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Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.
Chapter 25 of the book Quest for the Neckulet
The quest are captured.
After the theft of an heirloom, Radolf sets off to find it and makes friends along the way.
Anarra barked and ran to the left. They all followed and climbed up to a grassy hillock.
“How are we going to get her?” Vidad asked. His lips and chin trembled.
“I can climb that tree,” Radolf said.
Jewelletta and Vidad stared at him. The sorceress lifted her right eyebrow while Vidad scratched his jaw.
“I can see you don’t believe me,” Radolf commented before telling them about his regular rescues of Kona. “However, we need to get that zetara away from the tree somehow.”
Radolf passed on Anarra’s suggestion.
“All right,” Jewelletta said. “Vidad and I will lure it away.”
And I will stand guard by the tree.
“Yes,” Radolf said out loud and told the others Anarra’s comment.
The sun was barely over the horizon, so after they broke their fast, Jewelletta emptied all the backpacks onto the sleeping bag and sorted through everything. Vidad and Anarra left to hunt not only food for the zetara but for the dailam also.
While he couldn’t get close to the tree, Radolf studied it from a distance since they were higher up now than when they encountered the zetara.
Several hours passed before the hunters returned.
“We found an inordinate number of small animals to use as bait,” Vidad said, displaying his catch to them. “And Anarra located a dead zetara which she feasted on.”
The trio ate lunch, and then Jewelletta distributed the items left from the backpacks.
“I’ll carry Radolf’s pack and my own,” Jewelletta said. “He doesn’t need that weight to impede his climb. Vidad will have enough to lug since he will have the animals.”
Jewelletta and Vidad stood and walked down the hillock. Radolf watched as they threw two small animals at the zetara. It ran to them and devoured them.
As they duo moved backward, they tossed more food at the feline. It continued to follow them.
Radolf retrieved his rope from his pack and tied one end around his waist.
Once they were out of sight, Radolf and Anarra sprinted to the tree.
Hold this end in your teeth. I’ll pull on it or ask you to release it when I want it.
The young man dangled one end in front of Anarra who took it between her teeth.
He pulled the Savaecus dagger from his boot, stuck it between his teeth, and jumped up to the first branch, swinging his leg over it as he had done many times in the valley. From there he reached toward the next, slowing ascending the tree.
With one more branch left between him and Chrystella, the black bird screeched at him, diving down toward him.
Once it got close enough, Radolf clung to the tree with one hand, extracted the dagger from his teeth with the other hand, and stabbed at the bird. He managed to hit its stomach. Screeching again, it flew off.
Eyes brimming with tears, Chrystella stared at him.
He returned the dagger to his boot, and then tugged at the rope. Moments later he had the whole thing.
“Tie this around your waist,” he told Chrys, handing her the one end Anarra had been holding.
Once she had done that, he extended his hand. She took it.
Slowly moving down a branch, he instructed her how to clutch the trunk or branch and swing her leg over.
Halfway down, Jewelletta yelled, “We’re back.”
Chrys untied the rope from her end. “Vidad, catch me.”
She jumped and landed right in his arms.
As quickly as he could, Radolf descended the tree, untied the rope, and coiled it up.
“Here’s your pack,” the sorceress said.
He stuck the rope in, closed it up, and swung it onto his back.
“We’d better get away from here before the zetara returns,” Vidad said, still holding the princess.
They walked the rest of the day, crossing a river before camping.
It was late the next afternoon when they spotted Jahm on a hillock with swampy, bogging land on three sides and six zetara on the other.
“There’s too many to lure away this time,” Vidad said, setting Chrys down.
“Then we need to come up with another solution,” Jewelletta said, pointing back in the direction they had come to figure things out.
After they had eaten, Radolf kept glancing from one side of the zetaras to another. An idea started to form in his head.
“What do you find so fascinating?” Jewelletta asked.
“There is a pond on one side of the dry ground on which the zetaras stand, and a lake on the other,” he said. “They are just big cats, and cats hate water. Is there a way for you to magically dig a channel large enough to keep them from crossing yet make sure there is enough land for us to rescue Jahm and get across safely?”
“We’d have to distract the zetaras,” Vidad said.
Anarra, did you eat all the dead zetara or leave any?
I left quite a bit, and I can give Jewelletta a visual image of where it was.
“I have a suggestion for that.” Radolf took a sip of water then told the others what he and Anarra had spoken of. “Jewelletta, is there some way for you to transfer what was left over to the zetaras? He pointed to those on the spit of land between the pond and the lake? And, Vidad, do you have any animals left?”
“I have three,” Vidad said.
Jewelletta closed her eyes for several minutes.
Vines whipped through the air as birds dodged them, cawing at the green menace.
She opened her eyes, chanted a few words, and the remains of the beast plopped down a foot from them, a blue dome around it. “Thank you, Anarra, for the excellent picture of the location.”
