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ERB Summary Project

Chessmen of Mars

Summarized by The Members of ERBList

Copyright © 2001

Stan Galloway, Project Editor

David Bruce Bozarth, Managing Editor




John Carter


Dejah Thoris

Djor Kantos

Olvia Marthis

Gahan, Jed of Gathol




Turan (aka Gahan)








U-Thor (jed)



U-Kal (aka Gahan)

Val Dor



A-Sor (aka Tasor)

O-Mai the Cruel






Lesser Helium

Scarlet Tower


Luud's Tower


Hall of Chiefs

Towers of Jetan



Gate of Enemies

Fields of Jetan




Dance of Barsoom

Woola (calot)


Vanator (airship)


radium bulbs












By Stan Galloway

The Chessmen of Mars is the fifth of the Barsoom series. It was written in 1921, then published serially (Argosy All-Story Weekly) and in hardback (McClurg) in 1922. It was his fifteenth hardback publication. Porges called it "a remarkable work, one that for imagination and for complexity of detail and settings exceeded any of his previous writings" (348). Lupoff gave it the backhanded praise of being a good pot-boiler.

The story has been appreciated by many readers for its innovation of the kaldane-rykor pairing as well as the inclusion of the chess-like game of jetan.

The reciprocal development of the kaldanes and rykors, though implausible, is one of the more intriguing concepts of the series. Brady defines the headless rykors as "descendants of exceedingly stupid humanoid creatures selectively bred by the Kaldanes over eons for strength, health, beauty and microcephaly" (285). The kaldanes are the "heads" for these bodies, but are, again in Brady's words, "soft and boneless, with a huge brain" (170). The kaldanes control the rykors either by direct connection through the spinal column or through telepathic direction. They are long-lived and have prepared for the eventual depletion of the planet's atmosphere, themselves needing no oxygen, by storing vast amounts of food underground. They argue that the body is of no consequence and that endless contemplation would be the paradise they anticipate. Holtsmark points out that Gahan "refutes the argument, insisting on a balanced outlook that does not give exclusive attention to the demands of the intellect, but fair billing also to the passions of the body" (32).

The game of jetan, likewise, has drawn more than passing interest. Its 10 x 10 board of alternating black and orange squares is a common table game in the cities of Barsoom, but in Manator, it is played in a giant arena with living "pieces." In this variation, the attacking piece is not guaranteed the square but must fight for it. Porges identifies the use of jetan in the book as an important device which "achieves a unity and intensity not attained in other works" (350).

The plot device of assumed identities is also important in reading this novel. Gahan spends more time under an assumed name in this book than he does under his own. In unifying the plot summaries, the assumed name is used in the portion where he publicly appears under that name; so, he assumes the name Turan in chapter 8, which is the name used until he takes on the name U-Kal for the jetan competition in chapter 16. His ruse is discovered and he is known as Turan again from chapter 18 to near the end of chapter 22, when his identity as Gahan is finally revealed to Tara. Reading the novel itself is not this simple, as Burroughs interchanges the name Gahan with his aliases regularly.

Sources consulted for this introduction:

Prelude: John Carter Comes to Earth

By Hadron

ERB begins this tale with the familiar technique of placing himself personally in the introduction. He -- ERB -- has just lost another game of chess to his friend Shea. After the game, Shea goes to bed. ERB chooses instead to sit by the chess table, leisurely blowing smoke at "the dishonored head of my defeated king." Thus preoccupied, he hears the opening of the living-room door, and the sound of someone coming in. In the doorway connecting the living-room with the library is a bronzed giant, naked but for a bejeweled harness with an ornate short-sword on one side, and a pistol of bizarre design on the other. It is none other than John Carter himself, as youthful-looking, unaged as ever, and likely to remain so indefinitely. The Warlord of Barsoom has returned to Earth, his first such return in the garb of a Barsoomian warrior and Prince of Helium, to see his "nephew" -- ERB -- and to see if he can transport inanimate objects from Barsoom to Earth. John Carter sits across the chessboard from ERB, and toys with the pieces. He then tells ERB of jetan, Barsoomian chess, and of the adventures that befell his daughter, Tara of Helium, in a land where jetan is played with living pieces.

