A READERS' COMPANION TO THE BARSOOMIAN
GHEK'S MANATORIAN MIND-GAMES
The Sixteenth Runner-Up in the Seven Wonders
Tara with Ghek and Rykor by Frank Frazetta
Part Three (Continued from Part
Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
NOTE: Strong sexual content in this chapter
Before we get back to Ghek’s adventures, I feel I must point
out the fact that the Barsoomian Mythos was largely created with peep show
afficiandos in mind. Because it is not mentioned all the time, the reader
has a tendency to forget that everyone is naked on Mars. But the imaginative
reader never forgets and the erotic scenes are open to as much interpretation
as the reader’s dirty mind desires. To declare my own bias, I undoubtedly
have a dirty mind. Thus, while my interpretations may appear to be extreme
at times, I am confident I am not the first reader to understand the erotic
scenes in the same way.
So, for those of you who share the depths of my murky imagination, hold
on to your seats, for the ride is about to take some super raunchy turns.
ERB was not the King of Pulp Fiction for nothing and he knew, vis-a-vis
the censors, what he could get away with. There is a reason why my mother
and others of her generation believed ERB to be a filthy old man writing
soft pornography. Ghek’s adventures surely add fuel to that line of speculation,
so let us return to our favorite spider genius.
Things are really looking up for Ghek. He has gone from a farm supervisor
to one of the elite kaldanes allowed to live an underground existence.
His aggressiveness in capturing Tara of Helium by dispatching his Moak
antagonist has won him high esteem in the evil spider mind of Luud, his
Maker. Not to mention that he now has exclusive rights to Tara and her
beautiful singing voice.
Ghek doesn’t know it yet, but he has evolved beyond the normal kaldane
worldview by his love of singing and the feelings of lust he has for Tara
while in a human body listening to her sing. The love of singing, which
he assumes will be a kaldane universal like, has taken him beyond the mental
world of pure thinking into an almost normal human experience. He has become
the first kaldane romantic.
We will now see how Ghek takes his fall from grace soon to come and
how he transforms himself, under the added influence of Gahan of Gathol,
who, next to John Carter, is the bravest, bad-ass warrior on the planet.
Only a man of this caliber could have won the heart of Tara of Helium and
inspired Ghek to venture out on his own. Not only in the following passages
will Ghek show a courage beyond the physical abilities of his rykor in
his defense of Tara of Helium, but he will utterly confound the whole city
of Manator with his hilarious mind-games.
For Ghek is a genius, and it doesn’t take him long to discover the human
weakness for religion and superstition, the power that sheer terror can
hold over the masses. The Manatorians, ignorant of the Valley of Bantoom,
have failed to realize that Ghek is a hybrid creature when he is attached
to his rykor. The fact that he is actually a spider, able to crawl down
the smallest hole in the ground, provides him with opportunities denied
to any normal prisoner. Enough said. We are getting ahead of ourselves.
Let us get on with the story.
“Outside of her personal danger there
was much in this strange world that interested her. The rykors aroused
her keenest pity, and vast conjecture. How and from what form had they
evolved? She asked Ghek.” (CM/6.)
I must interrupt in case the reader has missed the use of the word “aroused.”
The rykors possess the most beautiful human bodies Tara has ever seen.
If one can forget that they are headless in their natural state, one can
get an idea of the arousal such forms can fan. One more reminder, the rykors
have two apertures in their necks, one serves as a mouth, the other as
the opening to the central nervous system just behind the mouth. Unstated
in ERB’s description is the fact that the rykors must possess a tongue
in order to eat food. This knowledge comes in handy when letting the imagination
run wild. Anyway, Ghek answers Tara’s question for a price.
“‘Sing to me again and I will tell you,’
he said. ‘If Luud would let me have you, you should never die. I should
keep you always to sing to me.’
This is, of course, ERB dropping an erotic hint. What could Tara possibly
be fearing at this stage? Hmm, could it have something to do with the instinct
to procreate? Remember, up to this point in our narrative, Tara is still
a virgin. I imagine that the idea of losing her virginity to a spider is
horrific to her. And I believe she also realizes that Ghek is beginning
to want to copulate with her, especially when attached to his rykor.
“The girl marvelled at the effect her voice had
upon the creature. Somewhere in that enormous brain there was a chord that
was touched by melody. It was the sole link between herself and the brain
when detached from the rykor. When it dominated the rykor it might have
other human instincts; but these she dreaded to even think of.” (CM/6.)
