Once more the great fire blazed in front of the god Moloch. Human sacrifices were to be made for the harvest season. The new high priest ordered each officer of the palace guard to bring his youngest son to be offered to Moloch. When the captain of the guard came bearing his command to his wife, the boy, Hotep, heard and fled from the house of his father. He ran in terror through the city streets. By dawn he had crossed the desert and come to the outskirts of the jungle. It was noon before Hotep dared think of rest but when he lay down he saw strange eyes gleaming at him through the thicket. In wild panic he raced for his life. After him came Sabor the lioness. The boy shrieked for help as he saw a little hut high in the trees.
There was no answer but Hotep saw a swinging vine, reached for it, and swung himself up. Then Sabor leaped. The great cat's claws ripped into his flesh, but the boy swung himself out of reach. His strength gave out as he reached the hut in the tree. There Tarzan and Nikotris found him -- but even at that moment, the ape-man heard the horse he had tethered below shrieking in mad fright.
33. 12. 10
Basim, the wild dog of the jungle, was on a hunt. When he picked up the spoor of Tarzan and the horse, he raced for the spot where the horse was tethered. The next second Tarzan heard the horse's wild shriek. Even as the dog jumped for the horse's throat, the ape-man hurled himself on the horse's back. Tarzan hurled Basim aside and cut the horse's tether with a swift slash of his knife. He gave the horse free rein as it fled in terror but Basim, relentless in the hunt, came on in hot pursuit.
They had reached the edge of the desert when the wild dog leaped to attack Tarzan. The ape-man slashed at Basim, then suddenly reined in and leaped for his assailant. In a flash the horse was off across the desert toward his home among the Ibeks, and Tarzan faced Basim, slayer of lions. Short was the encounter. The ape-man caught the great dog by the throat and applied steely pressure. Shouting the bull-ape victory cry, Tarzan swung back through the trees to rejoin Nikotris and Hotep. But when he returned, the queen and the boy had disappeared! What dread fate had overtaken them, left unguarded in the thick of the jungle?
The day his delirium passed, Prince Kamur went to his father to demand the hand of Queen Nikotris in marriage. When told the queen had fled with Tarzan, Kamur, in violent rage, throttled news of their whereabouts out of the king. As he left his father's tent, he saw a riderless horse dashing among the tents. It was the horse upon which Tarzan had escaped from the Ibeks. Following the fresh prints of the horse's trail across the desert Kamur traced them to the jungle.
After a long while he came in sight of the hut in the trees. As he called, Nikotris came out of the hut with the boy Hotep. Nikotris, her pride outraged by treatment at the hands of the Ibeks, refused to answer the pleas of the prince. Kamur started to climb the vine to reach her, but the vine broke under his great weight. When Kamur fell and lay still, Nikotris swung herself down to his side and Hotep followed. But Kamur was not badly hurt, and soon opened his eyes. He rose, grasped Nikotris in his arms, and fled with her through the jungle. Hotep followed, screaming his protest.
Soon afterward, Tarzan returned to find the hut in the trees empty. In the far distance he heard the battle cry of a great ape and the voice of Nikotris screaming, "Tarzan!"
Kamur fled with Nikotris helpless in the grip of his giant strength. The boy Hotep followed, screaming his protest. But suddenly Kamur halted in his tracks. A giant bull-ape and his she stood in the path. The bull advanced menacingly.
"I am Kabango! I kill! he roared.
The giant Kamur fearlessly met the challenge and advanced to battle. The strength of Kamur was the strength of many men but the fangs and hands of the great ape, tearing, striking, rending, eventually turned the tide of battle. A cry of victory was welling in the ape's throat. When she saw the prince being overcome Nikotris made a frenzied effort to save him. Kabango turned in rage upon Nikotris. As he seized her, she uttered the wild shriek that Tarzan heard at his jungle hut. Whirling through the trees the ape-man came. From above he hurled himself down on the ape's back and locked him in a death grip. But as Tarzan struggled with the bull, the she-ape made off in the trees with Hotep. The boy was too paralyzed with fear to call for help.
At the death of the bull ape, Tarzan's mighty victory cry thundered through the forest so that the shrieks of little Hotep could not be heard as the she-ape Yahara carried him off. The frenzy of Tarzan's cry stirred the lust of battle in the heart of fat old Buwang, heaviest of the apes, as he saw Yahara approaching with the boy. But Yahara fled when he challenged her and made for the high branches of a tree, where, because of his great weight, he could not follow. With wild cries she taunted him. As Yahara loosed her hold upon him, Hotep wriggled free and climbed out on a bending branch. The she-ape shook the branch ferociously as Hotep struggled to hold on. Below the apes of the tribe had gathered in a bloodthirsty mood. Desperately the boy clung.
But finally his strength gave way. He fell senseless into the midst of the ravenous tribe. Modug, the king-ape halted them as they prepared to attack the boy. He ordered a feast for all and commanded them to gather at the secret glade of the dum-dum. He himself carried little Hotep off to the place of the strange ritual. Three old shes started beating steadily upon the earth mound beside which Hotep lay very still. It was the call to the mad dance of death. As Tarzan heard it the savagery of his ape-life stirred within him. He rushed to join the feast of the beasts.