Chapter 1: Tara in a Tantrum

By Hadron

Tara of Helium, daughter of John Carter and Dejah Thoris, is preparing for a midday function in the palace of her father. She is peeved that Djor Kantos, son of her father's best friend, does not spend all of his time with her but is with Olvia Marthis, daughter of the Jed of Hastor instead. One who does pay court to her, an unwelcome court, is the bejeweled Gahan, Jed of Gathol. There is considerable give and take between Tara and Gahan. The woman seems impressed by his gorgeous trappings of diamonds and platinum. The Dance of Barsoom begins. Gahan claims Tara for it as his partner. Impulsively at the end of the dance, Gahan boldly proclaims, "Tara of Helium, I love you!" Offended by his effrontery, Tara returns to her quarters in her father's palace. "I hate him!" she proclaims to her slave, Uthia. Looking at Woola, her father's faithful calot, she admires Woola's deep, unconditional love, and wishes that men might emulate the character of this noble beast.

Chapter 2: At the Gale's Mercy

By Hadron

The petulant Tara does not return to the dance. She goes out, instead, in a one-man flier, returning home just before dark. At dinner, John Carter gently reproaches her for deserting his guests. She replies that they were his guests, not hers -- she was under no obligation to remain. In the ensuing chatter, Carter reveals that Gahan of Gathol has asked the Warlord's permission to woo Tara, adding that Gahan was used to getting what he wanted and that he wanted Tara very much. "I suppose it will mean another war," Carter muses. "Your mother's beauty kept Helium at war for many years." After dinner, Carter and Dejah Thoris play at jetan, the Barsoomian equivalent of chess, with a brief description of the game offered. The next morning is a dull, grey one, with dense, ominous clouds rolling in overhead. Despite the threatening weather, Tara again gets into her flier and takes to the sky soon to find that she has much more trouble than she had bargained for. All day, and through the night, the rough winds toss her about as a toy. Cold, hungry, miserable, Tara finds herself utterly at the mercy of the elements. Meanwhile, back in Helium, Tara's absence is soon noticed. Her father wastes no time in organizing a search-and-rescue mission. Upon hearing that Tara is missing and in danger, the brave and resolute Gahan rushes off. He plans to find Tara.

Chapter 3 - Headless humans

By Hadron

A storm of titanic power lashes Helium with an unimaginable fury. It threatens to destroy the Vanator, Gahan's cruiser. Gahan and his crew sail forth in search of Tara, just as the tempest destroys the scarlet tower that had marked Lesser Helium for ages, bringing death and destruction to the city below. The second day the storm's fury begins to subside. Tired, Tara in her flier is close to the ground now. Off in the distance, she sees a dome-capped tower. Near its enclosure, she sees a score of headless humans -- crouching on their hands and knees! Later she sees two beings emerge from the tower -- perfect human bodies with hideous heads! After quenching her thirst in a nearby stream, she is soon treed by banths, ferocious Barsoomian lion-like creatures. Her predicament seems hopeless.

Chapter 4: Captured

By Stan Galloway

Tara spouts some poetic lines as Cluros rises. Banths wander singly away. Discouraged, almost asleep, she shakes and says, "I still live!" After dawn, the last banth gone, Tara starts for the hills, watching three towers that separate her from her flier. At the second tower, a gate opens. Tara hides and rebukes herself for her fear of the headless bodies. The fields fill with workers of beautiful bodies and hideous heads. Discovered, she runs but is encircled by the creatures. In a feinting move she rams rugby-fashion a single interceptor, stabs him and leaps up. The impact sent the head flying and it began crawling on "six short spider-like legs." Delayed by the collision she is caught, though another couple heads crawl away in the struggle. The captors argue over jurisdiction, and one chops another's head, which "collapsed, almost as a punctured balloon." The headless body begins to wander aimlessly. A head claims the body, climbs to the collar and seats itself. Another head is picked up and carried, joining in the conversation as the creatures take her to Luud's tower. There the carried head appropriates a new body, this time a female's. Inside the tower they descend through passages lit by reflected light. Tara, feeling less fearful, hums. Her captor asks her to continue with the sounds. She sings, which the creature says it likes better. It asks her to explain how she does it, but Tara cannot. They continue now in passages lit by typical radium bulbs.

