Friday, April 9, 2010
Kahigi, the man known as the White Ape, sat in his makeshift throne made from felled trees and adorned with the skulls of men and gorillas. He was in full garb, the skin of the white ape covering his torso and arms and the great beast’s head making a cowl leaving his face visible. The camp’s multiple fire sent sparks spiraling into the sky while his forces prepared for battle.
Many of the men and women danced and sang their war songs, circling the fire. The bulls and cows of the gorilla tribes jumped up and down, screaming and banging on makeshift drums. Periodically, a warrior would separate from the group and approach his tribe’s witchdoctor or one of the women. There, the warrior would receive a root or leaf to chew on, a powerful narcotic that would heighten his aggression and dull his sense of pain. Or perhaps he’d be painted across his chest or his face with much ceremony. The sounds and smells would carry to the enemy, demoralizing them while working up the White Ape’s forces to a fevered pitch.
The White Ape breathed deeply, drawing in the smells of sweat, lust and fire and he smiled. By the time the sun was high in the sky, the Troglodytes’ caves would be his as would be the valley and hunting grounds cradled between these mountains and hills. Here, he’d build his capital and continue to wage war on the whites and those traitorous tribes that would ally themselves with the white men. He’d create a great nation under his rule. He’d be a god.
Had he not already accomplished the impossible? The white professor was foolish to boast of his experiments with the gorillas, extracting from them a serum that would give the recipient the power and agility of the apes. He was just Kahigi then. The professor would not try his serum on himself without first trying it on someone else, someone he saw as a lesser. Just as the sun gives way to the moon which then gives way to the sun, the white man turned to those he saw as little better than beasts. He tried the serum on Kahigi, his bearer whom he already over-worked at too little pay. But, the serum worked too well. It gave Kahigi the strength but it also briefly maddened him. When the rage passed, Kahigi found he had killed the professor and the rest of the party with his bare hands.
Alone in the jungles, he was still Kahigi when he found a lost tribe of great apes who walked and talked like men. Half were mental half-wits, but the chief was a mighty older bull, considered a god due to his white fur and blood red eyes. Kahigi killed the chief in single combat and became the White Ape, the new incarnation of their god. Inspired, he drew in several other tribes of intelligent gorillas, all who had reason to hate men, especially the white men. He was no longer Kahigi, but the White Ape.
With promises of war and death to the so-called white gods and goddesses, he quickly attracted the rival cults of the Leopard Men and the Hyena Men to his cause. He solidified their cooperation by making their witch doctors part of his war council and he made equal prostrations and sacrifices to those gods. The cults saw him as a lesser god, a spirit made flesh. He was above the chiefs and the witch doctors, kin to the spirits and gods in the skies. By following and worshiping him, they saw themselves serving and worshiping the great Leopard or Hyena god. An attitude that he worked hard to cultivate.
The Leopard Men wore the skins and claws of their name-sakes, mostly forsaking other weapons though a few bore spears. Unlike their Hyena counterparts, their women were full members of the cults. Unless expecting a child, they too wore the sacred skins and claws and went into battle. The cult reveled in killing and blood and once was found throughout the African jungles. Their numbers had significantly dwindled thanks to the efforts of the White men and the so-called “Jungle lords”. Their war dance round the fires was graceful and full of smooth movement. Some of the men and women paired up and moved in ways that were seductive and lustful before one would turn on the other in a mock attack, baring claws and hissing.
The Hyena Men wore garishly painted wooden dog masks with the large upright ears common to their canine namesakes. Other than a loin cloth, they went naked and their bodies decorated with luminescent spots, painted on them by their women Where the Leopard Men tended to stealth, the Hyena Men preferred attacking with numbers. Each carried a club or war spear and many sported shields. They danced with wild abandon, full of up and down movements and jerks from side to side. Their voices were loud howls and mimicked laughter after their namesakes.
As the White Ape conquered smaller tribes, those men that surrendered or were captured were given the option to join one of the two cults. Thus, the White Ape kept the cults faithful to him by steadily adding to their numbers. The women and children he took as slaves and hostages, to hold those new warriors’ allegiance.
His only real worry was the Great Apes. Their numbers were all too finite. He suspected the tribes had a tendency to mate with normal gorillas when their lust came on them and no available females were handy thus explaining the high rate of imbeciles in the species. It made them mighty warriors though undisciplined and easy to control. Part of him had hoped that the Troglodytes would have joined him. Many were close to the gorillas in appearance and intelligence and he thought that maybe he could bolster their numbers that way. Maybe there’d be enough left alive once the battle was done.
