Abruptly the sun was blotted out and a sudden deluge descended from
the heavens. It fell steadily in a silver sheet for five minutes, then
as abruptly stopped. It was the first rain, marking the beginning of
the rainy season.
The brassy sun showed its molten face again, hotter than before. From
the floor of the primeval jungle, a miasmic mist steamed slowly upward.
The air was sullen, brooding, oppressive.
From a thousand giant trees, matted and festooned with an impenetrable
tangle of vines, the lemurs scolded querulously at one another.
Vividly plumed birds screamed hoarsely as they flitted from tree to
tree. And the beasts of the earth snarled and spat at each other as
they wrangled over their kill.
Darkest Africa, where Nature had been prodigal and profligate. She had
peopled this, her richest land, with a myriad of living things--plant,
beast, bird and fish. And then, as if regretting her generosity, she
had pitted the one against the other. Let the Law be that of Claw and
Fang; let the strong survive.
Suddenly, above the teeming noises of earth and air, a mighty roar
reverberated between the trees. As if blasted by an evil curse, the
jungle was hushed.
Then, a moment later, with a majestic stride a mighty lion pushed
through the brush and stepped into a small, open clearing that
bordered a lake of cerulean blue.
Zar the Mighty paused a moment on the edge of the clearing. Slowly,
disdainfully he swung his massive head from side to side as he
surveyed his domain. His tawny mane was ruffed; his tufted tail
switched nervously from side to side.
Again he tilted back his head. Again the rumbling bass note of his
defiance filled the clearing. But there was no one who dared answer
Zar snorted contemptuously, lashed his tail once more and proceeded
slowly down to the water's edge. This respectful silence that greeted
his coming was fitting to his might and dignity. For wasn't he Zar the
Mighty--Lord of the Jungle?
He drank, long and deeply. But minutes before he had his fill his head
snapped up. A snarl rumbled in his throat; his leather lungs expanded
and the talons of his forepaws arched.
From high overhead came an angry, droning buzz that grew louder, more
insistent with every moment's passing. Zar threw back his head and
looked up between the trees. What fool of a bird was this who dared
challenge the might of his claw and fang?
And then he saw it, first as a speck looming out of the south. It
advanced rapidly, with incredible speed, flying low; and the roar of
its coming put even Zar's stentorian bellow to shame.
This was not Pindar the eagle or Kru come to the vulture's feast. Zar
had never seen such a bird before--one with such an incredible spread
of wing--one that screamed its defiance as it flew like an arrow.
However, he felt no fear in its presence. His muscles simply bulged in
From slitted, amber eyes he watched the strange bird as it soared
above the clearing. It cleared the far side, then suddenly, without
warning, a jet of black smoke belched forth from its side.