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Chapter 15 Tarzan: The Lost Adventure by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Hunt moved along the tunnel by the light of the flaming gutters and he could feel the draft was growing stronger. It was a long tunnel and many tunnels branched off of it, but they led into darkness. Hunt decided to stay with the light. Could be the other tunnels were also provided with gutters of oil, but he decided to stick with this one, see where it led. Judging by the way the fire was burning-the fact that there was still plenty of air to breathe and the flames seemed to be whipping in a direction that indicated an oxygen feed-Hunt was optimistic.

This optimism was soon tempered. Now and then, Hunt would turn as if expecting something to leap on him from behind. He sensed the presence of someone, or something, following him. He thought perhaps it was his imagination, but he also believed his senses were becoming more sensitive. Perhaps, like Tarzan-though on a much lower level-he was gradually losing some of his civilized veneer and the more primitive aspects of his reptilian brain were at work, allowing him to use his faculties to a greater degree than ever before.

And possibly he was illogically frightened and the only thing following him was his shadow. Still, he could not shake the feeling that something was stalking him. Hunt clutched the short spear tightly, and continued to cast an occasional glance over his shoulder.

Then something happened that made the hair stand up on the back of his neck. There was a sound down one of the long, dark tunnels. It was a kind of rustling sound, a crawling sound, a clacking sound; it reached inside his brain and sharply prodded buried racial memories. It was a nameless dread that rattled and banged and slithered.

Hunt paused, took a deep breath, and listened.

This was a different sensation than the earlier one. Before he had felt he was being followed, and that was nerve-racking, but this ... this was worse. Something was waiting.

The horrid sounds stopped. The feeling of dread lessened, but now Hunt was aware of his original concern- that of being tracked. This was compounded by the fact that he could hear his pursuer's soft tread. In a moment it would come around the bend in the passageway and become visible.

Hunt clutched the short spear with all his might.

And waited.

Jad-bal-ja, after a long nap, had awakened and raced to the cavern where the man was supposed to be waiting- the man Tarzan told him to protect.

Jad-bal-ja sniffed at the opening of the cavern, but the spoor of the man was weak. Jad-bal-ja entered the cavern and confirmed what his nose had suggested. The man was gone. But his scent, though weak, was still present; it led into the depths of the cavern. The lion followed after it.
Jad-bal-ja soon determined that the man was as dumb as Nkima. Perhaps dumber. He could not even climb a tree or find his own food. At least the little monkey could do that. And now the dumb man had wandered off into the darkness of the grotto.

Jad-bal-ja followed the winding path of the man and eventually came to where Hunt had fallen. Jad-bal-ja leapt lightly onto the ledge below, saw the flames inside the cavern, and went in there. The fire was warm, and down here in the cool of the cavern that was good. Jad-bal-ja did not care for the cold. When it rained it was too cold for him. When the wind blew on a wet night it was too cold. And it was too cold in the cavern. Except for here. This felt good. Warm as the veldt in the middle of summer.

Jad-bal-ja followed the man's scent.

Before long, he caught the scent of another, and Jad-bal-ja felt something he had never felt before. Terror. Bone-deep terror. There was something down here besides the man, and it moved unlike any man or animal moved.

Jad-bal-ja growled softly, forced himself to proceed. The spoor of the thing was strong now, and it was overlapping the scent of the man he was supposed to protect. He had been given the duty to protect the man, and protect him he would; he would die if necessary to uphold his duty to Tarzan.

As Jad-bal-ja neared where the man was, the scent of the other faded. The jungle cat's ears picked up the thing's movement in one of the distant tunnels of the cavern. It was moving away from him. Jad-bal-ja sensed mat whatever it was it knew he and the man were here, and that its departure had nothing to do with either of them. It did not fear them. It feared nothing.

As Jad-bal-ja rounded a comer he saw the man in the firelight. The man's shadow jumped across the tunnel and danced on the wall. The man was trembling, yet he held his ground, a sharp thing in his hand. Jad-bal-ja growled and the man trembled more, but still he held his ground.

