One of the Damned (Peregrine x Ashlio)

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    The seas are a dangerous place.

    Marines stalk the seas, maintaining "order"
    in the name of their country.
    Pirates prey on the weak, obeying no laws.
    Dark islands with wild locals tempt people in,
    sometimes not to return.

    Yet, there are always some places that are more
    dangerous than others.

    Everyone in these parts of the seas knows
    the legend of the Devil's Trap, a place
    where many have sailed in, chasing the rumor
    of great treasure, but none have sailed out.

    Two more brave explorers are about to
    brave the Trap.

    But now.
    For the first time.
    Two will sail in.

    Two will sail out.




    Zalika stood with her feet firmly planted on the deck of the sloop, both hands firmly curled around the tiller as she guided the two person boat into the relative safety of the cove. The water was calm and smooth, nearly glassy, and so clear that it looked as though all it would take to touch the sandy bottom was for her to stick her arm in up to the elbow. She did not allow the calmness of the water and beauty of the little cove before her, azure water, pale sand, and verdant trees of the thick jungle growing up a little ways beyond the shore, to lull her into a false sense of ease. Zali kept careful eye on both the water and wind, still tense from the voyage she had just completed.

    Thus far in the short but intense journey it had somehow always proved to be the places that looked the easiest to sail that had ended up being the most challenging. Not that any part of sailing this chain of islands could be called “easy”. There was no wonder that the natives called this ring of islands the Devil’s Trap. Even if it wasn’t for the legends that steeped this place, none but the most expert of sailors would have been able to navigate the narrow passageways, sharp rocks, hidden sandbars, and wild currents safely. And if the simple technical dangers of the journey weren’t enough, then there were the legends. None who ever entered the Trap returned. At least, not alive. Despite the fact that the trap covered very little of the ocean’s water, Zali had been forced to wind back and forth between the tight passageways between the islands, and had seen more than one marker of an ill fated journey. More than once, the little sloop had nearly run aground of an old mast in trying to avoid some other natural danger.

    In many ways, Zali was sad that she could not allow herself to stop and examine the ships. The Devil’s Trap had tempted sailors and adventurers for as long as living memory, and several of the nearly-rotten ships she had passed must have been several hundred years old, at least. The kind of treasure waiting in the bowels of those sunken wreckages could quite possibly have been worth a fortune all on their own. Zali obviously wasn’t the only one who had thought that, as, at one point, their little ship had passed two ships sunk nearly on top of each other, and rafted together by countless tendrils of rope. Apparently the Trap sunk scavengers just as effectively as it sunk treasure hunters. After all, it was the rumors of the legendary treasure waiting at the center of the Trap for the first person who could claim it that lured so many to their deaths.

    The rumors grew more wild with every person who entered the Trap and didn’t return. But rumors never stopped anyone. In fact, it seemed that the darker the legends surrounding this place became, the more people it lured to their death. She had glimpsed the bones of countless fools drifting in the fast current just below the surface, trapped in between two ships, or bouncing off the cliffs of the islands. Two more fools? Zalika had mused briefly, before glancing over at her traveling companion and long-term friend, Kyan.

    The two were about as different in appearance as it was possible for people to get. Kyan was only slightly tanned, and his sandy hair had the bleached blonde highlights of those who spent their lives under the sun. Zali, on the other hand, was so dark brown that she could almost be called black, while her tar dark hair reflected nearly orange in the light of the sun. Her features, though, were fine-boned and straight, unlike many of the dark-skinned companions she had traveled with in her twenty four years of life. The thing that made her stand out the most, though, were her pale grey eyes which, when combined with her dark skin, made her come across as a ghost or some sort of malevolent spirit. Once, when she had been young and still traveling with her parents, she had been accused of witchcraft, and she had gleefully kept all the villagers cowering under her “power”. Right up, that was, until her parents had come back ashore to find her, and gave her a firm spanking. The sight of their “witch” being abused such had emboldened the local people, and her parents had been forced to sail away, goods untraded, before their ship was burnt to the ground.

    What bound Zali and Kyan together so firmly was not their appearance, but their attitudes. Both possessed a soul bound towards chaos and adventure, and neither was satisfied with doing things halfway. When the merchant ship with which they had been traveling unceremoniously dumped the two troublemakers at a small, native port and sailed away, the two had taken just enough time to take stock of their situation before using their small pocket of remaining gold to purchase a boat and sail away towards the Trap.

    By that point, the locals had seen enough fools that they didn’t put in more than a perfunctory effort into trying to dissuade them from their journey. In fact, almost the exact opposite came to pass. As soon as the village chief had warned Zali and Kyan of the dangers of the Trap, and had reaffirmed the fact that none return alive, he had offered to “guard” most of their belongings until their return. The man hadn’t even waited for Zali and Kyan to fully leave the island port before starting to auction off their belongings to the rest of the village.

    Zali cared little for their antics. She had acknowledged, even before stepping foot aboard their new, little ship, that there was a chance that neither herself nor Kyan were going to be coming back from the Trap alive. How could she not, when both she and Kyan knew exactly how many deaths that chain of islands had caused? Besides, if they did come back alive, the few belongings they had possessed before would not matter. At that point, they would be the richest people in the world. If the legends were to be believed.

    Whether they were or were not, it was equally true that the things Zali considered essential had never left her person. The villagers never could have gotten the things that really mattered: a length of rope, bound around her shoulder and cunningly designed as a part of her clothing, with a large canister of water and a smaller container of alcohol strapped on. Two knives strapped to her shins, a dagger strapped to her back. A firestarter, a compass, a small handful of tinder, and a few other completely essential items secured in a waterproof leather bag around her neck. None of it able to be dropped, stolen, or easily lost, should she take an unexpected plunge into the brine. Her clothes were made of a strong, fine material resistant not only to water, but to fire as well. They served her far better than any sleeping bag at keeping her warm and dry in the tropical climate.

    Of course, at the moment, it didn’t really matter that basically all of her belongings were water-resistant for, despite the dangers of the sailing portion of their journey, Zali and Kyan had made it to their destination without Zali running aground of anything, and forcing them to take an unanticipated swim. Later, when night had fallen and the two of them were safely sequestered around a small campfire, Zali had plans to boast of her sailing skills, whether Kyan wanted to hear it or not. Of course, boasting right now would do her no good if, at a moment of inattention, she ran their boat aground within sight of their destination.

    Despite her ritualistic anticipation of problems, the cove was almost completely free of dangers. Compared to the journey she had just completed, it was completely smooth sailing. The only obstacle was a single sunken ship, its mast rising out of the water. A single glance was enough to inform Zali that it was most likely that some violent storm had pulled the abandoned cutter off of the shore and into the water, because the bottom of the cove was smooth and relatively deep, with nothing to run into. Except for the ship, of course.

