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 Four (Continued
from Part Three)
Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
NOTE: Strong sexual content in this chapter
There is a pregnant pause as our erstwhile travelers gather
themselves after their remarkable escape from the land that no one is supposed
to leave once there. That fact alone must have caused great cognitive dissonance
in the brilliant mind of Ghek. For after all, he has become a nationless,
independent warrior...a panthan – the first of his kind. And all for the
love a song.
He has also become, like Jaime Lannister in G.R.R. Martin’s “Song of
Ice and Fire” – one of my favorite characters – a Kingslayer. He has slain
his maker, Luud, and taken his beautiful Adonis rykor for himself. He has
become an outcast and outlaw from his own kind.
Not only that, but the beautiful male rykor he now possesses has had
carnal knowledge of the Princess, having had the exquisite privilege of
deflowering Tara of Helium under the mental direction of Luud. Her scent
is still on his flesh. Regardless of the fact that the rape scene can be
interpreted more than one way, this will be the assumption of this writer
from henceforth. Only thus can we see the true heroism of our characters
in the face of cultural taboos that our brave trio will have to overcome.
The first, as I have mentioned, is the male cultural bias that after
a woman has lost her virginity, especially after being raped, she has somehow
lost value in the overall culture. I’m sure Gahan of Gathol had cross feelings
about Ghek taking over the kingly rykor since Luud had used it to violate
the beautiful princess. Every time Gahan had to view Ghek’s rykor’s penis
he must have had to choke back some very coarse emotions.
After all, he still suffers from Tara’s first opinion of him as a pompous
rich fop, and has kept his true identity from her, hoping that posing as
the panthan, Turan, he can win her favor.
Since that first day he met her during John Carter’s afternoon party,
when he copped a feel and insulted the princess, he has fallen hopelessly
in love with her.
This would cause even more heartache if every once in a while he caught
Tara staring at the rykor’s magnificent penis in, perhaps, a fond kind
of memory. Since jealousy is a human sentiment foreign to kaldanes, Ghek
seems to be clueless to this possible behavior among the humans. But it
appears that Gahan’s and Tara’s gift for moving on in the face of danger
makes them true blooded Martians equal to the challenge of customary beliefs.
The John Carter spirit of “We still live!’ is their battle cry. What doesn’t
kill them makes them stronger.
Of course, Gahan still faces some major hurdles in winning Tara of Helium,
and those would be half the men in Manator. It seems as our story progresses,
that every male wants to copulate with Tara. However, we will try to stay
focused on Ghek since he is the hero of this
After their escape, they fly for three days and finally hunger brings
them back to earth, near a city. Ghek has detached himself from his rykor,
which he has strapped securely to the deck of the ship, allowing him to
crawl about the ship like a spider. Gahan, as Turan, volunteers to go into
the city at night to scout it out for possible allies and food. The inhabitants
trick him by leading him into a trap. Meanwhile, the next day Tara and
Ghek are discovered by a Manatorian patrol.
“U-Dor, dwar of the 8 th Utan of O-Tar,
Jeddak of Manator, rode back in the early dawn toward Manator from a brief
excursion to a neighboring village. As he was rounding the hills south
of the city, his keen eyes were attracted by a slight movement among the
shrubbery close to the summit of the nearest hill. He halted his vicious
mount and watched more closely. He saw a figure rise facing away from him
and peer down toward Manator beyond the hill.
It seems odd to me that if this is really the law of Barsoom, then it is
obviously the law that is universally broken over the face of the planet.
In fact, ERB will have a lot of fun with this idea of every city-state
of Barsoom believing that they have the power to keep all comers to their
lands from escape, especially in the last authentic Barsoomian novel, Llana
of Gathol. But back to our narrative:
“‘Come!’ he signalled to his followers, and with
a word to his thoat turned the beast at a rapid gallop up the hillside.
