Short Story: Tarzan's Rule

Uglug looked up dumbly as the giant Ape man towered over him. Tarzan put his foot on Uglug chest and uttered the fearsome call of the triumphant bull ape.

A ring of savage hunters surrounded the two men. No one in the tribe had ever year such a terrible sound come from a human mouth. The jungle grew quiet. Then, slowly, in whispers and then louder and louder the tribe began to chant. "Kill him! Kill him! Hail our new chief. Kill Uglug!"

"Silence!" the ape-man shouted, then he spoke into the silence. "Is it indeed your custom that chiefs are chosen through mortal combat?"

"Yes," La, the priestess said. "Whoever kills the ruling chief becomes chief in his stead. You must kill Uglug now and rule us."

"It would be an honor to rule such a great and noble tribe," Tarzan replied, "but I did not seek to rule you. I came in friendship, and when Uglug attacked me, I did but defend myself."

Tarzan removed his foot from Uglug chest and Uglug heaved himself onto his elbows. "I did not know you were Tarzan of the Apes," Uglug panted. "I sought to protect my people. Now I see that I have done wrong. My life is in your hands."

"I don't wish to kill you," Tarzan replied, then he turned to the tribe. "I do not wish to kill him. He is a valiant leader, and I cannot be your leader for I am already the leader of the Waziri and I must return to my home."

"But you bested him!" someone shouted. "If any man can best Uglug, then he does not deserve to be chief!"

"Have any of you bested him?" Tarzan asked. The tribesmen grumbled.

"Few have attempted to wrest power from Uglug," La replied, "for he is known to be the strongest of us by far. Uglug defeated all who tried. And if there have been few attempts, it is not only because Uglug's strength insured defeat. He has also ruled us well. He inspired loyalty through his courage and wisdom, and he has protected us and provided for us. In all the long ages of our tribe, he has been our greatest chief."

"Then I will spare him, and by my will he shall remain your chief, for one can still say that no man has bested him, for I am no man. I am Tarzan of the Apes."

"No, Great Tarzan," La replied. "It is our law that he must die."

"And is it not also your law that the word of your chief is law?"

The crowded murmured. "Yes," La admitted.

"And am I not your chief?" Tarzan asked.

"Yes," La admitted, and the spectators drew in their breath in wonder.

"Then if it is the law that my will must be obeyed, then it is the law that Uglug should live. And if it be is also the law that Uglug must die, then a law must be broken for the good for the tribe."

The tribe sighed in approbation of this deft syllogism. This indeed was a day of days.

"Yes, a law must be broken," La said slowly. Then, wuick as a flash, she bent over Uglug and buried a knife in his heart. Without rising, she murmured, "Hail to our new chief!"

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