Saturday, May 23, 2009

Chapter 12 - The French Arrive

The French heard about Zimdar by eavesdropping on the telegraph cables like the rest of the European powers. Their Navy was immediately interested in establishing a coaling station for their vessels on Zimdar. When word of the fantastical discoveries started coming in, the expedition was expanded to include a scientific team.

The expedition is led by Captain Armand d'Hubert commanding the cruiser Surcouf. The senior military officer is one Gabriel Feraud, commanding the marine and armed sailor contingent. These two hate each other, a situation arising from a series of duels that their grandfathers and fathers fought during the Napoleonic era. Capt d'Hubert takes a rational approach to the organization of the expedition and keeps his berth on the Surcouf while he billets Feraud on the troopship Herimone, besides the Herimone sails like a drunken sailor with gout and there is every possibility that Feraud will have a massive case of seasickness. The Herimone is carrying the Marines and small arms for the sailors as well as two Gatling Guns purchased before leaving. The French Marines are using this as a field trial for the Gatling Guns. The Herimone is also carrying the mechanical parts (boilers, propellers, nuts and bolts, etc) for the construction of two small river steam launches in addition to the one complete river launch it is carrying on its aft deck.

Just before sailing from France the Chief Scientist for the expedition was badly injured when set upon by thieves. How fortuitous it is that a replacement was found almost on the expedition's doorstep. Dr Emile Sinisterre is a strange and dark little man that tends to have a sneer permanently painted on his face. He also tends to mumble to himself. He is not liked by anyone, but due to schedule he is selected to join the party.

Finally the expedition sets out and after making landfall on Zimdar, they spend a few weeks searching the coast line for a likely spot for their coaling station. One of the desires is to be near a mouth of a river so they can use their launches to explore further inland. They finally find just the place, set up camp and begin working to build a permanent station. Their settlement is indeed near the mouth of a large river and that has a large marsh off to the southwest. The marsh is the home of millions of amphibian animals including frogs. After several days eating the delicacies offered by the marsh and some rudimentary cooking, they gladly christen their settlement "Jambes d' Grenouille".

Chapter 11 - A Glimpse of Germans

...meanwhile, back in the Fatherland...."Zo you zay zis, zis, X-matter allows things heavier zan air to float", the Kaiser asked in disbelief. "Ya", his aide replied,"it iz found is zis new land called Zimdar". The Kaiser stared at a model of his latest Dreadnaught sitting on his desk. Then he got an idea. An awful idea. The Grinch, er, Kaiser got a wonderful, awful idea.

[[[ Flash ]]]
Report from Agent J. Francis Gardner of Her Majesty's Special Services ...10th of June at secret German Military Base on North Sea..... Dressed as a German Marine Private, I snuck aboard the SS Keonigsburg while at dock and witnessed the following bizarre experiment: The ship sailed approximately half a mile out to sea and stopped. We did not, however, weigh anchor. Instead the group of high officials, including the Kaiser himself, and scientists went down into the hold. There a largish rock of black, irridescent material was bolted with metal straps to the hull. One of the new electrical generators was attached. When the switch was thrown, electrical energy surged through the rock. What happened next was amazing,. The ship actually began to.........Message ends here. Agent Gardner's body was found a week ago outside Paris. Foul play is suspected.

Chapter 10 - The Jewel of Myhohotep

Legend had long expounded on a jewel of magnificent size and beauty that had exhibited extraordinary powers. Over the ages the jewel was rumored to imbue the owner with traits that matched his or her personality and desires. It was said these powers could be transferred to inanimate objects and these were then controlled by the owner of the jewel, but that was never clearly described. Thus, over the millennia, the jewel had been used for good and evil. The last reports of the existence of the jewel were over one hundred years old, and it was assumed that the jewel was lost forever. Its name was Myhohotep.

Professor Archibald Swithington had made landfall on Zimdar some months before, and after a fabulous reunion with his daughter Sarah had become engrossed with exploring this strange sub-continent. The flora and fauna was a strange mixture of pre-historic and modern plants and animals. Each of these assumed their own particular niches in the food chain and natural pecking order.

Exploration of Zimdar uncovered vast resources of minerals, including the strange X-Matter substance that could defy gravity when exposed to electricity. This discovery alone made Zimdar a target for subjugation. On one of his many wanderings, Swithington discovered a pyramid in the remote regions of Zimdar. Actually, if truth be told, all regions of Zimdar were remote. During the initial discovery of the pyramid, Swithington and his party were accosted by several groups of natives that chased his party away from the entrance before he could determine how to enter the structure. He was determined to return to the pyramid, gain access and explore it. Who knew what could lay within? There certainly would be archeological treasures inside.

