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Chapter 21 Tarzan: The Lost Adventure by Edgar Rice Burroughs

From his position in his private viewing box, sitting upon his golden throne, a purple robe tossed over his knees, Kurvandi had watched the day's events with disinterest. He was anxious to see this bronze giant die. He was anxious to see Ebopa perform. His eyes wandered toward where the great gong hung.

The gong was arranged in such a way that when struck with tremendous force, the echo of its chime would travel through a metal pipe and into the caverns beyond. Within twenty minutes Ebopa usually arrived, hungry and angry. They had but to open the gate on the far wall, the one that led down into the caverns below, and there would be Ebopa, and when Ebopa strode out of the darkness it would shake its head and wipe its eyes, but soon it would adjust to the light and began o stalk its victim.

Occasionally, Ebopa would spring on its prey, kill it immediately, and eat it to the roaring of the crowd. More often, it would play with its intended, pursuing it about the arena, letting the prey take the lead, and then, abruptly, Ebopa would start to run in that curious and hideous fashion it favored, and within moments the quarry would fall beneath its hooking claws.

Rarely was anyone strong enough, or brave enough to give Ebopa a true fight. Today, if what Kurvandi had heard of this giant were true, matters might be different. A few more minutes of pleasure might be added to the event. He was even more optimistic, having heard that the giant had escaped from the dungeon with two women, and had fought against overwhelming odds before being driven into the arena. This proved the captive was no ordinary man.

Kurvandi glanced down into the arena, at the door through which Ebopa would come. Unconsciously, he licked his lips.

In the tunnel below the arena, Hunt pursued the light. He came to its source, found that it was a man-made shaft that dropped into his tunnel, and that the tunnel itself ended here against a hard rock wall. From the slimy sides of the shaft and from the wet floor of the tunnel, Hunt deduced that this sluice was designed to drain excess water.

Not bothering to look back, Hunt put his hands on either side of the shaft, pushed up, then used his feet in the same manner. It was slippery work, but by maintaining pressure with his hands and feet, it was a serviceable exit. Above him he could see a metal grate. He tried not to think about that and hoped he could move it.

When Hunt was halfway up, he looked down at the lion. It could not climb the shaft. There were no places where its paws might gain a hold. Hunt felt a wave of cowardice. He should die with the lion. The lion would give him time to make it to the top or the shaft, but he should die with it. The lion looked up at him and barred its teeth, as if to smile. Then Jad-bal-ja turned to face the screeching horror that was rushing down upon it, and Hunt's final decision was made. He continued to climb upward.

When Jean strode into the arena, Kurvandi leaned forward on his throne. This might be of interest, he thought. Not because he felt this pale-skinned woman would be much of a match for Jeda, who he had seen fight many times, but because he was interested in seeing how an outsider would die.

Kurvandi's seat for this battle was a good one. It was excellent for all exhibitions, but in this case, the portion of the arena where Jean and Jeda were to fight was just below him. As Jeda entered the arena, she looked up at his roost and smiled. From time to time, they were lovers. Usually after she fought in the arena, especially if she was covered in blood. Jeda felt being a lover to the king might have its political overtones, and she was ambitious.

She decided she would go slow with the girl, let her linger a while. Then she would make sure it was bloody. Kurvandi liked that. He hated it when it happened quick and there was very little blood.

Jeda smiled at Kurvandi, and he smiled back. He thought to himself: Someday, I will have her killed, before she becomes too dangerous, too popular.

The black lions rose up on either side of Kurvandi, and placing their front paws on the top of the viewing box, looked down, too. They, like their master, loved the arena. The blood, the sounds of the crowd, the smell of fear excited them. When it was all over, their master would allow them into the arena for while, to eat. There were always fine tidbits there.

A rider on a zebra entered the arena. He was carrying two long spears and knives in belted scab bards. He tossed one of each in front of Jeda, the others In front of Jean. The rider said something in the Ur language, then departed. Jeda fastened on the knife belt, took hold of her spear, and Jean did the same. Jean was so frightened she thought the flesh in her legs was melting and that soon she would turn to liquid and flow into the bloody sands of the arena.