“After she had sung she waited for Ghek
to speak. For a long time he was silent, just looking at her through those
You see, I am not making things up. One can well imagine the physical form
that Ghek’s alleged “love” took, since he has obviously confused the state
of lust with human love. If Ghek is fully erect at this stage in the conversation,
is it any wonder Tara shrank away from him? Anway, Ghek calms down enough
to answer Tara.
“‘I wonder,’ he said presently, ‘if it might
not be pleasant to be of your race. Do you all sing?’
“‘Nearly all, a little,’ she said; ‘but we do
many other interesting and enjoyable things. We dance and play and work
and love and sometimes we fight, for we are a race of warriors.’
“‘Love!’ said the kaldane. ‘I think I know what
you mean; but we, fortunately, are above sentiment – when we are detached.
But when we dominate the rykor – ah, that is different, and when I hear
you sing and look at your beautiful body I know what you mean by love.
I could love you.’
“The girl shrank from him. ‘You promised to tell
me the origin of the rykor,’ she reminded him.” (CM/6.)
“‘Ages ago,’ he commenced, ‘our bodies
were larger and our heads smaller. Our legs were very weak and we could
not travel fast or far. There was a stupid creature that went about on
four legs. It lived in a hole in the ground, to which it brought its food,
so we ran our burrows into this hole and ate the food it brought; but it
did not bring enough for all – for itself and all the kaldanes that lived
upon it, so we had also to go abroad and get food. This was hard work for
our weak legs. Then it was that we commenced to ride upon the backs of
these primitive rykors. It took many ages, undoubtedly, but at last came
the time when the kaldane had found means to guide the rykor, until presently
the latter depended entirely upon the superior brain of his master to guide
him to food. The brain of the rykor grew smaller as time went on. His ears
went and his eyes, for he no longer had use for them – the kaldane saw
and heard for him. By similar steps the rykor came to go upon its hind
feet that the kaldane might be able to see farther. As the brain shrank,
so did the head. The mouth was the only feature of the head that was used
and so the mouth alone remains. Members of the red race fell into the hands
of our ancestors from time to time. They saw the beauties and the advantages
of the form that nature had given the red race over that which the rykor
was developing into. By intelligent crossing the present rykor was achieved.
He is really solely the product of the super-intelligence of the kaldane
– he is our body, to do with as we see fit, just as you do what you see
fit with your body, only we have the advantage of possessing an unlimited
supply of bodies. Do you not wish that you were a kaldane?’ (CM/6.)
Tara takes the question as purely rhetorical and suffers through a dismal
life underground, where she refuses to eat and be fattened up for Luud’s
table. She grows pale and thin and Ghek becomes worried. Tara informs him
that she needs air and sun or she will die. Ghek carries word of this to
Luud, and Luud allows Tara to spend some time above ground, but in a tower.
She begins to plan her escape, but the fear of roaming banths combing the
fields in search of abandoned rykors keeps her from making an attempt.
“Had it not been for the banths it had
been easy of accomplishment by night. Ghek always detached his body and
then sank into what seemed a semicomatose condition. It could not be said
that he slept, or at least it did not appear as sleep, since his lidless
eyes were unchanged; but he lay quietly in a corner. Tara of Helium enacted
a thousand times in her mind the scene of her escape. She would rush to
the side of the rykor and seize the sword that hung in its harness. Before
Ghek knew what she proposed, she would this and then before he could give
an alarm she would drive the blade through his hideous head. It would take
but a moment to reach the enclosure.” (CM/6.)
But her mental wanderings always come back to the workers by day and the
banths at night and she continues to grow paler and skinnier. Ghek is now
more concerned than ever for Luud demands to know why she hasn’t become
round and plump. We can imagine her as a starving Hollywood starlet, all
skin and bones, with her ribs showing sharply. She convinces Ghek that
she must walk outside in the sunlight to become like she used to be. Ghek
takes the message to Luud, and Luud agrees to give her a certain amount
of time out doors to improve based on her argument that if she tried to
escape the banths would get her. But there is a catch if she doesn’t improve.
“‘If you do not grow fatter he will send
for you anyway,’ said Ghek; ‘but he will not use you for food.’
