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Title: The Nirvana of the Seven Voodoos
Author: John Peter Drummond
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Language: English
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Ki-Gor and the Nirvana of the Seven Voodoos
John Peter Drummond



CHAPTER I

THE GORILLA MEN STRIKE

Inch by inch, The GIANT figure in the leopard skin crept forward
through the waving prairie grass. The fierce tropical sun beat down
mercilessly on the mighty shoulders, but a fresh easterly breeze
cooled the bronze forehead. Ki-Gor froze momentarily and hugged the
ground, as a chorus of snorts and the thud of many sharp hoofs
stamping the turf told him that the quarry he was stalking was getting
uneasy. Ki-Gor cursed the inadequate little spear beside him, his sole
weapon. It was a small, flimsy assegai the Pygmies had given him, and
it was all but useless in the important business of hunting game. Not
heavy enough to throw, not strong enough to kill anything bigger than
a jackal.

But, weapon or not, game had to be killed today. Ki-Gor was hungry.
His nostrils twitched and his mouth watered as the breeze bore to him
the scent of his prey, the herd of white-throated wildebeests--the
giant antelope of the East African plateau. With infinite caution he
raised his head and peered through the swaying grass tops. Fifteen
feet away, a young, full-grown buck stared suspiciously upwind toward
the rest of the herd. He was nearly five feet tall at his thick
shoulders, and the coarse, matted hairs of his mane fell over but did
not conceal the cruel horns that dipped downward from his forehead,
then upward and outward.

It was going to be no easy task to subdue this creature barehanded,
but Ki-Gor was desperate. He and Helene had not eaten meat for over a
week, ever since they had left the friendly back of Marmo, the
elephant, at the edge of the Congo jungle to trek on foot, ever
eastward through the grassy uplands of East Africa. There had been
game in plenty, but Ki-Gor had been remarkably unlucky in his hunting.
Five times he had patiently stalked plump gazelles, only to be cheated
out of his prey at the last minute by roving packs of wild dogs. On
two other occasions, he had lain hidden, after dark, beside water-
holes, hoping to make a kill undisturbed by the dogs who would be
asleep. But each of those times he had found himself dangerously close
to a half dozen lions, who apparently had the same idea. That many
lions was too much competition, and Ki-Gor had gone back to Helene
empty-handed, and with a very empty stomach.

Hardly breathing, Ki-Gor slid forward another six inches through the
grass. He must get that buck. For if he and Helene did not eat pretty
soon, they would be so weakened from fasting, that they, too, would
fall prey to some prowling carnivores, and their bones would bleach on
the wind-swept veldt. Closer and closer to the gnu, the jungle man
crept. If only I had a fire-stick, Ki-Gor thought--rifles, Helene
calls them. They have a potent magic which kills at incredible
distances.

But he had no rifle, only the toy spear of the Pygmies, so that he
must be close enough to the gnu to be able to reach it in one spring.
Once the herd discovered him, even his powerful legs could never
overtake them.

Closer and closer, Ki-Gor crept, muscles tensed for action. Suddenly,
the herd upwind of him grew ominously silent. Something had disturbed
the gnus. Was it he? Had they discovered him? Again, he raised his
head to peer through the grass stalks. No, it wasn't he the antelopes
were worried about. They were all facing away from him, muzzles
raised, testing the air. A few does danced about nervously, ready at
any second to break into a headlong gallop. Ki-Gor decided it was now
or never.

Gathering his feet under him, he crouched on his haunches for one
precious moment. Then, noiselessly, he sprang. As he did, the entire
herd jumped forward. Ki-Gor's leap carried just short of the young
buck's back--and the buck was going away. Desperately, Ki-Gor clutched
at a flying hind hoof, and held on for dear life. The buck went down
with a crash. Instantly Ki-Gor leaped for its head and seized a horn
with each hand. The buck lunged upward, sharp hoofs scrambling. They
were levers in Ki-Gor's hands. Using all his mighty strength, he
twisted the shaggy head viciously around. There was a tearing sound,
and a snap. The gnu sank to the ground trembling--its neck broken.

"Wa-a-aghrr!" shouted Ki-Gor in triumph. At last! Here was food--meat
a-plenty.

"Wa-a-aghrr!" came an almost identical roar from behind him.

Ki-Gor whirled around and beheld a huge, grey-maned lion crouched not
twenty feet away. Its dull eyes and gaunt, mangy sides showed it to be
a very old lion, slow-moving and probably toothless. Back home in the
jungle, the aged beast would have presented no problem to Ki-Gor. But
here on the veldt, there was no cover, and Ki-Gor's only weapon
against those great raking claws, was the Pygmy spear.

The brute looked hungry. Evidently it had been unable to knock down
any of the gnus as they galloped to safety, and now it intended to
take Ki-Gor's prize away from him. Stealthily Ki-Gor picked up the
light spear and gripped it. Hungry man and hungry beast glared at each
other across the fallen body of the gnu.

Then, with a strangled roar, the old lion sprang. Ki-Gor poised--
waiting. And, as the lion hit the ground in front of him, Ki-Gor
jammed the spear down the red, gaping maw. At the same time, he made a
twisting leap, just missing a murderous swipe from a heavy front paw.
The lion thrashed its great head in agony, and quickly snapped the
slender haft in two. But the spearhead remained imbedded far down the
beast's gullet. A torrent of blood poured out of the lion's mouth, and
it staggered away, coughing and shaking its head.

Ki-Gor watched it until it disappeared in the tall grass, then he
turned his attention back to the motionless form of the gnu. He knelt
down with a smile of satisfaction. It was a fat young buck. Its meat
would not be tender, eaten fresh, but it would have a fine flavor, and
it would be nourishing. Ki-Gor debated with himself whether to attempt
to carry the big antelope back to the camp where he had left Helene,
or whether to cut it up on the spot. A foreleg in each hand, he tested
the weight of the animal. He shook his head. Strong as he was, it
would be too great a load to carry the distance of over a mile.

Suddenly, the smile of satisfaction died off Ki-Gor's bronzed face, to
be replaced by an expression of troubled concern. How was he going to
cut it up? He could have used the blade of the Pygmy spear to carve
off some slabs of meat from the gnu's flanks, but the blade of the
Pygmy spear was far down the throat of the dying lion!

Ki-Gor kicked petulantly at the body of the gnu. After all his
patience and his care in bringing down the antelope, he was now to be
cheated out of eating it. So near, and yet so far.

His lips drawn back in a snarl, Ki-Gor reached down and once more
seized the animal's forelegs. Whether he could cut it up or not, he
wasn't going to leave it behind for the dogs or the lions to eat. He
heaved upward and rolled the animal over. As he did, he saw something
glint in the antelope's thick mane--something which reflected the
sunlight. A brown hand swiftly explored the thick, matted hairs behind
the horns. With a shout of triumph, Ki-Gor extricated a flat piece of
metal. It was the wide, shovel-shaped blade of a Bantu assegai. A few
splinters of wood in the hollow socket at the rear end told the story.
Some black hunter had had much the same experience as Ki-Gor had had
with the lion. Except that in this case, the blade of the spear,
instead of piercing the thick hide of the gnu, had merely become
caught in the thick tangle of hair in the creature's head. The
antelope had got away, carrying the spear in it mane, and eventually
the haft had worked loose, or broken off.

Ki-Gor wasted no time conjecturing about what had happened to the haft
of the spear, however. He whetted both edges of the broad blade,
energetically, on a smooth stone, until he had them razorsharp. Then
he set to work skinning the antelope, after which he began carving
great strips of meat from its sides. As he cut each slab free, he
placed it on the spread out hide. When he had finished, he gathered up
the ends of the skin, slung the bundle over one shoulder, and headed
across the veldt toward a thin column of smoke which represented his
camp. In the antelope-hide bundle there was over twenty pounds of
meat.

Helene Vaughn looked up with a quick cry, as Ki-Gor walked into the
little thicket where she was crouching over a little fire. She was
carefully feeding it twigs to keep it alive.

"Ki-Gor!" she exclaimed. "You brought home something!"

"Yes," said Ki-Gor, subduing a complacent smile that rose to his
mouth. "See? Meat. Antelope." And he dropped the bundle on the ground
beside Helene.

"Oh! Ki-Gor, that's wonderful," she said, in heartfelt tones. "I can
hardly believe we're actually going to eat meat again. Did you have
much trouble?"

"No trouble" said Ki-Gor loftily. "It was easy. There was a lion, but
it was a very old lion."

"Oh, dear!" Helene sighed. "I suppose if I stayed in Africa long
enough, I'd get used to the casual way you eat leopards and lions and
things. But right now, it scares me out of my wits just to think of
it."

"I'm strong," Ki-Gor said, simply, as if, that explained everything.

"You certainly are, Ki-Gor," Helene said, with an appreciative glance
at the jungle man's magnificent shoulders, "but just the same, I'm
glad you have agreed to come back to your own people with me."

Ki-Gor got up abruptly and busied himself with preparations for the
long-deferred meal. He didn't like to be reminded of his promise to
leave the jungle and go with Helene to find some outpost of
civilization, whence they could be guided to the coast and eventually
to England. Up till a few weeks ago, Ki-Gor's world had been peopled
only by the wild animals, the savage Bantu tribes, and the occasional
Pygmies of Africa's Equatorial Forest. He knew that he was somehow
different from the black men and the Pygmies but as far as he knew, he
was unique. Only the dimmest memory of his missionary father remained
to him, and through childhood and youth he had defended himself
single-handed, and by his strength and intelligence, survived.

Then one day, Helene Vaughn fell out of the sky practically at his
feet. Her red hair, white face, and strange clothes were just as
incomprehensible to him, as the red monoplane which she was flying,
and which had cracked up. But, instinctively he protected her, even
though he didn't know quite why. Gradually Helen's conversation had
brought back the English he had once spoken as a little boy, before
his father had been slain by a tribe of Bantu. With the bridge of a
common language established, Helene had explained to him the
astonishing facts that there were many people in the world like him,
that they lived far away across the water, and that he belonged to the
tribe called English. After days of argument and pleading, Helene had
persuaded him to go to his own people, although he was mightily
distrustful of the idea, and would have much preferred to stay in his
jungle home--provided, of course, that Helene stayed with him. But, in
a weak moment, he had given in to Helene's pleadings, and now here
they were, camped in a little copse on the veldt--on their way to his
own people.

The setting sun hung low as Ki-Gor held strips of antelope meat on a
forked stick over the little fire. He was already a little homesick
for the dark, brooding jungle. A man knew where he stood back there,
with great friendly trees to climb, and yards of strong vines to swing
on from one tall trunk to another. Out here there was only the thorn
boma, and the fire to protect them from the nocturnal prowlers, and
with sunset there came an uncomfortable chill in the air.

But the meat was good. Ki-Gor and Helene thrust strip after strip in
the open flames, and devoured them hungrily. Finally, Helene gave up
with a happy sigh, and lay back feeling stuffed. But Ki-Gor kept on.
He was making up for a lot of meatless days, and like all men of the
jungle, he gorged himself.

The sun had long since set, and the sudden African night had settled
down over the veldt, when he reluctantly discovered that he couldn't
eat another mouthful. He got up with an effort and scoured around
collecting a supply of fuel to last through the night. It was an
ominous night, moonless and even starless. Even his keen eyes, were
unable to see far into the inky blackness outside the ring of
firelight. The back of his neck crawled uneasily. It was a night to be
especially alert for unwelcome visitors, and yet his eyes were
uncontrollably heavy. Drowsy though he was, he arranged the thorn boma
with great care, and stocked the fagots close to the fire. Helene was
already sound asleep. He stood for a moment looking down at her
upturned face. He recalled an English word she had used several times,
when together they had watched a rosy sun come up in the east and shed
its warming rays over a calm world. She had said it was "beautiful."
Then you, Helene, Ki-Gor said to himself, you are beautiful--like the
sunrise.

He squatted on his haunches beside her, and tried to keep himself
awake by whittling a handle for the assegai blade. Presently, in the
middle of a stroke, his head nodded and fell forward. Still squatting
on his haunches he fell into a deep sleep.

