautiful melody, The Song of Love.

Ghek drew his dagger from its sheath. His eyes turned toward the
singing girl. Luud's glance wavered from the eyes of the man to the
face of Tara, and the instant that the latter's song distracted his
attention from his victim, Gahan of Gathol shook himself and as with a
supreme effort of will forced his eyes to the wall above Luud's hideous
head. Ghek raised his dagger above his right shoulder, took a single
quick step forward, and struck. The girl's song ended in a stifled
scream as she leaped forward with the evident intention of frustrating
the kaldane's purpose; but she was too late, and well it was, for an
instant later she realized the purpose of Ghek's act as she saw the
dagger fly from his hand, pass Gahan's shoulder, and sink full to the
guard in the soft face of Luud.

"Come!" cried the assassin, "we have no time to lose," and started for
the aperture through which they had entered the chamber; but in his
stride he paused as his glance was arrested by the form of the mighty
rykor lying prone upon the floor--a king's rykor; the most beautiful,
the most powerful, that the breeders of Bantoom could produce. Ghek
realized that in his escape he could take with him but a single rykor,
and there was none in Bantoom that could give him better service than
this giant lying here. Quickly he transferred himself to the shoulders
of the great, inert hulk. Instantly the latter was transformed to a
sentient creature, filled with pulsing life and alert energy.

"Now," said the kaldane, "we are ready. Let whoso would revert to
nothingness impede me." Even as he spoke he stooped and crawled into
the chamber beyond, while Gahan, taking Tara by the arm, motioned her
to follow. The girl looked him full in the eyes for the first time.
"The Gods of my people have been kind," she said; "you came just in
time. To the thanks of Tara of Helium shall be added those of The
Warlord of Barsoom and his people. Thy reward shall surpass thy
greatest desires."

Gahan of Gathol saw that she did not recognize him, and quickly he
checked the warm greeting that had been upon his lips.

"Be thou Tara of Helium or another," he replied, "is immaterial, to
serve thus a red woman

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