Chapter 7 - Honeymoon Horror
He had more fun eating the worms they'd dug up on their way to the beach than baiting the hook. He offered some worms to Jane, and she ate them right out of his hand, which pleased him greatly. She joked that it was almost like eating a German bloodwurst to her, but the worms were smaller, and sausages didn't wiggle.
She played with her food to amuse Tarzan, slurping up one worm loudly like a spaghetti noodle, causing both to chuckle. Her mother scolded her for doing that at one Italian restaurant long ago. That gave Tarzan an idea. He gave her a particularly long worm that she began to suck into her mouth again, but he bit the other end of it, and continued to share the worm with her slowly. Her eyes twinkled at him, playing the game. The worm was not really happy with this arrangement. Their lips approached each other very slowly as they consumed the wiggly creature. They met in the middle and shared a long, tender kiss. They reached for each other, and for awhile, fishing and swimming were forgotten completely, as the salt spray crashed around them on the cool, water-smoothed rock on which they lay together as one.
Near sundown, they were sitting on the beach cuddled together by a bonfire she'd started and taught Tarzan how make with flint and steel, having just finished the savory fish Jane had cooked for dinner, along with some crabs she'd steamed for them in their own shells. It had been a perfect day together.
Tarzan stood up, but looked around cautiously, and sniffed the air deeply.
He pulled his knife from its scabbard underneath the pile of clothes, "Stay still."
"What is it Tarzan?" she asked with great concern.
"Catch another fish, quickly, Jane," he urged.
"Fish don't just jump on the line, Tarzan, I need some time here," she complained.
"We don't have much time. Hurry, please," he warned gravely.
Out from the grassy beach scrub appeared a great cat. To Jane, it seemed to be a caracal, with its tufted ears. It was a big one. Its fangs and claws were bared. It approached them slowly, but got frighteningly close. Jane held her breath, not moving or making any noise for the sake of their safety. Tarzan stood between her and the huge feline with only a knife.
"Tarzan of the Apes," the female caracal growled in its own language.
"Naima, it is good to see you again," replied Tarzan tersely in the cat's language, but the grip on his knife tightened and his eyes narrowed.
"Does the woman speak in my words?" Naima inquired.
He answered carefully, "No, not yet. Only the language of humans and the words of my family. She will someday understand you; she is not like the others."
The cat spoke in gorilla speech that Jane could comprehend, "Then I will use the words of the Family of Kerchak so that she may hear, and fear me. For her to learn my language is of no consequence. She will not survive that long."
The cat deliberately embarrassed Tarzan by calling his family by his gorilla father's name instead of hi. Jane was stunned hearing the caracal talk. Hearing the threat to Jane caused Tarzan's grip on his blade to become tighter and his other hand was balled up into a tight fist.
The caracal warned, "She does not belong here Tarzan. She is one of them. Despite what you say of her differences."
"She is my mate. My family. You may not touch her. She is under my protection. We will not provoke you."
"You cannot protect her all the time Tarzan. If you let your guard down, we will see who belongs in this jungle, and who does not."
The big cat addressed Jane directly, "I smell your fear, mate of Tarzan, despite your brave look. It will paralyze you, and you will die."
Tarzan coached her in a whisper how to respond to the caracal, "Give her the fish, Jane. Tell her what is in your heart. She will sense lies. Do not break her gaze."
Jane stood, took the still wriggling freshly-caught bass, and walked forward to the cat, past Tarzan's defense, despite her terror.
She laid the catch before the caracal, and bowed, but kept her eyes locked with the big cat. She was desperately trying to remember how her tiny house cats responded to her. This cat was not purring in anticipation of food.
Jane said solemnly, "I respect you more than I fear you, Naima. I offer you my friendship: to know and honor your ways. I do not wish to quarrel with you. In my world, I had two cats as my friends as a child."
"Thank you for your gift, mate of Tarzan, but we are not and cannot be friends. I assure you. Those tiny cats are soft like you. They have forgotten the wild and are dependent on you meddling humans. Go back to your world before you die in this one. I accept your gift to me."
The cat came forward, and swallowed the fish in one bite, emphasizing the crunch of the fish's bones to intentionally intimidate Jane. She didn't let it bother her.
"Naima. I respect your opinion, but I will not leave. Tarzan is my mate, and this is my home now. I stand with him. I can protect myself better than you think."
