Bride of the Serpent God by John Peter Drummond
KI-GOR, LORD OF THE JUNGLE:
I. - Treachery
KI-GOR placed a plump, scarlet berry in his mouth, and munched
slowly, with much satisfaction. He lay in the cool shade of a
flowering shrub, completely relaxed, obviously at peace with the
world and pleased with life in general. The only sounds were the soft
hum of insects drawn by the heavy scent of flowers and the lulling
murmur of the broad river which flowed a scant twenty paces from
where Ki-Gor rested.
Helene, his mate, vibrantly young and alive, stood beside Ki-Gor.
She looked down at her lounging husband and feigning disapproval, she
placed hands on hips and sighed with disgust.
"You lazy thing, Ki-Gor. Are you going to lie there all day eating
berries?" she asked, pouting lips as red and much more inviting than
the fruit which had occupied her Jungle Lord the past half hour.
The bronzed giant stirred only slightly, and without opening his
eyes, he plumped another luscious berry in his mouth, and began
chewing contentedly. But a little boy's smile of guilt slowly edged
his lips, as he opened one cautious eye to peer at the accusing
figure of his wife.
"For two days, Mister Ki-Gor, you've been rushing me along like
mad, saying you had an important meeting here with Tembu George," she
said, pointing a meaning finger at the Jungle Lord. "Now that we are
here, I find no Tembu George, no important meeting, nothing but a lot
of fruit you persist in stuffing yourself with because it is the
nearest and easiest thing at hand!"
Ki-Gor's gray eyes opened wide in a great show of innocence. He
made a valiant, though completely unsuccessful, effort to show hurt
dismay that Helene would doubt his motives for a moment.
"Why, Helene, you know how healthful fruit is, and the fact it
happens to be hanging right at arm's reach from me has nothing to do
with my eating it," he righteously pointed out. "And you know also
how very good rest is to build a person up. That's the only reason I
am lying down."
The red-haired girl looked at the superbly proportioned body of
her mate, and burst out laughing. "You certainly look like you need
to be built up, you frail little mountain of a man!"
"Well, anyway," he grinned, "it is only proper to show adequate
appreciation of gifts so conveniently and lavishly provided for us by
nature." Stretching out his hand he urged, "Here, try some of these
berries you'll find them delicious."
Helene tossed her red hair in a definite negative reply, and
nudged Ki-Gor's ribs with one small foot.
"I will not let you fill me up on those things," she declared.
"You promised to catch me some fish for lunch if I would hurry, and I
want my fish!"
Ki-Gor shook his head apologetically. "Wrong time of day. Never
catch fish this time of day. Better wait until morning."
He watched the slim, briefly clad girl turn with a switch of her
hips and walk to where his spear rested on the ground. She bent,
picked it up, and returned to place it across his chest.
"I want fish!" she said.
The white man glanced from spear to river, and reflected sadly,
"Too muddy. I could never get anything in that muddy water. Besides,
Tembu George is due to arrive any minute, and there wouldn't be time
to cook fish even if we caught any."
"Fish, Ki-Gor!" Helene stated, catching the arm of the feebly
protesting Jungle Lord, tugging mightily. With much groaning he got
to his feet, and then abruptly he swept Helene up under one arm, and
grasping the spear with the other, strode toward the river, humming
loudly and tunelessly.
"Put me down, Ki-Gor! Don't you dare throw me in that river!"
Helene cried, wriggling and kicking as she tried to escape. On he
strode, unperturbed by the rising din of her cries. At the very edge
of the bank, he halted, carefully putting his spear down. He appeared
to debate as to where to throw the laughing, struggling girl, and
then his solemn face breaking into a smile, he carefully set her down
on the bank.
"Now sit there, and don't go puddling around the river bank," he
told her, "because there are some very discerning crocodiles
hereabouts who would like nothing better than a red-haired,
long-legged young lady for dessert today."
"Yes, sir," she replied. "Now you go to work."
Helene watched the agile grace with which the big man crouched and
picked up the spear. He straightened, threw back his massive
shoulders, and walked several steps away to where the bank overhung a
quiet, deep pool. He studied the spot, and then satisfied, he bent to
one knee, holding the spear ready.
Minutes passed, and the motionless Jungle Lord was a graven image,
his keen, searching eyes alone betraying the restless energy he held
in check. Then the muscles of his shoulder and arm abruptly tensed,
as he caught sight of a movement in the water below. A large fish
passed with a languid grace up from the depths toward the surface. It
swept by within Ki-Gor's reach, but he made no move, for with the
subtle judgment of a wild creature, he knew the chances were still
too great against a certain catch.
The big fish turned, and swept up ever closer to the surface, then
came in close to the bank. The speed of the Jungle Lord's action
bewildered the eye. With the smooth sureness of a piston-drive, his
powerful muscles sent the spear point true, even before the cold
lightning in the finny body could pull the fish to safety. The
practiced skill of a primitive fisherman showed in the adroit manner
in which Ki-Gor spun the twisting fish safely from the water and
deposited it carefully on the dry ground behind him.
Helene gleefully slapped her hands, watching the success of her
husband. "Ho, ho," she taunted him, "too muddy to catch anything, is
it? Now, my vegetarian friend, we begin to make some progress. Two
more as big as that, and you may go back to your resting."
She jumped to her feet and ran up the bank to make preparations
for cooking the meal. The Jungle Lord glanced at her running form,
and with a smile turned back to his patient task. Crouching on one
knee, he again seemed to freeze into stone, so still was his great
Pell mell up the low slope ran Helene in her typically
enthusiastic manner. Occupied with the matter before her, she paid
little attention to her surroundings, giving not a glance to the
barrier of shrubs, brush and thorn which rose head high around the
clearing where they had made camp. She bent to select stones to be
heated red hot in flames as the first step in preparing leaf wrapped
fish steamed to mouth-watering deliciousness in the native manner.
She picked up one rock, and started to reach for another when a low
ominous rumble of sound jerked her upright.
There at the edge of the clearing restlessly moved a big lion, its
mane golden in a bright shaft of sunlight. The huge male glanced
arrogantly around, his baleful yellow eyes coming to rest on the
girl. Out of the jungle behind the sleek male padded a lioness,
nervously testing the air.
Fright burned through Helene with an electric blaze. She kept her
head, however, and though prickles of anxiety ran along her spine,
with deliberate slowness she edged backward one step, then
Tense, evil, yellow eyes flickered and burned at her like twin
torches. Every instinct urged her to turn screaming and flee but with
iron will she fought off this suicidal impulse. Her greatest hope lay
in Ki-Gor's keen senses, for if the lions waited a few more moments
before deciding to charge, she felt it was a certainty her mate would
discover something was wrong and in some miraculous manner forestall
the fate which faced her.
But now the great male grew more restless than ever; his jaws
opened and the long tearing teeth glinted whitely against the red
cavern of his mouth. Issuing from his deep chest came a thunderous
rumble of hate, and he gathered himself in cat fashion for a swift,
raging charge at the defenseless woman.
The hideous challenge of the lion struck Ki-Gor's ears like a
thunderclap. He spun up and around, his gray eyes knifing up to
Helene and beyond to take in the situation at a glance. The surface
robe of civilization was torn away by what he saw. His nostrils
spread and whitened, his firm lips drew back over his teeth in an
unuttered snarl. Propelled by a jungle fury as great as that of the
stalking lion, he leaped forward to face the beast and shield Helene.
Before Ki-Gor could reach her, the huge lion straightened from its
crouch and flung with mad speed toward the girl.
Ki-Gor knew instantly he could never reach her. There was but one
long chance, and he took it. His steel muscles corded as he braked to
a stop, and drawing the heavy spear in his right arm back, he plunged
it forward with tremendous speed. The terrible power of the throw
sent the heavy spear hurtling like a weightless shadow. It sped past
the cringing girl and crashed between the fore legs of the charging
lion, through the beast's chest and deep into its vitals. The
skewered animal in its final plunge dashed the spear hilt against the
ground driving it in deeper. Then with a last gurgling roar of pain
the big male careened to one side of Helene and fell shuddering and
dying in the dirt.
Maddened by the sound of her dying mate, the lioness, slavering
with anger and excitement, bounded forward to the attack. Ki-Gor had
anticipated this move, however, and the moment he threw the spear he
resumed his leaping rush. He swept by Helene, straight at the
oncoming lioness. The knife from his belt sheath gleamed in his right
hand. There was a lash of bodies and a blinding melee of dust. The
harsh grunts of the man mingled with the staccato growling hate of
the animal. Through the cloud of dust Helene saw Ki-Gor fasten
himself with unbreakable grip on the back of the lioness, his left
arm tight about the creature's throat, while the right hand drove the
knife with relentless power again and again into the chest. The
plunging beast staggered and stumbled and fell lifeless. Ki-Gor
stepped back lightly from the inert body, and the cruel mask on his
face softened and disappeared. He pulled a great draught of air into
his lungs, then bent with steady hands to clean his knife. Thrusting
the weapon back in its sheath, he turned, calm and unshaken, and
walked to Helene's side.
"It's all right now," he said.
Her eyes were still large with fright, but seeing how unperturbed
her mate was, she caught hold of her feelings, and smiling, reached
out a small hand to caress Ki-Gor's arm.
She smiled, and her voice was steady, as she said, "You really
have a time trying to get your wife fed, don't you, Ki-Gor?"
He took her by the arm and guided her close to the riverbank.
Selecting a clear spot for a fire, he set about collecting firewood
and stones for heating. Expertly he arranged the wood and stones, and
in the age-old jungle manner of rapidly revolving a dry stick with
his broad hands, he soon had flames biting their way along the base
of the wood. Helene gathered the proper leaves, long, broad, heavy
leaves to wrap the fish in, while Ki-Gor deftly prepared the fish for
The Jungle Lord was busy, his back turned to the river, when
Helene, looking up the river suddenly cried, "Here comes Tembu George
"I might know food would bring him hurrying at top speed," Ki-Gor
said without turning from his task.
Shielding her eyes, Helene strained to make out the figures in the
distant boat which swept down stream towards them.
"He certainly is traveling in style," she commented, "that looks
like the finest war canoe the Masai ever turned out."
His curiosity aroused, Ki-Gor turned to peer downstream, the
opposite direction from which the boat approached. In a puzzled tone
he asked, "Where is any war canoe?"
"Why, right there," the girl cried.
He looked up the river then and instantly arose. "That can't be
Tembu George. He will come from the other direction."
Gliding swiftly with the current, the big craft came at a fast
pace. It was a long, low, rakish boat, seating at least twelve
warriors. Paddles dipped rhythmically into the glittering water
sending the craft along with practiced skill and precision. Ki-Gor
made out the dark forms of the oarsmen now, and he saw the black
Apparently the men in the canoe had sighted the couple on the
bank, for they veered in and slackened their pace. There was a harsh
cry, a flurry of action by the rowers, and the big craft slowed
almost to a standstill, and nosed its way up to the bank a few yards
from where the jungle couple stood. In the manner of skilled river
men, the natives hastily made the boat fast to the shore.
The Jungle Lord saw the leader of the warriors leap ashore. The
man was tall and thin, with a lean hard face and nervous, darting
eyes. Those uneasy eyes ran quickly over Helene and Ki-Gor, and then
the man raised his right hand and called out a greeting of peace. The
words he spoke were ones Ki-Gor knew, but his accents were of some
"Welcome, traveler," the big white man said, responding to the
native's greeting. "The war canoe you have there is one to be proud
"Aye! I am proud of it," the black man replied. His eyes flickered
past Ki-Gor to Helene and then off up the slope.
"It has carried us far and fast this day," he said. "Tell me, is
this the country of the Wasuli? It is many years since I was last
here and the region has changed, making it difficult for me to be
exactly sure of my place."
Ki-Gor noted that the other natives in the long canoe were now all
ashore, and each man was fully armed. With studied casualness, he
took in every detail of the group, meanwhile answering, "Yes, this is
the upper edge of the Wasuli area, and their region extends down
river a half-day's ride at least, even in your swift craft."
Several of the men scattered up the bank, and though the Jungle
Lord in no way betrayed the knowledge, his searching eyes knew the
men were on the lookout for others who might be in company with the
jungle couple. With regret, he remembered his bow and quiver of
arrows lying where he had left them by a shrub, and his heavy spear
resting against a tree where he had placed it after dispatching the
From two of the natives padding about in the clearing above them
came surprised exclamations. They had come on the bodies of the slain
beasts. They called to their leader, and Helene and Ki-Gor
accompanied him to the spot. He looked at the big bodies, studying
the wounds, and with a tone of unbelieving admiration in his voice he
asked Ki-Gor, "Who did this?"
"I did," the Jungle Lord stated simply, without any trace of
boastfulness for to him the deed was not in the least unusual.
"You are a great warrior to have done this singlehanded,"
commented the tall black man, his uneasy eyes weighing and appraising
Ki-Gor again. "What is your name?"
"I am Ki-Gor," was the answer.
"I am Basru," the native volunteered. "I come from a place of
great warriors, but by the golden moon, I know no other man who could
have performed such a deed as this."
He turned away to go, barking a command for his men to board the
canoe. As though trained to obey, the natives turned toward the
craft. The hostility Ki-Gor had sensed lurking in the strangers, he
suddenly thought, seemed unwarranted. The bronzed jungle man moved to
accompany the native leader to the riverbank. It was this momentary
relaxation of his instinctive guard that Ki-Gor was long to regret.
As the Jungle Lord walked along with Basru toward the boat, he paid
little attention to the two big natives who lingered behind their
fellows and now ambled slowly along at his back.
Basru raised his hand as though to stroke his hair, and at this
signal, the two black men who trailed behind flung themselves on
Ki-Gor's back. The completely unexpected onslaught sent the Jungle
Lord crashing to his knees under the shocked eyes of Helene before he
knew what was happening.
But Ki-Gor's trained reflexes changed him into a raging fury by
the time he struck the earth. He made no single outcry, but fought
silently, desperately, terribly, from the first moment he could bring
his great muscles into play. His steel-hard hands caught hold of one
of the native's ankles and the sheer overwhelming pressure of his
grip burst the man's skin and flesh as he tore him down within closer
reach. He snapped the native's neck like a rotten twig and lashed out
with mighty blows that caved in the ribs of the other native.
The treacherous Basru, seeing that the massive white man was
recovering his footing, picked up a big rock and darted in behind
Ki-Gor. The native smashed the rock down once, twice, against
Ki-Gor's skull. This cowardly blow accomplished what the two natives
had failed to do. Ki-Gor pitched face forward like a felled ox.
Helene screamed in horror as she saw her beloved mate lying crumpled,
blood gushing from his head.
In panic she started to throw herself at Ki-Gor, but ruthless
hands caught her arms and drew her back.
Basru's cruel eyes shifted from the fallen Jungle Lord to the
sobbing girl. "You'll have no further need of him, woman. He's dead,
or if he's not, he soon will be."
At an order from Basru, Helene was taken to the boat, but it took
three men to force the struggling girl along. The hard-faced native
leader glanced at Ki-Gor's unmoving form, debated a moment, then
directed the white man also be brought along to the boat.
"The great Serpent God will smile on us for this day's work,"
Basru said in a pleased voice. "Even as the High Priestess ordered
us, we have found a worthy sacrifice for the Festival of the Seventh
The tall leader jumped into the war canoe to see personally to the
binding of Helene's wrists and ankles. She was forced to lie down in
the bow of the boat, so that her red hair and fair skin could not be
detected by anyone watching from shore. Satisfied that the girl was
safely tied and placed, Basru ordered the boat cast off. His eye ran
down the row of men waiting with paddles ready, and came to light on
the big form of Ki-Gor. The natives had carried the white man and
placed him in the boat, assuming from Basru's directions that he
intended taking the Jungle Lord along.
"We have no use for that lifeless hulk," he called out sharply. "I
meant only for you to bring him to the river bank and throw him into
the water, thus erasing all trace of his body. Quickly now, throw him
over the side."
Helene fought at her bonds, and succeeded in straining her head up
to plead with Basru. He ignored her tumbling words, and the two men
nearest Ki-Gor, rose and caught hold of the Jungle Lord. Through
reddened tear-wet eyes, Helene saw the natives lift the limp and
unresisting Ki-Gor and toss him out over the low side of the war
canoe. She heard the loud splash as he struck the water.
Simultaneously, Basru's harsh voice called out a command and the boat
jumped forward and with steadily increasing speed cut its way
Upstream through the sluggish current.
II. - Amnesia
KI-GOR'S long heavy frame struck the water hard as the two natives
threw him overboard. The flat shock caused an instinctive reflex in
the jungle-bred giant, a sudden tightening of his muscles even though
his mind was fogged deep in unconsciousness. The spark of life in
this powerful man was not easily quenched. The will to live burned in
him, conscious or unconscious, more strongly than it would in any
civilized man, because this will, above all else, was the sustaining
force which had brought him through innumerable seemingly hopeless
The shock of the fall, the tensing of his muscles sent a faint
glimmer of feeling along his stunned nerve centers. The cool water
pressed further awareness into his numbed body, and then as he sank
below the surface, the water bit into the deep gash on his head. This
abrupt burning pain jerked Ki-Gor back to semi-consciousness. He
awoke in choking blackness, and without reasoning, he threw his
energies into an immediate, frenzied fight.