In his wake swept his twenty savage warriors, the padded feet of their
mounts soundless upon the soft turf. It was the rattle of sidearms and
harness that brought Tara of Helium suddenly about, facing them. She saw
a score of warriors with couched lances bearing down upon her.
“She glanced at Ghek. What would the spiderman
do in this emergency? She saw him crawl to his rykor and attach himself.
Then he arose, the beautiful body once again animated and alert. She thought
that the creature was preparing for flight. Well, it made little difference
to her. Against such as were streaming up the hill toward them a single
mediocre swordsman such as Ghek was worse than no defense at all.
“‘Hurry, Ghek!’ she admonished him. ‘Back into
the hills! You may find there a hiding-place;’ but the creature only stepped
between her and the oncoming riders, drawing his long-sword.
“‘It is useless, Ghek,’ she said, when she saw
that he intended to defend her. ‘What can a single sword accomplish against
“‘I can die but once,’ replied the kaldane. ‘You
and your panthan saved me from Luud and I but do what your panthan would
do were he here to protect you.’
“‘It is brave, but it is useless,’ she replied.
‘Sheathe your sword. They may not intend us harm.’
“Ghek let the point of his weapon drop to the
ground, but he did not sheathe it, and thus the two stood waiting as U-Dor
the dwar stopped his thoat before them while his twenty warriors formed
a rough circle about. For a long minute U-Dor sat his mount in silence,
looking searchingly first at Tara of Helium and then at her hideous companion.
“‘What manner of creature are you?’ he asked
presently. ‘And what do you before the gates of Manator?’
“‘We are from far countries,’ replied the girl,
‘and we are lost and starving. We ask only food and rest and the privilege
to go our way seeking our own homes.’
“U-Dor smiled a grim smile. ‘Manator and the
hills which guard it alone know the age of Manator;’ he said; ‘yet in all
the ages that have rolled by since Manator first was, there is no record
in the annals of Manator of a stranger departing from Manator.
“‘But I am a princess,’ cried the girl haughtily,
‘and my country is not at war with yours. You must give me and my companions
aid and assist us to return to our own land. It is the law of Barsoom.’”
“‘Manator knows only the laws of Manator,’
replied U-Dor; ‘but come. You shall go with us to the city, where you,
being beautiful, need have no fear. I, myself, will protect you if O-Tar
so decrees. And as for your companion – but hold! You said “companions”
– there are others of your party then?’
I will forbear the great descriptions of Manator found as they enter the
city, referring the reader to ERBzine #3303, “The Jetan Field at Manator,”
the Sixth Wonder of Barsoom, for such things. Prior to this point, the
narrative had been driven by two points of view: Tara’s and Gahan’s. Now
a third point of view will be a key part, that of Ghek’s. This is likely
why ERB broke from his typical first person – that of John Carter’s – point
of view to the third person. It allowed him more freedom and the ability
to be more godlike in the way he could weave plot lines.
“‘You see what you see,’ replied Tara haughtily.
“‘Be that as it may,’ said U-Dor. ‘If there be
more they shall not escape Manator; but as I was saying, if your companion
fights well he too may live, for O-Tar is just, and just are the laws of
“‘It is useless,’ said the girl, seeing that
he would have stood his ground and fought them. ‘Let us go with them. Why
pit your puny blade against their mighty ones when there should lie in
your great brain the means to outwit them?’ She spoke in a low whisper,
“‘You are right, Tara of Helium,’ he replied
and sheathed his sword.
“And so they moved down the hillside toward the
gates of Manator – Tara, Princess of Helium, and Ghek, the kaldane of Bantoom
– and surrounding them rode the savage, painted warriors of U-Dor, dwar
of the 8th Utan of O-Tar, Jeddak of Manator.’ (CM/10.)
Our adventurers are led into the city, down a broad avenue, and into
the palace, where they are confronted by a long hall with mounted statues
of great heroes of Manator’s past, the “Hall of Chiefs,” into a square
chamber with a dozen live mounted warriors lolling in their saddles.
