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TARZAN AND THE CITY OF GOLD
Chapter 19 - Conclusion
A Commentary By
Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
I still can’t get over how stupidly evil Erot was. He believed he was going to rape the beautiful Doria after complimenting on her great beauty, then he was going to sew her up in the lions’ skins for the sacrifice to Xarator. I wonder how Tarzan killed him. Tarzan would make sure he knew why he was dying and who was killing him.
And why is Nemone taking for granted that Tomos was telling her the truth about what Erot told him. I believe she herself warned Tarzan about Tomos and Erot. Yet she believed him even after Tarzan told her that it was all a plot of theirs to destroy him? Will she now open her eyes and see the truth? Let’s tune in and find out.
Chapter Nineteen: The Queen’s Quarry
After the first involuntary cries of surprise and rage an ominous silence fell upon the barbaric scene. Now all eyes were centered upon the Queen, whose ordinarily beautiful countenance was almost hideous from rage, a rage which, after her single angry cry, choked further utterance for a moment. But at length she found her voice and turned furiously upon Tomos.
“What means this?” she demanded, her voice now controlled and as cold as the steel in the sheath at her side.
Tomos, who was as much astounded as she, stammered as he trembled in his sandals of elephant hide. “There are traitors even in the Temple of Thoos!” he cried. “I chose Erot to prepare the girl for the embraces of Xarator because I knew that his loyalty to his Queen would insure the work being well done. I did not know, O gracious Nemone, that this vile crime had been committed or that the body of Erot had been substituted for that of the daughter of Thudos until this very instant.”
With an expression of disgust the Queen commanded the priests to hurl the body of Erot into the crater and as it was swallowed by the fiery pit she ordered an immediate return to Cathne.
In morose and gloomy silence she rode down the winding mountain trail and out onto the Field of the Lions, and often her eyes were upon the bronzed giant striding beside her chariot.
At last she broke her silence. “Two of your enemies are gone now,” she said. “I destroyed one; whom do you think destroyed the other?”
“Perhaps I did,” suggested Tarzan with a smile.
“I had been thinking of that possibility,” replied Nemone, but she did not smile.
“Whoever did it performed a service for Cathne.”
“Perhaps,” she half agreed, “but it is not the killing of Erot that annoys me; it is the effrontery that dared interfere with the plans of Nemone. Whoever did it has spoiled for me what would otherwise have been a happy day; nor have they accomplished anything in the interest of Thudos or his daughter or Gemnon. I shall find the girl, and her passing will be far more bitter than that from which she was saved today; she cannot escape me. Thudos and Gemnon will also pay more heavily because someone dared flout the Queen.”
Tarzan shrugged his broad shoulders, but remained silent.
“Why do you not speak?” demanded the Queen.
“There is nothing to say,” he replied; “I can only disagree with you without convincing you; I should only make you more angry than you are. I find no pleasure in making people angry or unhappy unless it is for some good purpose.”
“You mean that I do?” she demanded.
“She shook her head angrily. “Why do I abide you!” she exclaimed.
“Possibly as a counterirritant to relieve other irritations,” he suggested.
“Some day I shall lose my patience and have you thrown to the lions,” she ejaculated sharply. “What will you do then?”
“Kill the lion,” replied the ape-man.
“Not the lion that I shall throw you to,” Nemone assured him.
The tedious journey back to Cathne ended at last, and with flaring torches lighting the way the Queen’s cortege crossed the Bridge of Gold and entered the city. Here she immediately ordered a thorough search to be made for Doria.
Thudos and Gemnon, happy but mystified, were returned to their cell to await the new doom that Nemone would fix for them when the mood again seized her to be entertained. Tarzan was commanded to accompany Nemone into the palace and dine with her. Tomos had been dismissed with a curt injunction to find Doria or prepare for the worst.
Tarzan and the Queen ate alone in a small dining room attended only by slaves, and when the meal was over Nemone conducted him to the now all familiar ivory room, where he was greeted by the angry growls of Belthar.
“Erot and M’duze are dead,” said the Queen, “and I have sent Tomos away; there will be none to disturb us tonight.” Again her voice was soft, her manner gentle.
