Chasing down a ghost
Omekono? So that was what had been jangling at the back of Tarzan’s mind. The name that wouldn’t come to him. Was he the Runaway? In all the strain of standing up to this pair, it had stayed irritatingly at the back of his mind. Omekono. Tarzan remembered. A fine brave young man.
And then there had been that last time. Tarzan’s last meeting with Omekono. After he had got away. Run away. So this was the tribe that had held him captive? A lost tribe, fearsome warriors. What did Omekono say they were called?
It couldn’t be, could it? That same tribe? In all this jungle?. Too much of a coincidence. But how many tribes extracted manseed and feasted on it? Thoughts tumbled like crazy through Tarzan’s head. Painful memories .. rushing into his mind .. madly tumbling over each over. Fuelled by a nervous rush of blood. Remembering. Painful memories.
Omekono’s stories. About the tribe that had held him captive, tormented him. Tortured him. Nearly killed him. And now they held Tarzan captive. Nothing in those stories of that proud strong young man gave Tarzan any reason to breathe easily.
A mighty warrior like Omekono. Famously fearless, knew no fears. Resilience and manliness oozed out of every pore. But his story resonated with utter fear. Weeks with this tribe. He had escaped death by the skin of his teeth. But terrors had pursued him through life. Terrified he’d fall back into their hands. And now Tarzan had.
Tarzan noticed his heartbeat, it had increased, the pulse in his ear was racing. With his nervousness. Had he too fallen into their hands? The tribe that had terrorised that fearless young chief? It couldn’t be. They’d as good as tortured the man out of his skin. Destroyed the man. Could Tarzan’s luck have run out? Omekono had been returned terrified. And the Omekono Tarzan had met was not a man easily daunted.
This fresh awareness burning in his head, Tarzan watched the exchange between priest and chief. Trying to listen in .. understand, assess .. while a turmoil of questions raged in his head.
“What would it take to lure Mzanka back to us?”
The chief was talking to his priest. But his eyes were not leaving Tarzan’s physique for one moment. Tarzan could still feel those invisible clammy fingers stroking him. Hot and greedy over the muscles of his belly. Squeezing on the solid power in his chest. Creepy.
“It is the festival of the brave in two days,” the priest answered. Tarzan noticed the priest too was examining him. But he was frowning .. as if he too was still trying to understand where the chief was going with this.
“Mzanka was always at the heart of the feast. HIS feast,” the priest concluded. “That would be a propitious time. If he was listening. A celebration devoted to the awe of his might. Our best warriors re-dedicating themselves to Mzanka’s rule.”
The chief was shaking his head, he was not getting his answer.
“Not when. WHAT? What would induce Mzanka to bestow his approval on us again?”
The chief sounded testy. Like he was irritated his priest could not see what he was seeing.
“WHAT is it that would induce Mzanka to visit us again? Admit us back into his fold? Accept our service again to his rule? Return Mzanka’s blessings on the tribe?”
The priest shrugged as if the answer was obvious.
“A worthy sacrifice.”
The chief’s eyes were devouring Tarzan now.
He was nodding slowly, earnestly. His face ablaze with his idea.
“A sacrifice worthy of his mighty name. A KING.”
The chief’s hands were out-stretched towards the captive Tarzan.
“A king subject to his will. If we offered Mzanka a KING …. A King bonded to serve …..”
Tarzan had felt a shiver down his backbone at the word “sacrifice”. The chief‘s passionate gaze over his front was taking on the look of someone obsessed. It was creepy. He felt like the hands of a man sick in the head were mauling the hard plates on his chest. Hair-raising. He shivered involuntary.
“To serve him. Mzanka. A KING. Offered. A bondsman to furnish his every desire.”
The chief’s hands were stretched out in front. Encompassing Tarzan’s strongly built form. They glided up-and-down. As if framing the muscular power kneeling before him.
“A king. Bound to labour. KING of the jungle. Bound to serve.”
His finger jabbed at Tarzan’s front.
“This KING. Here.”
The priest cocked his head sideways. Frowning, examining Tarzan’s physique over and over again.
“But … compared to the Runaway .. this Tarzan .. he does not compare. Not the body. Not as eye-catching .. not as well-built as that Runaway ……”
So Tarzan WAS right. This had been the tribe of fearsome warriors. It was from Omekono he had heard of the tribe that feasted on men’s seed, he remembered now. And true, Omekono had been broader, heftier too. So this tribe .. what WAS their name? .. had they been meaning to make a sacrifice of Omekono too? And now they had him, Tarzan. Planning on making Tarzan their sacrifice? Who was the Mzanka they raved about?
Dismissively the chief rejected the priest’s protest.
“That Runaway was a man. A chief. He was not a KING.”
The chief was nodding grimly.
“When he ran off .. before we could unlock that secret ..….. “
Tarzan was getting knots in his guts. He didn’t understand half of what was going on. But words like sacrifice .. Tarzan’s memories of Omekono when he returned .. shudders passed down Tarzan’s spine. This was not a tribe into whose hands you wanted to fall …….
“Mzanka was promised. Offered great hopes. Then that Runaway escaped. Promises broken. Mzanka has since denied his blessings …… refused the service of warriors dedicated to him.“
An angry scowl covered the chief’s face.
“A dark day.”
The chief stabbed at the air .. with passion.
Indicating the man forced to his knees who inspired a tempting prospect.
“Look at him. Can you not feel it? Not a man, this one. More. Much more.”
His eyes burned into Tarzan’s chest.
“Here is the might of kingship. I sense it. I feel it.”
His gaze was open-wide. Aroused. Aflame with the possibilities he foresaw.
“To win Mzanka back for us. Offered up to win his favours back. Sacrificing to him the might and authority of a king. Offered to Mzanka to serve. To provide for Mzanka’s every demand.”
Nerves shivered down Tarzan’s legs .. increasingly uncomfortable at the wildness that had taken hold of the chief’s face.
“Here. THIS man. This King of the jungle. Think of it ……”
It was as if Tarzan felt the greedy look of the chief gulped him down.
“A chance to entice Mzanka back. To bless the devotion of his warriors again …..
Tarzan felt like he was being looked over by a rabid dog.
“THIS … no better offering. A KING. To be Mzanka’s bondsman.”
The chief’s face was aflame with the thought. Trembling at the prospect.
“Luring Mzanka’s blessings back. With the offering of the King of the jungle.”