It chanced that the granite projection across which Tarzan had cast his noose was at a single point of knife-like sharpness upon its upper edge, and with the weight of the man dragging down upon it the rope parted where it rested upon this sharp bit of granite, and the Lord of the Jungle was precipitated upon the back of the cave bear.
With such rapidity had these events transpired it is a matter of question as to whether the bear or Tarzan was the more surprised, but primitive creatures who would survive cannot permit surprise to disconcert them. In this instance both of the creatures accepted the happening as though it had been planned and expected.
The bear reared up and shook itself in an effort to dislodge the man-thing from its back, while Tarzan slipped a bronzed arm around the shaggy neck and clung desperately to his hold while he dragged his hunting knife from its sheath. It was a precarious place in which to stage a struggle for life. On one side the cliff rose far above them, and upon the other it dropped away dizzily into the depth of a gloomy gorge, and here the efforts of the cave bear to dislodge its antagonist momentarily bade fair to plunge them both into eternity.
The growls and roars of the quadruped reverberated among the mighty peaks of the Mountains of the Thipdars, but the ape-man battled silently, driving his blade repeatedly into the back of the lunging beast, which was seeking by every means at its command to dislodge him, though ever wary against precipitating itself over the brink into the chasm.
But the battle could not go on forever and at last the blade found the spinal cord. The creature stiffened spasmodically and Tarzan slipped quickly from its back. He found safe footing upon the ledge as the mighty carcass stumbled forward and rolled over the edge to hurtle downward to the gorge’s bottom, carrying with it four of Tarzan’s arrows and his spear.
The ape-man found his rope lying upon the ledge where it had fallen, and gathering it up he started back along the trail in search of the bow that he had been forced to discard in his flight, as well as to find the boy.
He had taken only a few steps when, upon rounding the shoulder of a crag, he came face to face with the youth. At sight of him the latter stopped, his spear ready, his stone knife loosened in its sheath. He had been carrying Tarzan’s bow, but at sight of the ape-man he dropped it at his feet, the better to defend himself in the event that he was attacked by the stranger.
“I am Tarzan of the Apes,” said the Lord of the Jungle. “I come as a friend, and not to kill.”
“I am Ovan,” said the boy. “If you did not come to our country to kill, then you came to steal a mate, and thus it is the duty of every warrior of Clovi to kill you.”
“Tarzan seeks no mate,” said the ape-man.
“Then why is he in Clovi?” demanded the youth.
“He is lost,” replied the ape-man. “Tarzan comes from another world that is beyond Pellucidar. He has become separated from his friends and he cannot find his way back to them. He would be friend with the people of Clovi.”
“Why did you attack the bear?” demanded Ovan, suddenly.
“If I had not attacked it it would have killed you,” replied the ape-man.
Ovan scratched his head. “It seemed to me,” he said presently, “that there could be no other reason. It is what one of the men of my own tribe would have done, but you are not of my tribe. You are an enemy and so I could not understand why you did it. Do you tell me that though I am not of your tribe you would have saved my life?”
“Certainly,” replied Tarzan.
Ovan looked long and steadily at the handsome giant standing before him. “I believe you,” he said presently, “although I do not understand. I never heard of such a thing before, but I do not know that the men of my tribe will believe. Even after I have told them what you have done for me they may still wish to kill you, for they believe that it is never safe to trust an enemy.”
“Where is your village?” asked ‘Tarzan.
“It is not at a great distance,” replied Ovan.
“I will go there with you,” said, Tarzan, “and talk with your chief.”
“Very well;” said the boy. “You may talk with Avan the chief. He is my father. And if they decide to kill you I shall try to help you, for you saved my life when the ryth would have destroyed me.”
“Why were you in the cave?” demanded Tarzan. “It was plainly apparent that it was the den of a wild beast.”
“You, too, were upon the same trail,” said the boy, “while you chanced to be behind the ryth. It was my misfortune that I was in front of it.”
“I did not know where the trail led,” said the ape-man.