Chapter 5: The Perfect Brain

By Bob Zeuschner

Tara is taken into Luud's tower and then a chamber where a half-dozen heads tear pieces from a body with their chelae. The bodies are for food as well as labor, Tara's guard explains. The two enter another room, where heads emerge from small tunnels and mount bodies. They pinch her. One says, "She will have to be fattened more." She asks if they intend to eat her. It depends on Luud, the guard replies. He says he will repay kindness for singing. The heads, he explains, are kaldanes, but the bodies are rykors. The kaldanes appear devoid of emotion. She is taken into Luud's chamber, where her guard names himself Ghek, a foreman in Luud's fields. Tara explains that the storm grounded her and she was returning to her flier. Luud tells her, "None who enters Bantoom ever leaves." He explains that Nature exists to serve Bantoom, and she shall be a meal for them when fatter. He assigns Ghek to see that she sleeps and eats, and nothing else. Ghek takes Tara to a small apartment and asks her to sing. Tara sings. Ghek explains that the kaldanes come from Luud's eggs. He also shows Tara how kaldanes control the rykors by inserting tentacles in an opening above the spinal cord. He explains that the kaldanes are mostly brains and do not need oxygen. When the atmosphere of Mars is gone, kaldanes will survive. Many kaldanes believe that they will eventually become only brains, where they can lie and think without distractions.

Chapter 6: In the Toils of Horror

By Bob Zeuschner

Tara marvels at the effect her singing has upon him. Ghek tells her he does not feel sentiment; but, when mounted on the rykor looking at her beautiful body, he could love her. Ghek explains how the rykor-kaldane symbiosis evolved. Time passes. Tara barely eats and begins growing thin and white. Tara explains that she must have fresh air and sunshine. Luud orders Ghek to take her to the surface, but never left alone. Tara plans to escape. She tells Ghek she needs to walk in sunlight. Luud allows this but Ghek tells her that if she does not fatten, Luud will send for her but not for food. Tara shudders. She walks every day. Finally Ghek tells her that this will be her last time in the sunlight. Tara strikes Ghek's neck, dislodging the kaldane, and rushes toward the hills. She is caught, and Ghek returns her to the tower. Tara plans to commit suicide. Guards come for Tara. They also inform Ghek that he is defective because he enjoys her singing, and will be destroyed as an example to others. Tara is taken to Luud, who tells her that he knows that she is thinking of death (his or hers), but she cannot pit her imperfect brain against his. Luud stares at the rykor lying on the ground, and presently, rising, it lifts Luud to its neck. Then he begins hypnotizing her, and draws her into another chamber. Luud speaks, and the spell is weakened. She avoids looking at his eyes and very slowly struggles to reach the doorway. The rykor grabs her leg. Tara tries to fight, but she is weak.

Chapter 7: A Repellent Sight

By Bob Zeuschner

The sailors aboard the Gathol flier Vanator are exhausted after the tempest, and one falls overboard, clinging to ropes. Gahan rescues the warrior, but is himself knocked overboard. Twisted and turning, a plaything of the wind, Gahan finally falls into the soft ochre moss with only a few bruises. He goes in the direction he believes Gathol to lie, and after several weeks of walking, he comes upon the valley of Bantoom. From a distance he observes a female knock the head off a male, and try to run toward the hills. It was Tara's abortive attempt to escape. Gahan does not recognize Tara, and continues on until he stumbles on Tara's flier, with the crested emblem of the Princess of Helium. He realizes that it was Tara that he saw trying to run. Tara's flier is lacking a propeller, but it is still capable of flying, so Gahan sets it afloat, and using a rope tows the little craft toward the tower. He anchors the flier along the wall inside the enclosure. He sees headless bodies lying on the ground, but they are alive. He shudders, realizing that Tara is the captive of creatures such as these. He enters the tower door to search for Tara.

Chapter 8: Close Work

By Stan Galloway

Ghek muses over the effect Tara has over him and the nebulous injustice of his own impending death from it. Gahan enters Ghek's room searching for Tara. Ghek strikes a pact with him to help him rescue her in return for safe conduct out of Bantoom. Ghek conducts Gahan to Luud's antechamber. There, two figures struggle. One is Tara. Gahan fights in. Despite warning, Gahan is caught by Luud's gaze and Ghek's rykor begins reaching slowly for a dagger. Tara sings, distracting Luud and Ghek. Ghek sails the dagger into Luud's face. Ghek takes the king's rykor as his own and leads Tara and Gahan out. Tara fails to recognize Gahan, and he does not identify himself and takes on the name Turan. Ghek proposes they barricade themselves in the tower until daylight because of the banths. Turan says they need not fear the banths; they need only reach Tara's flier tethered in the enclosure. Against Tara's word, Turan assumes command and covers their retreat so that Tara and Ghek can reach the flier. Tara is angered at being ignored, but excuses Turan's behavior on his low station. She then smiles because "his heart was right." As she sees him fight she admires his form, before she is taken out of sight.