Where it would have seemed impossible for a normal man to have
will or strength left for a struggle, Ki-Gor's jungle heritage
rallied his waning energies. Flailing ponderously, gulping great
quantities of water, he fought his head above the surface.
The big man's body was an agony of hurt and weariness. His eyes
saw nothing. His lungs labored and fought to sustain his failing
strength. But an inner force pushed him on, calling forth from his
spent muscles another, and still another, effort. It was an eternity
of time, a burning stretch of aeons, that he floated and sank, and
floated again, until through luck, his own unseeing efforts, and the
eddying movement of the slow current, he came into a shallow stretch
of water near the bank.
Ki-Gor tried to walk in the shallow water, but his legs refused to
sustain him. He stumbled and fell repeatedly, each time having even
greater difficulty in rising again. But each time he did rise. He
came finally to the low bank, and with one last mighty effort, he
pulled himself up on the dry land, and fell face downward.
The big white man lay in a tumbled heap, his long body pressed
into the gently waving growth of river ferns and grass. Blood from
the ugly gash on his head ran down over his face and dripped on the
warm earth. He slept the deep, black sleep of utter exhaustion and
painful hurt. Africa's ever present clouds of venomous little insects
sought him out and feasted their greed, but Ki-Gor, wrapped in black
forgetfulness, was unconscious of their torturing bites. The slender
shadows of the grass fronds steadily lengthened across his body as
the sun departed westward in a hot and shimmering sky.
Shadows crept out from the great trees along the bank, and slipped
over Ki-Gor to dull the surface of the water. A faint breeze sifted
down the river and with it came night. A mist, gray and ominous,
rolled along the river, gathering in density, and rolling out wetly
over the banks. Still Ki-Gor lay unmoving in the damp grass, his
breath coming with a hard deep regular rhythm. .
Once a large buck, followed by two does, came out of a lane in the
forest, and on soundless feet in the soft turf, picked its way to
water. With the man-scent blanketed by the mist, the daintily
stepping feet of the buck were almost upon Ki-Gor before the wary
creature sighted the white form. Instantly the animal froze, his
nostrils swelling out in search of danger. Reassured by the absolute
quiet of the white body, the buck soon swerved off to the left and
continued to the water's edge, obediently followed by the two
The long night was merging into dawn when a lone jackal, after
hours of luckless foraging for easy prey, came panting down to the
river to fill its hungry belly with the cool water. The dirty,
bedraggled, jungle scavenger picked its way along in the natural
cringing gait of its breed. Slavering in disgruntlement, the jackal
padded up to the bank and lapped thirstily. After a full minute, it
raised its head nervously and snuffled at the air. The fur on the
animal's back bristled up at the scent of man, and after a slight
wait, the gray form watchfully moved to follow the scent. The evil
ghost crept within cautious yards of Ki-Gor. The savage brain of the
animal sought out and weighed the man's hurt, balancing the risk of
attack against possible gain for its grumbling belly.
The still form of the Jungle Lord, with its fresh blood scent,
stimulated beyond endurance the greedy gnawing of the beast's
The jackal, sensing life in the sprawling body, fought to down its
fear of man. With quiet, nervous steps it padded a wide ring around
Ki-Gor, its teeth grinning whitely as rising hunger tried to force
courage into its cowardly heart.
The soft, early-morning wind caught the strong smell of the beast
and brought it to Ki-Gor's nostrils. For the first time since he had
crawled out of the water, the bronzed giant stirred. He shifted
uneasily, but did not waken. The jackal tensed at this movement and
stood head pointed at the man. Again the strong jackal scent poured
into Ki-Gor's consciousness. A primal protective sense shook his
nerves from their stunned lethargy, and his gray eyes flickered
Urged by the strong scent of danger, Ki-Gor struggled to focus his
eyes. His vision in the faint light of dawn formed only a confusing,
colorless blur. The jackal growled, sensing the helplessness of the
man. Under the stimulus of this noise, Ki-Gor made out the menacing
figure of the scavenger, the beast's form swimming in outline against
a weaving, shifting background. The jackal girded its courage to the
maximum and advanced with stiff, bristling steps toward the Jungle
Lord. Ki-Gor could see now the white fangs of the hated skulker, and
a wave of sheer anger at this most cowardly of all beasts churned
enough strength into his legs to heave the Jungle Lord to his
He stood there weaving, fighting off waves of nausea. Try as he
might, Ki-Gor could not make his feet respond to his will. With bare
hands he tried to advance, but he was unable to walk. The jackal
slowed its advance, and then halted. A fallen man was one thing, but
an aroused one, even though wounded, was another matter. The animal
debated, emitting low snarls, and then as Ki-Gor at last achieved a
staggering step forward, the jackal leaped back, and with one last
growling outburst, turned and darted away.
Ki-Gor watched the animal disappear. Abruptly the swimming blur
closed over his vision again as the sense of danger faded. A numbness
crept over the Jungle Lord, and with a sense of great effort, he
slipped to his knees and awkwardly stretched out in the wet grass.
Dull, aching sleep came over him, and his mind shut itself off from
the stirring daylight world.
When the Jungle Lord next roused, the sun stood high in the sky,
its scorching rays beating directly on his now dry and feverish body.
He sat up. He looked about him with heavy-lidded eyes, puzzled eyes
that sought an understanding of his present predicament. Slowly he
lifted an exploratory hand and felt his aching head, probing the gash
His brows furrowed in thought, but the terrific blows dealt him
had blocked the delicate memory mechanism. Events of not only the
past few days, but of the past years, refused to come. The cruel blow
had cut Ki-Gor off from the past, cutting away from him at the same
time the acquired veneer of civilization which contact with Helene
and others of the outer world had brought him.
He stood up and drew a deep breath into his great lungs. Already
his marvelous recuperative powers were at work restoring power and
strength to his hard muscles. In a few days, with the proper rest and
no untoward accidents, he would be as sound and vigorous as before.
But there was a vague uneasiness in his mind for he sensed that all
was not well. He tried to reach back through the curtain which had
fallen so suddenly and grasp at the memories which troubled him, but
which he could not pluck from his subconscious.
Ki-Gor shook his aching head and glanced around him. His eyes
halted on the inviting water of the river. He walked to the bank and
washed the caked blood and grime from his head and shoulders. Then he
drank deeply. Refreshed, the big man rose and went at a slow gait
toward the rising wall of the jungle. He walked into the darkening
shadows of the trees for a distance of about one-hundred yards, and
then, selecting a towering giant of a tree, he climbed cautiously
into its upper limbs. In the high branches of the tall tree, he
selected a comfortable perch, leaned back against the trunk and
closed his aching eyes. The gentle sway and movement of the ancient
tree quickly lulled the big man to sleep. So passed another night and
day, with Ki-Gor, except for occasional trips to the river, resting
and sleeping like any animal recovering from its wounds. The feverish
burn left Ki-Gor's body, and he shook off the sense of giddy
weakness. Hunger began to prick him into activity. He set out in
search of food. His keen eyes searched the jungle floor for the fresh
spoor of game, and at length along a narrow trail he came across
recent signs made by a small buck.
The Jungle Lord's long stride lengthened, as driven by hunger, he
quickened his pace. He sped down the narrow green aisle, eluding the
occasional choking stands of bramble, slipping wraith-like over the
Ever fresher was the scent of the deer. Ki-Gor's hand slipped
automatically to the hilt of his knife, the always present knife
which had stayed at his waist even during his struggles in the water.
The blade gleamed free in his right hand. The jungle was silent
except for the raucous calls of a few brilliantly plumaged birds.
Ki-Gor's passage was soundless. He was in every sense a cunning
relentless huntsman. He was downwind from the unsuspecting buck, and
though the animal's scent drew him on like a magnet, his own presence
was protected from the hunted creature. He glided within yards of
where the buck stood browsing.
He sprinted to within arm's reach of the fleeing buck, and in a
bounding leap, dived on the animal with crushing weight. The shock of
Ki-Gor's onslaught toppled the buck, and his knife bit deep into the
creature's vitals as it fell.
His appetite satisfied, the Jungle Lord stretched luxuriously and
looked about for a protected resting place. But a strange feeling of
urgency began to permeate his being, and refused to let him rest.
Though he was completely unable to fathom the reason, something
within him propelled Ki-Gor back to the river. He gave in to this
inner urging and began moving leisurely back along the trail he had
When Ki-Gor reached the river, he hesitated a moment and then
swung upstream. It was not long before the cat-treading white giant
neared the clearing where the natives had attacked him and carried
off Helene. Ki-Gor did not think at this time of the treacherous
assault. He did not recall the event, for the dreadful blows he had
suffered on the head had blotted out even any remembrance of Helene.
Buried deep within his subconscious, however, was the burning
knowledge of his mate and it was this that drew him back to the
Ki-Gor came up to the edge of the clearing along a narrow animal
trail through a rustling break of tall reeds. He paused, cautious
jungle creature that he was, to survey the ground ahead before
advancing into the open. His keen gray eyes automatically searched
the clearing, alert for any sign of danger.
Ki-Gor's eyes suddenly narrowed and grew cold. He drew back into
the concealment of the reeds, and the powerful muscles along his lean
hard body tightened. There on the river bank, its carved prow drawn
up on the green grass, stood a long, grim war canoe.
III. - The Black Arrow
Ki-Gor stared long at the war craft. The sight of the boat stirred
a feeling of anger in him, started the blood surging through his
veins. This instantaneous reaction was a completely unreasoning one,
for he had no idea why this sight should stir such emotions. Soon his
careful, wary visual search for any sign of life or hidden enemy,
convinced him the open plot was deserted.
Satisfied no enemy lurked in ambush, the Jungle Lord glided out of
the rustling reeds to the war canoe. The scent of natives, still
fresh and strong, was in the boat. Ki-Gor studied the footprints
about the boat, and then went up the low slope following the natives'
clear trail. At the top of the slope, he found the remains of a
recent campfire and scattered remnants of food.
He was painstakingly studying the ground, when nearby he heard the
muffled voices of natives. Ki-Gor stood still for a moment, judging
the sound. He turned then and ran lightly to a gnarled tree a few
yards away. With one powerful spring, he leapt high in the air,
caught a sturdy branch, and rapidly pulled himself up into the leafy
protection of the upper boughs.
The white man watched narrowly as three armed natives, tall,
brawny men, emerged from a jungle trail and passed directly below
him. He saw the warriors halt and place their spears and bows against
a small tree, and then sit down close together near the burned out
fire. His eyes studied with interest the long heavy knives carried by
the men, deadly blades which they did not discard even now when they
Although all three of the black men were exceptionally fine
physical specimens, Ki-Gor's eyes were drawn especially to the
largest and most superbly proportioned of the natives. This man was a
massive warrior, graceful as a panther. There was an air of quiet
assurance about him. He wore no gaudy tribal markings nor any of the
usual native decorations, but there was a definite air of command
about him, a clear indication that he was a chieftain.
The three men sat for a long time, staring moodily at the ground,
seldom conversing. Though every stranger in the jungle is potentially
an enemy until proved otherwise, Ki-Gor oddly enough felt no threat
resting in these men. For reasons he could not explain, a sudden urge
came over him to make known his presence. He was armed with only a
knife, however, and even though he felt there was no danger to be
feared from these warriors, he was cautious enough to advantageously
place himself as close to their discarded spears as possible.
He worked his way silently out along a broad overhanging limb.
Then Ki-Gor dropped to the ground on cushioned feet, and moved so
swiftly and quietly that he stood before the three sitting natives
almost before they sensed his presence. The startled natives looked
up in unison, and for a moment their hands hesitated at the hilts of
the heavy knives. Ki-Gor's face betrayed no sign of emotion, but
inwardly he enjoyed the bewilderment of the natives immensely. It was
a tribute to his wisdom, however, that his right hand hovered ever
close to the shaft of one man's spear.
The expressions of alarm on the warrior's faces quickly changed to
bewildered surprise. They seemed unable to believe their eyes. They
stared speechless at Ki-Gor. The massive warrior was the first to
regain his tongue.
"Ki-Gor!" he boomed out in a surprised, unbelieving voice. "But
how can it be you?"
The now friendly eyes of the huge Negro looked expectantly past
the Jungle Lord searching for another person. He seemed disappointed
to find the white man alone.
"But where is Helene?" the warrior asked, his voice reflecting
deep concern. "Is she hurt? Where is she?"
Ki-Gor listened gravely to the man's words. The tongue he spoke
was familiar; it was the language of the Masai. Ki-Gor understood the
words, but he did not understand what the native spoke about. His
face showed clearly how puzzled he was.
"I come as a friend," the Jungle Lord said slowly, "but I do not
understand your questions. Perhaps you mistake me for some other one
The mouth of the natives' spokesman dropped open at this odd
statement from the great Ki-Gor, the firm friend of many years, the
beloved companion and leader in many exciting and dangerous
"I-I'm Tembu George! What's wrong with you? Surely you can't be
The Jungle Lord studied the native's face a moment and then
repeated, half to himself, "Tembu George." After a pause, he again
addressed Tembu George, saying, "I have no reason to joke, Tembu
George, I don't recall seeing you before, and I have no knowledge of
the person you call Helene."
Tembu George stood up now, and came closer to the white man. The
concern he felt at Ki-Gor's strange tone was apparent. His grave
eyes, as he came closer, noted the ugly gash on Ki-Gor's head.
"You have suffered a bad hurt recently," Tembu George stated,
noting every action of his friend. "How did you get that cut?"
Ki-Gor's hand raised to the gash and his brows knit in thought.
"Somehow I can't seem to remember" he replied.
"Hmmm. And what did you say your name was," Tembu George asked,
snapping the question quickly.
In normal fashion and with every evidence of assurance, the Jungle
Lord started to reply, "Why, I am ... I am." He halted and passed his
hand over his brow.
"It is a ridiculous thing," Ki-Gor said in a sheepish, yet worried
tone, "But I can't for the life of me tell you my name."
Tembu George stood looking directly into his eyes now. "You are
Ki-Gor, my friend of many years," he said. "Somehow you have been
injured and are suffering from a loss of memory. It was over four
days ago that I was to meet you and your mate, Helene, here at this
The warrior turned and glanced at his two gaping men. He looked
then down the slope to the riverbank for a few moments before turning
back to his friend.
"When we arrived there were clear signs that a boat had brought
men ashore down there. There was abundant evidence you had been
here." And now there was a hint of a smile in Tembu George's eyes,
"for we found the carcasses of two lions lying over there."
Ki-Gor listened carefully to the big Negro's words. Instinctively,
he felt this man was a friend, a good friend who could be trusted.
"Tell me more," he said.
"Well, reconstructing the scene from the evidence we could find,
it is certain that a group of natives, roughly about twelve, came
ashore from a war canoe, talked with you and Helene for a period of
time, and then there was a sudden brief struggle right over there.
There were blood stains leading from that spot down to the boat."
Ki-Gor tried hard to recall this scene which was described to him
but he could remember no single detail. He shook his head, indicating
his complete lack of knowledge of the event.
"When we arrived the signs were still very fresh, and we thought
you had been carried off by boat," Tembu George said. "We went up
river two days' journey but could find no sign of a war canoe so we
returned to search this place more carefully."
The Masai chieftain related the details of his four day search for
Ki-Gor and Helene. He knew it was impossible that the marauders had
gone down river because he would have encountered them as he
approached. The two day search up river was completely fruitless, as
there was no evidence to be found of any raiding party. Without any
lead to aid him, Tembu George therefore returned to the clearing to
search for further evidence. His men were now beating the jungle
approaches to the clearing thoroughly for any clue as to the identity
of the attackers or for any sign that Helene or Ki-Gor either one
might have escaped into the forest.
While Ki-Gor listened, Masai warriors began to return in groups of
two and three to the clearing. Any further proof needed by Ki-Gor
that he was well known to Tembu George was quickly given by these
men. Each native, as soon as he sighted the bronzed Jungle Lord cried
out in pleased surprise and called him by name. These powerful
warriors, respected the length and breadth of Africa for their grim
fighting qualities, immediately showed a worried sympathy when they
learned from their fellows of their great friend Ki-Gor's strange
"This Helene," Ki-Gor said, "but how could I forget my own
"The mind is a strange thing," Tembu George replied, "but even
though fate has struck you such a sudden, unkind blow, we must delay
no longer than absolutely necessary our search for Helene."
Ki-Gor nodded his approval. "Aye, the trail grows cold as we
Tembu George was somewhat cheered by Ki-Gor's response. The Jungle
Lord was undoubtedly convinced that he spoke the truth and that he
was the white man's friend. "Our search proves Helene did not go into
the jungle, so it is evident she was carried away upstream by boat.
Come, let us follow."