Swithington made his plans and with his faithful guide Nocshee Azih gathered some of the toughest Askari together to return to the pyramid. The plan was to return to the area at dusk, slip into the valley during the evening and get inside the pyramid. This plan was predicated on the belief that the natives of the area would be too superstitious to be anywhere near after the sun set. The plan worked to a point, Swithington and party were able to return to the pyramid and gain access to it. Swithington had worked quickly, he had made a rubbing on his previous visit and had time to study it.

Once inside the pyramid, Swithington was amazed by the amount of ancient artifacts that he found, He ordered his men to begin packing the gold and jewels in various barrels while he examined some of the more esoteric treasures. The pyramid was a tomb that contained two sarcophagi and appeared to be Egyption in nature. One was much smaller than the other, possibly for a child. However, before Swithington could open either for a closer examination, his attention was drawn to the skeletal remains of a corpse in the corner of the chamber.

He had been killed by a spear through the heart, but that was not had grabbed the Professor's attention. Around the dead man's neck was a necklace, it was a simple setting of gold wire holding the largest and most flawless ruby he had ever seen. It was the length and breadth of his thumb and shaped like a faceted teardrop. When he saw it, the ruby was an acquiescent dull red, since very little light was being collected in the gloom. As he approached the ruby, he sensed a pulsing resonance beginning deep in the crystal. It must be his imagination. He was drawn to the jewel as if he didn't have control of his own volition. The nearer he got the brighter the ruby became, and he realized it was pulsing in rhythm to his own heart beat. As he reached out to touch the ruby, he became aware of another, much larger crystal, lying on the floor and covered in dust. It too was pulsing to the rhythm of his heart but in counter-point to the ruby. It was hard to see the large crystal pulsing, it was almost like it was pulsing between a visible ebony and an abyss-like darkness. The large black crystal was huge, easily three foot long by one half foot in diameter. It would probably weigh one hundred pounds, maybe more. A sense of foreboding came over Swithington as he stared at it. Wrenching his gaze away from the black crystal, he returned to observing the ruby and again was overcome to reach out and take it from the neck of the corpse.

As his hand closed over the ruby, he had the sensation of a jolt of electricity throughout his body. All his senses became heightened as if he could hear the smallest whisper or see as an eagle. He also became aware of the vastness of the dark jewel which was now pulsing in parallel with his heart and the ruby. The internal crystalline lattice of the stone was immense, if he let his mind drift he could detect lattice inside lattice. There was a seemingly endless matrix structure to the crystal. He felt he could reach out through the ruby and then through the dark jewel and move mountains. He was ecstatic; he could do anything, crush any enemy, and grant any wish. It was incredible, it was rapturous, and it was…too momentous. What would his sainted wife Grace have said to have fantasies like this? Reluctantly he released the beautiful gem and returned to himself.

This thing, this jewel defied imagination. He needed much more time to study and a safer place in which to do so. He ordered that the black monolith be packed carefully, in a small barrel. He wrapped the ruby in his handkerchief and stuck it in his rucksack. Once it was safely tucked away, he turned his attention to the other contents of the pyramid, and began carefully packing other items of note. This went on for several hours and as they finished and began the transport of barrels and sacks out of the structure he realized that it was daybreak. At this point his carefully laid plan failed miserably. As his heavily encumbered group exited the pyramid they were met by an eerily quiet valley; a sense of being watched was prevalent. Then suddenly the drums started, first off to the north and quickly answered from the south, east and west.

Swithington shouted to all to scatter and make their way back to the camp. Precisely at this moment a hail of arrows pelted the ground around him and his Askari. Two were killed immediately, spurring the others to follow his orders with elan. Scatter they did, going in whatever direction that seemed to lead to safety, barrels and bags were discarded in attempts for more speed. The professor lost track of the barrel with the dark stone, but was too preoccupied with saving his own neck to worry about it. He and Nocshee made a beeline toward the South-East hugging cover whenever possible. As they made there way out of the valley they managed to avoid anymore serious encounters and returned to their base camp relatively unscathed. As the day passed and his men slowly returned, which delighted him, he grew more and more despondent about the lack of barrels and archeological treasure accompanying them. Swithington set about bandaging his men in a perfunctory manner. He was preoccupied; ruminating about returning to the pyramid and recovering the Jewel. He could still feel it, way off in the distance, beckoning to him. He and Nocshee sat by the fire, late into the evening discussing possibilities for recovering the Jewel.

