The Chessmen of Mars HTML version

Chapter 16. Another Change Of Name
TURAN dashed himself against the door of his prison in a vain effort to break through
the solid skeel to the side of Tara whom he knew to be in grave danger, but the heavy
panels held and he succeeded only in bruising his shoulders and his arms. At last he
desisted and set about searching his prison for some other means of escape. He found no
other opening in the stone walls, but his search revealed a heterogeneous collection of
odds and ends of arms and apparel, of harness and ornaments and insignia, and sleeping
silks and furs in great quantities. There were swords and spears and several large, two-
bladed battle-axes, the heads of which bore a striking resemblance to the propellor of a
small flier. Seizing one of these he attacked the door once more with great fury. He
expected to hear something from I-Gos at this ruthless destruction, but no sound came to
him from beyond the door, which was, he thought, too thick for the human voice to
penetrate; but he would have wagered much that I-Gos heard him. Bits of the hard wood
splintered at each impact of the heavy axe, but it was slow work and heavy. Presently he
was compelled to rest, and so it went for what seemed hours--working almost to the verge
of exhaustion and then resting for a few minutes; but ever the hole grew larger though he
could see nothing of the interior of the room beyond because of the hanging that I-Gos
had drawn across it after he had locked Turan within.
At last, however, the panthan had hewn an opening through which his body could pass,
and seizing a long-sword that he had brought close to the door for the purpose he crawled
through into the next room. Flinging aside the arras he stood ready, sword in hand, to
fight his way to the side of Tara of Helium--but she was not there. In the center of the
room lay I-Gos, dead upon the floor; but Tara of Helium was nowhere to be seen.
Turan was nonplussed. It must have been her hand that had struck down the old man, yet
she had made no effort to release Turan from his prison. And then he thought of those last
words of hers: "I do not want your love! I hate you," and the truth dawned upon him--she
had seized upon this first opportunity to escape him. With downcast heart Turan turned
away. What should he do? There could be but one answer. While he lived and she lived
he must still leave no stone unturned to effect her escape and safe return to the land of her
people. But how? How was he even to find his way from this labyrinth? How was he to
find her again? He walked to the nearest doorway. It chanced to be that which led into the
room containing the mounted dead, awaiting transportation to balcony or grim room or
whatever place was to receive them. His eyes travelled to the great, painted warrior on
the thoat and as they ran over the splendid trappings and the serviceable arms a new light
came into the pain-dulled eyes of the panthan. With a quick step he crossed to the side of
the dead warrior and dragged him from his mount. With equal celerity he stripped him of
his harness and his arms, and tearing off his own, donned the regalia of the dead man.
Then he hastened back to the room in which he had been trapped, for there he had seen
that which he needed to make his disguise complete. In a cabinet he found them--pots of
paint that the old taxidermist had used to place the war-paint in its wide bands across the
cold faces of dead warriors.