Tarzan was panting his wind back. Held down by the scalp on his knees. Beaten to his knees, head ringing from the blows to his head. But angry. Undeterred by the increasing menace surrounding him in this shrine. He returned the chief’s cold gaze with a look as muscular as his torso.
It seemed their precious Mzanka had abandoned them. Omekono had fled, their prized offering to Mzanka lost. He’d turned his back on them. And the tribe wanted his protection back. Craved to offer him their allegiance. They now had Tarzan. He was to be their offering .. in return for Mzanka accepting their loyalty.
But first they had to get a message to him. Inviting him to visit .. so they could offer him the new body-slave, Tarzan. So Tarzan was to meet this bastard in whose name they had destroyed Omekono’s life? Tarzan was to get his wish to deal with the monster, after all.
“Feast of the brave. That is his time.”
The priest too was now devouring Tarzan with his eyes.
“Mzanka’s presence was always strongest then.”
The priest was looking at the Mzanka’s new body-slave .. down on his knees, still getting his wind back, still shaking the blows from his body. Their offering. The best they could imagine. King of the jungle as offering to Mzanka’s every desire.
“Even in these last barren years, I have sensed of his presence at the feast. Watching. Observing us. But not gracing us with his presence.”
None of this Mzanka-stuff was making any sense to Tarzan.
“Who is this Mzanka? Bring him to me. He will answer to me.”
The warrior holding Tarzan by the hair bawled out.
His hand smacked Tarzan hard across the back of his head. Setting off again the ringing from the thuds to his head. A club whooshed downwards. Tarzan took a hard thwack across his shoulder.
Undaunted he tried to shake the hold on him off. But the grip in his hair only twisted pain into his scalp.
“Tarzan will see this Mzanka,” he shouted back. “Make him answer to me.”
After Tarzan had taken another hard blow, the chief turned to him.
“Never fear, King of the jungle. You will meet with Mzanka. You will serve him. Serve his every need.”
Tarzan snorted back.
“Serve? Slave? Tarzan is NO man’s slave.”
The chief laughed back in Tarzan’s face.
“Fool! Mzanka is no mere man. Mzanka is greater than any man.”
He saw the questioning frown on Tarzan’s face.
“And you WILL serve. Believe me .. KING OF THE JUNGLE. No choice. For your wretched spirit, there is no choice.”
His head turned to the priest.
“Feast of the brave. Perfect.”
His head briefly swerved towards Tarzan’s muscular physique. Rapaciously taking in the shredded his shoulders, the tight stretch of strength across his chest. His eyes also muttered, Perfect.
“So what can we do? How to entice Mzanka to grace our devotions again?”
His question was interrupted.
“What does that mean?”
Tarzan growled back his growing fury. The chief flashed angry his gaze back on Tarzan’s interruption. His features saying a slave did not speak out of turn. But Tarzan knew he would never be another’s slave. Head up, chin out, he sneered back. On his knees, head ringing from the blows .. but every fibre in him sending back the message. He was now cowed. He wanted answers.
“Greater than any man? Who the hell is he?”
Angrily the chief turned on the guards.
“He makes one more sound .. silence him.”
And from the look on his face .. from the stories Omekono had told .. Tarzan had no doubt they would. But PATIENCE. He cautioned himself. If he wanted to be ready for any eventuality .. for whatever they might be doing to him .. he had to learn more. Find out what they were up to. More about this monster Mzanka. And fast. Better he listen in than get beaten senseless. He held his tongue. From Omekono’s stories, he knew this tribe was cruel and ruthless. Whatever they might do with him, he had better be prepared.
The chief repeated his question to the priest. Now visibly becoming increasingly impatient with getting no answer back. And this damned slave keeping interrupting.
“WHAT will induce Mzanka to visit us again?”
Tarzan’s eyes too were on the priest .. guessing he’d be playing a part in this meeting. The meeting with Mzanka he’d once wished on himself. The priest looked serious. It had to be a new one, Omekono had snapped their priest’s neck. Maybe this new one was still establishing himself, he looked nervous under the chief’s fierce gaze. He pondered.
“Suffering. Nothing draws out Mzanka like raw pain. He sniffs out suffering like men are lured to the smell of roasting pig.”
His head turned on Tarzan.
“An offering’s suffering wafting in the air .. his pain calling out to him. Unwillingly and hideously offered up in tribute.”
Greedy eyes settled on Tarzan.
“That would draw Mzanka’s attention this way.”
Tarzan felt uneasy by the way the chief was now looking him over. He had hardly taken his eyes off Tarzan. Up and down. Passing over the strong muscled body. But now there was a harsher shade to his gaze. Steely, cold. Assessing. Weighing him up. Sizing him up .. what he could take.
“Nothing like raw pain draws out Mzanka …..”
Unmoving his chilly gaze bored into Tarzan’s eyes .. like he was digging deep inside .. clawing away for his soul.
“Pain unwillingly and hideously offered up …..”
The chief nodded. Slowly to himself. Tarzan sensed the chief had made a decision.
The chief eyed the six guards. His head gestured. Away.
“Take him. Put him on the wheel.”