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Chapter 13 Tarzan: The Lost Adventure by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Tarzan traveled quickly through the trees, and soon he came across the camp of the renegades, formerly the camp of Hunt and Small.

The storm had torn it apart. Supplies had been tossed in all directions, filling the brush and trees. Tarzan walked about the camp, sniffed an odor. His nostrils led him to the decaying head of Gromvitch lodged in a tree. It stunk and was covered with flies. Soon it would be the home of thousands of squirming maggots.

From the smell of rotting flesh, the amount of flies on the head, Tarzan determined how much time had elapsed since Gromvitch died. That was an easy one, since it was obvious he had died in the storm. No beast had done this. The man had been torn apart by the tempest, like an angry child ripping up a paper doll. Afterwards, the wet . head had boiled in the heat of the day and the flies had come. They were so thick, Gromvitch's head looked like an idol for flies; an insect mecca where they came to prostrate themselves and pray.

Tarzan noticed that the sides of Gromvitch's mouth were damaged. He used his knife to probe inside the mouth. Flies rose up in a blue-black tornado, twisted about Tarzan's hand and head. He ignored them. He looked inside Gromvitch's mouth, saw where teeth had been popped free. This had not been the workings of the storm. This was man at his worst. Most likely gold fillings or gold teeth had been removed.

Tarzan returned his knife to the loop on his loincloth, and the flies settled back to their prayer.

Tarzan considered the head and missing teeth, and this consideration gave him a fuller picture of the events. At least one of the renegades had survived the storm after being caught outside of camp. He returned, found the head here, and had taken the teeth.

Tarzan determined that would not be the black man, but the remaining white man. That was only a guess, but from the manner of the white man it seemed to fit. It would not be the sort of reasoning that would suit a court of law, but out here Tarzan was the law, and he trusted his instincts.

Tarzan examined the ground around the head carefully. All right. Two of the renegades had survived. The footprints of their boots were clear, especially after the storm had dampened the ground and the sun had begun to dry the impressions of their steps in the mud and leaf mold. The bearers did not wear boots. They either went barefoot or wore sandals, usually the former, so these were the prints of the renegades.

Also, one set of tracks was deeper than the other, and Tarzan knew that would be Cannon, the white man. Cannon's boot marks stopped right in front of the head, and Tarzan could tell at a glance that Cannon's feet had shifted from side to side. This was due to Cannon using his knife to work the teeth out of Gromvitch's mouth. The deed had required a bit of body English, so therefore the peculiar markings.

Tarzan returned to the camp proper, looked about, determined many of the bearers had escaped the storm and were probably now well on their way home, provided they hadn't run into trouble from animals. However, some of the bearers had not escaped. He found their remains.

The fresh tracks in camp told Tarzan another story. The two renegades had come back here, supplied themselves with what they could find in the way of guns, ammunition, and food, and moved on. It was clear to Tarzan they would pursue Hanson's safari, for it was a source not only for supplies, but bearers to carry them. This would be the way these men would think. They would want someone else to provide for them, someone else to carry their load.

Tarzan found a tin of rations that had rolled under a bush, and using his knife he opened it and ate, scooping it out with his fingers. It was a mushy potted meat and tasted like the leaf mold at his feet. He would have preferred to make a kill, drink the blood of an animal for energy, but for the time being, this was the easiest and quickest way to gain vitality and return to the chase. There was a great possibility that the renegades had already reached the Hanson party, and if not, traveling light as they were, they were closing fast.

Tarzan finished eating and took silently to the trees.

When Small had been startled by the panther and had gone off at a run in his shoes and underwear, he ran until his sides hurt. Finally, he sat down on a log to rest and was startled by a small black snake crawling out from under it and between his legs.

Small leapt to his feet, started to run again and went headlong into a tree. It was not a tremendous impact, but it was enough to spin him around and cause him to slide to a sitting position with the bark burning his naked back.

From there, exhausted, he watched the small snake, its middle swollen, slither away. There was a bird's nest lying there beneath the log. In the nest was one cracked egg. There had most likely been others, and that was why the snake had been plump. It had taken advantage of this meal dropped into its path by last night's storm.
Small eyed the egg carefully. He was ferociously hungry. He scooted over to the nest and picked up the cracked egg, held it over his mouth and separated it with his fingers, dripping the yolk into his mouth. It tasted pretty good.

Small eyed the log on which he had been sitting. It was rotten and filled with plump, white insect grubs. Small watched the grubs quiver in the wood for a moment, then plucked one of the grubs between his thumb and finger, tossed it into his mouth, and began to chew.

