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