Pleased at the prospect of avenging the wrong done Ki-Gor, the
rangy Masai warriors swiftly gathered their war gear and hastened to
the boat. The Jungle Lord was lifted from his puzzled gloom by the
friendly bond which he felt ever more strongly for these stalwart
fighting men. He felt kinship with them, and a hope, that through
their company and aid, the dark blank in his mind would be
Ki-Gor followed the Masai down the slope. He paused as he came to
the carved prow of the black war canoe. He stared hard at the prow
for a long minute. Tembu George saw the rapt expression on his
friend's face, and came over to him. The Masai chieftain looked at
the prow, but saw nothing except the familiar panther figurehead.
"The figurehead," Ki-Gor said suddenly. "Somehow the sight of that
prow brings back the memory of another war canoe. One with the
figurehead of a fanged serpent."
"Fanged serpent," Tembu George repeated thoughtfully after him. "I
know the tribal symbols used throughout this region, and that is not
one of them. I believe this is the clue we needed to find
Tembu George consulted with his men carefully, and in great
earnestness, they discussed the serpent figurehead described by
Ki-Gor, concluding the war canoe must have come from far afield.
Ki-Gor listened to the discussion, then pointed out, "If the
symbol is an unusual one, then certainly it will be noticed somewhere
along the river, and if we try hard enough we are sure to find those
who have seen the boat pass."
The Masai made their boat ready now, and skillfully they cast off
and swept upstream in search of the foe. The muscled blacks bent to
their work, and in fast, smooth rhythm their broad paddles cut the
placid surface of the wide river. The proud war canoe scudded forward
at a fast, sustained pace.
Long, hot hours passed, and still the broad backs of the Masai
resisted fatigue. The paddles rose and fell with deceptive ease as
the men labored under the burning sun. The bright green of the
jungle, unbroken except for brilliantly colored splotches of flowers,
flowed by, an impenetrable sameness that wearied the eye. The
merciless bright sky dimmed before the approach of evening, and the
shimmering glaze over the water softened and faded. High clouds
rolled out across the sky with night. It was now Tembu George who
guided the long craft ashore.
The Masai laid down their paddles, and rising stiffly from the
positions so long held, stepped on land. The warriors rested and ate,
taking their ease while they waited for the moon to rise. But beneath
their apparent air of leisure was a restless undercurrent, for these
grim men would not again rest quietly until their quarry was run to
earth. Only the silent, moody Ki-Gor, looming big in the firelight as
he sat apart from the others, was completely relaxed.
At last the moon came, swollen and yellow, its diffused rays
reflecting silver on the river. The fire was doused, and hurriedly
the natives took their places in the boat again. The wall of the
jungle on each side of the river rose black and smothering above the
canoe. The Masai were soon too busy to feel lost and alone in this
canyon of darkness, for Tembu George set them a fast pace. The sweat
gathered on their shoulders and trickled down their backs as with
endless repetition they dug their paddles, sending the craft sweeping
through the night.
Not until dawn tinged the cloud masses in the east with red did
the Masai call another halt, but this, too, was only another
breathing spell, a brief pause to regain strength. In a short time
they headed forward again, moving toward where the early morning sun
hung over the already steaming horizon. The grueling pace continued
except for occasional breathing spells, throughout the day. When
night came, the worn men went ashore and flung themselves down to
sleep heavily until midnight.
Three days and nights Tembu George pushed his men forward in this
fashion. On the morning of the fourth day, the war canoe nosed up to
a landing at a large native village set along the bank. Ki-Gor and
Tembu George stepped out on the landing and walked through the crowd
of curious natives that quickly gathered. Searching out the chief,
they found him sitting before his hut, directing one of his sons in
the fashioning of a spear. After an appropriate exchange of
greetings, Ki-Gor asked the chief, a gaunt, humped native, whether a
war canoe with a fanged serpent on its prow had been seen by any of
The thin native sucked in his cheeks in thought, and then replied,
"We have not seen this boat here, but one of my men who has been
upriver described such a craft to me only yesterday."
"It is probable the boat passed this village during the night to
avoid being seen," Ki-Gor pointed out to Tembu George.
Turning back to the chief, Ki-Gor asked, "Did your men see which
way the boat was headed?"
"Yes, it was going up the river and was moving fast," the chief
answered, proud to have such ready and complete knowledge at his
Tembu George leaned forward eagerly now. "And tell us, did your
man see a white woman in the canoe?"
The native wrinkled his forehead in thought, and scratched his
skinny ribs. "No, he saw no woman in the boat. There were only
warriors, men not of this region."
While the chief spoke, a slight wiry man, grizzled with years, but
still strong and active came up beside him. There were white markings
painted across his bare chest and his forehead was disfigured with a
crudely tattooed emblem. Around his neck and wrists he wore bands of
bones, teeth and odd stones, and close inspection showed many of the
bones and teeth were human ones. He was the tribal witch doctor,
feared and respected.
"These strangers come in search of a white woman?" he asked, as
though he knew already much of the conversation that had passed
between Ki-Gor and the chief.
"Yes, O wise one," responded the chief, "and they seek to trace a
war canoe with the figure of a serpent carved on its prow."
His voice showing surprise at the witch doctor's knowledge of
their search, Tembu George addressed the old man, "Do you know where
we can find the woman?"
The grizzled witch doctor rustled his necklaces with his fingers,
and his eyes looked beyond Tembu George in a far away, unseeing
stare. The chief maintained respectful silence as the old man
pondered. The witch doctor shifted his eyes to Ki-Gor and spoke
directly to him.
"I recognize you as the great Ki-Gor, friend of the jungle
peoples. I would like to give you some definite aid, but
unfortunately my poor knowledge makes it possible only to give you a
The witch doctor paused and wrinkled his brow, as he appeared to
probe his mind for the exact information he wished to give
"I have heard it said that a strange tribe," he continued slowly,
"that worships a fearsome serpent, dwells many days up this river in
a region of vast lakes. I believe your search would end successfully,
if you could find this tribe."
Ki-Gor expressed his thanks to the witch doctor, for this slender
thread of information was the first positive clue he had received as
to the identity of the marauders. He and Tembu George then returned
to the canoes and the wearing pace was resumed.
The burning merciless days merged into hot sweltering nights, as
the grim, tireless Masai warriors unsparingly pushed themselves. The
grueling punishment they took did not dampen the vengeful spirit
which inspired the powerful natives. Through their prodigious
efforts, in nine days the Masai brought their craft into a section of
rolling hills. The river now bit its way between higher banks, banks
in some places which rose to canyon proportions. But the river still
lay broad and placid, a muddy, slow-moving thing.
In mid-morning on the ninth day, Tembu George selected an even,
open place to halt for food and rest. The boat was made fast, and the
men picked out sheltered places to relax, all except one hot, tired
warrior. This rangy Masai fighting man ambled back to the river and
strolled out into a shallow section, splashing the cooling water over
his sweaty body. Intent on the refreshing water, he was careless of
The native neither felt nor saw the cold, staring eyes that
fastened on him. He failed to see the slimy, gray-green bulk of the
huge crocodile lying near the bank like a half-submerged log. The big
reptile, with scarcely a stir of the water slid forward, placing
itself between the man and the shore. As the creature reached the
shallow place where the native entered the water, it used its
powerful tail for leverage in climbing.
This abrupt splash roused the warrior to his danger. He turned,
and with horrified eyes saw the hideous monster heading for him. The
man cried out in alarm to his mates. The shout brought all the
natives upright instantly, but in their surprise, they hesitated,
groping for a means of saving their fellow. Ki-Gor, who also was
brought to his feet by the cry, did not hesitate.
The Jungle Lord, reared to a perilous existence which depended on
split-second judgment, moved with flashing speed in this fateful
interval. Ki-Gor sped toward the river, scooping up a Masai spear
from the ground without breaking his stride. The crocodile was almost
upon the native, its gaping jaws opened in anticipation of the kill,
when the Jungle Lord leaped far out over the water directly at the
reptile. As he descended, Ki-Gor bore his full weight on the haft of
the spear and drove the broad, sharp point under the crocodile's left
The bronzed giant's unerring skill enabled him to send the spear
deep into this less heavily armored spot on the creature. The
dreadful pain of the wound sent the monster into an agonized,
writhing plunge at the defenseless native. With sudden death from the
flailing tail hanging over him, Ki-Gor pressed forward. He had landed
at the very side of the crocodile, and now he dived forward on the
back of the slimy creature, digging his legs around its belly and his
left arm encircling its neck. His free right arm wielded his long
hunting knife, and he drove the steel into the crocodile's hard
underthroat. Ki-Gor heard the native shriek in pain, and the sound
poured more strength into his straining knife arm.
The heaving crocodile plunged forward now, mad with pain and fury,
into deeper water. The deep spear wound was eating the life from the
creature, but its tremendous powers were not easily dispersed. The
great reptile smashed into the deep water and dived, rolling as he
went, to shake loose the burden on his back. The Jungle Lord realized
his only hope was to cling to the crocodile and strive for a mortal
blow; for once dislodged he would fall easy prey to it in the
Down went the crocodile until Ki-Gor felt his lungs would burst.
In the impenetrable, muddy blackness of the river bottom the reptile
gave another terrific spin. It was impossible for the Jungle Lord to
keep his hold from loosening. Desperately he grappled, catching
himself before he was torn completely loose. He found he had slipped
to one side of the creature, and though choking in his agonized
craving for oxygen, he realized this was his opportunity.
He gathered his waning strength, slashed deep into the exposed
under belly of the crocodile, laying its stomach open in long ragged
ribbons. The crocodile shook violently and suddenly went limp.
Ki-Gor's numb arms and legs released their grip and he drove to the
The moment his blond head broke the water, the Jungle Lord
greedily sucked deep breaths into his aching lungs. When his body's
painful hunger for oxygen was sated, he turned his attention to the
shore. The worried Masai, fearful that their white friend was lost,
shouted with pleasure when they saw Ki-Gor strike out for land. The
courageous action of Ki-Gor in leaping immediately into seeming death
to save the Masai warrior was only another of many bonds which welded
these indomitable fighters to the side of the beloved white
Ki-Gor climbed out on the bank and went to where the rescued
native lay. The man's legs were badly mangled, but Ki-Gor knew there
was a chance through careful nursing to save the man's limbs.
Employing the best means at hand, he treated the wounds and stopped
"We will go on to the next village along the river, where perhaps
we can find the proper herbs and medicines for the treatment of our
comrade," Ki-Gor announced to the assembled warriors.
The wounded man weakly asked that he be left behind, so as not to
interfere in any way with the search for Helene. Ki-Gor would not
hear of this, and within a brief while, the wounded native was made
comfortable in the war canoe, and the trip was resumed.
In a few hours, Ki-Gor spied a broad path which led out of the
jungle to the river's edge. He ordered the boat moored. With the aid
of Tembu George, he quickly fashioned a sturdy litter in which to
carry the wounded Masai.
"This path shows it is used by many people," Ki-Gor stated, "and
probably a village lies just a short distance away. We will take this
man there for treatment, and perhaps we can gain further information
of the serpent boat."
The broad, well-trod path was an easy avenue through the dense
forest. The Masai, wary in this strange land of possible foes, ranged
themselves in a long skirmish line, and held their weapons ready.
Ki-Gor advanced at the head of the column. It was roughly an hour's
journey over the clean winding trail before the warriors sighted a
large village. The men held back as Ki-Gor walked up to the open
entrance to the stockade surrounding the cluster of huts. Two natives
lounging inside the gate looked up in surprise at the massive white
man, but they evidenced no enmity. He held up his hand, palm outward,
in the sign of peace, and the men returned the greeting, calling out
to him in a dialect that was closely akin to the Wasuli.
"Welcome, O white one, who comes under the sign of peace," one of
the natives said in a shrill voice.
Ki-Gor responded with the words, "Greetings, O friends, I would
see your chief."
The natives rose without haste and escorted the Jungle Lord down a
lane between the huts to a thatched abode somewhat larger than the
rest. In answer to their calls, the lion's skin hung over the door
was thrust aside, and the chief came out. He was a fat, genial
native, of medium height with round eyes and a mild, honest face.
"I am Ki-Gor," the Jungle Lord said simply, "and I need your help
in treating one of my friends who has been injured by a
The round eyes of the native grew even rounder, as he expressed
his sympathy at this news. "I am Wabumaa. You are welcome in my
village. We are a peaceful people and we welcome in friendship all
those who come in peace."
Ki-Gor's trained eyes already had ascertained that this was not a
war-like tribe. There was ample evidence these people were friendly
and peace-loving, preferring to live a simple, plain, safe existence,
instead of the sometimes rich, but always dangerous, costly life of a
war-like, marauding tribe.
Ki-Gor thanked Wabumaa and the two went out to meet the waiting
Masai. The roly-poly little chief stared with frank admiration at the
stalwart warriors who came forward at the white man's motion. The
wounded Masai was quickly made comfortable in a vacant hut, and a
brew of rare herbs was prepared to heal his lacerated legs.
Weary after their days of strained, unrelenting haste, Ki-Gor,
Tembu George and their men soon took advantage of this opportunity
for rest. They sought cool, sheltered spots and soon were fast
asleep, all except one man who sat beside the injured warrior. It was
nightfall when the increasing clatter and bustle within the village
roused the Masai one by one. Ki-Gor awakened, completely refreshed,
and went to search out the reason for the unusual stir.
He found the amiable Wabumaa waddling about in a pleased bustle,
giving directions right and left. He was preparing a feast for the
visitors. The chief, being both a hospitable man and also one who
enjoyed celebrations, had no intention of letting this excellent
excuse for a banquet pass unheeded. The air was fragrant with the
satisfying aroma of cooking meat. The circular area about the lone,
big tree which had been left standing in the center of the village
was being prepared for the diners.
Perspiring, but wreathed with smiles, the chief motioned to Ki-Gor
and the Masai to take their places. Wabumaa's men joined them,
sitting cross-legged in a wide circle around the tree. Wabumaa made a
gracious, flowery address repeating in detail his briefer welcome of
earlier in the day. Tembu George replied in kind, as required by
native etiquette and then the heaping platters of savory game and
fresh fruits were brought forward.
Ki-Gor had hardly begun his meal when there was a sudden,
splintering thud. An abrupt silence fell over the company. The eyes
of the natives shifted to a point on the tree trunk about eight feet
from the ground. Following the chief's gaze, Ki-Gor looked to see a
long, black arrow embedded in the tree, its haft vibrating.
Ki-Gor glanced around the ring of staring natives. Their gay,
happy mood of a few moments before was completely gone.
Ki-Gor stood up, walked to the tree, and jerked the long black
arrow free. He turned back to the chief and inquired, "What is wrong
with your people? Does this one arrow shot by a sneaking bowman have
some evil significance?"
The chief rose now, his plump face troubled, as he sought words to
answer Ki-Gor. "It is the Black Arrow of the Serpent God!" he said
fearfully. "It means my two finest warriors must go to their
IV. - The Sacrifice of Zaa
HELENE began to believe the long nightmare of the canoe trip would
never end. Forced to lie on the floor of the boat, cramped by her
bonds, barely protected from the burning sun, she was worn and
exhausted. The harsh Basru paid her scant attention except to see she
was well fed, and that she did not want for water.
The red haired girl, consumed with her burning sorrow, gave little
notice to the rising spirits exhibited by her abductors one morning,
and the renewed energy with which they began to ply their paddles.
Had she been interested, she would have known the men were nearing
home. The war canoe had left the broad river and sped up one of its
tributaries. By midday the canoe fought through a long, turbulent
stretch of rapids to glide out upon a vast, blue lake.
An island stood, green and inviting in the middle of the lake, and
Basru directed his course straight for it. When the island rose close
before them, three other craft darted from a hidden cove.
One of the craft drew near and its captain, after careful
inspection called out: "After all these days, surely you don't return
empty handed, friend Basru!"
Basru's hard face broke into a wide smile as he bent and carefully
raised Helene to a standing position. With an eloquent gesture, he
triumphantly indicated the precious cargo he carried. The captain at
this sight swept in very close, and gazed with long interest at
Helene, who remained breathtakingly beautiful despite the hardships
she had suffered.
The man nodded his head admiringly and called, "You have done
well, Basru! This voyage will win you the favor of the Serpent
Helene looked at the broad lake, the green island, and the
towering mountains which rose in the far distance. This was a strange
region, an area completely unfamiliar to her. She noted the island
was quite large and the banks were grown up with huge trees.
Basru skillfully brought the war canoe in near shore, sending it
gliding up a narrow inlet into a snug harbor which nature had
carefully camouflaged from outside view. The boat was soon beached,
and for the first time since her capture, Helene was completely freed
of her bonds. When the cramps in her legs and arms were relieved, the
tired girl climbed from the boat.
A smooth, clear road led from the beach into the forest. It was up
this road Basru and his men escorted Helene past clumps of staring
natives with ill-concealed pride. The jungle girl noted with interest
that the avenue was paved with blocks of wellworn stone, and was not
the usual dirt path found in African villages. Before she could dwell
on this oddity, Helene entered the outskirts of the town.