And, here was his army made up of rival cults, tribes and even species preparing for war as one tribe, one army. His tribe. His army. Dancing, singing, cavorting and gyrating. The White Ape had a lot to be pleased over. It was then that a lion’s roar came from one side and a great male lion walked into the fire light.
The lion stayed on the periphery of the campsite, just in the reach of the light from the fires. He cocked his head to one side and then the other, watching as a hush settled on the revelers. The men shifted and stepped back, slowly gathering into one group. All that could be heard was the roar of the crackling fires and a slight murmuring from a few that were offering prayers and others in the natural questionable confusion. On the face of it, it seemed ridiculous that a single lion would have this effect on such a large group. Lions were mighty hunters, but they rarely hunted man. Most that did, it was because of age or some other illness that forced the lion to give up its traditional prey for the relatively easy and slow man. Even then, a single lion would not willingly approach such a large group unless there was some madness upon it. Or, maybe it was not really a lion but some malevolent spirit. It was the un-naturalness of the act that cowed the men. And, then the lion spoke.
“Greetings great warriors,” it said, voice rumbling. There were a few cries. Some fell down, prostrating to the lion. More just merely shifted, hands tightening their grips on their spears, clubs and axes.
“What trickery is this,” growled the White Ape.
The lion looked from side to side and said, “what shame is this you bring on the ghosts of your fathers? Do I not see men of the Black River here? Are those not the noble hunters of the deep woods? Why do I see them with those that eat the flesh of other men? With those that are no better than the scavengers that crawl in the dust or that kill under the cover of night? Cowards and abominations, why do you follow these men of false gods?”
The lion lowered his head and shook it slowly. “The ghosts of your fathers and mothers, of your slain brothers and sisters, they cry out to me for justice. There is no rest for them for they are betrayed by those that should honor them and seek justice and vengeance against their killers. Follow the false ape-god, and you will die with them this night. Your ghosts shall walk the plains and be tormented by demons. Your cries will mingle with the night winds and be unceasing as you will know no peace. For the ghosts and demons are coming for their lives as I speak.”
The White Ape saw the effect that the words were having on the men that came from the conquered tribes. Some of them were fell to their knees with their eyes towards the night skies. Tears ran down their faces as they offered up prayers.
“Do something,” he growled towards the witch doctors standing in stunned silence beside him. He then stood and let out a roar.
“It’s a white man’s trick,” he yelled. “Are you such cowards that you fear a lone lion?”
One of the witch-doctors of the Hyena Men started howling and barking in defiance. He picked up a spear to throw and there was a crack of thunder and he fell to the ground, dead where he stood. The lion quietly backed out of the light into the brush and scrub. His voice called from the darkness.
”The demons come. Now, you die.”
With that proclamation, a great noise rose in the brush and a large figure rose out of the tall grasses. A man that stood more than twice as tall as any of the natives walked into the clearing, carrying what looked like a tree trunk for a club. “Go get them Kalthar,” whispered Eric the lion.
Someone screamed, “Aiiieeee! It’s true! A demon!” Instant confusion reigned.
The White Ape yelled out, “Fools! It’s just one of those white men! Strike him down now!”
Another witch doctor said, “The Ape-god speaks the truth. They come to kill you and steal our women. Fight for your gods and your lives. Prove your worth and kill the unbeliever!”
Such was their hold that the White Ape’s forces surged forward. Again thunder split the night and another of his men fell to the ground, dead. The giant Kalthar did not stand waiting for the charge. He let out a roar that echoed through the night sky and charged the White Ape’s line. He swung his club in an underhanded arc that sent natives and apes scattering. Kalthar was soon surrounded on all sides. He swung his club back and forth, knocking men down. Some got close, Leopard Men with their claws and Hyena Men with spears. Kalthar’s legs soon bore numerous scratches and shallow cuts.
Under the cover of the darkness and trees, the Red Panther and Congo Raider aimed their bows and let fly. Arrows soared true, striking a pair of Ape-men in their breasts. Not pausing, they reached into their quivers and notched more arrows. Off to the other side, Buck Burke calmly took aim and fired his rifle. Its boom reverberated in the night and a native armed with a spear fell.
