An Eveningstar in the Jungle

An Eveningstar in the Jungle was released recently on the 600 Second Saga podcast.  You can also listening to the 600 Second Podcast using your favourite podcast tools:

An Eveningstar in the Jungle, and my earlier short, Upon an Eveningstar, introduce a new series I am working on as part of the 2016 Nanowrimo. I’ll be expanding on the story of Lyandriah, and one day will be releasing this untitled novel. Nanowrimo is dedicated to supporting literacy and supporting writers, and is a fantastic place to start to bring your imagination alive.


 

“Shhh.  I hear something.” I raised my slender hand.

Instantly the lutes and accompanying song-like voice accompanying it. Our small party drew to a halt. “What do you hear, Ly?” came the question behind me.  I didn’t answer, instead crouching down, to study the ground.

We had been trekking through what I was told is called a jungle. The trees were nothing like the oakspire trees I had grown up with – these were lower and had numerous vines and broad leaves obscuring the view and hampering our progress.

The dirt had changed.  I picked up a handful and let the stone chips fall through my fingers.

“It looks like now she wants to play in the dirt.” came a snide high-pitched voice, no longer song-like.  I didn’t look up to know how this would play out.  Dakreth would reach back to swat Illian for sassing, then the tiny rogue would duck out of the way. These antics had been going on for days – no weeks.

I let the gravel fall and look(ed) out into the unfamiliar trees.

“Do you hear anything or not, Lyandriah?” Merikoh’s voice was slightly strained, trying to ignore Dakreth and Illian behind him.

“We’re close.” I said at last, taking a handful of the gravel and turning to Merikoh.  While he did not like going by his heralded title, Sir Merikoh was a knighted hero of the Golden Dalelands. Unfortunately his full armour and horse would have been impractical in the jungle and had been left behind at an inn.  He still bore the golden circle of the Dalelands on his armored breastplate and forged into the crossbar of his sword.

I was drawn to his nobility and sense of justice; not to mention his sense of adventure. That’s why I was along, and why Merikoh was leading us. “What do you have there?  Dirt?” he asked.

I opened my hand up, explaining. “No, look at the stones.  These were ground up – this isn’t natural.  I think we may have found the settlement.”

That comment was enough to cause the mage and the rogue to pause, suddenly all of the birds ceased their squawking.  All of the eyes were on me and the jungle was eerily silent.

“I think the heat has gotten to you” Dakreth said, although his eyes were narrowing to look around us as if he could also sense the change in the jungle.

Illian on the other hand seemed oblivious. She commented with a frown, “This doesn’t look like no settlement I’ve seen before.  There isn’t even a tavern.”

Dakreth pushed to the front. “You might be onto something.” He turned to look at Merikoh.  The party leader nodded to the unasked question.  

Dakreth pushed the robes back from his pale skin, and looked upwards, his eyes rolling back into his head as he started to murmur arcane words.  I felt a shiver pass through me, and I took a step back. Magic always made me nervous.

The air felt thick – and not just with the humid tropical air. I felt the hairs gathering at the back of my neck.

Suddenly Dakreth gasped out, and nearly collapsed, pointing ahead.  I had sensed it too, and as I whirled, my bow was up with an arrow notched.  The branches of the tree pushed inward, and a large furry beast burst into view, letting out an inhuman screech as my first arrow landed in its shoulder. The beast charged as I landed two more arrows in its body.

I was yanked to the side, just in time as the charging beast barreled through where our party once stood on the path.  I turned in Merikoh’s arms to look him in the face, to express my gratitude “Thanks for the save.” I felt my breath catch in my chest for a moment, and for a moment I forgot the screeching monster.

Darkreth had dove to the opposite side of the path, disappearing into the underbrush; Illian just jumped straight upwards, vaulting over the creature. While she was in the air, she cried at Darkreth, “What in the 4 realms is that?” landing behind the creature.

The creature looked like a lion – if a lion was six feet tall, and had the head of a hawk.  It turned around, arrow shafts breaking off in the foliage.  Its black eyes scanned the group, aware and wary of our scattered group.

Lightning suddenly arced out from the foliage from which Dakreth had risen, narrowly missing Illian and striking the creature. The beast let out a mighty roar and charged at the mage. Illian turned to yell at Dakreth for how close the blast was, but instead was knocked aside by the charging beast..

Merikoh broke his attention from me to look at the charging beast. I too was brought out of the moment. I regained my footing and reached back for an arrow – empty. They had all fallen out of my quiver when I was knocked aside.

Merikoh didn’t wait. He vaulted forward, raising his shield to slam into the shoulder of the beast.

As they both fell to the side, his hand drew back on his sword and stabbed forward – the blade disappearing into the tough hide of the creature.  The beast let out a long strangled screech as it was defeated. Merikoh turned, and smiled gently at me, “Thanks for the assist.”

Yeah… assist.  I barely did anything. With the creature not moving, it gave me a chance to look at the unnatural monstrosity more closely. “I’ve never seen anything like it. That can’t be a normal beast. I’ve never heard of anything like it.”

“That’s because it’s not.” Illian spoke up, and for once Dakreth backed her up.

“It’s a Lionhawk – it’s an unnatural magical chimera of beasts.  It must have escaped from the dungeons.” Dakreth explained as the party reformed on the path. I took the lead, and soon again paused, pointing out broken features in the undergrowth where the jungle had overgrown buildings – an entire settlement.

Merikoh investigated one of the crumbling walls of the building closer. “Are you sure this is the settlement we are looking for? This looks like centuries of growth.”

I looked to our mage, as he was the one knowledgeable about this, but Dakreth had his head tilted back and his eyes were milky white – he was casting another spell. The party slowed and waited – Illian pulling out her lute to return to strumming. I took the time to examine the crumbling walls more closely.

The mage and I came to the same conclusion at the same time – via different means.  Him using his magical augury spells, me by looking at the patterns in the buildings. “There.” We said in unison, both of us pointing off the path towards a dense overgrowth.

The party pulled the branches away, revealing ornate carvings around a cavernous opening.  This was the entrance to the lost Maze of Trials.  

“We made it.” Merikoh announced.  He looked back over our small band. Our small band had travelled for weeks through the jungle following the clues to get here. But this was just the entrance to the maze.  We still needed to fight our way to the fabled treasures which lay within.

My adventure was just beginning.

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