Enjoy the next chapter! I quite like this one.
They were not going far today, but the troop had been moving around quite a bit during the last few days. Kerchak tried his best to make use of everything available in the dry season of the summer months, and there was good food all around that the family would benefit from. Today, just down a short path, was a perfect grove of delicious plants and trees that he knew the mothers and their young would appreciate. He wanted to claim the space before any other gorilla troop got to it first.
"Hey, Dad," Tarzan announced his presence as he trotted up to the silverback and walked at his side. "Where are we going now? Are we there yet? We've been walking forever."
"We have not," Kerchak said. "We will get there when we get there."
"You say that every day," Tarzan complained.
"Because you ask every day," Kerchak retorted.
"Why do we have to keep moving anyway?"
"Do you want to have food always available?"
"Well, yeah. But I'm tired of walking. Can we take a break?"
"I guarantee you're the only one who is tired. The sun hasn't even moved in the sky; we haven't been walking for that long." Kerchak glanced up at the sky through the trees briefly as he spoke, trying to keep the sternness out of his voice over Tarzan's whining like a small infant. He sighed before lifting Tarzan by an arm and settling his son on his back. Tarzan smiled as he adjusted his hold on Kerchak before speaking once more.
"Does the new place have any good food?" he asked. "Not just leaves and shoots, right? Those get boring and they're not even that good. They're so hard to eat."
"Picky," Kerchak droned. "You know, there might just be some delicious tree bark where we're headed."
"Tree bark!" Tarzan shuffled up his father's back and clung to Kerchak's shoulder, looking down at his father who gave him a sidelong glance. "You're joking, right? There's more than that, isn't there? I can't eat another gross green leaf—I'm going to turn into a leaf."
"Well . . ." Kerchak frowned as if in deep thought, "for the good boys there's a whole tree of . . . moabi fruit."
"Yes," Tarzan cheered.
"I said for the good boys."
"I've been good," Tarzan insisted, wrapping his arms around Kerchak's neck, and resting his head against the ape's tuft of fur on his head. "You haven't had to ground me in a long time. And I've been keeping up with the family, and Zugor even taught me how to pace myself when I'm getting tired, so I keep up and I haven't done . . . you're just joking with me, aren't you?"
Kerchak smirked back at his son.
"You're so mean, Dad," Tarzan complained, sliding down his father's back.
"You know it," Kerchak agreed.
Served him right for all his whining. Before, Tarzan would never dare breathe a sound of complaint to him. Now it seemed to be all the child did anymore. And what really wasn't fair was that Tarzan never seemed to take any of his complaints to Kala—it was always him. Whenever the child wanted anything else, he would run to Kala and ask her, and if she wasn't around but Kerchak was, Tarzan would ask him where Kala was. So unfair.
The two fell into a comfortable silence while Kerchak led the family on to the new grounds where plenty of food awaited the whole tribe. It was an area he only ventured to once a year, and as it was usually uncharted territory, he would have to proceed with caution and make sure he marked his scent everywhere once they were settled. He would not lose this opportunity to give everyone a good full stomach between the fruit and the other plants and trees in the area.
Tarzan stretched out on his back, lying down on his stomach with his arms dangling and his legs offering just enough of a lax grip. His eyes slowly closed, and Kerchak was quite pleased when Tarzan fell asleep for a nap, just as many of the other ape children did on their mother's back at this time. The warm sun and the sway of their parents' walking always did the trick, and Kerchak made a mental note to use this trick more often.
They walked on for a half mile or so in blissful quiet that the adults appreciated, and they made time much faster without having to pause to make sure all kids were accounted for.
Finally, just as the children were waking, Kerchak found the large food ground, with massive moabi fruit trees at the far edge and the rest of the clearing full of leaves, shoots, root vegetables, termite hills, and a creek running between the clearing and the moabi fruit trees. Unfortunately, there were also three apes picking at a termite hill, and they turned and snarled at Kerchak and his family.
Kerchak's fur bristled.
"Well, well," Mama Gunda smiled as she stepped forward in front of her two sons. "What a lovely family you have. So many beautiful ladies for my two sons. The babies will have to go, of course, no need for baggage, but a deal is a deal. You lost, remember."
