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Another Change Of Name







From: The Chessmen Of Mars

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.

A few moments later Gahan of Gathol emerged from the room a
warrior of Manator in every detail of harness, equipment, and
ornamentation. He had removed from the leather of the dead man
the insignia of his house and rank so that he might pass, with
the least danger of arousing suspicion, as a common warrior.

To search for Tara of Helium in the vast, dim labyrinth of the
pits of O-Tar seemed to the Gatholian a hopeless quest,
foredoomed to failure. It would be wiser to seek the streets of
Manator where he might hope to learn first if she had been
recaptured and, if not, then he could return to the pits and
pursue the hunt for her. To find egress from the maze he must
perforce travel a considerable distance through the winding
corridors and chambers, since he had no idea as to the location
or direction of any exit. In fact, he could not have retraced his
steps a hundred yards toward the point at which he and Tara had
entered the gloomy caverns, and so he set out in the hope that he
might find by accident either Tara of Helium or a way to the
street level above.

For a time he passed room after room filled with the cunningly
preserved dead of Manator, many of which were piled in tiers
after the manner that firewood is corded, and as he moved through
corridor and chamber he noticed hieroglyphics painted upon the
walls above every opening and at each fork or crossing of
corridors, until by observation he reached the conclusion that
these indicated the designations of passageways, so that one who
understood them might travel quickly and surely through the pits;
but Turan did not understand them. Even could he have read the
language of Manator they might not materially have aided one
unfamiliar with the city; but he could not read them at all
since, though there is but one spoken language upon Barsoom,
there are as many different written languages as there are
nations. One thing, however, soon became apparent to him--the
hieroglyphic of a corridor remained the same until the corridor
ended.

It was not long before Turan realized from the distance that he
had traveled that the pits were part of a vast system
undermining, possibly, the entire city. At least he was convinced
that he had passed beyond the precincts of the palace. The
corridors and chambers varied in appearance and architecture from
time to time. All were lighted, though usually quite dimly, with
radium bulbs. For a long time he saw no signs of life other than
an occasional ulsio, then quite suddenly he came face to face
with a warrior at one of the numerous crossings. The fellow
looked at him, nodded, and passed on. Turan breathed a sigh of
relief as he realized that his disguise was effective, but he was
caught in the middle of it by a hail from the warrior who had
stopped and turned toward him. The panthan was glad that a sword
hung at his side, and glad too that they were buried in the dim
recesses of the pits and that there would be but a single
antagonist, for time was precious.

"Heard you any word of the other?" called the warrior to him.

"No," replied Turan, who had not the faintest idea to whom or
what the fellow referred.

"He cannot escape," continued the warrior. "The woman ran
directly into our arms, but she swore that she knew not where her
companion might be found."

"They took her back to O-Tar?" asked Turan, for now he knew whom
the other meant, and he would know more.

"They took her back to The Towers of Jetan," replied the warrior.
"Tomorrow the games commence and doubtless she will be played
for, though I doubt if any wants her, beautiful as she is. She
fears not even O-Tar. By Cluros! but she would make a hard slave
to subdue--a regular she-banth she is. Not for me," and he
continued on his way shaking his head.

Turan hurried on searching for an avenue that led to the level of
the streets above when suddenly he came to the open doorway of a
small chamber in which sat a man who was chained to the wall.
Turan voiced a low exclamation of surprise and pleasure as he
recognized that the man was A-Kor, and that he had stumbled by
accident upon the very cell in which he had been imprisoned.
A-Kor looked at him questioningly. It was evident that he did not
recognize his fellow prisoner. Turan crossed to the table and
leaning close to the other whispered to him.

"I am Turan the panthan," he said, "who was chained beside you."

A-Kor looked at him closely. "Your own mother would never know
you!" he said; "but tell me, what has transpired since they took
you away?"

Turan recounted his experiences in the throne room of O-Tar and
in the pits beneath, "and now," he continued, "I must find these
Towers of Jetan and see what may be done toward liberating the
Princess of Helium."

