The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 37

do the bidding of the race of therns; to furnish at
once their sport and their sustenance.

"Now and again some hapless pilgrim, drifting out upon the silent sea
from the cold Iss, escapes the plant men and the great white apes that
guard the Temple of Issus and falls into the remorseless clutches of
the therns; or, as was my misfortune, is coveted by the Holy Thern who
chances to be upon watch in the balcony above the river where it issues
from the bowels of the mountains through the cliffs of gold to empty
into the Lost Sea of Korus.

"All who reach the Valley Dor are, by custom, the rightful prey of the
plant men and the apes, while their arms and ornaments become the
portion of the therns; but if one escapes the terrible denizens of the
valley for even a few hours the therns may claim such a one as their
own. And again the Holy Thern on watch, should he see a victim he
covets, often tramples upon the rights of the unreasoning brutes of the
valley and takes his prize by foul means if he cannot gain it by fair.

"It is said that occasionally some deluded victim of Barsoomian
superstition will so far escape the clutches of the countless enemies
that beset his path from the moment that he emerges from the
subterranean passage through which the Iss flows for a thousand miles
before it enters the Valley Dor as to reach the very walls of the
Temple of Issus; but what fate awaits one there not even the Holy
Therns may guess, for who has passed within those gilded walls never
has returned to unfold the mysteries they have held since the beginning
of time.

"The Temple of Issus is to the therns what the Valley Dor is imagined
by the peoples of the outer world to be to them; it is the ultimate
haven of peace, refuge, and happiness to which they pass after this
life and wherein an eternity of eternities is spent amidst the delights
of the flesh which appeal most strongly to this race of mental giants
and moral pygmies."

"The Temple of Issus is, I take it, a heaven within a heaven," I said.
"Let us hope that there it will be meted to the therns as they have
meted it here unto others."

"Who knows?" the girl murmured.

"The therns, I judge from what you have said, are no less mortal than
we; and yet have I always heard them spoken of with the utmost awe and
reverence by the people

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