Chapter 9 - Hunt the Big Green Pig

From the journal of Chester Flapjowls – London Post Gazette

These inadequate words must suffice to describe the mixture of fear, excitement and anxiety that all of us felt while engaged with the denizens of a certain mysterious valley in Zimdar.  Local villagers had told quite the tale of a valley that was loaded with gold and other potential riches.  They also told of the native’s beliefs that the spirit of the God of Death haunted the valley.  Snort had promised he would send help to cleanse the valley of this danger.  He owed them his life.  Lord Swithington had insisted that samples of the “rocks that float in thunderstorms” be brought back for examination.

We arrived in the Sweesweesh village about mid-day, and after talking to the chief it was decided to wait until dawn of the next day to enter the valley.  A native named !Tix!Tax was “enlisted” to be our guide.  The night was spent by the villagers in front of a roaring bonfire dancing, singing and shouting brave insults at the valley entrance.  As dawn broke, !Tix!Tax, wearing a death mask, led us to the entrance of the valley.  He was quite impressed with our mechanical steam powered woodchopper, and its two huge axes.  Little did he know that this infernal contraption was a cobbled together collection of ill-fitting parts reclaimed as part of the HMS Drake salvage. 

As we started into the valley, the Woodchopper died and wouldn’t restart.  It was stuck right in the middle of the entrance gap with just barely enough room to pass it on either side. As the group squeezed by the silent machine, our attention was caught by the lure of obvious gold deposits in the mountains to our right and a mysterious multi-colored ore in the mountains to our left.  There was a heated debate about splitting our forces or not.  That decision was taken from us by an act of fate.
Amidst a tapestry of swearing, and a truly virtuoso performance it was, Mechanic 1st class Burt Genneve managed to repair the Woodchopper and it roared to life.  It lurched forward straight into the heart of the jungle. People scattered left and right to avoid the spinning axe blades that were felling palm trees with one cut.  As the Woodchopper was cutting a swath into the primordial jungle, it disturbed and enraged two nests of snakes.  Snakes swarmed in every conceivable direction. They  attacked several of the men while some slithered deeper into the jungle.  As the men reacted in panic the expedition party was driven further and further apart. 
Brains Sweeny, Gils Chadbury and  Louis Smythe-Scott swept to the left firing their weapons at the snakes. They dispatched several but not before Chadbury was bitten and wounded by one.  The mechanic would not leave the Woodchopper and his best mate Marlin Cuthburt stayed close by. They did their best to defend each other from the hoard.  The very superstitious !Tix!Tax took this swarm as an evil omen and ran for his village.  Steven Dekopp, Nathan Rosefelt and Alan Lawsfree were forced to the right. 

Dekopp,  Rosefelt and Lawsfree spent several anxious minutes killing the snakes that swarmed beneath their feet and around their legs.  It was touch and go for a while, but finally the last snake was dispatched.  Just as they relaxed, a small snake hidden in the brush struck at Marlin Cuthburt.  To say this delicately, a full venom load was deposited into Cuthburt on the opposite side of his posterior.  Sadly, he did not survive the extremely painful attack.

Meanwhile, out on the left, sounds of breaking brush and fierce trumpeting were heard.  As they turned to face the sounds, a very angry large green animal burst into the clearing.  The three stood frozen in disbelief as a green sailback dinosaur fixed them with a malicious stare and bellowed a challenge.  Brains Sweeny was the first to awake from his trance and hastily brought his rifle to bear on the Sailback. The round wounded the Sailback but did not kill it.  The situation for Sweeny was tense; the beast was truly berserk and raised its tail for a final slashing blow.  

At that precise moment the Woodchopper belched a large cloud of steam and lurched forward with axes spinning.  With a roar, the Sailback turned and charged into the Woodchopper!  Slamming into its side, the Sailback’s three tremendous tail spikes pierced into the steam lines and control cables of the Woodchopper disabling it.
As Chadbury moved in to help protect Sweeny,  Smythe-Scott took the opportunity to head for the multi-colored ore.  It was the most unusual looking rock he had ever seen.  All the colors of the rainbow shimmered in each nugget.  As he bent down to pick up some of the material, an explosion knocked him off his feet and covered him with dust.  He picked himself up and carefully reached for another piece of the ore.  A strange shadow crossed over him and another explosion blasted nearby rocks and trees to flinders.  Smythe-Scott again just barely escaped.  As he raised his gaze upwards, an unbelievable sight, straight out of the stories of Aladdin, greeted his eyes.  A flying carpet was hovering directly over him!  A little wizened old man wearing a turban was lighting the fuse of another bomb to drop on Smythe-Scott’s head from the perch on the carpet. 