Again, ERB leaves it to the imagination of the reader to understand what
Tara fears. It is obvious that Luud has a kinky streak and fully enjoys
the pleasures of human flesh. For many a day thereafter, Ghek escorts Tara
outside, until one day he informs her that Luud wants her.
“Tara of Helium shuddered.” (CM/6.)
“‘Tonight you go to Luud,’ he said. ‘I
am sorry as I shall not hear you sing again.’
Ghek tells her he knows she desires to escape but agrees to take her over
to the workers as long as he can hold on to her wrist. She agrees and they
approach the workers, who are digging tubers from the ground.
“‘Tonight!’ She scarce breathed the word, yet
it was vibrant with horror.
“She glanced quickly toward the hills. They were
so close! Yet between were the inevitable workers – perhaps a score of
“‘Let us walk over there?’ she said, indicating
them. ‘I should like to see what they are doing?’
“‘It is too far,’ said Ghek. ‘I hate the sun.
It is much pleasanter here where I can stand beneath the shade of the tree.’
“‘It is very interesting,’ she said,
with a sigh, and then, suddenly; ‘Look, Ghek!’ and pointed quickly back
in the direction of the tower. The kaldane, still holding her turned half
way from her to look in the direction she had indicated and simultaneously,
with the quickness of a banth, she struck him with her right fist, backed
by every ounce of strength she possessed – struck the back of the pulpy
head just above the collar. The blow was sufficient to accomplish her design,
dislodging the kaldane from its rykor and tumbling it to the ground. Instantly
the grasp upon her wrist relaxed as the body, no longer controlled by the
brain of Ghek, stumbled aimlessly about for an instant before it sank to
its knees and then rolled over on its back; but Tara of Helium waited not
to note the full results of her act. The instant the fingers loosened upon
her wrist she broke away and dashed toward the hills. Simultaneously a
warning whistle broke from Ghek’s lips and in instant response the workers
leaped to their feet, one almost in the girl’s path. She dodged the outstretched
arms and was away again toward the hills and freedom, when her foot got
caught in one of the hoe-like instruments with which the soil had been
upturned and which had been left, half-embedded in the ground. For an instant
she ran on, stumbling, in a mad effort to regain her equilibrium, but the
upturned furrows caught her feet – again she stumbled and this time went
down, and as she scrambled to rise again a heavy body fell upon her and
seized her arms. A moment later she was surrounded and dragged to her feet
and as she looked around she saw Ghek crawling to his prostrate rykor.
A moment later he advanced to her side.
It would have been nice to know the sex of the heavy body who threw itself
upon Tara, seizing her arms – so that we could have had the proper erotic
response, but on second thought, it doesn’t really matter if the rykor
was male or female, the effect is about the same. Ghek resumes his vigil
with Tara in the tower, staying attached to his rykor at all times, his
sword at the ready. Thoughts of doom and gloom fill Tara’s mind, and at
last she shares the spirit of John Carter with Ghek.
“The hideous face, incapable of registering emotion,
gave no clue to what was passing in the enormous brain. Was he nursing
thoughts of anger, of hate, of revenge? Tara of Helium could not guess,
nor did she care. The worst had happened. She had tried to escape and she
had failed. There would never be another opportunity.
“‘Come!’ said Ghek. ‘We will return to the tower.’
The deadly monotone of his voice was unbroken. It was worse than anger,
for it revealed nothing of his intentions. It but increased her horror
of these great brains that were beyond the possibility of human emotions.”
“She startled Ghek once by exclaiming
aloud, almost fiercely: ‘I still live!’
How the mighty have fallen. Poor Ghek. He thought for sure that all kaldanes
were alike, and if he loved singing, all kaldanes would. What a rude awakening.
Yet, he still allows the weird spider logic to rule his mind. Even though
he is sentenced to destruction, he believes it is the right thing for his
swarm. It will take Gahan of Gathol to change his mind. But first, Luud
will have his way with Tara.
“‘What do you mean?’ asked the kaldane.
“‘I mean just what I say,’ she replied. ‘I still
live and while I live I may still find a way. Dead, there is no hope.’
“‘Find a way for what?’ he asked.
“‘To life and liberty and mine own people,’ she
“‘None who enters Bantoom ever leaves,’ he droned.
“She did not reply and after a time he spoke
again. ‘Sing to me,’ he said.
“It was while she was singing that four warriors
came to take her to Luud. They told Ghek that he was to remain where he
“‘Why?’ asked Ghek.