    That particular hypothesis was made even more likely by the fact that easily ten ships, of various sizes and in various states of disrepair, were packed together onto the sand at the far end of the cove. Most of the ships were about the same size as the one she and Kyan were sailing, and had been drawn far enough onto the shore that the water could never reach it. Only a couple were larger than that, and the sunken cutter was by far the largest ship that was still identifiable. It was doubtful anything bigger had ever made it in. Those had all run aground much further back in the chain.

    Zali let out a small sigh, eyeing the row of ships. “Well, that’s ominous,” she muttered to herself. Maybe there was more credence to these legends than she had given. All the same, she continued her careful navigation, pulling up close to the shore before shouting at Kyan to drop the anchor. The boat skidded to a halt, and spun slightly, so that it was facing lengthwise to the shore. Zali moved away from the tiller, eyeing the water with distaste. She had been hoping that she’d be able to complete this entire journey without ever having to get her feet wet. There was no real purpose to it, but it would have been another accomplishment she could have added to her upcoming boasts. The cold saltwater immediately soaked her up to her waist as she hopped overboard, but Zali ignored the faint chill and set to work slowly drawing the boat towards shore as Kyan pulled the anchor back up. It didn’t take long for the boat to start to run aground of the sand. She was able to draw it a couple more feet with the aid of the waves, before it became far too heavy for her to drag along herself. She dropped the rope she had been using to pull it and lifted a brow at Kyan, hand on hip.

    “Are you going to help,” she quipped. “Or just sit up there?”

    Once Zali and Kyan had finished dragging the boat ashore, she turned to face the line of trees while she dumped the last of the water out of her boots. It was an unbroken wall of foliage, except for one point, where a shallow, rocky creek had cleared a path through the trees, before emptying out onto the sand of the beach. If they hoped to get deeper into the island, that was going to be the easiest path by far.

    It only took her a couple moments to double check that all of her possessions were in place, as she touched each one with a quick, nearly ritualized movement, ending with the bag around her neck, and the small bone carving secured to the front. Finally, her eyes turned to Kyan.

    She could feel the excitement starting to build in her already. It was always like this, at the start of something new. Even though she knew there was every possibility that she might never walk out of that forest again, she couldn’t help the wild, almost feral grin that began to spread across her face. This was what she lived for. The risk for the reward. This was the greatest risk, and it had the potential to be coupled with the greatest reward. How could she help but be excited?

    “You ready to go?” she asked, grey eyes bright with enthusiasm.
    #1 Peregrine, Jan 4, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2016
  2. Kyan had always been up for a good adventure. All the way back since he was a kid, he had been running around getting into all sorts of troubles. When he learned to read it only got worse, as he tried to copy all the stories from the different books in their small library. Once, at five years old, he had stolen a simple, wooden rowing boat and made it halfway out of the bay before being discovered. None would listen to his explanation about being on a treasure hunt, and the scolding and yelling had gone on for a whole night. His ears almost started ringing again just thinking about it.

    Sometimes he wondered if that was why his family had decided to send him away, although it probably had more with him being the youngest of several sons. Even though his parents were wealthy, there wasn’t much for him to inherit, so therefore he had been sent off to join The Marine. To do the family some honor, they had said. It hadn’t taken him long to realize that it was just a load of bullshit they had said so he wouldn’t complain too strongly about their decision, but he still wasn’t angry at them for it. Being a marine was way more adventures than staying at home, and it was after all where he met Zalika.

    It had surprised him to meet someone that had an even larger hunger for adventure than him. Not that he would ever admit that to her, at least not out loud. Even though Zali’s limits went further than his, which was still pretty far by the way, he never said no to anything. Not even when she had suggested doing the craziest adventure of them all, which he was sure was going to end with his death. She would probably just have gone without him if he hadn't said yes, and there was no way he would risk living the rest of his life listening to her boosting about her adventure if she for some crazy reason managed to get back. It was simply better to die then.

    «Yes, I’m ready,» he answered and brushed the curls of his green eyes, to no avail. They just fell right back down again.

    He narrowed his eyes a little while looking in at the forest, holding up a hand up to shield his eyes from the sun. While excited that they had actually made it this far, he wondered what he had really gotten himself into, and didn’t doubt they were far from safe yet. The legends were all clear about that. He just hoped that the treasure-part of it were true, or Zalika would be the one to never hear the end of it.

    Dropping his hand down again, he rested it on his left hip, his fingers lightly touching the hilt on the saber that hung there. It had been a gift from his father when he joined the marine, and after more than ten years it was still in surprisingly good shape, much thanks to the good care he took of it. On his other hip hung a leather pouch, containing the things he found most essential. There where a few other weapons on his body, a couple knifes and daggers, hidden under his clothes. A nice, white linen shirt, with no holes of course. A brown leather jacket lied over it, with short arms and waist made to make it easier to move fast in. His pants where the same color but a softer material, loosely fitted and stopping right under his knees. And last was his boots, made of soft and comfortable leather.

    «You lead the way then,» he added and turned his attention to her.

    It wasn’t that he was scared to go first, it was just how they had always done it. She got the ideas for what they would do next and took the lead, and he followed gladly - and mostly without a doubt. He had become good at following orders during his years in the marine, so it only fell naturally to him now. Hers were after all a lot more fun to follow than the ones his superiors back then had given him.
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  3. Zali nodded once, crisply, before once more turning her eyes to the forest. The grin on her face faded slightly as she studied the shade darkened opening into the jungle. The creek was wide and shallow, but not so wide that it wasn't possible for the branches of the trees to completely cover the passage, leaving nothing but faint, dappled sunlight to illuminate their path. Of course, at least at this point, the water was far too shallow to be hiding anything obvious. It wasn't even deep enough to completely cover her feet.

    There was a part of her that felt almost hesitant to follow the creek up. It wasn't that there was anything particularly alarming about the passage itself; Zali had certainly entered pirate lairs and wild caves that looked much more dangerous than this foliage covered passageway. Then again, perhaps it was precisely its unassuming nature that set her on edge. This was supposed to be a place of terrifying danger. A place from which no one returned alive. How could it look so calm and peaceful?

    And then, of course, there was the matter of the fact that the creek was the only path into the forest. She had already scanned the treeline twice, and there was no doubt that trying to enter through the foliage was impossible. They'd spend so much time bushwhacking that the plants would be able to grow back over their progress before they were even able to enter the forest. Then again, there were no signs that the forest had ever been disturbed, which meant that the various adventurers who had left those boats behind had undoubtedly taken the same path. And none of them had ever returned. Was their boat soon to add to the collection? If this continued, there soon wouldn't be any more room on the shore.

