“Lead the way to the quarry where we were confined and to the chamber in which we slept.”
“You must be weary of your brief liberty,” remarked the Trohanadalmakusian.
“We are returning for Talaskar, as I promised,” Tarzan reminded him.
“I know,” said the Zertolosto, “and I commend your loyalty and valor while deprecating your judgment. It will be impossible to rescue Talaskar. Were it otherwise I should be the first to her assistance; but I know, and she knows, that, for her, escape is beyond hope. We will but succeed in throwing ourselves again into the hands of our masters.”
“Let us hope not,” said Tarzan; “but, if you feel as you say, that our effort is foredoomed to failure and that we shall but be recaptured, do not accompany me. My only real need of you is to guide me to the apartment where Talaskar is confined. If you can direct me to it that is all I ask.”
“Think you I was attempting to evade the danger?” demanded Komodoflorensal. “No! Where you go, I will go. If you are captured I shall be captured. We shall fail, but let us not separate. I am ready to go wherever you go.”
“Good,” commented Tarzan. “Now lead the way to the quarry and use your knowledge of things Minunian and your best wits to gain us entrance without too much talking.”
They passed, unchallenged, along the shaded walks between the domes of Veltopismakus and past the great parade where gorgeously caparisoned warriors were executing intricate evolutions with the nicest precision, and out beyond the domes along well-worn trails filled with toiling slaves and their haughty guards. Here they fell in beside the long column moving in the direction of the quarry in which they had been imprisoned, taking their places in the column of flanking guards, and thus they came to the entrance to the quarry.
Perfunctorily the numbers of the slaves were taken, as they passed in, and entered in a great book; but to Tarzan’s relief he noted that no attention was paid to the guards, who moved along beside their charges and down into the interior without being checked or even counted, and with them went Komodoflorensal, Prince Royal of Trohanadalmakus, and Tarzan of the Apes.
Once inside the quarry and past the guard room the two fell gradually to the rear of the column, so that when it turned into a level above that which they wished to reach they were enabled to detach themselves from it without being noticed. To leave one column was but to join another, for there was no break in them and often there were several moving abreast; but when they reached the thirty-fifth level and entered the tunnel leading to the chamber in which Talaskar was confined they found themselves alone, since there is little or no activity in these corridors leading to slave quarters except early in the morning when the men are led forth to their labors and again at night when they are brought back.
Before the door of the chamber they found a single warrior on guard. He was squatting on the floor of the tunnel leaning against the wall, but at their approach he rose and challenged them.
Komodoflorensal, who was in the lead, approached him and halted. “We have come for the slave girl, Talaskar,” he said.
Tarzan, who was just behind Komodoflorensal, saw a sudden light leap to the eyes of the warrior. Was it recognition?
“Who sent you?” demanded the warrior.
“Her master, Zoanthrohago,” replied the Trohanadalmakusian.
The expression upon the face of the warrior changed to one of cunning.
“Go in and fetch her,” he said, and unbolted the door, swinging it open.
Komodoflorensal dropped upon his hands and knees and crawled through the low aperture, but Tarzan stood where he was.
“Go in!” said the guard to him.
“I will remain where I am,” replied the ape-man. “It will not require two of us to find a single slave girl and fetch her to the corridor.”
For an instant the warrior hesitated, then he closed the door hurriedly and shot the heavy bolts. When he turned toward Tarzan again, who was now alone with him in the corridor, he turned with a naked sword in his hands; but he found Zuanthrol facing him with drawn rapier.
“Surrender!” cried the warrior. “I recognized you both instantly.”
“I thought as much,” said Zuanthrol. “You are clever, with the exception of your eyes—they are fools, for they betray you.”
“But my sword is no fool,” snapped the fellow, as he thrust viciously at the ape-man’s breast.
