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| Category: || Fantasy Fiction |
Posted:|| December 9, 2019 Views: 69|
Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.
Chapter 26 of the book Quest for the Neckulet
The quest must get away from their captors.
In their hunt for the neckulet, the quest have gone three quarters of the way around Mageron.
“Talk to them, reason with them, Vidad,” Jewelletta asked. “Tell them we merely want passage through the jungle.”
“Reason with a cannibal?” Vidad’s eyes widened. “You’ve got to be kidding. These savages won’t listen.”
“But you do,” Chrystella said. “And you’re Savaecus.”
“I’ve also benefitted from living in Aderra and getting some education,” Vidad said. “My tribe isn’t known for its intelligence. Most are ignorant.”
“Please, Vidad.” Jewelletta’s emerald eyes had a haunted look. “At least speak to them.”
“All right.” Vidad grimaced and gave in. “I can’t make any promises.”
In his own language, he explained the situation.
The natives jumped up and down, all talking at the same time until one finally barked out a command.
“Their dialect is an unusual form of Nolado, but this is what they said.” He translated it.
“We have been waiting for you. Some of our people came earlier and said you would be following. We are to make sure the boy and the black-haired witch die. They are a danger to our people.”
“Oh, great.” Jewelletta pushed strands of hair behind her ear. “Must be that duo who created havoc at the jewelry store in Militar.” She sighed. “Well, what are they going to do with the rest of you?”
Vidad posed the question and received a quick answer.
“Since we travel with you, we’re to suffer the same fate.” Vidad wiped sweat from his eyes. “Might as well let them get us down. Can’t do anything until then, and I have an idea. Don’t do anything until I give the signal. Radolf, tell Anarra to stay out of sight. She might be the one to save us.”
“Already done.” Radolf said.
The one who talked with Vidad shouted an order. Men pulled on several vines. Slowly, the net lowered to the ground. Their hosts pointed spears at them before they untangled themselves from it.
Each cannibal grabbed a quest member. With the pointy end of the spear, they nudged them in the smoke’s direction. Jewelletta and Chrystella went first, followed by Vidad, Jahm, and Radolf.
I’m behind you, staying just out of sight. Once I know where you are, I’ll hide until we can figure out how I can help.
“Hey, that hurts.” Chrystella pushed the lance away from her buttocks. “Keep your nasty weapon to yourself.”
“He doesn’t understand you, Chrys,” Vidad said. “Save your breath and don’t antagonize them.”
“Hope they fill their bed with shit,” Chrystella snapped.
Radolf fought to keep from laughing, but Jewelletta turned, blanched, and shook her head.
At the entrance to the village, two shrunken heads perched on poles.
“Their guardians?” Jahm asked.
“Probably earlier guests. Hope that isn’t our fate.” Radolf shuddered.
“It will be if we’re not careful,” Vidad warned.
Their captors tied each to separate poles.
Vidad twisted his wrists and groaned. “Don’t try to free your hands. You’ll only hurt yourself. Be quiet. Our chance will come.”
The females of the tribe scurried around the animal roasting on the large fire. It crackled and leapt higher as fat dripped into it. Each female cut off a chunk, put it on a wooden platter with some vegetables, and took it to a man.
“Bet I know who the man of the house is in this tribe,” Chrystella growled.
“Same in my tribe.” Vidad and his companions watched the activities.
“Wonder if we’ll get fed?” Jahm asked. “Don’t they respect that custom? Give the condemned a last meal?”
“Doubt it.” Vidad took a deep breath.
After the meal and clean up, the females brought out headdresses along with rattles and black masks.
“Looks like we’re in for a show,” Radolf said. “But I’d rather be fed.”
“So would I,” Jewelletta said. “My stomach is grumbling.”
“I know.” Radolf tried to lighten the mood. “I can hear it way over here.” He was three posts from her.
“Don’t complain. Yours hasn’t been quiet either.” She continued with the teasing.
This stab at humor didn’t help his frame of mind, but it helped to strengthen their camaraderie. If only Jewelletta could get her hands loose, she could give them some real entertainment. Well, I hope Vidad’s plan works. We’ll only get one try.
“Radolf, where’s Anarra?” Jewelletta’s question brought him from his reverie.
“Right behind me, in the bushes. She’s watching everything.” Radolf tried to twist around to look at her.