    "We're just going in far enough to get a sense of things," Zali said softly as she began walking. "But that's it." Caution normally wasn't Zali's strong suit. She was the girl who had always ventured wildly into any adventure that presented itself. One time, her attempt to battle a crocodile for the rights to a boat (or, perhaps more accurately, the right to push it off of a marooned boat so that she could sail away with it) had lost her half of the tip of the pointer finger on her right hand, leaving nothing but a sharp point and a half grown fingernail behind. She had been told that she had been lucky, that she probably should have lost the whole hand. She had been told to think before she acted. She had just stuck out her tongue as the doctor finished stitching her up. She's gotten her boat.

    What most people didn't realize was that Zali was perfectly capable of thinking before she acted. As a matter of fact, she could be quite good at it. Most of the time she simply didn't want to. She found that prudence was often overrated, and she had gained far more in her life by being bold than by being cautious. But this wasn't the moment to be reckless. Not only was she venturing into unknown territory, she was leading Kyan into it with her.

    "We'll do a bit of scouting, and then come back and set up camp where the beach meets the cliff." The rock wall would offer them a little bit of protection, should anything try and ambush them in the middle of the night. She couldn't imagine what.

    For a moment Zali faltered, glancing back towards their little boat. But she squared her shoulders, and began to walk back towards the forest again. They had made it all the way here, and she certainly didn't have any intention of turning around until she'd learned what was up with this place. It was a mystery to solve. There was a very good chance that she might be seeing things soon that no one else had ever seen before. The idea sent little shivers of excitement up her back, and the grin began to spread over her face again. So what if it was dangerous? So what if she might never come back out if she went back in. She would do her best to survive, and would have a grand adventure in the process, whether she lived or died in the end. What more could she ask for?

    The sounds of the tide were quickly swallowed by the forest and the faint trickle of the creek. Only a few paces into the forest and the creek bent sharply to the side, cutting off their view of the beach. Zali pressed forward, stepping through the shallow spots, occasionally leaping from rock to rock to avoid a spot where time and the current had dug out a slightly deeper spot. The hems of her pants were just starting to lose their last traces of dampness, and she had no particular desire to wet them again, and send cold water down the tops of her boots, to slosh around her feet.

    She wouldn't have admit it if asked, but it was surprisingly peaceful inside this tunnel of trees. There was no noise except the faint rustle of wind through the high branches, which sent the speckles of sunshine dancing across the riverbed, the gurgle of the creek as droplets of water leaped off miniature cascades at the end of midsized rocks, and the faint chuckling of a tropical bird that seemed to be following their progress. The foliage on each side of the creek stayed as dense as it had on the beach, and it was impossible to tell where the sun was in the sky. It was as if they were trapped in a moment of time, walking on through an infinite passage, waiting for something to change.

    And Zali was waiting for something to change. She was waiting for the danger, for the excitement, for whatever it was that was supposed to have caused the death of so many people over the past who knew how many years. She pressed on a little further than she had initially intended to, always hoping that something would be waiting for them around the next bend in the creek. But her feet were starting to get tired, and they still had to make it all the way back to the beach well before nightfall.

    "Well," Zali proclaimed with a huff. "That was... uneventful." She glanced around hopefully, almost as though hoping her words might have jinxed something. When nothing occurred, her eyes drifted back towards Kyan. "What do you say we start heading back? We can figure out a new course of action this evening."
  4. Even though the trees mostly kept them walking in the shade, it was still a lot warmer than out on the open water, and his skin was soon sticky with sweat and the clothes clung to him. He didn't pay it any attention though, his mind was occupied with taking in the surroundings. Everywhere he looked, the greenery seemed to stretch forever. Nothing but the light clucking of the stream and the breeze in the trees filled his ears while they walked deeper and deeper into the jungle. The calmness and beauty of the place was something he would normale enjoy, but now it just felt wrong. Wasn’t this place suppose to be full if dangers and terrors? Had they stopped at the wrong island?

    Locking eyes with Zali, Kyan gave her a nod and then threw his surrounding one last look. «Sounds like a plan,» he replied with a sigh and turned around, and started on their way back.

    Even though the trip here had been without too much hassle, he still felt pretty exhausted. Being only two people ment that you had to pay attention and be on the constant look out for trouble. Shallow waters, traps, enemies, or whatever dangers that were the cause of no one leaving this place. So, there had been no time to take even the smalest break. But on the positive side, being only two was probably the reason why they had managed to get this far.

    The larger the crew was, especially if some of the people were new, the higher the chances were for mistakes happening, he felt. With just Zali and him, the work went smooth and, mostly, without problems. At least the problems that did come along weren’t started by them misunderstanding each other, or something stupid like that. After spending ten years together, communicating had become as easy as breathing. Few words were needed to make each other understood. Sometimes one was enough, or even a look could say what needed to be said.

    Anyway, his legs were killing him now and he longed to be able to just sit down and breath, which was why he picked up the pace slightly. Zali was probably just as eager to make camp, he guessed. If not, he doubted she would hesitate with ordering him to slow down. It didn’t take long for him to do that anyway, though.

    The trip up the stream had taken some time, but now that they were walking slightly faster back, he felt they should have been on the beach by now. Frowning a little, he looked around and wondered if they had made the wrong turn somewhere. Except that there hadn’t been any turns, the stream flowed only one way without a single branch. He sighed and started walking again, but after another few minutes passing with no beach in sight, he stopped again.

    «Am I going crazy, or should we have been back by now?» he asked while looking back at Zali and balancing on a slippery rock.
    #4 Ashlio, Jan 5, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2016
  5. "Yes," Zali agreed, somewhat hesitantly. "It definitely feels like we should have been back by now." She studied the forest, the trees, and the creek, before shrugging more casually than she felt. Already Zali was finding herself regretting that they had not brought along any of their supplies. So much for prudence. She could feel the back of her throat getting dry with thirst, but she didn't dare drink from the stream. There was no telling what was upstream.

    Of course, at the time, she had been expecting dangers in the more... active form of the word. Things they would have to fight, or flee. Were that the case, mobility would have been paramount, and they would have likely ended up having to abandon their packs anyways. Then they would have had to retreat, because there was no way they could survive without food.

    Now, though, Zali found herself wondering what it was that had led her to believe that no one ever returned from this place because they were brutally killed by some sort of monster or beast. Perhaps that was because she wanted it. If there was a monster or a beast, Zali would be able to fight back. Yes, she might die ultimately, but she would do her damnedest, and would, one way or another, leave her mark on the place. But there was no fighting against starvation and slow dehydration.

    She couldn't imagine her death would be so supremely boring. She refused to believe it. There was more. There had to be.

    "Maybe we just haven't gone far enough," she continued after a moment. "The way back usually feels longer than the way there, doesn't it?" She shrugged slightly, before starting walking again.

