Round 4 – Zakiyah
Drums? Malone wondered, finally recognizing the sound. The beat set his stomach churning again. He opened his eyes and raised his head a few inches, surprise momentarily overcoming his nausea. That beat sounds familiar. I wonder why?
"Hsst! Hey you! Friend of Veronica! Are you awake?" The voice came from somewhere out of the darkness.
Malone debated whether to ignore it, but curiosity won out over his continuing discomfort. He inched himself up and tried to look around. It didn’t seem as dark as before. My eyes must have adjusted, Malone thought to himself as he made out iron bars about six feet away, and beyond that, a few moving men in familiar-looking clothing. Bars? Since when do caves have bars? It was then he discovered he was in a cell, not just a cave.
"Wake up, friend!" the voice came again, louder, then it dropped, obviously addressing itself to someone else. "He must still be unconscious. What was his name again?"
"Malone," Ned said at last, finally regaining enough wits to respond. "My name’s Malone." He peered through the darkness again, and recognition struck. "I know you. You’re Zanga." He tried to remember a name, but his mind remained stubbornly blank.
"Kai," the taller of the two Zanga warriors replied, "and this is Ardo. I don’t think you’ve met him before."
"No," Malone agreed. He looked around a little more. "What happened? Where are we?"
Kai shrugged, his lithe frame making the movement both graceful and expressive of his disgust. "We were hunting when we were caught out by the storm. We were heading for the shelter of nearby caves when we found you unconscious under a tree. We brought you with us and made camp in one of the caves – but we were attacked. We were brought here through tunnels."
Malone stared at him, confused. "Attacked by whom? Brought where?"
The noise of the drums suddenly increased tenfold, accompanied by a loud metallic squeal. Kai and Ardo immediately backed against the far wall of their cell. "Shh – here they come! Lie still and they might not take you!"
Huh? Malone wondered, but obediently lay his head back down on the ground and closed his eyes. The darkness behind his eyelids gave way to a flickering brightness. Whoever they are, they brought torches. He cracked an eyelid open a trifle as he heard what sounded like cell doors opening. He didn’t know whether one of them was his.
"Aw, is he still not awake?" a vaguely familiar female voice cried in disappointment as other voices rang out in laughter.
Malone’s eyes flew open in surprise before he could stop himself. Out of the corner of his eye he saw several leather-clad women dragging Kai and Ardo from their cell, but most of his attention was riveted on the pert blonde peering into his cell, a delightful pout on her lips. He recognized her immediately, and the memories her face brought to his mind made him blush furiously. Seeing his eyes open, she shrieked in delight.
"Oh, you are awake! Naughty boy!" the Amazon giggled as she came into his cell and knelt beside him. She cradled his face between her hands, causing Malone to wince as his head moved. Her expression turned serious for a moment. "Oh, not so naughty after all." One hand wove its way delicately through his hair, searching until it found the sizeable lump on the side of his head. "Just hurt, but it shouldn’t take too long to heal." She smiled tenderly at him. "That’s good, because I don’t want to have to wait too long. You were so much fun last time, it will be nice to spend time with you again. Even without my sister." Her eyes glistened for a moment before she leaned in and kissed him lightly on the lips. "In the meantime, I think you’ll rest more comfortably with me."
She tried to pull him to his feet, but the sudden movement proved too much for Malone. He barely reached his feet before he fainted.