Still Kalthar was threatened to be overcome quickly. White Panther strode out of the jungle. His deathly white appearance with red cowl, cape and trunks, he easily fit the concept of an otherworldly figure. Some of the natives stopped and gestured. They’d have fled if not for those behind them pushing them forwards. A Leopard Man leapt for him. With the quickness of the jungle cat, the native swung his claws for the White Panther’s face but instead of meeting the skin, the claws slashed through empty space. Their target was no longer there. The White Panther possessed incredible swiftness and reflexes, far past those of normal men. Again and again the Leopard Man swiped his claws at the hero and each time he missed. The White Panther struck, his fist a blur and the man crumpled to his feet. Someone threw a spear, he stepped to one side and snatched the spear out of the air and returned it back into the crowd. A native cried out in pain. More Leopard Men and Hyena Men charged at him, but wherever their claws and spears and clubs swung, he seemed to be no longer there. He returned each swipe and jab with a blow from his fist and men fell with broken noses and jaws.
Briefly it looked like the two would be able to defeat the White Ape’s army with their strength and speed supported by the gunfire and arrows from the brush behind them. But, the White Panther knew that their upper hand was only temporarily. With so many, he couldn’t track all the spears aimed his way, an attack would get through. He’d already been grazed a couple of times though he didn’t let it show. Buck would soon run out of ammunition just as the Red Panther and Congo Raider would eventually exhaust their arrows. As if sensing his thoughts, the White Ape picked up the spear from the dead witch doctor, pulled back and threw it with all his strength. Backed by his power, the spear struck Kalthar deeply in the shoulder. Kalthar uttered an oath and pulled it out. He switched the club to his good hand and started swinging anew. But, he moved a bit more slowly and his swings with his left hand were a bit more awkward. The White Ape’s more primal gorillas smelled the blood of their foe and saw that weakness. They renewed their press against him, trying to approach his weak side. The lead gorilla went down with a bullet to his chest and another fell stunned by a blow from Kalthar’s club. Another swung a club hard and caught Kalthar behind his knee. His leg buckled and he fell to his knee. The gorilla let out a cry and reared back for another swing.
A roar from the brush to his side made him pause and turn in time to see the large lion Eric leaping from grasses. Gorilla and lion went tumbling. The gorilla tried to tighten his fingers around the beast’s throat but Eric raked the warrior’s torso with the claws of his back feet while his front claws left long gashes on the gorilla’s arms. With it out of the fight, Eric lifted his head back and let out a defiant roar. Out of arrows, the Red Panther and Congo Raider emerged several feet away and charged the warriors. The Red Panther picked up a war spear and met them weapon for weapon. Congo Raider threw a knife into the chest of one of the Hyena Men and met another one that was armed with a machete. He checked the man’s swing, grabbing hold of his wrist with his right hand and struck the man with his left fist. He wrested the machete from the man’s grip in time to slash it across the chest from an attacking gorilla coming from the side.
The White Ape bellowed. “The Red Panther! I should have known you were behind this meddling and trickery. About time I killed both of you.” He forced his way through the crowds, shoving his own men to the sides.
In the back of the campground were the captured children and women. It was a makeshift pen and their wrists were bound by sinew and vine ropes tied into knots. The long marches and cruelty of their captors left them dejected. Even if they could escape, they were miles from their homes, in lands filled with strange beasts and unknown peoples. Normally, three stood guard, one of each of the White Ape’s forces. When Kalthar stepped into the campsite and engaged the army, the Leopard Man and Hyena Man left their post to join in. Aleta, an older female of the great apes remained. Gray hair speckled her fur and a wicked scar ran across her brow. She had a chest-plate made of reeds and held a machete that was taken from some hapless white man in the past. She grunted and paced back and forth. It was not her place to fight alongside the warriors and she was past the age of bearing pups of her own. She took a special and savage pleasure at lording it over the captives. Her attention was split between them and the ongoing battle. She didn’t see the cat-like eyes reflecting the firelight looking out at her from the darkness.
The men were playing their roles of diverting the White Ape and his warriors perfectly thought Marga. Now it was her turn. Only one guard. Though the gorilla outweighed her by almost 300 lbs, there was no fear in Marga’s heart or actions, just slow deliberation. She was confident and faithful in her own abilities. She crept closer stealthily, her hands wide open with her claw-like nails extended. Ready to pounce, a soft growl escaped from somewhere inside of her. Aleta heard the sound and turned to face it. Her eyes crossed in a bit of confusion at seeing crouching in front of her a dark haired woman with glowing cat eyes. Aleta’s lip curled to reveal long canines. What was a white woman doing here? Aleta stepped towards her, her grip tightening on the machete.
