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Chapter 19 Tarzan: The Lost Adventure by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Kurvandi bathed in preparation of seeing the great prisoner. He had been told of the bronze giant's exploits. He had killed many of Kurvandi's best warriors. He was glad, however, that the big man had not been slain. A man like that, he would be interesting to watch in the arena; a man like that was a perfect sacrifice to Ebopa. Ebopa would want to take the sacrifice himself.

That would be good. Kurvandi had not seen Ebopa take a sacrifice in some time. It would do the people good to see their god, to know it still stalked beneath their feet and that it was as powerful as ever.

Another good thing. This bronze giant, be would be sacrifice of great importance to Ebopa. Not like the weaklings of late that had practically died at the sight of the dancing god, The Stick That Walks.

Kurvandi determined that if the man was as strong, determined, and skilled as they said, he would be just the sort of challenge Ebopa would appreciate. The sort a challenge he and his people would enjoy watching in the arena.

Kurvandi considered all this as he lay in his metal tub and soaked in the blood of sacrifices, blood that had been brought to him warm from their veins. It was his belief that if you soaked in the fresh blood of the living, you absorbed their life and lived longer; doing this, you took part of their soul.

It was also Kurvandi's belief that if blood was spilled on the soil of Ur, it was appreciated by their god Ebopa. Some of Kurvandi's wise men, soothsayers, and sorcerers said this was not so, since so much had gone wrong in the last few years. Childbirth deaths. Diseases that ravaged the countryside. Plagues of insects. Even plant diseases that could destroy an entire crop overnight. Some had even suggested the blood sacrifices were the problem.

But Kurvandi did not believe this. How could be when Ebopa so enjoyed tearing the living apart, feasting on their flesh, blood, brains, and innards? Ebopa loved the blood and flesh of the living, so Kurvandi thought It only right he should also love it. This was the proper way to respect Ebopa, to follow in his image.

Another pitcher of warm blood was brought to his bath chamber by a trembling slave girl dressed only in a loin cloth. Kurvandi turned and looked upon her. She was young and fresh and fine to look upon. She trembled even more as she approached the great metal tub. The great black lions, fastened on short chains on either side of the tub, growled at her, narrowed their eyes to slits.
"Come, girl," said Kurvandi. "Fear not the lions. They are pets."

The girl trembled so violently the blood sloshed from the golden pitcher. "Careful," said Kurvandi." You are spilling it. Bring it while it is still warm."

The slave girl knelt and started to tip the pitcher's contents into the already blood-filled tub. "No," said Kurvandi, grabbing her hand, pushing the pitcher to an upright position. "Pour it over me, girl ."

The slave girl did as she was commanded. When the blood flowed freely down Kurvandi's face, he smiled at her. The blood was dark on his lips and teeth. He reached out and took hold of her again. "Did you watch the blood being drained into the pitcher?"

The girl nodded.

"Did it excite you?"

"No. my lord."

"Of course it did," Kurvandi said. "How could it have not? Now tell me again. Did it, excite you?"

The girl hesitated only for a moment. This was the first time she had waited on Kurvandi, her king. She had been taken from her parents when she was only thirteen and brought here, raised in the palace as a kitchen maid until her current age, sixteen. And then, Kurvandi. inspecting the great kitchen and the bread-baking, had spied her, asked that she be brought to him with the pitchers of blood.

And if this was not bad enough, she had been forced to stand by the great stone drain in the kitchen, where the sheep, cattle, and chickens were hung up to have their throats cut, their blood drained, and watch human beings die like farm animals. One of those who had died, the very woman whose blood she had just poured from the pitcher, had been a kitchen maid, a friend of hers. The maid had become a donor to Kurvandi's bath for no other reason than she had dropped a loaf of bread in his presence.

Slaves had contributed to Kurvandi's bath for less than that.

Kurvandi pulled the quaking girl to him, roughly kissed her mouth. The blood from his face stained hers. He pulled her into the bath with him. She fought for a moment. but as his grip increased and she felt his fingers digging deep within her flesh, she stopped fighting. She knew to fight would only make it worse.

He kissed her again. She tried her best to kiss back in self-defense, but she could think of nothing but the blood on his face; the blood she was now soaking in; the blood permeating her loincloth.

"Please," she said.. "Let me go. The blood . . . It makes me sick."

Kurvandi grabbed her by the hair and pulled her face close to his. "You should be honored, girl. I am Kurvandi. Your king. The blood of all the Kurvandis flows through me."

"And the blood of the innocent flows over you." said the girl.

No sooner had the words come out of her mouth than she knew she was doomed.

But then, Kurvandi smiled. "You are right."

He pulled her to him, kissed her. Bit her lip. She let out a scream. He pulled her head into the tub of blood and held it under. She thrashed for but a moment, but the will to live was not strong within her.

A few seconds after she had ceased thrashing, Kurvandi let her go, watched as she floated facedown in the deep tub. A fleeting moment of regret raced through Kurvandi's brain.

He regretted he had killed her so easily. She would have made a good one for the harem. He must try and control himself. At least a little. He needed male heirs, and he had yet to find a woman within which his seed would grow. This one, she had been young and strong and beautiful. She might well have been the field he should have sowed.

Regret passed.

Kurvandi raised up in his bath, reached out of the tub, and took hold of a jewel-encrusted dagger that lay on the floor next to his glass of wine.

There was no use letting good blood go to waste. Not with it being so close by, and still warm.

He took hold of the girl's head and lifted it out of the bath to expose her throat.

He used the knife.

The lions purred with pleasure. They knew later they would be given special morsels.

Tarzan awoke cold and in pain, shackled in irons, deep in the dark.