Chapter 9: Adrift Over Strange Regions

By Fredrik Ekman

Ascending to the surface, Tara and Ghek board the flier while Turan holds back the attacking kaldanes. They rise above the ground and Turan grabs a trailing cable, kaldanes hot in pursuit. The combined weight of three is almost too much for the one-man flier and kaldanes on the ground nearly succeed in pulling it down before Turan cuts the cable below him. The trio drifts for two days without food or water, and on the morning of the third day they see a city. Landing in a small ravine, they decide to wait until dark before trying to move close to the city in their search for food and water. The city gives an impression of old age, its inhabitants apparently having neither fliers nor firearms. After nightfall, Turan sets out for food and water.

Chapter 10: Entrapped

By Fredrik Ekman

Unable to find any food or water outside the city walls, Turan sneaks into the city by an open gate, not knowing that his every move is observed by the city guards. Cleverly maneuvered farther into the city, Turan is eventually tricked into entering a building, descending a staircase and then entering a room. As he crosses the chamber the door behind him closes and he is trapped in what turns out to be a dungeon cell. A heavy odor fills the air and he falls asleep. By morning, Tara and Ghek are found outside the city by a troop led by U-Dor, dwar of the 8th Utan of O-Tar, Jeddak of Manator. Ghek wants to fight in spite of the hopeless odds, but Tara persuades him to give up and use his brain against the foes instead.

Chapter 11: The Choice of Tara

By Stan Galloway

They enter the city, passing "grotesque statuettes of men." Tara is delighted with the city scene out of Barsoom's past, including "women in brilliant trappings" and zitidar-drawn carts on stone pavement. But from all the balconied people and festive instruments there comes no sound. They pass through the Hall of Chiefs complete with rows of unmoving warriors, then the next chamber where warriors on thoatback quickly form a procession corridor for them. After a time, O-Tar, the jeddak, summons them. Tara asks for favorable treatment based on her heritage. O-Tar scorns her request and asks if she has a champion to fight to win her freedom. She asks for Turan, but O-Tar proposes himself. She rebuffs his offer. Tara and Ghek are promptly separated and imprisoned. U-Dor delivers her to A-Kor, regretting that she has "the tongue of a thoat" or else he would have "honored" her himself. Tara stumbles into A-Kor from apparent weakness. A-Kor scorns U-Dor and O-Tar for their lack of consideration, revealing that he himself, keeper of The Towers of Jetan, is the son of O-Tar and a Gatholian slave. He carries the fainting Tara to her tower room and orders Lan-O, a slave girl, to bring food and water. Regaining consciousness, Tara learns from Lan-O that many of the slaves are from Gathol, including herself. A "hulking fellow," E-Med, interrupts their talk, proclaiming himself the new keeper of the tower, following A-Kor's removal to the pits.

Chapter 12: Ghek Plays Pranks

By David Adams

Ghek, the kaldane, is imprisoned, his rykor chained to a wall. Turan awakens, imprisoned in the same fashion as Ghek. He is attacked by an ulsio, a Martian rat, but quickly strangles it. The key to his cell door lies just out of reach on a table bolted to the floor. Ghek crawls from his rykor and takes the key. He goes into the ulsio tunnels and eats some of them. He arrives back in the cell just as a guard, U-Van, sees the headless rykor. When the guard runs for an officer's help, Ghek crawls back on the rykor's shoulders. The officer doesn't know what to think when he sees the normal situation. Ghek asks for more food, and when they go to get it, he unlocks his rykor's chain and hides down a side corridor. The "food guard," I-Zan, runs to tell his officer, but Ghek has the rykor back and locked again by the time they arrive. Ghek has hidden the key in one of the ulsio holes, so no one can explain its disappearance from the table. I-Zan is made to stay in Ghek's cell to watch him.

