A READERS' COMPANION
TO THE BARSOOMIAN MYTHOS
GHEK'S MANATORIAN MIND-GAMES
The Sixteenth Runner-Up in
the Seven Wonders of Barsoom
Tara with Ghek and Rykor by Frank Frazetta
Part Five (Conclusion)
Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
“Corphal”: ancient Barsoomian superstition, obsolete
except in backwards part of the planet; in popular belief, a witch or wizard
having the power to command the spirits of the wicked dead in order to
gain mastery over the living; but according to ancient Barsoomian lore,
Corphals only entered into the bodies of wicked criminals of the lowest
class; it is also popular belief that no common man dare harm them and
they may only be slain by the hand of a jeddak with impunity; Manator is
one of last surviving places on Barsoom to believe actively and openly
We must briefly return to Tara of Helium for some essential
facts before we can get on with Ghek. When we last saw her, she had collapsed
from malnourishment. U-Dor takes the prisoner from O-Tar’s throne room,
unhappy that she is to be made a prize for common criminals and slaves
at the next Jetan game – where she will be gang-raped to death – instead
of being his personal sex slave. He recluctantly hands her over to the
keeper of the Towers of Jetan, the dwar A-Kor – the son of a slave girl,
Haja, who had once been
a princess of Gathol, and O-Tar, the Jeddak of
Manator. A-Kor makes insulting remarks about his father’s justice in front
of U-Dor when Tara collapses. He will be punished for this.
He half carries Tara to the tower and hands her over to
a Gatholian slave girl, Lan-O. Tara discovers that the roads leading into
Gathol – which lies twenty-one degrees east of Manator – are the prime
places Manatorian go to kidnap slaves for their city. So far, no one has
been caught and the Gatholians are ignorant that Manator even exists. Meanwhile,
E-Med, a Manatorian warrior looking forward to winning Tara in the next
game, drops by to try out his new pair of shoes before buying them. Yes,
once again, Tara faces violent rape. A-Kor has been taken to the pits for
his insult to O-Tar, and E-Med is now in charge of the towers. As E-Med
seizes Tara in a passionate embrace, Tara unexpectedly slips her dagger
into his chest and kills him instantly. She is a chip off the old block
when it comes to killing people. She now has three notches on her dagger:
two rykors and one Manatorian.
She and Lan-O dispose of the body and then wait and see
what happens. Guards come and question them about the whereabouts of E-Med,
but they deny ever seeing him. She asks about Turan and the guard instead
talks about Ghek and how is suspected of being a Corphal.
When Tara lambasts him of gross superstition, contradicting
the guard about the lore of Corphals, the guard suspects that she knows
too much. He returns and makes his report and OTar then sends for Tara
to appear before him again.
Meanwhile Gahan, as Turan, has met the now prisoner, A-Kor,
in the pits and learned that he is the son of his own mother’s sister.
He will prove to be an immense help in Gahan’s ever evolving plan to escape.
After a while, guards approach and escort Turan to the throne room of O-Tar.
And poor I-Zav, the guard left behind to watch Ghek’s every move, is the
reason both Tara and Gahan have been summoned, as everyone is swift to
learn. Tara is led in first and forced to face the Jeddak:
“‘The laws of Manator are
just,’ said O-Tar, addressing her; ‘thus is it that you have been summoned
here again to be judged by the highest authority of Manator. Word has reached
me that you are suspected of being a Corphal. What word have you to say
in refutation of the charge?’
And spoken like a true daughter of John Carter, who almost
single-handedly wiped the evil religion of Issus from the face of the planet.
Is it no wonder that she was well-tutored in the priestcraft of religion?
But again, she responds in the sarcastic, haughty, tones of a teenager,
and only with help will she get through this ordeal.
