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Part II: TARZAN THE MAGNIFICENT
Continued from Part I: TARZAN AND THE CITY OF GOLD
A Commentary By
Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
The suspense is killing me so let’s get right to it.
Chapter Ten: Toward Freedom
Before him was a large chamber with a single door, heavily bolted on the inside. He who slept there quite evidently slept in fear. It was Mafka. He lay upon a narrow cot. Upon a table at one side rested the Gonfal and the great emerald of the Zuli and beside them a cutlass and a dagger. Similar weapons lay on a table at the other side of the cot. All were within easy reach of the sleeper. A single cresset burned upon one of the tables.
Tarzan crossed noiselessly to the side of the cot and removed the weapons; first upon one side; then upon the other. Next, he carried the great emerald and the Gonfal to the fireplace and put them upon the ledge at the mouth of the corridor; then he returned to the side of the cot. Mafka slept on, for the ape-man moved as silently as a ghost in the night.
He laid a hand upon the shoulder of the magician and shook him lightly. Mafka awoke with a start.
“Keep still and you will not be harmed.” Tarzan’s voice was low, but it was the voice of authority that knew its power.
Mafka looked wildly about the apartment as though searching for help, but there was none.
“What do you want?” His voice trembled. “Tell me what you want and it is yours, if you will not kill me.”
“I do not kill old men or women or children unless they force me to. As long as my life is safe, yours is.”
That’s a good one. He was gung ho about killing Mafka’s identical twin, Woora, and if anyone deserves it more that Woora, it is his brother.
“Then why have you come here? What do you want?”
“Nothing that you can give me. What I want, I take.”
He turned Mafka over on his stomach and bound his wrists, his ankles, and his knees with strips torn from the bedding, then he gagged him so that he could not raise an alarm. He also blindfolded him that he might not see how entrance had been gained to his apartment.
These things done, he returned to the corridor and groped his way back to Gonfala’s apartment, leaving the two great gems where he had first placed them. He was confident they would never be found by another than himself, so sure was he that these corridors were entirely unknown to the present occupants of the palace.
At the entrance to Gonfala’s apartment he listened again, but his senses detected no presence in the room below. As he entered it, a quick glance assured him that it was vacant. A single small cresset lighted it dimly. A door at the far end of the room was ajar. He went to it and pushed it open.
As he did so, Gonfala sat up in her couch near the center of the room and faced him. “You have come back! I hoped you would. You have chosen a good time.”
“I thought so – he sleeps.”
“Then you know?”
“But why have you come back?”
“Wood and his three friends are prisoners. They are all to be killed.”
“Yes, I know. It is by my orders.” A qualm of pain and self-disgust was registered in her expression.
“You can help them to escape. Will you?”
“It would do no good. He would only drag them back, and their punishment would be even worse than they can expect now. It is hopeless.”
“If Mafka did not interfere would the women obey you?”
“And if you had the opportunity you would like to escape from Kaji?”
“Where would you go?”
“Why to England?”
“One who was always good to me, but who is dead now, told me to go to England if ever I escaped. He gave me a letter to take with me.”
“Well, get your letter and get ready. You are going to escape. We will be back for you in a little while – Wood and his friends and I. But you will have to help. You will have to give the necessary orders to the women to let us all pass.”
She shook her head emphatically. “It will do no good, I tell you. He will get us all.”
“Don’t worry about that. Just give me your promise that you will do what I ask.”
“I’ll promise, but it will mean death for me as well as for you.”
“Get ready, then. I’ll be back with the others in a few minutes.”
He left her room, closing the door after him, and went at once to the corridor. A moment later he dropped into the room where Wood and his companions were imprisoned. It was very dark. He spoke to them in low tones, directing them to follow him. Soon they were all in the corridor.
Tarzan led the way to Mafka’s room, the glow from the great gems lighting their way as they approached the end of the corridor.
Spike drew in his breath in astonishment. “Cripes! The big rock!” he exclaimed.
Troll halted before the radiant stones and gazed at them in fascinated silence for a moment. “This other – it must be the great emerald of the Zuli. Both of ‘em! Lord! They must be worth millions.” He started to touch them, but drew back in terror. He knew the power that lay in them, and feared it.
Tarzan dropped over the ledge into the fireplace then, and the others followed him. As they gathered around Mafka’s couch, Wood and his companions were speechless with astonishment when they saw the old magician lying bound and helpless.
“How did you do it?” exclaimed Wood.
“I took the gems away from him first. I think all his power lies in them. If I am right, we can get away from here. If I’m wrong –” the ape-man shrugged.
Van Eyk nodded. “I think you’re right. What are we going to do with this old devil?”
Troll seized one of the cutlasses that lay beside the cot. “I’ll show you what we’re going to do with him!”
Wait! Weren’t we told that Tarzan had removed the weapons from the tables on eithe side of the cot? Yes, he did, so ERB either forgot this detail, or that Troll seized the cutlass from somewhere else that ERB forgot to explain, or that Tarzan had replaced them after binding Mafka. Take your pick.
