Despite himself, Tarzan was panting. Gulping air back down to calm himself. His broad chest heaving, the muscled torso rocking out the pain. A trickle of sweat ran off his hair down the back of his neck. A cruel awareness of his weakened predicament had been slashed out of his skin.
The effect on his body was mind breaking. Three times that thick leather strap had slammed across Tarzan’s bare back. How many times in his adventurous life had someone broken pain across that muscular expanse? Normally Tarzan knew how to contain such pains.
But his body had been immovably stressed out over that box. For hours. Cramped up. Muscle, joints, sinews locked up in pain. The shockwaves of torture from those hits on his muscled back had sizzled through flesh .. it had been agonising. Pain had sprung in an instant to his eyes. The piercing yell of shock reverberated tortured through every shuddering muscle.
Tarzan frowned at the muscle-stud’s pronouncement.
He frowned at that one word. A word that had menaced his earlier time in these cellars. Pain was still howling a song of agony in his flesh as he learnt over the box. At first the shrieking pains did not allow him to register what the young man had said. He was still head down, unwilling to reveal his quandary to the conceited triumph attempting to dominate Tarzan .. hiding the tortures that creased up his face. Hiding the stream of red hot tears.
Still Tarzan was refusing to allow the realisation of his fears .. how weakened he was. From that torture with the box .. devastated by a few blows into his back. Tarzan could not afford to countenance the truth. Burying within himself that gut-wrenching concern how much strength he’d have to regain to fight back, to claw his hide out of Opar’s clutches. This cruel uncaring stud had worked his cruel magic on Tarzan. It was going to take some effort to fight his way out of this.
Tarzan knew about Opar’s blood sacrifices. To the Goddess. Hadn’t he assumed that was how La would wrench the life out of his young body? After La had kept him holed up for days and had abused his body at will …. THAT, he’d suspected, was the end she had had in mind for him. Tearing the heart out of him. When she’d tired of him .. when Tarzan could no longer arouse the cruel streak that too late he had discovered in her …. That was always going to be her end-game. She’d have him stretched out on her stone of sacrifice and offer his blood to the Goddess.
So she had her claws in him again. Had the big-headed muscle-stud deliberately betrayed Tarzan’s fate? La was going to sacrifice his life again. But why now? Why, after about twenty years? What had prompted her to crave to take revenge? Now, so many years later?
“Sacrifice”, he’d said. The arrogant young man repeated the doleful word. Blood sacrifice was what this whole escapade was turning out to be?
“How much in our lives we make sacrifices for others ….”
Tarzan had righted himself again. Worryingly the effort to pull himself up to his full height again had been no easier than the first.
“How much sacrifice life demands of us ……”
Getting back up face-to-face with the cold-hearted stud had been torture. Every bone in Tarzan’s back grated on nerves .. forced his face into unwanted signs of agonising pains.
The young conceited warrior had paused .. waiting for Tarzan to recover before he took in his message.
“…. How much others force sacrifice on us.”
Tarzan was struggling to make sense of his words. He hadn’t really been concentrating on the muscle-stud. Getting back upright to face-down the man .. without betraying to his enemy how much he was hurting .. that had taken all his powers of concentration. With supreme effort he’d hauled himself back upright again, fully upright. The effort had taken all his will .. it had needed every ounce of his strength of mind. And still he had not disguised the torture that was racking his body.
What kind of sacrifice was he on about? Tarzan had only been half-listening. Was he referring to Tarzan’s blood sacrifice? Or something else? Confused Tarzan stared into the self-assurance of his captor. He was certainly full of himself. How old was he? Who was he? Young but decidedly he bore authority. The other warrior-guards took their lead from him .. though he was much their junior. Probably only a few years older than Tarzan’s Korak. Unconsciously, pondering his cocky adversary, Tarzan took in a deep breath to calm his nerves. Instantly he regretted it. His ribcage had expanded. The muscles of his torso screamed out. His body cramped crippled together.
Damn him! Damn his body. Tarzan was again being betrayed by the agonies that had seized control of him. Again Tarzan spotted that the warrior waited for him, smugly. A man who knew he was holding all the cards. Allowing Tarzan to catch his breath. He had all the time in the world .. and this prisoner had no chance of escape. He could afford to wait .. so that his prisoner was forced to pay attention to his fateful words.
This was a young man with exceptional powers of control. The kind of self-control Tarzan expected in an older man. An exceptional muscle-stud’s physique had teamed up with an older man’s presence of mind. The hunk still had a young man’s body, he hadn’t put on a full-grown man’s bulk. But he did possess the power of a leader of men.
“You were here twenty years ago.”
Tarzan frowned. The information was no surprise. But the fact that it was a clearly known fact surprised him. He himself could not have put a time on it so clearly. It was an experience he’d long-since put behind him. Twenty years ago ….. Was it really? And Tarzan had been only weeks here .. some of that time hidden away. Imprisoned unseen in La’s dungeons here. Subject to the spitefulness of her evil will.
And this big-headed stud knew the facts as well as Tarzan? Had his stay here passed into their history? Had Tarzan’s short time in Opar got handed down as some kind of myth? Why? He’d been young, just starting out in life. Not the jungle legend he was to become.
“You seduced the High Priestess. You abandoned her …..”
One fact wrong, one fact right. La had definitely been making as many of the moves. But Tarzan was not arguing. He was in no position to. Besides, he had to know what this was about.
Abandoned? True, he had taken flight from her madness. Fled the tortured fate she had consigned him to.
And after twenty years La was still nursing a grudge? That what this was about? She’d used him cruelly for sex. She’d maliciously abused him .. mentally, physically. She’d tortured him for her sexual kicks.
First chance he’d got Tarzan had made a run for it. And La still held a grudge?
“Deserted her. Abandoned her. And her child.’