Iron on the Outside, Father Within @bluerowley

Kerchak grunted as he threw himself up the mountain, clinging to the rocky surface. He found some stones to grip and pull himself further up the steep incline. After some quick thinking back on the ground, Kerchak realized several things.

One, Kala was his mate, and she could hold her own against intruders. There were some younger males who would assist should Kala ask them, and all of them against one intruder had a good chance at keeping the family safe from predators or other silverback, who typically would travel alone. Kerchak had to put his faith in his family to keep themselves safe a little longer. Besides, the floods should have provided enough distraction to discourage any territorial activity.

The second thing he realized was that he had grown to care for the hairless ape. At first, he had been annoyed that he had gotten stuck with Tarzan out of everyone in his troop to be washed away with. But after spending so much alone time with the boy, he could honesty say that the child was not intolerable. In fact, the boy was like any of the other young apes in his family: inquisitive, spunky, playful, and very eager to learn. Yes, Tarzan had his downfalls. Being hairless provided no protection against the weather or attacks from predators. The boy was all skin and bone as it was.

Tarzan also struggled with normal gorilla things such as climbing trees or steep mountains, and he never had a very good grip in his hands like apes younger than him. It had improved, but not by much.

Regardless, the boy was just a child who needed protection and care, and Kerchak had to rescue him. He had lost his first son to Sabor. He missed his son dearly, and his heart would never be whole again from the loss. While Tarzan would never replace his firstborn, it was as if the world was giving him another chance to be a father, and he would not fail at the job twice. He may have been slow to realize it, but Tarzan was his second chance. He would not fail in rescuing the boy he had come to care so deeply for.

Kerchak pulled himself up another ledge. He was nearing the top of this steep mountain, and when he found those apes who took Tarzan, they would pay deeply.

Uto held Tarzan firmly by the head, applying enough pressure so the child couldn't move. Tarzan sat anxiously under the gorilla, watching the sun lower in the sky. He knew Kerchak wouldn't ever put his family in harm's way, so Tarzan was completely alone in escaping these apes. Kerchak would have returned home without him at the first chance he got. They had never been on good terms anyway.

Although Tarzan would like to think that they had been getting along pretty well after the flood knocked them over the cliff. But nothing good ever lasted for Tarzan, it seemed.

Tarzan glanced up at Uto, then looked over at Kago, who was beating on a rock. He looked back up at Uto and smirked as an idea struck him.

"So, umm, you're just going to sit here and hold me until Kerchak shows up?" Tarzan asked.


"You're not going to practice your moves at all for when Kerchak does arrive and wants to fight?" Tarzan shook his head disappointingly.

"What? Practice? Fight?" Uto stammered, looking down at Tarzan.

"I guess Kago will have to do all the fighting. Kerchak won't give in easily and there will be a fight, you know. I guess you'll have to sit this one out since you won't have warmed up or anything. That doesn't seem very fair, not even a little bit fair. Nope . . ." Tarzan shrugged.

"Huh?" Uto glanced back at Kago, then down at Tarzan, grumbling in thought until his eyes widened and he glared at Kago. "Hey, this isn't fair!"

"What?" Kago snapped.

"I said this isn't fair," Uto said, dragging Tarzan along with him. Uto poked Kago a couple times. "I need to practice too and warm up, so here—you watch the hairless bird."

"Don't poke me!" Kago snapped.

Uto poked Kago again, who roared angrily and stomped around, quickly getting the hiccups. Uto laughed.

"I like it when my brother gets hiccups," Uto told Tarzan. "It's hilarious."

"That's it!" Kago jumped on Uto, "I'm taking you down."

The two big apes rolled away from where Uto had dropped Tarzan, wrestling each other furiously.

Tarzan shuffled away when they rolled toward him and scrambled for the direction remembered the two apes carrying him from.

"Uto, stop," Kago demanded, pounding Uto on the head when his brother kept poking him. Kago pulled away and scanned the area with his eyes. "Where is he?"

"Opps," Uto said, looking around as well.

Tarzan had made a turn behind a rockier portion and gave a short yelp as he nearly fell over the cliff. It was a long way down. He carefully tiptoed on the ledge, hoping he could start descending and get away from the crazy family. If he was lucky, he might be able to catch up to Kerchak and they could rejoin the family together.

Just as he jumped for a ledge lower on the mountain, he was snatched by Kago and thrown back, landing on the stone surface away from the cliff, cutting himself on the landing. Uto snatched Tarzan by his arm and glared at him.

"Hey, you tricked me," Uto said.

"Boys!" Mama Gunda called to them, walking over to the apes. "What is the meaning of this?"

"He tried to escape, Ma," Kago said. "I caught him before he could."

