It was the last thing Nguana had expected to see. The cry was out before he could stop himself. “Korak!” His friend strung upside-down. Here. In this village. Where the monsters lived.
He had learned better. The less these freaks knew about him the better. But seeing his friend strung-up in this village .. Nguana had not expected to see that. He’d not expected to see any friendly face ever again .. in what remained of his life.
He winced as Korak took another hard blow to the gut. The force of a club across his midriff made him double up. Then gravity grabbed him again. Hung by the feet off a branch of a tree. The blow hurt. But it still didn’t stop Korak grabbing out for a warrior .. landing a punch on his leg. Not effective from this angle. But a mark of defiance still.
In return for the attack, the warrior with the club smacked it hard across Korak’s ribs. The force swung him. The hurt made Korak yell out and curse.
Again Nguana should have known better. To betray any closeness between them spelled out risk. But he couldn’t stop himself. This was Korak. And he was getting hurt. But he SHOULD have known better. Nguana had learned. Speak when questioned. And then only Yes or No.
As if on signal the chief twisted his head over and him and glowered. Nguana tensed. He’d learned the meaning of that look. The welts on his back bore testimony. The chief glared at him. And then he flashed his gaze back at Korak.
He pointed to his feet. Nguana knew what to do. His back could almost feel the sting of another lash biting into his back.
Korak had twisted over at the shout. He’d recognised Nguana’s voice. But he was shocked to see his friend walk over to the chief, go down on hands-and-knees and bow. His forehead touching the ground at the chief’s feet. A cane slashed down. Burning pain lashed Nguana from waist to shoulder. Korak saw the muscled body tremble .. shaken by stinging pain. But Nguana remained down. Submissive to the punishment.
“This where you’ve been hiding out, bro?”
For talking out of turn, Korak saw the club whooshing through the air. He tensed his midriff. But the shock still sent him swinging. The grunt of pain had to escape. But more important, he had found that Nguana was still alive.
“Great company you keep!”
The punishing blow for insolence across his chest made Korak yell out. Best keep his mouth shut. He had to find out what Nguana had been up to, he could see he’d been having the hell beaten out of him. Mouthing off was not going to help.
He was surprised to see his friend going down on his knees .. submissive as a lamb. Not the friend he knew. Taking a punishing blow across his back. Subjugating himself like this. Korak understood the criss-cross of nasty welts daubed on the bent back. Nguana had taken a lot of punishment. He had learned to submit. To avoid weakening punishment. Where was his stong-willed impetuous friend? What had they done to him?
Korak took Nguana’s lead. He twisted himself around, craned his neck. Watching. Learning from his friend .. that seemed the wise thing to do.