9 comments

Adventure Fiction Suspense

Slap.

Another gnat’s buzzing had ceased, though a swarm of them flitted to pick at each wanderer’s eyes. 

Shwick.

Bruggs smeared the remains of the miniature corpse into his prickly, sweat-drenched jawline. Beside him, Jekkis swung his machete in a downward arc to clear an oversized leaf flung back at them by their leader’s progress.

Both men eyed the slight woman five paces ahead. The mauve feather in her hat proudly waved atop a waterfall of curly black hair; a mask meant to coerce them to carelessness. It wasn’t the flintlock pistol at one swaying hip and the sword at her other which kept them at bay.

“This be a mission fer fools,” Bruggs said in a hush. He spat out another whizzing insect which had sought refuge from the jungle humidity in the deceptive darkness of his mouth. A bitter flavor was left behind.

Jekkis raised a filth-crusted fingernail to his lips, pulling back another few paces. “Keep the farce ‘ntil the summit, ‘n that treasure’s ours, mate. Mark me.”

A vine swatted Bruggs’ forehead, and he tossed it behind him. Above, a gentle rain pattered from a passing touch of gray just barely visible through the reaching canopy of indeterminate foliage. The echoes of frogs and fowl draped around them like a blanket. Each step carried them farther from their comrades and beloved vessel moored in a pristine bay. By now, under the guise of cowardice for the task, their mates had likely uncorked the rum to swig in their captain’s absence.

“She’s mad,” Bruggs said. 

“Aye.”

“Got the fever ‘o the unsettled. Ye saw ‘em. Those faded maps none could read but her. Books in forbidden tongue with images ‘o”—he swatted a lizard off his shoulder—“beasts not ‘o this world.”

“I saw ‘em.”

Whack. Shink.

“Then what madness bade only us follow this wench who reads? Unnatural, that.”

Jekkis cleaved through another wall of vines their captain had drifted around as though her body was constructed of mist. She caught his eye over her shoulder. A nod was shared between them, hers accompanied by a smile that made Jekkis shudder.

Jekkis said, “The sword’ll see to ‘er afore the sun sets. Then all’s ours.”

“If this treasure be more than spewings ‘o a mad lass.”

“I believe’n it. My pap once told me.”

“Yer pap,” Bruggs said, too loud.

A faraway memory rang through Jekkis’ words. “On the isle of beasts, pace northwest up the uncharted mass, ‘n the treasure ye seek stands—” The rest of his words were stifled by a gasp prompted by a monkey squealing overhead. It swung away, dropping leaves as it went.

Bruggs held his tongue. He raked his mate with the same look he had before given their captain. Mumblings of the mad may see them all eaten by whatever beasts the island concealed; furry or scaled. 

“Keep up, boys!” the captain yelled to compete with a calling parrot. A disturbed squawk and the flick of rainbow wings drew the eyes of the men. When nerves settled, they continued their slogging.

Bruggs shuddered into his ragged pants, thinned by weeks at sea. His boots landed askew upon some slithering creature.

Shunk.

Jekkis beheaded a formidable snake en route to fasten its fangs on his partner’s ankle. The gesture shook the hulking leaves, spreading beads of trapped liquid over the men.

Bruggs inclined his head in gratitude. The motion sent his soiled dreadlocks over one shoulder. 

An unfamiliar cry snuffed out the chanting of the known; thick as if pulled from deep within the rumbling throat of a riled predator.

Ahead. Straight up the trail forged by their captain. For a thick-as-soup lungful, the men eyed each other. The same unspoken question traveled between them.

“Kill her now to draw the beasts to fresh blood, or let her bait them at the front?”

If she fell now, could they alone find the treasure amidst the screeing and crawling? Jekkis shook his head and trudged onward. If luck revealed her golden grin, they would reach the summit of this weed-choked hill unscathed. Whatever beasts lumbering by could prey upon the teetering mind now thirteen paces ahead.

Before the sun set, the two men had sworn to be less one captain and gazing upon the glittering gems of sea kings long past.