Lieutenant Paul D’Arnot1 of the French navy had been recognized as one of the cleverest swordsmen in the service and to his friend Greystoke he had imparted a great measure of his skill during the many hours that the two had whiled away with the foils, and today Tarzan of the Apes breathed a prayer of gratitude to the far-distant friend whose careful training was, after many long years, to serve the ape-man in such good stead, for he soon realized that, though his antagonist was a master at the art of fence, he was not wholly outclassed, and to his skill was added his great strength and his agility.
They had fought for but a minute or two when the Veltopismakusian realized that he was facing no mean antagonist and that he was laboring at a disadvantage. He being unable to fall back when Tarzan rushed him, while his foeman had at his back the whole length of the tunnel. He tried then to force Tarzan back, but in this he failed, receiving a thrust in the shoulder for his pains, and then he commenced to call for help and the ape-man realized that he roust silence him and that quickly. Awaiting the opportunity that was presently afforded by a feint that evoked a wild lunge, Tarzan stepped quickly in and passed his sword through the heart of the Veltopismakusian and as he withdrew his blade from the body of his antagonist he released the bolts that held the door and swung it open. Beyond it, white of face, crouched Komodoflorensal, but as his eyes fell upon Tarzan and the body of the guard behind him, a smile curved his lips and an instant later he was in the corridor beside his friend.
“How did it happen?” he demanded.
“He recognized us; but what of Talaskar? Is she not coming?”
“She is not here. Kalfastoban took her away. He has purchased her from Zoanthrohago.”
Tarzan wheeled. “Rebolt the door and let us get out of here,” he said.
Komodoflorensal closed and fastened the door. “Where now?” he asked.
“To find Kalfastoban’s quarters,” replied the ape-man.
Komodoflorensal shrugged his shoulders and followed on behind his friend. They retraced their steps toward the surface without incident until they were opposite the sixteenth level, when a face was suddenly turned toward them from a column of slaves crossing the runway from one lateral to another. Just for an instant did the eyes of the slave meet those of Tarzan, and then the fellow had passed into the mouth of the latteral and disappeared.
“We must hurry,” whispered Tarzan to his companion.
“Why now more than before?” demanded Komodoflorensal.
“Did you not see the fellow who just passed us and turned to look a second time at me?”
“No; who was it?”
“Garaftap,” replied Tarzan.
“Did he recognize you?”
“As to that I cannot say; but he evidently found something familiar in my appearance. Let us hope that he did not place me, though I fear that he did.”
“Then we must lose no time in getting out of here, and out of Veltopismakus, as well.”
They hurried on. “Where are Kalfastoban’s quarters?” asked Tarzan.
“I do not know. In Trohanadalmakus warriors are detailed to the quarries for but short periods and do not transfer their quarters or their slaves during the time that they are there. I do not know the custom here. Kalfastoban may have finished his tour of duty in the quarries. On the other hand it may be for a long period that they are detailed for that service and his quarters may lie on the upper level of the quarry. We shall have to inquire.”
Soon after this Tarzan stepped up to a warrior moving in the same direction as he and Komodoflorensal. “Where can I find Kalfastoban Ventair he asked.
“They will tell you in the guard room, if it is any of your affair,” he replied, shooting a quick glance at the two. “I do not know.”
After that they passed the fellow and at the first turn that hid them from him they increased their speed, for both were becoming suspicious of every least untoward incident, and their one wish now was to escape the quarry in safety. Nearing the entrance they attached themselves to a column of slaves toiling upward with their heavy burdens of rocks for the new dome, and with them they came to the guard room where the slaves were checked out. The officer and the clerks labored in a mechanical manner, and it appeared that it was to be as easy to leave the quarry as it had been to enter it, when the officer suddenly drew his brow together and commenced to count.
“How many slaves in this crew?” he asked.
“One hundred,” replied one of the warriors accompanying them.
“Then why four guards?” he demanded.
“There are but two of us,” rejoined the warrior.
“We are not with them,” Komodoflorensal spoke up quickly.