It was a gritty meal, but not as bad as he expected. Not as good as one could hope, but still serviceable if you were nearly naked and lost in the jungle and tired and filthy and had just run away from a panther after spending the night under fallen trees in a storm. Not to mention that prior to the storm you had been chased and shot at, and had a huge python crawl over your legs. All those events considered, a meal of a bird's egg and grubs was, time and place considered, fairly cosmopolitan.

Small began to eat the grubs like popcorn. He ate them until the log was absent of them. Then he found a low-limbed tree, climbed as high as he dared, located a cluster of crisscrossing limbs and vines, and stretched out on them. Glad for the hot golden sunlight that was leaking through a gap in, the foliage, Small slept.

As Small slept, the wind picked up, and the tree rattled as if it were a dry skeleton. Small sat up. He felt strange. He climbed down from the tree. He began to walk, and as he walked the jungle opened up before him. On either side of him he saw great black walls, and in the black walls, as if they were trapped beneath tar, figures moved. Small observed them with an odd detachment. But even beneath the thick black tar, the shapes were recognizable.

Jean. Hanson. Hunt. The wild man he had seen tied to a tree. Cannon and Wilson and Gromvitch were there. The tar-covered figures writhed and wadded together, and twisted into a great black knot, and from the knot, oozing out of the squirming black wall there dripped pops of blood so red a prize-winning rose would have paled beside it. Small looked at the blood, and as it rolled toward the ground it came to rest on a piece of ancient stone wall, and on top of the wall the blood gathered and swelled and took the shape of a heart, steaming and pulsing.

Small felt a tinge of horror, but no more than that. And he considered that most strange, for he knew the heart was his own. He touched his chest. There was no wound, but he knew the heart was his.

And then as he watched, the heart went soft, became a red puddle, and the puddle leapt off the stone and onto the wall and fled upwards until it reached the great black knot of humanity. It entered the knot. The knot went flat against the wall, and Small stirred in his sleep. He opened his eyes, blinked, and found that he was still in the tree. It had been a dream. A moment of trepidation swelled inside his chest. His mother had once dreamed of her own death. She told him she saw her own heart lying on a table, steaming and beating. Then it ceased to beat, and she awoke.

She told him this, and then she died a week later. She said she knew she would die. It was an inherited ability. Her grandfather had envisioned his death in a similar manner. Their ancestors, long ago traded to whites by other Africans, had been descendants of a powerful shaman who could foretell the future. It was his mother's belief that the trait had been passed on to later generations-at least in one way. The ability to sense one's own demise.

Small disregarded the vision. The dream. It was nothing more than his natural fears swelling inside him. He would be okay. He would be all right.


His anxiety could not fight away his exhaustion. He slept in spite of the dream, and he slept deep, and sound, and good.

Jean felt empty. She no longer cared what happened to her. The warriors had abandoned their trefe camouflage, and were pushing her quickly along a rough trail. They were silent as they walked, and she noticed the warriors were both men and women. Due to their size, she had at first assumed they were men, but now, devoid of their tree camouflage, she saw at least a third of them were women.

Many of the warriors were quite young. All were very tall with classic Negroid features and skin black as wet ebony. They were well built and muscular and wore white paint on their foreheads and cheeks to complement the scars burned into then: flesh. A few of them wore plumes of feathers. Those without plumes wore their hair long and well oiled. Some carried short, thick spears while others carried long, almost floppy spears. Several had bows and quivers of long arrows strapped to their backs. All wore huge knives-swords actually-in loops at their waists, or in scabbards slung over their shoulders. Under other circumstances, Jean might have found them fascinating. But now all she could think of was her father who had fallen before their attack. She was happy to see the body of the warrior she had killed being carried on a litter. She never thought the death of a human being would please her, but she was glad she had killed this man. It did hot bring her father back, but it was something and she was glad.

The man who led her was not happy with her progress. He tugged and the leash tightened, causing her to , stumble. When Jean regained her footing, a bolt of anger shot through her. In that moment, she felt the best thing to do was fight. Fight until her captors became so angry they killed her. That way she would not have to think about her father, about poor Billy and the others who had been slain or captured.

But no, that would not be the way. That would not be her father's way. That was not a Hanson's way. You stuck with it to the end. That's what life was about, hadn't her father told her that?

You lived life no matter how hard. And if she was going to die at the hands of these people, then so be it. She would die in time anyway, so she determined that she would sell herself dearly with a good and noble death.