A-Kor shook his head. "Long was I dwar of the Towers," he said,
"and I can say to you, stranger, that you might as well attempt
to reduce Manator, single handed, as to rescue a prisoner from
The Towers of Jetan."

"But I must," replied Turan.

"Are you better than a good swordsman?" asked A-Kor presently.

"I am accounted so," replied Turan.

"Then there is a way--sst!" he was suddenly silent and pointing
toward the base of the wall at the end of the room.

Turan looked in the direction the other's forefinger indicated,
to see projecting from the mouth of an ulsio's burrow two large
chelae and a pair of protruding eyes.

"Ghek!" he cried and immediately the hideous kaldane crawled out
upon the floor and approached the table. A-Kor drew back with a
half-stifled ejaculation of repulsion. "Do not fear," Turan
reassured him. "It is my friend--he whom I told you held O-Tar
while Tara and I escaped."

Ghek climbed to the table top and squatted between the two
warriors. "You are safe in assuming," he said addressing A-Kor,
"that Turan the panthan has no master in all Manator where the
art of sword-play is concerned. I overheard your conversation--go
on."

"You are his friend," continued A-Kor, "and so I may explain
safely in your presence the only plan I know whereby he may hope
to rescue the Princess of Helium. She is to be the stake of one
of the games and it is O-Tar's desire that she be won by slaves
and common warriors, since she repulsed him. Thus would he punish
her. Not a single man, but all who survive upon the winning side
are to possess her. With money, however, one may buy off the
others before the game. That you could do, and if your side won
and you survived she would become your slave."

"But how may a stranger and a hunted fugitive accomplish this?"
asked Turan.

"No one will recognize you. You will go tomorrow to the keeper of
the Towers and enlist in that game for which the girl is to be
the stake, telling the keeper that you are from Manataj, the
farthest city of Manator. If he questions you, you may say that
you saw her when she was brought into the city after her capture.
If you win her, you will find thoats stabled at my palace and you
will carry from me a token that will place all that is mine at
your disposal."

"But how can I buy off the others in the game without money?"
asked Turan. "I have none--not even of my own country."

A-Kor opened his pocket-pouch and drew forth a packet of
Manatorian money.

"Here is sufficient to buy them off twice over," he said, handing
a portion of it to Turan.

"But why do you do this for a stranger?" asked the panthan.

"My mother was a captive princess here," replied A-Kor. "I but do
for the Princess of Helium what my mother would have me do."

"Under the circumstances, then, Manatorian," replied Turan, "I
cannot but accept your generosity on behalf of Tara of Helium and
live in hope that some day I may do for you something in return."

"Now you must be gone," advised A-Kor. "At any minute a guard may
come and discover you here. Go directly to the Avenue of Gates,
which circles the city just within the outer wall. There you will
find many places devoted to the lodging of strangers. You will
know them by the thoat's head carved above the doors. Say that
you are here from Manataj to witness the games. Take the name of
U-Kal--it will arouse no suspicion, nor will you if you can avoid
conversation. Early in the morning seek the keeper of The Towers
of Jetan. May the strength and fortune of all your ancestors be
with you!"

Bidding good-bye to Ghek and A-Kor, the panthan, following
directions given him by A-Kor, set out to find his way to the
Avenue of Gates, nor had he any great difficulty. On the way he
met several warriors, but beyond a nod they gave him no heed.
With ease he found a lodging place where there were many
strangers from other cities of Manator. As he had had no sleep
since the previous night he threw himself among the silks and
furs of his couch to gain the rest which he must have, was he to
give the best possible account of himself in the service of Tara
of Helium the following day.