"Oh dearie," Mama Gunda said sweetly, shaking her head at Tarzan. "Why would you try to do that?"

"I say we just throw him over the cliff," Kago said. "No real ape is going to come for that thing."

"I agree," Uto said, that chanted, "I want to throw him! I want to throw him!"

Mama Gunda looked at the lowering sun and sighed. Her one chance of locating a family for her boys to take over slowly fading away. She looked back at her boys and shrugged, "Very well."

Uto cheered and Kago grunted happily as they carried a kicking and protesting Tarzan to the edge of the cliff.

"No, wait!" Tarzan said, trying to slaw his way out of Uto's grasp. The ape held firmly to the boy's wrist. Tarzan kicked the ape ineffectively. "You can't throw me. I can't fly."

"Have you ever tried flying?" Uto asked.


"Then how do you know you can't fly?"

"Just throw him," Kago said. "I want to see him turn into a pancake."

Uto held Tarzan over the edge, the child squirming and struggling, trying his best to grip on to Uto's arm. Kago smiled delightedly while Mama Gunda watched impassively.

"Stop!" came a thundering voice from behind everyone.

Kerchak had finally made it to the top in time to hear the final decision made about Tarzan. He ran as fast as he could over to where he could hear the gorillas and Tarzan's cries, sliding to a halt a few yards away so he could shout, "Stop!"

All three apes turned with surprised faces. Even Tarzan was surprised. The female ape's surprise vanished quickly, and her lips curled into a smile.

"Kerchak, is it?" she purred like a leopard.

"Tarzan, are you all right?" Kercha asked, ignoring the other apes.

Tarzan nodded, glad Uto wasn't holding him over the edge of a cliff anymore. His heart was still in his throat but he had never been so happy to see Kerchak before.

"Let him go," Kerchak demanded.

"So you came all this way for the hairless ape," Mama Gunda said. "That is such dedication. Of course, we'll give him back to you."

"We will?" Uto asked, frowning. He stretched Tarzan out to Kerchak, but Kago smacked his arm and he pulled Tarzan back.

"Not yet, banana brain," Kago snapped.

"We'll return him safe and sound," Mama Gunda said, "if you give up your family to my bachelor sons, here." She motioned to her boys, who puffed out their chests and snorted aggressively.

"Never," Kerchak said automatically.

"Then we throw that child over the cliff!"

At his mother's yell, Uto held Tarzan over the edge again, earning a gasp from the boy.

"Wait," Kerchak said, taking a step forward.

Uto paused, but kept Tarzan hanging over the cliff.

"I challenge you for Tarzan," Kerchak said. "If I win, you let him go. If you win . . ."

"We get your family," Mama Gunda finished for him.

Kerchak grunted angrily, and Mama Gunda took that as a yes. Uto handed Tarzan to Mama Gunda, who firmly grasped the boy by the arm. Tarzan tugged against her hold to get to Kerchak, but Mama Gunda pulled him back and snarled at him.

"You will fight both of my sons," Mama Gunda said. Her eyes darkened as she added, "At the same time."

Kerchak was quickly circled by the two apes. He eyes them. They were both younger than he was, a good head smaller than him each, but clearly buff apes with uncontrolled aggression. Kago charged Kerchak first, and the two pushed against each other for a good few seconds, flashing their canines at each other.

Kerchak roared as Kago dug his canines into Kerchak's shoulder. Kerchak slammed Kago down, but before he could lash out any further, Uto grabbed him in a choke hold from behind. Kerchak threw himself down with Uto, and they tumbled over each other, Kerchak managing to kick Uto off himself.

Kago pounced on Kerchak next, and canines flashed once more, both landing serious bites on the other. Grabbing a hold of Kago's arm and curling it behind the gorilla's back, Kerchak swung Kago and let go, causing the younger ape to stumble and fall.

Uto took Kago's place immediately, barely giving Kerchak a chance to breathe. Kerchak and Uto pushed against each other, grunting and roaring as they fought.

There was a blur of movements before Kerchak found the upper hand and had Uto in a choke hold. Kerchak squeezed as Uto began to struggle, slapping at Kerchak's arms and trying to bite, his roars slowly dying into panicked cries. Kerchak tightened more and more.

And then, something struck the back of his head with such force that Kerchak saw bright stars.

"Kerchak!" Tarzan's cries echoed in his ringing ears.

"No one hurts my brother!" Kago declared with angry roars, and he smashed down the large flat rock on Kerchak again, knocking the gorilla down.

The slab of rock fell again and again on Kerchak before it broke into two pieces, but Kago tossed those aside in his rage and jumped on Kerchak, grabbing the back of the silberback's head and smashed it repeatedly into the stone ground. Kago dragged Kerchak back before Uto rejoined and they both lifted Kerchak and threw him like a ragdoll.