The little snake that had felled Cuthburt was evil incarnate.  It made several strikes at the mechanic.  It was so quick that Burt Genneve could not get an accurate shot.  The little snake was positioned so that he could not get back to the disabled Woodchopper in order to effect repairs.

About the same time as the Sailback bellowed its challenge at Sweeny, Alan Lawsfree spotted a tremendous gold deposit on the far right.  The nuggets were large and just laying on the ground.  He absently noted several birds circling overhead but ignored them as Gold Fever struck full force.  He hurried forward to gather the loose nuggets.  Dekopp screamed a warning as one of the “birds” stooped on Lawsfree at tremendous speed knocking him to the ground.  He couldn’t believe it but a Pterodactyl had just attacked him.  As he scurried for cover he realized that there were four Pterodactyls in the air, orbiting around a nest perched high upon the mountaintop.

Dekopp joined up with Lawsfree, both grabbing a few nuggets before scurrying for cover at the base of the cliff.  Dekopp was convinced there were eggs in the nest and was determined to fetch one back for Lord Swithington.  They started up the spine of the mountain and noticed that the Pterodactyls were highly agitated but the reptiles were diving on something that was deeper in the jungle.  This was their chance to grab an egg.  Unfortunately, as Dekopp and Lawsfree reached the top of the mountain one Pterodactyl noticed and dived on them. Dekopp was knocked from the rocky precipice and plunged to his death hundreds of feet below.  Alan shot and missed as the beast turned its attention on him, a quick dive and sharp snap of its jaws marked the end for Alan Lawsfree.  Rosefelt fired at the reptile, wounded it and drove it off, he decided to leave the nest and eggs alone.  The Pterodactyls were still screaming at something that was deeper in the jungle, but Nathan could not make out what it was.

!Tix!Tax was so ashamed of himself, that he turned around and reentered the jungle.  As he did, Chadbury took careful aim and shot the Sailback through the neck killing it.  Almost simultaneously, !Tix!Tax killed the nasty little snake with a shot from his hunting bow.  Genneve immediately raced to the WoodChopper to see how badly it was damaged.

Another bomb exploded just behind Smythe-Scott, knocking him off his feet one more time.  He and Sweeny both took blind shots at the carpet, just to force the occupant to take cover.  As Smythe-Scott ran for cover, Sweeny took one more shot at the carpet.  It quite simply exploded, vanishing in a cloud of carpet bits, coiled wired and pottery that rained all over the jungle.   Both men gathered up as much of the ore and debris as they could carry and headed back to the village.

As Chadbury looked around, he saw the alluring shine of gold and headed for it.  As he got closer to the ore, Rosefelt screamed at him to look out. But it was too late. The big green pig had arrived and its attention was fixed directly on Chadbury.  It was indeed a huge T-Rex, green in color, with bright red eyes.  It charged Chadbury, tail whipping, feet smashing and rending the earth.  

It bit at Chadbury many times, and slashed at him with its short forelimb claws.  It was miraculous, Chadbury was lithe and agile and avoided all of the attacks, even managing to get a shot or two into the beast himself.  A pterodactyl struck at the beast slashing a deep wound in its back.  But the T-Rex whipped around and with one mighty bite, yanked it out of the air and bit it in two.  

In the midst of all this Rosefelt had been shooting round after round at the beast but to no avail.  He only had a few rounds left and had to make them count if he was to save his friend.  He steadied his rifle in the crook of a tree and took most careful aim at the T-Rex.  He didn’t have much time.

In an attempt to save himself, Chadbury was trying to play dead, just under the massive jaws of the Tyranasaurus.  Just then the Woodchopper belched into life again and lurched toward Chadbury and the dinosaur. The startled T-Rex whipped around to face the new threat, just as Rosefelt squeezed the trigger and shot it dead through an eye.  In what seemed to take an eternity, several tons of green dinosaur meat collapsed to the ground directly on top of Chadbury, crushing him to death.

For Rosefelt, Smythe-Scott, Sweeny and Genneve it was past time to get out of this valley.  But they would be back.  With heavier machines next time...

Chapter 8 - Findings

Sarah awoke with a start, slowly remembering the events of the day befoe as if she was living a dream.  As she looked around the lodge, she realized, it wan't a dream.  Several young women were looking back at her, nervous to the point where they did not blink.