“What do you here?” demanded the officer.
“If we can see you alone we can explain that quickly,” replied the Trohanadalmakusian.
The officer waved the crew of slaves upon their way and beckoned to Komodoflorensal and Tarzan to follow him into an adjoining chamber, where they found a small anteroom in which the commander of the guard slept.
“Now,” he said, “let me see your passes.”
“We have none,” replied Komodoflorensal.
“No passes! That will be difficult to explain, will it not?”
“Not to one of your discrimination,” replied the prince, accidentally jingling the golden coins in his pouch. “We are in search of Kalfastoban. We understand that he owns a slave we wish to purchase and not being able to obtain a pass to the quarry in the short time at our disposal we ventured to come, upon so simple an errand, without one. Could you direct us to Kalfastoban?” Again he jingled the coins.
“I shall be delighted,” replied the officer. “His quarters are upon the fifth level of the Royal Dome upon the central corridor and about midway between the King’s Corridor and the Warrior’s Corridor. As he was relieved from duty in the quarry this very morning I have no doubt but that you will find him there.”
“We thank you,” said Komodoflorensal, leaning far back in the Minunian bow. “And now,” he added, as though it was an afterthought, “if you will accept it we shall be filled with gratitude if you will permit us to leave this slight token of our appreciation,” and he drew a large gold coin from the pouch and proffered it to the officer.
“Rather than seem ungrateful,” replied the officer, “I must accept your gracious gift, with which I may alleviate the sufferings of the poor. May the shadow of disaster never fall upon you!”
The three then bowed and Tarzan and Komodoflorensal quitted the guard room and a moment later were in the free, fresh air of the surface.
“Even in Minimi!” breathed Tarzan.
“What was that?” asked his friend.
“I was just thinking of my simple, honest jungle and God’s creatures that men call beasts.”
“What should they call them?” demanded Komodoflorensal.
“If judged by the standards that men themselves make, and fail to observe, they should be called demigods,” replied the ape-man.
“I believe I get your point,” laughed the other; “but think! Had a lion guarded the entrance to this quarry no gold piece would have let us pass. The frailties of man are not without their virtues; because of them right has just triumphed over wrong and bribery has worn the vestments of virtue.”
Returning to the Royal Dome they passed around the east side of the structure to the north front, where lies the Slaves’ Corridor in every dome. In quitting the dome they had come from the Warriors’ Corridor on the west and they felt that it would be but increasing the chances of detection were they to pass too often along the same route where someone, half-recognizing them in one instance, might do so fully after a second or third inspection.
To reach the fifth level required but a few minutes after they had gained entrance to the dome. With every appearance of boldness they made their way toward the point in the central corridor at which the officer of the guard had told them they would find Kalfastoban’s quarters, and perhaps Kalfastoban himself; but they were constantly on the alert, for both recognized that the greatest danger of detection lay through the chance that Kalfastoban might recall their features, as he of all Veltopismakusians would be most apt to do so, since he had seen the most of them, or at least the most of Tarzan since he had donned the slave’s green.
They had reached a point about midway between the Slaves’ Corridor and the Warriors’ Corridor when Komodoflorensal halted a young, female slave and asked her where the quarters of Kalfastoban were located.
“It is necessary to pass through the quarters of Hamadalban to reach those of Kalfastoban,” replied the girl. “Go to the third entrance,” and she pointed along the corridor in the direction they had been going.
After they had left her Tarzan asked Komodoflorensal if he thought there would be any difficulty in gaining entrance to Kalfastoban’s quarters.
“No,” he replied; “the trouble will arise in knowing what to do after we get there.”
“We know what we have come for,” replied the ape-man. “It is only necessary to carry out our design, removing all obstacles as they intervene.”
“Quite simple,” laughed the prince.
