by Libbylawrence, partially adapted from Kong the Untamed #1 by Jack Oleck and Alfredo Alcala
Lural, She Who Is the Moon, smiled down upon the bamboo huts perched in the massive trees that served as the homes of the Lanktor tribe. Within each hut the various tribe members slept with rare security. They knew that they would enjoy a rare if fleeting peace that night, since they had slain their nearest enemies who served the dark goddess called Dra. Their sleep was made sweet by the fact that they had feasted earlier on roasted meats and assorted nuts, roots, and berries.
Unlike most of their neighbors, the tree-dwelling lanktor-riders had mastered the great secret of producing fire. They had no need to desperately fight to preserve the burning embers that were occasionally cast down from the heavens to ignite trees or start blazes within the tall grasses of the People of the Plains. Thus they cooked their meat and ate well.
They also rested secure in the knowledge that their tribal leader Baras the Old had stationed the bravest of their young hunters around the Tree Village to protect them should any of the thunder-lizards venture too close. The only sounds that filled the peaceful night came from the screeching cries of the flying lizards, the lanktors, within their pens. The mighty leather-winged creatures created little awe among these tribal warriors who had mastered them and trained them to carry the Lanktor people aloft at will.
Still, not everyone slept contented within the village. A lithe young boy sat against the thick heart of a tree, clutching both bare legs up to his chest. He rested his chin on one knee and stared out into the night with eyes both keen and sensitive. He clearly had a perceptive and inquisitive mind, and while others snored blissfully, the boy named Kong was troubled by much that had occurred during the previous day. He was new to this odd community. Kong was clearly different from those around him. The Lanktor tribe shared his smooth skin and Cro-Magnon features, but they were alike in being uniformly dark or fiery in hair color. Kong was the only one who had hair the color of Lural herself. That was fitting, since She Who Is the Moon had stared down upon him the night of his birth. She had marked him forever as one born apart from others.
Staring up at the Moon, he remembered the words of Attu. Attu had been the only one who ever loved the boy. She had given birth to him on such a moonlit night, and she had been filled with pleasure at the sight of the healthy infant. That pride had been shattered when the attractive young woman had carried him to the new hunting grounds claimed by the members of her tribe. She had rushed past the place set apart for the women and those men no longer considered fit to act as warriors or hunters. She had ignored the cries of the other females. She had been carried by pride into the presence of the tribal leader himself.
Kong had heard this story from his mother many times before her terrible death. He knew that his own imagination had added details that the less-creative Attu could not have noticed or understood. Still, the story was one he viewed as his own, because he had made it so.
“Trog! I have a man child! I followed quickly, that you might accept him into the clan!” Attu had said as she faced the burly tribal leader who had fathered the baby, as was his right. Already she knew that the man child she had birthed, who carried Trog’s blood as well as her own, would be a fine warrior someday.
Trog had scowled, looking out through his dirty mane of tangled black hair to glare at the woman with his remaining eye. The scars of battle that had robbed him of his other eye seemed to glow in the light of the faint campfire as he saw his child for the first time. Trog the One-Eyed showed no parental pride, nor did he offer Attu any sign of concern or interest. He scowled as he perpetually did except when he was engaged in some primitive act of feeding or satisfying himself through acts of violence or cruelty. “I have need of warriors, woman, not of whelps!” he had said, his mind on his war with the beast-men over the domain of the hunting grounds. “Take it away!”
Kong’s first glimpse of his father and his tribal leader had brought only malice and contempt into his infant perceptions of the world. Thus might it all have ended, had Trog’s loyal shaman Magl not stepped out of the cavern shadows with his ceremonial antlers and cloak proclaiming his status and his wisdom.
“Trog, no!” said the shaman. “Do you not remember that our legends tell of how long ago a strange tribe of great fighting men met our people? They too were led by a yellow hair! A mighty warrior called Kong! And Attu’s child was born while the goddess Lural showed her full face! The spirit of Kong may live anew within him! All life comes from Lural! If she has given him Kong’s spirit, he will be a mighty warrior! A hunter, and unbeatable in battle!”
Listening to the other man, Trog’s evil heart knew a touch of fear. Raising his head, he drew closer to the woman and child. “This pup? Do you say that he may one day be mighty enough even to challenge me, sorcerer? Others have tried — and failed!” he said, then raised his stone-headed axe over the child, ready to strike. “So be it, then! The matter can be settled with one stroke–“
Attu fell to her knees before the brute, imploring him to leave the child unharmed. “No! Stop! You have no reason to fear my child! Don’t–“
His anger came swiftly, and he struck her hard on the side of her face with the back of his hand. “Stupid woman! Who spoke of fear? And since when does a woman dare to give orders to her chief?” As Attu trembled prone on the ground, Trog stood over her and spoke words of a grim and certain finality. “I’d kill you where you lie were it not that female blood would steal the strength from my axe! But there is no place here for anyone who questions my power! I do not fear your whelp! Take him and your belongings and get out! You are no longer of our clan!“
Magl had reached one rough hand within the fur pouch he always carried, producing a foul-smelling powder that he hurled at the fleeing Attu and her infant. “Our chief has spoken!” he cried. “With this magic powder made from the teeth of the he-bear who lives ever alone, I proclaim you both accursed! Now — go!“
Attu had fled with Kong, having been condemned to a hard life as one cast out from the security of the tribe. From that night onward, she could not take part of the food or the fire of the tribe. She could only survive on the roots, nuts, and berries she could dig up. She and the infant came to know cold, darkness, and isolation.