The ape-man sat with his eyes fixed upon her, studying her. It seemed incredible that this sweet and lovely woman could be the cruel tyrant that was Nemone, the Queen. Every soft line and curving contour spoke of femininity and gentleness and love; and in those glorious eyes smoldered a dreamy light that exercised a strange hypnotic influence upon him, gently pushing the memories of her ruthlessness into the oblivion of forgetfulness.
Oops! It looks like Tarzan is no longer the master of his desires. Perhaps he had been looking forward to just this kind of seduction. Who knows?
She leaned closer to him. “Touch me, Tarzan,” she whispered softly.
Drawn by a power that is greater than the will of man he placed a hand upon hers. She breathed a deep sigh of contentment and leaned her cheek against his breast; her warm breath carressed his naked skin; the perfume of her hair was in his nostrils. She spoke, but so low that he could not catch her words.
“What did you say?” he asked.
“Take me in your arms,” she breathed faintly. He passed a palm across his eyes as though to wipe away a mist, and in the moment of his hesitation she threw her arms about his neck and covered his face and lips with hot kisses
“Love me, Tarzan!” she cried passionately. “Love me! Love me! Love me!”
She slipped to the floor until she knelt at his feet. “O, Thoos, god of gods!” she murmured, “how I love you!”
The Lord of the Jungle looked down at her, at a queen groveling at his feet, and the spell that had held him vanished, beneath the beautiful exterior he saw the crazed mind of a mad woman; he saw the creature that cast defenseless men to wild beasts, that disfigured or destroyed women who might be more beautiful than she; and all that was fine in him revolted.
With a half growl he arose to his feet, and as he did so Nemone slipped to the floor and lay there silent and rigid. He started toward the door, and then turned and coming back lifted her to the couch. As he did so, Belthar strained at his chains and the chamber shook to his roars.
Nemone opened her eyes and for a moment gazed questioningly at the man above her; then she seemed to realize what had happened, and the mad, cruel light of rage blazed in her eyes. Leaping to her feet she stood trembling before him.
“You refuse my love!” she screamed. “You spurn me? You dare spurn the love of a Queen! Thoos! and I knelt at your feet!” She sprang to one side of the room where a metal gong depended from the ceiling and seizing the striker smote it three times. The brazen notes rang through the chamber mingling with the roars of the infuriated lion.
Tarzan stood watching her; she seemed wholly irresponsible; quite mad. It would be useless to attempt to reason with her. He moved slowly toward the door; but before he reached it it swung open, and a score of warriors accompanied by two nobles rushed in.
“Take this man!” ordered Nemone. “Throw him into the cell with the other enemies of the Queen!”
Tarzan was unarmed. He had worn only a sword when he entered the ivory room and that he had unbuckled and laid upon a stand near the doorway. There were twenty spears leveled at him, twenty spears that entirely surrounded him. With a shrug he surrendered. It was that or death. In prison he might find the means to escape; at least he would see Gemnon again, and there was something that he very much wished to tell Gemnon and Thudos.
As the soldiers conducted him from the room and the door closed behind them, Nemone threw herself among the cushions of her couch, her body racked by choking sobs. The great lion grumbled in the dusky corner of the room. Suddenly Nemone sat erect and her eyes blazed into the blazing eyes of the lion. For a moment she sat there thus, and then she arose and a peal of maniacal laughter broke from her lips. Still laughing, she crossed the room and passed through the doorway that led to her bedchamber.
Wow, no wonder Tarzan was turned off. The Queen has gone total bonkers, a raging psycho bitch of the worst order. She is in real need of a straightjacket! I sure hope that Putin keeps his sanity as he loses one third of his military in Ukraine. But of course I learned to stop worrying and came to love the bomb. Like hell I did!
Thudos and Gemnon sitting in their cell heard the tramp of marching men approaching the prison in which they were confined. “Evidently Nemone cannot wait until tomorrow,” said Thudos.
“You think she is sending for us now?” asked Gemnon.
“What else?” demanded the older man. “The lion pit can be illuminated.”
As they waited and listened the steps stopped outside their cell, the door was pushed open, and a man entered. The warriors had carried no torches and neither Thudos nor Gemnon could discern the features of the newcomer, though in the diffused light that filtered in through the small window and the aperture in the door they noted that he was a large man.
None of them spoke until the guard had departed out of earshot. “Greetings, Thudos and Gemnon!” exclaimed the new prisoner cheerily.
