Tarzan’s Quest

Chapter 31

The Wages of Sin

Edgar Rice Burroughs

KAVANDAVANDA’S soft, youthful appearance belied his strength. Jane was no match for him, and though she fought every foot of the way, fought like a young tigress, he dragged her back into his inner apartment.

“I ought to kill you, you she devil,” he growled, as he threw her roughly upon the couch; “but I won’t. I’ll keep you; I’ll tame you—and I’ll start now.” He came toward her, leering.

Just then a pounding sounded on the outer door of the antechamber; and a voice rose in terror, calling “Kavandavanda! Kavandavanda! Save us! Save us!”

The high priest wheeled angrily. “Who dares disturb Kavandavanda?” he demanded. “Get you gone!”

But instead of going, those at the door flung it open and pressed into the antechamber to the very door of the inner room. There were both slaves and warriors in the party. Their very presence there would have told the high priest that something was amiss even without the evidence of their frightened faces.

Now, indeed, was he impressed. “What brings you here?” he demanded.

“The dead men fly; they fly above the village and the temple. They have come seeking vengeance.”

“You talk like fools and cowards,” grumbled Kavandavan-da. “Dead men do not fly.”

“But they do fly,” insisted a warrior. “The two that we killed yesterday are flying again this instant above the village and the temple. Come out, Kavandavanda, and cast a spell upon them, sending them away.”

“I will go and look,” said the high priest. “Ydeni, bring this girl along. If I leave her out of my sight, she will find some means to escape.”

“She shall not escape me,” said Ydeni; and, seizing Jane by the wrist, he dragged her after the high priest, the warriors, and the slaves into the courtyard of the temple.

The moment that they emerged from the building Jane heard plainly the drone of a ship’s motor far above them. Looking up, she saw a biplane circling the canyon.

With fascinated eyes the Kavuru were watching it—with fascinated, frightened eyes. Jane, too, was fascinated. She thought that the ship was searching for a landing place; and she prayed that the pilot might not attempt a landing here, for she knew that whoever was in the ship would meet instant death at the hands of the savage Kavuru.

Then she saw a figure leap from the plane. A gasp of terror rose from the Kavuru. The first figure was followed by a second.

“They come!” cried a warrior. “Save us, Kavandavanda, from the vengeance of the dead.”

The billowing white chutes opened above the falling fig-ures, checking their speed.

“They have spread their wings,” shrieked a slave. “Like the vulture, they will swoop down upon us.”

Jane’s eyes followed the ship. As the second man jumped, it nosed down, then levelled off by itself, shot across the little canyon, came around in a steep bank, and went into a tail spin almost directly above them.

Brown had opened the throttle wide at the instant that he jumped, for he and Tarzan had planned this very thing, hoping that the ship would crash near enough to the temple to cause a diversion that would enable them to reach the ground before warriors could gather below to receive them on the tips of sharp spears. But they had not anticipated the reality, the fear that gripped the Kavuru at sight of them and the ship.

As they floated gently toward earth, a light wind carried them in the direction of the temple. They saw the crowd gathered in the courtyard looking up at them. They saw the ship diving with wide open throttle at terrific speed. They saw the crowd melt and vanish into the interior of the temple an instant before the plane crashed in the courtyard and burst into flame.

Tarzan touched the ground first and had thrown off the parachute harness by the time Brown was down. A moment later the two men started for the temple at a run.

There was no one to block their way. Even the guards at the outer gate had fled in terror. As they entered the courtyard, a few frightened leopards raced past them. The plane was burning fiercely against the temple wall a hundred feet away.

Tarzan, followed closely by Brown, ran for the main entrance to the building. Even here there was none to dispute their right to enter the sacred precincts.

At a distance they heard the sound of a babel of voices; and, guided by his keen ears, the ape-man hastened along corridors in the direction of these sounds.

In the great throne room of Kavandavanda all the warriors and slaves of the temple were gathered. The high priest, trembling on his throne, was a picture of terror. The girls of the temple, those poor creatures who were awaiting death to give eternal life and youth to the Kavuru, were crouched at one side of the dais, wide-eyed and terrified.

A warrior pushed forward toward the throne. An angry scowl darkened his painted face, made doubly hideous by the ivory skewer that passed through the septum of his nose. Many human teeth lay upon his breast, marks of his prowess as a hunter of girls. He pointed a finger at Kavandavanda.

“Your sins are being visited upon us,” he bellowed. “You would have broken your vow. We who prevented Ogdli from taking the white girl last night know this. She bewitched him. She bewitched you. It is she who has brought the dead men upon us. Destroy her. Destroy her now with your own hands that we may be saved.”

“Kill her! Kill her!” shrieked a hundred hoarse voices.

“Kill her! Kill her!” shrilled the fat, oily black slaves in their high falsettos.

A couple of warriors seized Jane where she stood among the cowering girls and dragged her to the dais. They raised her roughly and threw her upon it.

Still trembling, Kavandavanda seized her by the hair and dragged her to her knees. From his loin-cloth he drew a long, crude dagger. As he raised it above the heart of the girl a pistol barked from the doorway of the throne room; and Kavandavanda, high priest of the Kavura, seized his chest and, with a piercing scream, collapsed beside the girl he would have killed.

Jane’s eyes shot toward the doorway. “Tarzan!” she cried. “Tarzan of the Apes.”

A hundred pairs of other eyes saw him, too—saw him and Brown advancing fearlessly into the room. A warrior raised his spear against them; and this time Brown’s gun spoke, and the fellow dropped in his tracks.

