The following is section of Chapter 18 of Missionary Max and the Jungle Princess, entitled Traditional Values. It features brand-new original art by artist-extraordinaire Zilson Costa.

In the previous chapter, our hero spent a day as the guest of the lovely Ilana at a festival of the native Yamani people. Though the day was enjoyable, the evening takes a decided turn for the worse…

Jumping up he made for the doorway of the hut. Just as he reached it a group of warriors swarmed inside. He fought back tenaciously, but, outnumbered as he was, Max was overpowered in a matter of minutes. The natives dragged him outside, where a fearsome sight awaited him. A large stake was set up in the middle of the clearing, at about the spot where Ilana had done her dance that morning. Ilana herself was being dragged, kicking and screaming towards it. Her head dress was gone and her long black hair flew in all directions as she squirmed back and forth, trying to escape her captors. With admiration Max noted that a couple times she almost succeeded.

In front of the stake stood the corpulent native who Max had seen enter the forest with Diego earlier. His mind working frantically even as he was being dragged toward the stake, he put the pieces together. Somehow the Yamanis had been induced to kill them both.

Max and Ilana reached the wooden stake at the same time. The same strong cords were used to bind them both to it, back to back. Ilana was yelling and cursing something in the native tongue. Max couldn’t imagine that it was pretty.

All three tribes were present for the event. The drums started their hypnotic rhythms, and the warriors began a lurid dance around the two victims.

“Care to fill me in?” he asked, more in an attempt to calm her down than anything else.

“Somebody told them that they needed to revive an old custom, and we are to be its first victims.”

“What old custom is that?”

“So, is this one of the traditions we should be set on preserving? Your call.”

Ilana briefly strained against the ropes, then answered. “Before the Portuguese came the Yamanis used to sacrifice a young girl at each celebration. In that way they thought to perpetuate the sacrifice of Ilanamihi.”

“A young girl, huh. That explains why you’re here, but what about me? Why am I included in this year’s festivities?”

“They said that the white men told them you were a gift to them…something about making amends for years of oppression.”

“And they told you this?” Max asked.

Ilana sighed. “At first they had the notion that I would be OK with the plan. They explained the whole thing to me – how the white men said they should return to their old customs, how we were gifts from the white men to them, how the white men would be offended if these gifts were not promptly…accepted. When I was less than cooperative they took me by force.”

“And what is to be the mode of execution?” Max wondered.

“See those six spears stuck in the ground over there?”

“Yes.”

“Three for me, three for you.”

“So, is this one of the traditions we should be set on preserving? Your call.”

“This is not the time for sarcasm, Max.” It was the first time she had ever spoken sharply to him. Under the circumstances, Max couldn’t exactly blame her. She began straining hopelessly at the ropes again.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Max advised.

“Why not?”

“You should save your energy.”

“What?”

Max did not answer. His mind was actively examining the situation from all angles. The corpulent shaman stood in front of the stake. In front of him the six spears stuck in the ground. Beyond them, the Yamani danced in an ever tightening circle.

Those spears are very, very close…

“Ilana,” Max said in as low a voice as he could manage and still be heard. “Listen to me very carefully. As soon as you feel the ropes fall I want you to grab one of those spears and hold it right to the fat guy’s neck.”

“But the ropes…”

“Just trust me. Are you ready?”

“I’m ready.”

“Ok, suck in your breath.”

To find out what happens next, pick up your own copy Missionary Max and the Jungle Princess.