“As U-Dor and his party entered the room,
the warriors came quickly erect in their saddles, and formed a line before
another door upon the opposite side of the wall. The padwar commanding
them saluted U-Dor who, with his party, had halted facing the guard.
We must never forget that even though Tara has a human Earthly father,
she is still a Martian at heart, and the martial spirit rules on Mars.
Now, as I read it, there is a lot of testosterone in this scene. From the
warriors rising “erect” in their saddles, to the Jeddak sitting erect on
his throne, to Tara’s female appreciation of O-Tar’s virile form – the
fact that the people are all naked heightens the suggestivity of the scene.
O-Tar is obviously well-endowed.
“‘Send one to O-Tar announcing that U-Dor brings
two prisoners worth of the observation of the great jeddak,’ said U-Dor;
‘one because of her extreme beauty, the other because of his extreme ugliness.’
“‘O-Tar sits in council with the lesser chiefs,’
replied the lieutenant; ‘but the words of U-Dor the dwar shall be carried
to him,’ and he turned and gave instructions to one who sat his thoat behind
“‘What manner of creature is the male?’ he asked
of U-Dor. ‘It cannot be that both are of one race.’
“‘They were together in the hills south of the
city,’ explained U-Dor, ‘and they say that they are lost and starving.’
“‘The woman is beautiful,’ said the padwar. ‘She
will not long go begging in the city of Manator,’ and then they spoke of
other matters – of the doings of the palace, of the expedition of U-Dor,
until the messenger returned to say that O-Tar bade them bring the prisoners
“They passed then through a massive doorway,
which, when opened, revealed the great council chamber of O-Tar, Jeddak
of Manator, beyond. A central aisle led from the doorway the full length
of the great hall, terminating at the steps of a marble dais upon which
a man sat in a great throne-chair. Upon either side of the aisle were arranged
rows of highly carved desks and chairs of skeel, a hard wood of great beauty.
Only a few of the desks were occupied – those in the front row, just below
“At the entrance U-Dor dismounted with four of
his followers who formed a guard about the two prisoners who were then
conducted toward the foot of the throne, following a few paces behind U-Dor.
As they halted at the foot of the marble steps, the proud gaze of Tara
of Helium rested upon the enthroned figure of the man above her. He sat
erect without stiffness – a commanding presence trapped in the barbaric
splendor that the Barsoomian chieftan loves. He was a large man, the perfection
of whose handsome face was marred only by the hauteur of his cold eyes
and the suggestion of cruelty imparted by too thin lips. It needed no second
glance to assure the least observing that here indeed was a ruler of men
– a fighting jeddak whose people might worship but not love, and for whose
slightest favor warriors would vie with one another to go forth and die.
This was O-Tar, Jeddak of Manator, and as Tara of Helium saw him for the
first time she could not but acknowledge a certain admiration for this
savage chieftan who so virily personified the ancient virtues of the God
of War.” (CM/11.)
“U-Dor and the jeddak interchanged the
simple greetings of Barsoom, and then the former recounted the details
of the discovery and capture of the prisoners. O-Tar scrutinized them both
intently during U-Dor’s narration of events, his expression revealing naught
of what passed in the brain behind those inscrutable eyes. When the officer
had finished the jeddak fastened his gaze upon Ghek.
O-Tar gives a knowing grin and Tara knows then that he is up to no good.
Her thoughts turn to Turan the panthan, who reminds her more than ever
of her own father, the greatest fighting man on two planets, who even taught
her many sword tricks. She begins to realize that she misses Turan less
for his sword than for herself.
“‘And you,’ he asked, ‘what manner of thing are
you? From what country? Why are you in Manator?’
“‘I am a kaldane,’ replied Ghek; ‘the highest
type of created creature upon
the face of Barsoom; I am mind, you are matter.
I come from Bantoom. I am here because we were lost and starving.’