Her hand shook as she held the spear, but to keep from letting it show, she jiggled the spear savagely and called out threats. They were silly threats, but since no one amongst the Urs could understand her language anyway, she knew she could make them sound more threatening with the tone of her voice and her facial expressions.

"Your mother wears army boots! she called. "When's the last time you took a bath? Who does your hair anyway?"

Tough stuff in an upper-class Austin beauty parlor, but out here, a bit slight. Nonetheless, she told herself, even if I am out here in my bra, I'm Texan through and through and I come from stock tough as horse shoes, and I'm going to reach way down inside of myself and pull it out. I'm going to-

Her musings on toughness were interrupted when with a speedy thrust, Jeda used her spear to open a cut on Jean's shoulder.

Jean couldn't believe it. The lunge had been so fast she had hardly seen it. And now, an instant after it was completed, she felt a warmth flow over her shoulder, and then a stinging sensation. The razor-sharp blade of the spear had cut through her flesh and she was bleeding.
Jeda spun and dropped and used the shaft of the spear to catch Jean behind the knees with it and trip her. Jean was tossed into the air and came down hard on her rear end.

The crowd roared.

Jeda turned her back on Jean and raised her spear to the crowd.

Jean found this the most humiliating event of all. Jeda was not taking her seriously in the least.

Jean twisted to her knees, lunged with her spear, and poked Jeda sharply in the rear end. Jeda leapt and whirled to the sound of an arena full of laughter.

Jeda glanced out of the corner of her eye, and took in Kurvandi, who was laughing so uproariously his headdress shook. Even the black lions looking over the edge of the box, their big paws holding them in place, appeared to wear expressions of humor.

Jeda spoke sharply to Jean, and though Jean could not understand the words, she understood their intent. She knew she was in for it now.

Maybe that was the best thing, Jean thought. Agitate Jeda until she was so infuriated she would kill her swiftly. A swift death would be better than a lingering and humiliating one.

At that moment, with Jean but an instant from death, Hunt reached the top of the sluice, and at the same moment below, Jad-bal-ja sprang into the face of Ebopa. The creature drove Jad-bal-ja back to the end of the tunnel, then with Jad-bal-ja riding its head like a hat, clawing, gnashing, Ebopa stood up in the tight shaft.

Hunt was forced against the grate by the rising of Jad-bal-ja and Ebopa. Fortunately the grate lifted easily and Hunt was pushed into the open. Unfortunately, the grate was right behind the arena throne of Kurvandi, who, hearing the grate clatter to the floor, turned and gazed around the edge of his throne. What he saw astonished him.

A bedraggled white man was scuttling out of a drain shaft on his hands and knees, and a huge lion was rising out of the shaft behind him on the head of-

Kurvandi sprang to his feet in horror.

It was Ebopa. Kurvandi screeched like a rat being crushed beneath an elephant's foot The lion was riding the head of Ebopa.

Out in the arena, Jeda, confident of her victory, lost interest in Jean and turned to look at Kurvandi, trying deduce the nature of his scream. It was a mistake on Jeda's part.

Jean tossed her spear. It was a wide toss and went behind Jeda's head. Jeda whirled back to face Jean, but the Texan had drawn her knife, and now she sprang forward. Had Jeda not been so astonished at the tenacity and ferocity of her opponent, she could easily have slain Jean. But by the time she realized Jean was an actual threat, it was too late.

Jean plunged her dagger into Jeda's eye and rode her to the ground, twisting the weapon into the socket as if she were fastening a corkscrew into the cork of a wine bottle.

Jeda, the great warrior, died easily.

