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by rendszeretlen. Deadly rivalry 1. 7a. Out-witted

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7a. Out-witted

Tarzan growled angrily as his face was again ground in the gritty dirt. Above him, all around him, he heard the wild cheers of congratulation, wild ululations in honour of Nkonu’s victory. Raucous acclamations of his own defeat. A victory won by Nkonu’s cheating. Furiously he flailed in his yoke face-down in the dirt. Like a fish out of water, drowning, pinned to the earth by the cheat who had had him ambushed. By the cheat whose foot pressed hard on Tarzan’s neck and viciously crushed his face in the sandy grit.

The thwack to the back of his legs had felled Tarzan to the ground, his out-stretched arms unable to break his fall. He heard mocking laughter as his chest emptied with a grunt and his face splattered painfully in the sand. And his whole body shook at the vicious stomp as Nkonu jarred his heel hard in victory on his captive’s neck. Tarzan’s arrival in the village, trapped in bonds, his arms uselessly pinned outwards by Nkomu’s yoke, had first been met with stunned amazement. No one would ever have believed that Nkonu would win the manhunt.

Out of nowhere men materialised and took Tarzan in charge, shoving and jostling him through the village. Vicious thumps, a slap across the back of his head. Because they could, because he could not stop them. The amazed silence broke into murmurs as people stared in disbelief at the lord of the jungle, captured by Nkonu, now punched and kicked through the village. Elbowed and jostled, beaten and defeated. By Nkonu, victor over the lord of the jungle. Nkonu proudly brought up the rear, arms raised to their cheers, beaming at the cries of congratulation, soaking up the astonished looks of admiration. Nkonu had won the manhunt, Tarzan’s fate was his to decide.

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The murmuring broke out into laughter when the thwack across his knees smashed Tarzan face-down in the dirt. The laughter turned cruel when his face smacked with a pained grunt in the earth. From within the crowd, the single calls hailing Nkonu’s victory grew louder. More and more voices joined in. Nkonu the warrior, Nkonu the victor. The shouts grew more thunderous, stronger, hailing their own man’s triumph over the jungle lord. They had been a warrior people, they were destined to fight and their man was triumphant once more.

The chief called for silence but the crowd kept on crying out, ignoring him in their joy. Cheering Nkonu, jeering the captive apeman flailing in the dirt. Angrily the chief shouted against the cheers but the shouting just went on. Nkonu, their hero. Nkonu triumphant over the mightiest of foes. Jeers at the apeman pinned by the neck in the dirt. A kick in his side to let him know he was beat. Nkonu raised his arms acknowledging their cries, bathing in their adulation. Nkonu the warrior had given them back a taste of their former pride. They were warriors again. Victorious over the enemy. Desperately, the chief looked about him for support. He had been out-witted, he had planned for Nkonu to lose. It was inconceivable that Tarzan would lose the manhunt. But he had. And now the chief had given the village a hero. He’d wanted Nkonu brought down, defeated and humiliated by Tarzan in the manhunt. But now they hailed him as their champion. Cheers rang out in the air. Hailing their hero Nkonu. Standing with his foot set triumphant on his captive’s neck, keeping the fearsome lord of the jungle pinned face-down in the dirt.

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But the crowd did quieten when Nkonu spoke. Bowing to his unquestionable authority as victor over the mightiest of foes.

The chief – already speechless with surprise at this outcome from the manhunt – could scarcely believe his ears. Nkonu demanded Tarzan as his slave. Such customs had been banned, the chief had turned them from their warrior ways. With Tarzan as his guide, the chief had turned them from fighting to farming, they traded, they had prospered, their children went to school. No fighting, no conquering, no slaving.