“‘And you!’ O-Tar turned suddenly on Tara. ‘You,
too, are a kaldane?’
“‘I am a princess of Helium,’ replied the girl.
‘I was a prisoner in Bantoom. This kaldane and a warrior of my own race
rescued me. The warrior left us to search for food and water. He has doubtless
fallen into the hands of your people. I ask you to free him and give us
food and drink and let us go upon our way. I am a granddaughter of a jeddak,
the daughter of a jeddak of jeddaks, the Warlord of Barsoom. I ask only
the treatment that my people would accord you or yours.’
“‘Helium,’ repeated O-Tar. ‘I know naught of
Helium, nor does the Jeddak of Helium rule Manator. I, O-Tar, am Jeddak
of Manator. I alone rule. I protect my own. You have never seen a woman
or a warrior of Manator captive in Helium! Why should I protect the people
of another jeddak? It is his duty to protect them. If he cannot, he is
weak, and his people must fall into the hands of the strong. I, O-Tar,
am strong. I will keep you. That –’ he pointed at Ghek – ‘can it fight?’
“‘It is brave,’ replied Tara of Helium, ‘but
it has not the skill at arms which my people possess.’
“‘There is none then to fight for you?’ asked
O-Tar. ‘We are a just people,’ he continued without waiting for a reply,
‘and had you one to fight for you he might win to freedom for himself and
you as well.’
“‘But U-Dor assured me that no stranger ever
had departed from Manator,’ she answered.
“O-Tar shrugged. ‘That does not disprove the
justice of the laws of Manator,’ replied O-Tar, ‘but rather that the warriors
of Manator are invincible. Had there come one who could defeat our warriors
that one had won to liberty.’
“‘And you fetch my warrior,’ cried Tara haughtily,
‘you shall see such swordplay as doubtless the crumbling walls of your
decaying city never have witnessed, and if there be no trick in your offer
we are already as good as free.’” (CM/11.)
“‘Where is Turan, my warrior?’ she demanded.
We must remember that Tara is still a teenager, not very skilled in diplomacy.
Surely, she did not play her cards well as this reception.
“‘You shall not lack for warriors,’ replied the
jeddak. ‘One of your beauty will find plenty ready to fight for her. Possibly
it shall not be necessary to look farther than the jeddak of Manator. You
please me, woman. What say you to such an honor?’
“Through narrowed lids the Princess of Helium
scrutinized the Jeddak of Manator. From feathered headdress to sandaled
foot and back to feathered headdress.
“‘“Honor’”!’ she mimicked in tones of scorn.
‘I please thee, do I? Then know, swine, that thou pleaseth me not – that
the daughter of John Carter is not for such as thou!’” (CM/11.)
“A sudden, tense silence fell upon the
assembled chiefs. Slowly, the blood receded from the sinister face of O-Tar,
Jeddak of Manator, leaving him a sickly purple in his wrath. His eyes narrowed
to two thin slits, his lips were compressed to a bloodless line of malevolence.
For a long moment there was no sound in the throne room of the palace at
Manator. Then the jeddak turned toward U-Dor.
Tara is taken to the Towers of Jetan, where she collapses from lack of
nourishment. Ghek is taken down into the pits.
“‘Take her away,’ he said in a level voice that
belied his appearance of rage. ‘Take her away, and at the next games let
the prisoners and the common warriors play at Jetan for her.’
“‘And this?’ asked U-Dor, pointing at Ghek.
“‘To the pits until the next game,’ replied O-Tar.
“‘So this is your vaunted justice!’ cried Tara
of Helium; ‘that two strangers who have not wronged you shall be sentenced
without trial? And one of them is a woman. The swine of Manator are as
just as they are brave.’
“‘Away with her!’ shouted O-Tar, and at a sign
from U-Dor the guards formed about the two prisoners and conducted them
from the chamber.
