"The Trouble with Magical Beings" (A Fantasy) Chapter 10
Stallion and Shale carefully navigated the group through a maze of prickly bushes that were so tall and thick they couldn’t see over them, around them or through them. They could only hope they were going in the right direction.
They’d been on that narrow maze for what felt like hours but was only an hour, if that.
“It’s getting warmer,” Jenny complained.
Naia felt the heat rising from the steaming jungle floor too and knew they were walking into a tropical climate.
“I think we could be entering a rain forest,” Naia whispered back to Jenny.
Daniel wiped the sweat from his forehead, “I wish we could find a spot to cool off, I’m so thirsty.”
“Me too,” agreed Jenny and at her words, relief was immediately granted.
The path of thick thorny bushes before them magically opened up and they found themselves staring at an oasis.
A cool pond surrounded by palm trees swaying in a current of tropical trade winds appeared before them. Those cooling breeze only encircled the pond, everywhere else was still unbearably warm.
Daniel looked at Naia, “Did your magic create this?”
Naia shook her head and whispered, “Remember, Jenny is the protected one.”
He gave her a bewildered look.
Naia reminded him, “Magic rule number nineteen, ‘Innocence will be protected.’ Plus my dad had promised she wouldn’t be harmed so her wish is always heard.
Daniel whispered, “We should have her make more wishes then.”
“It wouldn’t work if she asked for a wish, it’s Jenny's true feelings that the magic will respond to,” Naia told him.
Then Jenny's excited voice drew their attention.
“Look there’s a picnic basket here too,” Jenny giggled with happiness.
The other’s slid off their horses and walked over to investigate.
Sure enough, there was a large picnic basket sitting invitingly next to the pond, and the magic had filled it with food, beverages and all kinds of delectable treats. There was even a large blanket to spread out on the ground so they all could sit comfortably on the soft grass.
They spread out the blanket and sat down to share the contents of the basket.
Shale found the things he liked to eat, which were hard to describe because they weren’t foods the others could identify but Shale was happily enjoying his meal, as were all the others, so there wasn’t much conversation anyway.
The stallion and ponies were happy to see bales of hay along side a basket of delicious apples and the lion once again was greeted with a bowl full of whatever he ate.
Jenny stretched out on the blanket and closed her eyes and quickly fell asleep.
It wasn’t long before all of them, sated from the hearty food, also fell asleep, and just as sleep overtook them, the magic took over the jungle and, once again, everything changed around them.
Daniel was the first to wake up and see the changes.
The cool tropical pond was gone as was the blanket, basket and all the food. Everything had disappeared. There was now a wide open path for them to follow but it looked darkly forbidding.
Daniel stared at the twisted trees lining that new path and worried what was in there.
The lion yawned and stretched opening his large golden eyes, seeing the unfriendly landscape, blinked twice to be sure he wasn’t dreaming.
Stallion woke next and immediate noticed the dark path that had opened for them and he knew he wasn’t going to be the one to lead them through it.
“Lion, I think you should take over the lead now, it’s only fair to give you equal time,” The stallion said in what he’d hoped sounded convincingly noble.
The Lion shook his great mane as he stood up, “Gladly,” he nodded regally and said, “There is nothing in a jungle that would ever worry me.”
The ponies shivered and moved closer to the stallion, they were not comfortable with dark and dangerous places, their world was filled with light and colors and this was nothing like their world.
Naia and Jenny woke up at the same time and Naia’s heart pounded at the sight before her.
Jenny turned and stared at the dark path and shook her head saying, “I don’t want to go in there.” Boots walked over to her and she hugged him close for security.
Shale was the last to wake up and he stretched and smiled happily with his back to the strange, new, dark path then he looked at all the concerned faces of his friends.
“What’s wrong?” he asked curiously turning to see what they were all looking at. His expressive, yellow eyes grew bright with fear. “What’s that?” he asked, not sure he really wanted to know, because he already knew, he didn’t want to go in there.
“I think it’s the lost jungle,” Naia told them.
“Well, if it’s lost, why’s it here?” Jenny asked with typical small child frankness.
Naia had no idea why it was here, so she had no answer to give Jenny.
“What do you know about it?” Daniel asked Naia.
Naia only knew it from a legend and those who spoke of it said it was a jungle filled with trickery, set up to test any intruders intelligence and abilities to get through it.
“I don’t know much about it but you’ll definitely get your chance to prove yourself worthy of your wish in there.”
“If that’s why it’s here, then I’m not afraid,” Daniel said courageously. His wish was worth taking on any challenge, even a scary lost jungle.
“All right, let’s go,” Boots said bowing down to allow Jenny to climb onto his back before walking to the entrance.
“We’re in the lead?” Jenny squeaked worriedly.
“Have no fear, nothing in there will harm you,” Boots told her confidently.
Jenny believed him. She was safe with Boots but she still didn’t like the look of the unwelcoming jungle.
“Daniel if you want to ride the stallion now, I think I’m okay on the little yellow pony.” Shale said shyly; he hoped his new friend wouldn’t mind his sudden cowardice.
“Okay, but whatever is in there, we’ll be safe and we’ll find our way out, trust me,” Daniel said as he climbed up on Stallion’s back.
“I trust you,” Shale told him as he climbed on the little mustang pony.
Daniel knew he would do what it took to get them all safely out of this jungle; after all, it was because he’d asked for a wish that they were trapped in this adventure with him.