“‘You have displeased Luud,’ replied one of the
“‘You have demonstrated a lack of uncontaminated
reasoning power. You have permitted sentiment to influence you, thus demonstrating
that you are defective. You know the fate of defectives.’
“‘I know the fate of defectives, but I am no
defective,’ insisted Ghek.
“‘You permitted the strange noises which issue
from her throat to please and soothe you, knowing well that their origin
and purpose had nothing to do with logic or the powers of reason. This
in itself constitutes an unimpeachable indictment of weakness. Then, influenced
doubtless by an illogical feeling of sentiment, you permitted her to walk
abroad in the fields to a place where she was able to make an almost successful
attempt to escape. Your own reasoning power,were it not defective, would
convince you that you are unfit. The natural, and reasonable, consequence
is destruction. Therefore you will be destroyed in such a way that the
example will be beneficial to all other kaldanes of the swarm of Luud.
In the meantime you will remain where you are.
“‘You are right,’ said Ghek. ‘I will remain here
until Luud sees fit to destroy me in the most reasonable manner.’
“Tara of Helium shot a look of amazement at him
as they led her from the chamber. Over her shoulder she called back to
him: ‘Remember, Ghek, you still live!’ Then they led her along the interminable
tunnels to where Luud awaited her.” (CM/6.)
“When she was conducted into his presence
he was squatting in a corner of the chamber upon his six spidery legs.
Near the opposite wall lay his rykor, its beautiful form trapped in gorgeous
harness – a dead thing without a guiding kaldane. Luud dismissed the warriors
who had accompanied the prisoner. Then he sat with his terrible eyes fixed
upon her and without speaking for some time. Tara of Helium could but wait.
What was to come she could only guess. When it came would be sufficiently
the time to meet it. There was no necessity for anticipating the end. Presently
This rykor, remember, if of heroic proportions, a kingly rykor. We can
well imagine it well-endowed and growing hard in lustful sadism. Luud has
the unique ability to control a rykor by remote control, by a limited telepathy
over the rykor’s central nervous system. But the kingly rykor is only the
strongest rykor in the swarm – not the sexiest. That rykor dwells in the
bedchamber of Luud, and it wears no harness. We can imagine it even more
well-endowed than the one of heroic proportions. But we get ahead of our
“‘You think to escape,’ he said, in the deadly,
expressionless monotone of his kind – the only possible result of orally
expressing reason uninfluenced by sentiment. ‘You will not escape. You
are merely the embodiment of two imperfect things – an imperfect brain
and an imperfect body. The two cannot exist together in perfection. There
you see a perfect body.’ He pointed toward the rykor. ‘It has no brain.
Here,’ and he raised one of his chelae to his head, ‘is the perfect brain.
It needs no body to function perfectly and properly as a brain. You would
pit your feeble intellect against mine! Even now you are planning to slay
me. If you are thwarted in that you expect to slay yourself. You will learn
the power of mind over matter. I am the mind. You are the matter. What
brain you have is too weak and ill-developed to deserve the name of brain.
You have permitted it to be weakened by impulsive acts dictated by sentiment.
It has no value. It has practically no control over your existence. You
will not kill me. You will not kill yourself. When I am through with you
you shall be killed if it seems the logical thing to do. You have no conception
of the possibilities for power which lie in a perfectly developed brain.
Look at that rykor. He can move but slightly of his own volition. An inherent
mechanical instinct that we have permitted to remain in him allows him
to carry food to his mouth; but he could not find food for himself. We
have to place it within his reach and always in the same place. Should
we put food at his feet and leave him alone he would starve to death. But
now watch what a real brain may accomplish.’
“He turned his eyes upon the rykor and squatted
there glaring at the insensate thing. Presently, to the girl’s horror,
the headless body moved. It rose slowly to its feet and crossed the room
to Luud; it stooped and took the hideous head in its hands; it raised the
head and set it on its shoulders.
“‘What chance have you against such power?’ asked
Luud. ‘As I did with the rykor so can I do with you.’” (CM/6.)
“Tara of Helium made no reply. Evidently
no vocal reply was necessary.
This is quite a riveting scene. Personally, I must admit, I guiltily enjoyed
watching Tara getting down on her hands and knees and then following behind
her with a lusty view of herposterior entering the aperture. This is a
very weird and kinky spider seduction scene we are witnessing, what with
Luud doing his Bela Lugosi, “You will come to me,” routine. The fly is
jumping into Luud’s web.
