Tarzan’s Quest

Chapter 24

Down into Darkness

Edgar Rice Burroughs

JANE’S thoughts had been far away as she swung along the trail behind Tibbs and Brown that afternoon; they had been far to the west where a little, time worn cabin stood near the shore of a landlocked cove on the west coast. There had centered many of the important events and thrilling adventures of her life; there she had met that strange demi-god of the forest whom she had later come to know as Tarzan of the Apes.

Where was he now? Had he received her cablegram? If he had, he was already searching for her. The thought gave her renewed hope. She longed for the sanctuary of those mighty arms, for the peace and safety that his strength and jungle-craft afforded.

As her thoughts re-explored the winding back-trail of time her pace slowed and she dropped still farther in the rear of her companions. For the moment they were forgotten; she was alone in the great jungle of her memories.

But she was not alone. Eyes watched her every move; from the foliage of the trees above, they watched her, ever keeping pace with her.

Presently she felt an unaccountable urge to turn back. She wondered why. Was it a woman’s intuition directing her for her best good? Was it a beneficent or a malign influence? She could only wonder.

At first this peculiar urge was only a faint suggestion; then it became more pronounced, became a force beyond her power to deny. At last she ceased to wonder or to question. Tibbs and Brown seemed very far away. She thought of calling to them, but she knew that it would be useless. For just an instant longer she hesitated, striving to force her will to drive her along the trail in an effort to overtake them; then she surrendered. A power stronger than she controlled her, and she turned docilely back away from them.

It was as though some one was calling to her in a voice that she could not hear but that she must obey. It offered her nothing, nor did it threaten her. She had neither hope nor fear because of it.

When the noose of the Kavuru dropped about her she felt no surprise, no terror—her sensibilities were numbed. She looked into the savage, painted face of the white man who drew her to a limb beside him and removed the noose from about her. It all seemed perfectly natural, as though it were something that had been foreordained since the beginning of time.

The man lifted her to a shoulder and started off through the trees toward the east away from the trail that ran in a northeasterly direction at that point. He did not speak, nor did she. It all seemed quite in order. This state of mind persisted for a matter of an hour or so; then it gradually commenced to fade as she slowly emerged from the state of hypnosis that had deadened her sensibilities. Slowly the horror of her situation dawned upon her. She realized that she was in the clutches of a strange, savage creature that was also a white man. She knew now that she had been hypnotized, the victim of a strange power that turned her will to its own purposes yet left her conscious of all that transpired.

She felt that she must do something about it, but what was there to do? From the ease with which the man carried her, she knew that his strength was abnormal—far beyond any that she could pit against it in an effort to escape. Her only hope lay in evolving some stratagem that would permit her to elude him when he was off guard. This she could never hope to do as long as he carried her.

She wondered where he was taking her and to what fate. If she could only carry on a conversation with him she might discover, but what language would such a creature speak? Well, she could only try.

“Who are you?” she asked in English. “What are you going to do with me?”

The man grunted and then mumbled in a Bantu dialect with which she was familiar, “I do not understand.”

Jane experienced a moment of elation that was great by contrast with the hopelessness of her situation when she realized that he spoke a language she was familiar with.

“I understand you,” she said in the same dialect that he had used. “Now tell me who you are and why you have taken me. I am not an enemy of your people, but if you keep me or harm me my people will come and destroy your village; they will kill many of you.”

“Your people will not come. No one ever comes to the village of the Kavuru. If any did, they would be killed.”

“You call yourselves Kavuru? Where is your village?”

“You will see.”

“What are you going to do with me?”

“I take you to Kavandavanda.”

“Who is Kavandavanda?” she demanded.

“He is Kavandavanda.” The man spoke as though that were sufficient explanation. It was as though one said, “God is God.”

“What does he want of me? What is he going to do with me? If he wants ransom, if you want ransom, my people will pay much to have me back unharmed.”

“You talk too much,” snapped the Kavuru. “Shut up.” For a while Jane was silent; then she tried again, spurred on by the discomfort of the position in which she was being carried.

“Put me down,” she said. “I can travel through the trees quite as well as you. There is no reason why you should carry me. It will be easier for us both if you let me walk.”

At first the Kavuru appeared to ignore the suggestion; but at last he put her down. “Do not try to escape,” he warned. “If you do try to, I may have to kill you. No one must ever escape from a Kavuru.”

Jane stretched her cramped muscles and surveyed her captor. He was indeed a savage appearing specimen; but how much of that was due to his natural countenance and how much to the paint, the nose ornament and the ear rings she could not guess. Like many savage or primitive people, his age was undeterminable by his appearance; yet somehow she felt that he was a young man.

“What is your name?” she asked.

