Tarzan the Magnificent

Chapter 22

Menofra

Edgar Rice Burroughs


TARZAN left the window and walked along the side of the building, looking up at the second floor. There, he surmised, would be the sleeping chambers. In some room above, doubtless, Gonfala was confined. Several vines clambered up the wall. He tested them, trying to find one that might bear his weight; and at last he came to some old ivy that had a stem that was as large around as his arm, a gnarled old plant that clung to the rough wall with a million aerial roots. He tried it with his weight; then, satisfied that it would bear him, he started to ascend toward a window directly above.

Close beside the open window he paused and listened, his sensitive nostrils classifying the odors that came from the chamber. A man slept within. Heavy breathing told him the man was asleep. Its stertorousness and odor told him that the fellow was drunk. Tarzan threw a leg across the sill and stepped into the room. He moved noiselessly, feeling his way through the darkness. He took his time, and gradually his eyes became accustomed to the blackness of the interior. He had the gift, that some men have in common with nocturnal animals, of being able to see in the dark better than other men. Perhaps it had been developed to a higher state of efficiency by necessity. One who can see by night in the jungle has a better chance of survival.

Soon he identified a darker mass on the floor near a side wall as the sleeper. That, however, was not difficult; the man’s snores screamed his location. Tarzan crossed to the opposite end of the room and found a door. His fingers searched for lock or bolt and found the latter. It squeaked a little as he drew it back; but he had no fear that it would arouse the man, nor did it. The door opened into a dimly lighted corridor—an arched corridor along which were other doors and the arched openings into other corridors.

Tarzan heard voices. They were raised in angry altercation, and there were sounds of scuffling. The voices were those of Menofra and Phoros. Presently there was a loud scream followed by a thud as of a body falling; then silence. Tarzan waited, listening. He heard a door open farther up the corridor in the direction from which the voices had come; then he stepped back into the room behind him, leaving the door slightly ajar so that he could look out into the corridor. He saw a man step from a doorway and approach along the corridor. It was Phoros. He was staggering a little, and in his right hand he carried a bloody short-sword. His expression was bleary-eyed and vacuous. He passed the door from which Tarzan watched and turned into another corridor; then the ape-man stepped into the passageway and followed him.

When he reached the head of the corridor into which Phoros had turned, Tarzan saw the Athnean fumbling with a key at the lock of a door only a short distance ahead; and he waited until Phoros had unlocked the door and entered the room beyond; then the ape-man followed at a run. He wished to reach the door before Phoros could lock it from within, if such were his intention; but it was not. In fact, in his drunken carelessness, he did not even close the door tightly; and he had little more than entered the room when Tarzan pushed the door open and followed him.

The ape-man had moved with utter silence; so that though he stood just behind Phoros the latter was unaware of his presence. The room was lighted by a single cresset—a wick burning in a shallow vessel half filled with fat. Lying in one corner of the room, bound hand and foot, was Gonfala; in another corner, similarly trussed, was Stanley Wood. They both saw and recognized Tarzan simultaneously, but he raised a finger to his lips to caution them to silence. Phoros stood leering at his two prisoners, his gross body swaying unsteadily.

“So the lovers are still here,” he taunted. “But why do they stay so far apart? Here, you stupid fool, watch me; I’ll show you how to make love to the girl. She’s mine now. Menofra, the old Hellcat, is dead. Look at this sword! See the blood? That’s Menofra’s blood. I just killed her.” He pointed the sword at Wood. “And just as soon as I’ve shown you how a lover should behave I’m going to kill you.”

He took a step toward Gonfala, and as he did so steel thewed fingers gripped his sword wrist, the weapon was torn from his hand, and he was thrown heavily to the floor.

“Quiet, or I kill,” a low voice whispered.

Phoros looked into the cold grey eyes of an almost naked giant who stood above him with his own sword pointed at his breast. “Who are you?” he quavered. “Don’t kill me. Tell me what you want. You can have anything if you’ll not kill me.”

“I’ll take what I want. Don’t move.” Tarzan crossed to Wood and cut the bonds that held him. “Release Gonfala,” he said, “and when you have done that bind this man and gag him.”

Wood worked quickly. “How did you get here?” Tarzan asked him.