It was already morning when he awoke, and rising he paid for his
lodgings, sought a place to eat, and a short time later was on
his way toward The Towers of Jetan, which he had no difficulty in
finding owing to the great crowds that were winding along the
avenues toward the games. The new keeper of The Towers who had
succeeded E-Med was too busy to scrutinize entries closely, for
in addition to the many volunteer players there were scores of
slaves and prisoners being forced into the games by their owners
or the government. The name of each must be recorded as well as
the position he was to play and the game or games in which he was
to be entered, and then there were the substitutes for each that
was entered in more than a single game--one for each additional
game that an individual was entered for, that no succeeding game
might be delayed by the death or disablement of a player.

"Your name?" asked a clerk as Turan presented himself.

"U-Kal," replied the panthan.

"Your city?"

"Manataj."

The keeper, who was standing beside the clerk, looked at Turan.
"You have come a great way to play at jetan," he said. "It is
seldom that the men of Manataj attend other than the decennial
games. Tell me of O-Zar! Will he attend next year? Ah, but he was
a noble fighter. If you be half the swordsman, U-Kal, the fame of
Manataj will increase this day. But tell me, what of O-Zar?"

"He is well," replied Turan, glibly, "and he sent greetings to
his friends in Manator."

"Good!" exclaimed the keeper, "and now in what game would you
enter?"

"I would play for the Heliumetic princess, Tara," replied Turan.

"But man, she is to be the stake of a game for slaves and
criminals," cried the keeper. "You would not volunteer for such a
game!"

"But I would," replied Turan. "I saw here when she was brought
into the city and even then I vowed to possess her."

"But you will have to share her with the survivors even if your
color wins," objected the other.

"They may be brought to reason," insisted Turan.

"And you will chance incurring the wrath of O-Tar, who has no
love for this savage barbarian," explained the keeper.

"And I win her O-Tar will be rid of her," said Turan.

The keeper of The Towers of Jetan shook his head. "You are rash,"
he said. "I would that I might dissuade the friend of my friend
O-Zar from such madness."

"Would you favor the friend of O-Zar?" asked Turan.

"Gladly!" exclaimed the other. "What may I do for him?"

"Make me chief of the Black and give me for my pieces all slaves
from Gathol, for I understand that those be excellent warriors,"
replied the panthan.

"It is a strange request," said the keeper, "but for my friend
O-Zar I would do even more, though of course--" he
hesitated--"it is customary for one who would be chief to make
some slight payment."

"Certainly," Turan hastened to assure him; "I had not forgotten
that. I was about to ask you what the customary amount is."

"For the friend of my friend it shall be nominal," replied the
keeper, naming a figure that Gahan, accustomed to the high price
of wealthy Gathol, thought ridiculously low.

"Tell me," he said, handing the money to the keeper, "when the
game for the Heliumite is to be played."

"It is the second in order of the day's games; and now if you
will come with me you may select your pieces."

Turan followed the keeper to a large court which lay between the
towers and the jetan field, where hundreds of warriors were
assembled. Already chiefs for the games of the day were selecting
their pieces and assigning them to positions, though for the
principal games these matters had been arranged for weeks before.
The keeper led Turan to a part of the courtyard where the
majority of the slaves were assembled.

"Take your choice of those not assigned," said the keeper, "and
when you have your quota conduct them to the field. Your place
will be assigned you by an officer there, and there you will
remain with your pieces until the second game is called. I wish
you luck, U-Kal, though from what I have heard you will be more
lucky to lose than to win the slave from Helium."

After the fellow had departed Turan approached the slaves. "I
seek the best swordsmen for the second game," he announced. "Men
from Gathol I wish, for I have heard that these be noble
fighters."

A slave rose and approached him. "It is all the same in which
game we die," he said. "I would fight for you as a panthan in the
second game."

Another came. "I am not from Gathol," he said. "I am from Helium,
and I would fight for the honor of a princess of Helium."

"Good!" exclaimed Turan. "Art a swordsman of repute in Helium?"

"I was a dwar under the great Warlord, and I have fought at his
side in a score of battles from The Golden Cliffs to The Carrion
Caves. My name is Val Dor. Who knows Helium, knows my prowess."