“‘You doubt my ability!’ stated Luud, which was
precisely the fact, though the girl had only thought it – she had not said
“Luud crossed the room and lay down. Then he
detached himself from the body and crawled across the floor until he stood
directly in front of the circular opening through which she had seen him
emerge the day that she had first been brought to his presence. He stopped
there and fastened his terrible eyes upon her. He did not speak, but his
eyes seemed to be boring straight to the center of her brain. She felt
an almost irresistible force urging her toward the kaldane. She fought
to resist it; she tried to turn away her eyes, but she could not. They
were held as in horrid fascination upon the glittering, lidless orbs of
the great brain that faced her. Slowly, every step a painful struggle of
resistance, she moved toward the horrific monster. She tried to cry aloud
in an effort to awaken her numbing faculties, but no sound passed her lips.
If those eyes would but turn away, just for an instant, she felt that she
might regain the power to control her steps; but the eyes never left hers.
They seemed but to burn deeper and deeper, gathering up every vestige of
control over her entire nervous system.
“As she approached the thing it backed slowly
away upon its spider legs. She noticed that its chelae waved slowly to
and fro before it as it backed, backed, through the round aperture in the
wall. Must she follow it there, too? What new and nameless horror lay concealed
in that hidden chamber? No! she would not do it. Yet before she reached
the wall she found herself down and crawling upon her hands and knees straight
toward the hole from which the two eyes still clung to hers. At the very
threshold of the opening she made a last, heroic stand, battling against
the force that drew her on; but in the end she succumbed. With a gasp that
ended in a sob Tara of Helium passed through the aperture into the chamber
“The opening was but barely large enough
to admit her. Upon the opposite side she found herself in a small chamber.
Beyond her squatted Luud. Against the opposite wall lay a large and beautiful
male rykor. He was without harness or other trappings.
All right, I will admit it. In my mind, Tara of Helium loses her virginity
in this scene. I also had a kinky moment when the rykor was dragging her
out of the aperture where its neck brushed up against Tara’s vulva and
a long tongue came out of the mouth and took a lick. Like I said, I have
a dirty mind and ERB gave me just enough material to let my imagination
run wild. Not to mention all that caressing, where I imagined the rykor
with a full erection. And I know that you will tell me that Tara was putting
up a noble fight, but she hadn’t eaten properly for weeks, and was no match
against the rykor even if she had been in top shape. It would have just
taken seconds to lay her on her back and take her. This is crucial to understand
for my interpretation to be correct. For wouldn’t you know it, Gahan of
Gathol is about to come to the rescue...almost in the nick of time.
“‘You see now,’ said Luud, ‘the futility of revolt.’
“The words seemed to release her momentarily
from the spell. Quickly she turned away her eyes.
“‘Look at me!’ commanded Luud.
“Tara of Helium kept her eyes averted. She felt
a new strength, or at least a diminution of the creature’s power over her.
Had she stumbled upon the secret of its uncanny domination over her will?
She dared not hope. With eyes averted she turned toward the aperture through
which those baleful eyes had drawn her. Again Luud commanded her to stop,
but the voice alone lacked all authority to influence her. It was not like
the eyes. She heard the creature whistle and knew that it was summoning
assistance; but because she did not dare look toward it she did not see
it turn and concentrate its gaze upon the great, headless body lying by
the further wall.
“The girl was still slightly under the spell
of the creature’s influence – she had not regained full and independent
domination of her powers. She moved as one in the throes of some hideous
nightmare – slowly, painfully, as though each limb was hampered by a great
weight, or as she were dragging her body through a viscous fluid. The aperture
was close, ah, so close, yet, struggle as she would, she seemed to making
no appreciable progress toward it.
“Behind her, urged on by the malevolent power
of the great brain, the headless body crawled upon all-fours toward her.
At last she had reached the aperture. Something seemed to tell her that
once beyond it the domination of the kaldane would be broken. She was almost
through into the adjoining chamber when she felt a heavy hand upon her
ankle. The rykor had reached forth and seized her, and though she struggled
the thing dragged her back into the room with Luud. It held her tight and
drew her close, and then, to her horror, it commenced to caress her.
“‘You see now,’ she heard Luud’s dull voice,
‘the futility of revolt – and its punishment.’