Chapter 13: A Desperate Deed

By David Adams

E-Med plans to win a game of jetan for his prize, Tara of Helium. He stops by the tower chamber for a kiss to "examine" the reward before the game and is killed by Tara's concealed knife. "Life is sweet, but honor is sacred," she quips, wiping her blade on his harness. Tara and Lan-O drag E-Med's body to a room a level below. Finding a secret panel, they deposit the corpse and note the mechanism for a quick entry another day. They return to their cell, keeping E-Med's key. Lan-O speaks well of A-Kor. She explains the game of jetan to Tara, how it is played to the death with living pieces in the arena of orange and black squares. If a man survives 10 games, he wins his liberty; a woman can gain freedom if a warrior wins 10 games for her. "Just are the laws of Manator." E-Med is missed, and the women are questioned to no avail. Tara is suspected of being a Corphal, an evil spirit who could enter the body of a criminal to work evil. The Great Jed, U-Thor of Manatos, second city of Manator, arrives in the city through The Gate of Enemies. His wife is the former Gatholian slave Haja, mother of A-Kor. Lan-O explains that he is a good and just man unlike O-Tar. (Note: a very poetic paragraph begins, "A gorgeous, barbaric procession of painted warriors...") Tara is summoned before O-Tar.

Chapter 14: At Ghek's Command

By David Adams

Turan learns from A-Kor that Tara is a prisoner. A-Kor has been chained next to Turan for his effrontery before O-Tar. Turan also learns that A-Kor is his own cousin, son of his mother's sister. Turan is summoned before O-Tar. On the way he notes the architecture and art of Manator, all of which depicts the game of jetan. Tara is brought before O-Tar and accused of Corphalism -- witchcraft. Ghek is also brought in and accused by I-Zan of "holding him with his eyes." They are condemned to die. Turan is brought in, and Tara pleads that she does not know him, so he cannot be a part of their fate. Turan is condemned by a guard who says he inquired after Tara. Turan pleads to U-Thor that their real identities can be confirmed by A-Kor, son of Haja of Gathol. Because Haja is now the wife of U-Thor, A-Kor is his son by marriage. Ghek stops all the bickering and accusations by announcing that he is a kaldane, not a Corphal, and is superior to all of them. O-Tar decides to kill them anyway and right away with his sword, but Ghek "holds him with his mind." He tells Tara and Turan to escape through a secret opening behind the throne while he holds them off.

Chapter 15: The Old Man of the Pits

By David Adams

Turan carries Tara through the opening and into the pits of the palace. Ghek is returned to his cell. O-Tar sends guards after Turan and Tara, having commuted their sentences to the Field of Jetan. U-Thor demands a fair trial for A-Kor, and a battle begins in the throne room that is carried into the city towards The Gate of Enemies. Turan kisses Tara in the pits, and she pushes him away saying that she hates him, but she weeps. An old man cackles, "Love in the pits of O-Tar!" He also quotes Proverbs 30:19, "The way of a man with a maid. ..." He tells them of the many women he has loved over 2000 years. He thinks Turan and Tara have been sent to be his "pupils." He is a taxidermist, a mounter of the dead who restores bodies so well that they look like living but motionless beings. (He has also "mounted" all of his former wives and spends "quiet" evenings with them.) The balconies and walls of Manator are filled with his silent creations. He has prepared the warriors in The Hall of Chiefs, and O-Tar often "confers" with them because there is no friction or misunderstandings. This mad taxidermist, I-Gos, locks up Turan and accosts Tara --"Come to I-Gos!"

Chapter 16: Another Change of Name

By Stan Galloway

Turan tries to force his way out of the room where I-Gos has put him. Finding weapons he hacks his way through the door. He finds I-Gos's body, but no Tara. He remembers her words of rejection and assumes she has abandoned him. To try to help her, he dons the trappings of a mounted warrior, copying the paint pattern from his model. Markings in the hallways do not aid him. Written languages of Barsoom are localized even though spoken language is universal. Another warrior tells Turan that Tara has been recaptured and will be a prize of the next day's games. Turan then finds his former cell and is joined there by Ghek minus his rykor. A-Kor proposes that Turan enlist in the games, buy off the others with money provided by A-Kor, then after winning Tara escape with thoats and provisions secured by A-Kor's signet. Fields of Jetan A-Kor suggests the name U-Kal as Turan's new alias. The next day he befriends the new tower keeper, pretending to know a mutual friend, bribes his way to play the Black chieftain and requests his other players be slaves from Gathol. The keeper allows him free reign among the unattached players to select his men. He assembles his team, including Val Dor of Helium. He learns that the game in Manator uses a piece called odwar instead of flier, and Val Dor suspects that U-Kal is not who he says. U-Kal then reveals to his players that they fight for honor of a princess as well as a chance at their own freedom under his leadership.