    And so they walked. And walked. And walked. The stream bent and curved, but always seemed to be moving generally in the same direction. There was no telling how long they had walked, how far they had come, or how far they still had to go. But it was becoming more and more apparent, the longer they walked, that they should have been there by now. They definitely should have been there. It had to be just around the next bend. Around the next.

    Finally Zali ground to a halt, whirling around to throw her hands in the air "This is impossible! What the hell is happening?" She had to force herself to calm down, clamping one hand over her nose and taking a few calming breaths. Freaking out certainly wouldn't help the situation. She had to stay cool, and logical. Even though every part of her was screaming that there was nothing logical about this situation, that this entire situation was impossible, and she had no idea what the hell was going on.

    "Fuck," she said under her breath. She pinched the bridge of her nose, rubbed the corners of each eye, shook out her hands, and then calmed down.

    "Okay. Obviously we need a... change of plans. Something." She scowled briefly at the creek, before turning to face Kyan. "I don't know how, but obviously this creek is no longer leading us where it is supposed to. Way I see it, we only have a couple options. We can keep walking downstream. Who knows if we'll get anywhere. We can head upstream again, since downstream isn't getting us anywhere. Or we can go bushwhacking, and try and find a tree that is tall enough to break this canopy, climb it, and try and use that to orient ourselves."

    None of the options seemed particularly good. Heading downstream obviously wasn't getting them anywhere, but heading upstream again would be far more of a psychological blow. It would feel like backtracking, like they were undoing everything they had just accomplished. Even though there was no telling if they were even on the same stream anymore, and they might be going somewhere completely different.

    Trying to head out of the creek and into the forest didn't feel any better, though. The underbrush was so thick that it would be nearly impassible, and the trees were so dense that it looked as though all light vanished only a couple hundred feet from the edge of the trail. Even if this wasn't a mystical island that seemed to not care about the rules of nature, she would have been uncomfortable with the idea of venturing in there. Not only would it be remarkably easy to get lost or turned around, there was no telling what manner of creature was hiding in that underbrush.

    "Wait," Zali said, and a brief flicker of humor crossed her face. "There's one more option. We could stop right here, and wait for something to happen." She did her best to grin, but the expression quickly faded from her face. It didn't really feel like the moment for that kind of humor.

    "Do you... have any other options?" she asked, almost hopefully.
  6. Kyan looked up and down the stream while he considered the few options they had. None of them were good, and his legs were about to fall off. «Let’s at least sit down and relax for a minute,» he said and looked at her. «Maybe it will even clear our heads or something. The logical solution might be staring right at us.»

    Walking a little further down, they stopped at a small clearing by the stream where they could sit without getting wet. Kyan leaned back against a rock and stretched out his legs with a relief sigh. Trusting that none would be able to sneak up at them at this quiet place, he closed his eyes for a minute.

    Now... Walking further down was apparently useless, and he had a feeling that walking back up again would give the same result. They seemed to be caught in a loop, he just didn’t understand how. Their next option wasn’t very realistic either. He did’n’t have the tools needed to cut through this underbrush, and doubted Zali had thought about bringing any such either. If she had, she was doing a good job on hiding it.

    «Have you checked your compass?» he asked and opened his eyes again, looking over at her. «Are we even walking in the right direction anymore?»

    Maybe they were just more tired and dehydrated than they realized, and therefor kept taking the wrong turns or something. A compass might help with that.

    «If not, I’ll find a bloody tree and climb it,» he sighed and wiped the sweat of his forehead.
  7. "I'm not sure anything about this situation is 'logical'" Zali muttered under her breath, but she said it quietly enough that her words probably hadn't reached Kyan. She trudged after him, dragging her feet through the water and splashing the cool liquid up onto her pants in an attempt to settle herself down somewhat.

    It was more of a relief than she had expected to be able to sit down. The little space on the bank of the stream was only just large enough for them to sit, but it was large enough, and as soon as she sat down her legs began to complain all the more. She massaged her calves briefly, before tipping her head to look up at the forested canopy. It was still impossible to tell where exactly the sun was, but she was fairly confident it was darker now than it had been a while ago. Had they already been walking the whole day? Then again, they had made it to the cove shortly before midday, so maybe it wasn't that much of a surprise.

    Her head tipped back down to stare off into the forest once again, peering, trying to see anything that might be of interest. Her eyes suddenly passed over something that looked like eyes, right on the edge of the clearing near a tree, behind a row of bushes. Her head whipped around as her hand fell to her knife, but there was nothing in the spot.

    "What?" she asked, suddenly realizing Kyan had spoken. "Oh. Right. Lemme just..." her hand moved slowly away from her knife, to fish out a minuscule compass from the bag around her neck. She paused for a moment to stroke the bone figurine on the front of the bag, before glancing at her compass. "Well, then." She offered the palm of her hand to Kyan, where the compass was sitting. The needle was never particularly steady, but there was nothing about spinning in slow circles that could be considered "unsteady". Another thing to add to the downright unnatural list.

    "I don't think that is going to be of much use," Zali said, an unexpected smile crossing her face. She gently tucked it back into the bag. "Unless, of course, we are sitting on the north pole itself, and my compass has good reason to be spinning in circles when we are, presumably, sitting still."

    Just on the edge of the little clearing, something rustled. The face coming suddenly back into her mind, Zali flinched, one of the knives on her leg suddenly in her hands, before flying through the closest bush to embed itself against a tree. She glanced sheepishly at Kyan. "Sorry," she said, eyes locked on where her knife had entered the bushes. There was no movement. "I guess I'm... a little on edge. Let me... go get that." She pushed her way to her feet, brushing a couple traces of dirt away before taking the few paces to where her knife had disappeared.

    She found, much to her surprise, a little brown lizard pinned against the tree by her knife. She blinked at the thing, before sighing slightly. "Sorry little friend," she whispered. "You didn't really deserve that." With one hand, she wrenched her knife out of the tree, and the back of the lizard. All of a sudden, it blinked at her, before scurrying away up the rest of the tree.

    Zali fell backwards in shock, nearly slipping off the edge of the bank and falling down into the creek. She caught herself at the last moment, before turning to look at Kyan. "Did... did you see that?" She asked, tucking her knife back into its sheath to try and hide the faint shaking in her hands from shock.
  8. Kyan sighed at the sight of the spinning needle in the compass. "Just great," he groaned. They were walking in circles, or something stupid like that, and the one thing that usually pointed you in the right direction didn’t work. This was not the day he had hoped for. Oh well, at least he wasn’t dead. That was something.

    The second Zali flinched, he jerked slightly back and instantly grabbed for his sabel, ready to face whatever had alerted her. He followed her gaze to the bushes where her knife had landed, frowning. Not seeing any sign of danger, he stayed put while she got up to retrieve her knife. He didn’t blame her for being spooked, this place and situation was pretty…eerie.