That would be the way to go. For now, she would push her fear, anger, and pain deep inside. Wait and watch. And when the moment came, she would try and escape, and if escape seemed impossible... well, she was uncertain. But she would do something. She would not lie about like a turnip in the ground waiting to be plucked.

She would do something, even if it was wrong, but her first course of action was, if at all possible, to do something right. To be calm, and observe.

They trekked for some distance, then to Jean's amazement they came upon a road. An actual road! It was built of dark, dried blocks set in concrete and was twelve feet wide. Jean assumed it had been constructed in a fashion similar to that used by the Romans to build roads. Layer after layer of material. Whatever, it was an incredible feat of engineering.

The road went for a great distance, then twisted out of sight behind a great rise of trees. The road was well kept and along its sides the jungle had been cut back so that limbs did not overlap it. A row of carts and chariots stood parked beside the road.

Nearby, a handful of men and women, none of them dressed in warrior garb, came forward leading zebras. The zebras wore bridles and reins and appeared very tame. The stock workers fastened the zebras to the chariots.

The big warrior pulled at Jean's leash, forced her to step into one of the chariots. A woman of powerful proportions stepped up beside them, took the reins, and the chariot moved forward.

Glancing back, Jean saw other chariots following, and behind those the remaining warriors and stock handlers walked. It was a colorful procession.

The equatorial sun was burning hot and high when the winding road broke from the jungle into a vast clearing where Jean saw a large number of sweaty workers in the distance struggling with huge blocks of cut stone. They were pulling the stones from a quarry with thick ropes. Whips flashed in the sunlight, cracked on the backs of the struggling slaves.
An hour beyond the quarry, she was surprised to see the walls of a great city. They were high and thick. There was the wink of sunlight against spear tips at their summit. Jean could make out numerous sentries patrolling the wall.

When the chariot came closer, she observed that the walls were made of clay, thatch, and stone. The blending of wood, clay, and stone was odd, but artful. The tribe had pragmatically used the materials at hand, but their use of these substances revealed they were more than a village of crude savages. Quite the contrary.

The city of Ur. She had found it.

Or rather, it had found her.

For a fleeting moment, Jean forgot her anger and hatred and marveled; here was what her father had come to find, and he had not lived to see it. Ironically, the very people he wished to investigate had slain him.

The gate that led into the city was huge, made of seasoned black wood, and like a medieval drawbridge, was designed to lower on chains over a moat that was easily thirty feet wide.

A sentry sounded a horn and the drawbridge lowered. As they drove over it, Jean glanced at the dark water of die moat, saw bobbing garbage, as well as rare white crocodiles. The moat obviously served as both dump, sewer, and feeding trough for the crocodiles, who provided further protection against invaders.

Inside the city were beehive huts thatched with grasses, and in the center of the city an open space. Behind all this rose sophisticated structures of clay and stone. The walls were decorated with elaborate murals representing everyday activities, as well as depictions of warriors battling one another or animals.

One design confused and fascinated Jean. It was of a man with a spear fighting what looked to be some sort of an insect. The insect was taller than the man and stood in an odd posture, on one hind leg, raising the other as if to kick; both forelegs were lifted to guard its upper body from attack. The creature looked similar to a praying mantis, though it seemed more muscular and humanoid. Jean instantly decided these decorated buildings were the dwelling place of royalty.

Women, children, and old men crowded around the prisoners as they were led into the open compound. The children showed special curiosity, being so bold as to dart forth, reach over the top of the chariot, and touch Jean. Jean could not decide if their actions were a kind of coup-counting exercise, or if her white skin intrigued them. They did not laugh as they performed this feat, and were in fact, for children, strangely silent and serious in manner.

They drove straight toward the praying mantis design, and when it seemed as if they would come up against it, a horn sounded above, and what first appeared to be a seamless wall parted, allowing them entry.

As they rode through, Jean observed the wall had been parted by a great chain-and-pulley apparatus on either side of the entryway, and that it was operated by a horde of ragged-looking men wearing ankle chains. The men were obviously of a tribe different from that of the warriors. Some were pygmies.

Jean began to realize the purpose of the attack on her safari. Slaves.

A short distance beyond the opening, thick rods projected from the wall, and dangling from them six feet off the ground by chains were metal cages, and in the cages were skeletons and rotting corpses, as well as living humans. Some of the corpses were riddled with arrows.

One old, naked, black woman with hair white as fresh-plucked cotton, barely alive, almost a skeleton from starvation, reached out and spoke pitifully to Jean's chariot driver. The driver ignored her. The man who held Jean's leash turned and slapped at the extended hand, causing the woman to scream in pain and the cage to swing violently back and forth.