“Tarzan!” exclaimed Gemnon.
“None other,” admitted the ape-man.
“What brings you here?” demanded Thudos.
“Twenty warriors and the whim of a woman, an insane woman,” replied Tarzan.
“So you have fallen from favor!” exclaimed Gemnon. “I am sorry.”
“It was inevitable,” said Tarzan.
“And what will your punishment be?”
“I do not know, but I suspect that it will be quite sufficient. However, that is something that need not concern any of us until it happens; maybe it won’t happen.”
“There is no room in the dungeon of Nemone for optimism,” remarked Thudos with a grim laugh.
“Perhaps not,” agreed the ape-man, “but I shall continue to indulge myself. Doubtless Doria felt hopeless in her prison in the temple last night, yet she escaped Xarator.”
“That is a miracle I cannot fathom,” said Gemnon.
“It was quite simple,” Tarzan assured him. “A loyal friend, whose identity you may guess, came and told me that she was a prisoner in the temple. I went at once to find her. Fortunately the trees of Cathne are old and large and numerous; one of them grows close to the rear of the temple, its branches almost brushing the window of the room in which Doria was confined. When I arrived there, I found Erot annoying Doria; I also found the sack in which he had purposed tying her for the journey to Xarator. What was simpler? I let Erot take the ride that had been planned for Doria.”
“You saved her! Where is she?” cried Thudos, his voice breaking in the first emotion he had displayed since he had learned of his daughter’s plight.
“Come close,” cautioned Tarzan, “lest the walls themselves be enemies.” The two men pressed close to the speaker who continued in a low whisper. “Do you recall, Gemnon, that when we were at the gold mine I spoke aside to one of the slaves there?”
“I believe that I did notice it,” replied Gemnon; “I thought you were asking questions about the operation of the mine.”
“No; I was delivering a message from his brother, and so grateful was he that he begged to be permitted to serve me if the opportunity arose. It was to arise much sooner than either of us could have expected; and so, when it was necessary to find a hiding place for Doria, I thought immediately of the isolated hut of Niaka, the headman of the black slaves at the gold mine.
“She is there now, and the man will protect her as long as it is necessary. He has promised me that if he hears nothing from me for half a moon he is to understand that none of us three can come to her aid, and then he will get word to the faithful slaves of the house of Thudos. He says that that will be difficult but not impossible.”
“Doria safe!” whispered Gemnon. “Thudos and I may now die happy.”
Thudos extended his hand through the darkness and laid it on the ape-man’s shoulder. “There is no way in which I can express my gratitude,” he said, “for there are no words in which to couch it.”
For some time the three men sat in silence that was broken at last by Gemnon. “How did it happen that you knew the brother of a slave well enough to carry a message from one to the other?” he asked, a note of puzzlement in his voice.
“Do you recall Xerstle’s grand hunt? asked Tarzan with a laugh.
“Of course, but what has that to do with it?” demanded Gemnon.
“Do you remember the quarry, the man we saw on the slave block in the marketplace?”
“He is the brother of Niaka,” explained Tarzan.
“But you never had an opportunity to speak to him,” objected the young noble.
“Oh, but I did. It was I that helped him escape. That was why his brother was so grateful to me.”
“I still do not understand,” said Gemnon.
“There is probably much connected with Xerstle’s grand hunt that you do not understand,” suggested Tarzan. “In the first place, the purpose of the hunt was, primarily, to destroy me rather than the nominal quarry; the scheme was probably hatched between Xerstle and Erot. In the second place, I didn’t approve of the ethics of the hunters; the poor devil they were chasing had no chance. I went ahead, therefore, through the trees until I overtook the man; then I carried him for a mile to throw the lions off the scent. You know how well the plan succeeded.
“When I came back and we laid the wager, that gave Xerstle and Pindes the opening they wished but which they would have found by some other means before the day was over; so Pindes took me with him; and after we were far enough away from you he suggested that we separate, whereupon he loosed his lion upon me.”
“And it was you who killed the lion?”
“I should have much preferred to have killed Pindes and Xerstle, but I felt that the time was not yet ripe. Now, perhaps, I shall never have the opportunity to kill them,” he added regretfully.
“Now I am doubly sorry that I must die,” said Gemnon.