“We’ll need her help later. Ask her to look for those ruins,” Vidad said. “We’ll probably have to hide there once we get free.”
“She’s already found them,” Radolf said. “They are at the southern tip of the jungle, near the Mavi Ocean. And she knows the quickest path.”
“Can’t do anything till they’re asleep.” Vidad shot a warning glance to Jewelletta. “And don’t try any magic. I’ll get us out of this.”
The sorceress shrugged. “Looks like our show’s about to begin.”
They focused their attention on the natives. The men wore black masks and headdresses, plumed with deep purple, fiery orange, red, bright blue, dark green, or canary yellow feathers. They moved into a circle and chanted.
“What are they saying, Vidad?” Jewelletta asked, ever curious. “Give us a running report.”
“Actually, I can’t understand anything. They’re speaking in another language, but it sounds familiar.” Vidad leaned his head closer, as if that would improve the situation.
“It’s Veldestra,” Chrystella announced. “I heard Vanall speak it a couple of times.”
“Who’s Vanall?” Jewelletta asked.
“The Vijanden ambassador,” Chrystella told them.
Vidad shook his head. “That’s why it sounds so familiar. Veldestra is Vijand’s native language. These people really have gone back to their roots. I wonder where they learned it? We never spoke it in my tribe. Nolado is an offshoot of Veldestra. After all, we are descendants of the Vijanden who stayed here when they came conquering a thousand or so years ago.”
“Only five hundred,” Jewelletta corrected him and returned her attention to the activities.
The men sat in a circle, and each drank from a bowl. First, they stiffened and swayed to the tempo of the beating drum. The fire leaped higher, dancing and crackling as it spewed fiery sparks into the black night.
“Looks like some kind of worship service,” Chrystella commented.
“It is.” Jewelletta watched closely. “Now I know the language, I can pick up a word here and there. Can you, Vidad?”
“They’re worshiping some dark goddess named Kaynora,” he announced. “She told them to guard the ruins.”
The fire died, and they came out of their trance, moving in pairs with women to various huts. Soon, everyone except for two men speaking in hushed tones, deserted the village.
“What are they saying?” Jewelletta asked.
After a few minutes, he said, “They’re speaking in rapid Nolado, sprinkling their conversation with some Veldestra. The tallest man is our guard. We’re to be sacrificed at sunrise to Kaynora in a temple in the ruins.”
“Do you know anything about their sacrifices?” Jewelletta inquired of Jahm and Vidad. “What can we expect?”
Jahm grimaced. “Torture is their usual practice. Rather not go into detail. I’ve seen the results of their sacrifices, and they’re not pretty. They don’t always kill you. Seems Kaynora likes her sacrifices still breathing when they join her. Wherever she resides.”
Icy feet danced down Radolf’s spine. He stared at the dying fire.
“Never seen the results of sacrifices, and I’m not anxious to start now.” Vidad looked over at the guard leaning against another pole. “He’s going to make our escape more difficult.”
“We need our weapon and supplies,” Jahm reminded. That is, if they’ve left us any.”
“Radolf, have Anarra scout for the weapons,” Vidad asked.
He asked her, and she said yes. He told the others.
The sky overhead cleared and turned to an ebony dome littered with shining stars. Mageron’s two moons cast their silvery aura over the jungle. An evening breeze sprang up and rustled through the branches. Frogs and other nocturnal creatures tuned up for their evening concerto.
I found the weapons .They have two guards on them. I sneaked into the back of the tent. I don’t know if you’ll be able to retrieve them.
Radolf told the others.
“Could she get them for us?” Vidad asked, and Radolf questioned Anarra.
Too hard for me. However, when you get free, I’ll gladly attack the rest of that meat still hanging over the fire. I’m hungry.
Radolf chuckled. So are we. He relayed the message.
“We don’t want to wake the whole camp if we can help it,” Vidad said.
“Might not have much choice,” Jewelletta said. “Where is the tent, and in what direction do we have to go to get there?”
“South end of the village, and we have to pass it to get to the ruins Anarra said,” Radolf told them.
“Remind me to thank them for putting our belongings so conveniently on our route.” Jewelletta’s sarcasm came through. “If we’re going to do something, let’s get started.”
“Radolf, have Anarra chew through the vines on our hands,” Vidad said. “Find out which way we go from here.”
Anarra’s tongue washed Radolf’s hands. It tickled, and he laughed as she chomped on the vines.
