The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 50

the black pirates threw themselves upon their foes transcended
everything I ever before had seen.

Beneath the brilliant light of Mars' two glorious moons the whole scene
presented itself in vivid distinctness. The golden-haired,
white-skinned therns battling with desperate courage in hand-to-hand
conflict with their ebony-skinned foemen.

Here a little knot of struggling warriors trampled a bed of gorgeous
pimalia; there the curved sword of a black man found the heart of a
thern and left its dead foeman at the foot of a wondrous statue carved
from a living ruby; yonder a dozen therns pressed a single pirate back
upon a bench of emerald, upon whose iridescent surface a strangely
beautiful Barsoomian design was traced out in inlaid diamonds.

A little to one side stood Thuvia, the Thark, and I. The tide of
battle had not reached us, but the fighters from time to time swung
close enough that we might distinctly note them.

The black pirates interested me immensely. I had heard vague rumours,
little more than legends they were, during my former life on Mars; but
never had I seen them, nor talked with one who had.

They were popularly supposed to inhabit the lesser moon, from which
they descended upon Barsoom at long intervals. Where they visited they
wrought the most horrible atrocities, and when they left carried away
with them firearms and ammunition, and young girls as prisoners. These
latter, the rumour had it, they sacrificed to some terrible god in an
orgy which ended in the eating of their victims.

I had an excellent opportunity to examine them, as the strife
occasionally brought now one and now another close to where I stood.
They were large men, possibly six feet and over in height. Their
features were clear cut and handsome in the extreme; their eyes were
well set and large, though a slight narrowness lent them a crafty
appearance; the iris, as well as I could determine by moonlight, was of
extreme blackness, while the eyeball itself was quite white and clear.
The physical structure of their bodies seemed identical with those of
the therns, the red men, and my own. Only in the colour of their skin
did they differ materially from us; that is of the appearance of
polished ebony, and odd as it may seem for a Southerner to say it, adds
to rather than detracts from their marvellous beauty.

But if their bodies are divine, their hearts, apparently, are quite the
reverse. Never did I witness such a malign lust for blood as these
demons of the outer air

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