Tarzan gasped on Kerchak's back as he sat up, but Kerchak growled at the other two blackbacks.
"I have reestablished myself as leader of my family before your sons could," Kerchak said. "It is only fair for a rematch at this point. If you really dare to challenge me twice."
"Oh," Mama Gunda sighed. "I was really hoping things would go much smoother and there wouldn't have to be any bloodshed. Oh well. Boys! Finish him this time."
Kago and Uto roared as they rose on two and pounded their chests.
Kerchak gave a quick roared command to his family to climb, carefully pulling Tarzan off his back and onto a branch for him to start climbing up as well. He roared back at the two males, pounding his own chest threateningly. After his first match with the two young males, he had been wizened to pay attention to both apes as often as he could, and he would not make the same mistake twice. Kago charged first, with Uto a step behind.
Kerchak shoved Kago to his right then locked arms with Uto, and they flashed their canines repeatedly. Out of the corner of his eye, Kerchak say Kago running at him with canines exposed, and he turned and pushed Uto with as much strength as he could muster, causing both apes to collide into each other.
They tumbled over each other, but Kago, furious as he was, kicked his brother off him and ran for Kerchak, who rose back on two and smacked Kago with severe force, and the younger ape fell over and smacked into a tree.
Uto was on him in the next second, trying to bite at Kerchak's throat, but Kerchak managed to get his hands on Uto's throat to keep the gorilla back. Uto clawed at Kerchak's arms, hoping the silverback would release from the pain, but Kerchak endured and roared at Uto, who snarled back.
Kago shakily stood back up, then glared at Kerchak, watching his brother and the silverback for a moment before turning his attention to the trees where some of the young were staring down at the fight in fascination. If he couldn't get the silverback now, he was sure a distraction would weaken the ape, and what better than killing the babies.
Kago ran to the tree and began violently shaking it, climbing up it slightly to get to the weaker middle. The young apes at first tried climbing higher when they saw Kago climbing, but they were forced to cling when the tree began shaking. The other apes began calling out in alarm as some of the young apes looked close to losing their grip, especially Tarzan.
Kerchak heard the cries, and he gasped as he watched Kago target the children. He snarled and kicked at Uto, who released him with a startled yelp. Kerchak ran on all fours toward Kago, but Uto jumped on him from behind, stopping him just a few feet from the tree. He wrestled on the ground with Uto for a minute, hitting and biting all the while, earning a few canines in his shoulder, but managing to get a few bites in of his own at the ape's neck.
With a spit and a vicious wah as he jumped to his feet, Uto jumped back at the dominate, aggressive display, allowing Kerchak to charge for Kago, who had climbed a bit higher and was shaking the tree again. He could see a few struggling apes trying to get away from the violent ape, including his own son, but they could not move with the branches shaking as they were.
Climbing a few branches, he managed to snatch Kago's ankle in a tight grip and pulled. Kago roared down at him.
A hand grabbed Kerchak's ankle, and he didn't need to look down to know that Uto had him. Using that to his advantage, he grabbed Kago's ankle with both hands and allowed Uto to tug on him, pulling on Kago at the same time. All three fell to the ground, smashing into branches as they went.
The force of the fall knocked a few apes off their branches, but the clung to lower branches quickly, save for Tarzan, who yelped as he fell from his branch and struggled to grab another, smashing into a couple as he failed to find a grip.
Kerchak had managed to trap both apes against the tree with a hand to each throat, squeezing and choking them out, but he heard Tarzan above and let go of the two apes in favor of catching Tarzan, managing to catch the young child in his arm like a football. Tarzan panted as the color slowly returned to his face, but Kerchak could sense the two apes running for him and he rose on two to set Tarzan on a higher, thicker branch to recover.
Still standing, Kerchak grabbed a branch on another tree nearby and pulled it back as the two apes flew right for him. He let it go at the last minute.
It struck the two simultaneously, and they fell over side by side, dazed.
Kerchak leaped over the branch and swung his arms as he let out a war cry. He slammed down his fists repeatedly over the two blackbacks, beating them into the ground while they pleaded for mercy under him, covering their faces with their hands as the rest of their bodies were bruised black and blue.
