The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 38

allotted span of life,
one thousand years, when by the authority of custom they may take their
way in happiness through the long tunnel that leads to Issus.

"Those who die before are supposed to spend the balance of their
allotted time in the image of a plant man, and it is for this reason
that the plant men are held sacred by the therns, since they believe
that each of these hideous creatures was formerly a thern."

"And should a plant man die?" I asked.

"Should he die before the expiration of the thousand years from the
birth of the thern whose immortality abides within him then the soul
passes into a great white ape, but should the ape die short of the
exact hour that terminates the thousand years the soul is for ever lost
and passes for all eternity into the carcass of the slimy and fearsome
silians whose wriggling thousands seethe the silent sea beneath the
hurtling moons when the sun has gone and strange shapes walk through
the Valley Dor."

"We sent several Holy Therns to the silians to-day, then," said Tars
Tarkas, laughing.

"And so will your death be the more terrible when it comes," said the
maiden. "And come it will--you cannot escape."

"One has escaped, centuries ago," I reminded her, "and what has been
done may be done again."

"It is useless even to try," she answered hopelessly.

"But try we shall," I cried, "and you shall go with us, if you wish."

"To be put to death by mine own people, and render my memory a disgrace
to my family and my nation? A Prince of the House of Tardos Mors
should know better than to suggest such a thing."

Tars Tarkas listened in silence, but I could feel his eyes riveted upon
me and I knew that he awaited my answer as one might listen to the
reading of his sentence by the foreman of a jury.

What I advised the girl to do would seal our fate as well, since if I
bowed to the inevitable decree of age-old superstition we must all
remain and meet our fate in some horrible form within this awful abode
of horror and cruelty.

"We have the right to escape if we can," I answered. "Our own moral
senses will not be offended if we succeed, for we know that the fabled
life of love and peace in the blessed Valley of Dor is a rank and
wicked deception. We know that the valley is not sacred; we know that
the Holy Therns are not holy; that

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