Today’s 25% excerpt – where I post an excerpt beginning at the quarter point in one of my stories – is from ZIMAYA HEIGHTS, an action/adventure fantasy novella. Hope you enjoy this dip into a foreign jungle:)
Four hours later, the boat chugged toward the shore. It was fighting a fast current, and even its powerful engine whined in protest. The Maia split at this spot, the main channel going south and a minor tributary going east. As Gant and Will were going east, it would seem ideal to continue on that channel. However, the eastern tributary was not navigable due to the increasing current as the river pounded over rocks as it fell toward a waterfall.
Gant and Will quickly clambered over the side to the safety of the shore, and the boat’s crew tossed their belongings after them, before the boat pulled away and moved clear of the rough current and out into the wide, safe channel heading south.
Gant collected the two packs and handed one to Will, who huffed as he got the heavy pack onto his back, making sure the straps across his chest were securely fastened.
Gant shouldered his own pack and then unrolled the third bundle from which he removed two leather belts, strapping one around his waist. On one hip there was a scabbard containing a khaira, the long, wickedly sharp, wide-bladed knife; on the other hip there was a holster in which there was a small pistrala. He also took out a long barreled pistrala, commonly known as a rala and fitted the two halves together. Next, he turned to check on Will, reaching to make sure his straps were fastened properly.
“I know how to secure it,” Will said, twisting away from Gant.
Gant raised his hands in surrender. “Fine. I just wanted to make sure you’d be comfortable.”
Will sighed. “Sorry, just nervous I guess.” How could he tell Gant that he was afraid if the man touched him again he might just touch back? He had been so tempted in the early hours of the morning when he had awoken to find himself spooned up behind Gant, his groin pressed up against Gant’s ass. It had taken all his willpower to edge away when all he wanted was to press closer. Will was indeed nervous, but not of the trip they were embarking on, rather of the increasing temptation Gant was becoming.
“Not to worry,” Gant replied, “You’ll be fine.”
“Sure.” Will lifted his eyes and met Gant’s serious gaze. “Yes I will,” he added firmly. “Pass me the belt.”
Gant did as he asked. Will fastened the belt, settling it comfortably about his waist, and then he removed the khaira, studying the jungle blade, noting it was a little shorter than the style his father preferred. Will had never used one in the wild, but his father had shown him precisely how best to wield it for the most efficient clearance of the heavy foliage. The uninitiated tended to swing widely, exhausting the user to no better effect than a measured strike.
Then he saw Gant looping a strap over one shoulder. “Do I only see one rala?” Will asked.
“Yes. You’ve got enough to carry without one of those as well, and I know you’re accurate with a short pistrala.”
Will didn’t look too happy, but all he said was, “I see. Lead the way then.”
Walking steadily behind Gant as he moved away from the river and into the jungle, Will watched how the man rarely used the khaira, and when he did he made very economical movements, just as Will had expected.
Of course, they were only beginning to venture in the jungle proper, and though it was already hot and humid Will knew it would get worse. Will decided thinking about that wasn’t going to help; he was going to experience it for real soon enough. It was more constructive to watch Gant, Will decided. Watching Gant’s easy grace was no hardship for Will; he was so caught up in following the man’s hypnotic movement that he almost missed it when Gant suddenly halted. Will stopped only inches behind him.
“What is it?” Will asked, having enough sense to keep his voice low.
Gant put a finger over his own mouth, indicating that Will should be quiet. At the same time, he slowly unhooked the long rala from his shoulder, but he didn’t cock the weapon yet. Gant was clearly listening, and Will copied him, also scanning the surrounding area to try and discover what Gant might have heard. It was difficult to see very much, the jungle wasn’t as thick here as it was farther on, but though the canopy was higher it also made the light very muted. Will’s hand hovered over his pistrala holster.
Then, Will heard it, a slight rustling sound, faint and perhaps moving away. He glanced at Gant and found the man watching him. Will nodded, trying to indicate that he had heard something, and then he frowned to admit he wasn’t sure what he’d heard.
Gant smiled. After another minute or so, he said quietly. “It was an animal, too far away to be sure exactly what, but it wasn’t one of the big felids. One of the larger mammals to be sure.”
They moved on again, Gant going a little slower. The farther into the area they moved, the more uncomfortable Will felt. The temperature was rising, as was the humidity. Moisture dripped from the Jumaira trees surrounding them, the water collecting in the large, flat leaves until the weight of it bent the leaves downward and it poured out in a constant trickle.
It seemed as if even the air was getting thicker. Will was breathing heavier with each step now, and he wished that Gant would call a halt. However, he was determined not to ask. He didn’t want Gant to think less of him because of his lack of skill.
As if reading his mind, Gant said, “I know you’re finding it hard, but we’ll stop soon.”
“Stop where?” Will asked, with a distinct wheeze. “There is hardly room to turn round in here.”
“True, but the canopy is opening up just ahead,” Gant gestured to prove his point. “We should be able to make camp there.”
“But it’s still light. We could go on for a little longer,” Will said.
“I could, Will, but this is enough for you on your first day.”
Interrupting, Gant reminded Will, “You agreed to follow my direction, Will. I said it is enough, and it is.”
Will acquiesced. The truth was he was exhausted and desperate for a drink. He wanted nothing more than to collapse where he stood.
Gant was true to his word, and in less than ten minutes, they emerged from the heavy undergrowth into a small clearing where the creepers, myriad wild flowers and other jungle growth had a good hold. At the center of the clearing was a rough hillock that was a little less overgrown. Both men were relieved to drop their packs. The area was rocky, and Will was curious at the sudden change in their surroundings.
If you want to know what happens next you can purchase the book from the following sources:
Amazon Kindle: http://tinyurl.com/8f7dc8m
For more information about my work please visit my website: http://steviewoods.com
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