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The Chessmen of Mars

Chapter 4. Captured
AS THURIA, swift racer of the night, shot again into the sky the scene changed. As by
magic a new aspect fell athwart the face of Nature. It was as though in the instant one had
been transported from one planet to another. It was the age-old miracle of the Martian
nights that is always new, even to Martians--two moons resplendent in the heavens,
where one had been but now; conflicting, fast-changing shadows that altered the very
hills themselves; far Cluros, stately, majestic, almost stationary, shedding his steady light
upon the world below; Thuria, a great and glorious orb, swinging swift across the vaulted
dome of the blue-black night, so low that she seemed to graze the hills, a gorgeous
spectacle that held the girl now beneath the spell of its enchantment as it always had and
always would.
"Ah, Thuria, mad queen of heaven!" murmured Tara of Helium. "The hills pass in stately
procession, their bosoms rising and falling; the trees move in restless circles; the little
grasses describe their little arcs; and all is movement, restless, mysterious movement
without sound, while Thuria passes." The girl sighed and let her gaze fall again to the
stern realities beneath. There was no mystery in the huge banths. He who had discovered
her squatted there looking hungrily up at her. Most of the others had wandered away in
search of other prey, but a few remained hoping yet to bury their fangs in that soft body.
The night wore on. Again Thuria left the heavens to her lord and master, hurrying on to
keep her tryst with the Sun in other skies. But a single banth waited impatiently beneath
the tree which harbored Tara of Helium. The others had left, but their roars, and growls,
and moans thundered or rumbled, or floated back to her from near and far. What prey
found they in this little valley? There must be something that they were accustomed to
find here that they should be drawn in so great numbers. The girl wondered what it could
be.
How long the night! Numb, cold, and exhausted, Tara of Helium clung to the tree in
growing desperation, for once she had dozed and almost fallen. Hope was low in her
brave little heart. How much more could she endure? She asked herself the question and
then, with a brave shake of her head, she squared her shoulders. "I still live!" she said
aloud.
The banth looked up and growled.
Came Thuria again and after awhile the great Sun--a flaming lover, pursuing his heart's
desire. And Cluros, the cold husband, continued his serene way, as placid as before his
house had been violated by this hot Lothario. And now the Sun and both Moons rode
together in the sky, lending their far mysteries to make weird the Martian dawn. Tara of
Helium looked out across the fair valley that spread upon all sides of her. It was rich and
beautiful, but even as she looked upon it she shuddered, for to her mind came a picture of
the headless things that the towers and the walls hid. Those by day and the banths by
night! Ah, was it any wonder that she shuddered?
 
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