The man had courage. He was stupid, but he had courage.

As Hunt waited for sudden and certain death, he recognized the beast. It was Tarzan's lion. It had tracked him. But what was its purpose? To protect or destroy? Perhaps the lion had tired of the game, no longer felt Tarzan's orders were valid, and was more interested in a meal. Certainly, Hunt knew he would be easier to catch | and softer to eat than most any other animal in the jungle.

The beast swished its tail, strolled toward Hunt. But I the great lion's countenance had changed. It came on slow and soft, and the set of its head indicated an almost lackadaisical attitude. When the lion was six feet away, it sat down and turned its head to one side, examining Hunt. Its tongue came out and the lion panted like a dog.

"Nice lion," Hunt said, and hoped his tone was not too condescending. Could lions sense that sort of thing? Patronization?

Hunt lowered the spear to his side, screwed up his courage, and extended his free hand to the lion.

Jad-bal-ja sniffed. It was a noble sniff, as if he were sucking in the reek of something rotten and liking it not at all.

"Easy, boy," Hunt said.

Hunt stretched his hand toward the lion's face. Jad-bal-ja growled softly. Hunt pulled back his hand. Okay, thought Hunt. Enough was enough. No use trying to make a pet of the beast. It's enough he isn't going to eat me.

At least not at the moment.

Jad-bal-ja turned his royal head toward one of the dark corridors. It was the tunnel where Hunt had heard the noise; the one from whence came the strange sensations mat had chilled his inner being with numbing, inexplicable dread.

Hunt noticed the mane on Jad-bal-ja's neck was standing out as if it were made of black porcupine quills, and Hunt perceived the reason. The lion sensed the thing in the cavern as well. The fact that the king of beasts was worried about what lurked there re-ignited the fear in Hunt. He looked toward the murk, and now that his eyes had had time to adjust, he saw that die opening to die tunnel was a false one. There was a great chasm between this tunnel and the next; a rift in the rock perhaps forty feet wide, and beyond dial, a narrow walkway. Hunt decided the thing must have been on that walkway, watching diem. And since it could not make die leap, it had moved on.

Jad-bal-ja strolled over to Hunt, looked at him, J swished his tail, and moved past. Hunt watched die Be for a moment, then die cat turned and looked at him wife what Hunt knew was a look of perplexity. Jad-bal-ja growled, swished his tail, moved down die tunnel a few feet, stopped, turned, looked at Hunt.

"I get it," Hunt said. He started after the lion and the lion picked up its pace, and soon Hunt had to trot to keep up. But he did not mind. He could not help but feel that something inhuman and horrible was at his back.

Hunt shivered, wondered if this tunnel was a dead end or a way out. He wondered as well if the oil in the gutters would burn a long time. The idea of being trapped in darkness with that thing was not something he enjoyed pondering.

Both Jad-bal-ja and Hunt increased their pace.

Inside the great city of Ur was a smaller city and inside that city was the palace. Jean was led through the palace, and she could not understand why. It was as if her captors were giving her a tour of the opulence that was Ur's.

Inside there were great rooms lined with gold and silver and bright tapestries. She was led into a great chamber. The floor was covered in purple carpet, the vast windows with yellow curtains, and the stone throne was inlaid with diamonds and rubies; it sparkled in the light from the numerous candles lit and placed about throne room. Chained to either side of the throne were two enormous, jet-black lions.

Jean had never seen anything like them. They were even bigger than Tarzan's lion. As they neared the lions, the beasts swished their tails, as if ready to spring. The woman pushed Jean toward the lions, men even as one of the cats shot out a paw full of claws, the woman jerked Jean back with a laugh.

Jean thought: this one, she certainly had a sense of humor. A real funny woman. So funny, I'd like to crack her skull. Jean smiled at the grinning woman, men with a quick movement she kicked at her tormentor's knee.