    But when she jumped back, he was quickly on his feet with the sabel in his hand. «See what?» he asked, glancing at her before looking towards the bush. Something had clearly scared her, but he couldn’t see anything. Taking a slightly deep breath in preparation, he stepped forward and pushed the branches away with the back of the blade.

    There was nothing there. Just a tree, with a fresh mark from her knife, and something that seemed like blood. «Did you hit somethi–» Before he got to the end of the sentence, the mark disappeared. It looked like the tree swallowed it up, like a wave at sea. He stared at it with wide eyes, and slowly reached out to stroke the bark. It was as smooth as if it had never been touched.

    «Okay, that’s… odd,» he muttered and moved the hand back to his forehead, still frowning. The only logical conclusion he could think of, was that they were under the influence of something. He knew very well that there were herbs that, when ingested, made you feel strange and see things that weren’t there. But they hadn’t eaten or drank anything. So either they were breathing it in, or they both had a very high fever without knowing it.

    «That’s it,» he said through gritted teeth, clearly getting annoyed with the silly situation they were in. He sheeted his sabel and rubbed his hands together. «I’m going up.» Fresh air, not this heavy and hot air that they breathed under the cover of the trees, was suddenly very tempting. And they needed to find out how to get out of this jungel, so it was the only thing to do anyway.

    Not wanting to waste any time, he grabbed the tree right in front of him and started climbing up. It wasn’t high enough to get him looking over the canopy, but seeing how close everything here grew, he figured he would find a branch to take him over to a higher one.
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  9. Zali had to quell her instinct to tell Kyan to be careful. It wasn't something he needed a reminder of, and her telling him that wouldn't make him any more cautious than he undoubtedly already planned to be. All the same, she felt her heart pounding in her chest like hundreds of feet stomping on the deck of a ship, and her hands balled into fists as she pushed herself back to her feet. She shot a nasty glare over at the tree, as though it was somehow responsible for this whole mess, before plunking herself down on the bank. "Get back quickly," she shot at Kyan. "Or I'm coming up after you."

    As soon as Kyan disappeared into the branches, Zalika found herself getting more and more on edge. The image of the lizard, speared with her knife, only to suddenly scurry on up the tree, kept flashing through her head on loop. Zali had always been a brave child, comfortable in the most wild situations. When she had been really young it had been born from confidence in her parents, who had always managed to successfully pull her out of the dangerous situations she had gotten herself into. After she and her parents had been separated, each taken in different directions by a gang of ruthless pirates, Zali's confidence had temporarily shriveled, only to be reborn stronger and better when every one of her wild plans went off without a hitch. She had never dreamed there might exist a situation where she might feel scared.

    But now? Now, the wild pounding of her heart could only really mean one thing. Zali was scared. She hated it. She hated it more than she was willing to admit, even to herself. But none of that made the feeling go away. She was facing things she had never even dreamed were possible, let alone knew how to cope with. She was in so far over her head that she might as well be at the bottom of the ocean. Worst of all, there was nothing she could do to better prepare herself for facing this. She didn't know if what she had just seen was even real, but something in her gut told her it was no hallucination. She didn't know what the fuck it was.

    Now, here she was, sitting on the bank of this frustrating stream that was leading absolutely nowhere, waiting for Kyan to come back. Combined with her already rankled temper from feeling so monumentally out of control, this lack of activity was driving her positively insane. The knife was in her hand again, first digging into the soil, then tapping restlessly on the side of her leg. Kyan still wasn't back yet, and none of this was helping. With a growl of frustration the knife was in the palm of her hand again, before being hurled across the stream and into the trees. Rather than hearing it hit bark or rock, as she had expected, there was a sudden but hastily muffled yelp of pain.

    Zali shot to her feet. "Who's there?!" she demanded of the silent forest. Unsurprisingly, there was no answer. But, now, Zali had something to do. Another knife was in her hand. Her eyes fluttered half closed, as she despeartely listened for anything to that might alert her to the presence of whoever, or whatever, was watching her. Nothing. Not only could she not hear any movement, but it was as though every living thing in the forest had suddenly gone utterly silent. Even the wind seemed to have stopped.

    Finally, Zali was forced to give up. She would have to try to find her knife again once Kyan got back. Assuming whatever she'd hit hadn't taken it. She wanted to go look for it right now, but didn't dare venture away from this spot until Kyan got back. The last thing she wanted was him returning and thinking she'd vanished, and them getting separated if he went to "look" for her.

    "Kyan!" she shouted up at the branches. "Are you done up there yet?"
  10. Kyan chuckled a little at Zali’s threat about coming after him. «Be my guest. Would be nice to not being the only one doing all the work for once,» he said, keeping his voice low, but still high enough so he knew she would be able to hear him. He was confident that she would take it as the teasing he meant it to be.

    Taking his time, he managed to move further up and over to another tree. He was careful to pick the best branches to hold to, and that he placed his foot right before he took another step. It was slow work, but it wouldn’t help them much if he fell down. After some time he did get a little more confident, and he continued his climb upwards at a slightly faster pace, moving from tree to tree.

    Climbing trees was something he had done since he learned to walk, so this wasn’t a hard task for him. If he went missing when he had still lived at home, the first place they went looking for him was in the tallest trees around the house. When he joined the marine, he quickly became one of the best at climbing the mast. He had since spent most of his time tending the sails and keeping a look out from the top, both on marine and pirate ships.

    That was what he missed most about working at a large ship. Feeling the wind in his hair, seeing the never-ending horizon, and all the other clichés that came with living at the sea. His favorite time was at night, when the sea was quiet and the sky clear. Watching the dark sky and all its stars reflected in the calm water was simply magical.

    He looked up towards the canopy, frowning a little when he saw that it was still a fair bit of climbing until he reached the top. When he had been standing on the ground, it hadn’t seemed that far, and he had been climbing for a few minutes now. More then enought time to reach the top. So why hadn’t he gotten any closer? Looking back down, he saw that it would be a hard fall if he lost his grip now, but it still wasn’t as far down as he had expected it to be.

    «Stupid trees,» he muttered, figuring it was just some optical illusion that was messing with him. The trees had obviously seemed shorter from the ground than they actually were. After glancing back down once more, to make sure that Zali was still within sight, he started climbing again. He didn’t want to stray away from her, it would only make their situation a lot worse if they got separated. And seeing how this jungle acted, it didn’t seem like it would take much.

    Looking back up, he picked out the next branch to grab. Straightening out his knees, he reached for it and closed his fingers around thin air. «What…» He blinked and his eyebrows raised a notch in surprise. One second the branch had been just where he thought it was, and the next it had moved three inches up the tree. «Stupid jungle,» he muttered and tried grabbing another branch.