The village puzzled her even more. First came a belt of thatched
native huts, the small dingy kind found throughout Africa, but these
huts halted at the edge of a tall stone wall. The wall gave evidence
of having been built long decades before, and though it remained
generally strong and imposing, it was cracked and falling into
disrepair in places.
The road went through a wide, arched gateway set in the wall and
entered a second or inner city. Helene could not suppress a cry of
surprise at the sight which greeted her. Within the wall, lay a
totally different type of community, a well laid out city of square
stone buildings. The structures were simple in design, but these
solidly built rock houses were a unique and astounding sight to find
in the heart of primitive Africa.
This was some ancient fortress city, built by long dead hands,
Helene could easily see. It was apparent many of the structures were
deserted, and she was impressed by the absence of any signs of life
on the streets. Helene's inspection was cut short, however, for Basru
marched her to a large building, and rapped on the carved door.
Basru averted his eyes and bowed low when the broad door swung
open. With misgiving, Helene looked through the open doorway. She was
greeted with another totally unexpected shock. Seven young women,
their skins almost as fair as Helene's, stood waiting upon the
threshold. With their long dark hair and great black eyes, the women
were like exquisite tropical blooms, exotic and fragile in their
delicate beauty. They were oddly dressed, wearing silver breastplates
and brief girdles, likewise heavy with silver. Over this scanty
dress, each wore a long cape of brilliant yellow, fastened at the
bare throat with a jeweled clasp.
One dark haired woman reached out a graceful hand in welcome. She
spoke in a low musical voice and though many of the accents and words
were unknown to Helene, Ki-Gor's mate understood the greeting to
mean, "Enter, O bride to be of the mighty Zaa."
The proud red-haired girl, unsure of the fate which lay ahead, but
feeling the company of the women in any event to be more desirable
than association with the cruel Basru, shrugged her shoulders and
stepped through the door. Helene turned and looked back at Basru.
Both he and his men bowed low and withdrew, walking backwards, so
that they still faced the young women respectfully. The big door
swung closed, and Helene was guided down a long passage into a large
The jungle girl noted the rich furnishings of the room. Fine
tapestries hung from the walls. Strangely fashioned pieces of
furniture adorned with beautifully carved figures, indicated a quite
high type of civilization. A low table of burnished red-tinted wood,
inset with gold workings, stood in one corner. The fair young
spokesman drew a small bench up to this table for Helene.
"Be seated, lovely one of the red hair," she said in her soft,
warm voice, "and we will bring you food and drink."
Tired, hungry, thirsty, Helene needed no further urging. She sat
down, and in a few minutes vessels of hand beaten silver were placed
before her. The various dishes were delightfully flavored, and
acquainted though she was with the world's finest foods, Helene had
never tasted more exquisite cookery. She ate ravenously, and as the
pangs of hunger were satisfied, her spirits rose.
The women departed after serving Helene, leaving her to her own
devices. She studied the odd furnishings for a time and then lay down
on a couch to rest. She fell into a deep sleep and awakened only on
the return of the women.
"Tell us your name," the dark haired spokesman said, after Helene
had rubbed the sleep from her eyes and looked inquiringly at the
"Helene," answered the jungle girl.
"Helene. Helene," the girl pronounced in her odd accents. "It is
an unusual name, one I have not heard before, but I like it. I am
known as Rannee."
"Who are you?" Helene asked in a puzzled voice.
"We are handmaidens of the High Priestess of Zaa."
Helene's face showed clearly she did not understand. "Yes, but who
There was a touch of awe and fear in Rannee's face as she replied,
"Zaa is the all-powerful god of my people, the great Serpent God.
Surely you jest when you say you do not know of Zaa."
Helene shook her head slowly. It was difficult to believe that
people as apparently civilized as these had such a primitive
religion, but she had no opportunity to pursue the matter further,
because Rannee now beckoned her to follow.
Helene rose and accompanied the seven girls down a stone passage
and into a large, oval room.
The walls floor and ceiling of the room were of glistening black
stone, so dark and shining she could see herself mirrored in it. Set
in the exact center of the room was a rectangular pool of gleaming
white marble. Steps led down into the pool, and from gaping mouths of
odd figureheads set in each corner of the pool poured crystal-clear
streams of water.
Rannee pointed to the inviting pool, saying to Helene, "It is the
hour for your first ceremonial bath of purification."
The unexpected splendor and luxury of the gleaming black room took
Helene aback. The unrealness of this scene set in the heart of a
dense, primitive jungle fastness overwhelmed and confused her, and
she gave small attention to the meaning of this ceremonial. In her
disturbed state of mind, she hardly cared in any case. She offered no
objection, therefore, when Rannee came forward and gently aided her
to slip out of the leopard skin brassiere and breechclout.
Helene walked down the white steps into the clear water, shivering
with pleasure as the refreshing coolness slipped up to cover her
body. She bathed hurriedly, paying little attention to her quiet
audience. The pleasant luxury of the bath, the feel of the water on
her smooth, young body, soothed and rested Helene. Reluctantly, at
last, she emerged from the pool. The handmaidens waiting to dress her
exclaimed admiringly at the radiant beauty of her graceful form, and
Rannee murmured in deepest sincerity, "You are very lovely, Helene,
you will be the most beautiful bride taken in my memory by the great
Helene, though not unpleased by the compliment, was disturbed at
its implications. But before she could speak, Rannee called out to
her sisters and two of them came with woven towels and care fully
dried the jungle girl. Next they brought silver flasks containing
rare and exquisite scents which they applied. Rannee herself put
breastplates delicately fashioned from gold and gleaming with rare
gems on Helene, and fastened about the jungle girl's shapely hips a
girdle of worked gold likewise resplendent with jewels. About
Helene's shoulders was thrown a cape of purest white, exceedingly
soft and fine to the touch. Small gold sandals were placed on her
The seven handmaidens drew back to survey their handiwork, and
their faces amply reflected the pleasure and admiration with which
they regarded the red haired girl. Helene, in returning the looks of
the handmaidens, found it hard to believe these fair, gentle women
were preparing her as some sort of sacrifice or offering to this
Serpent God they worshipped.
For a moment, she felt the urge to tear the soft white cape from
her shoulders and throw it at their feet, and offer resistance to
these superstitious fools. But the memory of her beloved Ki-Gor going
to his death came back to her, and a black despair laid hold of her
What did it matter what became of her, she thought. There was no
life for her without Ki-Gor and if these odd people meant to send her
to her death, then perhaps all was for the best. Ki-Gor's arms would
never hold her again, nor would she ever again hear his teasing,
laughing voice. Life held no attraction. What was the sense of
Helene was escorted back down the stone passages and into a square
high ceilinged room. It was an outside room, but the windows were
small and placed high up on the walls, well beyond her reach. The
afternoon sun filtered through these small openings softly
illuminating the rich, but ancient, interior.
Rannee and her companions left Helene to her thoughts. The
despondent girl, overcome by her grief, now that the dreadful shock
of recent events had abated and her mind again functioned, threw
herself on a couch and sobbed bitterly. She resolved in her
unhappiness to openly welcome whatever means of death the snake
people planned for her.
Helene was subjected for the next two days to the same quiet
ritual. The seven women, always together, brought her superb meals
and saw to her comfort, disturbing her little, except to insist on
the luxurious bath taken in the great black room. It was midmorning
the fourth day that the dark haired girls came to summon Helene, and
Rannee, their spokesman, said with suppressed excitement, "You have
completed the formal ceremony of purification and the time has come
for you to enter the temple and be presented to Dian, High Priestess
The occasion, which obviously excited the handmaidens, stirred no
emotion in Helene. Without objection, she rose and followed them out
through the wide doorway to the flagstone street, where they turned
their footsteps east. The warm morning sun emphasized the extreme age
of the village, and although there was an impressive beauty to the
place, Helene felt a sense of death and evil, an indefinable
atmosphere of decay over everything. This was a place out of the
past, she thought, a pale remnant of a long-dead civilizations, a
decadent holdover forgotten by time.
Few people were about as the party wound through the eerie,
deserted streets toward a vast stone structure that rose in the
center of the village. The vast building was impressive in size, but
the most striking feature was its complete ugliness. Everything about
it was too heavy, too big. The tremendous stone columns which jutted
up to support the heavy roof were bulbous, obscenely huge.
Helene walked across the flagstone courtyard and mounted the
broad, worn steps. Through the open doors of the temple, she looked
into the tomblike interior, and from the dense gloom, broken only by
the faint light of flickering torches, there rolled out an intangible
sense of evil. The red haired girl drew her white cloak more closely
about her, took a deep breath and crossed the portals into the inner
Helene's attention was drawn as though by a magnet to a great
yellow square of stone placed in the center of the temple. This flat
slab, set on a dais of black marble, sent a chill over the red haired
girl; this, she knew, was the sacrificial stone of the pagan temple.
The uneven light of the sputtering torches revealed long lines of
squat, round, stone chairs extended along the right and left sides of
the temple, facing the yellow altar of the Serpent God.
The sound of a heavy gong reverberated ominously as Helene neared
the rock slab. When the waves of sound from the gong fell away, the
shrill, high chanting of women's voices seeped into the temple. The
thin, sing-song notes came nearer, steadily growing in intensity,
until the pagan chant filled the air with its weird pulsation.
A faint radiance wavered in the darkness behind the great stone.
The baleful fluorescence burned more brightly, until in a sudden
burst of light, a double file of torchbearers, walking in slow,
measured step, appeared through an arched doorway at the front of the
temple. Holding the fiercely burning torches high, the two files of
chanting handmaidens split, one going to the left, and one to the
right of the smooth, glistening stone altar slab.
Helene watched the rapt, intent faces of the singers, white and
unreal above their yellow capes. Her eyes were drawn back with
resistless attraction to the massive rock, which in her fancy,
appeared to glow dully at first, but with increasing intensity as the
long seconds dragged by. Helene shook her head and lifted her eyes by
sheer force of will from the hateful, inanimate stone.
The singing abruptly ceased. The curious chant did not reach a
climax of any kind before halting, nor did it fall away softly;
instead, the voices rose in full volume at one breath, and at the
next were absolutely stilled. Silence, eerie and startling in its
suddenness, burst over the huge temple like a thunderclap.
Helene's eyes followed those of the torchbearers to the door. A
dark-haired, fullbreasted woman, a woman of incredible, burning
beauty, stepped forward into the center of the light. Her cape was
flung back over her bare shoulders, revealing the exquisite curves of
her firm, lithe body. All attention focused on this magnetically
beautiful woman as she moved with liquid, feline grace toward the
Rannee, who had stood quietly all the while, now bowed deeply,
saying, "Hail, O All-Powerful. Dian, High Priestess of the Mighty
Zaa. As the ancient writs prescribe, we bring before you the chosen
one, whom Zaa will take into himself at the Festival of the Seventh
The High Priestess looked directly at Helene during this formal
speech. Then as Rannee finished speaking, Dian raised her right arm
high, and lifted her eyes toward the shadowy gloom which enfolded the
high ceiling of the temple. Her lips moved soundlessly in this
ancient rite of accepting Zaa's bride-to-be into the protection of
Helene studied in this interval the haughty, barbaric figure of
the High Priestess. Dian stood during the ritual with head thrown
back, dark eyes half-closed, her body taut with emotion. Her raised
arm, both commanding and beseeching, was encircled at the wrist with
a bracelet wrought in the likeness of a coiled serpent. Dian's firm,
full breasts were cupped by loose, revealing gold coils, cleverly
encrusted with green gems. The brief, jeweled girdle she wore was
made up of the same green stones worked into the gold.
It was the woman's face, however, that most attracted Helene's
attention. It was a cruel, exotic face. The white, smooth skin was
doubly-fair set as it was against the cloud of raven hair. The
forehead was high, and the lips full, scarlet, and sensuous. Dian's
firm chin and strong cheekbones clearly were those of one born to
command. But the eyes of the High Priestess were her most dominant
feature, for they were large, dark, burning pools, so black as to be
almost luminous, so charged with inner fire they were electric in
Dian concluded at length the initial part of the ritual and roused
from the near hypnotic spell, in which she had communed with Zaa. She
addressed Rannee and the handmaidens, saying throatily, "Zaa will be
pleased with his people for bringing him this fair one. You have
handled your trust well, and I bid you welcome now into the sacred
inner portals of the temple."
The handmaidens who had cared for Helene the past three days bowed
deeply, and the weird chant of the torchbearers was resumed. The High
Priestess advanced around the stone altar to within arm's reach of
Helene. Behind her came a young girl bearing in extended hands an
ornate ivory box. Dian spoke again in a soft undertone, and because
of her nearness, Helene could hear many of the words, but they were
in a strange tongue, some forgotten language reserved now by these
people only for their formal ceremonies. When the speech was ended,
Dian turned and opened the small box held by the girl, and lifted out
a slender, gold headband, set with rubies.
The High Priestess placed this slender band on Helene's head,
stepped back one pace, made a mystic symbol with her hand, and after
one last glance at the jungle girl with those intense, glowing eyes,
said, "The temple now receives you, O Promised of Zaa!" Rannee placed
a hand on Helene's arm at these words and urged her forward after the
retreating figure of the High Priestess. The chanting handmaidens
fell in behind Helene, filing after her toward the archway beyond the
Helene had the look of a sleepwalker as she went through the door.
The incredible events which had piled up in her life, one on another,
in such a short span of time had dazed and shaken her. The world was
suddenly too grotesque to seem real. Her pale face reflected a soul
weariness as she advanced half-bravely, half-unbelieving, into the
musty, gloomy inner sanctum of the temple.
V. - The Mysterious Warrior
Ki-Gor balanced the black arrow of the Serpent God in his right
hand. He stared long and thoughtfully at this ominous missile which
had spread fear and consternation among the natives. His eyes traced
and retraced the writhing serpent carved about the arrow's polished,
black shaft. The Jungle Lord turned a thoughtful gaze on Wabumaa, the
chief. The laughter and happiness were gone out of the fat,
good-natured native, for the slim arrow had wrought a fearful change
in Wabumaa. The man's color was a sickly yellow, and his plump jowls
trembled as he nervously sought to moisten dry lips with his
"You mean your two strongest warriors will be sent as a sacrifice
to the Serpent God, merely because someone shoots a black arrow into
your village," Ki-Gor asked in an incredulous voice, finding it
difficult to comprehend the abject submission of the tribesmen to
"Aye, I dare not do otherwise," the chief said fearfully. "A tribe
to the north of us tried once to revolt against this old, old custom,
and the people of the Serpent God came with spear and fire and wiped
Never had Ki-Gor brooked arbitrary action or words from any man,
so there was scornful anger in his voice as he snapped, "You have
many strong, young men in your tribe! It is hard to understand
warriors who won't battle for their rights."
The disturbed black man shook his head helplessly. "We are a
peaceful people and fighting is not our calling. For many generations
before us, our fathers followed the custom of sending the required
two men." Wabumaa saw there was still no understanding in Ki-Gor's
stern face, so pointing for emphasis to an unhappy group of his
people standing nearby, he declared with finality, "Is it not better
these two should be given up that the rest of us may live in peace?
Resistance to the Serpent God would mean the destruction of all my
people. Aye, all this was settled and determined long ago by my
Clearly the chief had no thought of resisting the Serpent God's
summons, so Ki-Gor asked how often the sacrifice was required.
"Always at this season," was the thickly muttered reply. "Always
when the moon grows swollen and heavy with the approach of the great
rains, this summons comes from the hated Serpent God."
Tembu George, who had shouldered his way up in time to hear part
of the conversation, questioned, "Where do these snake people live,
and what sort of rites do they hold?"
"I don't know," Wabumaa answered. "The two men must go out alone
and unarmed along a trail to the north. It is taboo for us to go into
that region. What happens to them I don't know, but none has ever
Ki-Gor toyed with the arrow, while his mind weighed a desperate
plan. He felt certain the serpent worshippers were the marauders he
sought. It was typical of him to seek direct action, heedless of
overwhelming odds and danger. A grievous wrong had been done him by
these people, his mind darkened by a cowardly blow, his wife stolen,
and here he found further evidence of long-standing crimes against
these submissive natives.
The Jungle Lord's voice was as deliberate as though he inquired
about the weather when he asked calmly, "You would not object if some
one took the place of one of the men you must send to the Serpent
This soft-spoken remark could have had no more stunning effect on
the fat native if it had been a thunderclap of sound. Bewilderment
and disbelief crowded into Wabumaa's face.
"No one has ever made an offer of that kind," he said, and then as
the rising wails and laments of his tribesmen fell on his ears, he
hurriedly added, "but it would make no difference to the Serpent
people that I can see."
The big Masai Chieftain, Tembu George, turned and scrutinized the
Jungle Lord closely, the significance of the white man's statement
slowly dawned on him, and a gleam of admiration came into the massive
fighting man's eyes.
"Then I will replace one of the victims!" the Jungle Lord
The fat chief felt the white man certainly was mad to make such an
offer, but it was with regret in his voice that he pointed out the
proposal was impossible in Ki-Gor's case. "I do not believe the snake
people would accept you because your skin is fair. They would think
it was a trick and would know you were not my tribesman. If you were
a native, I do not think it would matter to them."