Radolf figured it was to keep not only other predators away but the smell. The latter didn’t much matter as everything and everyone stunk here.
“I also checked on the one who was guarding the tree. It’s limping badly.” She paused, then said,
“Evidently, it tangled with something. We might as well settle down for the night. I’ll think about your suggestion, Radolf, but I suspect it’s something I can do.”
Jewelletta arose and set wards while the others found their sleeping bags and climbed in.
Everyone arose with the sun. As the humans finished eating, Anarra walked into camp dragging a corpse of a partially eaten zetara topped with several other smaller animals.
“She’s been busy,” Jewelletta said.
Some more food for the zetaras.
More than willing to do my part.
Radolf relayed their conversation.
“I’ve come up with an idea, but first we need to distract the beasts,” Jewelletta said. “Pack everything up, so you’re ready to leave when I give the word. I’ll do the rest, including rescuing Jahm.”
Once that was done, Jewelletta removed the wards and the dome. She pointed at the two dead zetaras, lifted them in the air, and floated them to the creatures before dropping them. The zetaras dashed to the food, pushing, shoving, and fighting each other.
With them busy, she stuck her right hand toward the ground by the lake and chanted. It was marshy anyway, so slowly water trickled from the lake into the channel Jewelletta was digging. The piece of land was only twelve feet wide. As she prodded more mud away, the trickle turned into a larger flow, more like a swift stream. With more shoving, the last of the mire gave way and poured into the pond. Jewelletta took a deep breath before widening the waterway.
“Get across now,” she shouted.
Vidad picked up Chrys and galloped across the foot-wide piece of land with Radolf right behind him. They stopped well beyond the new waterway.
Jahm must have been watching everything because as soon as Jewelletta paused in front on the hillock, he climbed down. Then he hugged and kissed her.
They hiked for three days before they left the swamp and the marshes. The next several days were long, eating berried filled crackers for breakfast, stopping only to rest and water at lunch, and smoked meat and water for dinner. They camped, spending a couple days to wash themselves, their clothes, and hunt and smoke small animals since their food supply was running low.
One evening, Jewelletta asked, Jahm, “What do you remember about the Kanballi Jungle? Are there any ruins where we might find information?”
Jahm winced and sighed as if this telling was inevitable. “It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been there. I don’t remember any ruins, but the whole jungle is a mass of vines and overgrown bushes. Could have easily hidden or camouflaged not only ruins but a whole army.” He shrugged. “It’ll be tough going and very slow. The Kanballi tribe has traps set throughout and not just for food. They hate visitors.” Jahm picked up his waterskin and drank deeply. “I’ve heard someone built a city there five hundred years ago. These tribesmen feel it’s their job to protect it from being discovered or destroyed.” Taking a deep breath, he continued. “There are mosquitoes by the millions, and several plants not friendly to humans or animals. If you’re determined to go there, I’ll lead the party.”
Radolf grimaced at the mention of more bugs.
“I can draw you a few pictures of traps we’re liable to find, and I’ll take rear guard,” Vidad volunteered.
“That’ll help,” the sorceress said. “I want to get an early start in the morning. And I do mean early.”
“Before the sun?” Radolf asked.
“No, but as soon after daylight as possible. How far to the jungle, Jahm?” Jewelletta asked.
“About twenty-five miles,” he said.
“Take another bath, scrub your clothes. I’ll dry them magically, and you can pack them,” She suggested.
Two days later, they entered the jungle. Vines tangled along the path, ready to trip some unsuspecting soul who failed to watch where they walked. The dirt trail dwindled until it became a path. That too thinned as it wound between immense bushes and trees, until they followed a mere suggestion of a track. The vast, damp foliage hid the jungle’s inhabitant’s spying eyes.
Birds chattered to each other above their heads, and noises of scrambling animals added to the noise.
Anarra moved away and shook the water from her fur.
“Thanks for moving away.” Jewelletta squeezed moisture from her long locks.
“Guess the sun can’t get through this greenery to dry things out.” Radolf looked up at the leafy canopy in time to get a few drops in his eyes. “Well, I guess I could use another bath . . . “
They all laughed.
“As could the rest of us,” Jahm said.
“Just a minute,” Vidad said. “Look at any area large enough to hide a pit underneath. That’s one way of trapping food–human and animal.”
“You don’t seem the least bit scared, Vidad. In fact, you’re quite confident,” Chrystella said.
Radolf’s stomach battled with his breakfast.
Don’t worry, Radolf, I’ll protect you.
“Chrys, I grew up learning these things, even practicing them. I don’t condone it now. It’s a reality I’m used to.” He patted her arm.
Jahm nodded. “What else should I look for?”
“Search the ground for vines strung and hooked to a tree with leaves covering a net,” Vidad said. “That’s a favorite.” He explained some more things and added, loud enough for everyone to hear. “There’s no way we’re going to move through without being heard. It’s dark in here, even in daylight. Anarra, would you be willing to join Jahm in the lead? We could use your ability to see in the dark. Did you hear and understand what I told Jahm?”
