STANLEY WOOD had no difficulty following the trail of Gonfala’s abductors to the point at which their guides had deserted them, and from there the trained Waziri trackers carried on until the trail was lost at the edge of a wood where it had been obliterated by the shuffling pads of a herd of elephants. Search as they would they could not pick up the trail again. To Wood, the mystery was complete; he was baffled, disheartened.
Wearily he pushed on up the valley. If only Tarzan were here! He, of all men, could find an answer to the riddle.
“Look, Bwana!” cried one of the Waziri. “A city!”
Wood looked ahead, amazed; for there lay a city indeed. No native village of thatched huts was this, but a walled city of white, its domes of gold and azure rising above its gleaming wall.
“What city is it?” he asked.
The Waziri shook their heads and looked at one another.
“I do not know, Bwana,” said one. “I have never been in this country before.”
“Perhaps the memsahib is there,” suggested a warrior.
“Perhaps,” agreed Wood. “If the people here are unfriendly they will take us all prisoners,” he mused, half aloud; “and then no one will know where we are, where Gonfala probably is. We must not all be taken prisoners.”
“No,” agreed Waranji, “we must not all be taken prisoners.”
“That is a big city,” said Wood; “there must be many warriors there. If they are unfriendly they could easily take us all or kill us all. Is that not so?”
“We are Waziri,” said Waranji, proudly.
“Yes, I know; and you’re great fighters. I know that too; but, holy mackerel! seven of us can’t lick an army, even though six of us are Waziri.”
Waranji shook his head. “We could try,” he said. “We are not afraid.”
Wood laid a hand on the ebony shoulder. “You’re great guys, Waranji; and I know you’d walk right plumb into Hell for any friend of the Big Bwana, but I’m not goin’ to sacrifice you. If those people are friendly, one man will be as safe as seven; if they’re not, seven men won’t be any better off than one; so I’m goin’ to send you boys home. Tell Muviro we couldn’t find Tarzan. Tell him we think we’ve found where the memsahib is. We don’t know for sure, but it seems reasonable. If you meet Tarzan, or he’s back home, he’ll know what to do. If you don’t see him, Muviro will have to use his own judgment. Now, go along; and good luck to you!”
Waranji shook his head. “We cannot leave the bwana alone,” he said. “Let me send one warrior back with a message; the rest of us will stay with you.”
“No, Waranji. You’ve heard my orders. Go on back.”
Reluctantly they left him. He watched them until they passed out of sight in the wood; then he turned his steps toward the mysterious city in the distance.
Once again Tarzan of the Apes stood upon the edge of the high plateau at the western rim of the valley of Onthar and looked down upon Cathne, the city of gold. The white houses, the golden domes, the splendid Bridge of Gold that spanned the river before the city’s gates gleamed and sparkled in the sunlight. The first time he had looked upon it the day had been dark and gloomy; and he had seen the city as a city of enemies; because then his companion had been Valthor of Athne, the City of Ivory, whose people were hereditary enemies of the Cathneans. But today, ablaze in the sunshine, the city offered him only friendship.
Nemone, the queen who would have killed him, was dead. Alextar, her brother, had been taken from the dungeon in which she had kept him and been made king by the men who were Tarzan’s fast friends—Thudos, Phordos, Gemnon, and the others of the loyal band whom Tarzan knew would welcome him back to Cathne. Tomos, who had ruled under Nemone as her chief advisor, must have been either killed or imprisoned. He would be no longer a menace to the apeman.
With pleasant anticipation, Tarzan clambered down the steep gully to the floor of the valley and swung off across the Field of the Lions toward the city of gold. Field of the Lions! What memories it conjured! The trip to Xarator, the holy volcano, into whose fiery pit the kings and queens of Cathne had cast their enemies since time immemorial; the games in the arena; the wild lions which roved the valley of Onthar, giving it its other name—Field of the Lions. Such were the memories that the name inspired.
Boldly the ape-man crossed the valley until he stood before the Bridge of Gold and the two heroic golden lions that flanked its approach. The guard had been watching his progress across the valley for some time.
“It is Tarzan,” one of them had said while the ape-man was still half a mile away; and when he stopped before the gates they all came and welcomed him.
The captain of the guard, a noble whom Tarzan knew well, escorted him to the palace. “Alextar will be glad to know that you have returned,” he said. “Had it not been for you, he might not now be king—or alive. Wait here in this anteroom until I get word to Alextar.”
The room and its furnishings were of a type common in the palaces of the king and nobles of Cathne. The low ceiling was supported by a series of engaged columns, carved doors inlaid in mosaics of gold and ivory gave to the corridor and an adjoining apartment, on the stone floor lay some Lion skins and several heavy woolen rugs of simple design, mural decorations depicted battle scenes between the lion men of Cathne and the elephant men of Athne, and above the murals was a frieze of mounted heads—lions, leopards, one huge elephant’s head, and several human heads—the heads of warriors, beautifully cured and wearing the ivory head ornaments of nobles of Athne—trophies of the chase and of war.
