Altar of the flaming god

This happened at a time when Tarzan turned from a closed door to continue his journey to the outside world. The change came without warning. For a moment everything was quiet and unshakable – the next moment the whole world swayed, the twisted walls of the narrow corridor cracked and crumbled, large boulders of granite came off the roof and fell into a narrow gorge blocking it, and the walls bent inward over the ruins. From the onslaught of a rake detached from the roof, Tarzan slid back toward the treasure room door. He pushed it open with his weight and his body rolled to the floor of the chamber.

In the large room where the treasure was placed, the earthquake caused less damage. A few ingots derailed from the top of the stack, one piece came off the stone roof and crushed to the floor, and the walls cracked, though not collapsed.

There was only one tremor; the second did not come to supplement the damage caused by the first. Werper, who had flown on his back from the suddenness and severity of the rumble, stood up when he found himself unharmed. As he groped toward the other end of the room, he looked for the candle Tarzan had left behind, attaching it to the protruding edge of a ingot with melted wax.

Scratching several matches, the Belgian finally found the object he was looking for, and when the pale rays a moment later dissipated the black and black night around him, he let out a nervous sigh of relief as the impenetrable darkness had added to the horror of his situation.

As his eyes got used to the light, he turned his gaze toward the door — now his only thought was to get away from this creepy tomb — and then he saw the body of a naked giant on the long floor just in front of the doorway. Werper retreated, fearing he would appear, but another glance made him think the Englishman was dead. From the gaping wound at the man’s head, a whole puddle had leaked on the cement floor.

The Belgian quickly jumped over the protruding figure of his former master, and without thinking of helping a man who, to his knowledge, could still have a spirit, he plunged into the corridor and to the rescue.

But his renewed hopes were soon disappointed. Individual doorway on the other side, he found impenetrable heaps, which totally shut down and blocked the road. He turned again and re-entered the vault. Taking the candle in his hand, he began to systematically examine the room and had not gotten far before inventing another door at the opposite end of the room, which crouched open from the weight of his body. There was a new narrow passage behind the door. To this Werper leaped, then ascended the stone steps to another corridor, which was twenty feet higher than the first. The fluttering candlelight showed him the way, and a moment later he was grateful to have this rough and old-fashioned means of lighting that he had looked down on a few hours earlier; for it showed him a gaping gap at the last moment; it apparently ended the tunnel through which he proceeded.

In front of him was a round cavity like a manhole. He held the candle above it and peeked down. Below, he saw, from a long distance, light reflected from the surface of a pool of water. He had met the source. He raised a candle over his head and stared over the black hole, facing the opposite side of the tunnel. But how would he get over the gap?

As he stood there, measuring the distance to the other side and apricot, dare to take such a long cut, echoed a sudden piercing in his ears, which gradually faded, ending with miserable cries of complaint. The sound felt semi-human, yet so creepy that it could very well come from the tortured throat of a soul twisted in the fire of hell.

The Belgian trembled, and he stared fearfully upward, for a shout had seemed to come from above him. Looking up, he saw an opening high above his head and a little sky and shining stars from it.

The awful glow had destroyed his half-intention to cry out for help — human beings where there were such noises could not live there. He did not dare to reveal himself to the inhabitants of the place above him. He cursed himself when he had taken on such a task at all. He hoped to re-enter Ahmet Zek’s camp safely and would have almost agreed to surrender to the Congolese military if he had thus done so in his current terrible state.

He listened in fear, but the cry did not recur, and eventually, resorting to a desperate means, gathered his courage to jump across the abyss. Going back twenty steps, he took the momentum and jumped up and forward from the edge of the spring, trying to get to the opposite side.

In his hand he squeezed a fluttering candle and as he jumped the airflow turned it off. He flew through space in pitch black, aiming with his hands for something to grab if his feet didn’t hit the invisible other edge of the abyss.

He knelt on his knees at the edge of the floor on the opposite side of the rock tunnel, slid backwards, groping desperately for a moment desperately in support, and finally hung halfway inside the tunnel opening and half outside. But he was still safe. He did not dare to move for many minutes, but hung weak and sweating where he had been left. Eventually, he gently pulled himself into the tunnel and lay on the long floor again, trying to recover from the shock of his nerves.

By the time his knees had hit the edge of the tunnel, he had dropped a candle. Hoping for all that it had fallen to the floor of the hallway and not to the depths of the well, he soon got up on his hands and feet and began carefully looking for a small firecracker that now seemed infinitely more valuable to him than the fairytale riches of all Opar’s gold bars.

