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Black Jungle

Where are you going?

By Willem IndigoPublished 3 months ago 9 min read
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Black Jungle
Photo by Tim Oldenkamp on Unsplash

Black Jungle

I thought I had seen the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life. Young as I may be, I’ve combed the tired beach of my home of a freshly lost battle, washing to shore for coin to eat off of. How appalling it was to watch a coach run in flames, the owner’s whereabouts unknown, locked to two exhausted horses, choosing a cliff to fix their unfortunate circumstances. Take today. I came across the heads of former comrades posted at the entrance to the fork side that I wished I had time to look closer at before trying to lose my pursuers. That I did, if not immediately on the reputation of the path of Noir Libertalia, the three that stayed on my horse’s ass dropped out in screams faster than I can swear I’m going. Trees creaked like they were discovering applause as I tried not to consider that some of those branches were bones. And I must admit that the severed foot that landed in my lap, boot slid away before the foot; the worst thing I’ve ever smelled, of course. No. The worst thing I’ve seen was a minute ago, which was my horse’s ass shitting itself, fading into the fog-laced trees without me. Lost in the coldest part of the night; what a night my thievery has led me into?!

Whispers filled my ears beyond my ability to laugh. My attempt was met with mockery, distorted and stretched, and repeated to fill the air to halt my lung function. For the first time, I was forced without so much as the moonlight to constitute the most non-threatening way to stand and gather my bearings. I couldn’t have gone the several kilometers that it seemed. The hint of starlight played red rover with the flush leaves so I at least know which way is up. The high yellow dirt trail I rolled off of and stumbled back to gave me the left and right. Whispers bled into snickering to ooze out of my ear. Front and back appeared the same. It cut me off from a branch, arched two inches above my head.

“Where are you going?”

I was spun in all directions with my dagger unsheathed, no direction unswiped by my blade in under a minute for over a minute. “Who speaks; who’s there?! Do you jest?” As my ignorance was humbled, the tunnel was now at my feet, a few feet taller darker inside than the rest of the forest. It didn’t matter if the tree line tightened around me. The reorientation of where my footsteps lay how, without turning around, me facing them head-on did nothing for my confidence.

“Where are you going?”

“This way?” I said. My voice cracked, and the shame went down in a dry gulp. In my first couple of steps, I launched into a frenzy of swings. Those low-hanging branches did a number on my hair, and prayed that this—place didn’t take such offense. It wouldn’t prevent me from pointing my blade at everything. Everything included webs waving in the howling wind and dead leaves crunching under my feet when roots rose to the occasion, ironically keeping me on my toes only to fumble over myself time and time again. I couldn’t prove it, nor could I prove the turns I couldn’t track. As glimpses of the moon peaked through, putting shadows on my list of stabables, I became lost in the unintelligible whispers; I tried a new strategy. “Do—do you know where I’m going?”

“What fortune do you seek?”

My delirium had hit a fever pitch; my ride had been too long. Curse my remarkable ability to lose my enemies. This did not increase my confidence. The act was a stroke of terrified silliness and—and it’s taking direct notes from my nightmares. Only enough woods to reach cliffs that don't align with the position of the north star or the terrine that never climbed. No deviations were allowed, as difficult as that was to admit. Even the vermin’s scurry ceased in grinding crunches in the holes in the ground betrayed by their homes. Eyes—eyes demonstrate the forest’s inpatients betwixt tree trunks in their distance apart. I kept passing the same tree but on opposite sides of me. LD is the only way I'm keeping track, can't say of what. Am I hearing those growls, or are their hellishly pitched rendition part of this fatigued de—

“What fortune do you seek?”

The moment I attempted to excuse myself from the enclosing array of twigs and crusty fauna into a cyclone of coordination disruption, permanently held in the wind’s embrace, a root swept my side-stepping feet. My advances away matched its jutting toward me in moments; I could confuse the spiral as a bombastic human outline. Its continuous twister was malleable to the environment effortlessly on the heels of my crawl to the base of a gigantic tree, which was suddenly the primary purpose of the trail.

“You run from your fate, you run from your home, you run from your fortune. What do you seek?”

Its claim to my history rings alarm bells, but as this night continues endlessly, to protect will only prolong this fracturing fear. Does it know of my crimes; does it know of Catherine, I thought?

“Yes.”

“Then—then I seek a life with her and the riches she deserves—to give her all the love in my heart, as much as she can stand.” Whistling wind whimpered to rustling leaves creeping to a silence, a stillness. Petrified is no longer enough. “I don’t ask this of you. My life in the morning would suffice. If the way out—”

“The debt shall be paid.”

Seventeen years prior….

Pirate hunting has never been for layman peasants, and L’mar Duvalle was one of the reasons why. Getting your hand on a sword won’t equip you for the brutality that desperation lends to the swash-buckling career path. Rulers of the land plunder take it upon themselves to hire or employ the armies to protect their people, using lucrative motivations to keep the bounty hunters hungry for fame and glory. Salinopolis sat off the coast enough that the problem of pirates involved espionage rather than impromptu sieges. They’d fool the navy and make ground in the village just off the river, having committed the greatest crime if you consider stealing from King Ruiz and literally making off like bandits, never releasing hostages. Captain Nate, however, went through a string of bad luck that eventually washed him, L’mar, and the crew on the beaches of Brazil. It was a bounty hunter shooting gallery that L’mar barely survived. The call was out; the pictures were drawn, so he vanished inside the Avery village as a beggar.