“Tara of Helium could scarce restrain
a sneer as she answered the ridiculous accusation of witchcraft. ‘So ancient
is the culture of my people,’ she said, ‘that authentic history reveals
no defense for that which we know existed only in the ignorant and superstitious
minds of the most primitive peoples of the past. To those who are yet so
untutored as to believe in the existence of Corphals, there can be no argument
that will convince them of their error – only long ages of refinement and
culture can accomplish their release from the bondage of ignorance. I have
“‘Yet you do not deny the
accusation,’ said O-Tar.
This is actually an amusing indictment of the criminal justice
system in America, with which ERB was well acquainted. In fact, not only
in Chessmen, but also in Girl from Hollywood,
criminal trials take center stage. One of the worst mistakes an innocent
accused person can make is to assume that because they are innocent they
don’t have anything to worry about. Actually, an accused person is 90%
convicted almost immediately and needs to really worry about it, hiring
the most skilled attorney he or she can afford.
“‘It is not worthy the dignity
of a denial,’ she responded haughtily.
“‘And I were you, woman,’ said
a deep voice at her side, ‘I should, nevertheless, deny it.’
“Tara of Helium turned to see the
eyes of U-Thor, the great jed of Manatos, upon her. Brave eyes they were,
but neither cold nor cruel. O-Tar rapped impatiently upon the arm of his
throne. ‘U-Thor forgets,’ he cried, ‘that O-Tar is the jeddak.’
“‘U-Thor remembers,’ replied the
jed of Manatos, ‘that the laws of Manator permit any who may be accused
to have advice and counsel before their judge.’
“Tara of Helium saw that for some
reason this man would have assisted her, and so she acted upon his advice.
“‘I deny the charge,’ she said,
‘I am no Corphal.’
“‘Of that we shall learn,’ snapped
O-Tar. ‘U-Dor, where are those who have knowledge of the powers of this
“And U-Dor brought several who
recounted the little that was known of the disappearance of E-Med, and
others who told of the capture of Ghek and Tara, suggesting by deduction
that having been found together they had sufficient in common to make it
reasonably certain that one was as bad as the other, and that, therefore,
it remained but to convict one of them of Corphalism to make certain the
guilt of both.” (CM/14.)
Sure, there are rules of evidence that are supposed to
prevent undue prejudice arising from certain facts or arguments, but there
are also statutes and jury instructions that allow in evidence of prior
bad acts by a preponderance of the evidence to prove that if the accused
has done it before, he is likely to have done it this time – allowing a
prosecutor to essentially argue like O-Tar above – which in fact undermines
the law that you must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt for any
specific crime of which you can be deprived of life or liberty.
Let’s say, for example, that you have pled guilty in the
past to misdemeanor domestic violence – say you and your significant other
got into a slap fight...no bruises. Let’s say she finds out you cheated
on her and falsely accuses you of beating her up. This time, mysteriously,
she sports several dark bruises. This time it’s a felony, with a prior.
Without a really good lawyer, you are screwed.
Tara has already realized this, for history has taught
that the only way to beat a charge of witchcraft ended up in your death.
You were bound, thrown into a river, and if you sunk, you were not a witch,
and if you floated, you were. Whether convicted or acquitted, you were
still dead. And this was “just” in the eyes of the law of the time.
“And then O-Tar called
for Ghek, and immediately the hideous kaldane was dragged before him by
warriors who could not conceal the fear in which they held this creature.
This kind of long-winded narrative testimony occurs allof
the time in a trial, for it usually goes way beyond the question that was
asked, and calls for the “narrative” objection, which is almost always
granted. One other thing to note is I-Zav’s call upon Iss to engulf him
if he lies. This implies a belief in the religion of Issus, which was a
step above belief in Corphals, but not by much. Anyway, back to I-Zav’s
“‘And you!’ said O-Tar in cold
accusing tones. “Already I have been told enough of you to warrant me in
passing through your heart the jeddak’s steel – of how you stole the brains
from the warrior U-Van, so that he thought he saw your headless body still
endowed with life; of how you caused another to believe that you had escaped,
making him to see naught but an empty bench and a blank wall where you
“‘Ah, O-Tar, but that is nothing,’
cried a young padwar who had come in command of the escort that brought
Ghek. ‘The thing which he did to I-Zav, would prove his guilt alone.’