“Why more so than before?” asked Thudos.
“I shall never have the opportunity to tell the story of Xerstle’s grand hunt,” he explained. “What a story that would make!”
The morning dawned bright and beautiful, just as though there was no misery or sorrow or cruelty in the world; but it did not change matters at all, other than to make the cell in which the three men were confined uncomfortably warm as the day progressed.
Shortly after noon a guard came and took Tarzan away. All three of the prisoners were acquainted with the officer who commanded it, a decent fellow who spoke sympathetically to them.
“Is he coming back?” asked Thudos, nodding toward Tarzan.
The officer shook his head. “No; the Queen hunts today.”
Thudos and Gemnon pressed the ape-man’s shoulder. No word was spoken, but that wordless farewell was more eloquent than words. They saw him go out, saw the door close behind him; but neither spoke, and so they sat for a long hour in silence.
In the guardroom, to which he had been conducted from his cell, Tarzan was heavily chained; a golden collar was placed about his neck, and a chain reaching from each side of it was held in the hands of a warrior.
“Why all the precautions?” demanded the ape-man.
“It is merely a custom,” explained the officer; “it is always thus that the Queen’s quarry is led to the Field of the Lions.”
Once again Tarzan of the Apes walked near the chariot of the Queen of Cathne; but this time he walked behind it, a chained prisoner between two stalwart warriors and surrounded by a score of others.
You know that once they let Tarzan run into the old forest trees that the game is over, right? Well, with no further interruption I’ll let the master have the whole stage.
The procession did not go far, scarcely more than a mile from the city. A great concourse of people accompanied it, for Nemone had invited the entire city to witness the degradation and death of the man who had spurned her love. She was about to be avenged, but she was not happy. With scowling brows she sat brooding in her chariot as it stopped at last at the point she had selected for the start of the hunt. Not once had she turned to look at the chained man behind her. Perhaps she had been certain that she would have been rewarded by no indication of terror in his mien, or perhaps she did not dare to look at the man she had loved for fear that her determination might weaken.
But now that the time had come she cast her indecision aside, if any had been annoying her, and ordered the guard to fetch the prisoner to her. She was looking straight ahead as the ape-man halted by the wheel of her chariot.
“Send all away except the two warriors who hold him,” commanded Nemone.
“You may send them too, if you wish,” said Tarzan; “I give you my word not to harm you or to try to escape while they are away.”
Nemone, still looking straight ahead, was silent for a moment, then, “You may all go; I would speak with the prisoner alone.”
When the guard had departed a number of paces, the Queen turned her eyes toward Tarzan and found his smiling into her own. “You are going to be very happy, Nemone,” he said, in an easy, friendly voice.
“What do you mean?” she asked. “How am I going to be happy?”
“You are going to see me die; that is, if the lion catches me,” he laughed, “and you like to see people die.”
“You think that you will give me pleasure? Well, I thought so myself; but now I am wondering if it will. I never get quite the pleasure from death that I anticipate I shall; nothing in life is ever what I hope for.”
“Possibly you don’t hope for the right things,” he suggested. “Did you ever try hoping for something that would bring pleasure and happiness to someone beside yourself?”
“Why should I?” she asked. “I hope for my own happiness; let others do the same. I strive for my own happiness –”
“And never have any,” interrupted the ape-man good-naturedly.
“Probably I should have less if I strove only for the happiness of others,” she insisted.
“There are people like that,” he assented; “perhaps you are one of them; so you might as well go on striving for happiness in your own way. Of course you won’t get it, but you will at least have the pleasures of anticipation, and that is something.”
“I think I know myself and my own affairs well enough to determine for myself how to conduct my life,” she said with a note of asperity in her voice.
Tarzan shrugged. “It was not in my thoughts to interfere,” he said. “If you are determined to kill me and are quite sure that you will derive pleasure from it, why, I should be the last in the world to suggest that you abandon the idea.”
“You do not amuse me,” said Nemone haughtily; “I do not care for irony that is aimed at myself.” She turned fiercely on him. “Men have died for less!” she cried, and the Lord of the Jungle laughed in her face.
“How many times?” he asked.
“A moment ago,” said Nemone, “I was beginning to regret the thing that is about to happen. Had you been different, had you sought to conciliate me, I might have relented and returned you to favor; but you do everything to antagonize me. You affront me, you insult me, you laugh at me.” Her voice was rising, a barometric indication, Tarzan had learned, of her mental state.