Sarah smiled, and slowly stood,  her quest was not complete.  She had to find her father and Reginald.  The light that filtered in was dim, but it highlighted the doorway.  She walked toward the door, and the young women moved out of her way.  As she stepped out into the daylight, Pitrok was waiting.  He smiled and motioned that she should follow.  As she smiled her understanding, his eyes lowered and his smile more tremulous.  He offered her a panther's claw that had been made into a necklace.  

Now Sarah had a problem, what did this gesture mean by his beliefs and customs? Was it friendship, betrothal, marriage, a shared warrior bond?  She just didn't know.  She looked at him and trusting to luck accepted the gift.  She promptly put it on, and he laughed and put a matching one on.  

Pitrok then motioned for her to follow once again.  He led her toward a large building in the center of the village.  It was festooned with images of hunting gods, weather gods, fertility gods and what could only be spirit gods.  Pitrok took her to the entrance and motioned her in, but he was not allowed to follow.  As she stepped into the chamber, it took a few seconds for her eyes to adjust from the bright daylight.  

"You are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen."  said a deep gravely voice.  One that lived in Sarah's soul.  Sarah's head whipped around, and she focused on a supine form that was newly scarred, battered and bruised.  "Sure took you long enough to find me."  Snort raised his head and gave her a wink.

Sarah instantly transported to his side, there was never any recollection of movement. One second she was at the entrance, the next she was in his arms. They kissed passionately and then slower, softer, lingering.  Sarah was crying, softly repeating "I knew you were alive.." between each kiss.

"Why, hello Sarah, do you have anything saved for another?  Although I do realize that an old man is not as handsome as your young one."  Prof. Archibald Swithington looked down at his daughter with a huge grin on his face.

Sarah looked back and forth between the two men that were pivotal in her life. She smiled, she glowed, she dazzled and she cried.   All was right with the world.

The Panther's Gift

The end arrived quickly, the panther was killed almost instantly as the spear transfixed its throat.  Pitrox spun involuntaraly as Sarah's bullet ripped through the meat of his left calf.  Sarah, unhurt,  looked down and tisked as she realized that the panther's claws had torn a four parallel rips in her best skirt.

Pitrox was holding his leg and looking at her wide-eyed.  His end was coming,  he began to chant to his God's.  He hoped they would listen.  Hearing the chanting, Sarah looked at him and smiled.  It wasn't one of her dazzlers reserved for Reginald, but it was close enough.  This young man had just saved her life.  She noticed that he was bleeding, and frowned, irritated with herself about the moment of vanity and regret for her skirt.

Pitrox felt an immense weight lift from his shoulders when she smiled. Maybe he would not die this day after all.  He was still nervous however and wanted to return to the village so the healers could fix his leg.  Even if he did endur the leaches.  An involuntary shudder ran up his spine.

Sarah approached slowly, she stopped when he moved, and came closer when he was still.  She smiled again, Pitrox blinked back, but remained motionless.  She continued to close the gap. The distance was finally comfortable.  She gently extended her empty hand, palm up.   She looked at the young man and smiled.

Pitrox had watched her approach and gradually his fear diminished. When she extended her hand, he paused and then slowly touched her palm with his fingers.  He looked at her and smiled also.  A tenuous trust was born.  

Sarah looked down at Pitrok's calf and pointed. He shrugged as if it was no matter, yet the blood flowed.  She frowned and pointed for him to sit. It took several tries but he finally got the idea.  Sarah looked at the wound she had caused. She was relieved to find it was only a flesh wound.  She reached for her belt pouch, and opened a little jar of salve.  As she applied it to the wound Pitrok had a quick intake of breath, but this was much easier than the leaches, so he relaxed once again.  

Sarah looked at her skirt, tore a small patch from it. She allowed herself just a small shake of her head. She applied more salve to the patch and put it on the wound.  She then reached up and took off her sun helmet.  Pitrok eyes widened in amazement,  he had never see a woman with hair so red and eyes so green. Surely this was an angel sent here in answer to his prayers.  

Sarah took the green sash off the sun helmet and wound it around the wound.  It created a very serviceable field dressing.  She smiled and opened her canteen.  She took a drink. She offered the canteen to Pitrok. He smelled the contents and then drank glady.  Sarah donned her sun hat again, and stood.  She quickly scanned the area for the trail she had been following earlier.  It was not to be found.  