He woke up with a guilty start and stared around him into the
impenetrable blackness of the night. What had made him wake up, he
didn't know. But a deep-seated sixth sense within him told him that
somewhere in the darkness, some unseen danger was lurking. The little
fire was almost out, only a few embers left glowing redly. Without
relaxing his watchful glare, Ki-Gor reached out and dropped some dry
fagots on the coals. In a few seconds a rewarding flicker of flame
mounted and lighted up the ground enclosed by the boma. Helene stirred
and turned her face away, but did not wake up. With the increased
light, Ki-Gor peered carefully in all directions but could see
nothing. He tested the still night air with his sensitive nostrils. He
thought he caught a faint whiff of a familiar smell, but he was
inclined to disbelieve the evidence of his nose. It was gorilla-smell.

It couldn't be gorilla, Ki-Gor told himself. The only place he had
ever seen gorillas was far away on the West Coast. And during the last
ten days, as he and Helene had trekked eastward toward the great
mountains of East Africa, he had not come across the slightest
evidence that pointed to the presence of the giant apes. He tested the
air again, but the elusive smell had gone. Ki-Gor stood up and stared
out into the night.

Suddenly his keen eyes caught a faint glitter of reflected light.
Somewhere out there, a pair of cruel eyes were watching the boma.
Quickly, Ki-Gor piled more fagots on the fire, and as the flames
leaped higher, he strained forward trying to make out the outlines of
the creature that belonged to that pair of eyes. After a few seconds,
he was able to distinguish a huge mass from the surrounding darkness.
Whatever the animal was, it was enormous. Suddenly the mass moved, and
slowly approached the fire. The blood ran cold in Ki-Gor's veins. It
was a gorilla!

Ki-Gor reached down, shook Helene's shoulder roughly, and seized the
blade of the assegai. He wished with all his heart that he had
finished making a haft for it.

Slowly and purposefully, the gorilla moved forward, until he stood
right at the edge of the boma. As the firelight illuminated his hairy
outlines, he looked to be by far the biggest gorilla Ki-Gor had ever
seen. And then suddenly it struck Ki-Gor that this was no ordinary
gorilla. This hulking creature looked man-like, and yet at the same
time, subtly more bestial than a true gorilla. His little eyes
glittering wickedly, the man-ape seemed strangely unafraid.

A frightened gasp from behind him told Ki-Gor that Helene was awake.

"Ki-Gor!" she whispered. "What does that monster want?"

"I don't know," Ki-Gor muttered, "but don't be afraid. Maybe he wants
antelope meat."

Ki-Gor bent down without taking his eyes off the gorilla-man, and
tossed a slab of meat past his head. The gorilla-man paid no
attention. And then as Ki-Gor straightened up, the fang-toothed beast
deliberately picked up one of the loose thorn bushes that made up the
encircling boma, and flipped it expertly aside. As Ki-Gor gazed in
astonishment, another bush went the same way, and the gorilla-man
shuffled confidently through the opening straight toward the fire.

His spine prickling, Ki-Gor stepped back a pace and shifted his grip
on the assegai blade. Then, with a wild yell, he leaped high into the
air and forward. He launched a mighty kick with both of his powerful
legs straight at the gorilla-man's murderous face. The gorilla-man
grunted with the force of the pile-driver blow and rocked backwards on
its heels.

Ki-Gor landed lightly on his feet and instantly struck with the
assegai blade in his right hand. It was a lightning thrust, the sharp
blade slashing at the monster's throat. The gorilla-man backed away
with a growl and swung a thick, hairy arm with incredible speed. But
Ki-Gor dodged the crushing blow, and countered with his blade at the
vast abdomen. The beast howled with rage and pain and backed out of
the boma. A thin trickle of blood began to flow from the folds of its
throat.

Stealthily, Ki-Gor reached down and seized one end of a long fagot,
the other end of which was blazing in the fire. With a swift motion,
he flung the burning brand straight at the gorilla-man's head. Again
the cruel-faced beast gave ground with a howl, and frantically brushed
off the flaming fagot.

As he did, Ki-Gor charged him. Twice the sharp blade bit deep into the
hairy arm, and again Ki-Gor dodged out of reach. But the man-ape
appeared to have had enough. Growling horribly, he retreated to the
edge of the ring of light shed by the campfire. There he stopped and
slowly beat his breast. Ki-Gor walked coolly toward him, and the
gorilla-man turned and ran out into the darkness.

Determined to be rid of the beast for good, Ki-Gor gave chase. But the
gorilla-man was amazingly fast, and before he had gone very far, his
massive body was swallowed up in the inky blackness of the night. Ki-
Gor stopped about a hundred yards from the camp and stood listening. A
distant thudding told him that the beast was still running.

Ki-Gor turned reluctantly, and started back to the camp.

Suddenly a wild scream rent the air. It was Helene.

"Ki-Gor! Ki-Gor! The gorilla!"

A hundred yards away, by the light of the campfires a mammoth figure
was carrying the struggling girl out of the boma. A wave of sick
horror swept over Ki-Gor, and he sprinted toward the campsite. How
could I have been so stupid! Ki-Gor thought bitterly. Apparently the
gorilla-man had circled away in the darkness, and returned to kidnap
poor helpless Helene. Faster the jungle man's feet flashed over the
turf. The man-ape was running too, in the opposite direction with a
terrified, shrieking Helene under a hairy arm.

Sobbing with rage, Ki-Gor put all his strength into an effort to catch
up with the brutish abductor. But the man-ape had a few seconds head-
start, and by the time Ki-Gor flashed by the campfire, was out of
sight in the velvet blackness of the night.

Ki-Gor drew up short and controlled his panting long enough to listen.
Ominously, Helene had stopped screaming. But the sound of feet
drumming over the ground gave Ki-Gor an approximate direction the
beast was taking. He plunged forward.

Full fifteen minutes Ki-Gor ran, stopping now and then to listen and
to sniff the air. But the thud of the gorilla-man's feet seemed to
come from different directions each time, and the still air, heavy
with the rank ape-smell, gave no clue as to which way the monster had
gone. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack, to find anything
in the pitch dark of the plateau.

Finally, Ki-Gor had to admit that the gorilla-man had--temporarily, at
least escaped him. He sat down on the grass, for a moment, to think.
What was to be done? And what was happening to Helene? Why had her
screams stopped so abruptly? Was it because--Ki-Gor hardly dared ask
himself the question--was it because the giant ape had killed her? Ki-
Gor ground his teeth, and growled savagely, deep down in his throat.

Suddenly, a tiny puff of wind caressed the hair at his temples. Ki-Gor
sprang to his feet, nerves taut, and sniffed it avidly. Faintly, there
came to his nostrils a woodsy smell, the smell of trees. More faintly
still came the gorilla-smell. Ki-Gor loped upwind. He knew he was
going north-east, toward a towering range of mountains, whose slopes
were covered by the only trees in any direction. Ki-Gor had noticed
that before the sun had set. Undoubtedly, the man-ape was traveling
that way. It was the type of high open forestland that gorillas liked.

Ki-Gor pushed on steadily and swiftly through the night, following the
elusive ape-smell. But, as the minutes went by, he seemed to come no
nearer to the object of his pursuit.

Gradually, the outlines of a mountain range began to take shape, ahead
of him and to his right. Almost imperceptibly, the sky began to grow a
little paler, and the darkness all about, to dissolve. Ki-Gor found
that the grass was giving way to tall shrubs, and that here and there,
tall trees reared skyward. He kept on, upwind and upgrade.

After a while there was enough light for him to see the ground fairly
clearly. The jungle man then turned abruptly to his left, and began a
wide circle, eyes to the ground, studying out possible gorilla tracks.
For an hour he traveled that way without discovering the spoor he was
searching for. He returned to his starting place and commenced another
wide circle to the right. Still, there were no gorilla-man tracks, and
Ki-Gor hurried his steps, sick with disappointment and apprehension.
His mind was so clouded with fear for Helene's safety that he almost
didn't see the twig broken off the flowering shrub close to the
ground.

But, all of a sudden, the slight gorilla smell seemed to increase. Ki-
Gor stopped and studied the ground around him. Then he saw the broken
twig, and dropped to the ground beside it. A moment later, he stood
up, his upper lip drawn back off his teeth in a silent snarl.

Unquestionably, the gorilla-man had passed that way.

Swiftly the jungle man followed the spoor, eyes glued to the ground,
nostrils flared. In a very short time, he realized that not one
gorilla-man had made that track, but two!

That was how Helene's kidnapping had been accomplished! The first ape
had decoyed Ki-Gor away from the camp long enough for the second one
to rush into the boma and carry off the girl. The jungle man gripped
the blade of the assegai, vengefully, and hastened on.

The sky was rosy with approaching dawn, and the upgrade was getting
steeper, when Ki-Gor halted. He had made another uncomfortable
discovery. The trail of the two gorilla-men had separated, going each
in a different direction. The jungle man was face to face with a
horrible dilemma. One of those two half-human animals was bearing the
limp form of Helene--but which one?

Ki-Gor could do no more than guess which trail to follow. He chose the
one which went straight up the mountain side, and quickened his steps.



CHAPTER II

MR. ROBERT SPELVIN OF CINCINNATI

He was rewarded, in a short time, by a noticeable strengthening of
ape-smell in the air. Apparently the giant gorilla-man had grown
careless of pursuit, and was loitering along, picking nuts and fruit
along the way. Ki-Gor raced uphill in an agony of suspense. Would he
be in time? Was Helene still alive? Was this the man-ape who had
kidnapped her?

The sun was coming up red, as Ki-Gor halted on the edge of an open
space on the mountain side. His heart sank. Upwind of him, sitting in
the middle of the open space was a gorilla-man. But nowhere was there
any sign of Helene. He had followed the wrong beast.

A burning desire for revenge swept over Ki-Gor. If this shaggy monster
had not actually abducted Helene it had at least assisted in the
operation, and Ki-Gor determined that it should die for it.

He crept closer to the great man-ape, unnoticed.

The gorilla-man was sitting, shoulders hunched apathetically, licking
a forearm. The coarse hairs of its chest and abdomen were caked with
dried blood. Evidently it was the same animal that Ki-Gor had fought
the night before. Relentlessly, Ki-Gor crept forward, until he was
behind the gorilla-man, though still down-wind from him. Then,
silently, he sprang.

The weight of his body hitting the gorilla-man's back flung it face-
forward on the ground. He pounced on the thick hairy brute, and
stabbed at its neck with his spear. The beast reared up unsteadily on
its hind legs, heaved and screamed with pain, and reached a huge black
hand over its shoulder. Ki-Gor was plucked off and hurled twenty feet
away, as if he were a terrier.

He lay stunned for a moment, then began to collect his senses as the
gorilla-man slowly reared itself off the ground. The brute stood up
unsteadily on its hind legs for a moment, gave a terrible roar, and
started toward Ki-Gor's recumbent form. But, blood was gushing from
the wound in the neck, and its short legs suddenly buckled. Before it
could reach the helpless Ki-Gor, the gorilla-man's evil little eyes
glazed, and it wavered and fell in a crumpled heap.

Ki-Gor picked himself up, made sure none of his bones were broken, and
approached the fallen gorilla-man warily. There was no doubt about it,
the strange monster was stone dead, its jugular severed. In death it
looked more simian than in life.

The jungle man's blue eyes flashed. He uttered a bellow of triumph,
and started back down the man-ape's trail. He was going back to pick
up the spoor of the other monster, the one who was carrying off
Helene.

But his triumph was short-lived. His nose was assailed by a strong
smell of Bantu. A moment later he was surrounded by a dozen or more
tall, well-formed blacks, armed with broad-bladed assegais.

"Stay, O strange inkosi," said the tallest one in halting Swahili,
"and tell us how it is possible that you could thus slay the fearsome
brute, single-handed and without a fire-stick."

"Nay, stand aside, black men," Ki-Gor answered. "I have no time for
idle chatter. There yet is another gorilla-man I must slay--a
murdering beast that is carrying off my woman. I must find him before
he kills her--if he has not already done so."

"Indeed, inkosi," said the tribesman, "that is a dreadful story. This
other gorilla-man, then, is not far away?"

"That I do not know," said Ki-Gor. "I must first pick up his trail
which I left before sunrise. So, let me pass."

"Nay, inkosi," said the tall black, "if the gorilla-man bearing your
woman has that much of a head-start, then indeed, you are on a fool's
errand."

"What do you mean, black man?" said Ki-Gor, sternly. "I will catch him
and I will kill him, as you have seen me do with this other ape up the
hill."