Kerchak rose in front of them and pounded his chest with a loud roar, and they scrambled away from him and hid behind Mama Guda, shaking like a newborn baby. Mama Gunda spluttered before glaring at her sons and demanding, "You're hardly scratched! Get back in there and finish him."
"Please, Ma," Uto begged, trying to make himself as small as possible, "don't make us fight him anymore. I have owies everywhere."
Kago simply nodded his head.
"You cowards," Mama Gunda snarled, but her temper withered as Kerchak approached her and her sons, who shielded their heads in fear, half expecting the ape's fists to beat them again.
"You will leave my territory," Kerchak demanded in a harsh growl. "And you will never threaten my family again. Go."
"Yes, sir," Kago and Uto uttered at the same time.
"You haven't seen the last of me," Mama Gunda said. "I will train my boys to be . . ."
"You've seen the last of us," Kago and Uto shouted as they bolted into the trees.
"Come back here!" Mama Gunda cried after them. "We're not finished yet. You know Mama doesn't like chasing after you, boys."
Kerchak watched the family disappear into the trees, and hopefully, for the last time. He smiled satisfied as his family climbed down the trees and cheered for him. Kala moved through the family and right up to him, bumping her head against his. He closed his eyes and savored the moment of a victorious fight, listening to the praise of his family around him.
"Dad, that was amazing!" Tarzan said as he ran through the crowd and to his father. "You beat them!"
Kerchak smiled at his enthusiastic son, but his nose caught a metallic scent of his son, and he quickly sniffed him, checking him over. He was scratched up from his fall, and had several actively bleeding abrasions, though it wasn't deadly and would probably stop on its own in a matter of minutes. However, Kerchak couldn't help but tend to the wounds. It was his duty after all, and this was his son whom he had watched fall from several feet.
"Dad, I'm okay," Tarzan had complained when Kerchak began nosing him and sniffing him.
Tarzan tried to shuffle away but only ended up falling over. His father began licking his back where he had smashed into a couple branches and earned a few scratches. They were nothing serious, and everyone was watching with awed expressions, and Tarzan could feel the eyes of his peers smirking at him. Tarzan tried crawling away from his attentive father, only for Kerchak to hold him still with a single hand pinning down his legs. Tarzan felt his cheeks heat up as Tarzan continued his ministrations.
"Dad," Tarzan whined, "you're embarrassing me."
Finally, Kerchak let Tarzan up and gave him a single lick on his shoulder where there was another small injury. Honestly, a little hair would protect that boy's sensitive skin. Tarzan shook himself off and glared at his father.
"Okay, okay," Tarzan said. "I'm better now, are you happy?"
"Very," Kerchak agreed. He nuzzled his son. "I'm glad you're safe, Tarzan."
Tarzan enjoyed the attention and nuzzled back. Kerchak pulled away and looked everyone over.
"I'm glad everyone is safe," he said. "Now let's settle in and eat."
No one needed to be told twice. Terk pulled Tarzan aside to tease him about "daddy giving Tarzan a bath" while they went to check for any fallen moabi fruit.
Kala warned Terk and Tarzan to stay close while Kerchak left the clearing to begin marking the territory as his for now. It really didn't take much, a brush up against a tree did the trick, but if he saw anyone, he would rise and pound his chest, letting all animals, gorilla or otherwise, know that they were too close to his boundaries. That was really all it took, and no one would dare intrude his space. He was still very sore from his fight with the two blackbacks, and the bite wound on his shoulder ached, but it was not too deep and should heal in no time. He gave what he could reach a few licks before continuing his way, looking out for intruders.
After a few hours of doing so, Kerchak finally decided he was ready to sit down and eat himself. He moved back toward the group, checking on everyone as he moved toward Kala. He ruffled the hair of a small infant who giggled at him, his mother smiling down at him. Kerchak paused to accept a small piece of root another young ape offered him submissively, and he nodded appreciatively to him, munching on the appetizer before arriving to Kala.