Tarzan was forced to smile. “To be candid,” he admitted, “I haven’t the remotest idea what we are going to do after we get in there, or after we get put either, if we are successful in finding Talaskar and bringing her away with us, but that is not strange, since I know nothing, or practicaly nothing, of what conditions I may expect to confront me from moment to moment in this strange city of a strange world. All that we can do is to do our best. We have come thus far much more easily than I expected—perhaps we will go the whole distance with no greater friction—or we may stop within the next dozen steps, forever.”
Pausing before the third entrance they glanced in, discovering several women squatting upon the floor. Two of them were of the warrior class, the others slaves of the white tunic. Komodoflorensal entered boldly.
“These are the quarters of Hamadalban?” he asked.
“They are,” replied one of the women.
“And Kalfastoban’s are beyond?”
“And beyond Kalfastoban’s?” inquired the Trohanadalma-kusian.
“A long gallery leads to the outer corridor. Upon the gallery open many chambers where live hundreds of people. I do not know them all. Whom do you seek?”
“Palastokar,” replied Komodoflorensal quickly, choosing the first name that presented itself to his memory.
“I do not recall the name,” said the woman, knitting her brows in thought.
“But I shall find him now, thanks to you,” said Komodotloiensal, “for my directions were to pass through the quarters of Hamadalban and Kalfastoban, when I should come upon a gallery into which opened the quarters of Palastokar; but perhaps if Kalfastoban is in, he will be able to direct me more exactly.”
“Kalfastoban has gone out with Hamadalban,” replied the woman; “but I expect them back momentarily. If you will wait, they will soon be here.”
“Thank you,” said Komodoflorensal, hastily; “but I am sure that we shall have no trouble finding the quarters of Palastokar. May your candles burn long and brilliantly!” and without waiting on further ceremony he crossed the room and entered the quarters of Kalfastoban, into which Tarzan of the Apes followed at his heels.
“I think, my friend,” said the prince, “that we shall have to work rapidly.”
Tarzan glanced quickly around the first chamber that they entered. It was vacant. Several doors opened from it. They were all closed either with wooden doors or with hangings. The ape-man stepped quickly to the nearer and tried the latch. It gave and he pushed the door ajar. All was darkness within.
“Bring a candle, Komodoflorensal,” he said.
The prince brought two from their niches in the wall. “A storeroom,” he said, as the rays of the candles illuminated the interior of the room. “Food and candles and raiment. Kalfastoban is no pauper. The tax collector has not ruined him yet.”
Tarzan, standing in the doorway of the storeroom, just behind Komodoflorensal, turned suddenly and looked out across the other chamber. He had heard voices in the quarters of Hamadalban beyond-men’s voices. One of them he recognized an instant later—it was the voice of Kalfastoban Vental.
“Come!” roared the bull voice of the Vental. “Come to my quarters, Hamadalban, and I will show you this new slave of mine.”
Tarzan pushed Komodoflorensal into the storeroom and following him, closed the door. “Did you hear?” he whispered.
“Yes, it was Kalfastoban!” The storeroom door was ornamented with a small, open grill covered with a hanging of some heavy stuff upon the inside. By drawing the hanging aside the two could obtain a view of most of the interior of the outer chamber, and they could hear all that was said by the two men who now entered from Hamadalban’s quarters.
“I tell you she is the greatest bargain I have ever seen,” cried Kalfastoban; “but wait, I’ll fetch her,” and he stepped to another door, which he unlocked with a key. “Come out!” he roared, flinging the door wide.
With the haughty bearing of a queen a girl stepped slowly into the larger room—no cowering servility of the slave here. Her chin was high, her gaze level. She glanced almost with contempt upon the Vental. And she was beautiful. It was Talaskar. Komodoflorensal realized that he had never before appreciated how really beautiful was the little slave girl, who had cooked for him. Kalfastoban had given her a white tunic of good quality, which set off the olive of her skin and the rich blackness of her hair to better effect than had the cheap green thing that he had always seen her in.