“Neither did I,” said Ovan. “I have never hunted before except in the company of older men, but now I have reached an age when I wou1d be a warrior myself, and so I have come out of the caves of my people to make my first kill alone, for only thus may a man hope to become a warrior. I saw this trail and, though I did not know where it led, I followed it; nor had I been long upon it when I heard the footsteps of the ryth behind me and when I came to the cave and saw that the trail ended there, I knew that I should never again see the caves of my people, that I should never become a warrior. When the great ryth came and saw me standing there he was very angry, but I should have fought him.
“Perhaps I might have killed him, though I do not believe that that is at all likely.
“And then you came and with this bent stick cast a little spear into the back of the ryth, which so enraged him that he forgot me and turned to pursue you as you knew that he would. They must indeed be brave warriors who come from the land from which you come. Tell me about your country. Where is it? Are your warriors great hunters and is your chief powerful in the land?”
Tarzan tried to explain that his country was not in Pellucidar, but that was beyond Ovan’s powers of conception, and so Tarzan turned the conversation from himself to the youth and as they followed a winding trail toward Clovi, Ovan discoursed upon the bravery of the men of his tribe and the beauty of its women.
“Avan, my father, is a great chief,” he said, “and the men of my tribe are mighty warriors. Often we battle with the men of Zoram and we have even gone as far as Daroz, which lies beyond Zoram, for always there are more men than women in our tribe and the warriors must seek their mates in Zoram and Daroz. Even now Carb has gone to Zoram with twenty warriors to steal women. The women of Zoram are very beautiful. When I am a little larger I shall go to Zoram and steal a mate.”
“How far is it from Clovi to Zoram?” asked Tarzan.
“Some say that it is not so far, and others that it is farther,” replied Ovan. “I have heard it said that going to Zoram is much farther than returning inasmuch as the warriors usually eat six times on the journey from Clovi to Zoram, but returning a strong man may make the journey eating only twice and still retain his strength.”
“But why should the distance be shorter returning than going?” demanded the ape-man.
“Because when they are returning they are usually pursued by the warriors of Zoram,” replied Ovan.
Inwardly Tarzan smiled at the naïveté of Ovan’s reasoning, while it again impressed upon him the impossibility of measuring distances or computing time under the anomalous condition obtaining in Pellucidar.
As the two made their way toward Clovi, the boy gradually abandoned his suspicious attitude toward Tarzan and presently seemed to accept him quite as he would have a member of his own tribe. He noticed the wound made by the talons of the thipdar on Tarzan’s back and shoulders and when he had wormed the story from his companion he marveled at the courage, resourcefulness and strength that had won escape for this stranger from what a Pellucidarian would have considered an utterly hopeless situation.
Ovan saw that the wounds were inflamed and realized that they must be causing Tarzan considerable pain and discomfort, and so when first their way led near a brook he insisted upon cleansing them thoroughly, and collecting the leaves of a particular shrub he crushed them and applied the juices to the open wounds.
The pain of the inflammation had been as nothing compared to the acute agony caused by the application thus made by Ovan and yet the boy noticed that not even by the tremor of a single muscle did the stranger evidence the agony that Ovan well knew he was enduring, and once again his admiration for his new-found companion was increased.
“It may hurt,” he said, “but it will keep the wounds from rotting and afterward they will heal quickly.”
For a short time after they resumed their march the pain continued to be excruciating, but it lessened gradually until it finally disappeared, and thereafter the ape-man felt no discomfort.
The way led to a forest where there were straight, tough, young saplings, and here Tarzan tarried long enough to fashion a new spear and to split and scrape half a dozen additional arrows.
Ovan was much interested in Tarzan’s steel-bladed knife and in his bow and arrows, although secretly he looked with contempt upon the latter, which he referred to as little spears for young children. But when they became hungry and Tarzan bowled over a mountain sheep with a single shaft, the lad’s contempt was changed to admiration and thereafter he not only evinced great respect for the bow and arrows, but begged to be taught how to make and to use them.