Tarzan grasped the man’s wrist. “Not so fast. You are taking orders from me.”
“Who said so?”
Tarzan wrenched the weapon from Troll’s hand and slapped the man across the side of the face with an open palm. The blow sent him reeling across the room to fall in a heap against the wall.
Troll staggered to his feet, feeling his jaw. “I’ll get you for this.” His voice trembled with rage.
“Shut up and do as you’re told.” The ape-man’s voice showed no emotion. It was, however, a voice that commanded obedience. Then he turned to Wood. “You and van Eyk get the gems. Troll and Spike will carry Mafka.”
“Where are we going?” Van Eyk put the question apprehensively. He knew there was a guard of warrior women in the corridor outside Mafka’s suite.
“We are going first to Gonfala’s apartments. They adjoin Mafka’s.”
“She’ll give the alarm, and we’ll have the whole bloomin’ bunch of ‘em on us,” objected Spike.
“Don’t worry about Gonfala; just do as I say. However, you may as well take these weapons. Something might happen, of course.”
Wood and van Eyk got the great emerald and the Gonfal from the ledge in the fireplace; then Troll and Spike picked up Mafka, who was trembing in terror; and all followed Tarzan to the door of the apartment. They passed through the adjoining room and the next, coming then to the door leading into Gonfala’s suite. Slipping the bars, the ape-man pushed the door open.
Gonfala was standing in the center as the party entered. She was clothed as for a journey, with a long robe of leopard skins and heavy sandals. A narrow fillet of beaded doeskin bound her golden hair. At sight of Mafka, bound, gagged, and blindfolded, she gasped and shrank away. Then she saw Wood and ran to him.
He put an arm about her. “Don’t be afraid, Gonfala. We’re going to take you away. That is, if you want to come with us.”
“Yes, anywhere – with you. But him! What are you going to do with him?” She pointed to Mafka. “He’ll drag us all back, no matter where we go, and kill us; or he’ll kill us there. He kills them all, who escape.”
Spike spat venomously. “We’d ought to kill him now.”
Van Eyk looked at Tarzan. “I agree with Spike. Why shouldn’t we, when it’s his life or ours?”
The ape-man shook his head. “We don’t know the temper of the Kaji women. This man must be something of a deity to them. He represents their power – he is their power. Without him, they would be just a tribe of women upon which any other tribe could prey. He means most to us alive, as a hostage.”
Wood nodded. “I think Clayton’s right.”
The discussion was interrupted by a commotion in the outer corridor upon which the apartments of Mafka and Gonfala opened. There was a pounding upon the door of Mafka’s apartment and loud cries for the magician.
Tarzan turned to Gonfala. “Call some warrior in authority and see what they want. We’ll wait in the next room. Come!” He motioned the others to follow him, and led the way into the adjoining apartment.
Gonfala crossed the room and struck a drum that stood upon the floor near the doorway leading into the corridor. Three times she struck it; then she drew the bolt that secured the door upon the inside. A moment later the door was swung open, and a warrior woman entered the apartment. She bent to one knee before the queen.
“What is the meaning of this noise in the corridor? Why are they calling Mafka at this hour of the morning?”
“The Zuli are coming, Gonfala. They are coming to make war upon us. They sent a slave to demand the return of their great emerald. There are many of them. We invoked the power of Mafka to make the Zuli weak so that we can kill many of them and drive them away.”
Who didn’t see something like this happening just as our heroes were on the brink of success? You are not an ERB veteran if you didn’t. Just when Tarzan needed the cooperation of the Kaji women, all they want now is Mafka’s power, as Tarzan predicted.
“They have no power. Woora is dead, and we have the great emerald. Tell the warriors that I, Gonfala the Queen, command them to go out and slay the Zuli.”
“The Zuli are already at the gates of the city. Our warriors are afraid, for they have no power from Mafka. Where is Mafka? Why does he not answer the prayers of the Kaji?”
Gonfala stamped her foot. “Do as I command. You are not here to ask questions. Go to the gate and defend the city. I, Gonfala, will give my warriors power to defeat the Zuli.”
“Let us see Mafka,” insisted the woman sullenly.
Gonfala reached a quick decision. “Very well. See that my orders for the defense of the city are carried obeyed, then come to the throne room, and you shall see Mafka. Bring the captains with you.”
The woman withdrew, and the door was closed. Immediately, Tarzan stepped into the room. “I overheard. What is your plan?”
“Merely to gain time.”
“Then you didn’t intend to have Mafka in the throne room to meet them?”
“No. That would be fatal. If we took him in bound, gagged, and blindfolded they might kill us all. If we gave him his freedom, he would kill us.”
“Nevertheless, I think it is a good plan. We’ll do it.” A grim smile touched his lips of the ape-man.
“You are mad.”
“Perhaps, but if we try to leave now, we can’t get out of Kaji without a fight; and I do not relish fighting women. I think there is another way. Do you know where the imitation Gonfal is kept?”
“Get it, and bring it here at once. Wrap a skin around it so that no one can see it. Tell no one. Only you and I must know.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Wait and see. Do as I tell you.”