“Ogdli,” he replied.

“You are a chief, of course,” she said, hoping to make a favorable impression by flattery.

“I am not a chief,” he replied. “There is only one chief, and that is Kavandavanda.”

She tried to draw him on into a conversation; but he was short and taciturn at first, finally becoming ugly.

“Shut up, or I will cut your tongue out,” he snapped. “Kavandavanda does not need your tongue.”

Thereafter, Jane was silent; for there was that about her captor and the tone in which he made the threat that told her it was no idle one.

That night he bound her securely with his rope while he lay down to sleep, and the next morning they were on their way again. At the halt he had gathered some fruit and nuts, and these formed the only breakfast that they had.

In the middle of the forenoon they came suddenly to the end of the forest and looked out across a narrow plain to a lofty mountain at the foot of which Jane thought that she discerned what appeared to be a palisade built close to a perpendicular cliff.

The plain was strewn with large boulders and cut by several washes; so that as they advanced across it toward the mountain the palisade was sometimes in view and sometimes hidden from their sight.

As they approached more closely, Jane saw that the palisade was a massive affair of stone and that it formed three sides of a rectangle the rear wall of which was evidently the face of the mighty cliff that loomed high above them.

A small river followed a winding course across the plain from the very foot of the palisade, as though it were born there; though when she came closer she saw that it flowed from beneath the stone wall through an opening left for that purpose.

Her captor shouted as he approached the palisade, and a moment later one of the two massive gates swung open a little way to admit them. Beyond was a narrow street flanked by small stone houses, the flat roofs of which suggested that this was a country of little rain. They were houses similar in design to those built of stone and adobe by the prehistoric builders of the ancient pueblos of southwestern America.

Savage warriors loitered before tiny doorways or tended cooking fires built in little out-door ovens. Like Ogdli, they were all young men, their ornaments, apparel, and weapons being almost identical to his.

Some of them gathered around Jane and her captor, examining her and asking questions of Ogdli.

“You and Ydeni have all the luck,” grumbled one. “He captured a black girl and a white girl all during the full of the moon.”

“The black girl got away from him,” said another.

“Yes, but he went right back into the forest and caught a white girl.”

“He will get no teeth for the black girl.”

“No, but he will get a fine string for the white one; and Ogdli will get another row of teeth—that will make four for Ogdli. Kavandavanda will think well of him.”

“He should,” said Ogdli. “I am the greatest warrior among the Kavuru.”

A big fellow grunted derisively. “You have but three rows of teeth,” he taunted. “I have seven,” and he tapped his chest where it joined his throat.

Jane, listening to this strange conversation, made little of it until this gesture of the speaker called her attention to the necklaces of human teeth about his throat; then she saw that there were seven rows of them and that about Ogdli’s neck were three similar strands. She glanced at some of the other warriors. Some had one or two, others had none. These necklaces were evidently a sign of greatness, evidencing the prowess of the individual and his success in capturing women.

Suddenly she became aware of a marked peculiarity of her surroundings—here she was in an isolated village of a war-like people far removed from other villages, a village in which there were many men in the prime of life; yet she had seen neither women nor children.

What could it mean? Did some strange custom require that women and children remain indoors at certain hours or upon certain occasions, or were there no women nor children? If the latter were true, then what became of the women captives of which they boasted? But it could not be true; there must be women and children. But if there were women, why did the men attend the cooking fires? That was no fit work for warriors.

These observations and thoughts passed quickly through Jane’s mind as she was led along the narrow street by Ogdli. At an intersection her captor turned into a narrow alley and led her to a low, circular building that lent to her surroundings a still greater similtude to the ancient villages of the pueblos; for this was a windowless structure against which leaned a primitive wooden ladder leading to the roof. If it were not a ceremonial kiva its appearance belied its purpose.

With a grunt, Ogdli motioned her to precede him up the ladder; and when she gained the roof she found still further evidence of kivalike attributes, for here the top of a second ladder protruded from a small, rectangular opening.

Ogdli pointed to it. “Go down,” he commanded; “and stay down. Do not try to escape. It will be worse for you if you do try.”

Jane looked down through the aperture. She could see nothing—just a black pit.

“Hurry!” admonished Ogdli.

The girl placed a foot upon a rung of the ladder and started slowly down into the black, mysterious void. She was no coward, but her courage was tested to its utmost as she forced her unwilling feet down that shaky, primitive ladder. Uppermost in her mind was the fact that she had seen no women in the village of the Kavuru. What had been the fate of the captives of which the warriors had boasted? Had they, too, descended this ladder? Had they gone down into this dark abyss never to return?

Tarzan’s Quest - Contents    |     Chapter 25 - Defeat

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