Please tell him yes. I’ll help any way I can.
Radolf passed on the message.
Anarra moved to Jahm.
Phew, whatever passed this way sure smells, and I’m not particularly fussy about odors.
Radolf relayed the comment. They chuckled, but Radolf’s insides quivered as his chest tightened.
The deeper they drove into the jungle, the darker it got.
“Those mosquitoes have decided to make me their breakfast.” Radolf slapped at another one.
“Stop,” Jewelletta ordered and pulled the same two jars of salve from her pack she did back in the swamp. She handed one to Jahm and one to Chrystella.
After everyone had rubbed it on themselves, she stuck them back in, closed the pack, and motioned for Jahm to start walking.
“I can barely see where I’m going.” Jahm grumbled.
“Shush,” Jewelletta chided. “Maybe we’d better join hands to keep from getting separated.”
“Good idea.” Jahm grabbed the sorceress’ hand.
The others complied, though occasionally broke the hand chain to smack another bug.
“I feel like we’re being watched,” Chrystella whispered.
“Me too,” Radolf said.
“Me too what?” Jewelletta turned her head to the youngster.
Radolf told her what Chrystella said.
“My instincts tell me the same thing,” Jewelletta said. “They’re probably waiting on us to make a mistake.”
We are being watched, and from what I can see, they don’t plan on inviting us to dinner unless we are dinner.
“I don’t find anything funny about our situation.” Jewelletta’s harsh tone came through.
Radolf told them, hoping to break their doom and gloom mood. Jahm, Jewelletta and Vidad laughed, but Chrystella stayed silent.
The dark canopy overhead remained an angry black.
“A little light would help,” Jahm complained. “We could see better.”
“Look at it this way, Jahm, if we can’t see far, neither can they,” Vidad said.
“It’s not what I can see that bothers me. It’s those plants Vidad mentioned earlier. I can’t see what’s strung along the ground,” Jahm grumbled.
“That’s why Anarra is there,” Jewelletta reminded him. “Now be quiet. We already sound like a herd of horses.”
They crept through the dense growth. Creatures serenaded them as a thin mist fell.
Radolf gazed up, shaking his fist and pulled his damp clothes from sticking to his body. All he got was another eyeful of water. “What is that stench?” Radolf growled. “Smells like rotten meat.”
We have company.
Two bright green eyes glowing like polished jade glared at Anarra. It stood possessively over a dead bear blocking the path.
“Least we know what stinks,” Jahm said. “What do we do now?”
The quest moved to the side of the trail.
The black cat jumped over its meal and aimed for Anarra’s throat. It only ate fur as the dailam darted out of its way. The fight continued with the panther managing to get the best of Anarra.
“She needs help.” Jewelletta raised her hand to throw of a lance of lightening at the enemy.
Radolf grabbed the sorceress’ arm. “Anarra’s proud. If you help her too much, it’ll hurt her pride.”
“Better she loose a little pride than her life.” Jewelletta tossed a bolt of blue, singeing the panther’s tail. It looked up and retreated, as if not interested in tangling with whoever used its tail as a fire target.
Radolf raced over and hugged her. You did fine. I love you, Anarra.
I love you too, and please thank Jewelletta for me. Again, she saved my life. Let me clean myself, and we can go on. Anarra paused to lick her wounds.
Radolf told them the message, and when she finished cleaning, they walked on.
Later Jahm and Anarra stopped. The dailam examined the ground, sniffing it.
Avoid this spot.
Radolf passed the message to the others.
As they moved into a small clearing, Jewelletta fidgeted. She wiped her hand over the back of her neck.
“Watch out,” she warned. “I have a feeling we’re in danger.”
She had hardly spoken when she tripped over a vine. A net rose and enveloped them, swinging as it lifted them twenty feet off the ground. Chrystella screamed.
They were tangled amongst each other. Radolf’s left hand had landed on Jewelletta’s left boob. She grabbed it and threw it off. While Chrys’ right hand rested on Radolf’s crotch. He gently lifted it and laid it by her side. The princess’ left hand clutched Vidad’s arm as if it was a raft in a storm-tossed sea.
Radolf swung his hand around to look outside the net.
Anarra, where are you?
Safe and hidden. They don’t even know I’m here. I’ll follow you to wherever they take you and see what I can do to help.
He decided to keep that information to himself until he could pass it on without anyone but the five of them hearing him, though he doubted the cannibals could understand him.
Fifteen men dressed in loincloths appeared, aiming nasty pointed spears at those imprisoned above.
“Looks like our luck ran out.” Jahm glared. “Can’t you do something, Jewelletta? Strike them down, anything.”
“Well yes, but who would get us down?” She stared at him.
Radolf gulped and gazed at their captors, whose mouths salivated hungrily.
|The book continues with Jungle Savages. We will provide a link to it when you review this below.|
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