No one should fall into the hands of the Untula. Those words spoken months ago by Omekono’s brother .. spoken with sadness .. his head shaking in total disbelief of how his animated brother could have had his will so destroyed .. for Tarzan they had become uncannily prophetic.
It had all come tumbling back into Tarzan’s memory. His first meeting with Omekono, their days together spent hunting. Tarzan’s admiration for the vigour of Omekono. And his pledge to dedicate himself to justice in his jungle. In homage to Tarzan.
Fallen into their hands. Weeks in the clutches of the Untula. And what a change when Omekono had returned home. Less than a shadow of himself. An empty husk. Gone mad. Tortured out of his wits. “No one should fall into their hands”.
Prophetic words from Omekono’s brother. Sat around the embers of the fire. Sitting with that empty muscular husk. Head-turning physique. Now condemned to living a life worse than death. Emptiness. Folly to land in Untula clutches.
“And what would lure Mzanka back? To revisit the city?”
The chief’s words .. this Untula chief, muscled, looking like his torso had been carved out of stone .. his question ripped Tarzan’s thoughts back to the present. Away from Omekono’s predicament. Back to Tarzan’s own predicament.
“What could we do to induce Mzanka to cast his eyes in our direction again? And grace us with his presence?”
It was just Tarzan and the chief with the priest in the shrine. Plus a few burly guards blocking the exit. Others had dragged Wright off. To milk him free of his seed. Now Tarzan had remembered Omekono’s story, he understood what they were on about. Wright was a fresh man-seed. To be pumped dry, consumed, mixed with the warrior potion. Supposedly it built them up into the supreme warrior race. Physiques unmatched in the jungle. Some odd cult.
They’d whipped Wright away. Going to pump him dry, continually. Until came the feast of the brave. When Wright would be sacrificed. Good riddance. The jungle would be a better place.
But what about him? Why were they so impressed that Tarzan was called King of the jungle. And what was that about offering him as body-slave to this overlord of theirs? A worthy servant to this Mzanka.
Ironic. Tarzan remembered his anger at seeing Omekono destroyed. Tortured for his secret. To be offered to this self-same overlord. Tarzan had felt disgusted at the abominations they had done to Omekono’s mind. He had determined their Mzanka needed putting in his place. And Tarzan was just the one to do it.
Ironic. It seemed he needed to be careful what he wished for ……
Tarzan had long been wondering who this Mzanka was. He now recognised the name, from Omekono’s tragic story. Clearly this tribe put great weight by having him reside with them .. on winning his favours. Was he some great chief? A powerful jungle emperor? He had earlier “graced” to the tribe. But .. Tarzan trying to piece things together .. it seemed when the Untula could not offer Omekono up, when he escaped .. this tetchy Mzanka had turned his back on the tribe. They had fallen out of favour. For the tribe, exiled from his favours, life had gone downhill. They craved for Mzanka to return to them, to accept their blind allegiance to him. They wanted nothing more than to attract him back. And the King of the jungle was to be their means?
So far Tarzan had stood unspeaking. Too intent on trying to fathom out what was going on here. His memories of Omekono’s fate rushing back into his thoughts. But earlier Tarzan had picked up on some worrying words. He recalled them now. Sacrifice. Body-slave. Serve Mzanka’s every lust and desire.
“What the hell you on about?”
Tarzan blurted out his anger and confusion.
“What do you want with Tarzan?”
Chief and priest, the pair of them twisted their heads over at Tarzan. In shock at him talking out. Astonished it seemed that he had a voice. He had been a toy, a puppet. Not some live human-being with a will of his own.
A blow silenced Tarzan’s outburst. One of the guards slammed his club sideways. It caught Tarzan hard in the belly. It doubled him up. Knocked the wind out of him. But rising back up, his elbow slammed backwards into the attacker. Caught him on the hip. Surprised him and sent him careening to the floor.
Instantly the other guard raised his club. But Tarzan had already been expecting that. Twisting, his shoulder caught him in the chest. Knocked him back on his backside.
Already the guards by the door were racing forwards. Tarzan turned to meet the attack as one launched into the air. Tarzan caught his arms and, using the warrior’s weight, he threw him over his own head. Three attackers smacked into him at the same time. Falling into a huddle of fighting arms and legs on the paved floor.
The chief eyed Tarzan when the overpowering forces fighting back had subdued him.
“An exceptional man with guts. Undaunted. Fearless …..”
The tussle on the ground had been one-sided, Tarzan greatly out-numbered. But still it had taken some effort and many blows from their clubs to crush his fight.
The priest nodded in Tarzan’s direction.
“THAT will draw him in. A supreme fighting spirit ….”
Tarzan was on his knees. A warrior had him firm by the hair. Two others stood breathing down his neck, their clubs ready. Tarzan was hurting, he’d taken a couple of stunning clubs to the head. Panting hard, dishevelled, hair clinging to his face. But he glared angrily back up at the chief.
“Answer me. What you want with Tarzan?”
The chief didn’t reply. But he didn’t look angered by Tarzan’s outburst. Almost seemingly pleased by the show of undaunted spirit.
He was pointed back at Tarzan.
THAT .. that is a spirit worthy of Mzanka.”
The priest was nodding. Agreeing.
“A worthy sacrifice. An offering above all others. An impeccable body-slave.”