“‘What did he to the warrior I-Zav?’
demanded O-Tar. ‘Let I-Zav speak!’
“The warrior I-Zav, a great fellow
of bulging muscles and thick neck, advanced to the floor of the throne.
He was pale and still trembling visibly as from a nervous shock.
“‘Let my first ancestor be my witness,
O-Tar, that I speak the truth,’ he began. ‘I was left to guard this creature,
who sat upon a bench, shackled to the wall. I stood by the open doorway
at the opposite side of the chamber. He could not reach me, yet, O-Tar,
may Iss engulf me if he did not drag me to him helpless as an unhatched
egg. He dragged me to him, greatest of jeddaks, with his eyes! With his
eyes he seized upon my eyes and dragged me to him and he made me lay my
swords and dagger upon the table and back off into a corner, and still
keeping his eyes upon my eyes quitted his body and crawling upon six short
legs it descended to the floor and backed part way into the hole of an
ulsio, but not far that the eyes were not still upon me and then it returned
with the key to its fetters and after resuming its place upon its own shoulders
it unlocked the fetter and again dragged me across the room and made me
to sit upon the bench where it had been and there it fastened the fetter
about my ankle, and I could do naught for the power of its eyes and the
fact that it wore my two swords and my dagger.” (CM/14.)
“‘And then the head disappeared
down the hole of the ulsio with the key, and when it returned, it resumed
its body and stood guard over me at the doorway until the padwar came to
fetch it hither.’” (CM/14.)
Ghek is involved in some very hilarious role reversal humor
with I-Zav, using the old Jedi mind tricks on the poor fellow, obviously
setting the stage for his next appearance before OTar, which is currently
“‘It is enough!’ said O-Tar,
sternly. ‘Both shall receive the jeddak’s steel,’ and rising from his throne
he drew his long sword and descended the marble steps toward them, while
two brawny warriors seized Tara by either arm and two seized Ghek, holding
them facing the naked blade of the jeddak.
This is quite an intercession by Ghek. Even though he has
humorous opinions about his saviors, he takes on an almost Christlike role
in their defense, willing to give up his life so that his friends may live.
He may not realize it, but he has transformed, taking the same journey
as Tars Tarkas and Sola before him, overcoming culture to become truly
human, knowing the love of friends and the power of friendship.
“‘Hold, just O-Tar!’ cried U-Dor.
‘There be yet another to be judged. Let us confront him who calls himself
Turan with these his fellows before they die.’
“‘Good!’ exclaimed O-Tar, pausing
half way down the steps. ‘Fetch Turan, the slave!’
“When Turan had been brought into
the chamber he was placed a little to Tara’s left and a step nearer the
throne. O-Tar eyed him menacingly.
“‘You are Turan,’ he asked, ‘friend
and companion of these?’
“The panthan was about to reply
when Tara of Helium spoke. ‘I know not this fellow,’ she said. ‘Who dares
say that he be a friend and companion of the Princess Tara of Helium?’
“Turan and Ghek looked at her in
surprise, but at Turan she did not look, and to Ghek she passed a quick
glance of warning, as to say: ‘Hold thy peace.’
“The panthan tried not to fathom
her purpose for the head is useless when the heart usurps its functions,
and Turan knew only that the woman he loved had denied him, and though
he tried not even to think it his foolish heart urged but a single explanation
– that she refused to recognize him lest she be involved in his difficulties.
“O-Tar looked first at one and
then at another of them; but none of them spoke.
“‘Were they not captured together?’
he asked of U-Dor.
“‘No,’ replied the dwar. ‘He is
who is called Turan was found seeking entrance to the city and was enticed
to the pits. The following morning I discovered the other two upon the
hill beyond The Gate of Enemies.’
“‘But they are friends and companions,’
said a young padwar, ‘for this Turan inquired of me concerning these two,
calling them by name and saying that they were his friends.’