    When the same thing happened the fourth time, he was getting pretty certain that he was going crazy. And he was getting annoyed. Very annoyed. A few curses flew out of his mouth while he bent his knees and then kicked off to reach one of the higher branches. This time the branch didn’t just relocate itself, it simply disappeared, and with nothing to grab on to, he fell.

    It wasn’t the first time he fell, far from it, so he quickly got over the shock and reached out to grab on to whatever that came within his reach. Several twigs brushed through his hands before something more solid hit him, and he clung on to it for bare life.

    His body swung towards the trunk and his left knee hit something soft before his whole body crashed into the tree. A grunt escaped him at the impact. He quickly looked towards whatever his knee had hit, while at the same time trying to find some footing again, and his eyes locked with a very upset pair of yellow eyes. The huge furry creature standing on the branch right before him surprised him so much that his hands slipped, right at the same time that the branch under his feet twisted, and he fell once again before he managed to get a proper look at the animal.

    He managed to grab on to another branch before he crashed into the ground, but he only held on long enough to find a lower branch to drop down to. His heart was beating hard and his breath a little shaken. The creature he had seen had looked like a monkey, but he had never seen an animal with such a grumpy expression. It didn’t seem natural, just like this jungle. It was all definitely starting to freak him out.

    He arrived at the ground, far from as gracefully as he usually landed, just as Zali called for him. «There is something weird in the trees,» he said and got a knife in his hand while he quickly took a few step away from the tree line, while he looked up to see if the thing was following him. It had looked like it wanted to get revenge. «And the trees are weird. Impossible to get to the top, just like it’s impossible to get away from this cursed stream,» he said while he picked leaves and small twigs out of his hair. He had gotten a few scraps and nicks on his way down, but nothing to make a fuzz about.
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  11. Zali glanced briefly in the direction of where she had thrown one of her knives, before pinning her gaze on the branches overhead. Her eyes flicked from spot to spot, trying to spot anything out of the ordinary. Another knife had appeared in her hand, but she didn't throw that one. She was down to only two weapons at this point, and had no desire to sacrifice another one when she didn't even know what she was throwing at.

    "I hit something, too," she said softly. "While you were up there. Over there, in those bushes," she gestured without actually looking where she was pointing, still scanning for anything up in the trees. "Heard it yelp in pain." Resigning herself to the fact that she wasn't going to find anything among the branches, Zali studiously studied the forest around her, looking for anything out of the ordinary. If it wasn't for the fact that they had apparently been walking in circles while following a straight stream, and what Kyan had just said about being unable to climb to the top of the trees, Zali never would have guessed that this was anything other than an ordinary forest. Well, that, and the fact that apparently all the animals were immortal, and there was something stalking them from both ground and branches.

    "Keep an eye out," Zali murmurred, eyes still moving restlessly. "I'm going to see if I can get my knife back." She moved her way over to the bushes, carefully pushing her way into the undergrowth while keeping the stream in sight out of the corner of her eye. She saw the spot where she had hit the animal almost immediately, marked by a couple splatters of blood, and hasty scrape marks across the ground from where it had started to flee. However, the blood trail vanished within a couple of paces, as did any traces that the animal had ever existed. Zali glanced around, but there were no traces of where it had gone. No sign of her knife, either. She looked up, but the trees held no answers. Had whatever she had hit been the thing that had spooked Kyan? But why wouldn't it have fled after being wounded?

    She returned from her brief excursion, running her fingers briefly through her hair to dislodge any debris that may have gotten caught in the dark strands, and wiping off a couple traces of mud from her clothes. "Whatever I hit, it seems to have run away with my knife," Zali griped. She frowned for a moment. She had quite liked that blade. It had been well balanced, suited both for a regular knife fight and for throwing, and a sailor had carved the pattern of a mermaid into the handle for her at one point. Then again, that's what she got when she went around tossing knives. Anything she threw, she couldn't really expect to get back. It was amazing that knife had stuck with her as long as it had, as many times as it had taken a sudden flight through the air. She'd find a replacement when they got back to port. Well, if they got back to port.

    "What did you see?" Zali finally asked of Kyan.
  12. «Some monkey, I think…» Kyan answered, but not sounding completely sure about it. It had all happened so fast. «I have just never seen a monkey looking that offended before,» he added muttering while rubbing the back of his neck, and his hand came back covered in sweat. He did not care much for this humid jungle.

    «And the branches moved and disappeared,» he said and forced a chuckle. «But I might just be losing my mind.» He looked up at the canopy, and now the trees looked to be a normal height again. Why he hadn’t managed to get to the top was a puzzle, but so was the stream that didn’t lead anywhere.

    «This is a weird place, that’s for sure,» he said and looked at her again, and let out a heavy sigh. He was tired and hungry, and his failed attempt at reaching the top did not help much on is already descending mood. Not that he let it show. He had never seen the use of getting grumpy, it didn't really help much with most situations.

    «Should we keep going? The stream have to change sooner or later, right?» he said and looked back over his shoulder. «And I would rather not stick around in case that monkey decides to get revenge. Or whatever ran away with your knife… Maybe they are in a gang.»
  13. "I don't think you are losing your mind," Zali said softly as her eyes continued to rapidly dart from place to place, looking for anything that struck her as out of the ordinary. "There's something here that's more than just 'weird'. It's downright..." Zali unconsciously bit her words short. She had been about to say 'supernatural'. But Zali had never been a superstitious person. She had participated in many a religious ritual, ranging from the worship of a grand, supreme god, to tribal essences that would take possession of those participating in the ritual and "grant them visions" of what was to come. Never once had she found anything that led her to believe there was anything more out there than what she already knew. In fact, she had always rolled her eyes at the superstitions of the locals, the sailors, even the rulers of the world. Yet here she was, about to attest something she didn't understand as 'supernatural', because she didn't know what else it could be. It was irritating. "Well. I guess 'weird' will do until we come up with something better."

    She laughed slightly, turning back to face the river. "We might as well," she agreed to his suggestion of moving on. "There's no point in staying here, and we can't check where we are. It's either follow the creek or venture into the forest, and I'm not desperate enough for the latter yet."

    They started walking again. At this point, Zali was starting to feel thirsty enough that she was debating taking a drink from the stream, since her flask of water had long since emptied. The water looked clean and smelled clear, normally she wouldn't have had any reservations about the action. But she certainly didn't trust this forest, and that seemed like a good enough reason not to trust the stream either.

    They walked on in alert silence. Neither of them could settle into the slogging pace that had got them this far; not with the knowledge that they were likely being watched by the strange creatures of this forest, or whatever... source it was that was causing this island to behave in such an unusual manner. But it was, most likely, this same observance that allowed Zali to notice eyes again, even though they had to have been walking for several more hours, and the already dim forest was starting to get even darker. Her hand was grabbing the large knife at her back only an instant later, but she caught herself before she threw it. This was not a knife she wanted to lose, especially not when one of them had already been sacrificed to the forest. The eyes blinked, vanished, before all of a sudden a pebble was flying out from the bushes, to strike her brutally on the shoulder.