Chapter 17: A Play to the Death

By Stan Galloway

After the first inconsequential game, the game for Tara, who is placed on the Black princess square, begins, a game to the death. Surprisingly, the Orange chief is U-Dor and his princess is Lan-O. Tara recognizes Val Dor who assures her that no man of Manator is on her team. Tara then eyes U-Kal and recognizes him. The play begins, U-Dor's tactics forceful, U-Kal's calculated. The first fight is between Val Dor and the Orange odwar. The Orange odwar draws first blood, but is ultimately defeated by Val Dor. Several moves later, U-Kal places himself where U-Dor must either fight or send another to intercede. U-Dor sends a panthan to fight U-Kal. Tara admires the swordplay of U-Kal. Upon winning the encounter, U-Kal takes on U-Dor. Their contest is long and furious, dragging its way toward the scant moment of Barsoomian dusk. Twenty minutes before dark, U-Kal slashes and cleaves U-Dor.

Chapter 18: A Task for Loyalty

By Stan Galloway

The team is led before the disapproving jeddak. Unnoted, Val Dor and Floran go to the gates below O-Tar's enclosure. I-Gos, who was thought dead, scrutinizes them, identifying U-Kal as Turan. Val Dor and Floran open the gates. The team flees in the cover of sudden darkness toward The Gate of Enemies where U-Thor is camped after the disagreement with O-Tar. A mounted squad catches and engages them, one abducting Tara. Turan, killing his antagonist, follows Tara on thoatback. Into the palace Turan follows but is pursued. Finally, he bars a room and confronts Tara's captor. The man threatens Tara if Turan comes closer. As he retreats with Tara, another Manatorian cleaves him from behind. The killer says he lives under an assumed name -- eyeing Turan knowingly -- and that he is Tasor (a friend in Gahan's youth). Abducted by Manatorian raiders, Tasor was servant then husband of a rich woman of Manataj. They moved to Manator after her first husband's murder and she bought Tasor a post in The Jeddak's Guard under the name A-Sor. Later, the woman died. Turan suggests that Tasor and A-Kor ask U-Thor to besiege O-Tar's palace to rescue Tara. Tasor leaves them in the shunned rooms of the dead former ruler O-Mai. Tara thanks Turan, but can consider love from only her betrothed, Djor Kantos. Tara explains that after knifing I-Gos she was captured before she could aid Turan, other than by lying about his location. I-Gos walks the hallways searching the dust.

Chapter 19: The Menace from the Dead

By David Bruce Bozarth

I-Gos speaks to O-Tar at a banquet about Turan and Tara. O-Tar is reminded his guards have not found the pair. I-Gos says he knows their location, the chambers of O-Mai the Cruel. Three chiefs volunteer to enter the haunted chamber. Meanwhile, Turan and Tara stay in the room. Talking quietly, Tara remarks upon her meeting of Gahan of Gathol, disparagingly, and then gently reveals an affection for Turan the panthan. After a kiss, she admits her love, begging Turan that she not dishonor her commitment to Djor Kantos. Turan struggles with his desire then hears the approach of armed men. Seeking escape, they enter a different room where a jetan game is being played. In a moment Turan realizes the players are long dead, their life-likeness the result of the ancient taxidermist's art. They enter another dusty bedroom wrapped with draperies. Near a massive bed lies a dead man -O-Mai the Cruel. The draperies move supernaturally, yet both are forced to hide there in the dark, watching the chamber. Three chiefs and 12 warriors had followed the tracks through the dust and now are in the chamber of O-Mai, with nerves on edge. A moan followed by a shriek sets the panicked warriors running. Returning to O-Tar they make their report. O-Tar is not impressed, but one in the audience says, (paraphrased) "Where you go, I go." O-Tar hesitates.