Marga leapt with a sudden swiftness. Aleta tried to bring the machete up to play but Marga’s leap brought her in too close. Her right hand and claws swept aside the breastplate of reeds and dug across the gorilla’s chest. Her left grabbed hold of the arm wielding the machete and her nails dug in. Both Marga and these intelligent great apes were ruled by dual natures and instincts. Part of them were intelligent and reasoning, but just beneath the surface, closer than in those of us that think we are so civilized, lurked the animal. Marga was normally a reasoning being, but she fought like the great panthers, with tooth and claw. Outweighed, she bit into Aleta’s shoulder while her claws dug into flesh wherever she could reach.
Aleta was old and ungainly but strong. She shoved Marga away from her and reached down to pick up her dropped weapon. Marga jumped on her back and reached around, dragging her claws across the gorilla’s face. Aleta screamed and bucked, tossing Marga off of her. She twisted and turned, facing Marga. She dropped down, her knuckles dragging the ground. She let out a defiant growl, beat on her chest with one fist and then lumbered into a charge. But, she was old and ungainly, one eye already swelling shut and blinded by flowing blood. And Marga was unafraid and unflinching. They crashed together and Aleta’s weight carried Marga back. Aleta barely felt the sharp jab to her neck as she drove Marga to the ground. She tried to stand up but the world spun around her dizzily. Aleta shook her head and blinked her eyes, trying to clear her cloudy vision. Her head pounded and she had trouble breathing. She coughed and crawled away from Marga, the fight forgotten. She couldn’t breathe and it seemed darker. She fell to the ground and rolled over, coughed and some blood bubbled out of her mouth. And, old Aleta breathed her last.
Marga stood up, the claws of her right hand bloody from striking the great she-ape in the throat. She glanced at the larger fight and saw that her battle had gone un-noticed over the chaos that her comrades were causing. She picked up the machete and approached the pen of prisoners. A couple of hacks and she had an opening. The prisoners looked at her in confusion. She noticed a young boy, just entering his teen years. Though bound, he still had a defiant look about him. He stood between Marga and the prisoners. His body had a slight tremble indicating the fear that he was fighting not to show.
“What are you, a demon?”
“I am here to set you free, brave one,” replied Marga. “What is your name?”
“Tsebo, I am going to cut your bonds and then give you this machete to help free the others. Can you do that?”
Soon, Marga had him free and Tsebo set out to cutting the ropes of the others with the machete while Marga used her knife. Each person freed, turned and helped untie the others.
“People,” she said, “I free you. Are you willing to fight and earn that freedom against your captors?”
“We are just women and children,” said one of them. “And some of the men are our sons and husbands and fathers. What could we do?”
“Are not some of the Leopard cult women? And, they fight. The gorilla was a she and she fought and lost to me, another woman. There are legends of great tribes of warrior women, mightier than the men. Their spirits will aide you in this hour of your need. As will your men when they see your courage and your strength. They will be too shamed to do otherwise.”
A young woman in the back was crying. “They’ll kill us. When they see we’re free, they’ll come and kill us.”
“They are too many,” said another. “We should flee, make our way home.”
“You may if you wish. But, even if you survive the long journey, not captured by other tribes or killed by other beasts, what will you find at home but death? You will sleep at night knowing you abandoned your brothers and sisters, children and husbands to death. Their ghosts will speak to you at night in your dreams. Your villages will be empty of all life.”
“Those that fight with me, I will help to get them home or to find and set a new village, a new life of honor and strength.”
“I will fight,” said Tsebo. “I will kill him who struck down my father and brother.”
Others nodded, though Marga could see the tears in their eyes and their frightened faces.
“Pick up rocks and dropped spears. Let’s add our strength and courage to those that are fighting for your freedom. Follow me.”
She turned and began a slow run. She turned and looked over her shoulder and saw that most were following. A few stayed behind, unsure or just scared. She couldn’t find it in her heart to blame them.
She came up behind two Hyena Men warriors and slammed their heads together and dropped them senseless on the ground and moved on. She was soon in the midst of the natives, swinging her fist and slashing with her claws. She grabbed a spear from one warrior’s hand and threw it over her shoulder. Behind her, small feminine hands picked up dropped spears, knives and shields and joined the fight. Young Tsebo slammed the machete into the back of one warrior. The confusion was great enough that many were killed or knocked senseless from behind before they knew that they were under attack.
Tau had been a young adult ready to take his first wife when he was captured during a raid on the tribe that he and Tsebo belonged. He had hoped to make Tsebo’s sister his wife but she and her brothers were killed in the raid. Given the choice to watch other loved ones die painfully before being killed himself or joining, he joined the Hyena Men cult. He turned and saw the women attacking the rear-most forces and the children picking up rocks and throwing them into the fray. He saw Tsebo swinging the machete, it making short work of a Hyena Man’s spear. But, Tsebo didn’t see the Leopard Man coming up from the side. Tau ran towards him yelling out a warning but he wasn’t heard over the chaos. The Leopard Man slashed Tsebo’s back with his claws and the sudden pain caused him to drop the machete. He turned towards the Leopard Man who swung the claws back and forth, first scarring Tsebo’s face and then flaying his abdomen. Tsebo fell, his blood soaking into the ground.