    Zali winced, growled, and began to look around for whatever had just thrown something at her. One hand was still firmly clenched around the handle of the knife, ready and almost eager for a fight. The other silently sought out Kyan's shoulder, as though to reassure herself that he was still there.

    All of a sudden, another object, this time a nut of some sort, hit the top of her head. She threw her head up just in time to catch a glimpse of pale fur. "I think your fucking monkey is back," she grumbled to Kyan.

    A few more stray objects flew their way, although none were as precise as the first two. Finally, growling in frustration, Zali sheathed her knife, reached down into the stream bed, and grabbed on to a small pebble. She held it tight in her hand, stoically taking the blows of the small objects. Finally, she violently tossed it into the forest, waiting expectantly for the sound of some animal's shriek of pain or annoyance. There was no sound, not even the faint thunk of the pebble hitting a tree, or the soft tear of it ripping through leaves.

    All of a sudden, the face of a monkey appeared in the tree where Zali had thrown the rock. It screeched in something that sounded almost like laughter, before turning around and darting back into the forest. Just before it vanished from sight, though, it spun around once more, and Zali's pebble flew with alarming speed and accuracy to strike her in the middle of the forehead. She flinched, letting out a faint yelp of pain, and when her hand dropped away from her forehead there was a small dot of scarlet blood marring her forehead. "I'm going to turn that thing into a hat," she said, rather coolly, considering the moment. She took off into the forest.

    Much to her surprise, the monkey seemed to be following a path, or something like it. She supposed it wasn't all that unexpected. Animals had to traverse this island as well, no matter how odd it was, and that would create paths. Soon enough Zali fell into a rhythm, darting through the forest like a deer herself, leaping over roots and hurtling around trees in desperate pursuit of the monkey. She could hear Kyan behind her, and didn't feel too much concern for her choice to leave the creek. It wasn't as though it had been getting them anywhere, and she somehow doubted that was going to change any time soon. If she was going to die on this accursed island, she was at least going to have a nice new hat to decompose with her corpse.
  14. Kyan kept close behind her, a knife ready in his hand. His muscles ached and his breath soon got heavy in the stuffy air between the trees. It was nice to get out of the stream, but the jungle wasn't really much of an improvement. He was tired and just wanted to lie down somewhere dry. It had been a long day, and a very, very strange one.

    This was not at all what he had expected when they had arrived at this place. From all the legends and dangers they had heard, the last thing he though they would be doing was getting lost in a jungle and chase monkeys. He was starting to think that the only dangers here were the dangerous waters surrounding the island, and if you happened to survive that, you would die of thirst and hunger as you got lost in the jungle.

    That did however not explain the moving branches, but he was still willing to excuse that with being dehydrated or something. Another thing that ruined his assumption, was the animals. Rock throwing animals… Anyway, they had to get water and food somewhere, or there wouldn't have been any animals here. Maybe the stream had been safe to drink after all, but honestly, it scared him a little. A stream was suppose to lead somewhere, just like trees were suppose to have a top.

    He shook his head a little to get all the crazy thoughts out of his head, slightly frustrated at himself for getting stuck at details that most definitely had a natural explanation. Anything else wasn’t possible. His family had never really been that into religion, and he had never looked at himself as a superstitious person. He didn’t belive in anything he couldn’t see or touch, and even now that he had booth seen and touched something strange, he still had trouble believing it.

    «Can you see anything?» he asked, to get his thoughts over on something else, and stretched his neck while they ran, trying to look over Zali’s shoulder. All he could see were trees, trees, and hey, more trees. The tales of there being a treasure here hidden somewhere, seemed more and more like a stupid fairytale the longer they ran.
  15. It felt like they were once again suspended in time. The sound of her feet pounding against the ground as she darted around shrubs and tree trunks seemed to synchronize with her own heartbeat. She knew she was moving, she could watch something in the distance steadily get closer as she pelted after the monkey, and she could feel the beginnings of a burn in her side from running at high speed for so long. Yet it seemed as though the monkey had neither gotten further away from her, nor closer. She found herself starting to wonder whether or not this was an illusion, or something of the like, and she was chasing after something that didn't really exist. But, she also had to believe, if that was the case, Kyan would have stopped her by now.

    Indeed, all of a sudden, and only moments after Kyan spoke, the monkey veered wildly to the side, vanishing between a gap between two massive trees. Zali put on another burst of speed, determined not to lose the creature after they'd come so far, and hurled forwards through the gap in the tree.

    Or, at least, she tried.

    It felt like there was something sticky filling the gap between the trees. Something membranous and strong. Even as she struggled, trying to pull herself back out of it, she felt it wrap more firmly around her, until she was completely enveloped in it. And then... and the she felt herself begin to get lifted off the ground. She couldn't see what was around her, all she could do was stare straight ahead with wild eyes at the face of the monkey, which was grinning at her in amusement.

    "Kyan!" she cried, half in desperation, half in warning. Zali heaved her arm wildly to the side, trying to grab on to a branch that was passing only inches away from her hand, but the limb didn't move even an inch. She felt the tip of a leaf brush the back of her hand and wanted to scream her irritation at the world. But it seemed like the more she struggled, the tighter whatever it was that was holding her got.

  16. Sweat was pouring down his back and his knees were about to give in any second. After walking for hours, this running didn’t do him much good. Every muscle ached and his lungs were working on full capacity. Quick and heavy breathes which struggled to take down enough of this humid air, unlike the fresh and salty one he was used to. His head was pounding and the throat burned, and the lack of water definitely didn't help.

    He was ready to give up, and about to tell her to do the same. She could make a hat out of a monkey some other time if it was that important to her, since they clearly weren’t going to catch this one. It knew the jungle much better than they did, and it was probably just toying with them now. But, just as he was about to open his mouth and tell her to stop, she suddenly bolted to the side.

    Kyan sped up to catch up to her, and when he rounded the corner, he was met with a very strange sight. Zali was standing completely still, mid run, as if time had suddenly stopped. Like a wave frozen in mid motion. He stopped as soon as his brain managed to take in what was happing in front of him, right before he ran into it too. The abrupt holt almost made him trip and dive head first into it anyway. It being the thing that held Zali.

    At first it had at looked like there wasn’t anything there, that Zali was surrounded by nothing but thin air. But as she started to struggle against whatever was holding her still, he saw something glimmering, and the more she tried to move, the clearer he saw it. It looked like thick ropes or vines, or maybe more like tentacles, that wrapped and coiled itself around every limb and body part. It was almost completely invisible, like something between water and air.