“And yet, Nemone, I am drawn to you,” admitted the ape-man. “I cannot understand it. You are attracted to me in spite of wounded pride and lacerated dignity; and I to you though I hold in contempt your principles, your ideals, and your methods. It is strange, isn’t it?”
The woman nodded. “It is strange,” she mused. “I never loved one as I loved you, and yet I am going to kill you notwithstanding the fact that I still love you.”
“And you will go on killing people and being unhappy until it is your turn to be killed,” he said sadly.
She shuddered. “Killed?” she repeated. “Yes, they are all killed, the kings and queens of Cathne; but it is not my turn yet. While Belthar lives Nemone lives.” She was silent for a moment. “You may live too, Tarzan; there is something I would rather see you do than see you die.” She paused as though expecting him to ask her what it was, but he manifested no interest, and she continued, “Last night I knelt at your feet and begged for your love. Kneel here, before my people, kneel at my feet and beg for mercy, and you may live.”
“Bring on your lion,” said Tarzan; “his mercy may kinder than Nemone’s.”
“You refuse?” she demanded angrily.
“You would kill me eventually,” he replied; “there is a chance that the lion may not be able to.”
“Not a chance!” she said. “Have you seen the lion?”
She turned and called a noble, “Have the hunting lion brought to scent the quarry!” Behind them there was a scattering of troops and nobles as they made an avenue for the hunting lion and his keepers, and along the avenue Tarzan saw a great lion straining at the golden leashes to which eight men clung. Growling and roaring, the beast sprang from side to side in an effort to seize a keeper or lay hold upon one of the warriors or nobles that lined the way; so that it was all that four stalwart men on either side of him could do to prevent his accomplishing his design.
A flaming-eyed devil, he came toward the chariot of Nemone, but he was still afar when Tarzan saw the tuft of white hair in the center of his mane between his ears. It was Belthar!
Nemone was eyeing the man at her side as a cat might eye a mouse, but though the lion was close now she saw no change in the expression on Tarzan’s face. “Do you not recognize him?” she demanded.
“Of course I do,” he replied.
“And you are not afraid?”
“Of what?” he asked, looking at her wonderingly.
She stamped her foot in anger, thinking that he was trying to rob her of the satisfaction of witnessing his terror; for how could she know that Tarzan of the Apes could not understand the meaning of fear? “Prepare for the grand hunt!” she commanded, turning to a noble standing with the guard that had waited just out of earshot of her conversation with the quarry.
The warriors who held Tarzan in leash ran forward and picked up the golden chains that were attached to the golden collar about his neck, the guard took posts about the chariot of the Queen, and Tarzan was led a few yards in advance of it. Then the keepers brought Belthar closer to him, holding him just out of reach but only with difficulty, for when the irascible beast recognized the ape-man he flew into a frenzy of rage that taxed the eight men to hold him at all.
Warriors were deploying on either side of a wide lane leading toward the north from the chariot of Nemone. In solid ranks they formed on either side of the avenue, facing toward its center, their spear points dropped to form a wall of steel against the lion should he desert the chase and break to right or left. Behind them, craning necks to see above the shoulders of the fighting men, the populace pushed and shoved for advantageous points from which to view the spectacle.
A noble approached Tarzan. He was Phordos, the father of Gemnon, hereditary captain of the hunt for the rulers of Cathne. He came quite close to Tarzan and spoke to him in a low whisper, “I am sorry that I must have a part in this,” he said, “but my office requires it,” and then aloud, “In the name of the Queen, silence! These are the rules of the grand hunt of Nemone, Queen of Cathne. The quarry shall move north down the center of the lane of warriors; when he has proceeded a hundred paces the keeper shall unleash the hunting lion, Belthar; let no man distract the lion from the chase or aid the quarry, under penalty of death. When the lion has killed and while he is feeding let the keepers, guarded by warriors, retake him.”
Then he turned to Tarzan. “You will run straight north until Belthar overtakes you,” he said.
“What if I elude him and escape?” demanged the ape-man. “Shall I have my freedom then?”
Phordos shook his head sadly. “You will not escape him,” he said. Then he turned toward the Queen and knelt. “All is in readiness, your majesty. Shall the hunt commence?”
