The Chessmen of Mars HTML version

Chapter 12. Ghek Plays Pranks
WHILE Tara of Helium was being led to The Towers of Jetan, Ghek was escorted to the
pits beneath the palace where he was imprisoned in a dimly-lighted chamber. Here he
found a bench and a table standing upon the dirt floor near the wall, and set in the wall
several rings from which depended short lengths of chain. At the base of the walls were
several holes in the dirt floor. These, alone, of the several things he saw, interested him.
Ghek sat down upon the bench and waited in silence, listening. Presently the lights were
extinguished. If Ghek could have smiled he would have then, for Ghek could see as well
in the dark as in the light--better, perhaps. He watched the dark openings of the holes in
the floor and waited. Presently he detected a change in the air about him--it grew heavy
with a strange odor, and once again might Ghek have smiled, could he have smiled.
Let them replace all the air in the chamber with their most deadly fumes; it would be all
the same to Ghek, the kaldane, who, having no lungs, required no air. With the rykor it
might be different. Deprived of air it would die; but if only a sufficient amount of the gas
was introduced to stupefy an ordinary creature it would have no effect upon the rykor,
who had no objective mind to overcome. So long as the excess of carbon dioxide in the
blood was not sufficient to prevent heart action, the rykor would suffer only a diminution
of vitality; but would still respond to the exciting agency of the kaldane's brain.
Ghek caused the rykor to assume a sitting position with its back against the wall where it
might remain without direction from his brain. Then he released his contact with its
spinal cord; but remained in position upon its shoulders, waiting and watching, for the
kaldane's curiosity was aroused. He had not long to wait before the lights were flashed on
arid one of the locked doors opened to admit a half-dozen warriors. They approached him
rapidly and worked quickly. First they removed all his weapons and then, snapping a
fetter about one of the rykor's ankles, secured him to the end of one of the chains hanging
from the walls. Next they dragged the long table to a new position and there bolted it to
the floor so that an end, instead of the middle, was directly before the prisoner. On the
table before him they set food and water and upon the opposite end of the table they laid
the key to the fetter. Then they unlocked and opened all the doors and departed.
When Turan the panthan regained consciousness it was to the realization of a sharp pain
in one of his forearms. The effects of the gas departed as rapidly as they had overcome
him so that as he opened his eyes he was in full possession of all his faculties. The lights
were on again and in their glow there was revealed to the man the figure of a giant
Martian rat crouching upon the table and gnawing upon his arm. Snatching his arm away
he reached for his short-sword, while the rat, growling, sought to seize his arm again. It
was then that Turan discovered that his weapons had been removed--short-sword, long-
sword, dagger, and pistol. The rat charged him then and striking the creature away with
his hand the man rose and backed off, searching for something with which to strike a
harder blow. Again the rat charged and as Turan stepped quickly back to avoid the
menacing jaws, something seemed to jerk suddenly upon his right ankle, and as he drew