Babylon - Quest for Love
avoided looking into the ferocious , yellow eyes that stared right through them. The angry shouts of the load
master spurred them on to action and they renewed their efforts to get the heavy cage lifted and moved.
And then it happened, exactly as Zarko had anticipated. The lion must have lurched forward and managed to
hook one claw through the bars and into the arm of the nearest slave. Suddenly, pandemonium broke loose as
he screamed in agony and immediately let go his grip on the load. With a sickening thud the cage came down
hard on his leg and snapped the bone like a dry twig.
Zarko gasped as the other three men also let go, causing the cage to fall and pin down the first slave. As it hit
the ground another terrifying noise was clearly heard by all onlookers, spelling impending disaster – the sound
of bamboo cracking.
The slave's screams of intense agony were muffled by a roar as the lion launched itself against the broken bars
in a fina l attempt to get free. It struck with such force that the bamboo gave way, allowing the anima l fina lly
to escape. The trapped slave stared in disbelief and wide-eyed horror at the colossus bearing down on him. It
landed with its heavy paws on his body, crushing him underneath like a rag doll. His cries of pain stopped
abruptly, as if cut off by an invisible hand. His chest was ripped open by massive c laws and his skull cracked
under tremendous pressure as the lion closed its jaws around his head. Blood gushed from his wounds,
staining the ground crimson.
Panic erupted and the seething throng of humanity on the quayside spilled outward like the churning red of
boiling lentil soup. Everyone in c lose proximity suddenly realised that the beast was free from its enclosure
and the masses turned in their tracks and ran for cover, their cries of anguish rising like the war cries of the
Babylonian charioteers in the early morning dawn.
The lion wavered for a moment when it sensed its freedom and the smell of blood made it acutely aware of its
hunger. It turned its attention back to the still warm but life less body under its paws and started an eating
frenzy, tearing out gargantuan pieces of flesh from the dead slave. Its yellow eyes roamed around to test for
threats and immediate signs of danger and when it didn't find any, it returned its attention to the meal at hand,
slowly devouring chunks of meat ripped from the body.
Up on the roof Zarko saw the whole scene unfolding before him as if in slow motion. It took him a moment or
two to react. He jumped up in alarm and ran to his suite to get dressed and retrieve his weapons. He grabbed
the sword and a short spear.
He needed to act fast to kill this beast before it got into the city and attacked more people; that would only
make it more difficult to track down. He was sure that no one down there had either the means or the courage
to fight a superior animal like this. Speed was of the essence.
While he strapped on his sword he had a flashback to his very first experience in the wild – his father taking
him out on his first hunt. That day he had learnt a few very important lessons.
A lion is a very cunning anima l and it takes some skill to bring one down. Many inexperienced hunters have
paid dearly with their lives. The lion they were tracking that day had a sly streak and doubled back, only to
hide in the bushes where it waited patiently to ambush them, the unsuspecting hunters. He also learnt that it is
the first shot that counts most. Wounding such an anima l only makes it mad – and 10 times more dangerous.
Now he remembered how they had practised the kill shot to the base of the head where the spine meets the
skull. If a spear or arrow penetrates this area successfully it paralyses the beast for the close-up killing stroke;
if it is still alive.
The spear was the more difficult weapon of choice for this specific job since it required a strong-armed thrust
to reach the mark. He would need to be within easy reach of the animal. However, used effectively, it
guaranteed a kill shot with the first strike. Today he had no choice. He had to remember to stay clear of those
large paws and their sharp talons; just a single swipe could easily break an arm or a leg. Furthermore, a wound
inflicted by those teeth would take long to heal and it could even cause death, making the flesh rot away to the
bone. The end wouldn't come quickly and the preceding agony would not be easy to endure.
He took large strides out the door, rushing to the stables. There was no time to saddle up so he quickly put on
the reins and without a saddle, raced Koyo to the docks.