"It is this way, inkosi," the tribesman said patiently, "when you
catch up with the man-ape bearing your woman, you will find not one
man-ape but hundreds. By now, he has undoubtedly carried her into the
Land of the Living Dead. The entrances to that Land are guarded by
hordes of these ferocious gorilla-men. And it is said that these man-
apes, furthermore, are not wild man-apes, but trained beasts who obey
the wicked commands of some mysterious human."

"O cowardly black man," said Ki-Gor, "chicken-hearted Bantu, why do
you tell me old woman's stories like that? There is no slightest word
of truth in what you say!"

"I am no chicken-hearted coward," replied the tribesman, stoutly. "I
am as brave as you, O strange inkosi, and I tell you truth. Many from
about here have been kidnapped by these hulking gorilla-men and
carried into the Valley on the other side of the mountain. If you do
not believe me come with us in friendly fashion, back to our village.
Our chief speaks N-glush fluently, and he will tell you of this dread
place."

Ki-Gor stared long and hard at the tall black man, and his heart sank.
There was the ring of truth in the man's voice.

"Lead on," he said, gruffly.

As the little party wound down the mountain side, Ki-Gor watched the
blacks around him, narrowly. They were Bantu, his traditional enemies
back in the Congo jungle. But there was a difference. These men were
taller, better looking, prouder than the forest blacks. In spite of
himself, Ki-Gor trusted them a little.

Although the story of a mysterious Valley guarded by gorillas sounded
almost too fantastic to believe, Ki-Gor suspended judgment until such
time as he could talk to the Chief.

After a considerable trek, the party neared a good-sized village which
was enclosed by a large stockade. They went through a gate and
proceeded straight toward a large house that stood in the middle of
the village and dominated all the other huts. Strangely, Ki-Gor felt
no fear for his safety. In fact, he hardly thought about it. Uppermost
in his mind was the desire to hear about the strange valley from the
Chief, himself.

The door to the large house was guarded by two warriors with assegais.
The men with Ki-Gor spoke rapidly to them, and they turned and
disappeared into the house. A moment later, they reappeared, and
behind them towered a huge, bull-necked negro, with alert little eyes,
and an oddly humorous face. His clothes, a white shirt and white
shorts, set him apart from the others--he was evidently the chief. He
spoke at once, in a rolling, rumbling basso.

"Man, it's sure good to see a white face ag'in-" then he stopped, and
his little eyes blinked in astonishment at Ki-Gor's leopard-skin
loincloth. "Say, you is a white man, ain't you? American? English?"

Ki-Gor in his turn blinked with astonishment. He had never before
heard a black speak what sounded like English. He studied the Chief
for a moment, then said, "Yes. N-glush. I am of the N-glush people."

"I thought you-all looked kind of English," the Chief rumbled.
"Underneath all that tan. Whut-all's yo' idea? Back-to-nature stuff?"

Ki-Gor had not the slightest idea of what the Chief was saying, even
though he recognized most of the English words. So he said nothing.
Then the Chief spoke again, hastily.

"Nem-mind, Boss, let it go. I'm kinda fergettin' my Southe'n
hospitality, standin' yere askin' questions. C'mon in an' have a bite
of breakfast."

He smiled and beckoned the jungle man into the house. Gravely Ki-Gor
followed him. He regarded the table and chairs with suspicion, but sat
down at the Chief's invitation.

"Well, now, I'll tell you who I am," the Chief began, "'n' then you
c'n tell me who you are. I'm the head-man around yere, but I ain't
been yere but about a year. My name is Robert Spelvin, and I come from
Cincinnati. I been a Pullman porter, an' a ship's cook. I jumped ship
one day in Mombassa, and took myself a little walk. An' first thing
you know, I'm headman of the M'balla. It's a full-time job, but
they're real nice folks, an' I like it. Only now and then, I git a
little homesick. Tell me where you-all come from."

Ki-Gor thought for a moment. He was thoroughly bewildered by the flow
of English from the Chief, very little of which he comprehended, but
he kept a grave face.

"I come from far over there," he said, finally, pointing to the west,
"from the dark jungle. One day a woman, a white woman, came out of the
sky in a red birdmachine. She told me I was of the N-glush, and that I
must go with her to my own people. So we left the jungle and traveled
this way for many nights. Last night, two gorilla-men came to our
camp. While I was fighting one of them, the other one carried my woman
away. I trailed them through the night, but this morning the tracks
separated, and I followed the gorilla-man who did not have my woman."

"An' you caught up with him, my boys told me," said Chief Robert
Spelvin, "and really polished him off."

"I killed him," Ki-Gor corrected, "and now I must find the other
gorilla-man and take my woman away from him."

"Um," said Robert, "that's real bad. I'm sorry to say this, but I'm
awful afraid you ain't goin' to see your woman again. There's some
awful queer doin's over th' other side of the mountain. I don't know
just what it is. But these yere great big gorilla-men comes around in
pairs and grabs people and carries 'em away and don't nobody ever see
'em again."

"Where do the gorilla-men carry those people?" Ki-Gor demanded.

"Over th' other side of the mountain is all I know," Robert replied.
"There's a story around yere about a queer kind of place over there,
where there's a man who's kind of King of the gorilla-men. They say
the big apes kidnaps the people, an' then they is just slaves in this
place for the rest of their lives. They never come out, once they is
carried in."

"Then I must go there quickly," said Ki-Gor, "and take my woman away.
She must not be a slave."

"Man, you haven't got a chance,"' Robert said, earnestly. "I went over
the east shoulder of the mountain, once with some of my boys, and we
come out on to the entrance of a deep rocky canyon. The boys told me
that was the entrance to the Land of the Living Dead, and there was a
whole lot of the biggest gorilla-men I ever seen around there. I just
said, 'C'mon boys,' an' walked away from there.

"I once went two rounds with Dempsey 'fore he was champ, but I don't
believe in messing around with no gorilla."

The jungle man stood up, blue eyes flashing, "I am Ki-Gor, Lord of the
Jungle," he said, "and I am going into the Land of the Living Dead,
and take my woman away from the gorilla-men, no matter how many they
are. Give me a boy to guide me to that entrance, I am going now."

"But, Mr. Ki-Gor," said Robert, "you ain't got a chance. One man can't
lick an army, no matter how big or strong he is."

"I will find a way," said Ki-Gor.

"Say, you must set a great store by your woman," Robert said, with an
admiring shake of his head, "is she English, too?"

"Her name is Helene" said Ki-Gor. "She has a white face and red hair,
and she says she is of the tribe of 'Mericans."

"An American girl!" Robert shouted. "Wait a minute! That's different!
Hold on, now, we can't let them apes take an American girl into that
awful place."

"You know her tribe?" Ki-Gor asked, curiously.

"Know 'em!" cried Robert. "I'm American, myself."

"But you have a black skin," Ki-Gor said, blankly.

"Don' make no difference," said Robert, stoutly. "I'm jus' as good an
American as anybody else. An' I suttinly don' aim to leave another
American lay in the Land of the Livin' Dead, I don' care how many
gorillas is guardin' the place."

"You mean you will come with me?" said Ki-Gor.

"I do," said Robert, emphatically, "an' moreover, we'll take my army
along. As head man of this yere M'balla tribe I c'n call out about
seventy good fightin' spearmen. I got a rifle and a Luger of my own
with plenty of bullets. I'll let you use the rifle--"

"I don't know how to shoot a rifle," Ki-Gor interrupted. "Give me some
assegais."

"Mr. Ki-Gor," said Robert, "someday when we got mo' time, I'm going to
set down and really ask you--. Right now we better get goin'."

The huge negro stood up and bellowed some orders. Feet padded out of
the house, and a moment later, a great drum began to throb.

"C'mon out an’ watch this," Robert said. "I got to give the boys a
fight talk."

Outside, in the open space in the middle of the village, men, women
and children were assembling. They came running from all directions,
and squatted on the ground, arranging themselves in a wide circle.
Into the middle of the circle, Robert strode, carrying his giant frame
like an Emperor. The excited crowd ceased its chattering and fell
silent under his commanding gaze. Then Robert's deep voice rolled
forth in the rapid dialect of the M'balla.

He had hardly begun before he was interrupted by cries of anguish and
terror from all about him. He whirled about and raised a threatening
hand, and the crowd quieted down. Then Robert launched into an
impassioned oration.

Presently the crowd began to sway and murmur. As Robert's emotions
mounted higher and higher, the responsive murmur grew louder and
rhythmic. And finally, when he wound up his oration at fever heat, the
men of the M’balla leaped to their feet shouting and brandishing their
assegais.

Robert made his way through the howling gesticulating mob over to Ki-
Gor.

"Well, I got the ahmy lined up," he said. "They didn't like the idea
so good, at first, but I talked 'em around. In about an hour we-all'll
be ready to go beat up on the gorilla-men, an' see whut kin' of a
place this yere Land of the Livin' Dead is."

Ki-Gor and Robert Spelvin, Chief of the M'balla, regarded each other
with mutual respect. In spite of the fact that each one was a complete
puzzle to the other. Together they went into the Chief's house to plan
their strategy.

An hour later, when the little army filed out of the village and
headed eastward toward the mountain, each warrior, at Ki-Gor's,
suggestion, carried a long throwing spear, in addition to the short
stabbing assegai. Ki-Gor's reasoning was that if they met gorilla-men
in any quantity they could do considerable preliminary damage with the
throwing spears at long range, before they closed in on the powerful
brutes.

Robert carried his rifle in his hand and the Luger holstered on a
belt. Over each shoulder he had draped a bandolier with ammunition for
both weapons. Ki-Gor wore a long knife in a scabbard strapped around
his waist, and in each hand he carried a broad-bladed M'balla assegai.

After a half a day's brisk climb, the swift African dusk caught the
party still several miles short of their destination. They made camp
on a bare shoulder of the mountain, taking care to build many bright
fires, and detailing plenty of sentries. They had no intention of
allowing themselves to be surprised by a night raid of gorilla-men.

The night passed without incident, and before sunup the little army
was on its way again, climbing once, more. Ki-Gor noticed that many of
the strapping M'balla warriors seemed to be less than enthusiastic
over the expedition, as they drew nearer to the high, mountain gateway
to the Land of the Living Dead, and its dread defenders. But if Chief
Robert noticed it he gave no sign of it.

The line of march lay down hill for a while, down the eastern slope of
the great mountain. But still in front of them was an even higher
mountain, or rather, range of mountains. High up in a niche between
two peaks, Robert said, was the Gateway. Soon the M'balla army skirted
a rim, and started on the final upgrade. A nervous silence settled
down over the party, and the rate of speed noticeably slackened. As
they toiled higher and higher up the mountainside, the vegetation
began to thin out a little. Tall trees gave way to more stunted
growths, and odd-shaped bushes, twisted by high winds.

And a hot, dry west wind baked the bent backs of the M'balla.

Suddenly the party came in at right angles on what appeared to be a
well-worn trail. It was a strip of bare, hard-packed ground, six feet
wide, that twisted up the slope, flanked on either side by high banks.
Ki-Gor crinkled his nose.

"Gorilla!" he said, laconically.

Robert nodded and detailed two of the M'balla to go up the trail as
scouts, in advance of the party. Then, he growled an order over his
shoulder and led the little army forward.

They had not proceeded far, when the two scouts came tumbling down the
path, faces gray with fear. They immediately started babbling about
gorillas, but Robert hushed them with a stern command, and with Ki-
Gor, took them off to one side, out of earshot of the rest of the
M'balla. Then, he listened to the scouts as they described what they
had seen. The Gateway, which was hardly more than a thousand yards
away, up the trail, was fairly swarming with gorilla-men. They had
evidently scented the approaching M'balla, and reinforcements were
pouring out of the narrow opening in the natural rock bastion.

"You have done well," Robert commented, and turned to Ki-Gor. "This
ain't goin' to be so easy, Mr. Ki-Gor. I think you-all better take
this yere Luger. There ain't no trick to usin' it. Jest point it like
you'd point your finger at somethin', and squeeze this yere little
thing. And when it stops goin' 'bang,' jest give it back to me, and
I'll reload for you."

Then Robert wheeled and strode back to his army.

"Follow me up the bank," he said, in the M'balla dialect, "we will
ambush the men-apes from above as they come down the path. Do not
throw your spears until you hear the order. Have no fear--you are
being led by your invincible chief, and by Ki-Gor, the Gorilla-man
Slayer."