***


Rovia slipped through the final stretch of jungle as if the area had grown to accommodate her lithe form. A twist here, a duck there. Light sliced through the thinning green like the sword she had yet to require.

She knew her two underlings struggled behind and stifled her amusement at their audible grunts. Her knee-high boots served her well, keeping her feet dry and pace steady.

Though droplets from the dissipated cloud clung to her locks and soaked through her shirt, she picked her route with reaching steps among the scent of decaying fruit. Her arm slid just out of reach of a poisonous bush who’s lavender flowers gave it away. The image of warning had been clear in her research of the surrounding islands.

If she squinted, she was certain the bones beside a thick trunk of mimosa belonged once to a human. Smiling to herself, she kept the knowledge inside. Her panting from the steeper incline worked in time to her steps.

So they call me mad. So they jeer when shown my back. Your wisdom propels me, grandfather. That legend of old will find my hands.

And when the final barrier of white-veined leaves was parted, there stood the foretold clearing. Rovia’s heart jumped to her throat. It was all present as written.

The gleaming pool fed by drips of nature…

The craggy concave wall, too steep to scale…

The cave obstructed by tightly wound vines…

And the final clues imprinted in the dirt at the mouth; those which would go unnoticed by her fine, greedy escorts.

Rovia banished her elation when the hacking behind her ceased. Seven paces saw her to the middle of the clearing and out of reach of the murderous weapons in the grip of each man.

Jekkis displayed two missing teeth in full force when he emerged from the brush. “In the cave it be?”

Rovia gave the man a coy nod, her hands nowhere near her own weapons. Appear defenseless and daft. Draw them close.

Bruggs fought his way out of a tangled weed to stumble beside his comrade. Both men were slack-jawed upon sight of the enticing darkness where any notable pirate would stash their worth. Intent gleamed in the blades they wielded.

His courage restored, Bruggs said, “Gratitude fer the route, lass, but yer leadin’ days be done.”

Jekkis watched Rovia with wary eyes. The confidence in her posture made him pause. She knew something she wasn’t ready to share. For now, he allowed Bruggs to take the lead.

A flicker traveled through Rovia’s eyes. “You grieve me, boys. I was hoping to share.” Fool them. Wound their pride. “Glazed eyes can witness no treasure.” She drew her pistol, aiming it with a smile.

“Mad, wench,” Bruggs said, gaining a step. “Ye be lacking bullets. Two on one with the sword is yer lot.”

The pistol fell from her grip, her smile never wavering. Smother their confidence.

Jekkis took a step back. An inkling of fear touched his gaze.

Rovia said, “Recite it with me, Jekkis. The final portion. You know well of it.”

Turning, Bruggs said, “What’re ye on, mate? We’ve but to take ‘er out!”

Quivering lips preceded Jekkis’ words, his focus pinned to the woman in front of them. “The treasure…ye seek stands…”

Bruggs said, “Quit yer mad mumblings, Jekkis!”

Rovia’s voice joined with Jekkis’ to complete the clue. “…beyond the blackest depths. Call and it shall hear. Kneel and it shall respect. Offer then your tribute.”

Upon the final spoken word, Rovia trilled high into the clearing; a haunting song from deep within her chest. The echo of her voice reverberated off the stony walls, darting into the cave. Among the fading call, a growl answered. It grew in volume alongside scraping stones and rumbling steps.

Bruggs backpedaled into Jekkis. Together, the two solidified upon sight of a massive, scaled snout poking through the vines. Nostrils flared with the whoosh of inhaling breath. A jaw lined with sword-sharp teeth opened to unleash another purring growl.

Without turning, Rovia kneeled in place. Her hands lifted and pointed palm-up toward her underlings.

Jekkis knew he must kneel but couldn’t call forth the courage. Warmer moisture soaked his loins. The full form of the creature, much taller than a man, pushed its way through the mouth of the cave. Bruggs screamed and turned for the cover of the jungle. A roar propelled the creature forward.

An easy snap of jaws bisected Jekkis across his middle. Two halves fell to the ground twitching while the bulky form pursued the desperate screams.

