The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 93

or later we die in the arena."

"And you have fought often?" I asked.

"Very often," he replied. "It is my only pleasure. Some hundred black
devils have I accounted for during nearly a year of the rites of Issus.
My mother would be very proud could she only know how well I have
maintained the traditions of my father's prowess."

"Your father must have been a mighty warrior!" I said. "I have known
most of the warriors of Barsoom in my time; doubtless I knew him. Who
was he?"

"My father was--"

"Come, calots!" cried the rough voice of a guard. "To the slaughter
with you," and roughly we were hustled to the steep incline that led to
the chambers far below which let out upon the arena.

The amphitheatre, like all I had ever seen upon Barsoom, was built in a
large excavation. Only the highest seats, which formed the low wall
surrounding the pit, were above the level of the ground. The arena
itself was far below the surface.

Just beneath the lowest tier of seats was a series of barred cages on a
level with the surface of the arena. Into these we were herded. But,
unfortunately, my youthful friend was not of those who occupied a cage
with me.

Directly opposite my cage was the throne of Issus. Here the horrid
creature squatted, surrounded by a hundred slave maidens sparkling in
jewelled trappings. Brilliant cloths of many hues and strange patterns
formed the soft cushion covering of the dais upon which they reclined
about her.

On four sides of the throne and several feet below it stood three solid
ranks of heavily armed soldiery, elbow to elbow. In front of these
were the high dignitaries of this mock heaven--gleaming blacks bedecked
with precious stones, upon their foreheads the insignia of their rank
set in circles of gold.

On both sides of the throne stretched a solid mass of humanity from top
to bottom of the amphitheatre. There were as many women as men, and
each was clothed in the wondrously wrought harness of his station and
his house. With each black was from one to three slaves, drawn from
the domains of the therns and from the outer world. The blacks are all
"noble." There is no peasantry among the First Born. Even the lowest
soldier is a god, and has his slaves to wait upon him.

The First Born do no work. The men fight--that is a sacred privilege
and duty; to fight and die

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