The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 100

crazed by the affront I
had put upon their goddess, just as Issus disappeared into the black
depths beneath me.




CHAPTER XII

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."

"What do you mean?"

"I laboured with the other slaves a year since in the remodelling of
these subterranean galleries, and at that time we

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