Trapped under Nkonu’s foot, Tarzan heard angrily the chief’s faltering response. In face of the overwhelming support for Nkonu, his strength of purpose was giving way. But sensing the spirit of the crowd, Nkonu insisted. Tarzan was his to command. The chief shook his head. And the crowd roared him down, Nkonu had won, like animals they angrily howled. By ancient rights, he who won the manhunt decided the victim’s fate. Nkonu wanted Tarzan for his slave. As victor, that was his right. Pinned to the earth, Tarzan listened frustrated to the chief’ struggling to keep control over the crowd howling him down. Failing against the howls of protest, weakening and condemning his friend to be Nkonu’s slave. Pinned to the earth, the victim of an ambush, the captive of a lie, Tarzan willed his friend, the chief, to be strong.

OK, the chief conceded. Nkonu could take Tarzan. But only for three days, then he would return and it would be the elders who would judge on Tarzan’s fate. The crowd roared. The crowd hailed the victor. The crowd acclaimed Nkonu who had won.

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Angrily Tarzan pushed his head up against Nkonu’s foot. Nkonu had not won. Tarzan had been out-witted. Nkonu had cheated, a dozen men had ambushed him. They had netted him and bludgeoned and beaten him. A dozen men had handed the victory to Nkonu with Tarzan lying clubbed unconscious at their feet. The chief had to know that, the crowd had to know that.

“Nkonu is a …”

Tarzan never finished. Nkonu’s heel smashed jarring into the back of his neck. Tarzan’s whole body shook with the shock. Lightning flashes sizzled down his backbone, his torso juddered with numbing pain. Suddenly, Nkonu’s knees landed painfully in the middle of Tarzan’s back. A hand painfully grabbed at Tarzan’s hair and yanked his head sharply back up.

“Silence, pig!”

Nkonu’s bawl rang in Tarzan’s ears. As his forehead was smashed in the earth. Lights flashed, thunder struck. A sharp gasp of pain erupted from his throat. The threat of Tarzan speaking out had been ended. Tarzan was silenced as he lay stunned in the dirt.

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12a. Journey of Agony

After the Chief had abandoned Tarzan to his fate, Nkonu had his rival removed as quickly as possible. Before he could say anything. Trapped by a lie and locked in a yoke entrapping his arms, Tarzan had been rushed out of the village and down to the river. A frame of bamboo was quickly assembled with Tarzan spread-eagled on to it. His arms out to one side, a pole cut across his throat. Only by lowering his head below the pole could he breathe. But the hang of his head down below stretched him the whole length of his back. The strain across his shoulders and arms became painfully intense and soon he had to lift his head again, cutting off his breathing on the pole until the cycle of suffering began again.

His ankles had been pulled wide apart. The stretch up the inside of his thighs quickly became intense. But there was nothing he could do. Within minutes of the frame being lashed between two canoes and paddled out into the river, agonising cramps had set into over-stretched immobile muscles. He could not move. He could not relieve the intense cramps that burned up the length of his inside legs. The Chief’s village was still in sight when the cramps began to sizzle. Soon the burning paralysing ache had become unbearable. Tarzan was grimacing involuntarily at the strain. Gritting his teeth at the pain. Ignored in his suffering by the warriors around him powerfully thrusting their oars in the river.

At every village, the canoes stopped. Nkonu leapt on Tarzan’s back and exclaimed his victory over the vanquished apeman. Jabbing his heel into the captive’s backbone to silence him wit his pains, he beat out the rhythm of his followers’ acclaim. Wild applause and cries drowned out the grunts of body-crippling pain beneath his feet.

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Arriving at Nkonu’s own village, Tarzan heard from afar the ululating that greeted the canoes. Nkonu planted one foot on his shoulder, the other on his backside and, arms raised in triumph, he proudly swallowed the wild shouts of triumph from his own people. ”N-ko-nu” went up the cry. “N-ko-nu”. Each syllable was pounded out. The victor’s heel thudded into Tarzan’s shoulder with each cry from the crowd. Tarzan’s cries of pain lost in the chant. His torment lost in the villager’s acclamation.