The little Clovian was a lad after the heart of the ape-man and the two became fast friends as they made their way toward the land of Clovi, for Ovan possessed the quiet dignity of the wild beast; nor was he given to that garrulity which is at once the pride and the curse of civilized man—there were no boy orators in the peaceful Pliocene.
“We are almost there,” announced Ovan, halting at the brink of a canyon. “Below lie the caves of the Clovi. I hope that Avan, the chief, will receive you as a friend, but that I cannot promise. Perhaps it might be better for you to go your way and not come to the caves of the Clovi. I do not want you to be killed.”
“They will not kill me,” said Tarzan. “I come as a friend.” But in his heart he knew that the chances were that these primitive savages might never accept a stranger among them upon an equal or a friendly footing.
“Come, then,” said Ovan, as he started the descent into the canyon. Part way down the trail turned up along the canyon side in the direction of the head of the gorge. It was a level trail here, well kept and much used, with indications that no little engineering skill had entered into its construction. It was by no means the haphazard trail of beasts, but rather the work of intelligent, even though savage and primitive men.
They had proceeded no great distance along the trail when Ovan sounded a low whistle, which, a moment later, was answered from around the bend in the trail ahead, and when the two had passed this turn Tarzan saw before him a wide, natural ledge of rock entirely overhung by beetling cliffs and in the depth of the recess thus formed in the cliff-side he saw the dark mouth of a cavern.
Upon the flat surface of the ledge, which comprised some two acres, were congregated fully a hundred men, women and children.
All eyes were turned in their direction as they came into view and on sight of Tarzan the warriors sprang to their feet, seizing spears and knives. The women called their children to them and moved quickly toward the entrance to the cavern.
“Do not fear,” cried the boy. “It is only Ovan and his friend, Tarzan.”
“We kill,” growled some of the warriors.
“Where is Avan the chief?” demanded the boy.
“Here is Avan the chief,” announced a deep gruff voice, and Tarzan shifted his gaze to the figure of a stalwart, brawny savage emerging from the mouth of the cavern.
“What have you there, Ovan?” demanded the chief. “If you have brought a prisoner of war, you should have disarmed him first.”
“He is no prisoner,” replied Ovan. “He is a stranger in Pellucidar and he comes as a friend and not as an enemy.”
“He is a stranger,” replied Avan, “and you should have killed him. He has learned the way to the caverns of Clovi and if we do not kill him he will return to his people and lead them against us.”
“He has no people and he does not know how to return to his own country,” said the boy.
“Then he does not speak true words, for that is not possible,” said Avan. “There can be no man who does not know the way to his own country. Come! Stand aside, Ovan, while I destroy him.”
The lad drew himself stiffly erect in front of Tarzan. “Who would kill the friend of Ovan,” he said, “must first kill Ovan.”
A tall warrior, standing near the chief, laid his hand upon Avan’s arm. “Ovan has always been a good boy,” he said. “There is none in Clovi near his age whose words are as full of wisdom as his. If he says that this stranger is his friend and if he does not wish us to kill him, he must have a reason and we should listen to him before we decide to destroy the stranger.”
“Very well,” said the chief; “perhaps you are right, Ulan. We shall see. Speak, boy, and tell us why we should not kill the stranger.”
“Because at the risk of his life he saved mine. Hand to hand he fought with a great ryth from which I could not have escaped had it not been for him; nor did he offer to harm me, and what enemy of the Clovi is there, even among the people of Zoram or Daroz who are of our own blood, that would not slay a Clovi youth who was so soon to become a warrior? Not only is he very brave, but he is a great hunter. It would be well for the tribe of Clovi if he came to live with us as a friend.”
Avan bowed his head in thought. “When Carb returns we shall call a council and decide what to do,” he said. “In the meantime the stranger must remain here as a prisoner.”
“I shall not remain as a prisoner,” said Tarzan. “I came as a friend and I shall remain as a friend, or I shall not remain at all.”
“Let him stay as a friend,” said Ulan. “He has marched with Ovan and has not harmed him. Why should we think that he will harm us when we are many and he only one?”
