The Chessmen of Mars HTML version

Chapter 22. At The Moment Of Marriage
THE silence of the tomb lay heavy about him as O-Tar, Jeddak of Manator, opened his
eyes in the chamber of O-Mai. Recollection of the frightful apparition that had confronted
him swept to his consciousness. He listened, but heard naught. Within the range of his
vision there was nothing apparent that might cause alarm. Slowly he lifted his head and
looked about. Upon the floor beside the couch lay the thing that had at first attracted his
attention and his eyes closed in terror as he recognized it for what it was; but it moved
not, nor spoke. O-Tar opened his eyes again and rose to his feet. He was trembling in
every limb. There was nothing on the dais from which he had seen the thing arise.
O-Tar backed slowly from the room. At last he gained the outer corridor. It was empty.
He did not know that it had emptied rapidly as the loud scream with which his own had
mingled had broken upon the startled ears of the warriors who had been sent to spy upon
him. He looked at the timepiece set in a massive bracelet upon his left forearm. The ninth
zode was nearly half gone. O-Tar had lain for an hour unconscious. He had spent an hour
in the chamber of O-Mai and he was not dead! He had looked upon the face of his
predecessor and was still sane! He shook himself and smiled. Rapidly he subdued his
rebelliously shaking nerves, so that by the time he reached the tenanted portion of the
palace he had gained control of himself. He walked with chin high and something of a
swagger. To the banquet hall he went, knowing that his chiefs awaited him there and as
he entered they arose and upon the faces of many were incredulity and amaze, for they
had not thought to see O-Tar the jeddak again after what the spies had told them of the
horrid sounds issuing from the chamber of O-Mai. Thankful was O-Tar that he had gone
alone to that chamber of fright, for now no one could deny the tale that he should tell.
E-Thas rushed forward to greet him, for E-Thas had seen black looks directed toward him
as the tals slipped by and his benefactor failed to return.
"O brave and glorious jeddak!" cried the major-domo. "We rejoice at your safe return and
beg of you the story of your adventure."
"It was naught," exclaimed O-Tar. "I searched the chambers carefully and waited in
hiding for the return of the slave, Turan, if he were temporarily away; but he came not.
He is not there and I doubt if he ever goes there. Few men would choose to remain long
in such a dismal place."
"You were not attacked?" asked E-Thas. "You heard no screams, nor moans?"
"I heard hideous noises and saw phantom figures; but they fled before me so that never
could I lay hold of one, and I looked upon the face of O-Mai and I am not mad. I even
rested in the chamber beside his corpse."