Then Tarzan spoke, spoke to them in their own tongue. “We have come for our women,” he said. “Let them come away with us in peace, or many will die. You saw how we came. You know we are not as other men. Do not make us angry.”

As he spoke, he continued to advance. The Kavuru, hesitating to attack, fearful of these strange creatures that flew down from the sky, that had been dead and were alive again, fell back.

Suddenly Brown saw Annette among the other girls beside the dais. He leaped forward, and the warriors fell aside and let him pass. A great emotion choked the words from his throat as he took the girl in his arms.

The ape-man leaped to the side of his mate. “Come,” he said. “We must get out of here before they have time to gather their wits.” Then he turned to the girls huddled below. “Is Buira, the daughter of Muviro, here?” he asked.

A young black girl ran forward. “The Big Bwana!” she cried. “At last I am saved.”

“Come quickly,” commanded the ape-man, “and bring any of the other girls with you who wish to escape.”

There was not one who did not wish to leave, and Tarzan and Brown herded them from the throne room and toward the temple entrance; but they had not gone far when they were met by rolling clouds of smoke and heard the crackling of flames ahead.

“The temple is afire!” cried Annette.

“I guess we’re in for it,” growled Brown. “It caught from the ship. Looks like we’re trapped. Does anyone else know a way out?”

“Yes,” said Jane. “There is a secret passage leading from the temple to the forest. I know where the entrance is. Come this way.” She turned back and they retraced their steps toward the throne room.

Soon they commenced to meet warriors and slaves. These slunk away into side corridors and apartments. Presently they reached the apartments of Kavandavanda. Jane was struck by a sudden thought.

She turned to Brown. “We all risked our lives,” she said, “and two of us died in a mad search for the secret of eternal youth. It is in this room. Do you care to take the few seconds it will require to get it?”

“Do I?” exclaimed Brown. “And how! Lead me to it.”

In the inner room of the high priest’s apartments, Jane pointed out the cabinet. “There is a box in there that contains what you wish, but the key is on the body of Kavandavanda,” she explained.

“I got a key right here,” said Brown; and, drawing his pistol, be fired a shot into the lock that shattered it; then he opened the cabinet.

“There,” said Jane, pointing out the box that contained the pellets.

Brown seized it, and they continued on in search of the tunnel’s entrance. But presently Jane paused, hesitant. “I am afraid we have come too far,” she said. “I thought I knew just where the tunnel was, but now I am all confused.”

“We must find some way out of the temple,” said Tarzan. “The fire is spreading rapidly, following closely behind us.”

Smoke was already rolling down upon them in stifling volume. They could hear the ominous roaring of the flames, the crash of falling timbers as portions of the roof fell in, the shouts and screams of the inmates of the temple.

A warrior, choking and half blinded, stumbled into view from the dense smoke that filled the corridor along which they had come. Before the man could gather his faculties, Tarzan seized him.

“Lead us out of here,” he commanded. “That is the price of your life.”

When the fellow was able to open his eyes he looked at his captor. “Tarzan of the Apes!” he exclaimed.

“Ydeni,” said the ape-man. “I did not recognize you at first.”

“And you wish me to lead you out of the temple? You who have slain Kavandavanda, our high priest?”

“Yes,” replied Tarzan.

“If I show you the way through the village you will all be killed. The warriors of Kavuru are recovering from their first fright. They will never let you pass. I could lead you that way and let you be killed; but once you saved my life. Now, I shall give you yours. Follow me.”

He led the party a short distance down a side corridor and turned into a gloomy apartment. Crossing it, he pushed open a door beyond which was utter darkness.

“This tunnel leads out into the forest,” he said. “Go your way, Tarzan of the Apes, nor return again to the village of the Kavuru.”


Three weeks later a party of six was gathered before a roaring fire in the living room of Tarzan’s bungalow far from the savage village of the Kavuru. The Lord of the Jungle was there, and his mate; Brown and Annette sat upon a lion’s skin before the hearth, holding hands; Tibbs sat decorously on the edge of a chair in the background. He had not yet become accustomed to sitting on terms of equality with titled personages. Little Nkima, with far greater poise, perched upon the shoulder of a viscount.

“What are we goin’ to do with this box of pills?” demanded Brown.

“Whatever you wish,” said Jane. “You were willing to risk your life to get them. If I recall correctly, I think you said something to the effect that if you had them back in civilization they would make you ‘lousy’ with money. Keep them.”

“No,” replied the American. “We all risked our lives, and anyway you were the one that really got them. The more I think of it, the less I like my scheme. Most everybody lives too long anyway for the good of the world—most of ’em ought to have died young. Suppose Congress got hold of ’em?—just think of that! Not on your life.

“I’ll tell you what we’ll do. We’ll divide them. There will be five of us that will live forever.”

“And be beautiful always,” added Annette.

“If you will pardon my saying so, Miss,” observed Tibbs with an apologetic cough, “I should rawther dislike thinking of pressing trousers for so many years; and as for being beautiful—my word! I’d never get a job. Who ever heard of a beautiful valet?”

“Well, we’ll divide ’em anyway,” insisted Brown. “You don’t have to take ’em, but be sure you don’t sell none of ’em to no cab driver princes. Here, I’ll divide ’em into five equal parts.”

“Aren’t you forgetting Nkima?” asked Jane, smiling.

“That’s right,” said Brown. “We’ll make it six parts. He’s sure a lot more use in the world than most people.”


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