Tarzan the Magnificent

Chapter 25

Battle

Edgar Rice Burroughs


“I THINK we yet have a chance to escape them both,” said Valthor. “Turn him toward the east. Zygo and his loyal followers are there in the mountains.”

“We do not have to run away from our friends,” replied Tarzan.

“I hope they recognize you as a friend before they loose their war lions. They are trained to leap to the backs of elephants and kill the men riding there.”

“Then we’ll approach them on foot,” said the ape-man.

“And be caught by the Erythra,” added Valthor.

“We shall have to take a chance but wait! Let’s try something.” He spoke to the bull, and the animal came to a stop and wheeled about; then Tarzan leaped to the ground, motioning Valthor to follow him. He spoke a few words into the ear of the elephant, and stepped aside. Up went the great trunk, forward the huge ears; as the mighty beast started back to meet the oncoming elephants.

“I think he’ll hold them up long enough for us to reach the Cathnean line before they can overtake us,” said Tarzan.

The two men turned then and started toward the advancing horde of warriors—toward ranks of gleaming spears and golden helmets and the lions of war on golden chains. Suddenly a warrior left the ranks and ran forward to meet them; and when he was closer, Tarzan saw that he was an officer. It was Gemnon.

“I recognized you at once,” he cried to the ape-man. “We were coming to rescue you.”

“How did you know that I was in trouble?” demanded Tarzan.

“Gemba told us. He was a prisoner with you in the slave pen; but he escaped, and came straight to Thudos with word that you were to be killed.”

“Two of my friends are still prisoners in Athne,” said Tarzan, “and now that you have caught many of the warriors of Phoros out here on the plain in a disorganized condition—”

“Yes,” said Gemnon; “Thudos realized his advantage, and we shall attack at once as soon as we get back to the lines.”

Valthor and Gemnon had met before, when Valthor was a prisoner in Cathne. Thudos the king welcomed them both, for Gemba had told him of the Erythra; and naturally his sympathies were with the aristocracy of Athne.

“If Thoos is with us today,” he said, “we shall put Zygo back upon his throne.” Then, to an aide, “Loose the lions of war!”

The great bull with the dark tusk had met the first of the war elephants of Athne head on with such a terrific impact that all the warriors were hurled from the howdah and the war elephant thrown to the ground; then he charged the next and overthrew it, whereat the others scattered to avoid him; and a moment later the war lions of Cathne were among them. They did not attack the elephants, but leaped to the howdahs and mauled the warriors. Two or three lions would attack a single elephant at a time, and at least two of them succeeded ordinarily in reaching the howdah.

The commander of the Erythros forces sought to rally his men and form a line to repel the advance of the Cathneans; and while he was seeking to accomplish this, the Cathnean foot warriors were upon them, adding to the rout that the great bull had started and the lions almost completed.

The Erythros warriors hurled spears at their foes and sought to trample them beneath the feet of their mounts. The Cathneans’ first aim was to kill the mahouts and stampede the elephants and while some warriors were attempting this, others pressed close to the elephants in an endeavor to cut the girths with their sharp daggers, precipitating the howdahs and their occupants to the ground.

The shouts of the warriors, the trumpeting of the elephants, the roars of the lions, and the screams of the wounded produced an indescribable bedlam that added to the confusion of the scene and seemed to raise the blood lust of the participants to demonic proportions.

While a portion of his forces was engaging the Erythra on the plain before the city, Thudos maneuvered the remainder to a position between the battle and the city, cutting off the Erythra retreat; and with this and the killing of their commander the Athneans lost heart and scattered in all directions, leaving the city to the mercy of the enemy.

Thudos led his victorious troops into Athne, and with him marched Tarzan and Valthor. They liberated Wood and the other prisoners in the slave pen, including Spike and Troll; and then, at Wood’s urgent pleading, marched to the palace in search of Gonfala. They met with slight resistance, the palace guard soon fleeing from the superior numbers that confronted them.

Tarzan and Wood, led by a palace slave, hurried to the apartment where Gonfala was confined. The door, fastened by a bolt on the outside, was quickly opened; and the two men entered to see Gonfala standing above the body of Phoros, a dagger in her hand.

At sight of Wood, she rushed forward and threw herself into his arms. “Word just reached him that Menofra is dead,” she said, “and I had to kill him.”

Wood pressed her to him. “Poor child,” he whispered, “what you must have suffered! But your troubles are over now. The Erythra have fallen, and we are among friends.”

After the fall of Athne, events moved rapidly. Zygo was summoned from the mountains and restored to his throne by his hereditary enemies, the Cathneans.

“Now you can live in peace,” said Tarzan.

“Peace!” shouted Thudos and Zygo almost simultaneously. “Who would care to live always in peace?”

“I replace Zygo on the throne,” explained Thudos; “so that we Cathneans may continue to have foes worthy of our arms. No peace for us, eh, Zygo?”

“Never, my friend!” replied the king of Athne.

For a week Tarzan and the other Europeans remained in Athne; then they set off toward the south, taking Spike and Troll and the great diamond with them. A short march from Athne they met Muviro with a hundred warriors coming to search for their beloved Bwana, and thus escorted they returned to the ape-man’s own country.

Here Tarzan let Spike and Troll leave for the coast on the promise that neither would return to Africa.

As they were leaving, Spike cast sorrowful glances at the great diamond. “We’d orter get somethin’ out o’ that,” he said. “After all, we went through a lot o’ hell on account of it.”

“Very well,” said Tarzan, “take it with you.”

Wood and Gonfala looked at the ape-man in astonishment, but said nothing until after Troll and Spike had departed; then they asked why he had given the great diamond to two such villains.

A slow smile touched the ape-man’s lips. “It was not the Gonfal,” he said. “I have that at home. It was the imitation that Mafka kept to show and to protect the real Gonfal. And something else that may interest you. I found the great emerald of the Zuli and buried it in the Bantango country. Some day we’ll go and get that, too. You and Gonfala should be well equipped with wealth when you return to civilization—you should have enough to get you into a great deal of trouble and keep you there all the rest of your lives.”


THE END


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