The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 107

which none could have
access without detection. I myself have borne these messages for Issus
for many years. There is a long tunnel from the temple of Issus to the
principal temple of Matai Shang. It was dug ages ago by the slaves of
the First Born in such utter secrecy that no thern ever guessed its
existence.

"The therns for their part have temples dotted about the entire
civilized world. Here priests whom the people never see communicate
the doctrine of the Mysterious River Iss, the Valley Dor, and the Lost
Sea of Korus to persuade the poor deluded creatures to take the
voluntary pilgrimage that swells the wealth of the Holy Therns and adds
to the numbers of their slaves.

"Thus the therns are used as the principal means for collecting the
wealth and labour that the First Born wrest from them as they need it.
Occasionally the First Born themselves make raids upon the outer world.
It is then that they capture many females of the royal houses of the
red men, and take the newest in battleships and the trained artisans
who build them, that they may copy what they cannot create.

"We are a non-productive race, priding ourselves upon our
non-productiveness. It is criminal for a First Born to labour or
invent. That is the work of the lower orders, who live merely that the
First Born may enjoy long lives of luxury and idleness. With us
fighting is all that counts; were it not for that there would be more
of the First Born than all the creatures of Barsoom could support, for
in so far as I know none of us ever dies a natural death. Our females
would live for ever but for the fact that we tire of them and remove
them to make place for others. Issus alone of all is protected against
death. She has lived for countless ages."

"Would not the other Barsoomians live for ever but for the doctrine of
the voluntary pilgrimage which drags them to the bosom of Iss at or
before their thousandth year?" I asked him.

"I feel now that there is no doubt but that they are precisely the same
species of creature as the First Born, and I hope that I shall live to
fight for them in atonement of the sins I have committed against them
through the ignorance born of generations of false teaching."

As he ceased speaking a weird call rang out across the waters of Omean.
I had heard it at the same

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