“Perhaps he has come to steal a woman,” suggested Avan.
“No,” said Avan, “that is not so. Let him remain and with my life I will guarantee that he will harm no one.”
“Let him stay,” said some of the other warriors, for Ovan had long been the pet of the tribe so that they were accustomed to humoring him and so unspoiled was he that they still found pleasure in doing so.
“Very well,” said Avan. “Let him remain. But Ovan and Ulan shall be responsible for his conduct.”
There were only a few of the Clovians who accepted Tarzan without suspicion, and among these was Maral, the mother of Ovan, and Rela, his sister. These two accepted him without question because Ovan had accepted him. Ulan’s friendship, too, had been apparent from the first; nor was it without great value for Ulan, because of his intelligence, courage and ability was a force in the councils of the Clovi.
Tarzan, accustomed to the tribal life of primitive people, took his place naturally among them, paying no attention to those who paid no attention to him, observing scrupulously the ethics of tribal life and conforming to the customs of the Clovi in every detail of his relations with them. He liked to talk with Maral because of her sunny disposition and her marked intelligence. She told him that she was from Zoram, having been captured by Avan when, as a young warrior, he had decided to take a mate. And to her nativity he attributed her great beauty, for it seemed to be an accepted fact among the Clovis that the women of Zoram were the most beautiful of all women.
Ulan he had liked from the first, being naturally attracted to him because he had been the first of the Clovians to champion his cause. In many ways Ulan differed from his fellows. He seemed to have been the first among his people to discover that a brain may be used for purposes other than securing the bare necessities of existence. He had learned to dream and to exercise his brain along pleasant paths that gave entertainment to himself and others—fantastic stories that sometimes amused and sometimes awed his eager audiences; and, too, he was a maker of pictures and these he exhibited to Tarzan with no small measure of pride. Leading the ape-man into the rocky cavern that was the shelter, the storehouse and the citadel of the tribe, he lighted a crude torch which illuminated the walls, revealing the pictures that Ulan had drawn there. Mammoth and saber-tooth and cave bear were depicted, with the red deer, the hyaenodon and other familiar beasts, and in addition thereto were some with which Tarzan was unfamiliar and one that he had never seen elsewhere than in Pal-ul-don, where it had been known as a gryf. Ulan told him that it was a gyor and that it was found upon the Gyor Cors, or Gyor Plains, which lie at the end of the range of the Mountains of the Thipdars beyond Clovi.
The drawings were in outline and were well executed. The other members of the tribe thought they were very wonderful for Ulan was the first ever to have made them and they could not understand how he did it. Perhaps if he had been a weakling he would have lost caste among them because of this gift, but inasmuch as he was also a noted hunter and warrior his talents but added to his fame and the esteem in which he was held by all.
But though these and a few others were friendly toward him, the majority of the tribe looked upon Tarzan with suspicion, for never within the memory of one of them had a strange warrior entered their village other than as an enemy. They were waiting for the return of Carb and the warriors who had accompanied him, when, the majority of them hoped, the council would sentence the stranger to death.
As they became better acquainted with Tarzan, however, others among them were being constantly won to his cause and this was particularly true when he accompanied them upon their hunts, his skill and his prowess winning their admiration, and his strange weapons which they had at first viewed with contempt, soon commanding their unqualified respect.
And so it was that the longer that Carb remained away the better Tarzan’s chances became of being accepted into the tribe upon an equal footing with its other members; a contingency for which he hoped since it would afford him a base from which to prosecute his search for his fellows and allies familiar with the country, whose friendly services he could enlist to aid him in his search.
He was confident that Jason Gridley, if he still lived, was lost somewhere among these stupendous mountains and if he could but find him they might eventually, with the assistance of the Clovians, locate the camp of the O-220.
He had eaten and slept with the Clovi many times and had accompanied them upon several hunts. It had been noon when he arrived and it was still noon, so whether a day or a month had passed he did not know. He was squatting by the cook-fire of Maral, talking with her and with Ulan, when from down the gorge there sounded the whistled signal of the Clovians announcing the approach of a friendly party and an instant later a youth rounded the shoulder of the cliff and entered the village.
