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Chapter 11 Tarzan and the Tarzan Twins with Jad-bal-ja the Golden Lion by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Ulp did not like the idea of marching in the rear with his back continually exposed to the arrows of an unseen foe. He turned his head about so often to look behind him that his neck pained him, and then he turned around and walked backward for awhile until the others got so far away from him that he became frightened and turned and ran rapidly to overtake them.

Meanwhile through the trees behind him came an American boy and now there were only eighteen enemies ahead of him and there were sixteen arrows in his quiver, for he had descended to the trail after the sun worshippers had moved on and wrenched the arrow from the body of his second victim.

It was grim and terrible work for Doc, who never in all his life had really wanted to kill anyone, nor did he wish to now. It was only stern necessity, induced by the danger that threatened Dick and Gretchen, that impelled him to undertake the grisly work that he hated with all his heart and soul.

The forest was less dense now as the party advanced, and the undergrowth less thick. The trail led constantly into higher ground, and presently Dick and Gretchen saw hills looming before them.

Blk led them into the mouth of a ravine, which rose steeply upward into the hills. The great trees of the jungle disappeared and, in places, the undergrowth gave way entirely to rock formations that supported no vegetation.

Doc, coming to the edge of the jungle, surveyed the landscape ahead.

In a glance he saw that the trees were too scattered to offer him a continuous trail above the ground, and there were many places where the underbrush was so scant as to afford no sufficient shelter for him. But to the left of the ravine, a gently sloping hogback, strewn with great boulders, seemed to offer him the best chance of concealment and the easiest trail from which he might keep the quarry in view.

Ulp had caught up with his fellows and followed close behind them, as Doc clambered upward among the rocks to the summit of the hogback. Here he found a well-marked game trail along which he could move with ease and, presently, he looked down into the ravine upon the little party.

Here was another opportunity. Again his bow twanged and as he dropped behind the concealing shelter of a great boulder, Ulp voiced a horrid shriek and crumpled to the ground.

Gulm was furious, not because Ulp had died, but partially because he had been robbed of an intended sacrifice for The Flaming God and partially because he realized the menace to all of them of this unseen foe, who clung so tenaciously to the rear from where he might pick them off one by one at his leisure—while they were helpless.

"It is the anger of The Flaming God!" he cried. "How much further to the temple site, Blk?"

"We are almost there," replied the guide.

"It is well," growled Gulm. "We must offer a sacrifice to appease the wrath of The Flaming God," and his eyes rested upon Dick.

Gretchen heard and understood. She turned imploringly to her companion.

"Oh, Dick!" she cried, her voice almost a sob. "You must escape at once. There is no time to spare. If ever we reach the temple site, you will be lost."

An arrow, speeding silently, buried itself in Gulm's leg, eliciting a cry of pain and anger. He wrenched the missile from his flesh, his eyes searching the direction from which it had come.

Then, quite unexpectedly, for a moment he glimpsed Doc upon the summit of the ridge, and then the lad stood up, clearly revealed to all of them.

"Don't give up hope, Dick," he shouted, "but look for me tonight. I will try to find a way to get you and Gretchen after dark. Be ready."

"It will be too late then, Doc," cried Gretchen. "If Dick is not saved in the next few minutes, he never will be."

"I will do the best I can," said Doc. Without saying more, Doc immediately fitted another arrow to his bow. He drove it swiftly in the direction of the Oparians and another priest collapsed, clutching at his pierced throat.

In a voice that sounded like the growling of a beast, Gulm issued orders to six of his followers, spurring them to action.

"Don't let that boy get the best of us! Go after him," he cried. "Bring him back to me alive if you can, but bring him back—dead or alive."

Doc was fitting another arrow when he saw the six start swiftly up the steep ravine side. They were close together and offered an excellent target, but suddenly an inspiration seized him. All about him were boulders of different shapes and sizes and in them he saw potential engines of destruction that might be used to accomplish his purpose while conserving his few remaining arrows.

Getting behind a fair sized, rounded boulder, he heaved against it with his shoulder until it gave, and then he guided it over the edge of the ridge directly above the six Oparians, who were ascending to capture or kill him. He did not wait for the boulder to strike them, but immediately seized smaller stones and hurled them down at his foe.

