He’d found no strength to resist. But as they dragged him out towards the opening Tarzan was conscious of a blistering heat. Like they were hauling him towards a baking oven. A heat that robbed his weakened torso of the last vestiges of strength.
The heat hit him like a club. Dragged between warriors, the light tortured his sight, eyes crushed together. Punched by heat like a hard blow across the back of his shoulders. Hit by the force of the sun like a fist broken across his neck. Struggling to breath .. taking in overheated air .. taking his breath away.
Outside at least. In the sun. Daylight .. at last. Not strung out on the wheel! Taken outside.
Sharp slaps across his face. Tarzan reeled under the force of the blows. Stinging strikes made him cry out, shocking him. Yanking him back to reality, their reality, a sudden pained awareness. The agony of his torso. The weakness in his legs. Through the watery veil, he vaguely recognised a shape. Blinking his confusion out of his head, the blurriness seemed to take on a shape. Now conscious that his head was held up by a hand gripping him by the hair.
Another stinging blow. Tarzan’s anger ripped away the veil of his weakness. It was that priest. He had Tarzan gripped by the scalp. Slapping him back to their cruel reality. That priest .. well-built .. like any fighting man .. glaring into his face.
Tarzan seethed. Character overpowered his crippling weakness.
“What the hell is this all about?”
The priest ignored him.
“Keep him awake. No drifting off.”
The priest warned Tarzan’s guards.
“Mzanka will draw near. Drawn by his pain. Be ready!”
Tarzan’s survival instincts registered his predicament. He was fixed to an upright post. Arms tied to a crossbar above his head. And his legs were fixed. Spread-open. Tied to a pole behind this ankles.
“Your damned Mzanka. Bring him. Tell that damned fool Tarzan has words for him.”
He saw the priest suddenly freeze. Through the tight grip in his hair, he sensed the tension. At his curse. Damning their precious Mzanka. Tarzan readied himself. He tensed. Expecting a punch. Reprisals.
But the priest let his head go. He took a couple of steps back. Stretching out his arms. Welcoming. Addressing the air.
“Do you hear? Mzanka? This offering .. he challenges you …..”
The look he threw at Tarzan was pure mockery. As if the priest was putting Tarzan right. In any confrontation with Mzanka this feeble King of the jungle did not stand a chance.
“Is he not worthy? This King of the jungle. Mzanka, see. Listen, he challenges you. Return. Show him. Take this madman on.”
For hours they left him. The blistering heat had quickly drained Tarzan’s body of all sweat. Stood exposed against a post .. strung-out under a merciless sun. Tarzan stood. Positioned close to a mud-brick wall. The heat radiating back at him like a furnace. Sapping him of strength. Grinding him down.
Merciless the rays of the sun singed like flames upon his shoulders .. stinging at his skin .. fried out his head. He hung, helpless .. he roasted. He slumped. Mindlessly strung-out. No reprieve, no let-up. No rest.
He’d fainted. The heat had sapped his muscular body of every last bit of strength. This ordeal by the sun had robbed his mind of fighting spirit. He’d collapsed .. tortured out of his skin.
Painstakingly the warriors slapped him back. Stinging blows to his face. Numerous slaps before his spirit answered back. But in time nothing could keep him awake. A night on the wheel. A day under the sun. His reeling senses fought back against their efforts. His tortured spirit raced back for oblivion.
But his guards had their orders. Mzanka would be near. Observing. Mzanka would scent the offering’s suffering, the priest had told them so. He had made them responsible. For this seed-slave attracting Mzanka back. For that this slave had to suffer. Prolonged suffering to draw Mzanka back to them. Ache, hurt, agonise. Awake, he had to be awake, conscious. Drawing the might Mzanka in.
They beat him, punched him back awake. Stay awake. Suffer to give off the scent .. pain, suffering, exhaustion, sweat. Every waking moment tortured. His pains drawing him in. Appealing for Mzanka to return.
Again the damned fool hung senseless off his crossbar. They slapped him back. Stinging hits across his face. To draw Mzanka in .. lured back by this suffering. Drawn back to judge. Was this King of the jungle a worthy offering? Would he look graciously on their tribe again?
Only Mzanka could decide.