“You forgot that I am the queen.” She drew herself up proudly.
“I know only that you are a woman who would like to escape from Kaji with the man she loves.”
Gonfala flushed, but she made no reply. Instead she quit the room at once, going into the apartments of Mafka.
She was gone but a few moments. When she returned she carried a bundle wrapped in a skin.
Tarzan took it from her. “We are ready now. Lead the way to the throne room. He summoned the others from the adjoining apartment; then he turned again to the queen. “Is there a private way to the throne room?
Gonfala nodded. “This way. Follow me.”
She led them into Mafka’s apartments where she opened a small door revealing a flight of steps, and they followed her down these to another door that opened upon the dais where the throne chairs stood.
The throne room was empty. The captains had not yet arrived. At Tarzan’s direction, Wood placed the Gonfal on the stand beside the throne; Troll and Spike seated Mafka, still bound, gagged, and blindfolded, in his chair. Gonfala seated herself in the other. Tarzan stood beside the table bearing the Gonfal. The others stood behind the chairs. Van Eyk concealed the great emerald of the Zuli beneath a skin he took from the floor of the dais.
In silence they waited. All but Tarzan were tense with nervousness. Presently they heard approaching footfalls in the corridor leading to the throne room. The doors were swung open, and the captains of the Kaji filed in.
They came with hands bent in reverence for their queen and the great power of their magician. When they looked up they were close to the dais. At sight of Mafka they gave vent to cries of astonishment and anger. They looked at the strangers on the dais; then their eyes centered upon the queen.
One of them stepped forward. “What is the meaning of this, Gonfala?” Her tones were menacing.
It was Tarzan who answered. “It means that the power Mafka is gone. All your lives he has held you in the hollow of his hand. He has made you fight for him. He has taken the best fruits of your conquests. He has held you prisoners here. You feared and hated him, but most of all you feared him.”
“He has given us power,” answered the warrior. “If that power is gone, we are lost.”
“It is not gone, but Mafka no longer wields it.”
“Kill them!” cried one of the captains.
The cry arose from many throats. “Kill them! Kill them!” With savage yells they pushed forward toward the dais.
Tarzan laid a hand upon the Gonfal. “Stop! Kneel before your queen!” His voice was low. In the din of their shouting it probably reached the ears of few if any of the warriors, but as one they stopped and knelt.
Again, the ape-man spoke. “Stand up! Go to the gates and bring in the captains of the Zuli. They will come. The fighting will stop.” The warriors turned and filed out of the chamber.
Tarzan turned toward his companions. “It worked. I thought it would. Whatever this strange power is, it is inherent in the Gonfal. The green emerald has the same mystic power. In the hands of vicious men it is bad. Perhaps, though, it may be used for good.”
Gonfala was listening intently. The sounds of the battle ceased; then came echoing footfalls in the long corridor leading to the palace entrance. “They come!” she whispered.
Fifty warrior women entered the throne room of the queen of the Kaji. Half of them were Kaji and half Zuli. They were a savage company. Many of them were bleeding from wounds. They looked sullenly at one another and at the little company upon the dais.
Tarzan faced them. “You are free now from the rule of Woora and Mafka. Woora is dead. I shall turn Mafka over to you presently to do with as you wish. His power is gone if you keep the Gonfal from him. We are leaving your country. Gonfala is going with us. As many prisoners and slaves as wish to accompany us may come. When we are safely out we will hand the Gonfal back to one of your warriors, who may accompany us with three companions – no more. It is dawn. We leave at once. Here is Mafka.” He lifted the old magician in his arms and handed him down to the warrior women.
Amidst deathly silence the little company of white men filed out of the throne room with Gonfala the queen of the Kaji. Tarzan carried the Gonfal so that all might see it. Van Eyk bore the green emerald of the Zuli concealed beneath a wrapping of skin.
In the main street of the city a little group of black men and white awaited them, summoned by Tarzan through the necromancy of the Gonfal. They were the slaves and prisoners of the Kaji.
“We are leaving this country,” he told them; “any who wish to may accompany us.”
“Mafka will kill us,” objected one.
Shrill screams issued from the interior of the palace only to be drowned by savage yells of rage and hatred.
“Mafka will never kill again,” said the ape-man.
Wow, that ended on rather a high note, wouldn’t you say? But the next chapter is titled “Treachery” so it doesn’t sound like they are out of the woods just yet. And if I recall Troll had threatened Tarzan: “I’ll get you for this.” Has he forgotten this threat? We’ll just have to wait and see.
ERB’S ELDORADO: TARZAN AND THE CITY OF GOLD
COMMENTARY by WOODROW NICHOLS
CH. 1_CH. 2_CH. 3_CH. 4_CH. 5
CH. 6_CH. 7_CH. 8_CH. 9_CH. 10
CH. 11_CH. 12_CH. 13_CH. 14_CH. 15
CH. 16_CH. 17_CH. 18_CH. 19
||CH. 16_CH. 17_CH. 18_CH. 19_CH. 20||CH. 21_ CH. 22_CH. 23_CH. 24_CH. 25|
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