“Tara of Helium fought to defend herself, but
pitifully weak were her muscles against the brainless incarnation of brute
power. Yet she fought, fought on in the face of hopeless odds, for the
honor of the proud name she bore – fought alone, she whom the fighting
men of a mighty empire, the flower of Martian chivalry, would gladly have
lain down their lives to save.” (CM/6.)
Of course, ERB allows enough leeway in the narrative for a reader to
take the view that she wasn’t raped by the rykor, that Gahan saved her
just in time. This has to do with the now old-fashioned idea that a woman
was not worthy of marriage unless she was a virgin. A raped woman was damaged
goods, soiled by another man. This is taken to the extreme in Islamic cultures
where the raped woman is often put to death for allegedly encouraging her
own rape. Anyway, the adventures of Gahan of Gathol before this moment
are extremely interesting and exciting, but that is another story. Suffice
it to say, that Gahan finds his way into the tower of Luud and comes across
Ghek, the prisoner, who has just gone through his Hamlet soliloquy.
“Ghek, in his happier days third foreman
of the fields of Luud, sat nursing his anger and humiliation. Recently
something had awakened within him the existence of which he had never before
even dreamed. Had the influence of the strange captive woman aught to do
with this unrest and dissatisfaction? He did not know. He missed the soothing
influence of the noise she called singing. Could it be there were other
things more desirable than cold logic and undefiled brain power? Was well
balanced imperfection more to be sought after then, than the high development
of a single characteristic? He thought of the great, ultimate brain toward
which all kaldanes were striving. It would be deaf, and dumb, and blind.
A thousand beautiful strangers might sing and dance about it, but it could
derive no pleasure from the singing or the dancing since it would possess
no perceptive faculties. Already had the kaldanes shut themselves off from
most of the gratifications of the senses. Ghek wondered if much was to
be gained by denying themselves still further, and with the thought came
a question as to the whole fabric of their theory. After all perhaps the
girl was right; what purpose could a great brain serve sealed in the bowels
of the earth?
We can see a new hope in Ghek’s attitude about his own existence. He has
come to realize that what his culture has taught him to be absolute truth
really isn’t at all. He is after all different from the rest of his kind.
And Gahan has proven to be his savior, even if he threatens to be a most
“And he, Ghek, was to die for this theory. Luud
had decreed it. The injustice of it overwhelmed him with rage. But he was
helpless. There was no escape. Beyond the enclosure the banths awaited
him; within, his own kind, equally as merciless and ferocious. Among them
there was no such thing as love, or loyalty, or friendship – they were
just brains. He might kill Luud; but what would that profit him? Another
king would be loosed from his sealed chamber and Ghek would be killed.
He did not know it but he would not even have the poor satisfaction of
satisfied revenge, since he was not capable of feeling so abtruse a sentiment.
“Ghek, mounted upon his rykor, paced the floor
of the tower chamber in which he had been ordered to remain. Ordinarily
he would have accepted the sentence of Luud with perfect equanimity, since
it was but the logical result of reason; but now it seemed different. The
stranger woman had bewitched him. Life appeared a pleasant thing – there
were great possibilities in it. The dream of the ultimate brain had receded
into a tenuous haze far in the background of his thoughts.
“At that moment there appeared in the doorway
of the chamber a red warrior with naked sword. He was a male counterpart
of the prisoner whose sweet voice had undermined the cold, calculating
reason of the kaldane.
“‘Silence!’ admonished the newcomer, his straight
brows gathered in an ominous frown and the point of his long-sword playing
menacingly before the eyes of the kaldane. ‘I seek the woman, Tara of Helium.
Where is she? If you value your life speak quickly and speak the truth.’
“If he valued his life! It was a truth that Ghek
had but just learned. He thought quickly. After all, a great brain is not
without its uses. Perhaps here lay escape from the sentence of Luud.
“‘You are of her kind?’ he asked. ‘You come to
“‘Listen, then. I have befriended her, and because
of this I am to die. If I help you to liberate her, will you take me with
“Gahan of Gathol eyed the weird creature from
crown to foot – the perfect body, the grotesque head, the expressionless
face. Among such as these had the beautiful daughter of Helium been held
captive for days and weeks.
“‘If she lives and is unharmed,’ he said, ‘I
will take you with us.’
