The Chessmen of Mars HTML version

Chapter 18. A Task For Loyalty
LONG and loud was the applause that rose above the Field of Jetan at Manator, as The
Keeper of the Towers summoned the two Princesses and the victorious Chief to the
center of the field and presented to the latter the fruits of his prowess, and then, as custom
demanded, the victorious players, headed by Gahan and the two Princesses, formed in
procession behind The Keeper of the Towers and were conducted to the place of victory
before the royal enclosure that they might receive the commendation of the jeddak. Those
who were mounted gave up their thoats to slaves as all must be on foot for this ceremony.
Directly beneath the royal enclosure are the gates to one of the tunnels that, passing
beneath the seats, give ingress or egress to or from the Field. Before this gate the party
halted while O-Tar looked down upon them from above. Val Dor and Floran, passing
quietly ahead of the others, went directly to the gates, where they were hidden from those
who occupied the enclosure with O-Tar. The Keeper of the Towers may have noticed
them, but so occupied was he with the formality of presenting the victorious Chief to the
jeddak that he paid no attention to them.
"I bring you, O-Tar, Jeddak of Manator, U-Kal of Manataj," he cried in a loud voice that
might be heard by as many as possible, "victor over the Orange in the second of the
Jeddak's Games of the four hundred and thirty-third year of O-Tar, and the slave woman
Tara and the slave woman Lan-O that you may bestow these, the stakes, upon U-Kal."
As he spoke, a little, wrinkled, old man peered over the rail of the enclosure down upon
the three who stood directly behind The Keeper, and strained his weak and watery eyes in
an effort to satisfy the curiosity of old age in a matter of no particular import, for what
were two slaves and a common warrior from Manataj to any who sat with O-Tar the
"U-Kal of Manataj," said O-Tar, "you have deserved the stakes. Seldom have we looked
upon more noble swordplay. And you tire of Manataj there be always here in the city of
Manator a place for you in The Jeddak's Guard."
While the jeddak was speaking the little, old man, failing clearly to discern the features of
the Black Chief, reached into his pocket-pouch and drew forth a pair of thick-lensed
spectacles, which he placed upon his nose. For a moment he scrutinized Gahan closely,
then he leaped to his feet and addressing O-Tar pointed a shaking finger it Gahan. As he
rose Tara of Helium clutched the Black Chief's arm.
"Turan!" she whispered. "It is I-Gos, whom I thought to have slain in the pits of O-Tar. It
is I-Gos and he recognizes you and will --"
But what I-Gos would do was already transpiring. In his falsetto voice he fairly
screamed: "It is the slave Turan who stole the woman Tara from your throne room, O-
Tar. He desecrated the dead chief I-Mal and wears his harness now!"