“I was searching for Gonfala. I followed her trail to this city; then they took me prisoner. Today Phoros sent for me. In some way, probably through some of his people overhearing Spike and Troll, he got the idea that I knew how to work the Gonfal. Spike had been bragging about its powers, but neither he nor Troll had been able to do anything with it. They had also told some one that Gonfala was the goddess of the big stone, and so he brought us together and told us to show him some magic. Our meeting was so sudden and unexpected that we gave ourselves away—it must have been apparent to any one that we were in love. Anyway, Phoros got it; maybe because he was jealous. He has been trying to make love to Gonfala ever since she was captured, but he was too scared of his wife to go very far with it.”

When Gonfala was liberated Wood trussed up Phoros, and as he was completing the work they heard the sound of shuffling footsteps in the corridor. They all stood, tense and silent, waiting. Would the footsteps pass the door, or was some one coming to this room? Nearer and nearer they came; then they paused outside, as though he who walked was listening. The door was pushed open, revealing a horrible apparition. Gonfala muffled a scream; Wood recoiled; only Tarzan showed no emotion. It was Menofra. A horrible wound gashed her head and one shoulder. She was covered with blood; and reeled with weakness from the loss of it, but she still retained her wits.

Stepping quickly back into the corridor, she closed the door and turned the key that the drunken Phoros had left in the lock; then they heard her crying loudly for the guard.

“We seem to be nicely trapped,” commented Wood.

“But we have a hostage,” Tarzan reminded him.

“What a horrible sight,” said Gonfala, shuddering and nodding in the direction of the corridor. “How do you suppose it happened?”

The ape-man jerked a thumb in the direction of Phoros. “He could tell you. I imagine that he’s rather glad that we were here with him.”

“What a sweet couple,” said Wood, “but I imagine there are a lot of married couples who would like to do that to one another if they thought they could get away with it.”

“What a terrible thing to say, Stanlee,” cried Gonfala. “Do you think that we would be like that?”

“Oh, we’re different,” Wood assured her; “these people are beasts.”

“Not beasts,” Tarzan corrected. “They are human beings, and they act like human beings.”

“Here comes the guard,” said Wood.

They could hear men approaching at a run along the corridor; they heard their exclamations when they saw Menofra and their excited questioning.

“There is a wild man in there,” Menofra told them. “He has set the two prisoners free, and they have bound and gagged the king. They may kill him. I don’t want them to; I want him for myself. Go in and capture the strangers and bring the king to me.”

Tarzan stood close to the door. “If you come in without my permission,” he shouted, “I will kill the king.”

“It looks like you were on a spot, Phoros,” said Wood, “no matter what happens. If Menofra gets you she’ll hand you plenty.” Phoros could make no reply because of the gag.

The warriors and the queen were arguing in the corridor. They could come to no decision as to what to do. The three prisoners in the room were no better off. Tarzan was puzzled. He told Wood as much.

“I knew an Athnean noble well,” be said, “and through him I was led to believe that these people were rather noble and chivalrous, not at all like those I have seen here. There was a rumor in Cathne that there had been some change in government here, but the natural assumption was that another faction of the nobility had come into power. If these people are of the nobility, our friend Spike must be at least an archbishop.”

“They are not of the nobility,” said Wood. “They are from the lowest dregs of society. They overthrew the king and the nobility a few months ago. I guess they are pretty well ruining the country.”

“That accounts for it,” said Tarzan. “Well, I guess my friend, Valthor, can’t help me much.”

“Valthor?” exclaimed Wood. “Do you know him? Why say, he’s the only friend I have here.”

“Where is he? He’ll help us,” said Tarzan.

“Not where he is, he won’t. He and I were fellow slaves at the elephant stables.”

“Valthor a slave!”

“Yes, and lucky to be that,” Wood assured him. “They killed off all the other members of the nobility they caught—except a few that joined ’em. The rest escaped into the mountains. Every one liked Valthor so much that they didn’t kill him.”

“It is a good thing that I didn’t take any chances when I came here,” remarked the ape-man. “They’d heard these rumors in Cathne; so I came in after dark to investigate before I tried to find Valthor or made myself known.”

There was a rap on the door. “What do you want?” asked Tarzan.

“Turn the king over to the queen and we won’t harm you,” said a voice.

Phoros commenced to wriggle and squirm on the floor, shaking his head vigorously. Tarzan grinned.

“Wait until we talk it over,” he said; then, to Wood, “Take the gag out of his mouth.”