“‘When they took her from me she was alive and
unharmed,’ replied Ghek. ‘I cannot say what has befallen her since. Luud
sent for her.’
“‘Who is Luud? Where is he? Lead me to him. Gahan
spoke quickly in tones vibrant with authority.
“‘Come, then,’ said Ghek, leading the way from
the apartment and down a stairway toward the underground burrows of the
kaldanes. ‘Luud is my king. I will take you to his chambers.’
“‘Hasten!’ urged Gahan.
“‘Sheathe your sword,’ warned Ghek, ‘so that
should we pass others of my kind I may say to them that you are a new prisoner
with some likelihood of winning their belief.’
“Gahan did as he was bid, but warning the kaldane
that his hand was ever ready at his dagger’s hilt.
“‘You need have no fear of treachery,’ said Ghek.
‘My only hope of life lies in you.’
“‘And if you fail me,’ Gahan admonished him,
‘I can promise you as sure a death as even your king might guarantee you.’”
“Ghek made no reply, but moved rapidly
through the winding subterranean corridors until Gahan began to realize
how truly was he in the hands of this strange monster. If the fellow should
prove false it would profit Gahan nothing to slay him, since without his
guidance the red man might never hope to retrace his way to the tower and
The question is: how much time has transpired between the last time we
saw Tara being caressed by the Adonis rykor and the time that Gahan spies
them through the circular aperture? Enough time for the guard to have returned
to the chamber on their own initiative. Remember, Luud had excused them
when he was showing off his power with the harnessed rykor. And there will
be many more moments to come as Gahan and Ghek deal with the guards. And
as for the last statement, “either for her honor or her life”– note that
they are posed in the alternative. In other words, she may have already
lost her honor, as in my imaginary scenario. Also note, if my interpretation
is true, how it highlights the words and actions of the players to come.
“Twice they were met and were accosted by other
kaldanes; but in both instances Ghek’s simple statement that he was taking
a new prisoner to Luud appeared to allay all suspicion, and then at last
they came to the ante-chamber of the king.
“‘Here, now, red man, thou must fight, if ever,’
whispered Ghek. ‘Enter there!’ and he pointed to a doorway before them.
“‘And you?’ asked Gahan, still fearful of treachery.
“‘My rykor is powerful,’ replied the kaldane.
‘I shall accompany you and fight at your side. As well die thus as in torture
later at the will of Luud. Come!’
“But Gahan had already crossed the room and entered
the chamber beyond. Upon the opposite side of the room was a circular opening
guarded by two warriors. Beyond this opening he could see two figures struggling
upon the floor, and the fleeting glimpse he had of one of the faces suddenly
endowed him with the strength of ten warriors and the ferocity of a wounded
banth. It was Tara of Helium, fighting for her honor or her life.” (CM/8.)
“The warriors, startled by the unexpected
appearance of a red man, stood for a moment in dumb amazement, and in that
moment Gahan of Gathol was upon them, and one was down, a sword-thrust
through his heart.
We are told that the bodies were clutched together and that Tara is in
the rykor’s embrace. You can see how this is open to interpretation. If
my interpretation is true, then Gahan knows what was going on, and his
heart must have soared when he saw Tara escape from the headless thing,
who had not yet reached orgasm. This escape would have been made easier
if the rykor had lost his erection with Luud no longer directing his movements.
“‘Strike at the heads,’ whispered the voice of
Ghek in Gahan’s ear. The latter saw the head of the fallen warrior crawl
quickly within the aperture leading to the chamber where he had seen Tara
of Helium in the clutches of a headless body. Then the sword of Ghek struck
the kaldane of the remaining warrior from its rykor and Gahan ran his sword
through the repulsive head.
“Instantly the red warrior leaped for the aperture,
while close behind him came Ghek.
“‘Look not upon the eyes of Luud,’ warned the
kaldane, ‘or you are lost.’
“Within the chamber Gahan saw Tara of Helium
in the clutches of a mighty body, while close to the wall upon the opposite
side of the apartment crouched the hideous, spider-like Luud. Instantly
the king realized the menace to himself and sought to fasten his eyes upon
the eyes of Gahan, and in doing so he was forced to relax his concentration
upon the rykor in whose embraces Tara struggled, so that almost immediately
the girl found herself able to tear away from the awful, headless thing.”