Tau drove his spear through the Leopard Man yelling out. “Brothers! Our women fight these demons! They are mightier than us cowards who wallow in the mud and dirt!”
Others had already seen the uprising and moved to protect their kin. However, nearby Leopard Men only saw a Hyena Man that dared to kill one of their own.
“Dog of a man, you dare to strike against us? Die like the lowly traitorous scavengers you are!”
Tau found himself surrounded by Leopard Men. He struck and jabbed with his spear to keep their claws away. But, he was no true warrior and the cultists were trained to fight and kill since birth. Even as he was overpowered, other Hyena Men witnessing the assault turned on their ancient rivals. The fragile alliance that the White Ape had forged was quickly disintegrating as the Hyena Men and Leopard Men started fighting each other while more of their drafted ranks likewise turned on them, trying to protect their women and children. The few ape warriors caught up in it decided to just fight every human they saw regardless of creed or allegiance. It was easier than trying to tell them apart in their confusing garb.
Marga smiled grimly. The White Panther’s plan was working. The White Ape probably hadn’t noticed the dissolution of his army in the back yet. However, it would soon spread. Even if they all died here tonight, his army was finished. A female Leopard cultist confronted her, slashing back and forth with her claws, her lips curled back in anger. However, the cultists only mimicked the great cats albeit effectively and deadly. Marga was one with the cats, their nature and abilities innately merged with her own. It was only a matter of moments before she left the cultist lying on the ground. She saw that the she-apes and the women loyal to the tribes that had willingly joined the White Ape’s forces were now moving to join the battle, to fight the former prisoners. Marga grabbed one of the women fighting alongside her and pointed. The woman understood and moved to intercept the new combatants, taking a few others with her. As yet, the White Ape’s women were not armed and there were not many of them. The former prisoners were no longer frightened women but fierce fighters, fighting for their lives and those they loved that had already died.
The White Ape charged through his ranks towards the white men. Kalthar was rising unsteadily to his feet. With all the strength and agility at his disposal, the White Ape leapt and struck Kalthar in the chest with his feet, knocking the hero on to his back. He took out a knife to slit the man’s throat when he was struck from the side by Eric who was roaring.
“The talking lion,” said the White Ape. “Showing your true nature.”
The two rolled, trying for advantage. The ape skin that the White Ape wore covered leather armor or was as strong as leather itself. Either way, Eric’s claws could not reach the flesh underneath. The White Ape finally managed to wrestle with the beast up to a standing position and threw him backwards where he collided with several other warriors.
“I’ll kill you all with my bare hands if I have too.”
It was then that Buck Burke, out of bullets, struck him from behind with the butt of his rifle. The blow should have floored him, but the White Ape’s cowl and own great strength dulled the effects of the blow. Lights flashed in front of his eyes, but he swung around and struck a glancing blow with his fist against the jaw of the white hunter that sent the man tumbling.
Spotting the Red Panther and Congo Raider fighting side by side nearby, he growled and ran towards them. “I’m stronger than you. Stronger than all of you. I beat you both before and then I was just a man.”
The White Panther saw all of this but could not move to help. There were too many warriors between him and the White Ape and it was taking all of his speed and skill to manage to just staying alive. He feared he was the only one with enough power to take out the White Ape now that Kalthar was wounded. And, from his vantage point, he couldn’t tell if Marga had been successful or not. He ducked beneath a swung club from a mighty ape warrior, and rained several super-fast punches against the creature’s face and torso. It’s eyes crossed and it stepped back but then roared and stepped back into battle against the red and white hero. The White Panther had already moved around it and grabbed a too slow Leopard Man and swung it into the rampaging gorilla. Maddened, the beast started raining blows on the hapless native.
The Red Panther met the White Ape’s charge by pivoting his feet and turning his body. Instead of meeting resistance, the White Ape found himself thrown over the shoulder and landing on his back, not quite sure how he ended up there.
The Red Panther said, “I was just a man too then. But, I’m the chosen champion of the tribes now and I have new tricks.”
Just as the White Ape gained his feet, the Red Panther brought up his fists and delivered several blows to the man’s unprotected face. One punch went to the eye, another to the nose and a third to the jaw. The White Ape swung an undisciplined punch that was met by the Red Panther turning his shoulder and blocking with his left arm. Wide open, he threw another punch to the man’s face.