The name was well known to Gahan, who had heard the man spoken of
on his last visit to Helium, and his mysterious disappearance
discussed as well as his renown as a fighter.

"How could I know aught of Helium?" asked Turan; "but if you be
such a fighter as you say no position could suit you better than
that of Flier. What say you?"

The man's eyes denoted sudden surprise. He looked keenly at
Turan, his eyes running quickly over the other's harness. Then he
stepped quite close so that his words might not be overheard.

"Methinks you may know more of Helium than of Manator," he
whispered.

"What mean you, fellow?" demanded Turan, seeking to cudgel his
brains for the source of this man's knowledge, guess, or
inspiration.

"I mean," replied Val Dor, "that you are not of Manator and that
if you wish to hide the fact it is well that you speak not to a
Manatorian as you did just speak to me of--Fliers! There be no
Fliers in Manator and no piece in their game of Jetan bearing
that name. Instead they call him who stands next to the Chief or
Princess, Odwar. The piece has the same moves and power that the
Flier has in the game as played outside Manator. Remember this
then and remember, too, that if you have a secret it be safe in
the keeping of Val Dor of Helium."

Turan made no reply but turned to the task of selecting the
remainder of his pieces. Val Dor, the Heliumite, and Floran, the
volunteer from Gathol, were of great assistance to him, since one
or the other of them knew most of the slaves from whom his
selection was to be made. The pieces all chosen, Turan led them
to the place beside the playing field where they were to wait
their turn, and here he passed the word around that they were to
fight for more than the stake he offered for the princess should
they win. This stake they accepted, so that Turan was sure of
possessing Tara if his side was victorious, but he knew that
these men would fight even more valorously for chivalry than for
money, nor was it difficult to enlist the interest even of the
Gatholians in the service of the princess. And now he held out
the possibility of a still further reward.

"I cannot promise you," he explained, "but I may say I have heard
that this day which makes it possible that should we win this
game we may even win your freedom!"

They leaped to their feet and crowded around him with many
questions.

"It may not be spoken of aloud," he said; "but Floran and Val Dor
know and they assure me that you may all be trusted. Listen! What
I would tell you places my life in your hands, but you must know
that every man will realize that he is fighting today the
greatest battle of his life--for the honor and the freedom of
Barsoom's most wondrous princess and for his own freedom as
well--for the chance to return each to his own country and to the
woman who awaits him there.

"First, then, is my secret. I am not of Manator. Like yourselves
I am a slave, though for the moment disguised as a Manatorian
from Manataj. My country and my identity must remain undisclosed
for reasons that have no bearing upon our game today. I, then, am
one of you. I fight for the same things that you will fight for.

"And now for that which I have but just learned. U-Thor, the
great jed of Manatos, quarreled with O-Tar in the palace the day
before yesterday and their warriors set upon one another. U-Thor
was driven as far as The Gate of Enemies, where he now lies
encamped. At any moment the fight may be renewed; but it is
thought that U-Thor has sent to Manatos for reinforcements. Now,
men of Gathol, here is the thing that interests you. U-Thor has
recently taken to wife the Princess Haja of Gathol, who was slave
to O-Tar and whose son, A-Kor, was dwar of The Towers of Jetan.
Haja's heart is filled with loyalty for Gathol and compassion for
her sons who are here enslaved, and this latter sentiment she has
to some extent transmitted to U-Thor. Aid me, therefore, in
freeing the Princess Tara of Helium and I believe that I can aid
you and her and myself to escape the city. Bend close your ears,
slaves of O-Tar, that no cruel enemy may hear my words," and
Gahan of Gathol whispered in low tones the daring plan he had
conceived. "And now," he demanded, when he had finished, "let him
who does not dare speak now." None replied. "Is there none?"

"And it would not betray you should I cast my sword at thy feet,
it had been done ere this," said one in low tones pregnant with
suppressed feeling.

"And I!" "And I!" "And I!" chorused the others in vibrant
whispers.





Next: A Play To The Death

Previous: The Old Man Of The Pits



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