The Gods of Mars HTML version

Chapter 12. Doomed To Die
For an instant I stood there before they fell upon me, but the first rush of them forced me
back a step or two. My foot felt for the floor but found only empty space. I had backed
into the pit which had received Issus. For a second I toppled there upon the brink. Then I
too with the boy still tightly clutched in my arms pitched backward into the black abyss.
We struck a polished chute, the opening above us closed as magically as it had opened,
and we shot down, unharmed, into a dimly lighted apartment far below the arena.
As I rose to my feet the first thing I saw was the malignant countenance of Issus glaring
at me through the heavy bars of a grated door at one side of the chamber.
"Rash mortal!" she shrilled. "You shall pay the awful penalty for your blasphemy in this
secret cell. Here you shall lie alone and in darkness with the carcass of your accomplice
festering in its rottenness by your side, until crazed by loneliness and hunger you feed
upon the crawling maggots that were once a man."
That was all. In another instant she was gone, and the dim light which had filled the cell
faded into Cimmerian blackness.
"Pleasant old lady," said a voice at my side.
"Who speaks?" I asked.
"'Tis I, your companion, who has had the honour this day of fighting shoulder to shoulder
with the greatest warrior that ever wore metal upon Barsoom."
"I thank God that you are not dead," I said. "I feared for that nasty cut upon your head."
"It but stunned me," he replied. "A mere scratch."
"Maybe it were as well had it been final," I said. "We seem to be in a pretty fix here with
a splendid chance of dying of starvation and thirst."
"Where are we?"
"Beneath the arena," I replied. "We tumbled down the shaft that swallowed Issus as she
was almost at our mercy."
He laughed a low laugh of pleasure and relief, and then reaching out through the inky
blackness he sought my shoulder and pulled my ear close to his mouth.
"Nothing could be better," he whispered. "There are secrets within the secrets of Issus of
which Issus herself does not dream."