TOMB HUNTER The Adventures of Larra Court Episode 1 Larra’s African Adventure By L’Espion [email protected] Chapter 11 The Duel Once again she was on the loose. And as usual, she did not have the faintest idea as to which way to proceed. She kept on moving in a direction that she thought was taking her away from the village, trotting through the forest as quickly as her shoeless feet and her level of fitness would allow. She was not in prime condition. Her long confinement had weakened her and she could not move as speedily as she once had. Fortunately, she had happened on a trail almost right away. That was a blessing. Thrashing about in the rainforest at night would have placed her in a severe predicament. She continued moving down the trail for the rest of the night. By morning (she hoped) she would be far enough away that pursuit would not be immediate. As it got lighter she tried to get her bearings, using the glow of the dawn as her compass. She wanted to move east. As the sun rose she tried to take branches in the trail that headed her in that direction. As usual she had neither food nor water. It would not be long before she would need both if she were to continue her escape. It was difficult enough to escape, without having to find food and drink as well, but without them escape would be impossible. She found neither food nor water for several hours, by which time she was both famished and parched. Then, as chance would have it she stumbled across a tree bearing some sort of juicy wild fruit. She had no idea what it was, but she recognized it from the village. The villagers called it maebe. Using her knife she cut open the fruit and gorged herself on the ripe pulp. Satiated, she took several of the fruits and wrapped them in a large leaf. It made a crude but effective carrying bag. By now she was beginning to limp. Her bare feet were quite bruised. She stopped for a few minutes while she cut strips of cloth from her robe. She wound these about her feet. That would have to do until she could get something better. The scenery about her looked somewhat familiar. She was on a downhill slope passing through a more open area bordered by large boulders. Larra realized that she was very close to the rope bridge where she had been wounded and captured. She redoubled her pace. If she could reach the bridge before her pursuers caught up with her she could cut off her pursuit by destroying the bridge. About a half-hour later the bridge came into sight. She moved cautiously now, aware of the fact that if the Maasi had set out after her it was possible that they might have reached the bridge before her. She had not exactly traveled in a straight line, but rather had wandered about the forest looking for a way out. Only by good fortune had she stumbled upon the trail that led to the bridge and possible freedom. This time there was no ambush. Before her hung the rope bridge, swaying slightly in the breeze. Below was a sheer drop to the bottom of the canyon. She hoped that the bridge was in a good state of repair. Gingerly she stepped onto the bridge entrance. The deck of the bridge was made of lengths of wood held in place by rope. They looked sturdy enough, but could be rotted through or hollowed out by ants or termites. Gingerly she made her way across, testing each section of the bridge before she committed her weight to it. It was with a sigh of relief that she stepped once more onto firm ground on the other side of the canyon. “Made it!” she gasped. She pulled out her little knife and began to saw at the cables suspending the bridge. The grass rope cables were quite thick and tough, but the knife had an excellent edge and cut through them easily. Within a few minutes the job was done, and the bridge broke away from the edge of the canyon and fell into the chasm, crashing against the far side of the canyon wall where it was still supported. Now she should be safe from pursuit! “Well done, White Witch,” said a deep voice from behind her. Larra spun around. There, scarcely thirty feet away, was Chui. Somehow he had gotten to this side of the canyon before her! “Now,” he continued, “we will not be disturbed.” Larra crouched, readying herself for combat. Chui appraised her coolly. “I have never met anyone like you, White Witch. You have the beauty of a woman, but you fight better than any warrior in my village.” Here he paused for effect. “Except me.” Larra realized that she had fallen into another trap. Chui had known the route she would take and had come directly to this spot. The only mystery was why he had allowed her to destroy the bridge. It was almost as if he did not want anyone else to catch her. Then she recalled his most recent words. “We will not be disturbed.” He wanted her alone! A cold, hollow feeling formed in the pit of her stomach. She could guess why! “Chui,” she pleaded, “there has been enough blood. Can you not act as the son of a chief and show mercy toward a harmless woman who only wants to leave your country?” Chui laughed, uproariously. “Harmless woman! You have killed five of my warriors. You are a devil in female form, but I have the means to break your spell.” “What is that?” Larra inquired, trying to keep her voice steady. “I will take you for my wife. My father does not wish this to happen, but when I present you at his kraal, heavy with child, he will allow me to keep you.” “You cannot succeed,” Larra cautioned. No man can take me without my consent.” Chui laughed again. This time the sound was a low sinister chuckle. “I think I can make you consent,” he said, and he lowered his spear. Almost casually, Chui approached. The man was clearly overconfident. Larra held her spear before her with both hands. It was a long clumsy weapon, but she was skilled in the various weapons of ancient Japan. She was expert in the use of hand weapons. Expertly rotating the sear in her hands, she lowered its point. Chui was almost within range now. Larra lunged, striking for the opening that Chui’s careless approach offered. Her blow found only air. Chui neatly sidestepped and aimed a deadly counterstrike with his own spear at Larra’s exposed torso. Only by diving to the ground and rolling quickly to the side did she escape being impaled. She had almost been fooled. Chui was a much more skilled