The woman lifted her leg slightly, turned her foot sideways, and blocked the attack with the sole of her sandal. Then she slid in with blinding speed and slapped Jean with the back of her hand, causing her to stumble.

Jean stood up slowly. Blood ran from her-mourn. She wiped it away with the back of her hand. She realized now that taking this woman wasn't going to be as easy as she thought. No matter how mad she was, this one, she knew what she was doing. Jean realized something else as well. The woman had not only protected her from the man earlier because she wanted to expedite matters; it must have been because of his inability to deal with Jean's attack. The woman had been embarrassed for him. And Jean knew deep in her bones there was another reason. This woman was saving ht or something dark and special.

Why else would she give her a tour of the palace? She had wanted Jean to see the luxury and know there were people living in comfort, excess. This made what was about to happen to her all the worse, and Jean was certain this was intentional.

But why had the woman chosen her over the others?

What was so special about herself? If special was the right word. Why was this woman determined to make her life miserable?

Eventually, they went out of the palace proper, along a long cool corridor, down a flight of wide stone steps, and into a dank darkness lit only by foul-smelling torches arranged every eight feet or so in metal sheaths along the walls. There were a number of sweaty-looking men and women wandering about, all of them armed with whips and short swords. They eyed Jean as she came in, amazed at the whiteness of her skin. If this was, as Jean suspected, the city of Ur, it was unlikely many white skins had been seen in this city. But it was also obvious that any natives living nearby were fair game for these marauders.
Jean was led to a stone door, and a huge man in a sweaty loincloth came forward, pulled back a bolt, took hold of a heavy ring, and tugged it open. Foulness sprang from inside the room and landed on Jean. Her stomach twisted, and for a moment, the smell of human excrement, sweat, and misery was so strong she thought she might throw up.

The woman said something Jean couldn't understand, and the next moment the leash was being loosened from her throat, and she was shoved into the dungeon. The door slammed and the light went away and the darkness and stench gathered about her like a foul wool sock being pulled over her head.

Then Jean heard movement in the darkness. Something was scuttling toward her.

Cannon said, "Now, this time, we got to take another finger and palm another coal. How does that set with you?"

Billy was lying on his back, his hands and feet bound, his hands forced open and held wide by leather strips and deeply buried wooden pegs. Blood was running freely from his recently amputated little finger. He reflexively tried to push the smoldering coal out of the palm of his hand, but the way it was pegged and tied down, he could not. He succeeded only in flexing the muscles in his hand enough to roll the coal a little to the left where it found fresh flesh to burn.

Billy bit his lip to keep from giving them the pleasure of a scream.

When Wilson and Cannon had found Hanson and Billy, they had immediately set about quizzing them in their own inimitable style. They wanted to know where fee rest of the safari had gone.

Hanson, knowing that once that information was revealed they had about as much chance as a tick in a tar bucket, had said: "They went to find the treasure of the lost city of Ur."

At those words, the eyes of Wilson and Cannon had lit up, and Hanson knew he had a bargaining chip. Wilson and Cannon were decent trackers, but they weren't at the level of the Urs, and shortly after Hanson and Billy were captured, the renegades had bound them and set about trying to find the path the warriors had taken on their of own, but could not. The Urs, through superior woods-manship, had successfully concealed their trail. Had Hanson merely held back the direction the safari had taken, the two men might have become bored with them, killed them, and gone about their business, guessing as to the whereabouts of the city. But now, thinking they were close on the trail of gold, they were adamant in their desire for directions. Specific directions.

So now Hanson and Billy were in the midst of being interrogated. Renegade-style. It wasn't an easy way to exist, but Hanson felt it would steal them some time.

"Look here," Wilson said, as he leaned over Billy.

"This guy here, Cannon, he don't mind doing this all day. I don't care for it none. Ain't my way. Just tell us where they went."

Billy had caught on to Hanson's ploy and was doing his best to maintain. Already Hanson had lost a finger and had his hands burned, but he had not given up the information they wanted. The pain had been so intense, Hanson had passed out twice. Billy wished he could pass out, but something seemed to be holding him awake. He hurt something awful; why didn't he just pass out?

