TARZAN and Brown had talked late into the night in an attempt to formulate a feasible plan whereby they might gain entrance to the village of the Kavuru, with the result that the ape-man had finally suggested a mad scheme as the only possible solution of their problem.
Brown shrugged and grinned. “We could sure get in that way, of course, though it all depends. But how we goin’ to get out again?”
“Our problem now,” replied Tarzan, “is to get in. We shall not have the problem of getting out until later. Perhaps we shall not come out. It really is not necessary that you come in with me if—”
“Skip it,” interrupted Brown. “Annette’s in there. That’s enough for me to know. When do we start?”
“We can’t do much until just before dawn. You need rest. Lie down. I’ll wake you in time.”
Tarzan slept, too—a little way from the others on the edge of the clearing where he had a view of the village. He slept in a low crotch a few feet above the ground; and he slept well, yet he slept lightly, as was his wont. The habitual noises of the jungle did not disturb him; but as the time approached when he must awaken Brown, he himself came suddenly awake, conscious of something unusual that disturbed the monotonous harmony of the forest.
Alert and watchful, he rose silently to his feet, listening. Every faculty, crystal sharp, was attuned to the faint note of discord that had aroused him. What was it?
Swiftly he moved through the trees, for now his sensitive nose had identified the author of the stealthy sound that his ears had detected—a Kavuru.
Presently the ape-man saw the dim figure of a man walking through the forest. He was walking rapidly, almost at a trot; and he was breathing heavily, as one who had been running. Tarzan paused above him for an instant and then dropped upon his shoulders, bearing him to the ground.
The man was powerful; and he fought viciously to escape, but he was wax in the hands of the Lord of the Jungle. The ape-man could have killed him; but the instant that he had realized that a Kavuru might fall into his hands, he had planned upon taking him alive, feeling that he might turn him to some good account.
Presently he succeeded in binding the fellow’s wrists behind him; then he stood him upon his feet. For the first time, his captive looked him in the face. It was still dark, but not so dark that the Kavuru could not recognize the fact that his captor was not one of his own kind. He breathed a sigh of relief.
“Who are you?” he demanded. “Why did you capture me? You are not going to take me back to Kavandavanda? No, of course not—you are not a Kavuru.”
Tarzan did not know why the man should object to being taken to Kavandavanda. He did not even know who Kavandavanda was, nor where; but he saw an opening, and he took advantage of it.
“If you answer my questions,” he said, “I will not take you back to Kavandavanda, nor will I harm you. Who are you?”
“I am Ogdli.”
“And you just came from the village?”
“You do not want to go back there?”
“No. Kavandavanda would kill me.”
“Is Kavandavanda such a mighty warrior that you are afraid of him?”
“It is not that, but he is very powerful. He is high priest of the priests of Kavuru.”
By simple questions Tarzan had learned from the answers Ogdli made enough to give him the lead that he desired to glean further information from his prisoner.
“What did Kavandavanda want of the two white girls that were taken to him?” he demanded.
“At first he would have killed them,” replied Ogdli, willingly, for now he thought that he saw an opportunity to win mercy from this strange giant who was evidently interested in the two girls; “but,” he continued, “he suddenly came to desire one of them for a mate. I tried to befriend them. I was leading them out of the village by a secret passage when we were set upon by several warriors. They recaptured the girls, and I barely escaped with my life.”
“So the girls are still alive?”
“Yes; they were a few minutes ago.”
“Are they in any immediate danger?”
“No one can say what Kavandavanda will do. I think they are in no immediate danger, for I am sure that Kavandavanda will take one of them for a mate. Perhaps he already has.”
“Where is this secret passage? Lead me to it. Wait until I get my friends.” He led Ogdli to where the others slept, and aroused them.
“I can show you where the passage is,” explained Ogdli, “but you cannot enter the temple through it. The doors at either end open only in one direction, toward the forest, for those who do not know their secret; and only Kavandavanda knows that. One may easily pass out of the temple, but it is impossible to return.”
Tarzan questioned Ogdli for several minutes; then he turned to Brown. “Annette and Lady Greystoke are in the temple,” he explained. “The temple is in a small canyon behind the village. If we gained access to the village we would still have a battle on our hands to reach the temple. This fellow has told me where I can expect to find the prisoners in the temple; he has also given me other valuable information that may be useful if we succeed in getting to Lady Greystoke and Annette. I believe that he has spoken the truth. He says, further, that one of the women is in grave danger at the moment—I think it is Lady Greystoke, from his description; so there is no time to be lost.” Then he turned to Muviro. “Hold this man until Brown and I return. If we do not return before dark, you may know that we have failed; then you should return to your own country. Do, then, what you will with this prisoner. Give Brown and me the weapons that you took from the bodies of the fliers. They are of no more use to you, as you have exhausted the ammunition. Brown thinks we may find more in the ship. Come, Brown.”
