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Chapter 13 Tarzan and the Castaways by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Thak Chan knew of many gods, and he tried to place this one. He knew them as the mighty ones, the captains that go before, and the old ones. There was Huitz-Hok, Lord Hills and Valleys; Che, Lord Forest; and innumerable earth gods; then of course there was Itzamna, ruler of the sky, son of Hunab Kuh, the first god; and Hun Ahau, god of the underworld, Metnal, a cold, dank, gloomy place beneath the earth, where the rank and file and those who led evil lives went after death; and there was also Aychuykak, god of war, who was always carried into battle by four captains on a special litter.

Perhaps this one was Che, Lord Forest; and so Thak Chan addressed him thus, and being polite, thanked him for saving him from the strange beast. However, when Che replied, it was in a language that Thak Chan had never heard before, and which he thought perhaps was the language of the gods.

Tarzan looked at the strange little brown man who spoke this amazing language which he could not understand; then he said, "Dako-zan," which in the language of the great apes means "meat;" but Thak Chan only shook his head and apologized for being so stupid.

Seeing that he was getting nowhere this way, Tarzan took an arrow from his quiver and with its point drew a picture of Horta, the boar, in the well-packed earth of the trail; then he fitted the arrow to his bow and drove the shaft into the picture behind the left shoulder.

Thak Chan grinned and nodded excitedly; then he motioned Tarzan to follow him. As he started away along the trail, he chanced to look up and see the two orangutans perched above him and looking down at him. This was too much for the simple mind of Thak Chan; first the strange and horrible beast, then a god, and now these two hideous creatures. Trembling, Thak Chan fitted an arrow to his bow; but when he aimed it at the apes, Tarzan snatched the weapon from him, and called to the orangutans, which came down and stood beside him.

Thak Chan was now convinced that these also were gods, and he was quite overcome by the thought that he was consorting with three of them. He wanted to hurry right back to Chichen Itza and tell everybody he knew of the miraculous happenings of this day, but then it occurred to him that nobody would believe him and that the priests might become angry. He recalled, too, that men had been chosen as victims of the sacrificial rites at the temple for much less than this.

There must be some way. Thak Chan thought and thought as he led Tarzan of the Apes through the forest in search of wild boar; and at last he hit upon a magnificent scheme; he would lead the three gods back to Chichen Itza that all men might see for themselves that Thak Chan spoke the truth.

Tarzan thought that he was being led in search of Horta, the boar; and when a turn in the trail brought them to the edge of the jungle, and he saw an amazing city, he was quite as surprised as Thak Chan had been when he had come to the realization that his three companions were gods. Tarzan could see that the central part of the city was built upon a knoll on the summit of which rose a pyramid surmounted by what appeared to be a temple. The pyramid was built of blocks of lava which formed steep steps leading to the summit. Around the pyramid were other buildings which hid its base from Tarzan's view; and around all this central portion of the city was a wall, pierced occasionally by gates. Outside the wall were flimsy dwellings of thatch, doubtless the quarters of the poorer inhabitants of the city.

"Chichen Itza," said Thak Chan, pointing and beckoning Tarzan to follow him.

With the natural suspicion of the wild beast which was almost inherent with him, the ape man hesitated. He did not like cities, and he was always suspicious of strangers, but presently curiosity got the better of his judgment, and he followed Thak Chan toward the city. They passed men and women working in fields where maize, and beans, and tubers were being cultivated—a monument to the perspicacity of Chac Tutul Xiu, who over four hundred years before, had had the foresight to bring seeds and bulbs with him from Yucatan.

The men and women in the fields looked up in amazement as they saw Thak Chan's companions, but they were still more amazed when Thak Chan announced proudly that they were Che, Lord Forest, and two of the earth gods.

By this time, however, the nerves of the two earth gods had endured all that they could; and these deities turned and scampered off toward the jungle, lumbering along in the half stooping posture of the great apes. Thak Chan called after them pleadingly, but to no avail, and a moment later he watched them swing into the trees and disappear.

