Within the fort great excitement had reigned from the moment that the advancing troops had been sighted. Word had been sent to Fulvus Fupus and reinforcements had been hurried to the fort. It was assumed by all that Sublatus had inaugurated a new raid upon a larger scale than usual, but they were ready to meet it, nor did they anticipate defeat. As the officer commanding the defenders saw the party approaching with a flag of truce, he demanded from a tower gate the nature of their mission.
“I have two demands to make upon Validus Augustus,” said Cassius Hasta. “One is that he free Mallius Lepus and Erich von Harben and the other is that he permit me to return to Castrum Mare and enjoy the privileges of my station.”
“Who are you?” demanded the officer.
“I am Cassius Hasta. You should know me well”
“The gods are good!” cried the officer.
“Long live Cassius Hasta! Down with Fulvus Fupus!” cried a hoarse chorus of rough voices.
Someone threw open the gates, and the officer, an old friend of Cassius Hasta, rushed out and embraced him.
“What is the meaning of all this?” demanded Cassius Hasta. “What has happened?”
“Validus Augustus is dead. He was assassinated at the games today and Fulvus Fupus has assumed the title of Caesar. You are indeed come in time. All Castrum Mare will welcome you.”
Along the Via Mare from the castle to the lakeshore and across the pontoon bridge to the island marched the army of the new Emperor of the East, while the news spread through the city and crowds gathered and shrieked their welcome to Cassius Hasta.
In a deserted house across the avenue from the Colesseum four fugitives awaited the coming of the legionaries of Fulvus Fupus. It was evident that the soldiers intended to take no chances. They entirely surrounded the building and they seemed to be in no hurry to enter.
Von Harben had had ample time to cover Favonia with the rags, so that she was entirely concealed before the legionaries entered simultaneously from the garden, the avenue, and the roof, torch-bearers lighting their way.
“It is useless to resist,” said Mallius Lepus to the officer who accompanied the men in from the avenue. “We will return to the dungeons peaceably.”
“Not so fast,” said the officer. “Where is the girl?”
“What girl?” demanded Mallius Lepus.
“The daughter of Septimus Favonius, of course.”
“How should we know?” demanded von Harben.
“You abducted her and brought her here,” replied the officer. “Search the room,” he commanded, and a moment later a legionary uncovered Favonia and raised her to her feet.
The officer laughed as he ordered the three men disarmed.
“Wait,” said von Harben. “What are you going to do with the daughter of Septimus Favonius? Will you see that she has a safe escort to her father’s house?”
“I am taking my orders from Caesar,” replied the officer.
“What has Caesar to do with this?” demanded von Harben.
“He has ordered us to bring Favonia to the palace and to slay her abductors upon the spot.”
“Then Caesar shall pay for us all with legionaries,” cried von Harben, and with his sword he fell upon the officer in the doorway, while Gabula and Mallius Lepus, spurred by a similar determination to sell their lives as dearly as possible, rushed those who were descending the ladder and entering the kitchen door. Taken by surprise and momentarily disconcerted by the sudden and unexpected assault, the legionaries fell back. The officer, who managed to elude von Harben’s thrust, escaped from the building and summoned a number of the legionaries who were armed with pikes.
“There are three men in that room,” he said, “and a woman. Kill the men, but be sure that the woman is not harmed.”
In the avenue the officer saw people running; heard them shouting. He saw them stop as they were questioned by some of his legionaries, whom he had left in the avenue. He had not given the final order for his pike-men to enter the building because his curiosity had momentarily distracted his attention. As he turned now, however, to order them in, his attention was again distracted by a tumult of voices that rose in great cheers and rolled up the avenue from the direction of the bridge that connects the city with the Via Mare and the fort. As he turned to look, he saw the flare of many torches and now he heard the blare, of trumpets and the thud of marching feet.
What had happened? He had known, as had everyone in Castrum Mare, that the forces of Sublatus were camped before the fort, but he knew that there had been no battle and so this could not be the army of Sublatus entering Castrum Mare, but it was equally strange if the defenders of Castrum Mare should be marching away from the fort while it was menaced by an enemy army. He could not understand these things, nor could he understand why the people were cheering.
As he stood there watching the approach of the marching column, the shouts of the people took on form and he heard the name of Cassius Hasta distinctly.
“What has happened?” he demanded, shouting to the men in the street.
“Cassius Hasta has returned at the head of a big army and Fulvus Fupus has already fled and is in hiding.”
The shouted question and the equally loud reply were heard by all within the room.
“We are saved,” cried Mallius Lepus, “for Cassius Hasta will harm no friend of Septimus Favonius. Aside now, you fools, if you know when you are well off,” and he advanced toward the doorway.
“Back, men,” cried the officer. “Back to the avenue. Let no hand be raised against Mallius Lepus or these other friends of Cassius Hasta, Emperor of the East.”
“I guess this fellow knows which side his bread is buttered on,” commented von Harben, with a grin.
Together Favonia, von Harben, Lepus, and Gabula stepped from the deserted building into the avenue. Approaching them they saw the head of a column of marching men; flaming torches lighted the scene until it was almost as bright as day.
“There is Cassius Hasta,” exclaimed Mallius Lepus. “It is indeed he, but who are those with him?”
“They must be Sanguinarians,” said Favonia. “But look, one of them is garbed like a barbarian, and see the strange warriors with their white plumes that are marching behind them.”
“I have never seen the like in all my life,” exclaimed Mallius Lepus.
“Neither have I,” said von Harben, “but I am sure that I recognize them, for their fame is great and they answer the description that I have heard a thousand times.”
“Who are they?” asked Favonia.
“The white giant is Tarzan of the Apes, and the warriors are his Waziri fighting men.”
At sight of the legionaries standing before the house, Cassius Hasta halted the column. “Where is the centurion in command of these troops?” he demanded.
“It is I, glorious Caesar,” replied the officer, who had come to arrest the abductors of Favonia.
“Does it happen that you are one of the detachments sent out by Fulvus Fupus to search for Mallius Lepus and the barbarian, von Harben?”
“We are here, Caesar,” cried Mallius Lepus, while Favonia, von Harben, and Gabula followed behind him.
“May the gods be praised!” exclaimed Cassius Hasta, as he embraced his old friend. “But where is the barbarian chieftain from Germania, whose fame has reached even to Castra Sanguinarius?”
“This is he,” said Mallius Lepus. “This is Erich von Harben.”
Tarzan stepped nearer. “You are Erich von Harben?” he asked in English.
“And you are Tarzan of the Apes, I know,” returned von Harben, in the same language.
“You look every inch a Roman,” said Tarzan with a smile.
“I feel every inch a barbarian, however,” grinned von Harben.
“Roman or barbarian, your father will be glad when I bring you back to him.”
“You came here in search of me, Tarzan of the Apes?” demanded von Harben.
“And I seemed to have arrived just in time,” said the ape-man.
“How can I ever thank you?” exclaimed von Harben.
“Do not thank me, my friend,” said the ape-man. “Thank little Nkima!”