It was a long time before the captain of the guard returned; and when he did, his face was flushed and troubled and twenty warriors accompanied him. “I am sorry, Tarzan,” he said; “but I have orders to arrest you.”
The ape-man looked at the twenty spears surrounding him and shrugged. If he were either surprised or hurt, he did not show it. Once again he was the wild beast trapped by his hereditary enemy, man; and he would not give man the satisfaction of even being asked to explain. They took his weapons from him and led him to a room on the second floor of the palace directly above the guardroom. It was a better cell than that he had first occupied in Cathne when he had been incarcerated in a dark hole with Phobeg, the temple guard who had stepped on god’s tail and thus merited death; for this room was large and well lighted by two barred windows.
When they had left him and bolted the door, Tarzan walked to one of the windows and looked down upon one of the palace courtyards for a moment; then he went to the bench that stood against one wall and lay down. Seemingly unconscious of danger, or perhaps contemptuous of it, he slept.
It was dark when he was awakened by the opening of the door of his cell. A man bearing a lighted torch stood in the doorway. The ape-man arose as the other entered, closing the door behind him.
“Tarzan!” he exclaimed; and, crossing the room, he placed a hand on the other’s shoulder—the Cathnean gesture of greeting, of friendship, and loyalty.
“I am glad to see you, Gemnon,” said the ape-man; “tell me, are Doria and her father and mother well? and your father, Phordos?”
“They are well, but none too happy. Things here are bad again, as you must have conjectured from the treatment accorded you.”
“I knew that something must be wrong,” admitted the apeman; “but what it was, I didn’t know—and don’t.”
“You soon shall,” said Gemnon. “Ours is indeed an unhappy country.”
“All countries are unhappy where there are men,” observed the ape-man. “Men are the stupidest of beasts. But what has happened here? I thought that with the death of Nemone all your troubles were over.”
“So did we, but we were wrong. Alextar has proved to be weak, cowardly, ungrateful. Almost immediately after ascending the throne he fell under the influence of Tomos and his clique; and you know what that means. We are all in disfavor. Tomos is virtually ruler of Cathne, but as yet he has not dared to destroy us. The warriors and the people hate him, and he knows it. If he goes too far they will rise, and that will be the end of Tomos.
“But tell me about yourself. What brings you again to Cathne?”
“It is a very long story,” replied Tarzan. “In the end a young woman was stolen by two white men. She and the man whom she was to marry were under my protection. I am searching for her. Several days ago I came upon two blacks who had been with the safari of the men who abducted the girl. They described the country in which the safari had been when they deserted. It lay to the southeast of Xarator. That is why I am here. I am going into the country southeast of Xarator in an effort to pick up the trail.”
“I think you will not have to search long,” said Gemnon. “I believe that I know where your young woman is—not that it will do you or her much good now that you are a prisoner of Tomos. As you must know, he has no love for you.”
“What makes you think that you know where she is?” asked the ape-man.
“Alextar sends me often to the valley of Thenar to raid the Athneans. It is, of course, the work of Tomos, who hopes that I shall be killed. Very recently I was there. The raid was not very successful, as we were too few. Tomos always sends too few, and they are always nobles he fears and would be rid of. We took only one head. On the way out we saw a small party of people who were not Athneans. There were four or five slaves, two white men, and a white woman. The white men were fighting. The woman ran toward us, which made us think she wished to escape the two men she was with. We were going to meet her and take the entire party prisoners when we saw a large body of Athneans coming down the valley on their war elephants. We were too few to engage them; so we ran for the Pass of the Warriors and escaped. I naturally assume that the Athneans captured the young woman and those with her and that she is now in the City of Ivory; but, as I said before, the knowledge won’t help you much now—Tomos has you.”
“And what do you think he will do with me? Has he another Phobeg?”
Gemnon laughed. “I shall never forget how you tossed ‘the strongest man in Cathne’ about and finally threw him bodily into the laps of the audience. Tomos lost his last obol on that fight—another good reason why he has no love for you. No, I don’t think he’ll pit you against a man this time—probably a lion. It may even be poison or a dagger—they are surer. But what I am here for tonight is to try to save you. The only trouble is, I have no plan. A friend of mine is captain of the guard tonight. That is how I was able to reach you, but if I were to leave your door unbarred and you escaped his life would not be worth an obol. Perhaps you can think of a plan.”
Tarzan shook his head. “I shall have to know Tomos’ plan first. Right now the only plan I have is for you to leave before you get caught in here.”
“Isn’t there anything that I can do, after all that you did for me? There must be something.”
“You might leave your dagger with me. It might come in handy. I can hide it under my loin cloth.”
They talked for a short time then before Gemnon left, and within a few minutes thereafter Tarzan was asleep. He did not pace his cell, fretting and worrying. His was more the temperament of the wild animal than the man.