This objection had not occurred to Ki-Gor. As he frowned, and cast
about for a solution, Tembu George broke in to agree with the
"That's right. White men are scarce in this region and I don't
believe those snake worshippers would take kindly to your
The big warrior paused a moment, and glancing out of the corner of
his eye at Ki-Gor, advanced another suggestion. "They would find
nothing suspicious in my looks, so I will go."
"Yes, yes, that's true," the chief was quick to urge, happy to
think one of these foolhardy men would voluntarily save the life of
one of his tribesmen.
There was a faint smile on Ki-Gor's lips when he looked at Tembu
George, an expression of pleasure at the loyalty and courage of his
"You may go if you like, my young lion, but you do not get rid of
me quite so easily," Ki-Gor chuckled meaningly. "Give me a few hours'
time and the Serpent God himself will swear we are twin
For the first time in many days, Ki-Gor laughed heartily. He
slapped Tembu George on the shoulder, turned on his heel and strode
away, his booming laughter startling the mourning natives. Ki-Gor
heard their laments change to shouts of happiness and admiration
behind him when their chief announced the two strangers would offer
themselves up as a sacrifice to the Serpent God.
After searching through the jungle several hours, Ki-Gor returned
to the village. He carried a leaf-wrapped bundle containing various
herbs and plants, which he immediately placed in a large urn. The
Jungle Lord filled the urn with water and placed it among hot coals
to boil. He squatted by the mixture, stirring and watching it
carefully, until tests convinced him it was properly done.
He then cooled the concoction and carried it into a hut with him.
After a long while, a big figure loomed in the doorway of the hut. It
was Ki-Gor, but it was a drastically changed Ki-Gor. Where a tall,
superbly muscled white man had entered the thatched abode, a black
man came out whose ebony skin glistened in the sun. The long, blond
hair was replaced by a close-cropped black head of hair, stiff and
The altered Jungle Lord strode through the village seeking Tembu
George. The gleaming, velvety black of his skin accentuated Ki-Gor's
tremendous muscular development. His freshly oiled skin shone in the
light, revealing in every detail the play of the steely muscles along
his massive frame. Natives turned to gape at the strange warrior
walking so confidently through their village, wondering at the
identity of this awesome black fighting man.
Lounging idly near the central campfire, Tembu George noticed with
interest the approach of the big native buck. He watched with good
humor the swagger of the native, smiling to himself at this
affectation, but in no way resenting it, because as a chieftain of
real fighting men, he well understood the overdose of pride and
self-satisfaction experienced by many young warriors. He did not
recognize Ki-Gor, and little knew that this swagger was part of a
show being put on for his benefit.
With elaborate indifference to Tembu George and the staring groups
of natives, the Jungle Lord stooped and picked up a charred piece of
wood from the edge of the fire. He walked casually to the lone tree
that stood nearby, the same tree in which the black arrow had been
embedded, and reached up to mark three black crosses on the trunk.
Standing back, he surveyed the three charcoal crosses placed one
beneath the other at intervals of a foot. In the same casual manner,
Ki-Gor strode a few steps to where two bows with partially filled
quivers had been left by returning hunters.
"Would you risk embarrassment by matching your skill with the bow
against mine!" Ki-Gor barked suddenly at Tembu George in a loud,
rough voice. This display of arrogant self-confidence by the strange
black man aroused a momentary flash of anger in Tembu George.
Considering the suggested contest, however, the Masai chieftain,
conscious of his own ability with the bow, regained his good humor,
thinking it would be a good lesson to teach this upstart giant some
manners. He heaved his muscled bulk up and walked toward the strange
warrior. Hardly looking at his friend, Ki-Gor pitched a bow and three
arrows to Tembu George.
Ki-Gor restrained his laughter with difficulty, and half turning
his back to the Masai leader, he barked again in the assumed harsh
voice. "Three arrows apiece, making one shot for each cross. You may
It would be a pleasure to shatter the studied indifference of the
big native, Tembu George thought, so without a word, he fitted an
arrow to the bow and raised it easily, almost carelessly. The
bowstring twanged and like a gleam of light the arrow sped to the top
cross mark. There was a crack of sound and the arrow dug into the
tree trunk. A cry of approval went up from the watching natives. The
arrow was embedded not half an inch from the exact center of the
Outwardly solemn, but quite pleased with himself, Tembu George
lowered the bow. "Let the swaggering buck beat that," he said to
himself. But before he had an opportunity to really enjoy his pride
of marksmanship, he heard the big fellow say, "Would you like to try
that shot over? It is so wide, perhaps your foot slipped."
"That shot stands! Pay more attention to the contest, and less to
the wagging of your tongue," the Masai Chieftain growled, unable to
restrain his anger this time.
"I have no desire to show you up, old man, if you are not at your
best," proclaimed the delighted Ki-Gor, "so if you prefer, we can
forget the contest."
"Stop your loud gabbing and get on with it!" roared the now
infuriated Tembu George.
Having never yet deigned to look straight at his Masai comrade,
the Jungle Lord sighed audibly, shrugged his shoulders, and raised
the bow in one smooth motion, let fly an arrow. The arrow struck the
tree so hard the impact cracked like a pistol shot. A gasp went up
from the onlookers. The barked shaft was driven deep into the exact
center of the cross.
The Jungle Lord pursed his lips, and squatted native fashion on
the ground, apparently deeply interested in his big toe. It was all
he could do to suppress the gale of laughter that threatened to burst
from his throat.
The heavy brows of the Masai leader touched in a deep frown. It
was clear this upstart was not to be taken lightly, so Tembu George
dropped his casual air, and tensely prepared for the second shot. He
would show him this time something about Masai marksmanship. Perhaps
the fellow's first shot was merely a lucky one anyway. The massive
Negro aimed with great care, and then with exacting skill released
the barb. Delighted cries went up. The arrow vibrated precisely in
the center of the second cross mark.
"Well, that slight wind helped right your aim this time," declared
Ki-Gor, showing only casual interest in the accuracy of the shot. He
took slightly longer aim himself this time and then sent his arrow
flashing at the mark. The superhuman skill of the Jungle Lord was
never better shown, for his arrow split the shaft of Tembu George's
barb cleanly, and sent the pieces flying.
He turned a quick glance at the face of the Masai Chieftain, and
seeing the consternation in the big man's expression, he was unable
to control himself any longer. He shouted with delight, slapping his
thighs and laughing until the tears came.
This display of poor sportsmanship on the part of his rival
brought Tembu George up short, his mouth open to deliver a challenge.
Then as he listened to the familiar tone of that storm of guffaws, he
stared in bewilderment at his black foe, hardly knowing what to
A sheepish grin suddenly appeared on Tembu George's face as he
comprehended the joke played on him. "Ki-Gor, I should shoot you with
this last arrow. How on earth did you rig yourself up like that? You
look more like a native than those fellows standing over there." The
massive Negro joined Ki-Gor in the laugh had at his expense.
Now Ki-Gor drew Tembu George aside, and explained his plan to
enter the realm of the Serpent God. The two men would probably be
facing certain death, and they would have no means of protection for
Wabumaa had warned them they must go forth completely unarmed, they
were to travel straight along the designated path to the east until
met by warriors of the Serpent God. Ki-Gor warned Tembu George not to
resist no matter what provocation was offered. The two men must bide
their time for the one lone chance when they might have an
opportunity to either free Helene, or if it were too late for that,
at least to avenge her.
The Masai warriors were called in and the plan explained to them.
They were unhappy at the prospect of being left behind, and argued
long to be allowed to go. When they finally understood this was
impossible, they made a counter-proposal agreed to by Tembu George.
The fierce fighting men exacted the promise from their leader that a
clear trail he left for them to follow. The idea of violating the
taboo district observed by the local natives in no way disturbed
them. These great warriors would fight the devil himself if need be
to aid either the White Lord of the jungle or their chieftain.
It was agreed the Masai would follow after an interval of a day,
and using their own discretion, would decide on some feasible plan to
aid in rescuing Helene. The wounded warrior would be left in the
village, and if by the time he recovered, the others had not
returned, then he would go downriver and gather the full forces of
the Masai nation. This stern people brooked no insult or injury, and
as surely as night follows day, if it became necessary, long files of
grim Masai warriors would seek out the snake people and exact full
The fat, little chief waddled up to warn Ki-Gor it was time to
depart. Without ceremony, the two uncommonly hale and hearty victims
rose and strode after the plump native. He led them into the jungle a
distance and pointed out the trail they were to follow.
He pressed the black arrow into Ki-Gor's hands. "It is necessary
to take this dreaded thing with you," he muttered.
Wabumaa glanced hastily at the two men with a mixture of
admiration and sorrow. He gulped in an unsuccessful search for words,
and his eyes turned fearfully down the shadowy trail which lay ahead
of these two madmen. A tremor of fright ran over the fat chief and he
turned and ran back toward the safety of his village.
VI. - A Battle for Life
THE TWO MEN spoke little as they traveled the narrow choked trail.
Their minds were occupied with the dangers ahead, but despite, those
dangers, their eagerness to match wits and strength against warriors
of the Serpent God made it necessary for them repeatedly to slacken
pace. It would be unwise to appear to invite the coming ordeal, so
the two men played the role of frightened and none-too-anxious
The trail bored an uneven way through the wild and overgrown
jungle. Great trees interlaced their branches tightly overhead,
cutting off any sight of the sky. Twisted vines, ranging in breadth
from the size of a man's waist to slender threads, twisted and clung,
in an endless, choking battle for survival. Ki-Gor preceded Tembu
George along this dank, sunless route, when suddenly on rounding a
sharp turn in the trail, they confronted a group of heavily armed
Ki-Gor halted, and faced the warriors in silence. These men, he
knew, were guards sent to escort the cringing natives, whom he and
Tembu George had replaced. With an air of apparent resignation, the
Jungle Lord held out the black arrow to the flat-nosed, ape-like,
black man in command of the warriors. The native advanced with a
heavy, splay-footed gait, his hard face sneering at these sheep who
came so meekly to be slaughtered, and accepted the proffered
He wasted no words on his captives, merely calling out, "Come!
Don't stand there like crippled monkeys, the trail ahead is
The group set off immediately, with Ki-Gor and Tembu George
sandwiched in the center of the file of warriors. It was a long
journey, requiring the better part of four days, with most of the
ground covered at a dogtrot. At no time were the captives bound or
mistreated, but a careful watch always was kept on them.
It was a weary, travel-worn party that struggled out of the
smothering jungle in the late afternoon onto the beach of a
sparkling, blue lake. The warriors dragged a long canoe from its
place of concealment in the undergrowth, and slipped it into the
The Jungle Lord's eyes narrowed coldly when he saw the canoe. The
fanged serpent carved on the prow made him bristle instinctively.
With one broad hand he rubbed his cropped head, struggling to break
through the gate which barred his memory. Despite the careful,
detailed outline given Ki-Gor by Tembu George, the past remained
sealed in the inner recesses of his mind. He strove constantly to
break this imprisonment of his memory, seeking especially to conjure
up the faces of those responsible for his present troubles.
The sight of the serpent figurehead moved him deeply, bringing
almost within reach the image of a man he felt was the one who tried
to kill him. He remembered vaguely a loud, arrogant voice associated
with uneasy shifting eyes, but he could not adequately visualize the
man or the circumstances. Ki-Gor felt somehow he would recognize this
key figure if only he could come face to face with him.
A large island formed a shimmering splash of green far out on the
lake. The ape-like black leader hurried his captives into the canoe
and set course for the island. With the goal of his search in sight,
Ki-Gor could not help thinking how tremendous a gamble this venture
was, and he felt a twinge of regret that Tembu George was involved in
the dangerous undertaking out of friendship for him. Tembu George,
however, was certainly no figure to invite concern for he sat without
an apparent worry in the world, stolidly gazing at the rapidly
approaching island much like a bored tourist on a boat ride.
The canoe reached the island with a final burst of speed and
darted into the small harbor. Over a score of natives were busy on
the bank, and they gathered about the canoe when it beached, turning
curious eyes on huge Ki-Gor and Tembu George.
"These two look better than the usual run of cattle you bring back
from Wabumaa," an onlooker said in a matter-of-fact voice to the
The ugly warrior replied with disgust, "These two are merely
larger than the usual yield from that tribe of jackals. These fellows
are as meek and mild as all the rest, and I doubt their performance
will add anything to the Festival of the Seventh Moon."
Tembu George narrowly watched Ki-Gor, half expecting the Jungle
Lord to throw off his air of resignation and make a sudden break for
freedom, now that they had entered the realm of the Serpent God.
Ki-Gor realized, however, any move on his part would be valueless
until he knew exactly how to search out the captive jungle girl, so
he let himself be herded along the same cobbled road over which
Helene had passed. He experienced Helene's surprise when he passed
from the outer village of thatched huts into the strange, deserted,
inner city, but to his captors he evinced no flicker of interest.
The file of natives threaded its way through the silent streets to
a lone, stone building, different from the rest only because it was
more formidably constructed. The Jungle Lord and Tembu George were
taken down a long flight of stairs, and through groaning,
age-blackened timber doors. The doors opened on a low-ceilinged
passageway which sloped down sharply to a second timber barrier. Two
stolid warriors stood guard before the heavy door, and on the
approach of the captives, they silently lifted the bar and the
prisoners were impatiently pushed into a darkened room.
Ki-Gor was instantly alert as the door closed behind him. His
vision adjusted itself with catlike swiftness to the semidarkness. He
saw eight natives bunched together on the far side of the rectangular
room. He recognized immediately in their listlessness the air of men
who live without hope. These, then, were more unfortunates sacrificed
by their tribes to appease the Serpent God.
The strong, muscular natives were fine looking specimens, quite
evidently the picked men of their individual tribes. A surge of anger
went through the Jungle Lord at the thought of numberless men like
these cruelly and supinely sacrificed by their tribes as tribute to
the Serpent God.
Ki-Gor and Tembu George moved forward and joined the natives,
being quickly and easily accepted by this group brought together in a
common misfortune. The eight men, Ki-Gor learned, had arrived in
pairs that same day. Apparently the black arrows were delivered on a
carefully planned schedule, so the victims would arrive at
approximately the same time. The conversation of the moody natives
soon died away, and rose again only at the scuffling of feet outside
the door, heralding the approach of further victims.
When the door clicked open, two more figures were pushed into the
damp room. Ki-Gor looked at the two newcomers who stood at the door,
muttering nervously while they strove to adjust their eyes to the
darkness. One native was average size, well built, but in no regard
unusual, but the other man was of tremendous bulk. This giant Negro
was one of the most massive black men Ki-Gor had ever seen. He was
almost neckless, with smooth shaven bullet head set close on great
sloping shoulders. His arms, as thick, hairy and muscled as a
gorilla's, were abnormally long. The man's trunk, grotesquely big,
was supported by correspondingly large and muscular legs.
A greeting was called out to the newcomers, and reassured that the
nameless horror of the Serpent God was not yet to greet them, the two
warriors advanced. The smaller man was obviously happy to find the
company of his kind, but to, all appearances, his hulking companion
did not share the same sentiments. Ki-Gor sized the giant up
accurately now when he could view him at close quarters. Although the
fellow was a giant insofar as muscular development, his brain had in
no way kept pace with the growth of his body.
Except for a low, animal cunning, the man gave no evidence of
intelligence. Even in the face of death, the big native was a
boastful bully, mean tempered, his evil little eyes looking for
trouble. His loud bellows and brutish arrogance grew more
insufferable as the minutes passed, and the mild dislike Ki-Gor first
felt for the native grew by leaps and bounds.
Ki-Gor in no way was intimidated by the black man's size, for fear
had no part in the Jungle Lord's being. Except for a reluctance to
create a disturbance which would bring the guards down upon all the
natives, he would have immediately crossed the warrior. He held
himself in check, however, until one final act of the overbearing
bully was too much to swallow.
The occasion was the bringing of food to the prisoners. Guards
opened the door and placed inside a large vessel, which contained
food for the entire group. A prisoner, out of courtesy to his
fellows, stepped forward and picked up the vessel, intending to place
it in the center of the group for all to share. As the man bent to
place the container on the floor, a brawny, hairy arm scuffed him
aside and the hulking giant took possession of the food.
"I will eat first," he declared belligerently, "and when I am
finished, you jackals can paw over the remains!"
An angry chorus burst from the natives at this gross display of
arrogance and greed. The giant black pulled the food closer, and
growled contemptuously at the natives.
"If any of you have different ideas, let him come forward and we
shall soon decide whose word is law here," rumbled the bully,
swelling his vast chest, parading his hugeness before the others.
The natives realized crossing the man would plunge them into
unarmed combat, and a hand-to-hand struggle with the gorilla-like
creature, obviously, was an invitation to death. The cries of protest
ceased, bringing an ugly smile to the giant's thick, animal lips.
With considerable show, he prepared to reach one hand into the
vessel, already pleased at the prospect of gorging himself before the
hungry eyes of the others.