“Outside the palace, Ghek and Tara of Helium
were separated.” (CM/11.)
“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
table standing upon the dirt floor near thewall, 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.
The scene switches to Turan, who is just as imprisoned, being harrassed
by the ulsios, huge Martian rodents, as well as the psychological mind-fuck
of having the key to his fetters within sight but out of reach at the end
of his table. However, Ghek’s adventures with the ulsios and the key are
very different and more rewarding.
“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 and 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
the doors and departed.” (CM/12.)
“When the warriors had departed from
the prison in which Ghek was
Here we are given a unique insight into the metaphysical thinking of ERB.
The idea of genetic memory must have intrigued him. It also provides strong
evidence that ERB was not an atheist, though it can be said clearly that
he was not a religious man. Of course, this tells us nothing of Ghek’s
belief in a God. He could very well be an atheist. To him the supreme being
is an unencumbered mind.
confined, the kaldane crawled from the shoulders
of the rykor to the table. Here he drank a little water and then directed
the hands of the rykor to the balance of it and to the food, upon which
the brainless thing fell with avidity. While it was thus engaged Ghek took
his spider-like way along the table to the opposite end where lay the key
to the fetter. Seizing it in a chela he leaped to the floor and scurried
rapidly toward the mouth of one of the burrows against the wall, into which
he disappeared. For long had the brain been contemplating these burrow
entrances. They appealed to his kaldane tastes, and further, they pointed
a hiding place for the key and a lair for the only kind of food that the
kaldane relished – flesh and blood.
“Ghek had never seen an ulsio, since these great
Martian rats had long ago disappeared from Bantoom, their flesh and blood
having been greatly relished by the kaldanes; but Ghek had inherited, almost
unimpaired, every memory of every ancestor, and so he knew that ulsio inhabited
these lairs and that ulsio was good to eat, and he knew what ulsio looked
like and what his habits were, though he had never seen him nor any picture
of him. As we breed animals for the transmission of physical attributes,
so the kaldanes breed themselves for the transmission of attributes of
the mind, including memory and the power of recollection, and thus have
they raised what we term instinct, above the level of the threshold of
the objective mind where it may be commanded and utilized by recollection.
Doubtless in our own subjective minds lie many of the impressions and experiences
of our forebears. These may impinge upon our consciousness in dreams only,
or in vague, haunting suggestions that we have before experienced some
transient phase of our present existence. Ah, if we had but the power to
recall them! Before us would unfold the forgotten story of the lost eons
that have preceded us. We might even walk with God in the garden of His
stars while man was still but a budding idea within His mind.” (CM/12.)
“Ghek descended into the burrow at a
steep incline for some ten feet, when he found himself in an elaborate
and delightful network of burrows. The kaldane was elated. This indeed
was life! He moved rapidly and fearlessly and he went as straight to his
goal as you could to the kitchen of your own home. This goal lay at a low
level in a spheroidal cavity about the size of a large barrel. Here, in
a nest of torn bits of silk and fur lay six baby ulsios.
What we have here is another veiled reference to the River of No Return
– the River Iss – or at least one of her mighty tributaries. The River
Iss runs for a thousand miles underground. Like the real Mars, ERB’s Barsoom’s
water is mostly under the surface of the planet.
“When the mother returned there were but five
babies and a great spiderlike creature, which she immediately sprang to
attack only to be met by powerful chelae which seized and held her so that
she could not move. Slowly they dragged her throat toward a hideous mouth
and in a little moment she was dead.
“Ghek may have remained in the nest for a long
time, since there was ample food for many days; but he did not do so. Instead
he explored the burrows. He followed them into many subterranean chambers
of the city of Manator, and upward through the walls to rooms above the
ground. He found many ingeniously devised traps, and he found poisoned
food and other signs of the constant battle that the inhabitants of Manator
waged against these repulsive creatures that dwelt beneath their homes
and public buildings.
