The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 79

Such a fighter as you, for example, would render fine sport
in the monthly rites of the temple. There are men pitted against men,
and against beasts for the edification of Issus and the replenishment
of her larder."

"She eats human flesh?" I asked. Not in horror, however, for since my
recently acquired knowledge of the Holy Therns I was prepared for
anything in this still less accessible heaven, where all was evidently
dictated by a single omnipotence; where ages of narrow fanaticism and
self-worship had eradicated all the broader humanitarian instincts that
the race might once have possessed.

They were a people drunk with power and success, looking upon the other
inhabitants of Mars as we look upon the beasts of the field and the
forest. Why then should they not eat of the flesh of the lower orders
whose lives and characters they no more understood than do we the
inmost thoughts and sensibilities of the cattle we slaughter for our
earthly tables.

"She eats only the flesh of the best bred of the Holy Therns and the
red Barsoomians. The flesh of the others goes to our boards. The
animals are eaten by the slaves. She also eats other dainties."

I did not understand then that there lay any special significance in
his reference to other dainties. I thought the limit of ghoulishness
already had been reached in the recitation of Issus' menu. I still had
much to learn as to the depths of cruelty and bestiality to which
omnipotence may drag its possessor.

We had about reached the last of the many chambers and corridors which
led to the gardens when an officer overtook us.

"Issus would look again upon this man," he said. "The girl has told
her that he is of wondrous beauty and of such prowess that alone he
slew seven of the First Born, and with his bare hands took Xodar
captive, binding him with his own harness."

Xodar looked uncomfortable. Evidently he did not relish the thought
that Issus had learned of his inglorious defeat.

Without a word he turned and we followed the officer once again to the
closed doors before the audience chamber of Issus, Goddess of Life
Eternal.

Here the ceremony of entrance was repeated. Again Issus bid me rise.
For several minutes all was silent as the tomb. The eyes of deity were
appraising me.

Presently the thin wavering voice broke the stillness, repeating in a
singsong drone the words which for countless ages had sealed the doom
of numberless victims.

"Let the man turn

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