"Stop!" Tarzan cried, pulling against Mama Gunda's grip. The she-ape was smirking in triumph as she watched her sons beat down on the silverback.

After several more punches and throws, a wounded and bleeding Kerchak rolled to a stop under a rocky overhang. Kago prepared to smash the overhand to bits with raised fists.

"Hold it, boys," Mama Gunda said, walking forward with Tarzan, who tried to squirm out of her grip to run to Kerchak. "I think he's had enough. Tell us where your family is, or I'll have them finish you and throw the hairless ape over the cliff."

Kerchak breathed heavily as he pushed himself up on an elbow, staring at Tarzan's fearful face. He sighed, closing his eyes. He was beat. He couldn't take any more, not while he was so damaged and the other two were barely limping. He only had one option here.

"Do you . . ." Kerchak began, pausing to suck in air, "do you see . . . those mountains in the distance there?" He was barely able to lift his hand and gesture.

The three gorillas looked at what he was pointing at, spying the three mountains Kerchak was pointing at. Tarzan looked as well but frowned at the mountains.

"At the bottom of those hills," Kerchak continued, "my family is waiting for me."

"Well, then we have a long journey ahead of us, don't we boys?" Mama Gunda smiled at her sons, who pounded their chests in victory. "Come, we shouldn't keep our new family waiting any longer. Leave him, he's not going anywhere for a long time."

Mama Gunda laughed as she threw Tarzan at Kerchak and led the way toward the mountains with her sons in tow. They disappeared quickly through a pass leading in the direction of the mountains.

Kerchak sighed and lowered his head. Everything hurt, but at least Tarzan was safe. He was bleeding in several places, but not nearly enough so that he would die from it. It would take several days to heal, but he knew he would be able to limp his way home tomorrow, even if the trip took a little longer. Maybe two days. For now, he was content to rest, glad those apes were leaving him alone now. Dimwitted creatures the three of them were, desperate enough for a family they took his word as granted.

"You gave up the family," Tarzan said, walking over to where Kerchak laid on the ground.

"It got me you, didn't it?" Kerchak said in between pants, looking over at the child, his eyes scanning for any injuries on the boy. He was a bit scratched, but otherwise unharmed.

Tarzan's eyes widened at his words and his mouth dropped slightly before he looked down and dug his knuckles into the rock more, the white of his bones showing. "But what about the others, and Mom, and Terk and . . . and you pointed the wrong way."

"If those apes keep heading toward those mountains," Kerchak said, looking back the way he had directed the apes, "they will eventually run into leopard territory if they don't encounter any other families on the way, which I don't think they will."

Tarzan looked at the mountains to his far right, then looked to his left to see the correct mountains that surrounded the trees where Kala and the rest were waiting. Tarzan smiled.

"And whatever family they may run into, it won't be my family," Kerchak said. "Our family."

Tarzan gave Kerchak a sad look.

"You came back for me," Tarzan whispered. "You didn't have to . . ."

"You are family," Kerchak said firmly. Then, a small smile graced his lips. "And you are my son."

Tarzan's eyes widened again as a smile grew on his face.

Kerchak stretched his head toward Tarzan, brushing his forehead against Tarzan's, the boy gently pushing back, his eyes closing.

"No matter what," Kerchak whispered, "I will always come back for you."

Tarzan felt a tear escape his eye as Kerchak pulled back, the great ape moaning at the pain he felt.

"Is there anything I can do to help?" Tarzan asked, backing away and looking around the mountain scenery.

Kerchak shook his head as he panted harder before laying down on his side completely, willing to just rest for now while his wounds healed. The sun disappeared behind the mountains and the first stars twinkled above them in the pink sky. Kerchak closed his eyes, pain vibrating through every muscle and bone in his body.

Tarzan watched the great ape—his father—as the gorilla breathed harshly, the wounds bringing sympathetic pains to Tarzan's own body. Kerchak had returned for him—Tarzan, the hairless ape. Kerchak had risked his life to save Tarzan's. Tarzan didn't know what to make of it, but he was eternally grateful.

Tarzan slinked forward, slithering his way under Kerchak's arm to snuggle close to the ape. If nothing else, he would at least offer his comfort and let his father know that he was there. Kerchak's eyes opened for a second before closing again, but his thick arm did pull Tarzan closer against his chest.

And it was there the two rested for the night.

While they were dimwitted, Kago and Uto were young, big and strong, and had a lot of raw aggression. I think that if pitted against Kerchak, the two of them together could have potentially overthrown our great leader. Outsmarting these apes was the only way to go. Thanks for reading and leave your thoughts! More to come for sure.

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