With a 10,000 R$ reward, the hood never left his head. It’s hard to swim with too much gold wrapped around his waist, but what he managed got him a blade to shave with and some clothes without questions. They'd never find the rest without him. Captain Nate talked of a plan before the sinking from books with odd symbols, yet he knew signs that he or much of his other crew shifted their motivations to honest work beside a blacksmith for the lack of notoriety. He never felt home too far from a blade of his own, and the trade was in high demand for one tired, fat blacksmith not to take on an eager apprentice. Several months passed, with his pictures of the last of his mates left, at least the ones he hadn’t taken down in the night yet. He may have missed a few over the six months, but once Rosita, the executioner’s daughter, stayed off the curious eyes of his once-hated mortal enemies, he’d let the progress in his craft speak of his innocence.

Olive was around two when L’mar felt comfortable ‘healing’ his fake limp. Their passion grew for each other and flourished throughout the village. He agreed that Rosita would be the last to know of his past and his future was the family. This peace would last as long as Milo, the peasant, couldn’t find proof to share with the King. That day was six weeks after Oliver’s second birthday. To keep his family fed during the winter months, L’mar sailed out to the site of his captain’s sunken ship for an emergency fund he seldom showed to the light of day. It was marked beyond the blood it was forged in. One dropped coin sack, and L’mar saw fit to plan his escape the King’s hold, take his family further inland where eyes were less suspecting. However, a single dropped coin of Spanish gold caught Milo’s eye. Wanted poster tucked in his waistband; his hunger pains were no more, he thought. The loss put L'mar in a frenzy, chasing him to the King's doorstep until realizing going any further was counterintuitive. That night, Milo’s life was snuffed by Rosita with a dagger to his throat, but it was too late, and L’mar and the blacksmith’s steed dashed into the night.

The chase led to the jungle tree line where L’mar planned to escape them by morning, losing them all near the jungle except the shot from the royal guard struck his back and sat where his ribs shattered. He could still lose them amongst the unkempt fauna. A once favorable tropical storm is now a new reason why, whether they find him or not, this would be his final resting place. “Rosita, protect our son. May the Gods grant you the strength I wish I had.” He clawed into the brush until the root floor opened to thick trees to hide behind. By the sword on the hip, he’d keep them here; he’d be the only guilty man they hunt tonight. The terrain kept the guards falling in one by one, but even this was not enough to aid his combative proclivity; their armor was too strong. At least he wasn’t going down alone, but they were closing in with the wind’s intensity. Then, the whispers began.

Cornered in front of a great tree trunk, he lunged the best he could with his arm wrapped around his side. Swinging and slashing, the guards and bounty hunters laughed and teased, with their prey weakening before their eyes. He got a jab at Commander Feliz’s eye, but the rush that followed left him falling on his back between two thick roots.

“Further.”

“What?!” L’mar’s distraction cost him a jab in the chest. He couldn’t feel the sword clenched in his hand. It would be released no sooner than his death. Clangs disrupted his grunts and growls, trying to hold on to what little strength he had. However, now, it appeared that the predators were noticing the rolling fog was stealing sight.

“Further.”

“Dying delirium rots me; that’s it.” Yet he followed without hesitation; I must be damned to a gruesome fate, he thought. The trunk was a gaping chasm five feet top to bottom, but beyond that, it was utterly perplexing. The trunk above his head breathed two to three feet, with the darkness inside reaching out with vines. He turned to his sword-cladded enemies and saw one less swordsman and another swinging violently at the air as the mist overcame him. The four remaining continued slowly into the ripened ground of splattered root systems, splattering him limb from limb. It seemed the whispering was only disorienting him but never quieted. He’d turn around again as if before ever happened and face his enemies to be vulgarly slaughtered. His back reached the base of the tree again like his trial skipped time in the notes, his head just beneath the bottom of the tree. One grizzly death after another, he theorized, but how could that be? “You die here. Do you see? Do you yield?”

“If it saves my son,” he proclaimed loudly, “so that he may never know such pain, I’d yield to anything.”

A scream from the back of the pack vaporized as quickly as it started. L’mar reached back to prop himself to his feet; his arm entered the hole now with an eerie familiarity. The following split second lasted an eternity. Too fast to understand, too strange to believe, too jarring to keep his eyes from bleeding tears. The four men’s approach halted during L’mar’s twitchy fit and his growing scream. “It’s too much. I shouldn’t know this—I’m not supPOSED KNOW THIS! AHHHHHHHHH.”

His sight returned to him, starting with seeing himself puke on his shoes. All that stood, in a way, was the one-eyed commander who looked as if the ground beneath had reached up and clamped onto his ankles to sink him chomp by chomp of mushy, muddy, crunchy dissolution. Sunk him slow enough to watch whatever causes a thigh to be disconnected from the hip and knee and plasters a mustached face onto a tree prior to his own suffocation. I won’t be there in the morning.

“Further.”

“But—”

“Further.”

“Right. His name is—Oh, you know.”

MysteryFantasyFable
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About the Creator

Willem Indigo

I spend substantial efforts diving into the unexplainable, the strange, and the bewilderingly blasphamous from a wry me, but it's a cold chaotic universe behind these eyes and at times, far beyond. I am Willem Indigo: where you wanna go?

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