The pawlike hand moved down to select a piece of meat, but was
halted in midair by Ki-Gor's cold, steel-hard voice. "I would not
touch that food, if I were you!"
"Eh," grunted the black man, his evil, little, red-flecked eyes
peering up in surprise at this implied opposition.
"We will all share alike here, and furthermore, I have heard
enough of your blustering." The Jungle Lord's steady voice lashed out
again. "Either you will stop acting like an animal, or I will see
that you are given the treatment due one."
When the meaning of this statement trickled into the slow mind of
the brutish native, he swept the food vessel aside with a slap of his
hand. Rage and contempt boiled up in his face to hideously twist his
flat, oily features. He drew his lips back in a sneer, revealing
uneven, yellow tusks, and a driblet of saliva slipped down the
corners of his mouth. The elephantine native drew to his full height,
swaying slowly as anger pulsed through him.
The figure of the black man, grotesque and inhuman in the shadowy
light, completely dwarfed Ki-Gor. The watching natives gave the calm,
quiet Jungle Lord little chance before the giant and they were
spellbound at his deliberate stance. Tembu George alone among them
realized Ki-Gor's deceptive calm masked a dreadful fury, volcanic and
terrible once unleashed. The natives fell back, leaving the two
antagonists to face each other. Still Ki-Gor stood there, every
muscle in delicate balance, his steady eyes never leaving the big
"You dare challenge me, Brogar! You dare insult Brogar!" the giant
bellowed. "You sniveling dango, you die for this!" he screamed,
throwing his vast bulk forward in a headlong charge.
The Jungle Lord, alert for this move, flicked aside from the
ponderous charge, and with the blasting power of a pile driver,
struck the native's temple with the open palm of his right hand. The
blow from that rock-hard hand, which would have felled most men, only
jarred Brogar. The enraged black man smashed at Ki-Gor again, moving
with an agility startling in a person of such mountainous
proportions. He kept rushing Ki-Gor, striving to catch the smaller
man in his flailing arms, but the Jungle Lord successfully evaded
him. Ki-Gor was forced to retreat, but he dealt terrible, punishing
blows for every step he gave ground.
Brogar was accustomed to crushing his smaller opponents without
undue trouble, and this experience of being mauled by the evasive
Jungle Lord sent him insane with blood lust. The giant warrior was
terrible to behold as he beat his chest savagely, a stream of
guttural, animal sounds poured from his frothing lips.
Flailing, clawing, rushing, he drove Ki-Gor back steadily into a
corner of the room. The one thought in his mind was to box the nimble
Jungle Lord up where he could get his hands on him, then he would
show him what the hate of Brogar meant.
Ki-Gor realized he was being forced into an unfavorable position,
and he put forth every trick he knew to turn and divert the raging
giant. The white man knew he could not cope with the vast bulk of the
warrior, once the opportunity to maneuver was gone. Brogar would not
be diverted, though, and Ki-Gor was pushed back, inevitably back,
until his back suddenly struck the cold stone of the wall.
This was the opportunity Brogar awaited. He spread his great arms
wide, and bore forward to close with this puny mortal, who dared
oppose him. Ki-Gor lashed three rocking blows at Brogar's exposed
face, putting his full desperate strength in a last ditch effort to
break out of the trap. The giant wavered, halted, and then came on
again, his tremendous paws smashing on Ki-Gor's head like sledge
hammers. The Jungle Lord was torn from his feet by the shock and
thrown to the floor. Brogar, screaming fiendishly, kicked Ki-Gor as
he fell, sending him rolling.
When he went down and felt the cruel kicks, a black blinding rage
poured over Ki-Gor. He changed in an instant from a calm,
self-possessed man, fighting a deliberate battle, into a raging
jungle killer. The uncontrollable fury that swept over Ki-Gor doubled
and tripled his normally immense strength.
The amnesia previously caused by Basru's head blow, when Helene
was abducted, had swept away much of his veneer of civilization; and
now, rage and pain cut away every last vestige of civilized man.
Ki-Gor was suddenly a jungle beast with the killer-madness on him,
and the raging, primitive, savagery he exhibited made even the blood
of the watching natives run cold.
The black giant leaped at Ki-Gor, straining with his thick fingers
to capture the Jungle Lord's throat. But in vain did the huge black
strain to hold Ki-Gor to the floor and throttle him. The flood of
power exerted by the steel-hard muscles of the Jungle Lord was a
resistless, terrifying force, nullifying and defeating the awesome
strength of the native.
A small twinge of fear crept into the bully's heart as he found he
could not control the writhing, demoniac Ki-Gor. The Jungle Lord
forced the black warrior's choking handhold to loosen, slip and
break. With a supreme effort, Ki-Gor drew his legs up under the
smothering weight of the native, and catapulted them forward,
plunging the big man off of him. Ki-Gor gained his feet in this
interval like a leaping tongue of flame, and swept at the giant,
utterly heedless of the punishing blow's dealt by the hulking
The leonine Ki-Gor dove straight into his foe, tearing and
slashing with incredible speed and power. His face terrible with
anger and a low, chilling snarl of hate sounded deep in his throat.
The White Lord's lips were sheared back in an animal snarl, and his
eyes spat flame.
The Jungle Lord was no longer a man battling only. He was a
ruthless beast of prey intent on destruction, an irresistible
fighting machine geared to tear and rend and kill. Essentially, this
was the role nature had fitted him for, because from the earliest
youth his life and safety depended entirely on his instinctive battle
urge, on an ability to act quicker and with greater deadliness than
the countless savage foes who hunted him.
The bewildered black warrior gave ground before Ki-Gor's fierce,
unrelenting attack. The giant knew fear for the first time in his
life. Never before had the tremendously powerful native had reason to
fear defeat in any struggle. But a fear crept over him now not merely
of being humbled by an adversary, but an actual fear of being killed.
The warrior fought ever more wildly, his guard crumbling before the
shattering blows dealt by Ki-Gor as the two men grappled and
strained, seeking always an opening which would bring decisive
The natives, whose cause Ki-Gor championed, watched with excited
delight as they saw the black giant waver and fall back before
Ki-Gor. This sight of the Jungle Lord beating down the huge warrior
was a totally unexpected turn of events. None of the prisoners,
except Tembu George, had given the smaller man a chance, and for a
time in the beginning, even the Masai chieftain looked with doubt on
the outcome. The spectacle jerked the prisoners out of their silence
as they loudly cried encouragement to Ki-Gor.
But Ki-Gor heard them not. He fought in a red haze which excluded
all except the figure of his foe. He failed to hear also, the sudden
clamor outside in the passageway, where the guards, aroused by the
rising din made by the prisoners, called for more men to put down the
The reinforced guards burst through the door and swept into the
room to halt the disorder just as Ki-Gor landed a stunning blow. He
struck with the hard outer ridge of his hand, and the giant black man
reeled back. Before the brutish figure could recover, Ki-Gor moved in
like a panther, and with an iron grip swung the huge black from his
The immense weight would have torn loose the shoulder muscles of a
lesser man, but the massive Jungle Lord easily lifted the great bulk
overhead and then smashed it to the ground. The moment the bully hit
the floor, Ki-Gor dived to finish him. He gave no heed to the figures
swarming at him. His attention was focused exclusively on reaching
the dazed giant before the man could struggle to his feet.
A score of hands clamped on Ki-Gor as he pounced at the native.
Other guards grasped the huge black, who gave them no resistance. He
was not eager to resume the combat. The men who attempted to control
Ki-Gor though, had their hands full, but their numbers were
sufficient to hold him. When his senses cleared, he reluctantly
submitted and stood quietly.
The Jungle Lord looked about him, as his rage cooled, realizing
only gradually what had taken place. He surveyed the battered visage
of the giant with grim satisfaction, noting, however, the cold,
baleful hate which shone in the native's eyes. The hurt bully would
never forgive Ki-Gor, but this fact did not worry him. Ki-Gor was
disturbed that his action might bring down punishment on the
prisoners. He glanced regretfully to where they were lined up by the
guards, and was reassured. The men's faces amply told him his
humbling of the giant more than repaid them for any trouble which
A sharp command rang out, and a sudden hush fell over the room.
The guards stood stiffly erect as a commanding figure strode into the
door. Ki-Gor's eyes widened in surprise at the newcomer. The man,
obviously a person of rank and importance, was white.
He was an austere, middle-aged fellow, with severe, cold features.
He was oddly garbed, wearing over his bare chest a long scarlet cape,
embroidered with a figure of a fanged serpent. His loins were swathed
with a metallic cloth, yellow as gold, and buckled at his waist was a
short broad sword. Silver sandals encased his feet, and he wore a
gleaming silver helmet on his head.
The white warrior stared around the room, then motioned one of the
guards to him to report on the disturbance. His dark eyes searched
Ki-Gor and the giant black, noting they were not seriously injured.
He gazed at them impersonally, as at cattle, pursing his thin lips in
displeasure at the entire event.
The commanding white man turned with a sweep of his cape, after
this inspection, and stalked to the door. Abruptly, he halted, and
half turning, addressed the prisoners in clipped, emotionless
"You will shed blood enough tomorrow, you savages, without
spilling each other's blood in such foolish personal grudges as
With that ominous pronouncement, the cold, precise white man
strode from the room, leaving the cruel torment of his meaning to
torture the thoughts of the prisoners.
VII. - The Ritual of Flame
THE ETERNITY of suspense drew to an end for the prisoners. It was
the first day of the Festival of the Seventh Moon, and their fate
would soon be known. Uneasily, they waited.
Then the scarlet-robed white warrior came with the guards, four
armed natives for each prisoner, and they were escorted individually
from the cell. The guards took them out of the cool building into the
bright sunlight. The procession of victims wound through the silent
streets, past the great temple, to a long open stretch of ground
which lay behind it.
Excited crowds of natives massed on each side held back by files
of warriors standing shoulder to shoulder. The cleared strip was
broken at regular intervals by what appeared to be barriers and
obstructions of various kinds.
The prisoners had no opportunity to clearly view the field for
they were hurried through the crowd and drawn up before a colorfully
decorated stand containing several tiers of seats. The stand was
located about the center of the field and a heavy guard of helmeted
black warriors was stationed about it. The tiers of seats were packed
with elegantly garbed men and women, and the eyes of the prisoners
widened in surprise--every person in the stand was white skinned.
Ki-Gor looked at the scarlet and yellow robed people who stared
disdainfully at the victims from their vantage point. These people
then were the ruling class of this strange fortress city, a haughty,
fairskinned handful who dominated hundreds of blacks on the island
and made their baleful influence felt throughout the entire lake
He remembered the sprawling, overgrown outer city, jammed with
crude, thatch huts and crowded with natives, and the inner city with
its stone houses, deserted and falling into disuse. The two cities
told the story. These whites were the fading remnants of a once
mighty people, a handful who maintained their rule through religious
domination of the vast numbers of superstitious natives. His interest
in the Serpent God deepened. He realized this small island buried in
the inner fastnesses of the jungle held one of the many weird,
unbelievable secrets of Africa.
As these thoughts passed through his mind, the Jungle Lord studied
the faces of these strange, barbaric whites. A woman of striking
beauty occupied a raised throne in the front rank of the stand. It
was Dian, High Priestess of the Serpent God. Ranged on each side of
her were the Handmaidens of Zaa, except at the place to the immediate
right of Dian, where the pale, beautiful Helene sat.
Tembu George immediately recognized Helene, but he was separated
by a great distance from Ki-Gor, and could not direct the Jungle
Lord's attention to her. For his part, Ki-Gor's searching eyes had
quickly singled out the red-haired, blue--eyed girl and noted how
different she was from the other animated, interested spectators.
Although dressed like the others, she seemed filled with sadness,
withdrawn from the scene around her.
But though Ki-Gor's eyes paused long on Helene, he did not know
her. Nor did he recognize the tall, hard native with the
ever-shifting eyes who stood in front of the stand. It was Basru. The
hatchetfaced warrior was reaping his first honor for the capture of
Helene by being placed in charge of the personal guard of the High
Helene's glance barely touched the prisoners. She had no interest
in the proceedings, and sat pale and aloof, her thoughts turned
inward. It would have been a miracle, in any case for her to
recognize Ki-Gor even had she looked directly at him. He bore no
resemblance to the beloved mate her memory touched on constantly, so
altered was his appearance by the black, oiled skin and shortcropped
hair. Helene would have known Tembu George instantly had she picked
out his face from the mass of natives ranged before her.
The High Priestess rose to her feet and stared out over the
multitude. She raised her right arm high and the roar of many voices
fell away. The hushed silence was tense with expectancy; the crowd
strained to hear the words of the High Priestess.
"I, Dian, High Priestess of Zaa, declare this day the opening of
the Festival of the Seventh Moon, and do command my people to pay
homage to the mighty Serpent God as proscribed by the ancient
The roar of the crowd swept up in a flood of sound as the haughty
priestess made this declaration, and then died away as the high
pitched voice came again.
This time Dian spoke in a strange tongue, the words falling and
rising in odd cadence, as she prayed to Zaa in the dead language of
her forefathers. The moment the prayer was completed the bedlam of
noise broke from the throats of the hundreds of natives, continuing
until a signal from the priestess. Dian looked now at the prisoners
and addressed them.
"Subjects of the Outer Realm, you twelve are sent here by your
respective peoples to do honor to the almighty Zaa.
"As unbelievers, only one among you is given the priceless
opportunity through the Festival of the Seventh Moon to be received
into the service of our mighty god.
"But this fortunate one--the only one of you who will live--must
be the strongest, the fittest, and the greatest warrior. The blood of
the others will atone for the sins of their people."
Dian paused as though to let her words sink into the minds of the
prisoners. The unfortunate men, tense and trembling, looked uneasily
at one another, wondering which would be the lone survivor of the
festival. Anxiously, they strained to hear what the method of
decision would be.
"The two who are most favored by Zaa will be determined through
the Ritual of Flame," continued the High Priestess. "All twelve of
you will compete. Between lanes of fire you will race the length of
this field, passing through five obstacles which will test your
courage, strength and skill."
As Dian halted dramatically, the milling crowd broke out in a
bloodthirsty roar. This was the spectacle they wanted. They pressed
to see how the prisoners reacted to the pronouncement of the High
"One of the first two to cross the finish line will be the man
whose life is spared," cried Dian. "Those who lag behind the two
winners must die on the altar."
The prisoners were stunned by this harsh-cruel contest decreed for
them. They wondered fearfully what the obstacles would be. And in the
mind of each, the desire to live flamed up, and each resolved he must
be one of those first two. They felt an instinctive, even though
unwanted, fear and suspicion of each other, for every man was
henceforth set against every other.
Ki-Gor and Tembu George alone remained undisturbed. These two
ironnerved men willingly entered the realm of the Serpent God, and
they were prepared to face any resulting dangers unflinchingly. It
was obvious this packed field, with its countless warriors, offered
no chance for escape, so the only alternative was to go on with the
contest and hope for a further opportunity to rescue Helene.
The contestants were escorted down to the end of the field and
lined up. Ki-Gor saw now the dangers they were to face. Two narrow
ditches ten feet apart were dug the length of the field and were
filled with a thick, black residue. The Jungle Lord's nostrils
quickly identified the black substance as being principally oil. This
oil would provide the flaming barriers to keep the men on the
The first obstacle was a stretch of earth set with knives, buried
hilt down, so the irregularly placed blades angled up to slash the
legs of any runner who misjudged a step. Beyond this knife-sown area
were three hurdles formed from spears. The hurdles were successively
higher, and each row of spears was pointed to impale any man who
failed to clear the jump.
Next lay an obstacle more dangerous than the first two. Five pairs
of wooden posts were sunk in the ground, and chained to every post
was a leopard. The chains on each pair of leopards permitted the
animals almost to touch paws, when they strained forward, growling
and fighting. Only a narrow, uncharted trail precisely between the
pairs of leopards could be followed by the contestants with any hope
of passing through safely.
A deep pit lay beyond the leopards, and it was impossible for
Ki-Gor to see what danger awaited there. The final obstacle appeared
to be a small ditch across the course, and he deduced it was filled
with the same oily substance as the corridor lanes. It was likely a
high flame barrier would be the final obstacle; and placed as it was
at the end of the course, the flames would be hard for the tired and
breathless natives to surmount.
The cruel mind that conceived this Ritual of Flame made certain
the two winners were men not only of great physical prowess, but also
men smiled on by luck and good fortune. Ki-Gor realized part of the
twelve would never complete the course. He glanced down the lane of
prisoners to place Tembu George, and he noted the hate-filled eyes of
the giant Brogar in turn were searching him out. He understood the
extent of the brutish warrior's hate, and resolved during the race to
be watchful of the native.