Jean pivoted on the balls of her feet, brought her arm around in a short loop, and struck her captor on the side of the head. It was a clean, sharp blow, a left hook like her father had taught her, and it clipped the warrior so cleanly he was knocked from the chariot, but the leash, fastened around Jean's throat and his wrist, caused her to be jerked to the ground with him.

He grabbed her immediately, wrestled her, straddled her. His sword flashed in his hand. Before he could bring it down, the chariot driver barked at him and he hesitated. He looked at the woman; she scowled and spoke rapidly.

With a snort he returned the sword to its place and jerked Jean to her feet. He grinned at her, but there was no humor in the gesture. Behind him the entire procession, which had stopped when the struggle began, was watching. Jean knew she had made a mistake. She had caused the warrior to lose face. A mere captive had knocked him on his butt.

The warrior jerked the leash and yanked Jean back into the chariot, and a moment later they were rolling again.

Jean looked back at the old woman. She was clutching the bars of the still swaying cage. She nodded at Jean, and Jean nodded back. Jean knew the woman had little time left to live. And all things considered, maybe that was good.

They came to an archway overlaid with gold, rode through that into a massive courtyard. Here was a palace built of bright red clay, gold, jewels, driftwood, and the skulls of humans and animals. Moorish architectural features blended with a sort of rococo style Jean had never before witnessed. The design was one of twisted genius. It was beautiful, but it made Jean's skin crawl.

In time, the chariot circled the palace, and out back was an empty field, and in the distance Jean could see the rear wall of the city. She reasoned that beyond the wall would be villages that paid homage to this great city, providing warriors, food, and goods. This was an empire.

To the left and the right of the field were long barracks, and the chariots and warriors split left and right and went into these. Jean's driver went right, and when the zebras were brought to a halt in a shotgun-style stall, the driver took the leash from the man and roughly led Jean away.

Jean decided not to make a play. Not now. She would wait for the right moment, when the woman least expected it. Better yet, she would, wait until she could concoct a complete plan of escape.

She looked about to see how the other captives were faring, but as far as she could tell, they were all housed inside the barracks. She alone was being brought across the back courtyard toward the palace.

The back door to the palace was a large gate and it was open, and she was led through it. Once inside, Jean let out her breath.

There was a row of naked natives, not the bearers who had worked for the Hanson safari, but tribesmen she had not seen before. There were eleven of them lined up between a horde of armed warriors. The eleven were crying and wailing, flailing their arms, falling to their knees and pleading.

At the fore of the line was a huge block of wood, and even as Jean watched, a woman was jerked forward by the hair, forced to place her head on the block. Out of the crowd of warriors, a tall muscular man with a large sword appeared. He was ritualistically scarred and wore a thin mask of white paint around his eyes.

The woman caterwauled, and in mid-cry the sword whistled and her head bounced up with a bright spray of blood. The head rolled in the dust, came to rest looking at the burning sky. The captives screamed and the warriors rejoiced with a shout.

The woman leading Jean turned and smiled. Jean felt a snake of ice run up her spine. The woman, still smiling, yanked Jean toward the line of captives. The woman yelled to the executioner, dragged Jean along the line to the forefront. Jean looked down at the bloody block of wood, then at the decapitated head of the woman. Jean thought, or perhaps imagined, she saw the woman's eyelids flicker, then cease movement.

The woman with the leash spoke to the executioner and he smiled. He came forward, took hold of the leash and jerked it hard. Jean went to her knees gagging, her forehead banging against the bloody block of wood. The woman stepped on one of Jean's bent legs and pressed. Jean let out a moan of pain.
Oh, hell, Jean thought. I should have made my move. I should have taken my chance. It's too late now. So much for a brave and noble death.

The executioner spoke to the crowd of warriors, and one of the men leapt forward and took Jean's leash from the executioner's hand. He pulled it tight so that Jean's neck was stretched out over the block, like a Thanksgiving turkey.

Jean rolled her head slightly, saw the smiling executioner lift the sword. She thought of the flickering of the dead woman's eyelids. She had once read that the brain lived shortly after decapitation, that the eyes and senses were momentarily alive, that in theory, the eyes of a decapitated head could gaze upon its blood-spurting body, could realize what had happened.

Jean hoped this was an old wives' tale.

Jean closed her eyes, heard the whistling of the falling sword, hoped the strike would be quick and clean and true.

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