“As she rose quickly to her feet she
saw for the first time the cause of the interruption of Luud’s plans. A
red warrior! Her heart leaped in rejoicing and thanksgiving. What miracle
of fate had sent him to her. She did not recognize him, though, this travel-worn
warrior in the plain harness which showed no single jewel. How could she
have guessed him the same as the scintillant creature of platinum and diamonds
that she had seen for a brief hour under such different circumstances at
the court of her august sire?
Did you see that view that Gahan had of Tara has he crawled behind her
through the aperture. Good, you are really seeing the story. Moreover,
if the Adonis rykor had really raped Tara of Helium, as in my scenario,
this scene takes on further weirdness, for not only is the king’s rykor
the strongest rykor in the swarm, it also has the body memory of Tara’s
flesh. Can you imagine the look that passed between Gahan and Tara as Ghek
took Tara’s violator as his own. Was Gahan jealous? Why didn’t Tara protest?
Was there something about her rapist that she found exciting? I mean in
no way to downplay the trauma of violent rape; but there was always a moment
in the women’s stereotype rape fantasy books that my mother used to read
where the victim eventually fell in love with her abuser.
“Luud saw Ghek following the strange warrior
into the chamber. ‘Strike him down, Ghek!’ commanded the king. ‘Strike
down the stranger and your life shall be yours.’
“Gahan glanced at the hideous face of the king.
“‘Seek not his eyes,’ screamed Tara in warning;
but it was too late. Already the horrid hypnotic gaze of the king kaldane
had seized upon the eyes of Gahan. The red warrior hesitated in his stride.
His sword point drooped slowly toward the floor. Tara glanced toward Ghek.
She saw the creature glaring with his expressionless eyes upon the broad
back of the stranger. She saw the hand of the creature’s rykor creeping
stealthily toward the hilt of its dagger.
“And then Tara of Helium raised her eyes aloft
and poured forth the notes of Mars’ most beautiful melody, The Song
“Ghek drew his dagger from its sheath. His eyes
turned toward the singing girl. Luud’s glance wavered from the eyes of
the man to the face of Tara, and the instant that the latter’s song distracted
his attention from his victim, Gahan of Gathol shook himself and with a
supreme effort of will forced his eyes to the wall above Luud’s hideous
head. Ghek raised his dagger above his right shoulder, took a single quick
step forward, and struck. The girl’s song ended in a stifled scream as
she leaped forward with the evident intention of frustrating the kaldane’s
purpose; but she was too late, and well it was, for an instant later she
realized the purpose of Ghek’s act as she saw the dagger fly from his hand,
pass Gahan’s shoulder, and sink full to the guard in the soft face of Luud.
‘’Come!’ cried the assassin, ‘we have no time
to lose,’ and started for the aperture through which they had entered the
chamber; but in his stride he paused as his glance was arrested by the
form of the mighty rykor lying prone upon the floor – a king’s rykor; the
most beautiful, the most powerful, that the breeders of Bantoom could produce.
Ghek realized that in his escape he could take with him but a single rykor,
and there was none in Bantoom that could give him better service than this
giant lying here. Quickly he transferred himself to the shoulders of the
great, inert hulk. Instantly the latter was transformed to a sentient creature,
filled with pulsing life and alert energy.
“‘Now,’ said the kaldane, ‘we are ready. Let
whoso would revert to nothingness impede me.’ Even as he spoke he stooped
and crawled into the chamber beyond, while Gahan, taking Tara by the arm,
motioned for her to follow. The girl looked him full in the eyes for the
first time. ‘The Gods of my people have been kind,’ she said; ‘you came
just in time. To the thanks of Tara of Helium shall be added those of The
Warlord of Barsoom and his people. Thy reward shall surpass thy greatest
“Gahan of Gathol saw that the girl did not recognize
him, and quickly he checked the warm greeting that had been upon his lips.
“‘Be thou Tara of Helium or another,’ he replied,
‘is immaterial, to serve thus a red woman of Barsoom is in itself sufficient
“As they spoke the girl was making her way through
the aperture after Ghek, and presently all three had quitted the apartments
of Luud and were moving rapidly along the winding corridors toward the
Anyway, the kaldane that escaped after Gahan mistakenly stabbed his
rykor rather than the kaldane himself, alerts the swarm, but fortunately,
Gahan has tied Tara’s flyer to the roof of the tower, allowing the three
of them to escape. So, on to Manator in Part Four.