"I can make it quick," Wilson said. "Cut your throat. A bullet. It's all over, know what I mean? You don't tell us nothing, it's gonna turn out that way anyway, but after some time. Eight fingers and two thumbs later. Enough hot coals to burn to the bone. And there's other places we can cut and burn. I can make you a list."

"Thanks," Billy said. "But I do not need a list."

Wilson smiled. "You're a tough little monkey, aren't you?"

"Cannot say I feel all that tough," Billy said.

"Yeah, well, let me tell you this," Cannon said, slapping the dying coal from Billy's hand. "I got another coal here, and we're gonna put mat in your other hand. Maybe against a bare foot, down your pants. You like that idea?"

"It does not appeal," Billy said. "No, sir."

"Listen here," Wilson said, "you and your boss, you ought to talk. We got some idea where we're going', anyway, we just want to make the trip easier. We ain't got so much supplies that we need to be running off in all directions, see. For all we know they went up."

"No," Billy said, "they did not go up. That much I can help you with."

"I'll get another coal," Cannon said.

Cannon came back from the fire balancing a coal on the flat of his knife. He smiled at Billy, said, "Where's this one gonna go, my man?"

"We get what we want from you," Wilson said, "we find this place easier, we end all this business quick. You just die. You don't suffer and die, you just die."

"I don't think so," Hanson said.

"Hey, look who's stirrin'," Cannon said. "Maybe I ought to give him the coal."

"You spare us," Hanson said, "and we'll not only lead you in the direction they went, we'll take you to the city. I know where it is. Exactly."

"Yeah," Cannon said. "Then you tell us, and we'll go on without you."

"You go on without us," Hanson said, "you might find it, you might not. You do, it might be after you've used all your supplies. Run out of ammunition. I'm going to tell you how to get there, you're going to have to take me and Billy with you."

"I don't know," Cannon said. "I hate to waste a hot coal."

"All right," Wilson said. "We'll take them with us."

Cannon grinned. "We don't need to take them with us. They'll give us what we want, provided you let me do all the askin'."

'Time's a wastin'," Wilson said. "Besides, I don't have the stomach for this."

"You had enough stomach to tie that wild man to a tree."

Tarzan, thought Hanson. They're talking about Tarzan. Hanson had been hoping the ape-man would show up. Now he had to let go of that hope. Had to think of other alternatives.

"I didn't stick around to see it happen, though," Wilson said.

"So go off in the woods there," Cannon said. "I'll take care of this part."

"The wild man," Wilson said. "That was personal. That's why it was different, it was personal. This here is business. Let 'em go. We'll keep an eye on them. This way's easier."

"So you say," Cannon said. Disappointed, he let the hot coal roll off his knife and into the dirt.

Wilson stood up. "Cut them loose."

Cannon looked up at him. Wilson liked it like that. Him standing over Cannon, Cannon looking up. Making Cannon do his bidding was a step in the right direction. A step toward recovering control.

"Take us with you, Bwanas," Billy said. "You no need to carry your packs. We do it."

Cannon thought about that, smiled at Wilson. "All right, Wilson. I'm tired of totin' supplies. This time we do it your way."

Cannon used his knife to cut Billy's hands free. He said to Billy, "Think maybe you'd want that little finger I cut off? As a kind of souvenir?"

"No thanks," Billy said. "I would kind of like to keep the other fingers though. I have grown much attached to them."

"Hey, that's funny," Cannon said, cutting Billy's feet loose. "I like it when guys are funny. Gals don't do much for me when they're funny, but I like a funny guy."

Fifteen minutes later, their injured hands bound with rags, Hanson and Billy were forced to carry Wilson and Cannon's packs. It was a painful ordeal, considering their wounds, loss of blood, and exhaustion. But they had little choice. They gritted their teeth and proceeded. The two renegades walked behind them with their rifles, side by side, neither letting the other fall too far behind.

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