Tarzan had not been idle. From the moment Jean left for the arena, he set about scaling the wall. It was a nearly smooth wall, but with the chains wrapped around his waist, Tarzan set to the task. There were some outlines where the stones had been cemented together, and the ape-man used his strong fingers to take hold of these and gain purchase. He made the slow, agonizing climb, and reached the summit of the wall at the very moment Jean sprang forward and slew Jeda.

Tarzan saw this and cheered.

Jean, straddling her enemy, turned toward him, saw him standing on the summit of the connecting wall beneath a fluttering redflag on a long pole. She raised her knife and let out a yell of victory. Tarzan thought it almost animallike. Above Jean, in Kurvandi's box he saw a sight that both heartened and agonized him. Jad-bal-ja was clinging to a monstrosity's head, ineffectually biting and clawing at it.

Kurvandi had retreated to the far corner of the box, and the two black lions had joined Jad-bal-ja in his quest to bring Ebopa down. But Ebopa would not go down. It. Flicked one of the black lions away with its leg. The lion went high and fell on its back in the arena. Even from a distance, Tarzan heard its back snap like the cracking of a whip. The lion shook and thrashed, then lay still.

In the opposite corner of the box from Kurvandi, Tarzan saw Hunt holding a broken spear, looking willing, if not eager, to fight.

Tarzan jerked the long, limber flagpole out of its sheath on the wall, turned, and lowered it to Nyama. Nyama took hold of it and he pulled her up.

Tarzan and Nyama ran along the top of the wall, and meeting them came a line of warriors. Tarzan did not like the odds, but the situation was ideal. No matter how many of them there were, they could only face him one at a time. He used the flagpole to punch them, trip them, gouge them off the wall. The fall was not enough to kill the warriors, but it was high enough to do them injury. Some of them moaned with broken bones and shattered skulls.

Tarzan told Nyama to jump, and jump she did. They leapt into the arena on Jean's side, and raced toward her, Now warriors were coming off the wall, running after them.

Never before had Jad-bal-ja's claws and mighty jaws been useless. Ebopa reached up with a hooked appendage and clutched the lion and tossed him at Kurvandi. Jad-bal-ja, scratching and biting, landed full force on Kurvandi, and down they went. When Jad-bal-ja rose,

Kurvandi was dead, his head crushed between the great lion's jaws like a walnut between pliers.

Ebopa, annoyed with the black lion clinging to his leg, extended it and wiped the lion off on the throne, like a bored man scraping something off his shoe.

The black lion rolled across the floor, and quite by accident, he and Jad-bal-ja came together. In a moment the fight was on. They twirled, about as if they were biting, clawing tumbleweeds of fur.

Ebopa turned its black pumpkin-head and looked Hunt. Hunt had never seen a gaze like that. It was almost hypnotic. Ebopa crouched. Ebopa made one slow step. Ebopa opened its face to show its strange teeth.

Hunt leapt over the edge of the box and dropped in the arena.

Mesmerized by Ebopa, Hunt was unaware of the crowd of warriors thundering across the arena toward Tarzan and Jean and Nyama. When he saw. Jean, momentarily, he was heartened, and then seeing Tarzan, he was even more enthusiastic. He did not know the other woman, but from her manner, he could see she was with Jean and Tarzan.

Then he took in the warriors thundering toward them.

Out of the frying pan, and into the fire, he thought.

But Ebopa, disappointed in losing his main prey, that which was the tastiest to eat- human beings- sprang from the box and landed light as a grasshopper in the arena behind Hunt, Tarzan, Jean, and Nyama.

The warriors, rushing toward Tarzan and the others, let out a shout and turned to flee from their god. They tried desperately to scale the wall they had leapt from, but couldn't do it. They climbed on top of each other, like ants, crushing their own below them. In this manner, some made the wall while others died underfoot, or pressed their bodies against the wall in fear.

Tarzan turned and looked over his shoulder, saw the source of their panic.

Ebopa was creeping up on Hunt.

"Hunt!" Tarzan yelled. "Behind you!"

Hunt wheeled, saw Ebopa.

Ebopa crouched, bent its legs.

And leapt.

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