Yet that solitary life made them close to one another, and as Kong grew, he became more of a partner to his mother than merely her child. He learned to help provide for their daily meals, and he learned to stand the hardships of being hungry and cold many nights. Kong, who was rejected by all the members of his mother’s former tribe, even used his solitary hours to become a skilled warrior with the spear or knife.
Perhaps more remarkable was the fact that the bright youth learned a secret denied to Trog and his shaman; Kong figured out how to start a fire with two stones. He gained the comfort and warmth of a fire for his mother, doing so after a brave but foolish night quest to steal some fire from the carefully preserved fires of the tribe of Trog the One-Eyed. That initial acquisition of the fire led the quick-witted boy to eventually learn how to create the vital red source of so much that was good. Attu had been so proud.
Recalling her words again, Kong sighed as he wondered why he had been rejected by his own tribe. His own father had thrust him out. Still, there had been others in the young world to offer him friendship. He knew that he owed his very life to the bond he had formed with an unlikely ally. Gurat the beast-man, who in a future era would be described as a Neanderthal, had become a blood brother to Kong and had protected him after Attu’s sudden, violent death.
At first Kong had wrongly assumed that his beloved mother had been murdered in his absence by one of the stronger, hairy primitive beings known as beast-men. However, his eyes and ears were keen, and he soon spotted the footprints that indicated that Attu’s slayer had worn shoes. The beast-men did not wear shoes. Thus only one of his own kind could have ended his mother’s life so brutally.
The anger and desire for revenge filled his young soul, motivating Kong to seek out Trog in order to kill him. He knew that Trog had threatened Attu more than once after casting her out of the tribe. He was correct in thinking that any murder could only have occurred with his sanction.
Kong had wept for the first and last time in his young life after finding Attu’s body. Those tears had initiated him into a new life with a new goal. He wanted to kill Trog. (*) Still, his rash impulse would have ended in his own death had Gurat not chosen to defy his own kind to rescue the “smooth skin,” as the beast-men called their Cro-Magnon rivals.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Kong the Untamed,” Kong the Untamed #1 (June-July, 1975).]
Gurat was a hulking brute with massive strength and an impressive appetite. He also had the primitive instinct to admire courage and to reward it with loyalty. Thus, Gurat saved Kong when his desire to avenge Attu’s murder led him directly into the clutches of the beast-men, who only saw him as one to be slaughtered in payment for the pain others of his kind had caused them. Gurat had rescued him, and in their flight the odd couple had battled the animals of the wild world beyond the tribal fires. They had remained loyal to one another when faced with temptations from each of their respective peoples. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Blood Brother,” Kong the Untamed #2 (August-September, 1975).]
It was in their flight from such enemies that they had stumbled through the cursed Caves of Doom. The mysterious caverns had many tunnels, and one such passage led them into a valley that could well have been a whole new world. It was full of people like them, but it also had huge lizards. Some of these beasts could fly, while others rampaged across the world like armored giants. (*) The dinosaurs had survived the doom that had befallen the rest of their kind by escaping into the time-tossed valley beyond the Caves of Doom. Still, Kong did not know the word dinosaur. He only marveled at the giant monsters and faced them when necessary with the same courage and resourcefulness that had enabled him to survive in such a harsh world.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Caves of Doom,” Kong the Untamed #3 (October-November, 1975) and “Valley of Blood,” Kong the Untamed #4 (December, 1975-January, 1976).]
Now Kong looked up to see Gurat himself emerge from within one of the tree huts. “Blood-brother, why do you stay awake when we are safe here?” he grunted. “Ginny and Errus are good friends. I know we may trust them and their people. They tended my hurts when first they found me. They allowed me to rescue you from their enemies when you were taken by the people of Dra! They ride the flying lizards called lanktors, and they will accept us as part of their tribe!”
Kong stood up and said, “Gurat, I do trust them. Still, I saw how they used the flying lizards to bring death to all who served Dra. (*) Not all of them were deserving of such death. I lost a friend there just before you arrived. He died because he tried to make the Dra people realize that men and women did not need to master each other. The women of Dra ruled their men like the men of Trog’s tribe rule their mates! I have seen both ways of living, and both bring pain. I have seen my kind try to kill me. I have seen your kind try to kill you. I have learned that we should all think and act for ourselves. The ways our peoples embrace are wrong. I would have a tribe of people of many ideas and many different ways. I would see them work together to get food, warmth, and hunting grounds. This vision kept me awake.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Bones of the Martyr,” Kong the Untamed #5 (February-March, 1976).]
Gurat scratched his head. “You think too much, little brother! For now, we should be glad the people of the flying lizards let us live in their tree village. We will be happy here.”
“Yes,” said Kong. “Still, when I am older and stronger, I will return to our old land and find Trog. He killed my mother, and I will avenge her loss. That is owed to her!”
Gurat nodded. “Yes. I will help you. Still, now is not the time. You must wait. You must become stronger. Remember, Magl said you would be a mighty ruler someday. His magic cannot be false!”
“His magic made us outcasts,” said Kong. “I will pay Trog back for all we suffered.”
“All in its own season, my blood-brother!” said Gurat.
They glanced down to the huge series of pens in which the winged lanktors were kept. Loud cries echoed from below, and Kong looked at Gurat in concern. “Surely, the lanktors don’t make such a noise normally! Is something wrong?” he asked.
Gurat began to climb down the tree via a thick rope of hanging vine and said, “Errus should be there. He is lanktor master. Let us see!”
Kong followed the agile beast-man down the vine until the pair reached the ground below, then made their way through the night to the pens, where a scene of horror awaited them. The Lanktors were struggling furiously with their keepers, and the brave Errus was fighting for his very life as one of the huge creatures ignored his commands and raked his skin with its talons.