"The Trouble with Magical Beings" (A Fantasy) Chapter 10
The Stallion led them through a maze of bushes that were so high they couldn’t see right or left and they hoped they were going the right way.
They walked on that path for what felt like an hour and then the children, robot and animals began to hear unusual sounds and with each step they took on the narrow path, the temperature began to rise too.
“It’s getting warmer,” Jenny complained in a whisper, afraid to speak any louder because the things making those strange sounds around them might hear her and pounce on them.
Naia felt the heat rising from the steaming jungle floor 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 granted.
Suddenly, at her words, the path magically opened up and they eagerly followed it. When they emerged from the high bushes, they found an oasis waiting for them.
A cool pond with palm trees swaying in a tropical breeze of trade winds lie ahead. The cool breeze only encircled the pond. The rest of the jungle was still unbearably warm.
Daniel looked at Naia, but she shook her head.
“Jenny is the protected one,” Naia told him and at his bewildered look she said, “rule number nineteen, remember?”
Daniel did remember the rule, ‘Innocents will not be harmed by magic only protected by it.’
He nodded and whispered back to Naia, “We should have her make more wishes.”
"It won't work if asked for a wish, it's only Jenny's true feelings that are heard," Naia told him.
Then Jenny's excited voice drew their attention.
“Look there’s a picnic basket too,” Jenny giggled with happiness as the other's slid off their horses and approached the cool pond.
Sure enough, there was a large picnic basket next to the pond, and magic had filled it with food and beverages and all kinds of delectable treats. There was even a very, large blanket to spread out on the ground so they could sit comfortably on the soft grass.
They spread out the blanket and sat down to share the contents of the basket.
Shale even found the things he liked to eat, which were hard to describe because they weren’t foods the others could identify and Shale was happily enjoying his meal, as were 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 after she’d eaten all she could and now she was tired 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 he saw the change right away.
The cool tropical pond was gone. The jungle had opened a path way for them but it looked darkly forbidding.
Daniel stared at the twisted trees lining that new path and worried.
Lion yawned and stretched opening his large lion eyes and blinked twice spying the unfriendly landscape.
Stallion woke next and seeing the dark path, he wasn’t so sure he wanted 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 its great mane and stood up, “Gladly,” he nodded regally, nothing in a jungle would ever worry him anyway.
The ponies shivered and moved next 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 whimpered and 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 path that had opened behind him. He looked around at he concerned faces of his friends with curiosity.
“What’s wrong?” Shale asked before turning to see what they were all looking at and then his 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.
“It’s the lost jungle,” Naia whispered to them.
“Well, if it’s lost, why’s it here?” Jenny asked with typical small child frankness.
Naia had no answer to give Jenny. She only knew of 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 nimble abilities to navigate through it.
Naia turned to Daniel and said, “I think you’re going to get your chance to prove yourself worthy of your wish in there.”
“I’m not afraid,” Daniel said knowing he’d agreed to be tested and knowing his wish was worth taking on any challenge. He’d go in there and try his best but he hoped his best would be enough.
“Alright then, let’s go,” Boots said and allowed Jenny to climb onto his back before he walked to the lead.
“We’re in the lead?” Jenny squeaked worriedly.
“Have no fear, nothing in there will harm you,” Boots told her confidently.
Jenny believed she was safe with Boots but she still worried about entering that unwelcoming jungle.
“Daniel if you want to ride the stallion now, I think I’m okay on the little yellow pony.” Shale grinned but it was a less than fearless grin and he hoped his new friend wouldn’t mind his sudden cowardice.
“It’s okay, but whatever is in there, we’ll get through it. We’ll find our way out if it, trust me,” Daniel said bravely as he climbed up on the Stallion. He would do what he had to and get them safely out of this jungle; after all, it was because he’d asked for a wish that they were all in this adventure.
“Come on, Naia, we need to get going, ” Daniel said to her kindly, seeing she was the only one still not up on her pony.
Naia sighed and nodded but before she climbed onto the green pony, she wished for magic to protect them all. A very thin mist of magic formed above the group but it did not go completely around them. "Partial magic again," she mumbled, but it was better than nothing.
The small group of adventurers stepped onto the darkened path.
The twisted trees seemed to be chattering at them and hundreds of small round eyes in every color were blinking at them from between the leaves.
They were being watched…but by what? They all wondered.
"Watch out!" Daniel said seeing a blur of something swinging down from the trees towards them.
They all looked to see an odd looking creature on a low tree branch staring at them.
It had big, very big, round eyes and frog like legs and long alien like fingers that stuck to the tree’s bark and it had bat like ears and as they watched it, 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 too. It is a Tarsian, 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, so long."
“But we’re humans” Jenny said with her five year old bluntness.
“In deed you are, and what may I ask are you doing in my jungle?”
“We’re trying to find our way out,” 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.
“Thank you,” Daniel said to it.
The Tarsier turned 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 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, she already knew this was not going to be an easy walk in the jungle.
“We have to be very careful Daniel,” Shale said as he was turning his head every which way, just like the Tarsier, looking for something else to 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 equip to be a boulder, dad said I have a lot to learn before I can follow him.”
Daniel looked at his little robot friend and felt a pang in his heart, he wished his dad were around so he could help him learn to follow in his path.
He sighed, “Thanks for wanting to help, Shale, but don’t worry, we’ll go slowly and stay together.”
They continued on the path the Tarsier had pointed to and as they walked the path grew narrower and narrower. It became so narrow they had to walk in single file but even then they had barely enough room to get through the jutting bushes and now thick large vines were hanging in front of them, like green curtains.
To continue on the path 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, 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'shead 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 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.
This path became large enough that the group lined 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 now stood in a line pondered what lie 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?