Congo Raider smiled. The Red Panther had executed the judo throw perfectly and was now using boxing skills that the Raider had trained him in. The White Ape was still the more powerful warrior by far, but if the Red Panther could keep him off balance… The Congo Raider was now armed with a procured spear and shield and was doing his best to keep the other warriors at bay. The shield was in a sad mess and he kept jabbing out with the spear, scoring hits against an obstinate Hyena Man. Eric and Kalthar were back in the fight and Buck was slowly getting back to his feet. He noticed that the White Ape’s forces were in confusion and they weren’t pressing their attack as thickly as before. He hoped that was due to Marga’s interference.
The White Ape didn’t understand. How could this upstart stripling stand up to him? The punches didn’t hurt him any more than a bee-sting would but with each one he grew angrier. He swung and then found himself turned around facing away from his opponent who then struck him several times in the lower back and a swing of the leg that knocked him off his feet. Even as he got back to his feet, the Red Panther grabbed hold of his head and brought it down with great force into knee and then shoved hard enough that he lost his footing again and fell on his back. He quickly clambered back up to his feet, feigning weakness, he swayed a bit. Predictably, the Red Panther was already coming back in, leading with his fists. The White Ape took the first blow but returned with a mighty punch of his own. It was not as well thrown or strong as he’d have liked but it caught the Red Panther solidly enough that it knocked him around and onto the ground. None of the other heroes were close enough to stop him. He wiped the blood from his lips.
“You die now.”
He took a step forward and something solid struck him in the shoulder sending searing pain through his whole right side. He stumbled and turned to face a native woman with a bloody machete previously held by a young boy. His felt a slight tingling and accompanying numbness spreading through his arm.
“My sons are dead. So are my husband and my sisters. Do you hear their ghosts crying? I do, every night when I close my eyes.”
She swung the blade again. With incredible swiftness, he reached in and caught the wrist with his left hand. He twisted and heard a bone snap. The woman cried out and the machete fell from her fingers. Before he could make another move, a thrown spear struck him in the already wounded shoulder and he fell back a few steps. He was growing weaker from the loss of blood. He turned around and felt a spear point against his neck.
“It’s over Kahigi,” said the Congo Raider. He batted away the spear and charged forward only to have another native jab a spear deep into his back. He fell to the ground, blackness consumed him.
In truth it was over, most of his forces that were able had fled when they saw him faltering in the fight. Others had already surrendered or were either wounded or dead. Many of the Hyena Men and Leopard Men fled when their alliance had completely dissolved and saw their witch doctors and leaders killed during the resulting in-fighting. The cults would recover and eventually return. They always did. But, for now, their back was broken. The remaining apes quickly scattered. They were now leaderless. They’d probably make their way back to their various ancestral homes and it would be a long time before any sought contact with Man again.
The White Panther quickly bound up the new prisoners and by dawn they were all on their way. To find a home and create a new tribe from the remnants of the tribes that the White Ape had decimated. Some would probably live in the new society that Lee Granger was building if they wanted. Away from here, they would judge the prisoners they had taken. Jungle justice. First, they had to leave the lands of the Troglodytes. Marga looked at the body of Tsebo. He was just a child really. But, he saw enough pain and hardship in his few years to fill a life time and died embodying the best of a warrior. At least half of the prisoners died in the fighting, only about two dozen remained. She knew the White Panther had some mission he was recruiting for. And, maybe she’d help him. Before that, she wanted to return to the forests and streams that she loved, away from the madness of men.
As dawn approached and the sun slowly rose into the sky, the Troglodytes and their chief ventured into the valley to investigate the previous night’s activities. They saw the campsite and the carnage, bodies of men and apes scattered about. The Troglodyte men looked around in confusion. The looked at the skies and made arcane signals and said protective prayers and oaths.
“They were bad men, full of evil spirits,” said the chief. “The ghosts of our fathers came and made war upon them in the darkness, and cast them into the dark waters. Come, we hunt and tonight we shall eat and celebrate.”
The others nodded their assent and they reverently left the scene.
The heroes were surprised to find that despite his wounds, the White Ape was not dead. Litters were made for him and the other wounded and he was dragged away. He healed faster than the others realized as he feigned unconsciousness broken only by delirium. On the third day, he overheard the plans of the others that they figured they were far enough away to form a council to judge the prisoners for their crimes the following day. There could be little doubt as to the outcome of that for he knew they feared his powers. It was easy for him to slink away that night unseen. Once he was far enough away, he started running at full speed for he feared the animal senses of the talking lion and the cat-woman would be able to easily track him.
