The Chessmen of Mars HTML version

Chapter 13. A Desperate Deed
E-MED crossed the tower chamber toward Tara of Helium and the slave girl, Lan-O. He
seized the former roughly by a shoulder. "Stand!" he commanded. Tara struck his hand
from her and rising, backed away.
"Lay not your hand upon the person of a princess of Helium, beast!" she warned.
E-Med laughed. "Think you that I play at jetan for you without first knowing something
of the stake for which I play?" he demanded. "Come here!"
The girl drew herself to her full height, folding her arms across her breast, nor did E-Med
note that the slim fingers of her right hand were inserted beneath the broad leather strap
of her harness where it passed over her left shoulder.
"And O-Tar learns of this you shall rue it, E-Med," cried the slave girl; "there be no law
in Manator that gives you this girl before you shall have won her fairly."
"What cares O-Tar for her fate?" replied E-Med. "Have I not heard? Did she not flout the
great jeddak, heaping abuse upon him? By my first ancestor, I think O-Tar might make a
jed of the man who subdued her," and again he advanced toward Tara.
"Wait!" said the girl in low, even tone. "Perhaps you know not what you do. Sacred to the
people of Helium are the persons of the women of Helium. For the honor of the humblest
of them would the great jeddak himself unsheathe his sword. The greatest nations of
Barsoom have trembled to the thunders of war in defense of the person of Dejah Thoris,
my mother. We are but mortal and so may die; but we may not be defiled. You may play
at jetan for a princess of Helium, but though you may win the match, never may you
claim the reward. If thou wouldst possess a dead body press me too far, but know, man of
Manator, that the blood of The Warlord flows not in the veins of Tara of Helium for
naught. I have spoken."
"I know naught of Helium and O-Tar is our warlord," replied E-Med; "but I do know that
I would examine more closely the prize that I shall play for and win. I would test the lips
of her who is to be my slave after the next games; nor is it well, woman, to drive me too
far to anger." His eyes narrowed as he spoke, his visage taking on the semblance of that
of a snarling beast. "If you doubt the truth of my words ask Lan-O, the slave girl."
"He speaks truly, O woman of Helium," interjected Lan-O. "Try not the temper of E-
Med, if you value your life."
But Tara of Helium made no reply. Already had she spoken. She stood in silence now
facing the burly warrior who approached her. He came close and then quite suddenly he
seized her and, bending, tried to draw her lips to his.