Naima dismissed the fishing pole next to the fire, "With that tiny hook, you will have to do better than that to protect yourself. This is not your day to die, mate of Tarzan. But it will be someday."
"Someday we all will die, great cat." Jane responded firmly.
Tarzan added, "Do not threaten her, Naima, or you may find today is your day to die."
"I only warned her of the jungle's dangers, Tarzan. They are everywhere. Lurking."
Tarzan noted the cat's male mate higher above them in the rocks, partially hidden. The female caracal turned and disappeared back into the bush. Tarzan looked up at the hillside above with narrowed, serious eyes. Naima's mate, protecting her from ambush from behind, turned and vanished with a vicious snarl. This was a deadly pair, perhaps more so than Sabor was. They were cunning as well as strong, and they worked as a pair. Sabor had only attacked mindlessly alone.
With the cats gone, Jane rushed for her mate and collapsed in his arms, shaking and crying terribly, "Oh my goodness, Tarzan, I was so frightened."
He sheathed his knife and soothed her, "No one outside of the jungle has ever faced Naima as well as you, and lived. I am very, very proud of you, Jane. It is all right to be frightened."
Comforted, she wiped her tears, and she said with resolve, "I am hoping to not be frightened soon."
"How can that be, Jane?"
She jutted her chin forward and her eyes narrowed in anger and resolve, a look Tarzan had never seen, and she said through gritted teeth, "Your father had another trunk, Tarzan. And it's very heavy. Let's go see what's in it."
They dressed and climbed back up the cliffs to the treehouse. Upon returning to the treehouse, they dragged out that trunk. Tarzan broke the lock with his knife hilt. A musty smell emanated from within. She looked inside and smiled. There were a lot of grisly, medieval-style weapons - spears, swords, pikes, and battle axes. They were largely ornamental from the family's heritage. But one item was not just for display. It was a hunting bow, and a quiver full of deadly looking, razor-sharp, metal-tipped arrows. She pulled them out.
"What is that?" asked Tarzan.
"This is a hunting bow, dear. A weapon, perhaps more lethal than the gun. Let me show you."
Below the entrance to the treehouse, at Jane's direction, Tarzan lined up several very hard-shelled coconuts on a rock outcropping. She strung his father's bow, and loaded and nocked an arrow. She drew back, and released the arrow, but it missed, imbedding itself halfway through a thick root. The bow had the stiffest draw she had ever felt. Tarzan gasped. She shook her head, disappointed in herself, and said to Tarzan, "Sorry, Tarzan. I'm out of practice, and every bow is a little different."
Tarzan studied her intently. She loaded another arrow, but much more deliberately. It made a tensioning sound. She steadied the bow, held her breath, and set her stance. She drew back with a complete pull. She released the arrow with a resounding twang. It travelled lightning fast with a whizzing sound, and the hunting arrow sliced through two of the shells of the coconuts. They cracked open and started leaking their savory milk, which the pair quickly drank.
Tarzan sat down on his haunches in amazement, and Jane joined him sitting with her legs tucked under her skirt, as they shared the meat of the open coconuts. Jane explained that her dad had a family archery range in their estate near their horse stables and hunting hound kennel. He taught her how to use a bow, and eventually, she and her father bow-hunted foxes and deer together alone on their estate, also without her mother's knowledge. Gun shots and the hounds would have given their secret away. While it often seemed her aging father was often a bumbling, eccentric professor, he was still a proper English gentleman, and hunting with the other gentry was an important social event, and he wanted Jane to have his skills.
She gripped the bow with purpose, "From now on, I will go nowhere without this bow, Tarzan. I want to show that caracal I have sharp teeth too. No one hurts our family, and I can defend myself."
She tied the quiver around her waist and shouldered the bow. She looked formidable with her jaw set.
"I love you Jane," he smiled at her with a cocked eyebrow, "but remind me never to anger you."
"You're the smartest ape-man I ever met, Tarzan," she teased back.
"You've met other ape-men?" he quickly shot back, playing with her words.
They laughed and kissed, and he stroked her shoulders in comfort. He continued to be amazed that this once seemingly helpless young woman from England was gaining confidence in the wild with him, using the skills her father had taught her as a child.
She was pretty proud of that herself.