And when he finally found it, he pressed it against his chest and sank to the floor, sobbing and exhausted. For many minutes he lay there trembling and broken. But eventually he rose to his seat, taking a match from his pocket, lighting the remaining piece of candle. After receiving the light, he found it easier to calm his nerves, and soon he again proceeded along the tunnel, looking for an access path. The terrible glow that had been heard from above from the old mining hole still bothered him, so that he trembled in horror when he heard the sounds of his own careful passage.

He had made only a short way forward when his resentment came against a brick wall that blocked his progress, that when he completely closed the tunnel to all sides. What could that mean? Werper was a civilized and intelligent man. His military upbringing had taught him to use his reason for the purpose for which it was intended. This kind of closed tunnel was nonsense. The tunnel had to continue on the other side of the wall. Someone had sometimes blocked it in the past for a reason that was impossible to guess. The man began to look at the wall by candlelight. He noticed to his delight that the thin bricks carved out of stone from which it had been made joined together loosely without mortar or cement.

He snatched a stone and found, to his delight, that it was easily moved. He removed the stones one after the other until he had made an opening so large that it could fit his body, and then crawled into a large low room. At the other end, the door closed his way again, but that too opened up from his efforts, for it was not locked. A long dark corridor now came before him, but before he had come a long way, he burned to the end of his candle, scorching his fingers. Reaching the curse, he dropped it on the floor, where it fluttered for a moment and went out.

He groped slowly forward, feeling the walls of the tunnel with his hands and gently moving his feet on the floor before daring to take a single step. He couldn’t say how far he crept that way, but in the end, feeling that the tunnel was infinitely long, and tired of his efforts, horror, and lack of sleep, he decided to land long and rest before going any further again.

When he awoke, no change was seen in the surrounding darkness.
He might have been lying for a second or an entire day – he didn’t know it.
But the fact that he felt refreshed and hungry
showed that he had indeed slept for some time.
He started fumbling forward again, but this time he had only progressed a short distance when he got into a room where light could enter from an opening in the ceiling. From this opening extended a cement staircase to the floor of the room.

From the vortex, Werper could see the sun reflected on sturdy pillars surrounded by meandering vines. He listened, but heard no sound but the rustle of the wind in the leafy branches, the hoarse cries of the birds, and the rattles of the maracas.

He climbed up the stairs boldly and found himself in a round courtyard. Right in front of him was a stone altar with rusty brown spots. At that moment, Werper did not even try to explain the origin of these stains – later their significance became all too horrible.

With the exception of the opening in the floor just behind the altar, from which the Belgian had entered the courtyard from below the underground chamber, he saw several doors leading out of the courtyard, being level with the floor. Upstairs there were a number of open balconies around the circular courtyard on every side. Monkeys jumped among the deserted ruins, and brilliantly colored birds flew here and there between the poles and balconies high above his head, but there was no sign of human presence. Werper felt relieved. He sighed as if a large weight had been removed from his shoulders. He took a step towards one of the doors and then stopped, eyes of astonishment and horror on his back, for almost at the same time a dozen doors opened in the courtyard wall and a herd of terrifying men rushed at him.

They were the priests of the flaming god of Opar, the same tangled, nodular, and ugly little men who had dragged Jane Clayton to the sacrificial altar just this year ago. Their long arms, their flimsy nasty eyes, and low, backward-sloping foreheads made them look so animalistic that the convulsive horror of a crippling horror shook the Belgian’s shocked nerves.

Reaching the exclamation, he turned to escape to the less horrific shelter of the gloomy corridors and rooms he had just come from, but terrible men thwarted his intention. They blocked the road and grabbed him, and though he fell to the ground and crawled on his knees in front of them prayed for them to save his life, they bound him and threw him on the floor of the inner temple.

The end was just a recap of what Tarzan and Jane Clayton had experienced. The priestesses came and were accompanied by the high priestess La. Werper was lifted from the ground and placed on the altar. Cold sweat erupted from his every pore as La raised his cruel sacrificial knife over him. The song of death belonged to his tortured ears, and his staring eyes shifted to golden cups, from which terrible victims would soon quench his inhuman thirst with his own warm heart blood.

He hoped he would be given a brief moment of ignorance before the sharp knife blade finally struck – then suddenly there was a creepy roar that echoed almost in his ear. The high priest lowered his dagger. His eyes widened in horror. The priestesses, her maids, screamed and fled madly towards the doors. The priests shouted in rage or horror if everyone had the courage. Werper turned his neck to see the cause of their escape horror, and when he finally noticed it, fear shook him as well, for his eyes met the figure of an immense lion standing in the middle of the temple — one victim already lying scratched between its cruel nails.

The lord of the wilderness roared again, turning his evil predictive gaze toward the altar. La fidgeted forward, staggered and fell faint over Werper.