As soon as the gag was removed Phoros choked and spluttered before he could articulate an understandable word, so frightened and excited was he. “Don’t let her have me,” he finally managed to say. “She’ll kill me.”

“I think you have it coming to you,” said Wood.

“Maybe we can reach a bargain,” suggested Tarzan.

“Anything, anything you want,” cried Phoros.

“Our freedom and a safe escort to The Pass of the Warriors,” demanded the ape-man.

“It is yours,” promised Phoros.

“And the big diamond,” added Wood.

“And the big diamond,” agreed Phoros.

“How do we know you’ll do as you agree?” asked Tarzan.

“You have my word for it,” Phoros assured him.

“I don’t think it’s worth much. I’d have to have something more.”

“Well, what?”

“We’d want to take you with us and keep you close to me where I could kill you if the bargain were not kept.”

“That too. I agree to everything, only don’t let her get her hands on me.”

“There is one more thing,” added Tarzan. “Valthor’s freedom.”

“Granted.”

“And now that you’ve got all that arranged,” said Wood, “how in Hell are we going to get out of here with that old virago holding the fort with the guard out there? Have you ever been to a coronation, Tarzan?”

The ape-man shook his head.

“Well, take Phorsie out there, my friend, and you’ll see a king crowned.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I don’t intend taking him out of here until I have some assurance that his promises will be carried out.” He turned to Phoros. “What can you suggest? Will the guard obey you?”

“I don’t know. They’re afraid of her. Everybody’s afraid of her, and Dyaus knows they have reason.”

“We seem to be getting nowhere with great facility,” commented Wood.

Tarzan crossed to Phoros and removed his bonds. “Come to the door,” he directed, “and explain my proposition to your wife.”

Phoros approached the door. “Listen, dear,” he said ingratiatingly.

“Listen nothing, you beast, you murderer,” she screamed back at him. “Just let me get my hands on you—that’s all I ask.”

“But darling, I was drunk. I didn’t mean to do it. Listen to reason. Let me take these people out of the country with an escort of warriors and they won’t kill me.”

“Don’t ‘darling’ me, you, you—”

“But, my own little Menofra, listen to reason. Send for Kandos, and let us all talk it over.”

“Go in there, you cowards, and drag them out,” Menofra shouted to the guardsmen.

“Stay out there!” screamed Phoros. “I am king. Those are the king’s commands.”

“I’m queen,” yelled Menofra. “I tell you to go in and rescue the king.”

“I’m all right,” shouted Phoros. “I don’t want to be rescued.”

“I think,” said the officer of the guard, “that the best thing to do is summon Kandos. This is no matter for a simple officer of the guard to decide.”

“That’s right,” encouraged the king; “send for Kandos”

They heard the officer dispatch a warrior to summon Kandos, and they heard the queen grumbling and scolding and threatening.

Wood stepped to the door. “Menofra!” he called. “I have an idea that perhaps you hadn’t thought of. Let Phoros accompany us to the border; then when he comes back you’ll have him. That will save a lot of trouble for all concerned.”

Phoros looked troubled. He hadn’t thought of that either. Menofra did not answer immediately; then she said, “He might trick me in some way.”

“How can he trick you?” demanded Wood.

“I don’t know, but he’d find a way. He has been tricking people all his life.”

“He couldn’t. You’d have the army. What could he do?”

“Well, perhaps it’s worth thinking about,” admitted the queen; “but I don’t know that I could wait. I’d like to get my hands on him right now. Did you see what he did to me?”

“Yes. It was terrible,” sympathized Wood.

It was not long before the warrior returned with Kandos. Menofra greeted him with a volley of vituperation as soon as he came in sight, and it was some time before he could quiet her and get the story. Then he led her away where none could overhear, and they whispered together for sometime. When they had finished, Kandos approached the door.

“It is all arranged,” he announced. “The queen has given her permission. The party will start shortly after sunrise. It is still dark, and the trail is not safe by night. Just as soon as you and the escort have had your breakfasts you may go in peace. Have we your promise that you will not harm the king.”

“You have,” said Tarzan.

“Very well,” said Kandos. “I am going now to arrange for the escort.”

“And don’t forget our breakfasts!” called Wood.

“I most certainly will not,” promised Kandos.


Tarzan the Magnificent - Contents    |     Chapter 23 - Sentenced


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