The rising of the moon was the signal for the beginning of the dance of death. While the she-apes beat the earth-drum faster and faster, little Hotep lay white and trembling between two ape guards. Suddenly Modug, the ape king, leaped from the circle , and looking full at the moon, he emitted his fearful roaring shriek. The dance had begun. The apes leaped in a mad frenzy, faster and faster as the wild race of the dance increased. At a signal from Modug, the dancing suddenly stopped. In the dread silence that followed, Modug seized a club and advance upon little Hotep. But the death blow was not struck. At that instant Tarzan flashed through the circle of apes.
"I am Tarzan of the apes!" the ape-man announced. "And that little white-skin there, he is my balu. Yield him to me."
"I am Modug," the other replied. "I kill!" and he swung his club. But Tarzan seized the club and reached for a crushing hold. In a second they were upon the ground, biting, clawing, rending -- two savage beasts in a death battle.
"Help! Help me!" Modug finally cried. But no ape king can call for help in battle and retain his kingship.
"Ka-goda?" Tarzan whispered, meaning, "Do you surrender?"
"Ka-goda?" said Modug.
As Modug surrendered, Tarzan picked up little Hotep. "I am Tarzan, mighty hunter, mighty fighter," he said. "I am your king and this is my Balu. Who dares touch him fights Tarzan."
In answer came a wild roar form the encircling apes. Slowly they started advancing.
As the apes tightened their circle of death, Tarzan sprang to the shoulder of Buwang and shot like an arrow to a high branch. Two apes of greath strength flung Modug into the tree for swift pursuit of Tarzan. Modug paused to scream a command. And his cry -- "Ahal Gord! -- To the moon!" -- echoed through the jungle. The apes swarmed toward the upper reaches of the tall forest, and half a hundred savage allies joined the chase. The boy Hotep proved burden to Tarzan's flight. Fierce Modug was almost upon him when Tarzan halted suddenly and thrust his foot into Modug's face. The giant ape pitched backward to the ground. Tarzan turned, but his path was blocked by enemies, crying vengeance for their slain leader. Below, there was no retreat.
Through the night, the beasts held Tarzan entrapped, for they believed the sight of their victim was good in the eyes of Goro the moon. With the rising sun, Buwang advanced and challenged: "Ka-goda -- Do you surrender?" and the ape-man answered, "Tarzan Nal Goda -- Tarzan never surrenders!" Then Tarzan plunged at the great ape. Thus he hoped to break through the circle, and check his own fall by grasping a branch, but the impact wrenched Hotep from his arms, and Tarzan himself hurtled earthward!
When Tarzan and Hotep plunged earthward, the ape-man saved himself, but the boy fell full into the arms of a grinning ape. The great apes surrounded the little white-skin to balk his rescue by Tarzan. The ape-man attacked but he was overwhelmed by force of numbers. The strongest vines of the jungle bound Tarzan as Buwang advanced to slay him. Then came Tabong, an elder of the tribe, and commanded Buwang to withhold the death blow until the apes had taken council.
When the council ended, Tabong spoke: "Who kills king in battle, is king. Tarzan slew Modug. Tarzan now king." Tarzan answered, "You are outlaw apes. I will not rule your tribe." But the apes were bound by ancient law to show outward honor to their king, though they held him captive. So Tabong set the swiftest apes coursing through the forest, to find a fitting sacrifice to honor their monarch. The eager hunters came upon Nikotris and Kamur. The giant prince of the Ibeks fought valiantly, but he was conquered at last by a crafty attack from the trees. From the deep forest, the hunters led Tarzan's friends to the sacrifice in his honor.
"Dum-Dum!" cried the beasts. "Blood for Tarzan the king!"
Nikotris and Kamur were startled when Tarzan, who had been their friend, stared at them with menacing eyes. The jungle echoed with the savage rhythm of the earth drum while Buwang prepared for sacrificial slaughter. Then the ape-man spoke in commanding voice: "It is I, our king, who must strike the death blow!"
Nikotris knew not his words, but she saw his face, and whispered: "The ape-man has become in truth a savage ape."
With arms unbound and legs hobbled, Tarzan was brought forth to perform the death rite. He raised his club to strike. Suddenly, Tarzan's knife flashed from the folds of his loin cloth. Swinging his club in a circle to hold the apes at bay, he swiftly slashed the thongs that bound him, then freed his friends. Tarzan's mighty blow saved Nikotris, and provided a club for Kamur. The ape-man and the giant prince battled fiercely through the savage circle, and fled into the deep forest. But behind them echoed the shrill hunting cry of the pursuing apes. They came at last to a deep ravine, and started slowly across on a fallen tree. Then came the apes and lifted the log, to url their victims into the ravine. Kamur swayed with his precious burden, and even agile Tarzan toppled!