By this time, the warriors guarding the gates they were approaching had become very much interested and not a little excited. They had summoned an officer, and he was awaiting Thak Chan and his companion when they arrived before the gate. The officer was Xatl Din, who had commanded the party of warriors that had discovered the castaways upon the beach.

"Who are you," he demanded, "and whom do you bring to Chichen Itza?"

"I am Thak Chan, the hunter," replied Tarzan's companion, "and this is Che, Lord Forest, who saved me from a terrible beast that was about to devour me. The two who ran away were earth gods. The people of Chichen Itza must have offended them or they would have come into the city."

Xatl Din had never seen a god, but he realized that there was something impressive about this almost naked stranger who towered high above him and his fellows, for Tarzan's height was accentuated by the fact that the Maya are a small people; and compared with them, he looked every inch a god. However, Xatl Din was not wholly convinced, for he had seen strangers on the beach, and he guessed that this might be one of them.

"Who are you who comes to Chichen Itza?" he demanded of Tarzan. "If you are indeed Che, Lord Forest, give me some proof of it, that Cit Coh Xiu, the king, and Chal Yip Xiu, the Ah Kin Mai, may prepare to welcome you befittingly."

"Che, Lord Forest, does not understand our language, most noble one," interposed Thak Chan; "he understands only the language of the gods."

"The gods can understand all languages," said Xatl Din.

"I should have said that he would not debase himself by speaking it," Thak Chan corrected himself. "Undoubtedly he understands all that we say, but it would not be meet for a god to speak the language of mortals."

"You know a great deal for a simple hunter," said Xatl Din superciliously.

"Those whom the gods make friends with must be very wise," said Thak Chan loftily.

Thak Chan had been feeling more and more important all along. Never before had he had such a protracted conversation with a noble, in fact he had seldom ever said more than, "Yes, most noble one," or "No, most noble one." Thak Chan's assurance and the impressive appearance of the stranger were, at last, too much for Xatl Din, and he admitted them into the city, accompanying them himself toward the temple which was a part of the king's palace.

Here were warriors and priests and nobles resplendent in feathers and jade; and to one of the nobles who was also a priest, Xatl Din repeated the story that Thak Chan had told him.

Tarzan, finding himself surrounded by armed men, again became suspicious, questioning the wisdom of his entry into this city which might prove a trap from which he might find it difficult to escape.

A noble had gone to inform Chal Yip Xiu, the high priest, that one who claimed to be Che, Lord Forest, had come to visit him in his temple.

Like most high priests, Chal Yip Xiu was a trifle skeptical about the existence of gods; they were all right for the common people, but a high priest had no need for them. As a matter of fact, he considered himself as a personification of all the gods, and his power in Chichen Itza lent color to this belief.

"Go fetch the hunter and his companion," he said to the noble who had brought the message.

Shortly thereafter, Tarzan of the Apes strode into the presence of Chal Yip Xiu, the high priest of Chichen Itza, and with him were Thak Chan, the hunter, and Xatl Din, the noble, with several of his fellows, and a score of warriors and lesser priests.

When Chal Yip Xiu saw the stranger, he was impressed; and, to be on the safe side, he addressed him respectfully; but when Xatl Din told him that the god refused to speak the language of mortals, the high priest became suspicious.

"You reported the presence of strangers on the beach," he said to Xatl Din; "could not this be one of them?"

"It could, holy one," replied the noble.

"If this one is a god," said Chal Yip Xiu, "then the others must all be gods. But you told me that their ship was wrecked and that they were cast ashore."

"That is right, holy one," replied Xatl Din.

"Then they are only mortals," said the high priest, "for gods would have controlled the winds and the waves, and their ship would not have been wrecked."

"That, too, is true, most wise one," agreed Xatl Din.

"Then this man is no god," stated Chal Yip Xiu, "but he will make an excellent sacrifice to the true gods. Take him away."

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