The M'balla looked at each other fearfully, but loyally followed
Robert up the bank. The giant American Negro led the way cautiously
through the twisted brush, one hundred yards, two hundred yards. Then
he halted, abruptly, and pointed. Ki-Gor, beside him in instant,
followed the pointing finger with his eyes and felt the hairs on the
back of his neck stiffen.



CHAPTER III

LAND OF THE LIVING DEAD

They were standing on the edge of the brush cover. Before them a wide
strip of rubbly, rocky ground sloped gently up to a natural rock
palisade. There was no vegetation of any kind on the desolate stretch
of shale and rubble, and beyond, the line of low cliffs marked the
crest of the ridge. Directly in front of them, there was a cleft in
the rock barrier--a narrow cleft that looked to be no more than ten
feet wide. Through that cleft, a seemingly endless line of huge black
gorillas was moving out to the open ground. And the open ground was
already occupied by at least fifty or sixty of the monsters. A low
murmur ran through the M'balla.

Robert whirled, eyes flashing.

"There are your enemies!" he hissed, "the filthy beasts who have
terrorized your neighborhood for so many years, who have carried your
relatives and friends into a horrible, unknown captivity. Let every
man look to his throwing spear."

Slowly the gorilla-men began moving down toward them in a disorganized
mob. The M'balla, grim-faced, crouched down in the bushes behind
Robert and Ki-Gor. There was something hideously menacing about the
way the mass of man-apes ambled down over the rubble. They made no
sound, but came on with a sort of contemptuous calmness.

When they were less than a hundred yards away, Robert fingering his
big express rifle, clutched Ki-Gor's arm in glee. The gorilla-men were
turning away to the right.

They were going down the path, directly beneath the ambuscade!

Robert waited until the ravine below them was choked with the black
monsters, then he drew a bead on one of them, and bellowed a command.
A shower of spears rained down on to the seething mass of hairy
bodies. The instant they struck, Robert fired.

Then pandemonium reigned in the ravine.

With screams of pain and rage, the great man-apes milled around trying
to pluck the spears out. Robert kept on firing into their midst as
fast as he could reload.

In five minutes, full half the gorilla-men lay dead or dying. But as
they had originally outnumbered the M'balla by two to one, that merely
evened matters up. For the brutes quickly discovered the source of
therain of death, and started clambering up the side of the ravine.

But the M'balla, encouraged by the initial success of the ambush,
stood confidently on the edge of the bank. Into their midst, Ki-Gor
stepped, an assegai in each hand. After he had emptied the Luger, he
had returned the weapon in disgust to Robert, and had gone back to
what seemed to him the more satisfactory method of fighting.

A titanic gorilla-man more agile than the rest, reared its head over
the bank at Ki-Gor's feet. The jungle man thrust viciously downward,
and impaled the monster in the throat. The beast gave a gurgling
bellow and fell backwards.

"Hai! Hai!" the M'balla yelped, and they cut and stabbed as more of
the gigantic apes gained the bank. All along the line, huge hairy
forms poised for seconds on the brink, great arms thrashing, only to
waver and plunge downwards, pierced by a dozen assegais. Here and
there, single gorilla-men gained a momentary foothold, crushing out
M'balla lives with sledge-hammer blows of their mighty arms.
Desperately the tribesman swarmed around, thrusting and hacking. And
wherever the M'balla were forced to give ground, Ki-Gor flashed in,
muscles rippling, and tawny mane flying.

The fighting was so close now, that Robert could no longer use his
rifle, so he, too, waded in to the combat, the Luger spitting in his
left hand, an assegai lifting and dipping in his right. But the rifle
had done its job. The monstrous gorilla-men, terrifying as they were,
were clearly outnumbered. The struggling line along the bank swayed
back and forth, and finally a handful of surviving gorilla-men broke
away and leaped down through the shaly gravel to the path below.

But the blood-lust of the M'balla was up, and they followed
relentlessly. As Ki-Gor and Robert leaned panting on their assegais,
the tribesman hunted down the dozen or so remaining gorilla-men,
ringed each one with a bristling wall of steel, and cut them down.

One-half hour after Robert had fired the first shot the gorilla-men
were completely annihilated. But it was a costly victory.

Among the heaped up dead on the bank, thirty-one M'balla tribesman lay
crushed and dying. High up in the sky, the vultures began circling
downward to their grisly feast.

The sun was hanging low as the little army, having buried its dead,
climbed with Ki-Gor and Robert up to the Gateway. However, their steps
lagged a little across the stony ground. For one thing, they were
undergoing a natural reaction from the shock of the battle. For
another they felt a nameless dread of what they might find on the
other side of the Gateway. They were courageous warriors, as shown by
their behavior against the gorilla-men. But gorilla-men, fearsome
though they were, were tangible enemies that could be faced and beaten
in combat. And this cleft in the mountain bastion they were
approaching was the Gateway to the Land of the Living Dead. The fear
of the Unknown clutched at the stout hearts of the M'balla.

Ki-Gor's finely tuned senses made him aware of this situation in the
ranks of the little army. If the truth be told, he felt a little
uneasy himself. But far overshadowing any fears for himself was the
determination to penetrate into this awesome place, and find out what
had happened to Helene. And if Helene were alive, he would probably
need the assistance of the M'balla to rescue her. Therefore he felt a
responsibility in maintaining the morale of the army.

So when the little force reached the cleft in the rock, Ki-Gor touched
Robert lightly on the arm, and stepped in front of him. Then looking
neither to right nor to left, he marched boldly through the opening.

A broad path lay before him, winding off downhill to one side. Sheer
cliffs towered on either side of the path, so that Ki-Gor could not
see beyond the first bend, which was about fifty feet away. But as far
as he could see, there was no sign of life anywhere on the path. He
shouted encouragingly over his shoulder and went forward.

As he did, he felt a noticeable drop in the temperature, and saw that
the sun no longer shone around him. Looking up he observed a pall of
mist or clouds stretching eastward from the crest of the ridge. But he
pressed on down the path, grim-faced, and the M'balla, quaking with
superstitious dread, crept silently after him.

It seemed to grow colder and colder, and darker and darker, as they
descended the narrow mountain gorge. But still they saw no signs of
life. Gradually, the cliffs on either side began to flatten out and
disappear, and here and there they saw patches of vegetation, bushes
and dwarf trees and stringy vines.

But it was the most extraordinary vegetation any of them had ever
seen, and the farther they went, the more extraordinary it became. The
bushes were wildly luxuriant, with hundreds of branches, wide leaves
and long cruel thorns. And the trees had gnarled trunks, twisted into
the most fantastic and grotesque shapes. An eerie silence hung over
everything, broken only by the whistling of the chill wind as it
whipped shreds of mist across the path.

It was getting so dark, now, that Ki-Gor was unable to see very far.
The strange bushes and trees loomed up in terrifying shapes in the
gray gloom. The M'balla huddled as close to each other as they could
and still walk. From time to time, they peered fearfully around them,
and the pace of the march slowed down to a crawl, even though the path
sloped downhill.

At the head of the party, Ki-Gor picked his way cautiously, an assegai
held ready in his right hand. Although he wouldn't admit it--even to
himself--he was feeling extremely uneasy. The supernatural spookiness
of the surroundings was having an effect on even his stout heart. And
besides, the visibility was so poor that he couldn't tell what kind of
a trap he might be walking into. His bare body, too, was chilled to
the bone with the clammy, gusty wind.

Shivering, he reflected that a good hot campfire would not only revive
the sagging spirits of the expedition, but would furnish some valuable
protection in this strange and desolate situation. He turned to Robert
just behind him, and suggested that they halt for the night as soon as
possible. He agreed to the idea with alacrity, and immediately
bellowed a command to the M'balla.

A murmur of relief swept through  the column, and the tribesmen
eagerly bunched up on the path touching shoulders to regain their
confidence. A few braver than the rest spread out and began hacking at
the bushes with their assegais for fuel.

When some fagots had been piled up, Robert squatted on the ground to
start the fire. Ki-Gor bent over him, watching. The flames were slow
in coming. The wood was damp, and the wind increased. Suddenly, Ki-
Gor's scalp began to crawl as he heard a sound from the outer
darkness.

"Listen!" he hissed, clutching Robert's shoulder. But Robert had heard
it, too, and so had the M'balla. They stood transfixed, eyes rolling.

It was a kind of soft, melodious wail that rose and fell with
ineffable sweetness. It seemed to come from all directions, or from no
direction. There was an almost-human quality in the sound, and yet no
human ever made a sound like that. Mournfully sweet, it hung on the
air and died away, as if some sad, disembodied spirit were wandering
disconsolately through the darkness, crooning a tuneless song.

The M'balla looked at Ki-Gor and Robert, and Ki-Gor and Robert looked
at each other. No one said a word. Then the wind blew strongly on
their faces again, and again the ghostly voice rose. This time there
were two voices! Another melancholy wail, pitched lower than the
first, sang out in perfect harmony. Then a third--a fourth! And
finally a whole choir of unearthly voices rose and fell in a terribly
sweet, terribly sad hymn.

"Ghosts!" a tribesman blurted out. "Living Ghosts!"

At that moment there was a distant, menacing rumble, and the ground
under their feet seemed to tremble. The rumble grew louder, and far
away to one side, the sky grew pale. Starkly outlined against it was a
conical mountain peak. Little tongues of green and yellow flame licked
upwards from the mountain top, shedding a ghastly light over
everything. Underfoot, the ground trembled more violently than ever.
The wind blew harder, and the ghostly voices rose to a felonious
shriek.

The horrified tribesmen swayed against each other for a moment. Then,
with a wild yell, they broke and ran headlong, back up the path.
Robert roared at them to stop, but they didn't even hear him. He ran
after the howling, frantic mob, and fired in the air twice, but it did
not the slightest good. The M'balla had had enough.

Trembling, Ki-Gor stood and watched his allies until they disappeared
from view. He was badly frightened himself, but it never occurred to
him to run. He stood glaring about him, assegai ready. Very soon the
ground ceased to shake, and the light from the mountain peak dimmed
and died out. The wind lowered and the ghostly voices faded away to a
sorrowful moan.

Ki-Gor squatted on the ground and collected his thoughts. So far, he
was unharmed in spite of the spectacular and terrifying phenomena that
had occurred. But the sturdy little army which was to invade the Land
of the Living Dead with him, and help him rescue Helene had vanished
into the night. So now, if he was to rescue Helene, he would have to
do it himself.

A pebble rattle up the path, above him. He started up, and took two
stealthy steps in that direction when he was arrested by the sound of
a deep voice speaking very softly.

"Is you there, Mr. Ki-Gor?"

Robert Spelvin had returned.

"I am in front of you," Ki-Gor whispered. "How many are with you?"

"They ain't nary one with me," Robert answered dolefully. "I is all by
myse'f, Mr. Ki-Gor. Them po' bush negros is still goin' to be runnin'
this time next week, I guess. They was reely scared."

"And you?" said Ki-Gor. "Aren't you afraid?"

"Well, I don't feel so awful good. Seems like they's an awful mess of
han'ts around these yere parts, and I don't like han'ts, no suh!"

"Why did you come back?"

"Man, they's an American girl down yere and somebody's got to git her
out. An' if I cain't bring muh ahmy, I c'n bring myse'f. I don' know
if the two of us pull off this rescue, but we c'n try awful hard."

"Robert, you are a brave man."

"Well, Mr. Ki-Gor, tha's a real compliment when you say it. Cause I
guess, when it comes to bravery, you wrote the book."

Ki-Gor ignored the returned compliment, mainly because he didn't
understand it and got down to business.

"This place is not good for a camp," he said. "Let us go farther down
the trail."

"You said it, Mr. Ki-Gor," said Robert, heartily. "Le's git on away
from yere. Oh My Lawd there goes them ha'nts again!"

The jungle man shivered as the mysterious, mournful voices began their
lament again. Silently, he offered the butt end of his assegai for
Robert to hold, and the oddly assorted pair moved slowly down the
path.

Enough light from the stars filtered through the clouds to illuminate
their way, though very dimly. It was enough, at any rate, to bring Ki-
Gor up with a start after they had only gone about fifty yards. The
trail suddenly narrowed. On one side--the uphill side--a sheer cliff
wall rose and lost itself in the misty darkness. On the other side
was--a drop into nothingness! Cautiously, Ki-Gor and Robert crept down
the trail, hugging the cliff. It was a long and terrible night for the
two invaders of the Land of the Living Dead. Inadequately dressed as
they were, they nearly perished from the cold winds that whistled
against the cliffs. And the almost total absence of light made their
progress along the hazardous trail extremely slow. But with the coming
of daylight, they found an improvement in their condition.