The white warrior in charge of the prisoners shouted a command and
all along the field, guards with burning torches ran forward to light
the channels of flame which lined the course. The twin sheets of fire
burst up, wavering yellow in the still air. The chained leopards
screamed in an agony of fear at the fire, and a great roar went up
from the watching crowd, lending a further barbaric note to the
Shouting above the noise, the white warrior told the prisoners the
contest would begin the moment he lowered his sword. The twelve men,
their dark skins pale with fear and stress, glued their eyes to the
raised sword. Ki-Gor watched, too, his muscles tense, for he was
anxious to get through the knife-strewn area before the full mass of
men reached it. Twelve men fighting to outrun each other through that
dangerous stretch meant several would be jostled into missteps and a
fall would be fatal.
The short, broad sword glistened in the sun as the white warrior
held it steady, and then with a shout, slashed it down, starting the
The twelve men burst forward in a frenzied sprint. Twelve superb
physical specimens strained every nerve and fiber to take the lead.
Ki-Gor threw every ounce of strength into a powerful driving spurt,
gaining speed like a startled hare. He edged slowly ahead, leading
all except one figure, which hung with him. He saw from the corner of
his eye this companion who kept pace with him was Brogar.
The agility of the huge black man was astounding. His size made
him a slow starter, but his tremendous strength pushed him forward at
surprising speed once under way. The sharp blades glittered close at
hand now, and Ki-Gor had no desire to enter the obstacle running
shoulder to shoulder with Brogar.
Barriers of flame reared up to swallow the racing men. The tightly
grouped natives surged close behind Ki-Gor, and the sound of their
pounding feet urged him to greater effort. Entering the flaming
walls, the men swept down the center of the course, striving to avoid
the torturing heat and smoke. The first obstacle rose before them,
the leaping flames gleaming on the waiting forest of blades.
This was the moment Ki-Gor awaited. All the great strength in his
magnificent body exploded into his driving legs as he spurted ahead
of the others. He veered to the burning wall on the right, running so
close the flame pricked his skin with its darting red tongues.
Through this stratagem, Ki-Gor placed himself out of reach of the
cunning Brogar, escaping at the same time the danger of being
trampled by the pack should he stumble or misstep.
The main body of natives gave him no notice as they held to the
middle aisle. Heat seared over Ki-Gor and he fought an overwhelming
urge to escape the torturing fire. His iron will kept him from
wavering and the pain was forgotten, momentarily, as all his
attention and concentration was required to avoid the wicked, blades
that slashed up from the earth.
Ki-Gor had guessed the knives would be placed less thickly along
the outer edge of the course than in the center. He was correct, but
the field of gleaming blades was a tremendously formidable obstacle
for a running man. The Jungle Lord called forth his greatest
dexterity, and inviting death at each step, he threw himself over the
cruel stretch in a dizzy, breathtaking gamble.
The massive White Lord of the jungle leaped free over the last row
of knives at the same instant an agonized burst of screams filled the
air. He knew without looking a native had gone down under the
frenzied rush of the pack. Others, he knew, bore gaping leg wounds
after jostling and fighting over the obstacle.
But the brutish giant had survived, for he swept into the lead now
as Ki-Gor lost time turning back to the more endurable portion of the
course. An excruciating hurt flared over Ki-Gor's dry, scorching body
and it was impossible for him to stay so close to the flames. Two
other natives besides Brogar passed him before he reached the center
aisle. Clear of the knives, the Jungle Lord settled quickly into a
dead run, straining to pass the three natives ahead of him.
His terrific pace carried him past the nearest straining native.
He tried his utmost to close the gap to the next man, but the warrior
ran like a frightened deer, the dread thought of the Serpent God
urging him to supreme heights. And the monstrous black figure of
Brogar sped as though all the fiends of hell pursued him, crashing
over the earth with gargantuan strides.
The Jungle Lord saw the second obstacle near, and discarded any
idea of regaining the lead until it was passed. The obstacle was
three successive hurdles, each higher than the last. The hurdles were
formed of braced rows of spears, their points honed to needle
The giant Brogar swept over the first bank of spears, pounded
three steps and cleared the second, and then with a rush threw his
bulk over the third hurdle. The warrior who tailed Brogar cleared the
initial jump, stumbled, tore himself back to his feet, and awkwardly
but successfully leaped the second hurdle. Ki-Gor was close on the
native's trail, and realizing this, the man refused to allow himself
time to regain balance. The warrior flung himself at the third and
highest barrier, and completely off-gait, he spun up in a faltering
jump. The man crashed with a scream on the spear points and hung
there, the blood drenching down from his impaled body.
Ki-Gor cleared the second jump just as the warrior struck the
spears, and his insides writhed at the cruel, mad scene. But it was
too late to aid the dying man, and Brogar drew ever further ahead, so
the Jungle Lord steeled himself and with a prodigious leap went over
the final bank.
He ran now as he never ran before. The sight of the running giant
acted as a whip-lash, beating new strength into his corded muscles.
The hot, smoke-filled air sent a choke of pain over his chest at
every laboring breath. Sweat drenched him, while the torturing flames
burned him at the same time. But only one thought filled his mind:
catch and pass Brogar.
And Ki-Gor's great body responded to his will. He gained steadily
on the huge native. Ever faster he closed the gap. Then in amazement,
he saw Brogar falter and come to a complete stop.
Suddenly, Ki-Gor understood. The big native faced the third
obstacle and was afraid. The obstacle was, in truth, a sight to
strike fear into the bravest of men. Ten leopards, chained opposite
each other in pairs, had been driven insane by the scorching flames.
The rearing, leaping beasts slashed and fought to break free, and
their clawing bodies formed living barricades across the course.
Even the jungle-wise Ki-Gor was struck by the extreme peril ahead.
He did not pause in his stride, however, but swung past Brogar into
the hellish area. He knew the maddened beasts would strike at any
moving object, but in their crazed state, he realized, the leopards
would give no concentrated effort to bringing him down. If he could
avoid their fearful, but aimless, writhings, he could pass through
The White Lord burst between the first pair of leopards when one
of the beasts was jerked back by its chain after a charge, leaving an
open gap for passing through. He dove directly over the second pair,
and the moment his feet struck the earth, he sprinted to the left,
and hovering close to the wall of flame, circled behind the next
When he reached the fourth pair, one of the leopards turned
straight for him. The blood-chilling attack came with lightning
swiftness. Ki-Gor saw the raging jaws yawn toward him as the animal
leaped, and he threw himself backward. He struck the ground violently
and slid, his head nearly reaching the flames before he pulled it
away. The leopard seemed to poise over him in the air for a moment,
and then it crashed back away from him, its neck almost broken. The
chain around the beast's neck had checked it in mid-air.
Ki-Gor sprang up and past the leopard like a released arrow. Again
he hugged the barrier of fire, and though one of the leopards in the
final pair started for him, the flames held the animal back, and the
Jungle Lord sped through safely.
He turned at the edge of the obstacle and looked back, curious
about the progress of the others. An unbelievable sight met his eyes.
All the natives still in the race crowded up to the far side of the
obstacle, hesitating at entering the raging leopard den. As Ki-Gor
watched, Brogar shoved two natives forward with a great push which
committed them to continuing, and then the giant caught up another
native in his huge paws like a club and sprang forward.
It happened too quickly for anyone to know what Brogar was about.
He sent the first two natives in ahead to distract the attention of
the leopards from him. But not satisfied with this protection, the
brutish monster swung the third native in his arms to use as a shield
if he were personally attacked.
The Jungle Lord was both angered and sickened by Brogar's
cowardly, inhuman action. Ki-Gor was helpless to act now, but he
resolved to repay the brutal warrior in full for this performance,
and this time the bully would not escape the penalty as before.
Spurred by his anger, Ki-Gor threw himself forward to complete the
course. He neared the fourth obstacle, which was a deep, square pit
extending completely across the field, from one lane of fire to the
other. The White Lord's puzzlement at what new horror now faced him
grew as he raced toward the yawning pit. When he reached it and
looked down, the shock of the scene was as great as he
The floor of the pit crawled with hundreds of snakes. The cold,
squirming bodies were of every size, shape and kind, twisting and
slithering over each other in constant, uneasy motion. He saw at a
glance the excavation contained both deadly and harmless species.
Addition of the harmless serpents, he thought grimly, was probably
the High Priestess' conception of good sportsmanship toward the
No other action was open to him but to jump into the pit. His feet
landed squarely on two scaly bodies, crushing them. Then began a
fearful dance, as he picked his way through the weaving pattern of
snakes, leaping over the floor of the pit, taking advantage of every
clear space. Time and again he barely avoided the fangs of the
disturbed snakes. After an eternity, Ki-Gor reached the farther side
of the obstacle.
He faced another problem now in getting out of the pit. Certainly,
he had no wish to go back and attempt to run over that writhing
pattern of death in order to gain momentum. A running leap was out of
the question. The Jungle Lord gathered himself, and suddenly
unleashing his strength, sprang up to catch the top of the pit wall.
He fumbled at the soft turf, the earth crumbled in his grip and he
fell back. Twice more he tried, only to fall. Worn by the exhausting
ordeal, his strength was not at full ebb, but he took a great breath
and bounded up the fourth time. One hand caught. Up, up, he pulled
himself, while the sweat poured from his straining face. Without
warning the bank crumbled, and he fell heavily. He lay still for a
moment, and then when he started to rise, a cold, scaly body slipped
over his legs. Ki-Gor fought down a wave of revulsion and cautiously
raised his head to look at the snake. Relief flooded over him when he
saw it was of a harmless species.
This experience lent him false strength, and with his next
terrific effort, he managed a firm grip on the high bank and pulled
himself to safety. Although he could hear the other contestants
arriving at the obstacle behind him, the Jungle Lord did not permit
himself a backward glance.
He went straight for the final barrier, a shimmering wall of flame
rising to a height of over eight feet. His breath came in deep,
laboring gasps, and his pace had fallen to a loping run. He came
straight at the center of the burning hurdle, measuring the distance
with his eyes. The Jungle Lord's indomitable will whipped his tired
body erect, dragged up one last explosive burst of energy, and he
vaulted. Ki-Gor arched up, slowed at the top of the leap, and then
with a tremendous twist of his long body, jerked over the searing
The shock of landing brought him to his hands and knees, and
Ki-Gor's taut iron muscles trembled as he pulled his spent body up.
He peered at the finish line through eyes, red and stinging from the
smoke and heat. A score of guards were drawn up in wait for the
survivors of the Ritual of Flame. At the sight of these guards,
Ki-Gor stiffened, refusing them the pleasure of seeing him stagger
He trotted across the finish mark, his tired body held proudly, no
sign of the utter weariness he felt showing on his expressionless
face. Four guards formed about him immediately and led him in front
of the milling throng of natives to the stand where the High
Dian's hypnotic black eyes, stirred with excitement of the cruel
spectacle, flickered over the regal body of the Jungle Lord. Her
breath came quickly through half parted red lips. She pulled herself
up, and leaned forward and called to Ki-Gor.
"You have proved your prowess, barbarian! You have won the Ritual
of the Flame!" she called in a voice husky with emotion. "There is
yet one more test you must meet. Tonight in the temple you must fight
and kill the warrior who ran second."
VIII. - To the Death
KI-GOR was taken from the field to a small stone room in the rear
of the temple. He was not permitted to see the other contestants. His
mind tortured itself with the question of who the man was he must
If the man was Brogar, then he welcomed the combat. But suppose he
had to face one of the natives toward whom he felt no enmity. And
Tembu George! What if he was pitted against his stalwart friend.
He dropped into an exhausted sleep with these anxious thoughts on
his mind. Ki-Gor blinked his eyes open hours later. The small cell
lay darkened in the purple-black African night. The tiny slits high
on the wall which served as windows drew his gaze. Outside where the
swollen moon rose silver over the blackness of the jungle was
There were steps at the door, and Ki-Gor stood up to face the
guards. He stepped silently into the long hall and followed the lead
of two men bearing torches. He rubbed his left arm as he walked,
massaging the stiffness from it. With a start, he suddenly realized
the natural white of his skin showed through in a small place under
the pressure of his fingers.
The black mixture with which he had coated his skin in a well-nigh
perfect camouflage was ready to peel away. The protecting sheet of
oil he had spread over his body was gone, and the terrific heat of
the obstacle course had baked the texture off his body. He had not
used a simple stain, because this formula showed him by a
witchdoctor, achieved a more natural result and also could be taken
off more easily.
The matter was pushed from Ki-Gor's mind when he stepped into the
great temple. Hundreds of torches lit the massive expanse of stone,
and except for a wide place about the sacrificial rock, every
available space was jammed with chanting natives. The white skinned
aristocrats occupied the rows of stone seats on each side of the
Dian, High Priestess of Zaa, stood before the yellow altar, her
arms thrown up in a beseeching gesture as she called upon the Serpent
God to witness the faithfulness of his people and pour forth his
bounty upon them.
Into this pagan scene came the dejected figures of the contestants
who had survived the Ritual of Flame. Ki-Gor counted them as they
passed into the temple. There were only five, and two of them were
half-dragged by the guards, so badly cut and burned were they.
Exactly half the natives had died on the diabolical obstacles.
The fourth man to enter was Brogar and the fifth was Tembu George.
Both men had come through the ordeal unscathed. One of these two, the
Jungle Lord knew, was the opponent he must face.
At the entrance of the natives, Dian concluded her high-pitched
prayer, and pointing to the altar, cried to waiting guards, "Draw
back the sacred stones about the altar!"
Burly warriors sprang forward and hooked chains into iron rings
set in the floor stones around the yellow rock-slab. With tremendous
hauls, the guards pulled the hinged floor back, section by section,
revealing a yawning pit which ran completely around the altar. The
gaping six foot void which separated the sacrificial stone from the
temple floor was bridged at only one point, where a narrow path was
left to reach the rock.
A signal from Dian brought absolute quiet, and she spoke again to
the Serpent God, saying, "O Mighty Zaa, we call upon you to send your
spirit into the serpent of the pit to receive our sacrifices. We
offer up these men with the hope you will be pleased, and will come
among us again and lead us to renewed greatness."
Ki-Gor listened intently to this prayer of a dying race. The
previous ritual was offered for all the snake people, white and
black, but this particular plea was made actually on behalf of only
the fairskinned aristocrats. The High Priestess called on Zaa to
return in earthly form and rebuild the former power of her tribe.
"Your sword and helmet, your scarlet cape await your return. Come
unto us again as the Great White Warrior who brought our forefathers
into this country from beyond the endless waters."
Abruptly, Dian broke off the prayer. She paused in silence a
moment, then commanded a helmeted warrior, "Make ready the two
warriors. Zaa waits restlessly for the first sacrifice of the
The hatchet-faced Basru hastened to obey the High Priestess. He
barked two orders. Ki-Gor's guards shoved him forward before the
sacrificial stone. From the other side of the altar, guards brought
his opponent. He stared narrowly at the man, and the tension in him
relaxed. His foe was the hulking Brogar.
Basru spoke briefly to the two men, explaining what they were to
do. They would fight on the flat top of the altar until one man was
killed and cast into the pit. The winner would be accepted into the
service of the Serpent God. Basru handed Brogar a knife and sent him
over the narrow bridge and up on the yellow slab. The guard turned
then, and his eyes shifted nervously over the Jungle Lord's face as
he held out a knife. The two stared at each other for a long second,
before Ki-Gor, unbidden, swung on his heel and crossed to the altar.
Frowning, Basru, looked after him, and then, his face puzzled, he
glanced to where Helene sat before walking away.
The bride-to-be of Zaa occupied a place of honor beside Dian in
the front row of seats. Helene cringed at the ruthless barbarism of
the spectacle about to be enacted. The High Priestess felt the
redhaired girl's reaction, and a cruel smile played over her sensuous
"I would advise you to watch, my dear," she said tauntingly,
"because the longer the two men fight, the longer you have to
Despite Helene's resignation to death, there was horror in her
voice, as she gasped. "You mean I, too, will die tonight on the
Dian's burning eyes savored the girl's suffering. "Yes!
Immediately after the other sacrifices are made. Zaa's bride is the
last one he claims."
Helene looked involuntarily at the armed black men on the yellow
rock. The smaller warrior crouched across from the giant, his finely
chiseled profile contrasted with the big man's gross features.
Helene's eyes widened at that familiar figure. Only Ki-Gor fought
from that deadly, crouching stance--and yet, this man was black.
She strained forward, her heart beating wildly. All doubt was
swept away. It was Ki-Gor, she knew. It was impossible because she
saw him die, but somehow, some way, the man before her was Ki-Gor. A
wild joy burst over her, fading as soon as it began, to be replaced
by a gnawing fear he would be killed by the hulking giant.
The Jungle Lord, for his part, was absorbed to the exclusion of
all else with the crafty warrior who began now to stalk him. He saw
there was no over-confidence in Brogar this time to make him less
wary. The giant knew full well how dangerous the smaller man was.
Ki-Gor watched the huge Negro's fingers tighten on the long knife
as the fellow moved forward, his thick, gorilla arms held wide. The
man's red, pig eyes glinted evilly, and his loose features were set
in a flaccid, hideous leer. Ki-Gor judged the overly wide reach of
the native, measuring the disadvantage he must overcome.