The following day he saw a lone hunter tracking a gazelle. The White Ape crept upon him and tackled the man. It was a brief fight, even in his weakened condition. He bashed the man’s body and face to make all features indistinguishable. He then made similar injuries on the man that he had sustained in battle and garbed him in his own bloody white ape skins and smeared his own blood about the body. With luck, scavengers would do the rest and when the heroes found his body, they’d chalk it up to him falling prey to some predator. The White Ape was Kahigi once more. He swore that one day he’d have his revenge.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Thursday, February 18, 2010
The White Panther argued that if his visions came to pass, the rest of his life and his grand experiment would prove to be very short. Granger compromised in the end. Through his contacts with the rather specialized community that he and the Panther belonged to as well as his own considerable resources, here could be the base and launching point for whatever forces could be gathered. A landing strip outside of the village was already built and Granger could arrange for whatever transport was needed. Otherwise, there was too much for him to do to go soldiering. The White Panther had his visions and missions, and Lee Granger had his.
To both of their surprise though, Eric the lion agreed to accompany the White Panther on his mission. While Lee said he would contact as many as he could through radio and his contacts, the heroes of
“Because when we last shared a meal together I wore a different uniform and bore a different name. I called myself the Red Panther then, but now I am called the Congo Raider by those that would seek to mercilessly exploit those I protect. The man in red is the hero Red Panther now. I fear that the change in identity is what helped cause this and other massacres. My other comrades are the famous hunter and zoologist Buck Burke, the jungle lord Kalthar and the lady Marga, the Panther Woman. Let’s bury the bodies and I will give you the tale as we make camp.”
In the center of the village, the fire cackled and sparks rose into the night sky. Most of the group sat around it.
Kalthar was the only one absent, hidden in the grasses somewhere standing watch in case there was a return of the enemy. Marga sat next to the reclined Eric, scratching him behind his ears and running her fingers through his mane. His eyes were closed and he let out a rumbling purr. Buck absentmindedly poked and prodded the fire with a stick, stirring up the embers and sending sparks skyward. The man now called the Red Panther stared at the stars and moon high in the sky.“The role of the Red Panther traditionally belonged to one of the region’s native tribes. A champion that bound them together, oversaw the various laws and disputes. He was supposed to be the mightiest fighter, the cleverest hunter. Every five years, a new Red Panther was chosen. I became the Red Panther through a fluke. I was serving as guide and hunter for an English zoologist and botanist and all round scoundrel. When I realized he was up to no good, I confronted him and started the expedition back to civilization. Only, he was more of a scoundrel than I thought and luring me away from the group on a pretense, he waylaid me and left me for dead.”
“I was found by the then Red Panther who nursed me back to health. Over the days that followed, he taught me of the lore of that area and of the legend of the Red Panther. I hanged out with him as we sought out clues to the location of the man that killed me and the secrets he was after. Through a bad turn of luck, we ran afoul of smugglers and slavers. My friend was killed and I took up his mantle to bring them to justice. I continued as the Red Panther for some time until it came time for the next competition."“The man you see before you actually came in second. But, while the other man was physically the champion, he was judged to be unfit to serve as a judge over all tribes, in the employ of evil white men. This sparked a war between the tribe that championed him and the other tribes for the role of the Red Panther brings a tribe wealth, power, choicest hunting grounds, and many wives.”“Since then, he has managed to set himself up as the embodiment of some ape-god the natives call the White Ape. He’s killed a white gorilla and wears its skin as a totem to his power and authority. Through some means, he has increased his strength and speed to equal and possibly pass a great ape’s. You saw the dead gorilla bodies. He has taken command of one of the tribes of intelligent gorillas and is uniting them under his rule. They are taking humans as slaves, the prettiest women his wives to serve as testament of his power and god-given authority.”“Our first warning was the attack on Blanda’s kingdom and the nearby tribe of friendly gorillas. He managed to entice them to rebel against her and her people. Blanda’s people were wiped out, but her consort managed to get her out. She’s recovering under the care of a white doctor but her lover died from the wounds he sustained. But, not before he told his story to his friend Buck. He put together an expedition and headed into the wilderness. Each of us were investigating other rumored attacks and uprisings and found our paths converging, just as it has now joined up with yours.”“We think he’s amassed his army and now seeks to set up his capital and solidify his control over the area. Somewhere in those mountains on the horizon, we’ll find the White Ape’s lair.”NOTES:
The GA Red Panther and Congo Raider seemed to be the same character judging from the costume similarities, the major change being in coloring. He originally had no origin story, so this doesn't contradict any known info and giving an in-story explanation for their similarity. I am not normally a fan of changing the race of characters. But, there is such a plethora of white jungle heroes and heroines and most virtually interchangeable, a few more native ones seemed to be in order. Originally, I thought that the Red Panther in his red costume could easily have been a native character that just got "colored incorrectly" in our comics... until I discovered he had another costume earlier which made that a little harder to pull off. As he had no origin, I hoped to come up with a way to transition the character that made sense. Especially as the original isn't really replaced, he just takes on a different identity. Lee Granger and Eric the talking Lion are from Fawcett Comics, Red Panther and White Panther Fiction House, Congo Raider Howard, Marga Fox, Kalthar MLJ, Buck Burke Tem/Holyoke
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
The temple was unlike most African structures. It was a stone pyramid with the entrance near the top and very ancient looking. It spoke of old days when an advanced civilization once stretched across the lands. Now, only a few places like this stood as reminders of those times. He saw a white woman with blonde hair come out of the entrance and looked down at him. He raised his hand in a friendly greeting.
