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Chapter 9 Tarzan and the City of Gold by Edgar Rice Burroughs


A score of slaves were busily cleaning up the arena following the departure of the lion-drawn chariots, the audience was standing and stretching itself, nobles were wandering from loge to loge visiting their friends. The sounds of many voices enveloped the stadium in one mighty discord. The period was one of intermission between events.

Now a trumpet sounded, and the warriors guarding Tarzan and Phobeg ordered them down into the arena and paraded them once around it that the people might compare the gladiators and choose a favourite. As they passed before the royal loge, Nemone leaned forward with half-closed eyes surveying the tall stranger and the squat Cathnean.

The two men were posted in the arena a short distance from the royal loge, and the captain of the stadium was giving them their instructions which were extremely simple: they were to remain inside the arena and try to kill one another with their bare hands, though the use of elbows, knees, feet, or teeth was not barred. There were no other rules governing the combat. The winner was to receive his freedom, though even this had been qualified by Nemone.

'When the trumpet sounds you may attack,' said the captain of the stadium. 'And may Thoos be with you.'

Tarzan and Phobeg had been placed ten paces apart.

Now they stood waiting the signal. Phobeg swelled his chest and beat upon it with his fists; he flexed his arms, swelling the great muscles of his biceps until they stood out like great knotty balls; then he hopped about, warming up his leg muscles. He was attracting all the attention, and that pleased him excessively.

Tarzan stood quietly, his arms folded loosely across his chest, his muscles relaxed. He appeared totally unconscious of the presence of the noisy multitude or even of Phobeg, but he was not unconscious of anything that was transpiring about him. His eyes and his ears were alert; it would be Tarzan who would hear the first note of the trumpet's signal. Tarzan was ready!

The trumpet pealed, and Tarzan's eyes swung back to Phobeg. A strange silence fell upon the amphitheatre. The two men approached one another, Phobeg strutting and confident, Tarzan with the easy, graceful stride of a lion.

'Say your prayers, fellow!' shouted the temple guard. 'I am going to kill you, but first I shall play with you for the amusement of Nemone.'

Phobeg came closer and reached for Tarzan. The ape-man let him seize him by the shoulders; then Tarzan cupped his two hands and brought the heels of them up suddenly and with great force beneath Phobeg's chin and at the same time pushed the man from him. The great head snapped back, and the fellow's huge bulk hurtled backward a dozen paces, where Phobeg sat down heavily. A groan of surprise arose from the audience. Phobeg scrambled to his feet. His face was contorted with rage; in an instant he had gone berserk. With a roar, he charged the ape-man.

'No quarter!' he screamed. 'I kill you now!'

'Don't you wish to throw me about a bit first?' asked Tarzan in a low voice, as he lightky side stepped the other's mad charge. 'No!' screamed Phobeg, turning clumsily and charging again. 'I kill! I kill!'

Tarzan Caught the outstretched hands and spread them wide; then a bronzed arm, lightning-like, clamped about Phobeg's short neck. The ape-man wheeled suddenly about, leaned forward, and hurled his antagonist over his head. Phobeg fell heavily to the sandy gravel of the arena.

Nemone leaned from the royal loge, her eyes flashing, her bosom heaving. Phobeg arose but this time more slowly, nor did he charge again, but approached his antagonist warily. His tactics now were very different from what they had been. He wanted to get close enough to Tarzan to get a hold; that was all he desired, just a hold; then, he knew, he could crush the man with his great strength.

Perhaps the ape-man sensed what was in the mind of his foe, perhaps it was just chance that caused him to taunt Phobeg by holding his left wrist out to the other. Whatever it was, Phobeg seized upon the opportunity and, grasping Tarzan's wrist, sought to drag the ape-man into his embrace. Tarzan stepped in quickly, struck Phobeg a terrific blow in the face with his right fist, seized the wrist of the hand that held his, and, again whirling quickly beneath his victim, threw him heavily once more, using Phobeg's arm as a lever and his own shoulder as a fulcrum.

This time Phobeg had difficulty in arising at all. He came up slowly. The ape-man was standing over him.

Suddenly Tarzan stooped and seized Phobeg, and, lifting him bodily, held him above his head. 'Shall I run now, Phobeg,' he growled, 'or are you too tired to chase me?' Then he hurled the man to the ground again a little nearer to the royal loge where Nemone sat, tense and thrilled.

Like a lion with its prey, the Lord of the Jungle followed the man who had taunted him and would have killed him; twice again he picked him up and hurled him closer to the end of the arena. Now the fickle crowd was screaming to Tarzan to kill Phobeg-Phobeg, the strongest man in Cathne.

Again Tarzan seized his antagonist and held him above his head. Phobeg struggled weakly, but he was quite helpless. Tarzan walked to the side of the arena near the royal loge and hurled the great body up into the audience.

'Take your strong man,' he said; 'Tarzan does not want him.' Then he walked away and stood before the ramp, waiting, as though he demanded his freedom.

Amid shrieks and howls that called to Tarzan's mind only the foulest of wild beasts, the loathsome hyena, the crowd hurled the unhappy Phobeg back into the arena. 'Kill him! Kill him!' they screamed.

Nemone leaned from her loge. 'Kill him, Tarzan!' she cried.

'I shall not kill him,' replied the ape-man.

Nemone arose in her loge. She was flushed and excited. 'Tarzan!' she cried, and when the ape-man glanced up at her, 'Why do you not kill him?'

'Why should I kill him?' he demanded. 'He cannot harm me, and I kill only in self-defence or for food.' Phobeg, bruised, battered, and helpless, arose weakly to his feet and stood reeling drunkenly. He heard the voice of the pitiless mob screaming for his death. He saw his antagonist standing a few paces away in front of the ramp, paying no attention to him, and dimly and as though from a great distance he had heard him refuse to kill him. He had heard, but he did not comprehend.

'Kill him, fellow!' Erot cried. 'It's the queen's command.'

The ape-man glanced up at the queen's favourite.

'Tarzan kills only whom it pleases him to kill.' He spoke in a low voice that yet carried to the royal loge. 'I shall not kill Phobeg.'

'You fool,' cried Erot, 'do you not understand that it is the queen's wish, that it is the queen's command, which no one may disobey and live, that you kill the fellow?'

'If the queen wants him killled, why doesn't she send you down to do it? She is your queen, not mine.' There was neither awe nor respect in the voice of the ape-man.

Erot looked horrified. He glanced at the queen. 'Shall I order the guard to destroy the impudent savage?' he asked.

Nemone shook her head. Her countenance remained inscrutable, but a strange light burned in her eyes. 'We give them both their lives,' she said. 'Set Phobeg free, and bring the other to me in the palace.'

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