While the big fellow came on, the Jungle Lord slipped into his
deadly crouch, balancing his muscled weight for instant action. His
earlier fatigue was gone. The few hours of rest had renewed all the
tremendous power of his superbly conditioned body, and every nerve
and fiber was alert. He followed the slightest move Brogar made, and
with his knowledge of a thousand battles, calculated the best means
of attack against this behemoth.
Then Brogar struck. The giant threw his great weight forward three
paces and slashed his knife arm like a striking python at Ki-Gor's
chest. He hoped for his long reach and sudden onslaught to blast the
White Lord over, disabling him before he could fend the blow.
Ki-Gor made no effort to retreat. His keen eyes anticipated the
attack when Brogar betrayed himself through an unconscious tensing.
The Jungle Lord threw himself forward, reversing the natural human
reaction to retreat, and through his blinding speed slipped under
Brogar's knife arm and close against the giant. In the same motion,
he chopped his blade into the black's left shoulder with a short,
hard blow. The native roared with pain and fury at this unexpected
turn of events, and goaded into madness threw off all caution,
charged headlong at Ki-Gor.
The Jungle Lord fought to retrieve his knife, but the strength of
his blow had buried it in the rigid mass of bone and muscle of the
native's shoulder. He delayed a fraction too long before freeing the
blade from its human sheath and all the trampling power of the
monster burst against him. Before he could recover or fight back, the
raging man made his attack and sent Ki-Gor hurtling back.
The Jungle Lord crashed on the stone, slid wildly to the edge of
the rock slab, teetered helplessly for a moment, and then fell. While
the breathless audience watched, he whirled over in the air and
struck with his body half on, half off, the narrow bridge which
joined the altar to the temple floor. Dazed, he hung limply, then
with rending slowness recovered sufficiently to inch himself upon the
Had the brutish giant been in full possession of his feeble wits,
he would have leaped from the altar and kicked the White Lord into
the pit. The wounded Brogar, however, in his animal madness at first
did not realize what had occurred, and by the time he grasped the
situation, Ki-Gor was on his feet. Fearing the death that lurked in
the pit, he would not risk going out on the narrow walk to meet even
a dazed foe.
Ki-Gor swayed on his feet, shaking his head oddly. He blinked his
eyes and looked strangely at the knife still tightly gripped in his
fingers. He raised his right hand to the side of his head and
carefully felt along the long scar there.
He turned and his puzzled gaze ran over the room, along the nearby
rows of seats, and came to rest on his mate. She seemed to swim into
his vision, a blurred, uneven picture which gradually came into
Then abruptly he understood. The picture fitted into place. His
bruised lips drew into a smile, and softly he formed the name,
The terrific fall he had taken, striking head first on the altar,
had been the shock needed to counteract the damage suffered from
Basru. His memory came back with a rush. And the sight of that
beloved face, pale with fear for him, sent a rush of indomitable
power over him.
Ki-Gor whirled and ran lightly back to the altar. His mind raced
feverishly. Determined to end the bout quickly, he circled the
wounded giant like a hunting lion, his lithe, liquid movements
ominous with purpose. Brogar circled with his antagonist, his black
face yellow with strain and hate, alert for the least opportunity to
slash at the Jungle Lord. Brogar was on the defensive now, but the
stiffening wound did not disable him for his huge, insensitive body
was not to be incapacitated by so minor a hurt.
Faster Ki-Gor circled, while his eyes, narrow and cold, endlessly
measured the giant. He was darting lightning when his dagger struck.
His massive legs flung him in, and his corded right arm exploded into
action. The giant staggered under the rush and crimson flooded over
But the human beast was not to die so easily. The coursing hate in
him and the physical urge to live made him batter back with frenzied
power. Brogar had but one fleeting opportunity to use his knife, and
Ki-Gor's remorseless battle skill nullified this chance. As Ki-Gor
struck, the giant stabbed at him, but the White Lord caught and held
that huge wrist in mid-air. The next moment his blade tore to the
bone of the native's forearm, and the threatening knife tumbled from
the fellow's fingers.
Brogar screamed hoarsely, and to protect himself, flung his great
arms about Ki-Gor. He held the Jungle Lord in a chest-cracking hug,
and the two men pitted brute strength in a gasping struggle. In their
staggering battle, they moved ever closer to the edge of the
Ki-Gor saw the yawning pit and fought to break the giant's steel
grip. Brogar saw or knew nothing, every ounce of his ebbing strength
being centered at crushing this dreadful foe. When the Jungle Lord
fought to pull back, he threw his monstrous bulk into a counter pull,
and the lighter man could not stand against him. The giant jerked
backwards and one foot slipped off the altar. Too late he realized
what he had done.
He teetered clumsily, and then careened into the dark pit,
dragging Ki-Gor with him.
The two men hurtled down in the darkness. Instinctively, even in
this desperate situation, Ki-Gor struggled to spin Brogar's great
bulk under him. He accomplished this just as they struck. The two
splashed deep into the slime and water, and although the impact was
cushioned by the liquid, their velocity was so great Brogar's back
was snapped by the impact.
Ki-Gor sought with difficulty to reach the surface of this
stagnant, muddy pool. He gulped deep breaths of the foul air into his
lungs, as he swam heavily in the slimy water. His eyes gradually
accustomed themselves to the darkness and he made out faintly the
outline of the nearby wall. He forced his way through the filthy
water until he came to an ooze-covered ledge at the base of the
The Jungle Lord hoisted himself onto this ledge, and a moment
after heard the water break apart with a loud splash. Waves lapped
over the stone ledge and broke against his ankles. He stared into the
dimness and made out a vague but hideous reptilian form rising and
shifting in the pool. The long, smooth head of the immense serpent
weaved in a frightening pattern.
Ki-Gor shrank back against the pit's stone side and watched the
serpent. Flattened against the wet rock, he saw the darting head dive
into the black water and jerk up again holding a big object. The huge
serpent had searched out Brogar's body and was gulping it. Fearful of
any movement that might attract the serpent's attention, Ki-Gor glued
himself to the wall hardly daring to breathe, until at length the
ugly monster slid beneath the surface.
IX. - The Coming of Zaa
A faint glimmer of light was visible across the pit. Ki-Gor worked
his way around the perilous ledge, and after an eternity, he reached
the point. He peered through a small opening into a room where an
aged woman sat dozing on a bench. From the stained, yellow cape worn
by the old crone, Ki-Gor knew she was a servant of Zaa. Exploring the
area around the tiny window, he found he stood outside a stone door
which was tightly fastened.
He sought in desperation for a means to get that door opened. He
shivered, realizing a stream of cold water was splashing down on his
shoulders from above. The fresh water came from a point high on the
wall. He rubbed one chilled arm, unable to bring himself to leave the
lighted window, and as he stood there under the trickling water, a
plan of escape came to him. Immediately he began scrubbing his body,
vigorously washing and rubbing every inch of his skin.
Ki-Gor placed his face to the little window and called to the
dozing crone. The old woman, deaf and half-blind, did not rouse until
after repeated calls. Finally, she awoke with a start and stared
about her with dim eyes, eventually locating the source of the
The aged handmaiden of Zaa was upset and obviously disturbed by
this disturbance beyond the door. She hesitated, fright growing on
her, but deciding to act at last, she took a torch from its holder
and carried it to the window.
The light from the torch streamed through the narrow slit and
illuminated Ki-Gor's face. The Jungle Lord stared unflinchingly at
the old crone, and in a commanding voice cried, "Open the door, Old
One, that I may enter!"
The sight of this calm face staring at her from the pit completely
upset the woman, and nearly fainting with fright, she stuttered in
her cracked voice, "But who are you, who stands unscathed in the
It was an unbelievable occurrence to the woman. Since long, dim
years before, when she was first relegated to this lonely task of
watching over the pit, no single person had ever emerged alive from
the Pit of the Serpent God. Ki-Gor now made his great gamble for
freedom. The answer he gave to the woman's question was, "Open, Old
One, and look upon me! Certainly, a true believer should be pleased
at my coming!" The dim, watery, frightened eyes peered more closely
at the clean-cut masculine features revealed by the window, and as
the woman's frown changed to amazement, Ki-Gor knew he had won his
gamble. The crone's mind, never too clear in the calmest moments, at
this time of frightened bewilderment, jumped suddenly to the only
conclusion which had presented itself.
She blanched with fear, and cried out, "It is he--Zaa-the Great
One. He comes at last in human form to aid us."
With fluttering, fumbling hands she unlocked the stone door and
utilized her greatest strength to shove it open. When the door swung
out, the old handmaiden fell to her knees on the floor, abject and
humble before this proud, regal white man she thought was Zaa.
When he stood in the pit, anxiously seeking a means of escape, the
memory of the High Priestess' prayer for Zaa to return to his people
had come into Ki-Gor's mind. The Jungle Lord scrubbed the dark
coating from his skin on the long chance he could pass himself off as
Zaa. He little thought at the moment this plan would succeed so
completely, but he had hoped it would so baffle and interest the
ancient woman that she would permit him to enter.
Realizing now the extent to which this superstitious woman was
taken in by his masquerade, he decided to press this opportunity to
He strode into the small room, assuming a proud, arrogant,
disdainful air. "You are a faithful servant, Old One, and for this
one reason I present myself first to you. The young ones of the
temple do not serve me with their hearts as do you. Thus do I reward
you first for your years of faithful service to me."
Overwhelmed by this compliment, the grovelling woman, long
resentful of the treatment handed her by the younger ones of the
temple, could mutter only. "True, O Lord Zaa, too true. No longer,
though, will the young ones scorn me after this. They have laughed at
me because of this lonely job it has been my lot to tend. They will
laugh no longer."
"Rise now, and fetch me fitting garments, for I would appear
before my people," Ki-Gor ordered. He cautioned the woman to secure
these garments without the knowledge of anyone, saying he did not
wish to disclose his presence until the height of the sacrificial
ceremonies in the temple.
Exaltation lent speed to the crone's feet, and soon Ki-Gor was
caparisoned in the golden helmet and sweeping scarlet cape which were
held always in readiness for the hoped-for return of Zaa. Ki-Gor
buckled at his side the jeweled sword and slipped his feet into
golden sandals. He told the woman to remain at her post, and then
with a sweep of his cape he strode from the room.
Ki-Gor went through the deserted halls, and proceeded quickly to
the door by which he previously was taken into the temple. He held
himself back in the doorway, surveying the barbaric scene. Dian, High
Priestess of Zaa, stood in the center of the sacrificial stone
holding high a bloody knife.
Dian loosened her cape and dropped it onto the yellow stone. She
stood there in the flickering light of the torches swaying in time to
the quickening chant of the massed spectators. The jewels on her
almost nude body glittered with her sensuous movement. She jerked the
knife in a stabbing motion, and four guards hurried forward another
Ki-Gor acted quickly to forestall this sacrifice. Tall and regal
in the robes of the Serpent God, he stepped from concealment and
stalked into the temple, going unnoticed until he stood before the
altar. The sacred robes were known to every person in the temple.
Every eye in the frenzied multitude seemed to focus on him at the
Tense and ear-tingling silence exploded over the temple. The
pregnant quiet was terrible in its intensity. Then and awed murmur
ran back, over the staring ranks, swelling and growing as from
countless throats burst the astonished whisper, "Zaa! . . . It is
Zaa! He has come!"
The dense mass of natives went to their knees as one man. The
white-skinned snake people, thunderstruck by Ki-Gor's regal figure,
hesitated uncertainly, and then one by one bent in homage. Behind him
on the altar, the tense bare form of the High Priestess knelt.
Two people in the temple stared at this embodiment of the Serpent
God with the most confused disbelief of all. Tembu George and Helene
could not believe their eyes for a second. They were shaken by the
Jungle Lord's audacity, but wild hope rose in their hearts.
Ki-Gor acted now to assert his authority.
His deep, measured voice resounded through the hall.
"I--Zaa--return to lead you as I led your forefathers."
A low roar like the breaking surf rose from the snake people and
died away, as they awaited his next statement.
"I am sickened of the blood spilled in my name, and these forays
against peaceful tribes henceforth shall cease, and there shall be no
further sacrifices. I declare this reign of blood and terror ended,
and I command you to live in peace.
"In penance for your wrongs, I order you to remain in the temple
tonight. Tomorrow you will gather again and select a chieftain and a
council of wise, good men to lead you in a life of peace."
Cries of praise thundered up from the natives, except for the
glowering black guards. Ki-Gor did not notice the shiftyeyed guard
leader stare at him, and turn cursing to scurry to a group of the
white warriors. The cruel, hard Basru, far more cunning than the
others, caught the overjoyed look on Helene's face when she saw
Ki-Gor, and as the Jungle Lord spoke, he recognized the man posing as
"I go now into the inner temple," Ki-Gor cried, "and the prisoners
and my bride shall accompany me."
The Jungle Lord held out his hand to Helene, and the red-haired
girl rose and came to him. The restraining hands on the prisoners
loosened, and all that was left of the original twelve, three men
including Tembu George, joined Ki-Gor.
Before the five could move, a white warrior leaped shouting: "This
man is not Zaa!" he screamed. "He is the white savage Basru took this
girl from far downriver. I don't know how he comes here, but he is no
god, and my sword will prove it."
The warrior darted at Ki-Gor, sword in hand, but the alert Jungle
Lord was not to be checkmated so easily. He swept Helene behind him,
and Zaa's sword flashed gleaming from its scabbard. The two swords
shattered together as Ki-Gor blocked the man's sweeping thrust and
locked the weapons hilt to hilt. Before the white warrior could brace
himself, the Jungle Lord threw his great weight forward, snapping the
man's blade from his grip, and in the same motion, half-severed the
More white warriors ran at them, and Ki-Gor retreated toward the
only open avenue, the narrow bridge to the altar. He tossed Tembu
George the fallen man's sword, and shoulder to shoulder they fought
off the attackers, while Helene led the two natives over the stone
Helene in the excitement had forgotten the High Priestess. Dian
stood on the altar, holding the sacrificial knife, with her eyes
glued on Ki-Gor's mate. The High Priestess' face was contorted with
savage hate as she flung at Helene, intent on stabbing the girl. A
pool of blood from the native sacrificed on the altar lay across the
stone. The feet of the nearly-nude priestess struck the wet place,
and she slipped out of control and plunged headlong past Helene into
The black mass of natives saw the white warriors swarm at the
mighty figure they believed to be the Serpent God. Zaa had promised
them they could rule themselves, and he had discredited and cast out
these cruel masters.
A handful of blacks sprang to defend the Serpent God and the
action of these few catapulted the entire mob forward. The roar of
their charge shook the ancient temple as they flowed against the
fairskinned swordsman and the force of guards commanded by Basru.
"Come," Ki-Gor called to Tembu George, "We must try to get through
to the inner temple."
The two men joined the others on the altar. Ki-Gor glanced across
the yawning pit, locating an open space among the struggling groups
on the far side. He pointed to the spot, and without a word, Tembu
George leaped the gap. Ki-Gor picked up Helene and tossed her across
to his waiting friend. Quickly the two natives followed, and then
with an effortless bound, Ki-Gor was over the pit.
He led the way to the door, sword ready for instant action, while
Tembu George brought up behind. Ki-Gor sent the others down the
passage, while he lingered a moment to make sure they were not
followed. And his wait was not in vain.
A tall, raw-boned guard forced his way to the door, his uneasy
eyes searching for Ki-Gor. It was Basru staying on the scent of his
victim. This time the Jungle Lord recognized the renegade, and with a
grim smile, he stepped out to meet him.
Basru came at Ki-Gor like a dervish, his lean body whirling and
dancing, and his sword whining as it slashed. The Jungle Lord met him
with equal agility, and their blades sparked as they whirled.
Ki-Gor pressed the attack, raining blows at Basru's head and
shoulders, and the tall native retreated, almost staggering at times
under the shock of the white man's power. The sword bit at the
native's head ever faster, and Basru raised his guard further to ward
off the onslaught. This was the trap Ki-Gor planned, and with an
abrupt change of tactics, he abandoned the chopping head blows and
stabbed completely through Basru's chest. The black man reeled in
anguish and fell backwards, writhing in death.
Delaying no longer, Ki-Gor ran in pursuit of Helene and the two
prisoners with Tembu George. The five hurried out of the temple and
sprinted through the deserted streets. The battle clamor fell behind
them as they went down the flagstone road to the lagoon. It was a
minute's work to find and launch a small canoe.
There was no sound but the hard breathing of the men as they sent
the canoe scudding over the lake. Helene sat quietly, drinking in the
splendor of the African night for a time. Ki-Gor sat behind her and
in the silvery brilliance of the full moon he saw every feature of
her lovely face when she turned to stare at him.
"Tell me something, Ki-Gor," she said in her low, throaty
"Yes, my dear," he answered softly.
"As I remember, Ki-Gor," she continued, "this all began because
you had an important appointment with Tembu George. Tell me, just
what was that appointment about?"
Ki-Gor grinned sheepishly. "Well," he said, ducking his head like
a small boy explaining where the jam disappeared, "we were going
"Urrimmm," commented Helene.
An eavesdropper named Tembu George was totally unsuccessful in his
attempt to suppress a chuckle.