“‘It is enough,’ stated O-Tar,
‘all three shall die,’ and he took another step downward from the throne.
“‘For what shall we die?’ asked
Ghek. ‘Your people prate of the just laws of Manator, and yet you would
slay three strangers without telling them of what crime they are accused.’
“‘He is right,’ said a deep voice.
It was the voice of U-Thor, the great jed of Manatos. O-Tar looked at him
and scowled; but there came voices from other portions of the chamber seconding
the demand for justice.
“‘Then know, though you shall die
anyway,’ cried O-Tar, ‘that all three are convicted of Corphalism and that
as only a jeddak may slay such as you in safety you are about to be honored
with the steel of O-Tar.’
“‘Fool!’ cried Turan. ‘Know you
not that in the veins of this woman flows the blood of ten thousand jeddaks
– that greater than yours is her power in her own land? She is Tara, Princess
of Helium, great-granddaughter of Tardos Mors, daughter of John Carter,
Warlord of Barsoom. She cannot be a Corphal. Nor is this creature Ghek,
nor am I. And you would know more, I can prove my right to be heard and
to be believed if I may have word with the Princess Haja of Gathol, whose
son is my fellow prisoner in the pits of O-Tar, his father.’
“At this U-Thor rose to his feet
and faced O-Tar. ‘What means this?’ he asked. ‘Speaks the man the truth?
Is the son of Haja a prisoner in thy pits, OTar?’
“‘And what is it to the jed of
Manatos who be the prisoners in the pits of his jeddak?’ demanded O-Tar,
“‘It is this to the jed of Manatos,’
replied U-Thor in a voice so low as to be scarce more than a whisper and
yet that was heard the whole length and breadth of the great throne room
of O-Tar, Jeddak of Manator. ‘You gave me a slave woman, Haja, who had
been a princess in Gathol, because you feared her influence among the slaves
from Gathol. I have made of her a free woman, and I have married her and
made her a thus a princess of Manatos. Her son is my son, O-Tar, and though
thou be my jeddak, I say to you that for any harm that befalls A-Kor you
shall answer to U-Thor of Manatos.’
“O-Tar looked long at U-Thor, but
he made no reply. Then he turned again to Turan. ‘If one be a Corphal,’
he said, ‘then all of you be Corphals, and we know well from the things
that this creature has done,’ he pointed at Ghek, ‘that he is a Corphal,
for no mortal has such powers as he. And as you are all Corphals you must
all die.’ He took another step downward, when Ghek spoke.
“‘These two have no such powers
as I,’ he said. ‘They are but ordinary, brainless things such as yourself.
I have done all the things that your poor, ignorant warriors have told
you; but this only demonstrates that I am of a higher order than yourselves,
as is indeed the fact. I am a kaldane, not a Corphal. There is nothing
supernatural or mysterious about me, other than to the ignorant all things
which they cannot understand are mysterious. Easily might have I eluded
your warriors and escaped your pits; but I remained in the hope that I
might help these two foolish creatures who have not the brains to escape
without help. They befriended me and saved my life. I owe them this debt.
Do not slay them – they are harmless. Slay me if you will. I offer my life
if it will appease your ignorant wrath. I cannot return to Bantoom and
so I might as well die, for there is no pleasure in intercourse with the
feeble intellects that cumber the face of the world outside of Bantoom.’”
It also gives us an insight into the fatalism that has
developed inside his great brain since his departure from his motherland.
He may live for a long time but his rykor only has a life span of ten years
at best. And unless he can come up with a vocation to match his wit and
intellect, life among the “brainless” would prove to be unbearable for
him. But he has a mission and that mission prevents him from spiralling
down into deep despair.
“‘Hideous egotist,’ said
O-Tar, ‘prepare to die and assume not to dictate to O-Tar the jeddak. He
has passed sentence and all three of you shall feel the jeddak’s naked
steel. I have spoken!’
Next comes a tearful scene which reinforces Ghek’s new found
discovery of friendship. Tara of Helium refuses to leave without him. She
has become the friend of a monster.