They were down among trees, now, tall trees that rose from gently
sloping parkland, free from underbrush. The constant fog and cold
winds were left behind, and the two companions hurried along the
smooth, hard-packed trail to restore their circulation. The first
slanting rays of the sun were pouring through the trees, when they
reached a clearing in the forest. It was evidently an open bluff on
the mountain side, as they could see the tops of trees peeping up on
the other side of the open space. They ran forward to the edge of the
bluff, to see what the surrounding country was like. What they saw
made them gasp.

They were looking down on a broad, fertile valley that was surrounded
on all sides by great mountains. The valley floor was entirely
cleared, and looked to be one great green pasture. It was dotted with
snow-white cattle grazing peacefully, and through the middle of it ran
a placid stream. At the far end, on rising ground, a score or more of
buildings was grouped in a symmetrical arrangement. They stretched out
on either side of a large, palace-like structure, which seemed to
dominate the whole group.

The architecture of all the buildings was uniform. They were all one
story high, except for the palace, which had three or four floors.
They were all startlingly white, and had large, flat, overhanging
roofs, also white. As Ki-Gor and Robert watched the scene, fascinated,
the sun's rays touched those roofs. Instantly, they seemed to catch
fire. The rays were caught and reflected by billions of tiny
diamondlike surfaces that dazzled the eyes of the two men on the
bluff.

But, except for the buildings themselves, there was not a sign of a
human being.

Suddenly Ki-Gor's nostrils flared and he glanced sharply around.

"I smell gorilla," he stated.

"You do?" said Robert startled. "My glory, I sho' wish I had a'nuh
ahmy around."

He moved down the face of the bluff several feet and peered into the
base of the trees.

"Man, your nose don't tell you no lies," he called back, "these yere
woods is full of gorilla-men. Le's you an' I get outa yere!"

Robert scrambled back to the edge of the bluff. Then he and Ki-Gor
rapidly retraced their steps across the clearing. Suddenly Ki-Gor
halted.

An immense gorilla-man was standing in front of them at the edge of
the trees.

Robert raised his rifle, then lowered it again. A second gorilla-man
was coming through the trees to join the first one. And another one,
and another one--. A rapid glance around the clearing showed the two
men only too plainly that they were completely surrounded by at least
thirty of the great man-apes.

"Man, we sho' walked right into a spot," Robert grunted.

"They were hiding," said Ki-Gor, "waiting for us."

"Whut we goin' to do?" said Robert, "we cain't lick this many. Kill a
few maybe, but when I stop to reload, the rest of 'em will come and
git us."

Ki-Gor did not answer for a moment, but stood fingering his assegai,
and watching the gorilla-men. He was puzzled by their attitude. The
great men-apes were not attempting to come any closer to the two men,
but merely stood quietly around the edge of the clearing.

"Let us go slowly in the direction of the valley," Ki-Gor said,
finally, "and do not shoot until they attack us."



CHAPTER IV

LORD OF THE LIVING DEAD

Ki-Gor moved cautiously downhill across the grass, and Robert
followed, his rifle held ready. As they approached the ring of
gorilla-men at that point, the shaggy brutes silently gave way to
either side, making room for the men to pass. They still showed no
inclination to attack. With a fast-beating heart, Ki-Gor stepped past
the gorilla-men, his eyes darting from side to side. The oddly human
brutes remained motionless.

Not until the two men had gone twenty paces or so, did the gorilla-men
move. They then, very deliberately, began to follow at a safe distance
to the rear.

"Mr. Ki-Gor, I think you-all got the right idea," Robert muttered. "I
truly b'lieve them big fellers wants us to go this way."

And so it seemed. Ki-Gor and Robert went unmolested down through the
forest, and emerged on to the valley floor. Behind them was a silent
procession of giant man-apes.

The two men hesitated a moment, and then Ki-Gor said, "To the houses."
Apparently it was what the gorilla-men wanted. They continued to
follow at a respectable distance as the jungle man and his Negro
companion traversed the long fields to the dazzling white houses.

The valley had an extraordinary beauty. The grass was lush and
unbelievably green. Here and there, wild flowers, brilliantly colored,
grew in profusion. And in every direction, mountains reached
majestically to the sky.

As the adventurers approached the houses, the gorilla-men behind them
spread out fanwise and one of them uttered a great roar. Ki-Gor and
Robert whirled about. Was it the sign for a sudden attack?

Apparently not, as none of the monsters came any closer. It was a
signal, though. From every direction of the valley, and from the
houses, hordes of gorilla-men came running. Ki-Gor and Robert stood
back to back bewildered, as hundreds of clattering brutes gathered and
formed a vast ring around them. Still there was no hostile move.

Just then, a piercing whistle shrilled from the direction of the
houses. Immediately the man-apes on that side of the ring separated
from each other, and formed a broad avenue straight up to the steps of
the palace. And at the head of the steps stood a man.

Wonderingly, Ki-Gor and Robert walked between the two lines of
gorilla-men to the foot of the steps where they halted and scrutinized
the man standing above them. He was an erect, handsome man, dressed in
white flowing robes. He was middle-aged, judging from the long, gray
mustache and the long gray hair that fell to his shoulders, framing an
aquiline, brown face. But the most remarkable feature about him was
his eyes. They were large and luminous, and had a disturbing
penetrating quality. He smiled down at the two adventurers and spoke.

"Welcome! thrice welcome, Ki-Gor," he said, in perfect English.
"Welcome to Nirvana. I expected you sooner than this, and I expected
that you would come alone. Who is this black man?"

The tone was friendly, but Ki-Gor didn't like it, for some reason. And
how did this King of the Gorilla-men know his name? Then it came to
him. From Helene of course! Eyes flashing and fists clenched, Ki-Gor
moved forward a step and spoke. As he did, the man-apes stirred
restlessly.

"Where is my woman? Is she safe?"

The King of the Gorilla-men made a discreet motion with his right
hand. "Your woman is unhurt," he said, quietly. "She was tired and a
little hysterical from her long journey so I put her to sleep. You
will see her soon. In the meantime, let me warn you against making any
threatening gestures. These large, hairy creatures are my subjects.
They adore and reverence me, and if they ever got the idea that you
meant to do me harm, I could not be responsible for their actions."

"Well, jes'a minute now, King," Robert broke in with a careless drawl.
"I'm pointin' a high-powered gun right straight at your guts. You jes'
better be responsible fer the way these yere babies act, or you-all
jes' ain' gonna live very long."

The King's eyelids flickered ever so slightly in surprise.

"You are an American black," he observed. "How very interesting. I was
going to send you to the mines, but I will reconsider. I will ask you
to come into the Palace with Ki-Gor. Very interesting."

The King gathered up one side of his robe and stepped down the white
stairs with immense dignity. When he reached the ground in front of
Ki-Gor and Robert he extended his right hand, and inclined his head,
eyes half-closed.

"Let us not talk of fighting and shooting," he said, gently. "Believe
me, if you kill me, my subjects will destroy you instantly. No. Let us
be friends."

As Ki-Gor watched suspiciously, the King looked at Robert sleepily,
and smiled. Suddenly, the huge brown eyes flew open and glittered at
the big Negro.

"You are very tired," he said, in a low voice. "You are extremely
tired from your long march. You need to rest--rest. Just relax all
your muscles and--rest. You need to sleep more than anything else in
the world. Sleep. Why don't you go to sleep? Just close your eyes and
sleep. Don't try to hold your eyelids open. Let them fall, and go to
sleep. Go to sleep on your feet standing up. Go to sleep."

At those last words, Robert swayed like a tree in a high wind. Ki-Gor,
in amazement, saw the big Negro was fighting to keep his eyes open.
The King backed up the steps slowly, and Robert staggered forward
after him. Suddenly, the King's right hand flicked out, seized the
lowered barrel of Robert's rifle, and wrested it away. As Ki-Gor
leaped forward, the King sprang agilely up the steps and leveled the
rifle at the jungle man's breast.

"Carefully, Ki-Gor," said the King. "I now have the gun."

Ki-Gor stood bewildered. He couldn't understand what had happened to
Robert, that he should allow himself to be disarmed so easily. The big
Negro groaned beside him and shook his head.

"Look out for the King," Robert croaked. "Man, he sho-nough almost had
me laid out cold. I ain't never been hypnotized befo', but I nearly
was this time."

Ki-Gor reached out to steady Robert, thinking fast. He didn't know
what "hypnotize" meant, but he had seen Robert almost go to sleep on
his feet, and he felt a sense of terrible danger from the cool,
composed person of the King. More than ever, he wanted to find Helene,
and see for himself whether she was safe. The King's voice interrupted
his thoughts.

"Now, shall we be friends?"

Ki-Gor and Robert looked helplessly at the man in the white robe, and
nodded slowly.

"Then, be so kind as to follow me into the Palace," said the King,
"and we will start getting better acquainted."

He reached the top of the steps and backed across the wide portico,
gun still leveled. Then he pulled a whistle from the folds of his
robe, and blew two shrill blasts. It was evidently a signal of
dismissal to the gorilla-men, and the vast crowd of them began to
break up and move away. Ki-Gor and Robert hesitated a moment, then
leaped up the white stone steps after the King.

He was standing at one side of a wide doorway, and; with an ironic
smile, he waved his two prisoners through the doorway ahead of him.
They proceeded through a spacious hallway, and at the King's command,
turned to the right, through another doorway, and found themselves in
a large, high-ceilinged room. The white walls of the room were
unadorned, but a deep, rich-looking carpet covered the floor, and low
tables, chairs and divans made up the furniture.

Ki-Gor pivoted on his heel and addressed the King humbly.

"Helene!" he said. "My woman. Where is she?"

"She is coming to join us now," the King replied with an inscrutable
smile. "In fact, here she is."

At that moment, Ki-Gor's heart leaped within him as Helene walked into
the room at the opposite end. He started down the room toward her, but
stopped half-way with a thrill of horror.

It was Helene, all right, but something was terribly wrong. She was
clothed in a white robe, sandals on her feet. Her face was deathly
pale, and her eyes looked straight ahead, unfocused on anything in the
room.

She walked carefully around the furniture without seeming to see it.

"Here is Ki-Gor," said the King. "You may recognize him, Helene."

Helene swayed a moment, uncertainly, then she turned a perfectly blank
face to Ki-Gor.

"Hello, Ki-Gor," she said in a hollow voice.

"Helene!" cried Ki-Gor in anguished tones. "What is the matter? Are
you all right?"

There was a dreadful moment of silence. Then the King's voice broke in
gently.

"Tell him, Helene," he said. "Tell him how you feel."

Monotonously, as if she were repeating lesson, Helene said, "I am all
right, Ki-Gor. I am very happy here in Nirvana--happy to be with
Krishna, King of the Living Dead."

Ki-Gor swung around, his face contorted in an uncontrollable snarl.
Disregarding the rifle aimed at him, he sprang at the King. So sudden
and so swift was his movement that the King had not time to pull the
trigger, before the jungle man was upon him.

"Mr. Ki-Gor!" cried Robert. "Don't kill him! Don't kill him yet! He's
got the woman hypnotized, an' she won't ever recover until he snaps
her out of it."

But Ki-Gor had the King on the floor choking the life out of him in a
blind rage. The powerful Negro bent over and wrenched him away from
the supine figure in the white robe.

"Now, hold on, Mr. Ki-Gor," Robert sputtered, as the jungle man spun
out of his grasp. "If you kill the King now, tha's just the same as
killing Miss Helene, yere."

Ki-Gor hesitated, eyes blazing.

"What do you mean?" he cried, hoarsely.

"Jes' whut I said," replied Robert. "He's done put her into a hypnotic
trance, an' he's the only one c'n bring her out of it. If you kill
him, she jes' ain' never goin' to wake up."

Ki-Gor whirled around at Krishna, King of the Living Dead.

"Wake her up!" Ki-Gor said savagely.

Krishna drew himself up to a sitting position, and brushed the long
gray hair out of his eyes.

"I will release her," he said, with a cool smile, "as soon as you two
hand your weapons over to me."

"Now, listen yere, King," Robert bit out. "I wouldn't kid you-all.
Don' go tryin' to drive a bargain, because you'll never be closer to
dyin' than you is, right this minute. You better wake her up, and wake
her up quick, or Ki-Gor'll kill you, and he'll kill you slow."

