The Chessmen of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 81

Only this single one and when it died there
could not be another. When it tired, Ghek must lie almost helpless
while it rested. He wished that he had never seen this red woman. She
had brought him only discontent and dishonor and now exile. Presently
Tara of Helium commenced to hum a tune and Ghek, the kaldane, was
content.

Gently they drifted beneath the hurtling moons above the mad shadows of
a Martian night. The roaring of the banths came in diminishing volume
to their ears as their craft passed on beyond the boundaries of
Bantoom, leaving behind the terrors of that unhappy land. But to what
were they being borne? The girl looked at the man sitting cross-legged
upon the deck of the tiny flier, gazing off into the night ahead,
apparently absorbed in thought.

"Where are we?" she asked. "Toward what are we drifting?"

Turan shrugged his broad shoulders. "The stars tell me that we are
drifting toward the northeast," he replied, "but where we are, or what
lies in our path I cannot even guess. A week since I could have sworn
that I knew what lay behind each succeeding ridge that I approached;
but now I admit in all humility that I have no conception of what lies
a mile in any direction. Tara of Helium, I am lost, and that is all
that I can tell you."

He was smiling and the girl smiled back at him. There was a slightly
puzzled expression on her face--there was something tantalizingly
familiar about that smile of his. She had met many a panthan--they came
and went, following the fighting of a world--but she could not place
this one.

"From what country are you, Turan?" she asked suddenly.

"Know you not, Tara of Helium," he countered, "that a panthan has no
country? Today he fights beneath the banner of one master, tomorrow
beneath that of another."

"But you must own allegiance to some country when you are not
fighting," she insisted. "What banner, then, owns you now?"

He rose and stood before her, then, bowing low. "And I am acceptable,"
he said, "I serve beneath the banner of the daughter of The Warlord
now--and forever."

She reached forth and touched his arm with a slim brown hand. "Your
services are accepted," she said; "and if ever we reach Helium I
promise that your reward shall be all that your heart could desire."

"I shall serve faithfully, hoping for that reward," he said; but Tara
of Helium did not guess what was in his mind, thinking rather that he
was mercenary. For how could the proud daughter of

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