The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 36

yet
expressed a desire to return to the living world, I am taking him with
me from the living lie that hath lured him to this frightful place.

"I am of another world. I am John Carter, Prince of the House of
Tardos Mors, Jeddak of Helium. Perchance some faint rumour of me may
have leaked within the confines of your hellish abode."

She smiled.

"Yes," she replied, "naught that passes in the world we have left is
unknown here. I have heard of you, many years ago. The therns have
ofttimes wondered whither you had flown, since you had neither taken
the pilgrimage, nor could be found upon the face of Barsoom."

"Tell me," I said, "and who be you, and why a prisoner, yet with power
over the ferocious beasts of the place that denotes familiarity and
authority far beyond that which might be expected of a prisoner or a
slave?"

"Slave I am," she answered. "For fifteen years a slave in this
terrible place, and now that they have tired of me and become fearful
of the power which my knowledge of their ways has given me I am but
recently condemned to die the death."

She shuddered.

"What death?" I asked.

"The Holy Therns eat human flesh," she answered me; "but only that
which has died beneath the sucking lips of a plant man--flesh from
which the defiling blood of life has been drawn. And to this cruel end
I have been condemned. It was to be within a few hours, had your
advent not caused an interruption of their plans."

"Was it then Holy Therns who felt the weight of John Carter's hand?" I
asked.

"Oh, no; those whom you laid low are lesser therns; but of the same
cruel and hateful race. The Holy Therns abide upon the outer slopes of
these grim hills, facing the broad world from which they harvest their
victims and their spoils.

"Labyrinthine passages connect these caves with the luxurious palaces
of the Holy Therns, and through them pass upon their many duties the
lesser therns, and hordes of slaves, and prisoners, and fierce beasts;
the grim inhabitants of this sunless world.

"There be within this vast network of winding passages and countless
chambers men, women, and beasts who, born within its dim and gruesome
underworld, have never seen the light of day--nor ever shall.

"They are kept to 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

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