“His exploration revealed not only the vast proportions
of the net-work of runways that apparently traversed every portion of the
city, but the great antiquity of the majority of them. Tons upon tons of
dirt must have been removed, and for a long time he wondered where it had
been deposited, until in following downward a tunnel of great size and
length he sensed before him the thunderous rush of subterranean waters,
and presently came to the bank of a great, underground river, tumbling
onward, no doubt, the length of a world to the buried sea of Omean. Into
this torrential sewer had unthinkable generations of ulsios pushed their
few handfuls of dirt in the excavating of their vast labryinth.” (CM/12.)
“For only a moment did Ghek tarry by the river, for his seemingly
aimless wanderings were in reality prompted by a definite purpose, and
this he pursued with vigor and singleness of design. He followed such runways
as appeared to terminate in the pits or other chambers of the inhabitants
of the city, and these he explored, usually from the safety of a burrow’s
mouth, until satisfied that what he sought was not there. He moved swiftly
upon his spider legs and covered remarkable distances in short periods
One can already begin to see the wheels turning in the genius mind of Ghek.
The information he has just received will prove to be a gold mine in the
psychological warfare Ghek is about to wage. The Manatorians are beginning
to believe that Ghek is a dark wizard, and, in a way, that he will prove
“His search not being rewarded with immediate success, he decided to
return to the pit where his rykor lay chained and look to its wants. As
he approached the end of the burrow that terminated in the pit he slackened
his pace, stopping just within the entrance of the runway that he might
scan the interior of the chamber before entering it. As he did so he saw
the figure of a warrior appear suddenly in an opposite doorway. The rykor
sprawled upon the table, his hands groping blindly for more food. Ghek
saw the warrior pause and gaze in sudden astonishment at the rykor; he
saw the fellow’s eyes go wide and an ashen hue replace the copper bronze
of his cheek. He stepped back as though someone had struck him in the face.
For an instant only he stood thus as in a paralysis of fear, then he uttered
a smothered shriek and turned and fled. Again was it a catastrophe that
Ghek, the kaldane, could not smile.
“Quickly entering the room he crawled to the table top and affixed himself
to the shoulders of his rykor, and there he waited; and who may say that
Ghek, though he could not smile, possessed not a sense of humor? For a
half-hour he sat there, and then there came to him the sound of men approaching
along corridors of stone. He could hear their arms clank against the rocky
walls and he knew that they came at a rapid pace; but just before they
reached the entrance to his prison they paused and advanced more slowly.
In the lead was an officer, and just behind him, wide-eyed and perhaps
still a little ashen, the warrior who had so recently departed in haste.
At the doorway they halted and the officer turned sternly upon the warrior.
With upraised finger he pointed at Ghek.
“‘There sits the creature! Didst thou dare lie, then, to thy dwar?’
“‘I swear,’ cried the warrior, ‘that I spoke the truth. But a moment
since the thing groveled, headless, upon this very table! And may my first
ancestor strike me dead upon the spot if I speak other than a true word!’
“The officer looked puzzled. The men of Mars seldom if ever lie. He
scratched his head. Then he addressed Ghek. ‘How long have you been here?’
“‘Who knows better than those who placed me here and chained me to
a wall?’ he returned in reply.
“‘Saw you this warrior enter here a few minutes since?’
“‘I saw him,’ replied Ghek.
“‘And you sat there where you sit now?’ continued the officer.
“‘Look thou to my chain and tell me then where else might I sit?’ cried
Ghek. ‘Art the people of thy city all fools?’
“Three other warriors pressed behind the two in front, craning their
necks to view the prisoner while they grinned at the discomfiture of their
fellow. The officer scowled at Ghek
“‘Thy tongue is as venomous as that of the she-banth O-Tar sent to
the Towers of Jetan,’ he said.