Kala finished adding the final touches to her large nest and pulled her collection of leaves, roots, bark with sap glued on, and fruit closer to her nest as she sat in the center, picking up a fruit and biting into it.
"You always make the most beautiful, perfect nests," Kerchak said softly, smiling at his mate.
"I learned from the best," Kala replied with a smile back.
"Oh, me?" Kerchak teased as he climbed in next to her.
Kala snorted and rolled her eyes.
"Of course not," Kala said. "There would be more hard rocks in here if that were the case."
"I like a firm bed," Kerchak stated. He nuzzled Kala. "But I like yours the best."
"Just like my mother used to make," Kala whispered, snuggling closer to Kerchak.
Kerchak hummed, enjoying the closeness of his mate. They had rare moments where they could be alone together, with just the two of them, and he took advantage of those small moments whenever he could. He thought about pulling Kala away for some more privacy in that moment, but their snuggling was quickly interrupted by a small voice.
"Mom, Dad, you're making those faces again," Tarzan grinned at them. "Do you need some alone time." Tarzan emphasized "alone."
"Get out of here, you little monkey!" Kerchak snapped, grabbing for Tarzan, but the child slipped out of his reach with a loud giggle, jumping for a branch above Kerchak's head. Kerchak stood up and snatched his child quickly, pulling him down into his lap and then tickling the boy mercilessly. Tarzan squirmed and writhed, trying to get away from his father who trapped him with his feet so he could keep tickling mercilessly.
"Mom, help!" Tarzan cried to Kala.
Kala sat back and smiled down at her son, watching his predicament with an amused look. Realizing he wasn't getting any help from his mother, Tarzan decided to save himself by doing the only thing he could think of, which was tickling his father back. He lightly ran his fingers up and down his father's foot and the gorilla jerked his leg and bit back a laugh himself.
"You little cheat," Kerchak growled as he threw his son up into his arms, cradling him. "That action is deserving of banishment. You'll have to fight for your right to stay!"
Kerchak roared softly and pretended to maul his son and carefully closed his teeth around the boy, which ended up feeling more ticklish then painful, and Tarzan laughed more before using his hands to push his father's head away. He climbed up his father's arm to his uninjured shoulder and grabbed his father in a headlock. Kerchak smirked, then pretended to struggle.
"Oh no!" Kerchak choked, reaching for his throat. "He's got me! Kala, he's grown too big and is taking over the family. I knew this would happen."
Kerchak sank to the ground dramatically. Kala chuckled at her mate and son's antics.
"I have been overthrown," Kerchak declared before falling flat in the nest and closing his eyes. Tarzan stood on top of his father and pounded his chest with his characteristic yell.
Kerchak grunted and stood back up, forcing Tarzan to cling to him quickly to avoid toppling over. Kerchak looked up at Tarzan.
"What kind of roar do you call that?" Kerchak asked.
"That's my Tarzan roar," Tarzan said.
"Hmm. Not very frightening. Needs more gut sound. You're using too much air."
"It's not supposed to be scary," Tarzan explained. He stepped up on his father's shoulder and pounded his chest. "It's supposed to be loud and victorious."
"It's loud, all right," Kerchak said as he pulled Tarzan off his shoulder and settled Tarzan down in the nest.
Tarzan playfully shoved his father's hand away, then quickly pushed back his hair that had fallen into his face.
"You two are a handful," Kala smiled, shaking her head at Kerchak and Tarzan.
Kerchak smiled down at his son before nuzzling his mate lovingly, earning a disgusted sound from Tarzan. Kala returned the gesture, then smirked at her mate.
"How on earth will I handle three of you?"
"Three?" Kerchak asked, very confused.
Kala sat back once more, but this time, she laid a hand over her stomach suggestively. Kerchak's eyes widened, as he said, "Really?"
"Felt movement this morning."
Kerchak was at a lost for words, so he simply leaned closed and touched his forehead to Kala's, closing his eyes as many emotions struck him at once.
Tarzan moved closer to his parents curiously.
"What do you mean, you felt movement?" he asked.
"Well, Tarzan," Kala said when Kerchak pulled away, "you're going to be a big brother."
Tarzan gasped in surprise.