Nemone looked quickly about her. She saw that the guards were so disposed that she might be protected in the event that the lion turned back; she saw that slaves from her stables carried great nets with which Belthar was to be retaken after the hunt. She knew and they knew that not all of them would return alive from Cathne, but that would but add to the interest and excitement of the day. She nodded her head to Phordos. “Let the lion scent the quarry once more; then the hunt may start,” she directed.
The keepers let Belthar move a little closer to the ape-man, but not before they had enlisted the aid of a dozen additional men to prevent his dragging the original eight until he was within reach of the quarry.
Nemone leaded forward eagerly, her eyes upon the savage beast that was the pride of her stable; the light of insanity gleamed in them now. “It is enough!” she cried. “Belthar knows him now, or will he ever leave his trail until he has tracked him down and killed him; until he has reaped his reward and filled his belly with the flesh of the kill, for there is no better hunting lion in all Cathne than Belthar.”
Along the guantlet of warriors that the quarry and the lion were to run spears had been struck into the ground at intervals, and floating from the hafts of these were different colored pennons. The populace, the nobles, and the Queen had laid wagers upon the color of the pennons nearest which they thought the kill would occur, and they were still betting when Phordos slipped the collar from Tarzan’s neck.
In a hollow near the river that runs past Cathne a lion lay asleep in dense brush, a mighty beast with a yellow coat and a great black mane. Strange sounds coming to him from the plain disturbed him, and he rumbled complainingly in his throat; but as yet he seemed only half awake. His eyes were closed, but his half wakefulness was only seeming. Numa was awake, but he wanted to sleep and was angry with the men-things that were disturbing him. They were not too close as yet; but he knew that if they came closer he would have to get up and investigate, and that he did not want to do; he felt very lazy.
Out on the field Tarzan was striding along the spear-bound lane. He counted his steps, knowing that at the hundredth Belthar would be loosed upon him. The ape-man had a plan. Across the river to the east was the forest in which he had hunted with Xerstle and Pindes and Gemnon; could he reach it, he would be safe. No lion or no man could hope ever to overtake the Lord of the Jungle once he swung to the branches of those trees.
But could he reach the wood before Belthar overtook him? Tarzan was swift, but there are few creatures as swift as Numa at the height of his charge. With a start of a hundred paces, the ape-man felt that he might outdistance an ordinary lion, but Belthar was no ordinary lion. He was the result of generations of breeding that had resulted in the power of sustaining great speed for a much longer time than would have been possible for a wild lion, and of all the hunting lions of Cathne Belthar was the best.
At the hundredth pace Tarzan leaped forward at top speed. Behind him he heard the frenzied roar of the hunting lion as his leashes were slipped and, mingling with it, the roar of the crowd.
Smoothly and low ran Belthar, the hunting lion, swiftly closing the distance that separated him from the quarry. He looked neither to right nor to left; his fierce, blazing eyes remained fixed upon the fleeing man ahead.
Behind him rolled the chariot of the Queen, the drivers goading their lions to greater speed that Nemone might be in at the kill, yet Belthar outdistanced them as though they were rooted to the ground. The Queen, in her excitement, was standing erect, screaming encouragement to Belthar. Her eyes blazed scarcely less fiercely than those of the savage carnivore she cheered on; her bosoms rose and fell to her excited breathing; her heart raced with the racing death ahead. The Queen of Cathne was consumed by the passion of love turned to hate.
The nobles, the warriors, and the crowd were streaming after the chariot of the Queen. Belthar was gaining on the quarry when Tarzan turned suddenly to the east toward the river after he had passed the end of the guantlet that had held him to a straight path at the beginning of his flight.
A scream of rage burst from the lips of Nemone as she saw and realized the purpose of the quarry. A sullen roar rose from the pursuing crowd. They had not thought that the hunted man had a chance, but now they understood that he might yet reach the river and the forest. This, of course, did not mean to them that he would then escape, for they well knew that Belthar would pursue him across the river; what they feared was that they might be robbed of the thrills of witnessing the kill.
But presently their anger turned to relief as they saw that Belthar was gaining on the man so rapidly that there was no chance that the latter may reach the river before he was overhauled and dragged down.