Tarzan had become the victim in a political battle between the Chief and Nkonu. The chief wanted his rival taken down a peg and had plotted for an unsuspecting Tarzan to meet him in the ritual manhunt. Confident in his hero’s superiority, the chief had been speechless when Nkonu had brought back Tarzan defeated and badly beaten. He was at a loss at Tarzan’s defeat, unaware that Nkonu had had men waiting in ambush for the jungle lord. He was speechless when Nkonu claimed Tarzan, the chief’s own mentor, as his own, as a slave. Such customs had long since been banned. Yet he shrunk back at the aggression from others around that jeered at Tarzan’s defeat. Raucous hatred that hissed at his captured friend on his front squirming under Nkonu’s foot in the dirt. Desperate to win time, he had awarded Nkonu the right to his prize but only for three days. He had commanded Nkonu to attend for the decision of the Elders. In the meantime, reluctantly, Tarzan was his to command.

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At his own village, Nkonu’s men had released the frame from the two canoes. Still knee-deep in the river, six of them had lifted the frame upright for all to see. Tarzan hung upright from the frame. Crucified. His whole weight was hanging down, the strain taken by the ropes biting viciously into his wrists. The crowd went wild. There before them, spread-eagled on the frame, the tortured lord of the jungle. Defeated by their warrior Nkonu. Powerful muscles of the legs wide-spread and tamed, powerful chest and arms made useless, there in his suffering hung Nkonu’s enemy. Tarzan - acknowledged jungle lord. Fearless. Unvanquished. Here crucified and suffering before them. His face contorted with the pain. His whole torso hanging and stretched. The famed muscles of that legendary torso hanging helpless. Captive of their own victorious Nkonu.

Again the chant spread through the village. “Nn-ko-nu! Nn-ko-nu!” On the first beat of their hero’s name, the frame was jammed into the river bed. “Nn-ko-nu! Nn-ko-nu!”. Each thud of the frame sent judders through the frame. “Nn-ko-nu!” Each judder sent shudders of agony through Tarzan’s helpless body pinned to the frame. Already tortured and over-stretched all day, Tarzan first grunted, then cried out in pain with each thud of the frame into the earth. His arms shook. “Nn-ko-nu!” His shoulder joints juddered. His over-stretched thighs screamed with jarring bolts of pain. “Nn-ko-nu!” The weight of his tortured body tore down on his crutch. Tears of pain sprang to his eyes. Cries of pain were forced out of the rattling body. “Nn-ko-nu! Nn-ko-nu!” His head thudded. His neck cracked. “Nn-ko-nu!”

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Nkonu led the procession of triumph. Up front, beaming at the ululations. His arms upheld, accepting his people’s acclamation. Like in former times, when raiding parties came home in victory. Their leader arriving with his prize in tow. And behind, upright on the frame, his slave, the crucified Tarzan. Held up for all to see. Suffering for all to enjoy. His jaw set firm, teeth clenched tight. Tarzan hung from his wrists, the pull of his whole body clawing down his arms, grinding into his shoulders. His legs wide-spread, the strain on his inner thighs burning, over-stretched muscles screaming intolerably. His diaphragm pulled up high into his chest, Tarzan struggled to breathe. Desperately, tears of pain stinging his eyes, he pulled hard on cramped exhausted arms to fill his chest with air.

And all around him the ecstatic praise for Nkonu’s victory echoed through the forest. Every sound of praise for Nkonu was a shout of joy at Tarzan’s defeat. Ululations at Tarzan’s degradation. Shouts of joy at Tarzan’s capture. They turned on him, like wild animals they bayed for his pain. The shouting was contagious. Single taunts and threats were picked up in the crowd. The fever rose to a frenzied pitch, a lust for Tarzan’s suffering had them in its grip. He groaned at the nagging pains bursting in his crucified body. His spirits sank. The chill awareness hitting home. For three days he had been granted by his friend the chief to be tortured by Nkonu. Delivered into this frenzy of hatred. The pain and agony had only just begun.