“He took another step downward
and then a strange thing happened. He paused, his eyes fixed upon the eyes
of Ghek. His sword slipped from nerveless fingers, and still he stood there
swaying forward and back. A jed rose to rush to his side; but Ghek stopped
him with a word.
“‘Wait!’ he cried. ‘The life of
your jeddak is in my hands. You believe me a Corphal and so you believe,
too, that only the sword of a jeddak may slay me, therefore your blades
are useless against me. Offer harm to any one of us, or seek to approach
your jeddak until I have spoken, and he shall sink lifeless to the marble.
Release the two prisoners and let them come to my side – I would speak
to them, privately. Quick! do as I say; I would as lief as not slay O-Tar.
I but let him live that I may gain freedom for my friends – obstruct me
and he dies.’
“The guards fell back, releasing
Tara and Turan, who came close to Ghek’s side.
“‘Do as I tell you and do it quickly,’
whispered the kaldane. ‘I cannot hold this fellow long, nor could I kill
him thus. There are many minds working against mine and presently mine
will tire and O-Tar will be himself again. You must make the best of your
opportunity while you may. Behind the arras that you see hanging in the
rear of the throne above you is a secret opening. From it a corridor leads
to the pits of the palace, where there are storerooms containing food and
drink. Few people go there. From these pits lead others to all parts of
the city. Follow one that runs due west and it will bring you to The Gate
of Enemies. The rest will then lie with you. I can do no more; hurry before
my waning powers fail me – I am not as Luud, who was a king. He could have
held this creature forever. Make haste! Go!’” (CM/14.)
“‘I shall not desert you,
Ghek,’ said Tara of Helium, simply.
We next learn, as Ghek is led from the room, that O-Tar has
lost face with the Manatorians since he has been shown to be weak in front
of the strangers. U-Thor challenges his authority and his men and those
of O-Tar draw swords on each other, ending in a stalemate as UThor retreats
to The Gate of Enemies.
“‘Go! Go!” whispered the kaldane.
‘You can do me no good. Go, or all I have done is for naught.’
“Tara shook her head. ‘I cannot,’
“‘They will slay her,’ said Ghek
to Turan, and the panthan, torn between loyalty to this strange creature
who had offered its life for him, and love of the woman, hesitated but
a moment, then he swept Tara from her feet and lifting her in his arms
leaped up the steps that led to the throne of Manator. Behind the throne
he parted the arras and found the secret opening. Into this he bore the
girl and down a long,
narrow corridor and winding runways that led to lower
levels until they came to the pits of the palace of O-Tar. Here was a labyrinth
of passages and chambers presenting a thousand hiding-places.
“As Turan bore Tara up the steps
toward the throne a score of warriors rose as though to rush forward to
intercept them. ‘Stay!’ cried Ghek, ‘or your jeddak dies,’ and they halted
in their tracks, waiting the will of this strange, uncanny creature.
“Presently Ghek took his eyes from
the eyes of O-Tar and the jeddak shook himself as one who would be rid
of a bad dream and straightened up, half dazed still.
“‘Look,’ said Ghek, then, ‘I have
given your jeddak his life, nor have I harmed one of those whom I might
easily have slain when they were in my power. No harm have I or my friends
done in the city of Manator. Why then should you persecute us? Give us
our lives. Give us our liberty.’
“O-Tar, now in command of his faculties,
stooped and regained his sword. In the room was silence as all waited to
hear the jeddak’s answer.
“‘Just are the laws of Manator,’
he said at last. ‘Perhaps, after all, there is truth in the words of the
stranger. Return him to the pits and pursue the others and capture them.
