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
“‘It is useless, Ghek,’ she said,
when she saw that he intended to defend her. ‘What can a single sword accomplish
against such odds?’
“‘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.’” (CM/10.)
“‘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
“‘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 Manator. Come!’
“‘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, rapidly.
“‘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
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
“‘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 him.
“‘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
“‘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 to him.
“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 the rostrum.
“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
“‘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?’
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
“‘And this?’ asked U-Dor, pointing
“‘To the pits until the next game,’
“‘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
all 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 of time.
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 to be.
“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?’ he asked.
“‘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
“‘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 felt.
“‘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 thee.’
“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
“‘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 departed.” (CM/12.)
“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 his food.’
“‘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 table.
“‘Did you see it?’ asked Ghek.
“The officer hesitated. ‘No but it must have been there,’
“‘Did you see the key lying there?’ asked Ghek, pointing
to another warrior.
“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.)