It’s a small tent off by itself. You shouldn’t have any trouble finding it.
The vines dropped away. He told the rest as he untied his feet. Anarra chewed on Jahm’s bindings next.
“Remain as if you’re still bound,” Vidad said. “We have to move together. Jahm, Radolf,
and I will get the weapons and knock out the guards. Chrys and Jewelletta head for the ruins.”
“Anarra says the path behind these bushes lead straight to the ruins. The temple is off to the left. Stay away from that.”
Once the dailam finished Jahm, she moved over to Jewelletta, Chrystella, and Vidad. Each got rid of the vines.
“Ready.” Vidad cut through the bindings of everyone’s feet.
Their guard slumped near a tent, half-asleep.
The small group slipped into the dense brush. Narrow and overgrown, the trail forced them to walk single file. Nightly creatures whistled, hissed, or scrambled around.
At the tent, Jewelletta and Chrystella continued to the ruins. Anarra scurried back along the trail.
I’m going to get some of that meat. That should keep the guards busy while you recover the weapons.
Shouts rang through the village. The two guards ran back to see what was happening.
“Thank you,” Radolf said as they slipped inside the tent and gathered their belongings.
Someone yelled in Nolado, others answered.
“They’ve discovered our escape.” Vidad helped Radolf put his pack on. “Better get
going, or we’ll have company soon.”
They grabbed everything and darted away as someone screamed.
Anarra joined them back on the trail.
“They know where we’re headed.” Vidad ran ahead.
“Hope there aren’t any traps along the way.” Jahm adjusted his pack.
“We’re in too much of a hurry to worry about it. Just pray Khlorae is watching out for us.” Radolf’s breath came in gasps.
They entered a large clearing dotted with ruins. A small dome shaped building stood off to the left. The temple. Need to stay away from that.
Anarra led them through an entrance into crumbled, yellow stone maze covered with greenery and dirt. Dodging vines and various shape and sized boulders, they wove their way into the center. Jewelletta and the princess sat on the remains of a stone bench. Animal droppings added to the jungle’s damp aroma.
A mass of decaying a jumble of stone surrounded them.
“This must have been a large room.” Jewelletta arose, turned around as shouts rang from the other side of the walls
“They’ve found us.” Jahm set his pack down. “But don’t worry about their coming in here. The only place they use is the temple. They think this place is haunted.”
“And how do you know that?” Jewelletta put her hands on her hips. “I doubt they volunteered that information.”
“A friend of mine, who knew enough Nolado, managed to escape and told me.” Jahm winced.
“He’s dead now.” Jahm hung his head and turned away, but not before tears rimmed his eyes.
Jewelletta closed the distance between them and spun him around.
“Cry if it’ll make you feel better.” She pulled him into her arms.
The dam burst, and the tears flowed. Several minutes later, he dried his eyes.
“I’m better now.” He pulled away. “I’ve gotten your robe wet.” He brushed at it as if the wet spot would rub off easily.
“Don’t worry.” She straightened her robe. “It needed a wash.”
Everyone grinned, but Jewelletta turned serious again.
“Do you want to talk about it?” She and Jahm sat on the bench.
They all found a seat.
“Same story I told you in Sildar.” He recounted it for the two newest members. “It was my fault.” Jahm buried his head in his hands.
Jewelletta embraced him again.
“Jahm, I lost people during battle. Some were my best friends.” Vidad sighed. “When you’re in command, you have to make decisions that sometimes get people killed. You learn to live with it. It isn’t easy.” His voice cracked, and he lowered his eyes.
Radolf watched and realized though these confessions were difficult, they bonded them. We’re going to need this closeness if we’re going to retrieve the neckulet. Even more so if it is time to build the Starcastle. He gazed skyward through the hole in the ceiling, wistfully wondering if that wasn’t their ultimate destination.
“Hadn’t we better eat something and sleep?” Vidad asked.
“Do we have any food left?” Jewelletta joined the others as each pawed through their own packs.
“I’ve got two breakfast bars,” Radolf said.
“Only a bit of smoked kangrella,” Jahm said.
Chrystella and Vidad said the same thing.
“Before we leave, we need to get food or something to get to Veda.” She rose. “I’ll take the first watch. Get some sleep.”
The others climbed into the quanya skins and snored.
|The book continues with Writing in the Ruins. We will provide a link to it when you review this below.|
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