Through the mercy of O-Tar they shall be permitted to win their freedom
upon the Field of Jetan, in the coming games.’” (CM/15,)
Meanwhile, Turan, still flushed from the arousal of the
contact with Tara’s body caused by grabbing her and taking her from the
room, makes him careless. He jumps Tara’s bones down in the pits, kissing
her passionately. At least he gets farther with the Princess than E-Med
did, but again, the Princess is insulted by his boldness. Their confrontation
is broken up by the Old Man of the Pits, the one responsible for embalming
the dead heroes of Manator displayed in the Hall of the Chiefs. He leads
them into a trap, wanting them to remain with him. Tara is captured but
tricks the guards so that Turan might escape. He does, organizing a Jetan
team consisting of mainly Gatholian slaves. He will play for Tara of Helium.
And what a game he plays, using a move that will thereafter be known as
the Gatholian Gambit. Again, the reader may review the story and the move
at ERBzine #3303 and
#3313. At the end
of the match, Turan, acting as U-Kal of Manataj, is exposed by the Old
Man, named I-Gos – who recognizes him as Turan from the pits. He reports
this to O-Tar, who orders his capture.
A Manatorian warrior kidnaps Tara and almost rapes her
before Gahan, now back as Turan, saves her along with Tasor, posing as
A-Sor, a friend of Gahan’s youth. Turan finally has a moment alone with
Tara, and she breaks down and forgets her culture and upbringing, spending
a long time with Turan in a lover’s embrace. You may have guessed what
my take is on this scene. After all, Tara was no longer a virgin. Turan
does some scouting, leaving Tara in what he believes is a safe place, but
When he returns, Tara is missing, having been forcibly
kidnaped by I-Gos. Turan hears strange noises, but they end up only being
made by Ghek who has been trying to locate Tara.
“A moment later he heard
behind him the shuffling sound that had attracted his attention in the
spiral runway. Wheeling about he saw the author of the sound emerging from
a doorway he had just passed. It was Ghek the kaldane.
The plot from henceforth is too complicated to briefly summarize,
however, at the very end, Ghek still plays a major role in the successful
revolution of Manator. This is summed up by John Carter himself at the
end, during what I call a John Carter Epiphany, where he appears to a fake
Edgar Rice Burroughs on Earth to recount his adventures. The fake ERB asks
“‘Ghek!’ exclaimed Gahan. ‘It was
you in the runway? Have you seen Tara of Helium?’
“‘It was I in the spiral,’ replied
the kaldane; ‘but I have not seen Tara of Helium. I have been searching
for her. Where is she?’
“‘I do not know,’ replied the Gatholian;
‘but we must find her and take her from this place.’
“‘We may find her,’ said Ghek;
‘but I doubt our ability to take her away. It is not so easy to leave Manator
as it is to enter it. I may come and go at will, through the ancient burrows
of the ulsios; but you are too large for that and your lungs need more
air that may be found in some of the deeper runways.’
“‘But U-Thor!’ exclaimed Gahan.
‘Have you heard aught of him or his intentions?’
“‘I have heard much,’ replied Ghek.
‘He camps at The Gate of Enemies. That spot he holds and his warriors lie
just beyond The Gate; but he has not sufficient force to enter the city
and take the palace. An hour since and you might have made your way to
him; but now every avenue is strongly guarded since OTar learned that A-Kor
had escaped to U-Thor.’
“‘A-Kor has escaped and jointed
U-Thor!’ exclaimed Gahan.
“‘But little more than an hour
since. I was with him when a warrior came – a man whose name is Tasor –
who brought a message from you. It was decided that Tasor should accompany
A-Kor in an attempt to reach the camp of U-Thor, the great jed of Manatos,
and exact from him the assurances that you required. Then U-Thor was to
return and take food to you and the Princess of Helium. I accompanied them.
We won through easily and found U-Thor more than willing to respect your
every wish, but when Tasor would have returned to you the way was blocked
by the warriors of O-Tar. Then it was that I volunteered to come to you
and report and find food and drink and then go forth among the Gatholian
slaves of Manator and prepare them for their part in the plan that U-Thor
and Tasor conceived.’
“‘And what was this plan?’
“‘U-Thor has sent for reinforcements.
To Manatos he has sent and to all the outlying districts that are his.
