The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 78

escort.

"Let them rise," said a voice behind us; a thin, wavering voice, yet
one that had evidently been accustomed to command for many years.

"Rise," said our escort, "but do not face toward Issus."

"The woman pleases me," said the thin, wavering voice again after a few
moments of silence. "She shall serve me the allotted time. The man
you may return to the Isle of Shador which lies against the northern
shore of the Sea of Omean. Let the woman turn and look upon Issus,
knowing that those of the lower orders who gaze upon the holy vision of
her radiant face survive the blinding glory but a single year."

I watched Phaidor from the corner of my eye. She paled to a ghastly
hue. Slowly, very slowly she turned, as though drawn by some invisible
yet irresistible force. She was standing quite close to me, so close
that her bare arm touched mine as she finally faced Issus, Goddess of
Life Eternal.

I could not see the girl's face as her eyes rested for the first time
on the Supreme Deity of Mars, but felt the shudder that ran through her
in the trembling flesh of the arm that touched mine.

"It must be dazzling loveliness indeed," thought I, "to cause such
emotion in the breast of so radiant a beauty as Phaidor, daughter of
Matai Shang."

"Let the woman remain. Remove the man. Go." Thus spoke Issus, and
the heavy hand of the officer fell upon my shoulder. In accordance
with his instructions I dropped to my hands and knees once more and
crawled from the Presence. It had been my first audience with deity,
but I am free to confess that I was not greatly impressed--other than
with the ridiculous figure I cut scrambling about on my marrow bones.

Once without the chamber the doors closed behind us and I was bid to
rise. Xodar joined me and together we slowly retraced our steps toward
the gardens.

"You spared my life when you easily might have taken it," he said after
we had proceeded some little way in silence, "and I would aid you if I
might. I can help to make your life here more bearable, but your fate
is inevitable. You may never hope to return to the outer world."

"What will be my fate?" I asked.

"That will depend largely upon Issus. So long as she does not send for
you and reveal her face to you, you may live on for years

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