The priests attempted to scramble from the path of the descending boulder, but it had gained such momentum and was falling so rapidly that it was upon them before they could elude it. It struck one of them full in the breast, toppling him backward, crushing him, and then continued to bound down to the bottom of the ravine while the body of its victim, rolling and tumbling, leaped grotesquely in its wake.

"Good boy, Doc!" shouted Dick. "Give them another like that."

The five remaining priests hesitated, warding off the smaller stones that Doc hurled down upon them with their cudgels and their forearms.

They were starting to give back, slowly descending, when Gulm's voice rose up in a mighty bellow.

"Go on! Go on!" he cried. "If you come back without him, you shall be the first to be sacrificed to The Flaming God. Obey your high priest or die."

Knowing that Gulm's command was no idle threat, the five scrambled upward in the face of Doc's barrage until the lad was forced to the realization that some of them, at least, must reach the top, when his capture would be assured.

He sent them a parting arrow and then fled even before he saw its effect, while another priest rolled backward toward the bottom of the ravine. Doc leaped rapidly down the hogback toward the jungle where he knew he might better hope to elude his pursuers among the branches of the great trees.

The four lesser priests followed Doc until the foliage of the forest cut him from their view, and then they halted, grumbling.

"If we go in there after him," said one, "we shall not return alive. He will pick us off with his arrows."

"And if we go back to Gulm, we shall be sacrificed to The Flaming God," said another.

"There are four of us," said a third. "Why should we let Gulm offer us in sacrifice? Who made him high priest? In Opar he was only a lesser priest like us. There are four of us. Let us go back and tell Gulm that the creature escaped, and that before we will permit him to sacrifice any of us, we will kill him."

"Good," said the fourth. "Who is Gulm to be high priest or to take our lives if we do not wish it?"

Thus agreed, the four turned back up the ravine and Doc, relieved, watched them depart.

After they had passed out of sight he descended to the ground and followed them. By following along the bottom of the ravine he hoped to retrieve some of the arrows he had expended, for these were precious indeed, and then he hoped to make his way to the ridge on the right hand side of the ravine, which he had discovered from the summit of the opposite side was better suited to his purposes, since it dropped to the ravine bottom so precipitously that it would be difficult for the sun worshippers to scale it in pursuit of him, thus giving him a better opportunity to attack them in safety.

As the four priests who had succeeded in gaining the summit disappeared in pursuit of Doc, Gulm resumed the march up the steep and rocky gorge.

"Are you going to try to escape, Dick?" asked Gretchen.

The boy shook his head.

"Oh, please do, for my sake," she urged.

"No," he persisted. "I could not do it. In the first place there has been no opportunity and if there is we will take it together."

Gretchen shook her head sadly. "I shall never forgive myself," she said.

"It is not your fault, Gretchen, and whatever happens, not one of us is to blame. We have all done our best and if they don't get good old Doc, he may save us both yet."

"I am afraid they will get him," said Gretchen. "These creatures can climb and run like monkeys. I think nothing could escape them."

"Well, good old Doc made them sit up and take notice," said Dick proudly. "If I have to die, at least I shall have that memory to console me."

The gorge had narrowed until there was room for but a single man to pass between its rocky walls and at this point it was necessary to climb steeply upward for twenty-five feet over a water-worn formation of stratified limestone, down one side of which splashed a miniature waterfall.

The smooth moist surface of the rocks offered only precarious foot and hand holds. Dick climbed directly behind Gretchen, steadying her as best he could, and helping her.

Finally they reached the top in safety, and as they stood erect again upon level ground, they saw that they were in the mouth of a rudely circular, natural, rockbound amphitheater.

Gulm looked slowly about him. His eyes gleamed with the fires of mad fanaticism. He looked up at the sun and stretched forth his arms.

"Here, O Great and Mighty God of our ancestors," he cried, "we shall dedicate to you the new temple and the new city that shall be raised in your honor, and here, before you hide your face again from the eyes of your people, we shall consecrate this ground as befits the holy purpose to which it shall be dedicated. Have patience with us, God of our fathers. You have waited long, but the time has almost come—you have not long to wait!"

He turned quickly to the lesser priests, who had knelt behind him.

"Quickly," he said, "go and gather stones and raise an altar."

Gretchen grasped Dick's hands and commenced to sob, softly.

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