“‘You speak of the young woman who was captured with me?’ asked Ghek,
his expressionless monotone and face revealing naught of the interest he
“‘I speak of her,’ replied the dwar, and then turning to the warrior
who had summoned him: ‘return to thy quarters and remain there until the
next games. Perhaps by that time thy eyes may have learned not to deceive
“The fellow cast a venomous glance at Ghek and turned away. The officer
shook his head. ‘I do not understand it,’ he muttered. ‘Always has U-Van
been a true and dependable warrior. Could it be – ?’ he glanced piercingly
at Ghek. ‘Thou hast a strange head that misfits thy body, fellow,’ he cried.
‘Our legends tell us of those ancient creatures that placed hallucinations
upon the mind of their fellows. If thou be such then maybe U-Van suffered
from thy forbidden powers. If thou be such O-Tar will know well how to
deal with thee.’ He wheeled about and motioned his warriors to follow him.
“‘Wait!’ cried Ghek. ‘Unless I am to be starved, send me food.’
“‘You have had food,’ replied the warrior.
“‘Am I to be fed but once a day?’ asked Ghek. ‘I require food oftener
than that. Send me food.’
“‘You shall have food,’ replied the officer. ‘None may say that the
prisoners of Manator are ill-fed. Just are the laws of Manator,’ and he
“No sooner had the sounds of their passing died away in the
distance than Ghek clambered from the shoulders of his rykor, and scurried
to the burrow where he had hidden the key. Fetching it he unlocked the
fetter from about the creature’s ankle, locked it empty and carried the
key farther down into the burrow. Then he returned to his place upon his
brainless servitor. After awhile he heard footsteps approaching, whereupon
he rose and passed into another corridor from that down which he knew the
warrior was coming. Here he waited out of sight, listening. He heard the
man enter the chamber and halt. He heard a muttered exclamation, followed
by the jangle of metal dishes as a salver was slammed upon a table; then
rapidly retreating footsteps, which quickly died away in the distance.
Ghek knows he has spooked the Manatorians to the core of their fears. Plus
he has learned the whereabouts of the Princess. As we will see in Part
Five, Ghek is in a perfect place to wreck havoc upon Manator.
“Ghek lost no time in returning to the chamber, recovering the key,
relocking the rykor to his chain. Then he replaced the key in the burrow,
and squatting on the table beside his headless body, directed its hands
toward the food. While the rykor ate Ghek sat listening for the scraping
sandals and clattering arms that he knew soon would come. Nor had he long
to wait. Ghek scrambled to the shoulders of his rykor as he heard them
coming. Again it was the officer who had been summoned by U-Van and with
him were three warriors. The one directly behind him was evidently the
same who had brought the food, for his eyes went wide when he saw Ghek
sitting at the table and he looked very foolish as the dwar turned his
stern glance upon him.
“‘It is even as I said,’ he cried. ‘He was not here when I brought
“‘But he is here now,’ said the officer grimly, ‘and his fetter is
locked about his ankle. Look! it has not been opened – but where is the
key? It should be upon the table at the end opposite him. Where is the
key, creature?’ he shouted at Ghek.
“‘How should I, a prisoner, know better than my jailer the whereabouts
of the key to my fetters?’ he retorted.
“‘But it lay here,’ cried the officer, pointing the other end of the
“‘Did you see it?’ asked Ghek.
“The officer hesitated. ‘No but it must have been there,’ he parried.
“‘Did you see the key lying there?’ asked Ghek, pointing to another
“The fellow shook his head negatively. ‘And you?’ and you?’ continued
the kaldane addressing the others.
“They both admitted that they never had seen the key. ‘And if it had
been there how could I have reached it?’ he continued.
“‘No, he could not have reached it,’ admitted the officer; ‘but there
shall be more of this! I-Zav, you shall remain here on guard with this
prisoner until you are relieved.’
“I-Zav looked anything but happy as this intelligence was transmitted
to him, and he eyed Ghek suspiciously as the dwar and the other warriors
turned and left him to his unhappy lot.” (CM/12.)