“It is Tomar,” announced Maral. “Perhaps he brings news of Carb.”
The youth ran to the center of the ledge upon which the village stood and halted. For a moment he stood there dramatically with upraised hand, commanding silence, and then he spoke. “Carb is returning,” he cried. “The victorious warriors of. Clovi are returning with the most beautiful woman of Zoram. Great is Carb! Great are the warriors of Clovi!”
Cook fires and the routine occupations of the moment were abandoned as the tribe advanced to await the coming of the victorious war party.
Presently it came into sight, rounding the shoulder of the cliff and filing on to the ledge—twenty warriors led by Carb and among them a girl, her wrists bound behind her back, a rawhide leash around her neck, the free end held by a brawny warrior.
The ape-man’s greatest interest lay in Carb, for his position in the tribe, perhaps even his life itself might rest with the decision of this man, whose influence, he had learned, was great in the councils of his people.
Carb was evidently a man of great physical strength; his regular features imparted to him much of the physical beauty that is an attribute of his people, but an otherwise handsome countenance was marred by thin, cruel lips and cold, unsympathetic eyes.
From contemplation of Carb the ape-man’s eyes wandered to the face of the prisoner, and there they were arrested by the startling beauty of the girl. Well, indeed, thought Tarzan, might she be acclaimed the most beautiful woman of Zoram, for it was doubtful that there existed many in this world or the outer who might lay claim to greater pulchritude than she.
Avan, the chief, standing in the center of the ledge, received the returning warriors. He looked with favor upon the prize and listened attentively while Carb narrated the more important details of the expedition.
“We shall hold the council at once,” announced Avan, “to decide who shall possess the prisoner, and at the same time we may settle another matter that has been awaiting the return of Carb and his warriors.”
“What is that?” demanded Carb.
Avan pointed at Tarzan. “There is a stranger who would come into the tribe and be as one of us.”
Carb turned his cold eyes in the direction of the ape-man and his face clouded. “Why has he not been destroyed?” he asked. “Let us do away with him at once.”
“That is not for you to decide,” said Avan, the chief.
“The warriors in council alone may say what shall. be done.” -
Carb shrugged. “If the council does not destroy him, I shall kill him myself,” he said. “I, Carb, will have no enemy living in the village where I live.”
“Let us hold the council at once, then,” said Ulan, “for if Carb is greater than the council of the warriors we should know it.” There was a note of sarcasm in his voice.
“We have marched for a long time without food or sleep,” said Carb. “Let us eat and rest before the council is held, for matters may arise in the council which will demand all of our strength,” and he looked pointedly at Ulan.
The other warriors, who had accompanied Carb, also wished to eat and rest before the council was held, and Avan, the chief, acceded to their just demands.
The girl captive had not spoken since she had arrived in the village and she was now turned over to Maral, who was instructed to feed her and permit her to sleep. The bonds were removed from her wrists and she was brought to the cook-fire of the chief’s mate, where she stood with an expression of haughty disdain upon her beautiful face.
None of the women revealed any inclination to abuse the prisoner—an attitude which rather surprised Tarzan until the reason for it had been explained to him, for he had upon more than one occasion witnessed the cruelties inflicted upon female prisoners by the women of native African tribes into whose hands the poor creatures had fallen.
Maral, in particular, was kind to the girl. “Why should I be otherwise?” she asked when Tarzan commented upon the fact. “Our daughters, or even anyone of us, may at any time be captured by the warriors of another tribe, and if it were known that we had been cruel to their women, they would doubtless repay us in kind; nor, aside from this, is there any reason why we should be other than kind to a woman who will live among us for the rest of her life. We are few in numbers and we are constantly together. If we harbored enmities and if we quarreled our lives would be less happy. Since you have been here you have never seen quarreling among the women of Clovi; nor would you if you remained here for the rest of your life. There have been quarrelsome women among us, just as at some time there have been crippled children, but as we destroy the one for the good of the tribe we destroy the others.”
