Tarzan and the Lost Empire

Chapter 20

Edgar Rice Burroughs

FROM THE FAR END of the garden, above din of breaking battle, rose a savage cry-a new note that attracted the startled attention of the contestants upon both sides. Tarzan’s head snapped to attention. His nostrils sniffed the air. Recognition, hope, surprise, incredulity surged through his consciousness as he stood there with flashing eyes looking out over the heads of his adversaries.

In increasing volume the savage roar rolled into the garden of Caesar. The legionaries turned to face the vanguard of an army led by a horde of warriors, glistening giants from whose proud heads floated white feather warbonnets and from whose throats issued the savage war-cry that had filled the heart of Tarzan—the Waziri had come.

At their head Tarzan saw Muviro and with him was Lukedi, but what the ape-man did not see, and what none of those in the garden of Caesar saw until later, was the horde of warriors from the outer villages of Castra Sanguinarius that, following the Waziri into the city, were already over-running the palace seeking the vengeance that had so long been denied them.

As the last of the legionaries in the garden threw down their arms and begged Tarzan’s protection, Muviro ran to the ape-man and, kneeling at his feet, kissed his hand, and at the same instant a little monkey dropped from an over-hanging tree onto Tarzan’s shoulder.

”The gods of our ancestors have been good to the Warizi,” said Muviro, “otherwise we should have been too late.”

“I was puzzled as to how you found me,” said Tarzan, “until I saw Nkima.”

“Yes, it was Nkima,” said Muviro. “He came back to the country of the Waziri, to the land of Tarzan, and led us here. Many times we would have turned back thinking that he was mad, but he urged us on and we followed him, and now the big Bwana can come back with us to the home of his own people.”

“No,” said Tarzan, shaking his head, “I cannot come yet. The son of my good friend is still in this valley, but you are just in time to help rescue him, nor is there any time to lose.”

Legionaries, throwing down their arms, were running from the palace, from which came the shrieks and groans of the dying and the savage hoots and cries of the avenging horde. Praeclarus stepped to Tarzan’s side.

“The barbarians of the outer villages are attacking the city, murdering all who fall into their hands,” he cried. “We must gather what men we can and make a stand against them. Will these warriors, who have just come, fight with us against them?”

“They will fight as I direct,” replied Tarzan, “but I think it will not be necessary to make war upon the barbarians. Lukedi, where are the white officers who command the barbarians?”

“Once they neared the palace,” replied Lukedi, “the warriors became so excited that they broke away from their white leaders and followed their own chieftain.”

“Go and fetch their greatest chief,” directed Tarzan.

During the half hour that followed, Tarzan and his lieutenants were busy reorganizing their forces into which were incorporated the legionaries who had surrendered to them, in caring for the wounded, and planning for the future. From the palace came the hoarse cries of the looting soldiers, and Tarzan had about abandoned hope that Lukedi would be able to persuade a chief to come to him when Lukedi returned, accompanied by two warriors from the outer villages, whose bearing and ornaments proclaimed them chieftains.

“You are the man called Tarzan?” demanded one of the chiefs.

The ape-man nodded. “I am,” he said.

“We have been looking for you. This Bagego said that you have promised that no more shall our people be taken into slavery and no longer shall our warriors be condemned to the arena. How can you, who are yourself a barbarian, guarantee this to us?”

“If I cannot guarantee it, you have the power to enforce it yourself,” replied the ape-man, “and I with my Waziri will aid you, but now you must gather your warriors. Let no one be killed from now on who does not oppose you. Gather your warriors and take them into the avenue before the palace and then come with your sub-chiefs to the throne-room of Caesar. There we shall demand and receive justice, not for the moment but for all time. Go!”

Eventually the looting horde was quieted by their chiefs and withdrawn to the Via Principalis. Waziri warriors manned the shattered gate of Caesar’s palace and lined the corridor to the throne-room and the aisle to the foot of the throne. They formed a half circle about the throne itself, and upon the throne of Caesar sat Tarzan of the Apes with Praeclarus and Dilecta and Cassius Hasta and Caecilius Metellus and Muviro about him, while little Nkima sat upon his shoulder and complained bitterly, for Nkima, as usual, was frightened and cold and hungry.

“Send legionaries to fetch Sublatus and Fastus,” Tarzan directed Praeclarus, “for this business must be attended to quickly, as within the hour I march on Castrum Mare.”

Flushed with excitement, the legionaries that had been sent to fetch Sublatus and Fastus rushed into the throne-room. “Sublatus is dead!” they cried. “Fastus is dead! The barbarians have slain them. The chambers and corridors above are filled with the bodies of senators, nobles, and officers of the legion.”

“Are none left alive?” demanded Praeclarus, paling.

“Yes,” replied one of the legionaries, “there were many barricaded in another apartment who withstood the onslaught of the warriors. We explained to them that they are now safe and they are coming to the throne-room,” and up the aisle marched the remnants of the wedding guests, the sweat and blood upon the men evidencing the dire straits from which they had been delivered, the women still nervous and hysterical. Leading them came Dion Splendidus, and at sight of him Dilecta gave a cry of relief and pleasure and ran down the steps of the throne and along the aisle to meet him.

Tarzan’s face lighted with relief when he saw the old senator, for his weeks in the home of Festivitas and his long incarceration with Maximus Praeclarus in the dungeons of the Colosseum had familiarized him with the politics of Castra Sanguinarius, and now the presence of Dion Splendidus was all that he needed to complete the plans that the tyranny and cruelty of Sublatus had forced upon him.

He rose from the throne and raised his hand for silence. The hum of voices ceased. “Caesar is dead, but upon someone of you must fall the mantle of Caesar.”

“Long live Tarzan! Long live the new Caesar!” cried one of the gladiators, and instantly every Sanguinarian in the room took up the cry.

The ape-man smiled and shook his head. “No,” he said, “not I, but there is one here to whom I offer the imperial diadem upon the condition that he fulfill the promises I have made to the barbarians of the outer villages.”

“Dion Splendidus, will you accept the imperial purple with the understanding that the men of the outer villages shall be forever free; that no longer shall their girls or their boys be pressed into slavery, or their warriors forced to do battle in the arena?” Dion Splendidus bowed his head in assent— and thus did Tarzan refuse the diadem and create a Caesar.

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