Tarzan, too, glancing back over a bronzed shoulder, realized that the end was near. The river was still two hundred yards away and the lion, steadily gaining on him, but fifty.
Then the ape-man turned and waited. He stood at ease, his arms hanging at his side; but he was alert and ready. He knew precisely what Belthar would do, and he knew what he would do. No amount of training would have changed the lion’s instinctive method of attack; he would rush at Tarzan, rear upon his hind feet when close, seize him with his taloned paws and drive his great fangs through his head or neck or shoulder, then he would drag him down and devour him.
But Tarzan had met the charge of lions before. It would not be quite so easy for Belthar as Belthar and the screaming audience believed, yet the ape-man guessed that, without a knife, he could do no more than delay the inevitable. He would die fighting, however; and now, as Belthar charged growling upon him, he crouched slightly and answered the roaring challenge of the carnivore with a roar as savage as the lion’s.
Suddenly he detected a new note in the voice of the crowd, a note of surprise and consternation. Belthar was almost upon him as a tawny body streaked past the ape-man, brushing his leg as it came from behind him, a fury of talons and gleaming fangs, a great lion with golden coat and a black mane – a mighty engine of rage and destruction.
Roaring and growling, the two great beasts rolled upon the ground as they tore at one another with teeth and claws while the astounded ape-man looked on and the chariot of the Queen approached, and the breathless crowd pressed forward.
The strange lion was larger than Belthar and more powerful, a giant of a lion in the full prime of his strength and ferocity; and he fought as one inspired by all the demons of Hell. Belthar gave him an opening, and his great jaws closed upon the throat of the hunting lion of Nemone, jaws that drove mighty fangs through the thick mane of his adversary, through hide and flesh deep into the jugular of Belthar; then he braced his feet and shook Belthar as a cat might shake a mouse, breaking its neck.
Dropping the carcass to the ground, the victor faced the astonished Cathneans with snarling face; then he slowly backed to where the ape-man stood and stopped beside him, and Tarzan laid his hand upon the black mane of Jad-bal-ja, the Golden Lion.
For a long moment there was unbroken silence as the two faced the enemies of the Lord of the Jungle, and the awed Cathneans only stood and stared; then a woman’s voice rose in a weird scream. It was Nemone. Slowly she stepped from her golden car and amidst utter silence walked toward the carcass of the dead Belthar while her people watched her, motionless and wondering.
She stopped with her sandaled feet touching the bloody mane of the hunting lion and gazed down upon the dead carnivore. She might have been in silent prayer for the minute that she stood there; then she raised her head suddenly and looked about her. There was a wild gleam in her eyes and she very white, white as the ivory ornament in the hollow of her throat.
“Belthar is dead!” she screamed, and whipping her dagger from her sheath drove its glittering point deep into her own heart. Without a sound she sank to her knees and toppled forward across the body of the dead Belthar.
As the moon rose, Tarzan placed a final rock upon a mound of earth beside the river that runs to Cathne through the Valley of Othnar.
The warriors and the nobles and the people had followed Phordos to the city to empty the dungeons of Nemone and proclaim Alextar King, leaving their dead Queen lying at the edge of the Field of the Lions with her dead Belthar.
The human service they had neglected the beast-man had performed, and now beneath the soft radiance of an African moon he stood with bowed head beside the grave of a woman who had found happiness at last.
So ends our adventure. Thus, the drachma, a silver coin of ancient Greece from the 6th Century B.C., wasn’t the only thing Greek in our story. It was pure Greek tragedy!
History has long remembered the last time the whole world was threatened by a junkie madman named Adolf Hitler, but now another is vying for his place in history, leaving us wondering if Putin is crazy enough to use nuclear weapons. I sure hope some sanity still resides in his Russian brain.
You know, I must disagree with most critics who see ERB’s later writing career diminished due to repetition and the over use of coincidence. This, the 16th book in the series, is just as good if not better than any before. His character study of the mad Queen and her conversations with Tarzan delve deeply into the human condition. The same goes for the 21st book, the one we will be visiting next.
We will return to the Valley of Thenar in our next story, Tarzan the Magnificent. See you then.
TARZAN AND THE CITY OF GOLD
COMMENTARY by WOODROW NICHOLS
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CH. 16_CH. 17_CH. 18_CH. 19
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