She turned to the girl. “Sit down,” she said pleasantly. “There is meat in the pot. Eat, and then you may sleep. Do not be afraid; you are among friends. I, too, am from Zoram.”
At that the girl turned her eyes upon the speaker. “You are from Zoram?” she asked. “Then you must have felt as I feel. I want to go back to Zoram. I would rather die than live elsewhere.”
“You will get over that,” said Maral. “I felt the same way, but when I became acquainted I found that the people of Clovi are much like the people of Zoram. They have been kind to me; they will be kind to you, and you will be happy as I have been. When they have given you a mate you will look upon life very differently.”
“I shall not mate with one of them,” cried the girl, stamping her sandaled foot. “I am Jana, The Red Flower of Zoram, and I choose my own mate.”
Maral shook her head sadly. “Thus spoke I once,” she said; “but I have changed, and so will you.”
“Not I,” said the girl, “I have seen but one man with whom I would mate and I shall never mate with another.”
“You are Jana,” asked Tarzan, “the sister of Thoar?”
The girl looked at him in surprise, and as though she had noticed him now for the first time her eyes quickly investigated him. “Ah,” she said, “you are the stranger whom Carb would destroy.”
“Yes,” replied the ape-man.
“What do you know of Thoar, my brother?”
“We hunted together. We were traveling back to Zoram when I became separated from him. We were following the tracks made by you and the man who was with you when a storm came and obliterated them. Your companion was the man whom I was seeking.”
“What do you know of the man who was with me?” demanded the girl.
“He is my friend,” replied Tarzan. “What has become of him?”
“He was caught in a canyon during the storm and be must have been drowned,” replied Jana sadly. “You are from his country?”
“How did you know he was with me?” she demanded.
“I recognized his tracks and Thoar recognized yours.”
“He was a great warrior,” she said, “and a very brave man.”
“Are you sure that be is dead?” asked Tarzan.
“I am sure,” replied The Red Flower of Zoram.
For a time they were silent, both occupied with thoughts of Jason Gridley. “You were his friend,” said Jana. She had moved close to him and had seated herself at his side. Now she leaned still closer. “They are going to kill you,” she whispered. “I know the people of these tribes better than you and I know Carb. He will have his way. You were Jason’s friend and so was I. If we can escape I can lead the way back to Zoram, and if you are Thoar’s friend and mine the people of Zoram will have to accept you.”
“Why do you whisper?” asked a gruff voice behind them, and turning they saw Avan, the chief. Without waiting for a reply, be turned to Maral. “Take the woman to the cavern,” he said. “She will remain there until the council has decided who shall have her as mate, and in the meantime I will place warriors at the entrance to the cavern to see that she does not escape.”
As Maral motioned Jana toward the cavern, the latter arose, and as she did so she cast an appealing glance at Tarzan. The ape-man, who was already upon his feet, looked quickly about him. Perhaps a hundred members of the tribe were scattered about the ledge, while near the opening to the trail which led down the canyon and which afforded the only avenue of escape, fully a dozen warriors loitered. Alone he might have won his way through, but with the girl it would have been impossible. He shook his head and his lips, which were turned away from Avan, formed the word, “Wait.” and a moment later The Red Flower of Zoram had entered the dark cavern of the Clovians.
“And as for you, man of another country,” said Avan, addressing Tarzan, “until the council has decided upon your fate, you are a prisoner. Go, therefore, into the cavern and remain there until the council of warriors has spoken.”
A dozen warriors barred his way to freedom now, but they were lolling idly, expecting no emergency. A bold dash for freedom might carry him beyond them before they could realize that he was attempting escape. He was confident that the voice of the council would be adverse to him and when its decision was announced he would be surrounded by all the warriors of Clovi, alert and ready to prevent his escape. Now, therefore, was the most propitious moment; but Tarzan of the Apes made no break for liberty; instead he turned and strode toward the entrance to the cavern, for The Red Flower of Zoram had appealed to him for aid and he would not desert the sister of Thoar and the friend of Jason.