Krishna's dark face grew paler. He reflected a moment, then smiled
again.

"Very well," he said, pleasantly, "I will do as you say."

"You better do a smooth job," Robert warned, as Krishna got to his
feet and approached Helene, "because if she comes out cryin' an'
hysterical, they's no power on earth could stop you from bein' beaten
to a pulp."

Krishna nodded, and passed his hand over Helene's eyes.

"I am going to release you from my control," he said quietly. "You
will wake up, and you will remember nothing of what happened while you
were asleep. Now. You are no longer under my control. Wake up!"

He stepped backward and watched the girl. Helene's eyes were tight
shut, and she held herself rigid, Krishna paled.

"Wake up!" he said, sharply, and reaching out a hand, snapped his
fingers beside her ear.

Helene shivered. Slowly her eyes opened. She stared uncomprehendingly
about her, and then saw Ki-Gor. She gave a glad cry and rushed into
his arms.

"Ki-Gor!" she exclaimed. "You came after me! Oh, I'm so happy! I've
never been so frightened in my life as when the gorilla-man snatched
me away from the camp. But he didn't hurt me at all. And when he
brought me here, Krishna was so kind. I think this is a heavenly
place, don't you?"

Ki-Gor held her tightly to him for a moment, without speaking. Then he
released one arm and pointed to Robert Spelvin, one-time Pullman
porter, ship's cook, and Chief of the M'balla.

"This is Robert," said Ki-Gor. "He is a Bantu, but he is a brave man,
and he is our friend."

"Pleased to meet you-all, Ma'am," said Robert, with a grin. "I may be
a Bantu, but fust of all, I is an American, an I's real proud to be
your friend."

Before Helene could express her astonishment at meeting an American
Negro in this fantastic corner of Africa, Ki-Gor took command of the
situation, again.

"This man," he said grimly, and pointed at Krishna, "is not our
friend. He is bad. We are going away from here quickly.

"Krishna? Bad?" said Helene, puzzled. "I don't understand. He has been
very kind to me."

"He is bad," Ki-Gor reiterated, "and we are going away, right now."

"If you will pardon me," Krishna broke in, with a sleepy smile, "it is
not a question of whether I am good or bad. It happens that I am the
ruler of this valley, which is sometimes called the Land of the Living
Dead. My own name for it is Nirvana. You see, in the Hindu religion,
and Nirvana is an ancient conception of the Ultimate of human desire.
It is not like the Christian Heaven, exactly, it is merely a removal
from the world, a complete absence of desire, of illusion. I removed
myself from the outer world many years ago, and found a kind of
Nirvana here in this secluded valley. Thus, I took the name of
Krishna, one of the Hindu supreme deities. Here I remain until I die.
But this Nirvana, unlike the spiritual Nirvana of the ancient
Buddhists, is somewhat concerned with matters of the flesh. I like
beauty and comfort and good food. At the same time, I require solitude
when I feel like it. My solution was to come here and be served by
slaves, and remain undiscovered by the outer world. Human beings built
this palace and the surrounding buildings. Human beings grow my food,
tend my cattle--I have also discarded the Hindu taboo on beef. My
soldiers, however, are these curious man-apes. They are considerably
more trustworthy than any human warriors I have ever known."

"But, Krishna," Helene interrupted, "how can you be sure that one of
your human slaves won't escape, someday, and reveal the secret of your
Nirvana?"

"For one thing," Krishna replied, "I hypnotize them. For another if
any attempted to leave the Valley, he would immediately be killed by
my soldiers. You see, these are no ordinary gorillas. You may have
noticed that they are astonishingly human in some ways. They are the
product of highly intensive selective breeding."

"Selective breeding!" Helene exclaimed. "I thought that was
impossible. I thought that gorillas could not reproduce in captivity."

"The original specimens which I brought here from West Africa years
ago, were given the illusion of freedom. They had the run of the
valley. But they learned to eat food which I left out for them, and
frequently the food was drugged. In that way I had opportunities to
observe them closely, control their mating, and sometimes to
experiment with their ductless glands. The second generation was more
tractable. From then on, I bred them for size, intelligence and
docility. These giant creatures you see around here are the result."

"Good Heavens!" gasped Helene. "Where did you get your education?"

"At the University of Cambridge," Krishna smiled, "and later at the
University of Bonn. It was at the German university that I became
interested in racial evolution and, what might be termed, constructive
anthropology. Some bullet-headed Prussian students were busy with a
racial theory concerning their Aryan origin. That was vastly amusing
to me, who came from the only true Aryan race left in the world--the
high-caste Brahmans of Northern India. The appearance of those
Prussians indicated to me that they were more likely to be descended
from Neanderthal Man. And from that, I conceived the idea of trying to
create modern Neanderthalers. Hence the experiment with the gorillas.
The experiment is not yet complete, but my man-apes are many times
more intelligent than their original progenitors. And the one thing
they have learned thoroughly, is that anyone may enter the Valley, but
no one may leave! That is one of the voodoos I have placed upon this
land. There are six others.

"The first is that my will is the supreme throughout this land.

"The second is that all who live within it must be made my slaves.

"The third that anyone may enter my domain, but none may leave.

"The fourth that all women here belong to me."

Here Helene blanched and Ki-Gor's eyes narrowed.

"The fifth that my gorilla-men guard stand guard day and night.

"The sixth that I be obeyed absolutely.

"The last that death shall be the lot of all who oppose me.

"You know," Krishna smiled mockingly, "I sometimes call my home the
Nirvana of the Seven Voodoos."

"You mean we are prisoners here?" said Helene.

"For the rest of your lives," said Krishna, simply. "And, as I have
already told your companions, it will do no good to kill me. Because
whether I am alive or not, the man-apes will not permit you to get out
of the valley. And with me dead, their master, the probabilities are
that they would destroy every human being they could find."

"Oh!" Helene shuddered with loathing. "I thought you were so charming
at first. I can't believe that you are such a monster."

"I am not a monster at all," Krishna smiled. "I am just a very
practical man who does the things that please him. In this comfortable
domain of mine, I let no wish go ungratified. My own happiness is my
chiefest concern. Surely, that is not a monster, is it?"

Helene made no answer, and for a while there was an electric silence.
Finally Robert broke it.

"Man!" he said, heavily. "We sho'ly caught ourse'ves a cold fish!"

"You know," said Krishna, "there is no reason why you should take this
situation so gravely. Only technically, will you be prisoners. In a
sense you will be freer than you could ever be outside the boundaries
of my Lotus Land. By the time you have been here six months, I am
quite sure you will feel not the slightest desire ever to go away."

Helene cast a frightened glance at Ki-Gor, who, up to now, had taken
no part in the conversation. The jungle man frowned and spoke
abruptly.

"How is it that you are master of the gorilla-men? How do you do
that?"

"I drug them, my dear Ki-Gor," Krishna replied, candidly, "with a rare
substance which I distill from a rare plant that grows in this valley
in great quantity. The drug puts them into a deep sleep, and when they
wake up, they are especially susceptible to hypnosis. I then hypnotize
them. I have hypnotized so many of them so often, that the merest
suggestion that they prevent people from leaving acts now as a
perpetual command to all of them. In the meantime, of course, they
have become strong addicts of this drug, and I have to give them a
daily portion of it. If this sounds hard to believe, just come out
with me now and I will arrange to give them their ration for the day.
You may see with your own eyes that I am telling you the truth."

"No funny business, now, King," warned Robert.

"There would be no purpose in my doing any funny business," Krishna
replied, blandly. "I could have you killed, but I don't want you
killed. I want you alive. You see, I have many hobbies, of all kinds.
And, for a time now, I intend to make a hobby of you three. You
interest me. Therefore, instead of sending you to work my mines, which
is my usual procedure with newcomers, I shall keep you near me in the
Palace. No, there will be no funny business. Besides, you have guns
which you might be foolish enough to kill me with. Follow me now, and
you will see a strange sight."

Krishna stood up and walked briskly toward the doorway. Robert
followed him closely, covering him with the rifle. Ki-Gor dropped back
with Helene and whispered into her ear.

"'What does 'hypnotize' mean?"

Helene thought for a moment and shook her head.

"It's a little too complicated to explain right now, Ki-Gor," she
said. "Wait until we are alone, and I'll try to straighten it out for
you."

Krishna led them out of the palace, down the white steps, and across
the great square of the settlement to a long narrow building, which
had small, heavily barred windows along its length, and two doors, a
small one and a large one, at one end. Several gorilla-men appeared
from other buildings, moved over to the large door and stood there,
hopefully.

"This is my drug laboratory and dispensary," Krishna explained, as he
led the way to the smaller door. "Slaves gather the plants and bring
them here where I extract the drug and produce it in crystalline form
by a formula known only to me."

He opened the smaller door with a small key and motioned them to
follow him.

"Then more slaves," Krishna continued, "place quantities of the drug
tablets in a long trough on one side of a corridor which extends the
length of this building on the inside. I open the large door and the
gorilla-men file through and pick up the drug tablets as they go
along. And here you see some of the slaves preparing the feast for my
simian warriors."

Helene, Ki-Gor, and Robert found themselves in a long room which
looked like a chemical laboratory. A dozen or more blacks moved slowly
around emptying sacks into a long bin that stretched along the inside
wall.

"The tablets fall through a slit in the wall into the trough on the
other side," Krishna explained. "In that way, the anthropoids get all
they need of the drug without having access to the source of supply."

But Helene hardly heard him. She was staring in horrified fascination
at the slaves. They were every one, unbelievably gaunt and emaciated.
They moved with dragging steps. Their eyes were lackluster, and they
seemed to be walking in a stupor.

"In heaven's name, what is the matter with these poor men?" Helene
cried. "Are they victims of a disease?"

"Oh, no," said Krishna, matter-of-factly. "They are drug-addicts.
Everybody in the valley, except myself, is a habitual user of the
drug. For some reason, it seems not to have any ill-effects on the
gorilla-men, but it destroys human tissue inevitably in course of
time. That is why I need constant replacements for my slaves, and have
to send my man-apes out of the valley on kidnapping expeditions."

Robert Spelvin exploded.

"Man, you is jes' plain bad an' nothin' else!"

Krishna smiled, blandly.

"You are the most interesting black man I have ever seen," he said.
"You are going to provide me with a fascinating subject of
investigation. You have something, a quality I have never seen in a
Negro before."

"Well, I'll tell you this," said Robert, and his voice had a dangerous
edge, "I ain' awful good slave material."

"No, I can see that," Krishna replied with an amused glance, "compared
to these specimens in here. But, perhaps I should explain that these
men are the dregs of the valley. They are so far gone in the drug
habit, that I put them in here where the work is light, and where they
can eat all they want of the tablets. They die off very quickly, after
they come in here."

"Oh!" Helene cried, impatiently. "I can't understand why your slaves
haven't long ago rebelled or run away."

"Only because of my incorruptible apes," said Krishna, imperturbably.
"Here, I will give you an example."

He called to one of the slaves. The creature crawled over to him on
hands and knees and looked up dully into the King's face. With a
careless wave of a hand, Krishna quickly threw the slave into a
trance. He got up slowly on his skinny legs and tottered to the door.
Mechanically, he opened it and walked outside.

"Come and watch this," said Krishna, "it's great sport. I have
hypnotized him with the suggestion that he try to escape from the
valley."

With faces expressive of the dreadful premonition in their minds,
Helene and Robert went to the door and looked out. After a minute, Ki-
Gor joined them.

Outside, the gorilla-men were massing in the square, waiting for the
door to open to admit them to the supply of the drug they craved. The
wretched slave was picking his way through the crowd. They looked at
him uncuriously and seemed to pay little attention. But when he
emerged from the crowd on the other side and walked slowly out on the
green pasture, two hulking man-apes were following him.

Farther and farther, the doomed creature went across the lovely green
valley floor. And behind him, inevitably, stalked his sinister escort.
When the slave was about a quarter of a mile away, he suddenly broke
into a staggering run. And as Helene gasped, the man-apes started
after him. The first one overtook him in ten steps, seized him by the
arm, and flung him high in the air. As the poor creature landed, both
gorilla-men pounced on him. Helene closed her eyes to the rest of the
spectacle.

