I’d give it all up, the new chief had said .. to have my brother back. Tarzan was trying to understand the change that had come over Omekono. “What happened?”
He had come to visit the tribe. He’d made quite a diversion. Tarzan had had business way from his usual neck of the jungle. Here was a chance to meet up with that charismatic young man again.
Three days they had spent together … what was it, a year ago? After a time, the hero-worship had been dropped. Though .. despite Tarzan’s efforts .. despite the obvious magnetic nature of the man .. still young Omekono had been reluctant to be treated as Tarzan’s equal. Loath to see himself as worthy of standing proud and strong beside the role-model he had set himself.
But a few days’ hunting together .. challenging each other swimming across a river .. competing to bag the biggest catch .. normal manly rivalries .. finally Tarzan had got Omekono to let him climb off the high platform on which he had set him. They became equals, friends.
“He disappeared,” the older brother answered. “No. He was ambushed. Kidnapped. Then he was gone.”
A presence as dominant and muscular as Omekono, their new chief .. his absence from the tribe would leave a big hole.
The sight had shocked Tarzan on seeing Omekono. Physically the young warrior was the same man. That broad muscular chest .. the incomparable strength in his stomach. But the light had gone out. Internally Omekono was not even a flicker of his former self. Withdrawn. Enclosed inside his mind. Like his spirit had been expunged.
The chief looked across the campfire at his younger brother. Tarzan could see the sadness in every muscle of the chief’s body .. mourning for what had become of this proud warrior.
“Out hunting .. with a couple of friends. Suddenly set upon. By complete strangers. We are a tribe of fighters .. the three of them were used to winning. But the attackers were exceptionally strong, outstandingly well-built, striking. And they were out-numbered three-to-one. But it was Omekono they went for. He didn’t stand a chance ……”
The chief sighed. He took a swig of the strong liquor. The rest of the village was at sleep. But it seemed to Tarzan that this chief, Omekono’s older brother .. he had to get something off his chest. He was in the mood to talk.
“He’d have fought like a wildcat .. I know him. But they were on to him, massively overwhelmed, out-punched. They beat Omekono into submission. They knocked him out …..”l
The brother laughed to himself.
“ … probably the only way to keep him down …..”
Then Tarzan saw him glance back at Omekono. That long sad look came back over him. The brother sighed. Tarzan knew what he was thinking. THIS Omekono .. eye-catchingly muscled .. broad-backed .. you could knock THIS Omekono down with a feather. No fight in him.
“They took him away .. only Omekono. We thought it was like these men were issuing a warning. They had kidnapped our best. Left the dregs. But anytime they felt like it .. they could come back. Snatch whosoever they wanted. Like they’d kidnapped Omekono to give out a threat. Like they meant to keep that warning hanging over us ……”
Tarzan understood. He’d come across such bullying tactics before. The brother kept shaking his head.
“HIs friends finally released themselves from their ropes .. as the kidnappers knew they would. And brought their message back to us.”
The older brother was clearly at a loss. Not wanting to believe how fortunes had changed. He had been passed over .. Omekono chosen by the tribe as chief .. for the way he looked .. for his charisma .. for the leadership his muscular spirit had promised. And then he’d been kidnapped. The benefits his leadership had promised had been wrenched away. And when he’d come back, Omekono was like the walking dead. How life had ambushed them both!
“We looked everywhere. Omekono had disappeared. No trace.”
The older brother was now chief. But his kid brother, Omekono .. virile, a born leader, ferocious warrior .. whose manly spirit had burned with a will to fight injustice .. taking Tarzan’s gutsiness for his role-model .. kidnapped. Spirited away by an unknown force of muscular warriors. That charismatic power disappeared in a puff of muscled smoke.
Now Omekono had returned. And look at him ……