The Gods of Mars
Chapter 21. Through Flood And Flame
Yersted's information convinced me that there was no time to be lost. I must reach the
Temple of Issus secretly before the forces under Tars Tarkas assaulted at dawn. Once
within its hated walls I was positive that I could overcome the guards of Issus and bear
away my Princess, for at my back I would have a force ample for the occasion.
No sooner had Carthoris and the others joined me than we commenced the transportation
of our men through the submerged passage to the mouth of the gangways which lead
from the submarine pool at the temple end of the watery tunnel to the pits of Issus.
Many trips were required, but at last all stood safely together again at the beginning of
the end of our quest. Five thousand strong we were, all seasoned fighting-men of the
most warlike race of the red men of Barsoom.
As Carthoris alone knew the hidden ways of the tunnels we could not divide the party and
attack the temple at several points at once as would have been most desirable, and so it
was decided that he lead us all as quickly as possible to a point near the temple's centre.
As we were about to leave the pool and enter the corridor, an officer called my attention
to the waters upon which the submarine floated. At first they seemed to be merely
agitated as from the movement of some great body beneath the surface, and I at once
conjectured that another submarine was rising to the surface in pursuit of us; but
presently it became apparent that the level of the waters was rising, not with extreme
rapidity, but very surely, and that soon they would overflow the sides of the pool and
submerge the floor of the chamber.
For a moment I did not fully grasp the terrible import of the slowly rising water. It was
Carthoris who realized the full meaning of the thing--its cause and the reason for it.
"Haste!" he cried. "If we delay, we all are lost. The pumps of Omean have been stopped.
They would drown us like rats in a trap. We must reach the upper levels of the pits in
advance of the flood or we shall never reach them. Come."
"Lead the way, Carthoris," I cried. "We will follow."
At my command, the youth leaped into one of the corridors, and in column of twos the
soldiers followed him in good order, each company entering the corridor only at the
command of its dwar, or captain.
Before the last company filed from the chamber the water was ankle deep, and that the
men were nervous was quite evident. Entirely unaccustomed to water except in quantities
sufficient for drinking and bathing purposes the red Martians instinctively shrank from it
in such formidable depths and menacing activity. That they were undaunted while it
swirled and eddied about their ankles, spoke well for their bravery and their discipline.