"Ah! that is excellent sport!" Krishna exclaimed, eyes gleaming. "Now,
you see, perhaps, why nobody tries to leave the Valley. And why, you
three will never leave the Valley."

"We will leave the Valley, Krishna," said Ki-Gor, quietly, "and when
we do, you will be killed by your own gorillas--torn to pieces like
the slave out there."

"Your optimism is delightful, Ki-Gor," replied Krishna. "You forget
that the gorilla-men regard me, and me alone, as the source of the
drug that they crave. Step outside the door with me, and I will
demonstrate the truth of that statement, too.
"
The throngs of ape-men crowded eagerly around Krishna as he strolled
over to the large door. Avidly their little eyes watched him insert
the big key, and when he swung the door open, there was a concerted
dash for the corridor. Krishna stepped back with a smile as the
gorilla-men jammed themselves into the doorway.

"How do they get out?" Ki-Gor asked.

"They go out the other end of the building," Krishna replied. "The
door at that end swings outward under the pressure of their weight and
springs back into position afterward. There is no handle on the
outside of it, and it cannot swing inwards. So they have learned
always to go through the building this way."

Ki-Gor grunted, then was lost in thought for a moment. Abruptly he
asked another question.

"How soon do they go to sleep, after they eat the drug?"

"Almost immediately," was the answer. "They walk out of the door at
the other end, find some spot of ground they like, and lie down and
sleep for about four hours."

Again Ki-Gor grunted and bent his head in thought.

"If you are planning," said Krishna, with a sardonic smile, "to strike
at me while the gorilla-men are asleep, you may abandon the idea.
There are always latecomers to the feast--gorilla-men, who come down
from their posts on the mountainsides. I shall lock this door before
they get here. So that while most of the anthropoids will be in a
stupor, there will still be plenty around here in full possession of
their faculties--more than enough to protect me."

Ki-Gor appeared not to have heard the warning. He drew Robert aside
and talked to him in low tones. Krishna gave the pair a narrow look,
and then shook his head with a pitying smile.

"Fools!" he said, contemptuously, to Helene. "It is doubly stupid to
contemplate escape. For not only is it impossible, but it should be
highly undesirable. Life here is extremely pleasant, and also very
interesting. I have, by no means, confined my scientific activities to
the creation of gorilla-men. Besides this laboratory, I have three
others, and in all of them, I am conducting fascinating experiments.
At the moment, I am especially absorbed in a study of the endocrines--
the ductless glands. As a matter of fact, I have wished for a new
subject of experimentation for a long time. One like yourself, a
lovely white woman. With what I already know, I could change you in
two weeks' time, from a fair lithe Nordic, to an obese, swarthy Latin
type. I could make your hair fall out. I could grow a beard on your
smooth face. And, I assure you the operations would be completely
painless to yourself. The only thing I am not quite sure of yet, is
whether, after making these changes in you, I could change you back to
your original self. That is what we will find out."

Helene shrank back against the wall of the laboratory, eyes dilated
with horror, and unable to say a word in reply to the grotesque
suggestions she had been forced to hear. Krishna calmly turned his
attention the gorilla-men.



CHAPTER V

CHOICE OF DEATHS

The crowd of them around the doorway was rapidly growing smaller, as
more and more of them filed through the corridor of the building. Off
to either side, other gorilla-men could be seen wandering aimlessly
around, on their faces, fatuous expressions of sleepy ecstasy. One by
one, these dropped to the ground, curled up and went to sleep. Krishna
moved toward the door cautiously. There was only a handful of the man-
apes left, now, clamoring to get into the dispensary. Krishna waited,
his hand on the door, until there was room enough for this rear-guard
to get inside. His eyes swept the green fields, and a crafty smile
came over his dark face, as two little knots of late-coming gorilla-
men could be seen running in from the mountain slopes. As the last
man-ape in the square crowded into the dispensary, Krishna slammed the
door, hid the key in the folds of his robe, and walked toward Ki-Gor
and Robert, smiling.

But the smile died on his face, as Ki-Gor swung around and started for
him. He looked around wildly, but the late-arriving gorilla-men were
still a hundred yards away out in the field. His hand fumbled for the
cord at his throat on which the whistle hung. He ran two steps,
blowing a shrill blast, as Ki-Gor hit him.

Frantically, Krishna tried to fight off the jungle man, but he was
over-matched. Ki-Gor slung the screaming King over his shoulder and
ran back to the doorway of the laboratory. One or two of the drugged
man-apes tried to sit up, then fell back in drowsy disgust.

Helene was holding the laboratory door open and Robert was standing
beside her, rifle held ready. Ki-Gor flashed through inside with his
struggling burden, and Helene and Robert ducked in after him. Robert
slammed the door shut and bolted it just as the fresh gorilla-men
thundered into the square.

The gaunt slaves shrank back against the wall of the laboratory as Ki-
Gor flung Krishna crashing to the floor. Outside a dozen gorilla-men
hammered against the door.

"Fools!" Krishna screamed, struggling up from the floor. "You have
signed your death warrant by this action! The minute I open that door,
my warriors will come in and tear you to pieces!"

"But you will not open the door," said Ki-Gor.

"Somebody will have to open it, some time or other," Krishna shouted,
"or do you intend to stay in here until you starve to death?"

"No," said Ki-Gor, with lowered brows. "We will not stay here long. We
will go away and you, Krishna, will go with us!"

"You are mad! Absolutely mad!" Krishna yelled.

"Watch him," Ki-Gor directed Robert, and walked over to one of the
slaves who was holding a sack full of the drug tablets in his hand.
The jungle man took the sack from the unresisting hand of the slave,
went to one of the barred windows, and began throwing handfuls of the
tablets out between the bars.

It took the gorilla-men outside the door a very few minutes to
discover that the coveted tables were being dispensed in an unusual
way. With glad cries they pounced on the little white cubes and
stuffed them into their huge mouths.

Krishna turned gray, as the full consequences of the stratagem were
borne in on him. He staggered back, then flung himself at Robert. The
big Negro swung his left hand at Krishna's chin, and the King of the
gorilla-men fell inert to the floor. He did not move.

Outside the barred windows, the gorilla-men finished up the drug
tablets, and stood around, gaping expectantly. Ki-Gor obligingly threw
another sackful out, and a few minutes later, not one of the man-apes
in the square was left on his feet.

Swiftly Ki-Gor set to work, knotting several of the sacks containing
the drug together on a piece of rope. As he was finishing this task,
Krishna groaned and opened his eyes.

"Stand up," Ki-Gor commanded, "we are going now. We are leaving the
Valley and you are going with us."

Krishna fell to his knees.

"Ki-Gor," he pleaded, "it is sure death. You are bound to run into
more gorilla-men along the trail. They will kill you even if I am with
you. Not even my commands could save you if they catch you leaving the
Valley."

"We are wasting time talking," said Ki-Gor, sternly, "get up and walk
out of the door or Robert will shoot you through the head."

Whimpering, Krishna picked himself up under the watchful eye of Robert
and walked slowly to the door.

Ki-Gor slung the sacks over his shoulder and paused to address the
forlorn slaves in Swahili.

"O miserable ones," he said. "You are free. Go and collect your
fellows, and join us. We will take you out of this accursed Valley,
and once more you may see your homes again."

There was a heavy silence. The slaves looked stupidly at one another,
and looked back at Ki-Gor. Finally one of them spoke.

"A thousand thanks, O Madman," he said, haltingly, "but this is our
home, now. We know no other place. If we went away, how would we find
a supply of the drug which we must have now, or die? Go, Madman,
hasten, and may luck attend you--"

Ki-Gor stared at them incredulously, and spun on his heel.

"So be it," he said. "A thousand pities that we cannot spare the time
to stay and persuade you out of this mode of life, which is but a
living death. But we must go. Farewell, O miserable ones."

Robert snapped the bolt back on the door, swung it open, and pushed
Krishna out ahead of him. Then Helene and Ki-Gor followed and the
journey out of the Land of the Living Dead was begun.

They threaded their way among the recumbent bodies of the snoring
gorilla-men, and struck out across the great pasture. They headed
straight for the edge of the forest, and when they reached it, skirted
it until they picked up the broad trail which led up the mountain.

As they turned on to the trail, Krishna once more rebelled.

"This is madness!" he cried. "I tell you if we meet any gorilla-men,
and we will, I can't save you. They will not obey me!"

"If we meet any gorilla-men," Ki-Gor retorted, "and they do not obey
you, Robert will shoot at them with the rifle. But he will shoot you
first."

Krishna gave the jungle man a long look. Then a crafty gleam came into
his eyes. He raised his hands, palms upward in resignation, and said,
"Very well. I have warned you." And the strange quartet began the
ascent from the Valley.

It was a long, nerve-wracking climb. At any moment a great hairy
monster might rise up in the path and challenge the way. Ki-Gor's
normal alertness was doubled, his keen eyes searching the surrounding
forest ceaselessly. And Robert held the rifle ever ready.

But hours and miles went by without incident. The trees grew less
tall, and the air grew cooler. Now and then the travelers could look
up through openings in the foliage and see above them their
destination--the rocky ridge, partly obscured by its perpetual mists.

It was late afternoon, and the travelers were climbing into the region
of weird vegetation, when they first ran into danger. Some sixth sense
prompted Ki-Gor, who was in the lead, to look backwards as he rounded
a bend in the trail. A huge gorilla-man was shuffling rapidly up the
path behind Robert who was bringing up the rear. There was hardly time
to warn the big Negro, and give him an opportunity to swing around
with the gun.

Automatically, Ki-Gor ripped one of the drug-sacks loose from the rope
on his shoulder. He shouted at Robert to duck, and then flung the sack
full in the face of the charging man-ape. As the sack hit, it burst
and spilled its contents all over the path. The gorilla-man staggered
momentarily, and uttered a smothered roar. It started forward again,
but suddenly caught sight of the familiar little white cubes, and
halted. A hairy arm reached down and scooped up a handful of the drug
tablets. As the man-ape crushed them into his mouth a foolish
expression of ecstasy came over his savage face. And as the travelers
watched, the gorilla-man, completely harmless, sat down on the spot and
proceeded to eat all the tablets he could find. In a very few minutes
the hairy brute fell over backwards in a stupor, and the travelers
resumed their journey.

"You wasted a valuable quantity of the drug," Krishna commented. "Six
of those tablets are enough to subdue one of the man-apes, and you
threw a whole sackful at him. If we meet more of them in any large
numbers, you will only have five sacks left to deal with them."

Although Ki-Gor wouldn't admit it, he was worried about that very
thing. But there was nothing to be done about it. It was the only way
he could have saved Robert's life. And aside from the fact that Robert
was a powerful friend and ally, Ki-Gor had come to regard the burly
Negro with a strong affection. Ki-Gor hoped fervently that they would
meet no more gorilla-men.

In a short while they climbed in to the mists, and Ki-Gor called a
halt as they arrived at what appeared to be a fork in the trail. He
did not remember seeing the fork on the way down, although, he
reflected that it had been so dark that he could easily have missed
it.

"Which way?" he asked Krishna.

"The way to the right is the way you came in," was the answer. "Just
above here it gets very narrow for a short distance as it crosses the
face of a cliff. After that it goes on up to the Western Gateway, the
cleft in the rock."

"And the way to the left?" said Ki-Gor.

"It is a perilous trail which the gorilla-men don't bother to guard,
for the reason that it leads you to the crater of an active volcano.
Once you traverse that crater, you are safe, but your chances are a
hundred to one against crossing it alive."

"Volcano, huh?" said Robert, coming up. "So that's what all that
spooky rumblin' was, and earthquakin', and fire shootin' up out of the
top of the mountain. Hoo-wee! An' we thought it was ha'nts! But still
that don't explain the singin'."

"Singing?" said Krishna.

"Yeh, they was a whole mess of banshees all wailin' together."

"Oh, yes," said Krishna, "of course. I once had a set of Aeolian harps
set up in a particularly windy spot. I thought that the peculiar
quality of the instruments might set up superstitious dread in the
minds of unwelcome visitors."

"Come, we must go," said Ki-Gor, "and we will take the right fork. The
smoking mountain is more dangerous than gorilla-men. We cannot give
white tablets to a mountain."

A few paces farther on, the trail narrowed, and Ki-Gor hesitated
before embarking on the passage across the face of the cliff. The wind
in their faces swirled the mist around the rocks terrifyingly.