Pitrok had a problem.  He approached the dead panther and removed its claws and teath.  Big magic that could not be left behind.  However it was getting very late and the jungle was no place to be after dark   It was obvious that the woman did not understand the dangers of the night out here.  He clicked his tounge at her, and then gently touched her arm.  When she looked up, he motioned to follow and took a couple of steps. He motioned again, took a few more steps and motioned again.  Sarah smiled and began to follow Pitrok.  Pitrok walked steadily toward his village, his leg barely hurt.  He was sure it was the magic in the soft green cloth wrapping his wound.  Maybe the Elders would know what to do with this angel woman.

It was late when they arrived at village,  many people had already taken shelter for the night.  But a few came running to talk to Pitrok.  They stopped short as Sarah came into view.  Pitrok talked to his villagers describing the events that had happened.  He showed the panther's claws and teeth, and to the marvelous green cloth on his leg.  One of the village leaders arrived and told Pitrok to find lodging for the woman in the single womans quarters.  It was too dark now,  everything would wait until the morning.

Chapter 6. - Sarah Picks Berries

Sarah was a little worried when she woke up that morning.  Her father was more than a trifle absent-minded, but it was not like him to be out of touch for several days. She had to do something calm and productive to soothe her nerves.

She quickly dressed into a long flowered skirt, tan blouse and her trusty boots. She wrapped a green sash around her sun helmet. Finally she checked that her revolver was loaded and belt knife were firmly in place. She stepped out of her little thatch covered shack and began to look for Reginald.

Much to her dismay, nobody had seen Reginald for several days either. It was time to do some chores and take her mind off her two favorite people. She asked around the camp and got a general diretion of where they had gone a few days before. On the pretext of picking some berries, she made her way out of the little settlement following the creek deeper into the jungle.

She did find a nice berry patch and picked a handful to break her fast. She filled her canteen in the cold rushing little brook. As she got a little further away from normal settlement debris and muddied trails, she started looking for her father's rather distinctive footprints.  His right foot tended to point inward quite a bit. She lost track of time.

"Has anyone seen Lady Sarah?" asked Private Ian Baird of the 213th Worchestshires. "She has been gone several hours and I cannot find her. The Sergent-Major will have my hide if anything happens to her."

"She told me she was going to pick berries, but that was several hours ago." replied Alicia Dorne, wife of Corporal Thomas Dorne. "I never saw her return though, she was following the creek inland."

Roughly one half of a split second later, Private Baird had gathered his rifle,canteen and some provisions. He shouted at two of his mates to follow his trail as quickly as possible.  He set off following the creek, looking for signs of Lady Sarah. Within about 5 minutes his buddies had caught up with him. and the trio began a search in earnest

Sarah had found some tracks that could have included her father, they were several days old. However it was the only lead she had, so she decided to follow them a little further. There! This time she was positive her father had come this direction. With little regard for caution, she moved forward, tracking the barely dicernable markings. The creek was now well behind her as she moved inland. The light was becoming became more murky as she went further under the jungle's canopy.


Pitrok had been following the panther's track for some time. It was very frustrating because this creature was proving to be so elusive. It had killed one of the villages prime stud bulls and it must be destroyed.

Moving silently forward, he heard the low deep rumbling growl of the panther. The animal had stopped moving and was staring intently at something just out of Pitrok's vision. Pitrok took the opportunty to dip a spear in his deadly frog venom pouch. A very quick death awaited the target. Quietly, oh so quietly, Pitrok stalked closer and closer to the panther.

As Pitrok moved closer, he could finally see what had caught the panther's attention. He had never seen anything like this before. A hard cone shaped shell, flying a green banner, topped a red head with a white face and green eyes. Obviously female, her body was dressed in some sort of two piece gown. White hands and arms protruded from the top of the gown. At the waist several accessories attached. One that he did recognize was the belt-knife. Pitrok could not understand why the goddess or maybe a witch had not heard the panther yet. Her focus was only on the ground in front of her.


Sarah heard a rustling in the underbrush. She looked up and several things seemed to happen at once. She noticed a small tattoed dark skinned man holding a spear. She noticed a panther in the act of pouncing directly at her. And she noticed that time seemed to have slowed to a stand still. She pulled her revolver knowing that it would be too late.

The panther was in mid-leap, the spear was in the air, and Sarah pulled the trigger on the revolver. It went off with a great roar.  Time froze.

Will Sarah survive? Is the superstitious Pitrok friend or foe? Why had she not been aware of the panther earlier?  Her father had taught her survival skills better than that.   Stay tuned.