“She belonged to Zoanthrohago,” Kalfastoban explained to his friend, “but I doubt that he ever saw her, else he never would have parted with her for the paltry sum I paid.”
“You will take her for your own woman and raise her to our class?” asked Hamadalban.
“No,” replied Kalfastoban, “for then she would no longer be a slave and I could not sell her. Women are too expensive. I shall keep her for a time and then sell her while her value is still high. I should make a pretty profit from her.”
Tarzan’s fingers closed tightly, as though upon the throat of an enemy, and the right hand of Komodoflorensal crept to the hilt of his rapier.
A woman came from the quarters of Hamadalban and stood in the doorway.
“Two of the guards from the quarry are here with a green slave inquiring for Kalfastoban,” she said.
“Send them in,” directed the Vental.
A moment later the three entered—the slave was Caraftap.
“Ah!” exclaimed Kalfastoban, “my good slave, Caraftap; the best in the quarry. Why is he brought here?”
“He says that he has information of great value,” replied one of the guard; “but he will divulge it to none but you. He has staked his life against the worth of his information and the Novand of the guard ordered him brought hither.”
“What information have you?” demanded Kalfastoban.
“It is of great moment,” cried Caraftap. “Noble Zoanthrohago, and even the king, will be grateful for it; but were I to give it and have to return to the quarries the other slaves would kill me. You were always good to me, Kalfastoban Vental, and so I asked to be brought to you, for I know that if you promise that I shall be rewarded with the white tunic, if my service is considered worthy of it, I shall be safe.”
“You know that I cannot do that,” replied Kalfastoban.
“But the king can, and if you intercede with him he will not refuse.”
“I can promise to intercede with the king in your behalf if the information you bring is of value; but that is all I can do.”
“That is enough—if you promise,” said Caraftap.
“Very well, I promise. What do you know that the king would like to know?”
“News travels fast in Veltopismakus,” said Caraftap, “and so it was that we in the quarry heard of the death of the two slaves, Aoponato and Zuanthrol, within a short time after their bodies were discovered. As both had been slaves of Zoanthrohago we were all confined together in one chamber and thus I knew them both well. Imagine then my surprise when, while crossing one of the main spirals with a crew of other slaves, I beheld both Zuanthrol and Aoponato, in the habiliments of warriors, ascending toward the surface.”
“What is the appearance of these two?” suddenly demanded one of the warriors who had accompanied Caraftap from the quarry.
The slave described them as fully as he could.
“The same!” cried the warrior. “These very two stopped me upon the spiral and inquired the whereabouts of Kalfastoban.”
A crowd of women and men had gathered in the doorway of Kalfastoban’s chamber, having been attracted by the presence of a green slave accompanied by members of the quarry guard. One of them was a young slave girl.
“I, too, was questioned by these very men,” she exclaimed, “only a short time since, and they asked me the same question.”
One of Hamadalban’s women voiced a little scream. “They passed through our quarters but a moment since,” she cried, “and entered Kalfastoban’s, but they asked not where lay the quarters of Kalfastoban, the name they mentioned was unknown to me—a strange name.”
“Palastokar,” one of her companions reminded her.
“Yes, Palastokar, and they said he had his quarters upon the gallery leading from Kalfastoban’s to the outer corridor.”
“There is no one of such a name in the Royal Dome,” said Kalfastoban. “It was but a ruse to enter my quarters.”
“Or to pass through them,” suggested one of the quarry guard.
“We must hurry after them,” said the other.
“Keep Caraftap here until we return, Kalfastoban,” said the first guard, “and also search your own quarters and those adjoining carefully. Come!” and motioning to the other guard he crossed the chamber and departed along the gallery that led to the outer corridor, followed not alone by his fellow but by Hamadalban and all the other men who had congregated in the chamber, leaving Kalfastoban and Caraftap, with the women, in the Vental’s quarters.
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