warrior than anyone she had yet encountered. His seemingly overconfident manner had been a trick to catch her off guard. Chui continued his attack, pressing Larra back. She parried and counterthrust and Chui caught the blow on his shield, thrusting back at her immediately. Again Larra gave up ground to prevent being speared. She took a quick glance behind her. She was being driven perilously close to the edge of the chasm. Desperate, she parried Chui’s next attack and counterattacked ferociously. Her assault forced the giant warrior back and Larra was able to shift to her left, away from the edge of the canyon. Now she was no longer in danger of stepping over the edge. Chui was now on the attack again, each of his skilled thrusts threatening to end the battle with a single blow. Each time Larra blocked the attack and struck back at her massive, yet agile opponent, and each time Chui blocked her blow and launched an attack of his own. And so the contest went, with neither antagonist able to harm the other. By now Larra and Chui had been dueling for a good fifteen minutes. Normally, this would not have been a problem for someone in Larra’s state of fitness, but her injury, her forced confinement, and the intense heat and humidity of the rainforest, sapped her usual strength. Larra realized that she was beginning to tire rapidly. Already her fine body was drenched in perspiration. Rivulets of sweat poured from her brow and into her eyes, obscuring her vision. She was beginning to pant with exertion. Her black opponent grinned at her. He did not seem to be the least bit tired, even though he too was covered in beads of moisture. He actually seemed to be enjoying the contest. Suddenly, Larra understood. Chui was not really trying to kill her. He was trying to exhaust her. He did not want her dead, he wanted her as a prisoner again! With her strength rapidly draining away, Larra knew that she would have to take a chance. Shifting her weight from side to side in order to make herself difficult to hit, Larra closed in. Chui stabbed at her as expected, but this time instead of parrying the attack, Larra rolled beneath it, intending to get past Chui’s guard and strike up into his exposed abdomen. Chui, however, stepped to the side with an amazing agility for so large a man. As Larra rolled beneath him, his foot came down on her spear-shaft, pinning the weapon to the ground, and then reversing his weapon, he struck Larra across her left shoulder. “Oohhh!” Larra cried. The impact numbed her arm and shoulder. She dropped the spear from her lifeless fingers and collapsed to the ground. Before she could recover, the massive black warrior was upon her, flattening her body beneath his massive 260-pound frame. “Oooopphhh!” she gasped. The impact had knocked the breath out of her. Franticly Larra tried to get air back into her lungs. Chui seized her arms and attempted to force them behind her back, while at the same time using his weight to prevent her powerful legs from striking him where he was vulnerable. Larra struggled desperately. She knew that given the huge warrior’s superior strength, it was only a matter of time until he wrestled her into submission. Somehow she had to break away. Using every last ounce of her remaining energy she attempted to pull her legs back for a devastating kick. Chui, however, seemed to anticipate such a move, and transferring his weight he moved his lower body between her legs as she moved them, forcing them apart. Larra writhed on the ground like a trapped animal, coiling and uncoiling her athletic body in a desperate effort to break free. Through it all, Chui maintained his grip and his dominant position. He seemed content to let Larra exhaust herself. As she struggled Larra caught a glimpse of his face. It was picture of arrogant triumph. A small smile played about his cruel mouth. He was enjoying this struggle! Larra used every stratagem she knew and invented a few new techniques, but slowly her struggles weakened. Her breath came in harsh gasps, and her arms and legs felt like rubber. Slowly, Chui pressed her into the earth. Calling on her last reserves of strength Larra tried to wrench her arms free, but the huge African held her wrists with a grip of steel. With a sound that was half groan, half sob, Larra stopped struggling. She could no longer force her body to move. Exhausted, she lay gasping for air, her heart hammering in her chest. Still holding her arms, the giant African rolled her over on her stomach. He pulled her arms behind her and then, holding her wrists with one powerful hand, he removed Larra’s knife from where she had tied it about her waist. Held by only one hand, Larra once again tried to break free, alarmed by what the warrior might do with the knife, but he was far too strong. He controlled her now feeble exertions with almost no effort. What did he want with the knife? Her heart in her mouth, Larra awaited his next move. She felt a tug on the brassiere-like covering she had created to cover her breasts. Chui was cutting through the straps that held it in place! Now too weak to even move, Larra offered no resistance. She felt him pull the covering from her body, leaving her naked from the waist up. Even when he confidently released her wrists for a few seconds she made no effort to escape; her strength was completely drained from her body. Larra could hear Chui tearing her halter-top into strips. A few seconds later she felt her right arm being tightly bound just above the elbow. Her arm was then pulled roughly toward the center of her back and tied to her left arm in an identical manner. The strain on her arms forced her to arch her back so that her magnificent tear-shaped breasts jutted forward. Chui then turned to her legs, and bound her ankles securely. Finally, with a few quick slashes of the knife, Chui cut away Larra’s brief skirt, leaving her entirely nude. The muscular warrior then rose from Larra’s prone and completely defenseless body. Reaching down he pulled her into a sitting position so that she rested on her haunches. He then knelt before her, his huge body still towering over her. Trembling with apprehension, Larra squatted before the huge black man. She was alone in the rainforest, completely at the mercy of a malevolent and barbaric African!