All of a sudden, through some freak of wind currents, the mist lifted.
The travelers could see four or five hundred yards ahead, past the
cliff, above which the trail broadened again as it climbed toward the
crest of the ridge and safety.

And there, less than four hundred yards away, a company of at least
forty gorilla-men was standing.

As yet they were unaware of the presence of the travelers, but Ki-Gor
shivered a little as he thought of trying to pacify that many of the
brutes with the limited supply of the drug that remained. But it had
to be done, somehow. The idea of crossing the crater of the volcano
was unthinkable.

As if he had read his mind, Krishna came up and stood beside the
jungle man.

"Unless you give them the tablets by hand, six at a time," Krishna
said, "you will not have enough to go around. And if you get close
enough to give them the tablets by hand, they will kill you."

"Then what are we going to do?" said Ki-Gor.

"There is only one thing to do," said the King of the Gorilla-men.
"Give me the drug and I will walk on ahead and feed it to them by
hand. I, alone, have the authority to go among them unmolested."

"I do not trust you, Krishna," said Ki-Gor, "you are an evil man."

"Very well, then. Die," said Krishna with a shrug. "As soon as they
see you, they will come down here and kill you. And I could not stop
them."

"Mm," Ki-Gor bit his lip. "All right. Take the drug and give it to
every gorilla-man. Robert will be watching you with the gun, and he
will kill you if you do not do as you promise."

"Give me the sacks," said Krishna, and bent his head to hide the light
of triumph in his eyes.

The mist stayed lifted as Krishna, King of the Gorilla-men, set forth
on the narrow path across the face of the cliff. Over his shoulders he
carried the sacks containing the drug tablets. Silently, Ki-Gor,
Helene and Robert watched him gain the other side of the cliff and
hesitate. A tall boulder stood beside the trail where it began to
broaden again.

With a quick movement, Krishna slipped the sacks off his shoulders.
And before the watchers down the trail realized what was happening, be
tossed the sacks over the edge of the cliffs, and dodged behind the
boulder. Ki-Gor shouted, and Robert fired, but not in time. The bullet
ricocheted off the protecting boulder, and a second later, three
shrill blasts of a whistle were heard.

"He's betrayed us!" Helene screamed. "He's commanding the gorilla-men
to come down and kill us!"

"We'll have to run!" Robert shouted. "I haven't got enough ammunition
left to hold em, off. Well have to go across the crater of the
volcano!"

"But there's only one chance in a hundred of our making it alive!"
Helen cried.

"Well, we ain't got even one chance, if we stay yere," Robert replied.

The gorilla-men were swarming down the trail, moving incredibly fast.
The whistle kept summoning them from behind the boulder.

"You run back to the fork," Robert shouted, "and I'll try, an' hold
'em, back long enough fo' you-all to git up to the crater."

"No!" said Ki-Gor. "We three are friends. We stay together."

The gorilla-men had reached the boulder, and Robert drew a bead on the
monster in the lead. But before he could fire, there was a shrill
scream of terror. It was the agonized voice of Krishna, the King of
the Gorillas. He had transgressed his own Law, and his subjects were
visiting the familiar punishment on him. Two great simians appeared
around the boulder. Each had one of Krishna's arms as he struggled
between them, pealing shriek after shriek. Then each gorilla pulled...

Even Ki-Gor's hardened nerves quivered, as the mist descended, drawing
a veil over the scene.

"Come!" said Ki-Gor, in a hoarse whisper, "they may not have seen us.
Let us run for the volcano crater, while there is time!"

The three turned and fled down the path. Ki-Gor hesitated a fraction
of a second when they reached the fork, then plunged up the volcano
trail.

It was rough going, and steep, and after a while, Helene stumbled and
gasped. Ki-Gor picked her up like a baby, and the flight was resumed.
Soon the mist lifted and they found themselves hurrying over black
laval rock. The ground underneath their feet trembled constantly.
Eventually, even Ki-Gor's tremendous endurance sagged, and they paused
to get their breath.

Robert clutched Ki-Gor's arm and pointed. Not far down the bleak
mountainside, the gorilla-men were patiently climbing after them.

The big Negro lifted his rifle and sighted down the barrel. But his
first shot had no effect. The difficult downhill angle had resulted in
the bullet going over the head of the target. Robert lowered his
sights, and a moment later the gorilla-man in the lead toppled over.

Still panting from the exertion of the uphill flight, the three
fugitives wearily continued their climb over the rough lava. They were
about a half-mile from the top, the rim of the crater. The pursuing
gorilla-men were less than a quarter of a mile behind them. How long,
thought Helene with a sob, could she and her protectors stay ahead of
the relentless man-apes?

Up and up they struggled. Robert paused every now and then to pick off
a gorilla-man. But the rest came on resolutely, and slowly the gap
between pursuers and pursued narrowed. Robert had killed nine, but
several of his bullets had missed, and his precious supply of
ammunition was running dangerously low. There were still twenty-six of
the monsters left--many more than there were bullets left in Robert's
pouch.

"If we--c'n jes' make it--to the top!" the big Negro panted. "Maybe we
c'n hold 'em off fer a little while."

They were a hundred yards from the top now, but the gorilla-men were
getting closer and closer. Ki-Gor lifted Helene in his arms, and,
calling on his last reserves of strength, sprinted desperately up the
steep incline. This can't be true, Helene thought dully--this is a
nightmare. If the gorilla-men don't get us, what will we do when we
get to the crater?

Four gigantic man-apes, slavering with rage were only ten yards
behind. Robert whirled and fired point-blank. A scream of pain died
out in a gurgle, and Robert fired again. A second gorilla-man fell.
Despairingly, Robert pulled the trigger again. It was his last bullet.
It reached its mark, but the last gorilla-man closed in on the Negro.
Robert eluded a swinging blow of the giant arm and pumped his aching
legs uphill. Above him, Ki-Gor was just gaining the crater's edge. The
jungle man shouted down a warning. Robert threw an agonized look over
his shoulder. The gorilla-man was almost upon him.

Gripping the rifle far down on the barrel, the Negro whirled and swung
the gun like a baseball bat. The butt crashed into the gorilla-man's
black face, and the monster reeled back. Lungs fighting for air,
Robert staggered toward the top, still gripping the shattered rifle.
He looked once more over his shoulder and groaned. He knew now that he
was never going to make it.

One more brute had come up and was reaching an immense arm out toward
him. Robert struck at it feebly with the rifle barrel, but the monster
bared its fangs in a horrible grin. Robert wanted to close his eyes to
death, but he couldn't.

Suddenly Ki-Gor was beside him, hacking and stabbing with the assegai.
Blood spouted from the gorilla-man's neck, as the jungle man struck
with, the strength of a demon. The monster roared and lurched back.
Then slowly and heavily it toppled over.

Ten seconds before the rest of the gorilla-men could reach them Ki-Gor
and Robert struggled over the rim of the crater. With Helene, they
poised on the edge of a sharp declivity for a moment. Then with hardly
a glance before them, ran, slipped, and slid down into the crater of
the volcano.

But that glance had been enough to show them that the volcano was
momentarily inactive. When they reached the bottom of the slope, Ki-
Gor looked back. Twenty gorilla-men stood in a row on the rim above
them. But not one of them made a move to follow.

"They are afraid!" Ki-Gor shouted exultantly. "They are afraid to come
down here after us!"

The three fugitives stood for a moment, dazed. It didn't seem possible
that they were, for the moment, safe. Around them stretched the black
desolation of the crater floor. Here and there thin columns of smoke
spiraled up from black cones--new little volcano craters within the
crater. The ground vibrated uneasily under them. But they were safe
from the gorillas!

"I can't believe it," Helene said, tremulously, "but we had better
hurry across this place before the volcano starts to act up."

"I don' know," said Robert, "if you dead, you dead. Don't matter if a
gorilla-man kill you, or a volcayno. Hey, and this yere ground is sho'
hot, too."

Already, Ki-Gor was dancing on the hot dried lava.

"Over there," he pointed to a break in the rim, half a mile across the
crater. "We go there and get out through that opening. Let us hurry."

"Wait a minute," said Robert, and ripped off the once-white shirt he
was wearing. Quickly, he tore it into strips. Then he bent down and
wrapped Ki-Gor's bare feet in the strips. He, himself, was wearing
shoes as was Helene, and he knew that Ki-Gor could not long stand the
heat of the crater-floor without some kind of foot covering.

With that operation over, the fugitives set forth. Behind them on the
rim, the gorilla-men were still standing. Robert made a last derisive
gesture and turned to follow Helene and Ki-Gor.

The ground continued to mutter, and the columns of smoke still stood
up from the little cones scattered about the crater. But that was the
limit of the volcano's activity. It was as if the mountain had a
personality, and was deliberately holding its fires until the weary
travelers could safely traverse the crater. Now and then, they had to
dodge jets of steam and boiling water that spouted up from cracks in
the lava. But by hastening their steps, they made it across the
shaking crater floor in a short time, and climbed safely up through
the wedge-shaped opening in the opposite side of the rim. Far back on
the other side, the gorilla-men were still standing in a baffled row.

Safe at last!

They were standing on the eastern slope of the volcanic peak, looking
eastward at a magnificent panorama of endless ranges of mountains.
Behind them the sun was setting in red glory. Suddenly the volcano
gave a menacing rumble. A dozen of the little cones in the crater
burst into action, shooting flames and black mud high into the air.
The trio looked at each other. A few short minutes before, they were
walking through the very spots where, now, molten lava and flaming
death were raining down. Ki-Gor stood up.



EPILOGUE

An hour later, the travelers were a safe distance down the
mountainside, looking for trees big enough to spend the night in. And
the next morning, greatly refreshed after a long night of undisturbed
sleep, they breakfasted on fruit, and headed eastward down the
mountain.

Late in the afternoon, they stepped out of the forest onto the sandy
shore of a vast blue lake.

"Oh! how beautiful!" Helene gasped. "I wonder where we are!"

But Ki-Gor was gripping her shoulder and pointing up the shore.

"What is that?" he exclaimed.

"I be dam' if that ain' a young battleship!" Robert cried. "Hey, let's
hail 'em."

Coming toward them, quite close in to shore, a long white-hulled boat
was gliding. Smoke poured from its single tall funnel.

Robert ran up the beach, shouting and waving his arms. As the boat
came abreast of him, several startled figures appeared on the single
deck. The water churned under the stern of the little vessel and it
slowed down. The deck swarmed with men in white, and a small boat was
lowered away. Ki-Gor watched fascinated as the gig, propelled by four
oarsmen, moved rapidly toward shore, and slid up on the beach.

A tall, blue-eyed young man in a white uniform stepped out of the
stern holding an automatic in his hand. An expression of bewilderment
came over his face as he beheld the white girl in tattered white robe,
the tall bronzed man in leopard-skin loincloth, and the huge Negro.

"Lord in Heaven!" said the stranger in English. "Who the deuce are
you, and where have you come from?"

Helene felt tears of relief coming into her eyes, and her voice was
unsteady as she replied, "We have come a long way. My name is Helene
Vaughn and this--"

"Helene Vaughn!" the young man shouted. "The lost American aviatrix!
Oh, I say, dash it all--this is extrawdnry! You've been more or less
given up for dead, you know. Oh, I say, this is a bit luck! I'm Sub-
Leftenant Tiverton of His Majesty's Sloop 'Rhododendron,' on duty here
on Lake Victoria. You must come aboard immediately and we'll make
arrangements to get you out to the Coast."

"Thank you," said Helene with a misty smile, "and will you take my
companions aboard, too? This is Ki-Gor. And this is Robert."

"Ki-Gor? Robert?" said the young officer, passing a hand over his
bewildered eyes, and staring first at one and then the other.

"Yassuh, Cap'n" said the Negro. "Robert Spelvin of Cincinnati, U.S.A.
An' I sho' could pile into some civilized vittles right now."

"Extrawdnry!" Sub-Leftenant Tiverton muttered. "Extrawdnry!"

Ki-Gor moved forward and touched the dazed young man on the shoulder.

"Are you N-Glush?" he said, shyly.

"N-Glush?" replied the young man, stupidly. "Oh, English! Oh, yes!
Rather. You know, I'm awf'ly sorry, old man, but I don't think I quite
caught your name."

Ki-Gor stepped back without answering. A smile lighted up his bronzed
face. He liked the looks of this blue-eyed young man. And yet even
then he knew he would never go back to his people. His home was the
jungle, and there he would stay.



THE END




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