“Come on, Naia,” Daniel said noticing she was not on her pony.
“I’ll be right behind you,” she promised but before she climbed onto the green pony, she made a wish for her magic to protect them inside that lost jungle.
A very thin mist of protective magic formed above the group like a cloud hovering above them, of course it didn’t completely cover or protect them but that was to be expected with her limited powers.
“Partial magic,” she mumbled sourly, but she supposed it was better than no magic at all.
The Lion stepped first onto the darkened path and the others followed him.
The twisted trees were chattering at them and there were hundreds of small round eyes in every color blinking from between the leaves on the sturdy branches.
They all knew they were being watched…but by what?
“Watch out!” Daniel yelled, seeing a blur of something swing down from one of the trees.
An odd looking creature sat on a low tree branch and it was staring at them with wide unblinking eyes.
The creature had big, very big, round, golden brown, eyes and frog legs and long alien like fingers that stuck to the tree’s bark and it had bat’s ears and just like an owl, it turned its head 180 degrees to look at each one of them.
“What is it?” Jenny whispered to Boots.
“It is an ancient creature, millions of years it has existed and it still lives in your world. It is a Tarsier, a type of monkey.”
“I am not a monkey!” said the annoyed creature. “Monkeys are in my family tree but I am much more advanced then they, I’ve learned not to be seen by humans and that’s why my kind has survived for so long.”
“But we’re humans,” Jenny said with her five year old bluntness.
“Indeed you are and what may I ask are you doing in my jungle?”
“We’re trying to find our way out of it,” Daniel said, also with blunt honesty, “Can you help us?”
The Tarsier did not like humans but he did not want them wandering about his home either, but to help them would be against the jungle's rules of survival.
“No, I absolutely cannot help you but maybe I can turn my head in the direction you need to go,” he said and turned his head 180 degrees the other way around and kind of nodded in that direction.
“Thank you,” Daniel said to it.
The Tarsier turned its head back to him and said, “I cannot say you’re welcome as you are not, but you may proceed, however you should be aware, I am probably the friendliest occupant you will find as you proceed.” Then the Tarsier jumped up to a higher branch and then to a higher one and began to climb his way back up the massive twisted tree until he was out of their sight.
“I guess that was a warning?” Daniel said.
“Did we really need one?” Naia asked him.
“We have to be very careful here Daniel,” Shale said, turning his head every which way, just like the Tarsier, looking for something else that might jump out at them, “I wish I could turn into a large boulder like my dad, then I could roll ahead and be a look out for you, but I’m not equipped to be a boulder. My dad said I have a lot to learn before I can follow him.”
Daniel looked at Shale and felt a pang in his heart; he wished his dad were around so he could help him learn to follow in his path.
They continued slowly on the path the Tarsier had pointed out to them and as they walked further along, it grew narrower and narrower. It became so narrow they had to walk in single file again but even then, they had barely enough room to get through the jutting bushes and thick large vines that were hanging in front of them, like green curtains. They had to hold the vines away from their faces, so they could see where they were going.
It was Jenny who heard the sound first, it was a hissing sound.
“Do you hear that? It sounds like water leaking from a hole in a hose doesn’t it?” Jenny turned and asked the others.
Boots stopped and, since he was in the lead, the others stopped behind him. He listened closely to the sound and then warned them. “It is not water, that hissing sound is coming from a very large Cobra Snake slithering just ahead of us. We’ll need to wait here until it has cleared the path.”
But the snake clearing the path was not the one they had to worry about, it was the one slithering down on the vine over Shale’s head they should pay attention to.
“SSSSo what have we here? A metal child and his human companionsss?” the snake hanging over Shale’s head whispered in a low hissing voice.
Jenny screamed and the snake looked at her with annoyance, “Pleassse I have sssensssitive earsss,” it said to her.
“I don’t see any ears.” Jenny said looking at the Cobra’s head inquiringly.
“Ssso what you don’t sssee you don’t believe? Interesssting, but I’d expect that of humansss they have no imagination what ssso ever and for your information, I do have sssomething like earsss, just not ssso you can sssee them,” he said huffily.
“I’m sorry,” Jenny said not wanting to upset the big, fat snake hanging over Shale’s head.
Shale was afraid to look up at all and kept his yellow eyes focused on Daniel, silently asking him for help.
“Can you help us get out of this jungle?” Daniel asked the snake kindly.
“Can I help you?” the snake repeated “Why would I ever help humansss or even thisss metal human, not sssure what he isss, but he looksss human, and you humansss have taken away our homesss to build your own habitatsssssssss,” the snake hissed angrily, “Why ssshould I help you?”
“We aren’t here to cause any harm or to take away your home, we just need to find our way out of the jungle.”
“Well I certainly don’t want any of you hanging around here!” he hissed and then he slithered down to the ground and moved in front of Boots, “follow me,” he said to the lion and continued to slither ahead of them until he veered off the tiny path and onto another that led in a different direction and began to open up wider.
This path was large enough for the group to line up with each other as they followed the snake.
“This isss where you need to go, follow it from here and if I were warning you, I’d tell you to watch carefully where you step, but I won’t sssay that becasssue I don’t warn humanss,” he said with what sounded like a snake laugh before he quickly slithered back the way he’d come.
The children, robot, horses and lion stood in a line and pondered what was ahead on this new path. What was it they’d have to watch out for? Where had this snake led them to? And should they trust the snake?
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