It will take a month to collect and bring them hither and in the meantime
the slaves within the city are to organize secretly, stealing and hiding
arms against the day that the reinforcements arrive. When that day comes
the forces of U-Thor will enter the Gate of Enemies and as the warriors
of O-Tar rush to repulse them the slaves from Gathol will fall upon them
from the rear with the majority of their numbers, while the balance will
assault the palace. They hope thus to divert so many from The Gate that
U-Thor will have little difficulty in forcing an entrance to the city.’
“‘Perhaps they will succeed,’ commented
Gahan; ‘but the warriors of OTar are many, and those who fight in defense
of their homes and their jeddak have always an advantage. Ah, Ghek, would
that we had the great warships of Gathol or of Helium to pour their merciless
fire into the streets of Manator while U-Thor marches to the palace over
the corpses of the slain.’ He paused, deep in thought, and then turned
his gaze again upon the kaldane. ‘Heard you aught of the party that escaped
with me from the Field of Jetan – of Floran, Val Dor, and the others? What
“‘Ten of these won through to U-Thor
at The Gate of Enemies and were well received by him. Eight fell in the
fighting upon the way. Val Dor and Floran live, I believe, for I am sure
I heard U-Thor address two warriors by these names.’
“‘Good!’ exclaimed Gahan. ‘Go then,
through the burrows of the ulsios, to The Gate of Enemies and carry to
Floran the message that I shall write in his own language. Come, while
I write the message.’
“In a nearby room they found a
bench and table and there Gahan sat and wrote in the strange, stenographic
characters of Martian script a message to Floran of Gathol. ‘Why,’ he asked,
when he had finished it, ‘did you search for Tara through the spiral runway
where we nearly met?’
“‘Tasor told me where you were
to be found, and as I have explored the greater part of the palace by means
of the ulsio runways and the darker and less frequented passages I knew
precisely where you were and how to reach you. The secret spiral ascends
from the pits to the roof of the loftiest of the palace towers. It has
secret openings at every level; but there is no living Manatorian, I believe,
who knows of its existence. At least never have I met one within it and
I have used it many times. Thrice have I been in the chamber where O-Mai
lies, though I knew nothing of his identity or the story of his death until
Tasor told it to us in the camp of U-Thor.’
“‘You know the palace thoroughly
then?’ Gahan interrupted.
“‘Better than O-Tar himself or
any of his servants.’
“‘Good! And you would serve the
Princess Tara, Ghek, you may serve her best by accompanying Floran and
following his instructions. I will write them here at the close of my message
to him, for the walls have ears, Ghek, while none but a Gatholian may read
what I have written to Floran. He will transmit it to you. Can I trust
“‘I may never return to Bantoom,’
replied Ghek. ‘Therefore I have but two friends in all Barsoom. What better
may I do than serve them faithfully? You may trust me, Gatholian, who with
a woman of your kind has taught me that there be finer and nobler things
than perfect mentality uninfluenced by the unreasoning tuitions of the
heart. I go.’” (CM/20.)
“‘And Ghek? What became
of Ghek?’ I insisted.
“‘After leading Val Dor and Floran
to Tara’s disabled flier which they repaired, he accompanied them to Gathol
from where a message was sent to me in Helium. He then led a large party
including A-Kor and U-Thor from the roof, where our ships landed them,
down a spiral runway into the palace and then guided them to the throne
room. We took him back to Helium with us, where he still lives, with his
single rykor which we found all but starved to death in the pits of Manator.
But come! No more questions now.’” (CM/22.)
Personally, I imagine Ghek setting up a detective agency
allowing him to make money off his exceptional brain. I also see him working
on a long term plan that would allow him to return to Bantoom every ten
years with sufficient force to barter for a new king’s rykor when his old
one wears out. With the most beautiful male body on Barsoom, I also imagine
him quite the ladies man, especially if he were able to develop a nonfreakish
mask to wear.
Anyway, our next Runner-Up will be the
Epiphanies of John Carter and Fake Autobiographies