In an instant, the ape-man was clear-headed. He pushed the pain of his injuries into a single mental knot, then tried by pure willpower to dissolve it. He almost succeeded. Most of the pain was neutralized.

The first thing Tarzan did was sit up from the cold dungeon floor and examine himself. Nothing was broken. A few cuts, muscle rips, but all in all, he had been lucky. And someone had crudely dressed his wounds. There were strips of cloth tied around cuts on his arms and legs.

He sniffed the air. There were two others in the dungeon. He recognized the scent of one.

"Jean?" he said.

"Yes," came her voice, then Tarzan's keen eyes identified her; he could see like a cat in the dark. Jean was wearing a brassiere and pants, but no shirt. Tarzan immediately realized what his bandages were made of. "We were waiting for you to awaken," Jean said.

"Who is the other?" Tarzan asked.

"Nyama," Jean said, and Nyama moved forward in the darkness.

Tarzan laughed. "I came to rescue you, Jean."

"They brought you in last night," Jean said. "You were unconscious. They were afraid of you. They put you in chains. I did the best I could to dress your wounds."

"You did well," Tarzan said. "I presume I was spare. for some special purpose."

"Nyama believes it is for the crocodiles, or for their god," Jean. said.

"Ebopa would be the stick creature," Tarzan said.

"You know of it, then?" Nyama said.

Tarzan explained what he had seen on the wall fragment outside of the city. "I believe it is some kind beast from the center of the earth. From Pellucidar."

"I have heard of Pellucidar," said Jean. "I read of it as a girl. A world at the center of the earth with a constant noonday sun. I thought it was a myth. A legend."

"Your father thought I was a legend," Tarzan said. "He was wrong."

"Not entirely," said Jean. "Any ordinary man would have died if they were beat as you were. And when they brought you in, they beat you some more. They were very angry. Nyama understands their language. She said they were angry you had killed friends of theirs. They only let you live because they were ordered to."

"Then they made a mistake," Tarzan said.

"Ebopa," Nyama said. "You say he is not a god?"

"A god is made of whatever you choose," Tarzan said. "But as I said, I believe Ebopa is some sort of creature from the earth's core. There are all manner of beasts there. Beasts that once roamed topside, as well as creatures that have not- or least not until Ebopa somehow came to the surface. Or almost to the surface."

"According to their legend, this thing has been around forever," Jean said. "How can that be?"

"Who's to say how long it lives?" Tarzan said. "And perhaps there is some other answer. Whatever, wherever it is from, it lives. And so do I. Stand back."

Jean and Nyama did as they were instructed. Tarzan stood up. He looped the chains around his palms and clenched them. He took several deep breaths, then tugged it the chains, straining the braces that held them to the floor. The bolts screamed in the stone floor and popped free.

Tarzan knelt, took hold of the metal bands around one of his ankles, and twisted it with his mighty fingers. He juggled for a full three minutes, then there. was a popping noise as the restraining bolt in the ankle band snapped free.

Tarzan went to work on the other. After a time, it too snapped. Now, all that remained were the metal bands around his wrists. Tarzan went to work on them, and ten minutes later, the bands lay at his feet. He picked up a length of chain, coiled it around his bloody hand and let it dangle. Now he was free of the chains and they were his weapon.

"What now?" Jean asked.

"We try and escape. If we cannot, when they come, we fight to the death. If we are to die, let us make it on our own terms."

Nkima, after several days' frolicking with his friends, realized he had forgotten about the man Tarzan wanted him to watch over. Actually, he had temporarily forgotten about Tarzan. He had gotten carried away with his bragging to the other monkeys, and now he realized the sun bad dipped down and up and down again, and he not know where either the tarmangani or Tarzan was.

Nkima returned to where he had last seen Tarzan a began to follow his trail. He moved swiftly through trees, even more nimbly than Tarzan. He covered distance that would have taken days to cover by ground. By midday, the little monkey came to the outskirts of Ur, and here the smell of his master, Tarzan, was strongest.

Nkima came to the moat around the city and saw that the water was filled with white crocodiles. The crocodile loved little monkeys- to eat. Nkima did not like the thought of trying to cross the moat. He could not stand water, and he liked crocodiles even less. He thought perhaps he should just wait back in the jungle for Tarzan return. He could play and eat fruit, and he would not have to face the crocodiles.

He thought about this for a time, then decided Tarzan might be in trouble. He thought he smelled the aroma of Tarzan from over the wall. It was an aroma unlike the ape-man normally emitted. It was strong, sharp. It indicated there had been a great rise in physical activity. A surge of adrenaline. Of course, Nkima did not analyze these things in this manner. He merely smelled a different smell, and the scent alerted him that something was different.

Nkima went into the jungle and found a large bird's nest in a tree. He pulled it down and carried it back to moat. He placed it in the moat. It floated. He climb inside the nest. Water leaked in, but still it floated. The nest drifted out into the moat. Now and then the little monkey paddled with his hands. He could see tarmangani walking along the wall, but he and the nest were so small the sentries had not taken notice of him.

Unfortunately, the crocodiles had.

When Nkima was over halfway across, he saw a crocodile raise its eyes out of the water, and behind it, all the way to the great wall, was a row of crocodile eyes.

Nkima wished suddenly he was back with the other monkeys, bragging about his imagined feats.

The foremost croc swam rapidly toward him, anxious to eat.

When the croc was almost on him, its jaws open, ready to consume both nest and monkey, Nkima leapt onto the head of the reptile and hurdled from him to the head of another croc. He did this on the heads of four of the reptiles before they were aware of what was happening.

The fifth moved, however, eliminating Nkima's foot-path, and Nkima fell with a screech into the water. T he little monkey's head bobbed to the surface just as the jaws of the croc opened to receive him.

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