    He took a step back as it started lifting her up into the air. His eyes widened, and if his heart hadn’t already been beating fast from exhausting, it would have done so now of fright. “Zali!” he called back and pulled out his sabre. If it really were vines, he could cut them, right? He lifted his arm high, and with all the strength he had left, he swung the blade at the empty space under her.

    The space wasn't empty, because he hit something. Something hard. A painful jolt shot up his arm at the sudden stop, making him groan slightly. He tried to pull the sabre free, but it only gave half an inch before it stopped. Almost if someone was holding on to the other end. Then he saw the same strange thing holding Zali, swirl itself up the weapon. He let go just in time, right before it would had reached his hand. The sabre then shook a bit before it was dropped to the ground. He hesitated a heartbeat before he quickly bent forward and snapped it back up.

    “Zali, I’m coming for you!” he yelled up after her while he placed the sabre back in his belt. Then he ran to the closest tree and gave it a skeptical glance before he decided to just hope for the best, and grabbed the lowest branch. Not waiting to see if the invisible thing would try to reach him here, he started climbing up after her. “Calm down, I’m coming up!”
    #16 Ashlio, Jan 30, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2016
  17. "...Good!" There wasn't really much else for her to say in the moment. She didn't dare stop moving, afraid that the stuff that was holding her rigidly in place would continue to crawl up her neck before covering her head, but her thrashing did lessen somewhat. Whenever she felt it begin to crawl up her neck again she would kick wildly, her motion briefly halting it's progress. The last thing she wanted to have happen was for it to cover her face and slowly suffocate her. She wanted Kyan up here, now, but she must have been very high up in the air for it to take so long for him to each her. She wished that she could look around enough to see how far away he was. Instead, her eyes seemed stubbornly glued to the spot, or at least near it, where the monkey thing had disappeared.

    She was no longer particularly interested in making a hat out of the monkey. It wasn't so much that she'd forgotten the desire, as it was she no longer believed that the most critical thing about that monkey was how lovely it would look as a piece of clothing. No, the most critical thing was how it had run her right into this. Now that Zali had slowed down, she realized that, in all reasonability, the monkey should have vanished from sight just as soon as it finished throwing its rocks. It shouldn't have used a path that would enable her to follow. Most importantly, it certainly shouldn't have veered to the side at just the right moment to lead her into this. There was no denying it. That monkey had just led her into a trap.

    Which meant, perhaps, "monkey" wasn't the right word for it at all. No monkey could have done that.

    Zali thought back to the eyes she had seen in the bush, to the lizard that had been impaled on the end of her knife, to the strange, bothersome sensation that they had constantly been under observation the whole time they had been trying to get back out of that creekbed. She didn't like the conclusion she drew, but there really wasn't any other conclusion to draw. The creatures on this island, whatever they might be, were as cognizant as she and Kyan were.

    Which meant, now, she was nothing more than a rabbit in a trap. It irked her.

    "Are you here yet?"
  18. Kyan struggled a bit with getting up the slippery tree, but at least the branches weren’t moving around and disappearing this time. When he saw Zali had stopped rising, he tried picking up his pace a bit. Who knew what the next thing the invisible power was planning to do. Because it did seem like it had some kind of mind, the way it had been trying to reach for him too. He feared it might try to crush her completely, or drop her, or something else completely horrible.

    “I’m here, I’m here,” Kyan almost gasped when he finally reached her level. With not a second to waste, he wrapped his arm around a vine for security and then leaned out as far as he managed, even standing up on his toes to make himself reach longer. He still didn’t get to her, but there was only a few inched between them now. “Shit… I can’t reach you. Can you wriggle free? Try to relax your muscles, it makes you slimmer.”

    He looked around while he talked for some magic solution to appear, but he couldn’t see anything that might help. At least the thing had stopped moving her, and it now seemed content with just holding her. But why bringing her up this high if only to stay still? And what was it? At least the rumors about the place started to turn out to be true though, but he didn’t exactly feel happy about it. Now he just wanted to get Zali free, return to the ship, and leave this horrible place. No treasure was worth this.
  19. "I can't," Zali said, teeth gritted in frustration. She still couldn't see Kyan, although from the sound of his voice he was directly behind her. It was somewhat reassuring, although she didn't have the faintest idea what he was going to be able to do to help her. "Every time I stop moving this stuff climbs further and further up my neck. If I hold still for too long, it'll smother me. "

    She was already starting to get tired. The sprint after the monkey had worn her out, and now she was in a state of having to perpetually struggle against this... whatever the hell it was. She was getting worn out, panting for breath. Already it had crawled so far along her neck that she'd had to tip her head back to keep it from crossing over her chin. If it climbed much further, it would cover her mouth. After that it would only be a few more slips on her part before it covered her nose. And then...

    Well, at least "killed by supernatural substance" sounded better than "death by dehydration and starvation".

    For all the knowledge that she was facing death, Zali didn't regret coming to this island. She'd always believed she'd die young, that at some point she'd end up over her head, and would pay for her mistake with her life. She'd never allowed fear to halt her before, and she certainly wouldn't let it happen now. What she did regret, though, was that her foolishness was likely going to end up dragging Kyan down with her. Oh, he'd always known the risks, known what being her friend meant. He'd followed her anyways. That didn't make her feel any less responsible. This adventure had been her idea, after all.
  20. Well, that’s not good. Kyan looked around, up and down, desperate for some hint to what he could do. The helplessness he was feeling was threatening to push him into a state of panic. Usually he managed to keep a cool head in pressed situations like this, but it was cutting it close now.

    He climbed up a bit further, still holding on to the vine, and after pulling a bit on it to check that it would hold, he kicked off from the tree. The vine held, and he swung over to the other side of the clearing. It went better than he had expected, and he grabbed on to a tree and found some footing without too much struggle.

    Now he was able to see her face, and he climbed up so they were on the same eye level. Once again he tried reaching out to her, but there was no use. She was just out of reach. “You have to do something!” he said with desperation leaking into his voice. “Or do you want me getting all the treasure for myself?”

    He focused on the thing holding her, the tentacles slipping in and out of view as it moved. It seemed to have calmed down now, and didn’t seem intent on crushing her or anything, but more just… holding her. A trap sat up to hold the prey, not killing it. Which very well meant that someone could be on their way to check on it, and he really didn’t want to meet the person who was capable of putting this up.

    “I don’t think it’s trying to crush you, it would have done that by now then,” he said, watching it closely. The arms were coiling around her, but he could only see them when she moved, meaning when it moved. As soon as she stopped moving, it stopped and turned invisible again. Like a snare that got tighter the more you struggled against it. “It stops moving when you do. What if you… What if, instead of trying force your way out of it, you try slipping through it?”
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