When the powerful apes hoisted the log to shake off the two men, Tarzan and Kamur could retain their foothold no longer. They leaped and landed on a ledge. A haven of safety in the sheer wall of the ravine. Tarzan explored the path that led from the ledge, but saw that it melted finally into the vertical wall. With savage apes above and the deep ravine below, they were hopelessly imprisoned and doomed to a terrible death by hunger and thirst. The alert apeman leaped to peer at a curious hole in the rock wall. Suddenly, two sinewy hands darted through the opening and closed around Tarzan's throat.
As Tarzan drew his knife to slash the hands that gripped him, a strange door opened in the side of the cliff -- and four fierce men seized him. When the cavern had swallowed Tarzan, his captors ran to lay hold of his companions. The ape-man knew now that he was in the cave of the dread brigands of El Ka-Nur. The brigand chief was quick to pronounce judgment on his captives.
"Only three men before you have discovered our secret lair," he said. "There are their heads. The three males among you shall share their fate. The woman we shall keep as slave!"
Sathor, Chief of the Brigands, smiled cruelly as he proclaimed that Tarzan, Kamur and Hotep should die, while Nikotris should be held captive. Then Pestaban, the hunchback, spoke: "This maiden, my lord, is sister to the pharaoh. She will fetch a king's ransom. The chief praised Pestaban's wisdom and the Brigands took counsel to lay their crafty plans. A swift messenger was dispatched to the city. Outside the palace, the messenger drew his strong bow. Into the court of the sun an arrow whirred and dropped at the feet of the astonished pharaoh. Around it was rolled a sheet of parchment. The Brigands demanded for Nikotris a ransom of fifty thousand pieces of fine gold, to be brought to the dunes of Diskara. The chancellor said the sum would empty the royal coffers, but the pharaoh answered: "Even though an exile, Nikotris is more precious than gold."
As required by the Brigands, the pharaoh himself led the treasure caravan into the desert, while Sathor and forty picked men brought forth ladders, and left their secret lair for their rendezvous with the treasure bearers. By order of Sathor, Nikotris was to be guarded until his return, but Tarzan, Kamur and Hotep were to be slain at once. The cruel bandits would use the prisoners to practice their skill in archery. Tarzan was chosen as the first target!
A PRISON OF ARROWS ~ 34.02.18
While Nikotris was imprisoned in a dungeon of the Brigands' cavern, Sathor, the Brigand chieftain, and his forty picked men followed the secret trail to their stables in a hidden valley, where they mounted their swift spirited horses. In single file they set out for the dunes of Diskara to collect the rich ransom for Nikotris which her brother, the pharaoh, was bearing to the appointed place.
Meanwhile, atop the Brigands' cave, Tarzan helplessly awaited the fatal arrows from the strong bows of his outlaw executioners. Suddenly, as the first archer bent his bow, a companion besought him to stay his shot. Tarzan was astonished. Was he to be spared after all? But the Brigands, rich in cruelties, prepared a more fiendish scheme. They placed Tarzan against a great tree and began to outline his body with arrows.
They had agree that the archer who shot closest without drawing blood would have the honor of aiming at his heart.
The arrows struck closer and closer to Tarzan, in the cruel game which had his life as its stake. Then the eager hand of an archer trembled, and an ill-shot arrow sundered one of the ape-man's bonds. Tarzan whipped out the knife hidden in his loin-cloth and slashed the fetters at his ankles, while the astonished outlaws, shooting wildly, sped to seize him. Tarzan sprang to a branch of a the tree, and mounted high among its concealing leaves, as the enraged bowmen shot into the thick foliage.
Screened by foliage, Tarzan sped through the tree until he reached a branch near a lone archer. Entwining his leg in a vine, Tarzan swung head down. From the bewildered bowman he seized a bow and three arrows, and swung up again into the tree. When three Brigands fell, pierced by Tarzan's arrows, their companions turned on Kamur and Hotep for vengeance. Swiftly, Tarzan leaped down on the attackers. He bore two of them to the ground, but the third drew away and raised his knife to plunge it into the ape-man's back!
As the brigand lifted his knife to strike Tarzan, Kamur toppled his giant body against the outlaw, who fell on his own blade. Swiftly the ape-man arose and freed his friends, and with their bonds the enemy archers were confined. Then Tarzan and Kamur descended to the Brigands' cave. The great stone door was ajar.
Awaiting the return of the bowmen. In a cavern hall they saw the outlaws making merry during the absence of their stern chieftain. Swiftly they closed the door and sealed it with the stout crossbar. Advancing silently, they sprang upon the two sentinels, and rescued Nikotris from the dungeon. Nikotris and Kamur departed for the mountain fastnesses of the Ibeks, while Tarzan set out for the city to restore Hotep to his grieving family.
At nightfall Tarzan came to the outskirts of the capital. He avoided the busy city gates, for Hotep was a fugitive from the human sacrifice to Moloch. With the boy clinging to his belt the ape-man scaled the high wall. Inside the city, they sought the darkest streets, but as they neared Hotep's home they fell under spying eyes.
The boy's mother wept with joy at sight of her son, but her happiness was checked by the shadow of his fate. Through the secret door she hurried him to concealment in an underground chamber, but as he disappeared, soldiers burst into the room demanding that Hotep be delivered to them in the name of Mooch, the god who hungered for human life!
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