The two men moved silently out into the clearing, the ape-man in the lead. He bent his steps toward the ship, Brown treading close upon his heels. Neither spoke; their plans had been too well formulated to require speech.
When they came to the ship, Brown immediately crawled into the forward cockpit. He was there for several minutes; then he entered the rear cockpit. While he was thus engaged, Tarzan was busy over the bodies of the slain aviators.
When Brown had completed his examination of the interior of the cockpits, he descended to the ground and opened the baggage compartment; then he joined the ape-man.
“Plenty of ammunition,” he said, and handed Tarzan a full box of cartridges. “That’s about all you can manage—you ain’t got no pockets. I’ve stuffed my pockets full—must weigh a ton.”
“How about petrol?” asked Tarzan.
“Not much more’n a hatful,” replied the American.
“Will it do?”
“Yep, if it don’t take too long to get warmed up. Got the chutes?”
Tarzan handed Brown a parachute that he had taken from the body of one of the fliers; the other he adjusted to his own body. They spoke no more. Tarzan climbed into the forward cockpit, Brown into the other.
“Here’s hoping,” prayed Brown under his breath as he opened the valve of the air starter. The answering whir of the propeller brought a satisfied smile to his lips; then the ignition caught and the engine roared.
They had waited for dawn, and dawn was breaking as Brown taxied across the rough plain down wind for the take-off. He picked his way among boulders, choosing the best lane that he could find; but he saw that it was going to be a hazardous undertaking at best.
When he reached the limit of the best going, he brought the nose of the ship around into the wind, set the brakes, and opened the throttle wide for a moment. The motor was hitting beautifully.
“Sweet,” muttered the American; then he throttled down to idling speed and shouted ahead to Tarzan, “If you know any prayers, buddy, you’d better say ’em—all of ’em. We’re off!”
Tarzan glanced back, his white teeth gleaming in one of his rare smiles. There was a rush of wind as Brown gave the ship full throttle. It was a perilous take-off, swerving to miss boulders as the ship picked up speed. The tail rose. The ship bumped over the rough ground, tipped drunkenly as one wheel struck a small rock. A low boulder loomed suddenly ahead. It would be impossible to swerve enough to miss it without cracking up. Brown pulled the stick back and held his breath. The ship rose a foot or two from the ground. Brown saw that it was not going to clear the boulder. He could see but a single hope, a slim one; but he seized it instantly. He pushed the stick forward, the wheels struck the ground with a jarring bump, the ship bounced into the air as the stick helped to pull her up just enough to clear the boulder.
She had flying speed by now and continued to rise slowly. It had been a close call; and although the morning air was chill, Brown was wet with perspiration as he climbed in a wide spiral above the forest.
The village of the Kavuru lay below snuggled against the foot of the high escarpment that backed it, but it was not the village in which the two men were interested—it was the box canyon behind it where lay the temple of Kavandavanda of which Ogdli had told them.
Higher and higher rose the graceful plane, watched from the edge of the forest by Muviro, Balando, Tibbs, and Ogdli; and now, awakened by the drone of the motor, by Kavuru warriors congregated in the main street of the village.
“The dead men fly!” whispered a warrior in awed tones, for he thought that the ship was being flown by the two who had brought it down and who had fallen before the attack of the villagers.
The thought, once voiced, took rdot in the minds of the Kavuru and terrified them.
They saw the ship turn and fly toward the village, and their fear mounted.
“They come for vengeance,” said one.
“If we go into our huts they cannot see us,” suggested another.
That was enough. Instantly the street was deserted, as the Kavuru hid from the vengeance of the dead.
Above the lofty escarpment and the towering cliffs Brown guided the ship. Below them lay the little valley and the temple of Kavandavanda, plainly visible in the light of the new day.
The pilot cut his motor and shouted to Tarzan. “Not a chance to land there,” he said.
Tarzan nodded. “Get more elevation, and tell me when.”
Brown opened the throttle and commenced to climb in a great circle. He watched the altimeter. Before they had left the ground he had known the direction of the wind and estimated its force. At two thousand feet he levelled off and circled the rim of the canyon to a point above the cliffs on the windward side.
He cut his motor for an instant and shouted to the ape-man. “Stand by!”
Tarzan slipped the catch of his safety belt. Brown brought the ship into position again. “Jump!” he shouted as he brought the ship sharply into a momentary stall.
Tarzan swung onto the lower wing and jumped. An instant later Brown followed him.