Saturday, July 25, 2009

Saturday Serial: #6 A Royal Journey

Episode #6: A Royal Journey
By Bella Vida and J.R. Turner

When last we saw Julie, she and the warriors traveled to Sky Bridge where the Wira birdmen attacked and they fought for their lives...

Warriors to the back and front cried out in rage, frightening the birdmen for a mere second. Stunned they could be so easily freaked, all of us shouted and slashed until we reached the end of the bridge and raced for the cover of the trees. The Wira didn't follow and I sank to my knees, trying not to wretch as I used a fat leaf to clean the blood off my hands. Tears blurred my vision.
Inti placed an uncertain hand on my back. "The Queen will be proud of you."

"I don't care about the stupid queen. I want my Grandma and I want Mom and Dad and I want to go home."

"Yes. I take you to your Grandma, the queen."

"The queen is Grandma?" How dumb could I have been not to put it together sooner? "Grandma's alive?"

Joyously I hugged him. He patted me awkwardly. "We go now."

I pulled back. "Yes. We go now."

He smiled. "You make fun of me?"

"No," I said. "I'm in a hurry, too."

"Good. We should make it in three moons."

We walked down the mountainside, silent and somber in the hot humid jungle. Two warriors died defending me. Though going downhill was so much easier than walking up, the noises here seemed louder, more wild.

Later that afternoon, between pretty, but really stinky red flowers, I spotted a boat on a wide river below us. A man with the whiskers and yellow slicker of a sea-faring captain waited on a pier. When we got closer, I saw one arm ended in a bright orange crab claw.

When he spoke, sandy water gurgled in his neck. He covered a hole in his throat and said, "It is my honor to have her royal princess aboard my ship. Seas the Moment has weathered every storm, every battle and I, Captain Cabral, shall personally see to your protection!"

I gave the weary vessel a once over and wondered if there were any storms or battles left in the old thing, or its captain. Spic-n-span clean, though, and so much better than walking.

Inti said, "Thank you, Captain. We are most grateful."

"We must leave quickly," he said. "My claws itchin', means a storm brewing. We leave now, we'll make it out before it hits."

"We are ready when you are," Inti said.

"Well, then, all aboard!" The captain yelled in his crusty voice, "Shake a leg, prepare to haul anchor."

The boat stunk of fish and Digel dropped his nose to the planks, sniffing happily in every nook and cranny.

Cabral Jr., his claw not yet full sized, smiled at me. "Princess, I'll take you to your room."

I followed him down a short stairway and ducked into a room with four hammocks attached to the wall.

He gave me an apologetic grin. "This is the best room. The other is where we keep the fish in season. It's not much, but the ropes are solid. You can leave your bag here. Are you hungry?"

I nodded. "Thanks."

"We have your meal ready your royalness," He bowed awkwardly.

Okay, embarrassing! "I'm Julie. Just Julie."

"Yes, Princess Just Julie. Whatever you say." He smiled and I shook my head.

We had fish for dinner.

Below decks again, Inti offered me the top hammock and I climbed a little ladder to get in. Digel barked until Inti picked him up and set him by my feet.

"Rest now," Inti said. "The boat will take us around the Grave Desert and leave us on the shores of the Black Forest. The Crystal Castle isn't far. The Queen is waiting for you there."

How did he expect me to fall asleep after that? To think, I'd see Grandma again so soon. Excited, I lay a long time until the swaying hammock rocked me to sleep.

The sound of a violin woke me. I sat up in the pitch black. Digel was gone, too. Carefully I climbed down, wrapping the thin blanket around my shoulders, and followed the music onto the deck.

A small group of children dressed in pajamas sang and danced as a young boy played the violin faster. They joined hands, spinning in a circle.

Fat rain drops fell and the faster the boy played, the faster the rain came down. Instead of rushing to get out of the rain, a little girl turned and dove overboard. To my horror, another went, and another.

"Wait! Stop!" I ran toward them.

By the time I reached the boy, the others were all gone. He ignored me and kept playing. I raced to the railing and looked over, but no child bobbed, crying for help in the black waters below.

Digel barked, his fur soaked with rain.

"Julie!" Inti shouted. "Do not move!"

At the sound of Inti's voice, the boy stopped playing and turned his gaze on me. He opened his mouth wide. A yellow light streamed from his eyes and mouth, his slim body melding into the form of a huge snake. He coiled, head bobbing above me.

Shocked, I froze and his tail wrapped around my legs, squeezing. I screamed.

He leaned close, hissing. "I will have you for my supper."

His jaw unhinged, then awful hot orange blood sprayed me everywhere. Inti had chopped off his head. I gagged. In reflex, the boy-snake's tale tightened around me. The other warriors rushed to my rescue. They hacked and pulled on the rain-slick flesh. I turned my face to the sky, gasping for air and letting the rain rinse off the gook.

Finally the tail came free and together, the warriors threw the piece overboard. I gulped air. Digel licked my leg and I patted him on the head. "I'm okay boy."

"Those are water spirits, lassie. They get you to play and then it's down their gullets you go." Captain Cabral said.

"I'm fine," I said, humiliated now. "Nothing happened."

How foolish of me to go up there and get tricked. Inti would scold me now and I didn't want to hear it. Back in my bunk, I hurried to fall asleep so he wouldn't make me feel worse than I did.

No one came to wake me in the morning. Only Digel lay with me, keeping my feet warm in an icy room. Why had it turned so cold? Bright sunshine streamed in through a round window. "Where is everyone, huh, Digel?"

He uttered a little whine.

Inti came in with warm clothes, a coat, boots, gloves, hat and scarf. Already bundled up, he reminded me of a tattooed Eskimo.

"Thank you," I said and accepted the clothing. "Thank you for saving me last night."

He nodded once. "The journey will end and you will soon be with the Queen."

He left me to dress and I hurried to see why everything was so cold, and because I was starving. On deck, Cabral jr. handed me a hot biscuit—filled with fish. I ate as I stared at the huge forest pines and firs as big as skyscrapers all around us.

By the time we docked, Digel decided he liked sitting between my warm boots. We said goodbye to the Captain and his son.

"We are honored to have been a part of your journey." Captain Cabral bowed low, hit his son in the belly, and the boy joined him in the bow.

"Thanks," Julie said, unsure what she was supposed to do.

Inti saved her and urged her to fall in line behind the warriors ahead. Not far from port, and old man and his wife waited with seven horses. Inti introduced me, "This is Goodman Tall and his wife. They've brought you these horses as gifts."

The older man's eyes twinkled as he came forward, dragging his cap off his head. "For the princess, for you your royalness."

"Uh, thanks," I said. I totally wasn't getting the hang of this. Grown ups ordered me around, they didn't give me gifts. I couldn't imagine my mom bowing and saying thanks after giving me a ride to the mall.

We didn't stay long, to my relief, but got on the horses right away. Inti helped me onto mine and Digel trotted beside us, shying away from the horse's hooves.

We wound deeper into the darkness and Inti whispered, "Stay close. These are unfamiliar woods to us."

I nodded. Even Digel seemed to understand the need to stay quiet. He didn't bark or yip or anything. We rode until a huge mound of snow covered the path ahead.

Inti hopped down and gathered a big chunk, breaking the snow apart in his hands. He gave me a glowing grin. "We are almost there."

Out of the darkness, a fox with three tails dashed in front of the horses. Mine whinnied and reared back. When she came down, wolves emerged slowly, their eyes glinting in the growing dusk. They made a ring around us, with Inti at the center and without his spear.

Tune in next week for the exciting continuation of Letters to the 5th Direction!

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