The Chessmen of Mars HTML version

Chapter 9. Adrift Over Strange Regions
PRESENTLY Ghek pushed aside a door that opened from the stairway, and before them
Tara saw the moonlight flooding the walled court where the headless rykors lay beside
their feeding-troughs. She saw the perfect bodies, muscled as the best of her father's
fighting men, and the females whose figures would have been the envy of many of
Helium's most beautiful women. Ah, if she could but endow these with the power to act!
Then indeed might the safety of the panthan be assured; but they were only poor lumps of
clay, nor had she the power to quicken them to life. Ever must they lie thus until
dominated by the cold, heartless brain of the kaldane. The girl sighed in pity even as she
shuddered in disgust as she picked her way over and among the sprawled creatures
toward the flier.
Quickly she and Ghek mounted to the deck after the latter had cast off the moorings. Tara
tested the control, raising and lowering the ship a few feet within the walled space. It
responded perfectly. Then she lowered it to the ground again and waited. From the open
doorway came the sounds of conflict, now nearing them, now receding. The girl, having
witnessed her champion's skill, had little fear of the outcome. Only a single antagonist
could face him at a time upon the narrow stairway, he had the advantage of position and
of the defensive, and he was a master of the sword while they were clumsy bunglers by
comparison. Their sole advantage was in their numbers, unless they might find a way to
come upon him from behind.
She paled at the thought. Could she have seen him she might have been further perturbed,
for he took no advantage of many opportunities to win nearer the enclosure. He fought
coolly, but with a savage persistence that bore little semblance to purely defensive action.
Often he clambered over the body of a fallen foe to leap against the next behind, and once
there lay five dead kaldanes behind him, so far had he pushed back his antagonists. They
did not know it; these kaldanes that he fought, nor did the girl awaiting him upon the
flier, but Gahan of Gathol was engaged in a more alluring sport than winning to freedom,
for he was avenging the indignities that had been put upon the woman he loved; but
presently he realized that he might be jeopardizing her safety uselessly, and so he struck
down another before him and turning leaped quickly up the stairway, while the leading
kaldanes slipped upon the brain-covered floor and stumbled in pursuit.
Gahan reached the enclosure twenty paces ahead of them and raced toward the flier.
"Rise!" he shouted to the girl. "I will ascend the cable."
Slowly the small craft rose from the ground as Gahan leaped the inert bodies of the
rykors lying in his path. The first of the pursuers sprang from the tower just as Gahan
seized the trailing rope.
"Faster!" he shouted to the girl above, "or they will drag us down!" But the ship seemed
scarcely to move, though in reality she was rising as rapidly as might have been expected
of a one-man flier carrying a load of three. Gahan swung free above the top of the wall,