Part 06: Down and Forward

By the time the pair had left the spiders behind the sun was beginning to settle. Filia was getting very nervous about how they would spend their second night in the jungle. The first night had been relatively peaceful, but then they still had reasonable layers of clothing, ample material for fire, and even a ration of food and water. Now the food and water was almost gone; they were naked save for their shoes, his ragged shirt, and her utility belt; and they had lost their best weapon, the spear. Any illusions they had about the benevolence of the forest was shattered. They needed shelter, and it needed to be good.

“Staun, do you have any insight into where would be a good place to stop for the night?” Filia asked as she carefully picked her way through the fallen debris. She didn’t want to look too closely at what she was stepping over; some of the bits of forest litter looked too white to be sticks.

“No more than you, I’m afraid,” he replied. “In fact, you probably have more wisdom about the forest than I do. They didn’t teach us much of the wild in the Tower.”

“Well, I’m no ranger,” she replied. “All I know is that we need our backs to a wall and a good fire.” She touched her wounded hip tenderly. “And a source of clean water.”

“Well,” Staun said, his tone brightening, “that I can help with.” He slowed and Filia allowed them to stop. Staun spread his feet a bit wider, settling into a more stable stance on the gentle slope they were climbing. He put his hands together in the center of his staff and held it horizontally under his chin. He closed his eyes and softly began to chant. After a moment he stopped and spoke.

“This will take a moment. I need to do a few exercises to clear my mind and focus. To do that I will chant a few stanzas.” Filia nodded and looked around. The forest here was relatively clear and open, but she hoped this wouldn’t take too long, as she wanted to keep moving. She could see what seemed to be rocky outcroppings up the slope. If Staun’s methods did not yield positive results, Filia intended to look around those outcroppings for potential hidings spots.

Staun, true to his word, began to chant softly. As he chanted he slowly slid his hands outward along his staff until his arms were spread wide. He let his head fall back to rest between his should blades, the extreme posture distorting his voice into a drawl. Filia watched him for a while, but he just continued to chant. She looked around. A few feet away was a fallen tree branch. She looked back at Staun, who was still chanting, then stepped over to examine the branch. It wasn’t too old, but it wasn’t new either. The main part of the branch was far too thick for what she was looking for, but there were other secondary branches that were just right. She quickly picked out the best as she pulled out her knife and unfolded the big blade. When she grabbed the branch the bark came off in her hand, spilling long, yellow centipedes everywhere. One landed on her belly and scrambled down her leg before she could brush it off. She stifled a cry, closed her eyes tightly to recompose herself, then went back to work.

Even though the knife cut the wood easily it was several minutes before she managed the get the branch off. As she worked she kept watch on Staun and the surrounding area. Once the branch was off the tree she quickly skinned it and dressed it. Finally, with a few quick slashes of the blade, she put a simple but sharp point on the end. She returned to where Staun stood, still chanting. He hadn’t seemed to have moved at all. Filia hunkered down beside the pack and rummaged around a bit. She came out with a small torch. She considered it for a moment, then replaced it. She could have heat-hardened the end of the spear, but she didn’t think that was needed, and she didn’t want to waste the precious fuel they had. She folded the knife and put it away.

The timber of Staun’s voice began to change, and Filia stood up. His words were slowing, and sounded breathier. She could see his body moving now with each word. He finished a stanza and relaxed his posture.

“I have it, I think,” he said, “although that was harder than I expected. The whind does not blow as well here far from the Center.” He pointed up the slope at the very outcropping Filia had been considering. “We are in luck. Up the slope is a spring of fresh water. Around it, a long time ago, someone built a shrine or complex of some sort. It’s mostly gone now, but I feel that there is still some virtue holding the last of the ruins together. We may find shelter there.”

“Great,” Filia said, hefting her new spear as she shouldered the pack. “Let’s move.”

Once again the formed their short human chain and resumed picking their way through the forest litter. Staun led from the rear with simple instructions. As they neared the first of the outcroppings Filia could see that it was actually a pile of rubble rather than solid stone. She could also see that some of the stones showed tool marks. Underfoot the occasional loose stone made walking just that more difficult. Staun directed them past many piles of rubble that Filia felt had promise. It was really starting to get dark. Staun wasn’t impaired by this, but Filia was forced to slow down. The land leveled out, and paths started appearing on the forest floor. They joined together, growing in size. One seemed to be going where Staun was directing. Filia wasn’t sure if this was good or not. Finally Staun pointed with his staff.

“There. There we will find rest tonight.”

One Response “Part 06: Down and Forward”

  1. Claudia says:

    Hmm. . . I believe that rather than ask what the day will bring I need to ask, “What will the night bring?”

Let us talk about
Name and Mail are required
Join the discuss