“Hail Fantomah,” he cried. “Keeper of the
He couldn’t see it, but he was sure she smiled. She turned her back to him and went inside, an invitation that was free to approach and enter. If he had been unwelcome, she would have come down and met him at the foot of the pyramid.
He jogged up the steps and entered the temple.
“Hello Fleet Footed Cat,” she greeted. “You have come to see the Lady of the Cats?”
The White Panther nodded. “If it is at all possible.”
“I was told you’d be coming. I’ll be leaving you to your prayers.”
With that she exited the temple.
The White Panther lit the braziers and sat cross-legged on colorful rug. He closed his eyes and opened his other senses to the world around him. He could hear the birds calling outside as well as the crackle of the flames. Smell of smoke tickled his nostrils, tinged with the manure that fueled the flames. A slight breeze drifted in from the eastern doorway. The sun rose to mid-day and slowly drifted to the horizon as a half-moon rose and stars came out and progressed across the sky. And the sun rose again, dawn breaking. And, the White Panther sat with his eyes closed, his breathing regular.
“Greetings young one,” purred a feminine voice. The White Panther opened his eyes and saw that a tiger had entered temple. The cat, which belonged in another country entirely, slowly morphed into a lioness and then it stood on its hind legs, taking on a more human form until what faced him was a slender tan beauty though with the head of a cat.
“Your countenance is troubling,” she said.
“I dream of war, of death, of destruction. Of this land, of these peoples. Of myself.”
“I know. It has been foretold. Dark days have long been coming though we had hoped they’d pass us by. What would you have me do?”
“An army will be coming to this land and destroy everything we know. Unless you and the gods do something to stop them before they reach these shores.”
“Ahh, but we have done something my child. Who do you think gave you your dreams? Gave you your powers and others like you? An army of death comes that will take an army to stop them. And, we have given you the means to gain that army if you are willing to raise it.”
“What about Fantomah? Is she part of your army?”
The cat goddess looked at him and looked as if she was smiling slightly.
“My army, yes. Yours, no. Her power is vast but only because she is tied to this land itself. She can only leave here if she so chooses to give up the ties that bind her here. But, there are others, plenty of others, some on different realities than the one you see. It is they that will be your army if you can convince them.”
“Why must I convince them? You have given them their power, can you not command them to serve?”
“Foolish child. You cannot command devotion, loyalty, courage, or faith. I can inspire and show the path, but it is up to each to choose it.”
The White Panther nodded, sensing the truth of her words. “So be it,” he said and bowed his head. When he looked up, the cat-goddess was gone. He knew his next stop. To visit the so-called Jungle King who was building a very modern city on the coast. He’d have ways to contact others. He got up and walked outside, seeing Fantomah walking up the steps of the pyramid.
She smiled. “Did you find the answers you seek?”
“Yes, though not the answers I wanted.”
“A gift is a gift,” she said.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
The hero known as the White Panther was also plagued by prophetic dreams. In his dream, he saw strange jungles not like his native
The White Panther woke. He had been gifted with the power of prophecy, he knew how to read dreams and recognize a prophetic dream from a simple nightmare. He first went to the river to bathe and purify himself beneath the light of the moon. He sat on a grass mat facing the rising sun and meditated on what he saw. He rose, knowing what he needed to do. His dreams were of what would come to pass if he didn’t take action, but the future was not set in stone, just the path the world was already on. He would visit the cat-goddess, she could help.