Chapter 20: The Charge of Cowardice

By David Bruce Bozarth

The pursuers flee. Turan discovers Tara gone. Behind the wall hangings a door is ajar. In the distance is laughter. He follows the faint trail of disturbed dust. Levels later he encounters Ghek. They update each other: A-Kor has escaped and joined U-Thor at The Gate of Enemies. Tasor provided information to Ghek. They discuss a plan involving U-Thor's future forces and the Gatholian slaves rising up against O-Tar. Turan writes a message to Floran, bidding Ghek to deliver it. Ghek avows his loyalty, stating he can never return to Bantoom because he has learned the finer things in life. Elsewhere, O-Tar is surprised when I-Gos enters the banquet hall with Tara. I-Gos taunts the superstitious warriors who fled. O-Tar inquires of Turan. I-Gos says he is in O-Mai's death chamber. O-Tar orders Tara unbound to dine at his side as a princess of Helium. She is reluctant. O-Tar clears the room. O-Tar declares he will marry her on the seventh day then brings back the chiefs of Manator to make the announcement. E-Thas conducts Tara to the women's quarters. Meanwhile, Turan explores ancient corridors armed with Ghek's descriptions. Days later, E-Thas speaks freely to O-Tar of the chieftains' disgust that O-Tar will not enter the chambers of O-Mai, as well as their fondness for A-Kor, conveying the general opinion that O-Tar is a coward. O-Tar, faced with revolution, tells E-Thas to announce he will search for Turan in O-Mai's chambers.

Chapter 21: A Risk for Love

By David Bruce Bozarth

To a group of chieftains I-Gos suggests O-Tar has killed A-Kor before E-Thas approaches to announce O-Tar will enter the chamber of O-Mai, taunting their courage to accompany their jeddak. I-Gos declares he will attend and that he has been there before, and has no fear of a 5,000-year-old corpse. When the time comes, O-Tar nervously approaches the chamber, aware he is followed by his people. He enters the chamber, and faints as a figure rises from the bed. Turan notes the presence of I-Gos in the hangings, who speaks quickly: "I came to make sure that the great coward did not cheat us." I-Gos offers his sword to Turan and reveals where Tara is confined. I-Gos prevents Turan from slaying the unconscious jeddak because O-Tar's women would slay Tara. I-Gos kneels briefly beside O-Tar, then leads Turan through the corridors to a rooftop, where he points out the tower confining Tara. I-Gos departs. Turan scales the indicated tower. Locating her room, Turan is saved by Tara's deadly knife attack upon the eunuch guard. "Turan, my chief!" she cries. "One kiss," he says, "before I go, my princess."

Chapter 22: At the Moment of Marriage

By David Bruce Bozarth

O-Tar revives, lies at the banquet, and discovers his dagger missing. On the wedding day E-Thas brings Tara to O-Tar. O-Tar enters the Hall of Chiefs, returning five minutes later. The groom stops Tara's attempted suicide. O-Tar, disheveled, enters the room crying imposter. Turan removes the mask. I-Gos reveals O-Tar's cowardice, saying O-Tar's dagger is in O-Mai's bed. Three hurry to O-Mai's chamber while warriors approach Turan. Exterior, there is an assault. U-Thor enters, proclaiming A-Kor jeddak. A wounded Manator padwar reports the city fallen, the slaves risen, and ships from Helium and Gathol landing warriors. Moments later Carter and Djor Kantos enter. Seeing Tara unharmed, Carter offers a truce. The chiefs of Manator look to O-Tar. Carter hears of three captured chiefs relating O-Tar's cowardice and the found dagger. The people support A-Kor. O-Tar uses the incriminating dagger for suicide. A-Kor decrees peace. Djor Kantos apologizes to Tara: thinking her dead, he married Olvia Marthis and offers his life for dishonoring their promise. Tara happily releases him as Gatholian warriors arrive. Tara introduces Turan. Turan is revealed as Gahan. Tara, surprised, recovers quickly. "Jed or panthan, what difference does it make what one's slave has been?" On Earth, Carter rises. Burroughs begs him to answer some questions. Ghek now lives in Helium with a rykor mount. Carter scratches a cross on a concrete arch to prove his visit.

Appendix to Chessmen of Mars: A description of jetan, or Martian chess. See: A Barsoom Glossary - Jetan