Land of Terror

Chapter Thirteen

Edgar Rice Burroughs

I HAD plenty on my mind as we approached the quarters of Meeza. I think I must have felt something like a condemned man who is hoping that a higher court will order a new trial, or the governor issue him a pardon. There was about that much hope, and that was about all there was. The looks that that fellow had given me seemed to have sealed my doom, for if the thought had occurred to him, it would certainly occur to Bruma, who was looking for a victim. He kept looking at me with that funny, wild expression in his eyes; and presently he said, “I think Ogar will be pleased with you.”

“I hope so,” I replied.

“Right ahead of us lie the quarters of Meeza,” he said. “Perhaps we shall find Bruma there.”

“Well,” I said, “thank you for bringing me here. If you feel you might get in trouble for bringing a stranger to the king’s quarters, you may leave me now, for I can find my way alone.”

“Oh, no,” he said. “I shall go all the way with you, because I am sure that you will be very welcome and that I shall be praised for bringing you.”

Presently we entered a large room in which were many people. At the far end was a platform upon which Meeza was seated. The king was flanked on either side by some ten or twelve husky warriors, there to protect him against any of his subjects who might suddenly develop a homicidal mania. Although Meeza wore no crown, other than his feather headdress, I am sure that his head was not only uneasy but extremely insecure.

In the center of the room, a man was standing with his arms in a grotesque position; and his features were contorted into an expression of fiendish malevolence. My guide indicated him with a nod of his head and a wink, as he nudged me in the ribs with his elbow.

“He’s crazy,” he said. “He thinks he is Ogar’s brother.”

“And he’s not?” I asked.

“Don’t be a fool,” snapped my guide, “He’s crazy. I am Ogar’s brother.”

“Oh,” I said. “He’s very crazy, indeed.” The man certainly presented a most startling appearance, standing absolutely rigid, not a muscle moving, his eyes staring straight ahead. Presently a man ran forward and commenced to turn cartwheels around him. My guide nudged me again. “He’s crazy, too,” he said.

No one seemed to pay any attention either to the gentleman with delusions of grandeur or his whirling satellite. I could not help but think, as I watched these two, how close to the borderline of insanity some of the so-called great men of the outer crust must have been; for certainly many of them have appeared to be motivated by delusions of grandeur; and you doubtless will be able to think of several of your own time who loved to strike poses.

“Ah,” said my guide. “There is Bruma now.” Suddenly he appeared very excited. He seized me by the arm and dragged me across the floor toward a fat, greasy-looking individual with a feather headdress fully as large as that worn by Meeza but consisting of black feathers instead of white.

My guide grew more and more excited as we approached Bruma. I racked my brain for some plan of escape from my dilemma; but things looked pretty black for me, with, as far as I could see, not a single chance for escape. Trembling with excitement, the fellow dragged me into Bruma’s presence.

“Here, Bruma,” he cried, “is a—” That was as far as he got. Suddenly he stiffened, his eyes rolled up and set, and he pitched forward to the floor at Bruma’s feet, in the throes of an epileptic fit. As he lay there, jerking spasmodically and frothing at the mouth, Bruma looked inquiringly at me.

“What did he want?” he demanded.

“He was about to say, ‘Here is a good friend of mine, who is looking for a man named Zor’” I replied.

“And who are you?” he asked.

“I am Napoleon Bonaparte,” I replied.

Bruma shook his head. “I never heard of you,” he said. “Zor is over there, near the king; but I still think he would make a good sacrifice for Ogar.”

“And Meeza doesn’t think so?” I asked.

“No,” replied Bruma, emphatically; then he leaned close to me and whispered, “Meeza is crazy.”

My guide was still enjoying his fit, which was a lucky break for me, as it probably would give me time to find Zor and get out of there before he regained consciousness; so I left Bruma and walked over toward the throne.

It didn’t take me long to find Zor; and, though I went and stood directly in front of him, he did not recognize me. People with whom he had been talking were standing near, and I did not dare reveal my identity in their presence.

Finally, I touched him on the arm. “Come with me a minute, “ I said. “There is a friend of yours over here, who wants to see you for a minute.”

“What friend?” he demanded.

“The friend with whom you worked in the garden of Gluck,” I replied.

“You are trying to trap me,” he said. “That man is gone forever, unless he is recaptured. He certainly wouldn’t be fool enough to come back here of his own volition.”

“He is here,” I said in a whisper. “Come with me, Zor.”

He hesitated. What could I do? I knew that he was suspicious of all these people and that he might think this a ruse to get him off somewhere, out of sight for a moment, and murder him. The Jukans are that way. However, I could not reveal my identity while there were so many people within earshot of even a whisper. I glanced back at my guide. No one was paying any attention to him; but he seemed to be recovering from his seizure. I knew that I should have to do something quickly now before the fellow regained consciousness. As I raised my eyes from the prostrate form of my former guide, I saw Bruma’s gaze fixed upon me, and then I saw him start toward me across the floor; then I turned back to Zor.

“You must come with me,” I said; “and you must know that I am speaking the truth, for how else would I know about the garden of Gluck?”

“That is right,” said Zor. “I did not think of that. Where do you want me to go?”

“Back to get Kleeto,” I said in a whisper.

He looked at me very intently then, and presently his eyes widened a little.

“I am a fool,” he said; “come.” But I couldn’t come for just then Bruma confronted us.

“Where is this Napolapart from?” he asked Zor. Zor looked puzzled. “Your friend, Napolapart,” insisted Bruma.

“I never heard of anybody by that name,” said Zor.

“Ah-ah, an impostor,” said Bruma, glaring at me. “This man, Napolapart, said that he was a friend of yours.”

“You misunderstood me, Bruma,” I interrupted. “I said my name was Napoleon Bonaparte.”

“Oh,” said Zor. “Of course I know Napoleon Bonaparte very well. He is an old friend of mine.”

“There is something very familiar about his face,” said Bruma. “I think I must have known him, too. Where have I known you, Napolapart?”

“I have never been here before,” I said.

“Where are you from then?” he demanded.

“From Gamba,” I replied.

“Excellent!” exclaimed Bruma. “Just the man I am looking for as a sacrifice to Ogar.”

Now here was a pretty mess, and mighty disheartening, too, with my plan right on the verge of success. What could I do? I had heard that crazy people should be humored; but how could I humor Bruma?

Land of Terror - Contents    |     Chapter Fourteen

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