Rovia waited in her place; still kneeling in the damp flora, head still bowed until she was certain Bruggs would bellow no more. Crunching and waving boughs scattered a flock of birds. Then, all nearby was silent save for the whisper of leaves against a burly form.

The creature returned with graceful stride on its clawed hind legs. A tail balanced it with motion like that of an alligator paddling through water. Panting drew the creature nearer; audible breath projecting the scent of blood and death which dripped in solidified form down its chin.

“At last,” Rovia said, lifting her gaze higher to meet the creature’s. “My living treasure. Do you permit me?”

Even her body trembled with reverence when trapped under the slitted, reptilian gaze before her. The brown and black patterned hide was every bit as exquisite as her treasured books had conveyed; too tough to be slain by bullets or heed the sting of a sword.

Rovia reached out a hand, waiting.

With a dip of its head, the cool snout touched her fingers as lightly as a lover’s caress.

November 08, 2020 00:11

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9 comments

Liza Anne
02:49 Nov 09, 2020

I think that what you're trying to do with this story is the classic, outlandish pirate story mixed with female empowerment. Is that right? I really like how you describe the environment and that the story immediately takes you to this tropical island, I could practically feel the humidity. If this is a female empowerment story, the internal dialogue might not be necessary. We can already tell that the two men aren't particularly clever and that she is our protagonist. The internal dialogue gives away what you are about to do and that tak...

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Lydi B
16:15 Nov 11, 2020

Ah, good points to consider when it comes to inner monologue. Thanks for this! It was indeed meant to be a "female in a male dominated world", and I tried to slip in some facts about the times—mainly how the men thought her mad for being literate.

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Liza Anne
19:16 Nov 11, 2020

Yeah, I appreciated that. There’s a tendency, is modern day writing, to gloss over those kinds of historical facts.

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Tom .
19:09 Nov 17, 2020

This was an entertaining read. A lot of stories submitted for this prompt are very cliched and trying to think of way to say this kindly, very bland. Your story was inventive and an enjoyable read. A lot of people have mentioned it should of all been the same POV. I disagree I liked the change. The only comment I could add is the pirate speak. It is sort of a given with this type of story. My problem with it is if you have two characters speaking that way you naturally concentrate on deciphering the speech. This makes it hard to different...

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Lydi B
21:47 Nov 19, 2020

Well hey, I'm glad you enjoyed this and were thoroughly entertained! Thanks so much for the feedback about the pirate speak. Clarity is a vital piece for stories to unfold. And hey, I'm glad the POV switch wasn't too staggering. I appreciate the comment and will pop over to your latest story to do the same. Cheers.

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Rachel Macmorran
19:42 Nov 14, 2020

Well done! The setting and characterization were detailed and complex, and although I didn’t mark it during the first read, I agree with the excellent comments below, that maintaining a Rovia-centric POV would lend a better continuity to the voice. I would also love just a touch more information about the beast at the end—is there anything that makes it a treasure beyond just being unique, even mythical? A lyrical flamboyant work—well done! I’d love your eyes on my story if you have the time. Thanks!

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Lydi B
14:54 Nov 15, 2020

Thanks so much for the kind comments! It's helping me grow as an author to see how I can improve my stories. I'll definitely read and drop a comment on your story as well.

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10:37 Nov 08, 2020

This was a cool concept, the idea of the treasure not being of the kind we or the two pirates have come to expect. There are just a couple of things I'd like to point out, both related to point of view. The first one is that I wasn't quite sure whether the first part was from Bruggs' point of view or from Jekkis'. The were a few sentences that made me think it was one way or another, so was left unsure. You don't always have to have a point of view of one of the characters (could be omniscient), but your second part is clearly from the capt...

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Lydi B
13:43 Nov 08, 2020

I truly appreciate your detailed reply. This is the sort of feedback I was hoping for. I can see your point on all areas mentioned, especially with the POV. Keeping it consistent would be a better method in this case. And hey, I'm glad the jungle read as thick and daunting as it felt in my head, hah.

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