Seven well-spaced trees stand quietly in the dark mist of the jungle's depths. Standing, in a hidden order wrapping into a tight line, curving into a hook formation that only a bird's eye could see. These trees, while seemingly like any others, have a hidden secret... And all that remains of their lost history: two parallel diagonal slashes and a sharp curved hook looped over, to form what an English-speaker would say was like half an "A." It seems this omen, for whatever reason, has existed in peace. Never to be disturbed, never to be seen by foreign eyes, it stayed there on these same trees.
Years passed, seasons speckled the jungle's floor with unceasing rain and heat, and the symbols slowly melded into the bark, hidden from most human eyes.
As luck would have it, though, the last of the trees, the seventh and largest of the group still preserved some of it's carving's previous shape. However, only those most foolish would come thus far to prove this prologue wrong.
Why is it, when you least expect your parents to be useful, they actually are? And then, at that exact moment you realize this, you are miles and miles away from them, lost in some deserted jungle in the depths of the African Safari?
Oh, wait. That's just me.
I don't even really understand how this all happened. One moment I was fine, trundling along in my caravan tour, led by one of the local natives (Mummy and Daddy couldn't make this trip-as usual), the next I'm being dumped on the soggy, and may I say filthy ground with nothing more than a few screams of "Amehzonnia! Amehzonnia!" from the men.
Some travel guides they are.
My main guide, Whahemia, seemed to have gone berserk, yelling wildly, pulling at my new kaki safari suit. I was pushed to the ground, in an attempt to run, by the men. From what I could tell, they saw some silly tree with a mark that I could barely see myself-probably some knot similar in the shape of the late King Edward, who's old face would frighten anyone...
So there I sat, plunked on the ground, helmet and all. (I had just recently purchased my outfit at the heeding of the latest catalogue from Harrods's "New Fashions for Adventure.") I stood up, slowly, dusting off my jodhpurs, in an attempt to meet the eyes of an incoherent tour guide.
Normally, I would not lower myself to such selfish and silly things as the European decent into Overseas Imperialism; that was so 1880's. But I figured it would get me some attention from Mummy and Daddy if just for once I suggested where we went on holiday. They were fine with it-a little too fine with it if you ask me.
As soon as I proclaimed my idea it seemed I was on a boat liner with a one-way ticket to a tropical forest. While a little annoyed at my parents' overwhelming care to shove me off somewhere far away, I realized that this was a chance, my chance, for discovery, for new beginnings, and adventure-
However, it seemed that I was to be faced with a screaming man, a run-away tour group, and a very thick, very muddy jungle.
I tried to explain to Whahemia, calmly and rationally against his constant cries of "AMEHZONNIA!" that we were nowhere near the Amazon Rainforest, quite far away in fact, being on a different continent and all.
Hadn't he ever read National Geographic? Whatever his geographic-educational background, the hatchet-wielding bumpkin would hear none of it.
I suspect his screams would've deafened any tree-carving threat nearby our little convoy.
With a final shove to the ground, (it seems that I was prolonging his turn-and-flee plan) I fell, once more, and landed on my rather sore backside, again.
However, this was not going to dissuade me. I could easily make my way back to the campsite. No problem, whatsoever.
Dusting off my helmet, and jodhpurs for the last time, I grumbled at the silliness of it all. Why on earth would four grown men run screaming from a tree? Not only that, a tree that obviously had a bad case of bracket fungi. Well, that is, save for one spot.
I stepped forward and inspected the bare area to see a crusty version of what looked like a hook with two jagged slashes across it.
Ugh. How primitive.
I was unable to identify its origin. Standing there, staring at a tree a little too closely for one to be called sane, I accepted my luck and stepped back to begin my arduous trek. The same one that a moment ago I had just made with whom I thought to be experienced travelers.
However, the more I walked, the more it seemed that the path had been lost once more, thanks to the local flora and fauna. Night was coming on quickly and I soon realized I was in for a sleepless evening, trundling towards, what I had hoped was my original starting point. A distant cry could be heard from up above-a bird perhaps? And a rustling seemed to constantly beckon from within the brush, obeying the slight breeze flowing through the leaves.
I didn't stick around to see what lovely animal the jungle would pop out for me, and blindly made my way towards (as I hoped) the fleeing men.
Lord, why is it always me?
"You, are a disgrace to the Order, Tar'airah."
"Yes, Grandmother Thea," came the quiet reply.
"I believe it has been nigh twenty-one years since your birth has blessed our earth. And now, after all our teachings, our efforts to guide and protect you have been rejected," the old woman spat the last word with indignation.
"N-no, I would never reject-"
"And to think! Over such a silly trivial thing!"
"I would not call killing a trivial thing-"
"The Brehzenia Trials have been in our community for hundreds of years. It's a tradition we cannot, nor will not replace due to one girl's impudence," came the overpowering reply.
The younger woman stayed still as it seemed her opinion was worthless at the moment.
Like every moment...
"I cannot stress the trouble I've gone through to protect you, child."
The girl looked up at this, tears forming behind them, finally the woman's voice held what it's original motherly tone.
"You no longer can be left under my control. Your twenty-first year should be a joyous right of passage, not a death-sentence, you know that."
"I cannot keep saving you, every time you shy away from us, Tar'airah." The grand old lady, with body-length gray hair, stepped down from her bone-and-skin throne, and cupped the chin of the young blond.
"If you cannot... if you cannot adhere to our values, you cannot live here. Please, I do not want to loose any of my granddaughters to tradition," the old woman pleaded quietly.
"Then give me another chance!" The girl burst out, surprising even the heavily robed sage.
"I have given you chances." She replied slowly.
"I don't qualify giving me an extra week to think about murder-"
"Now is not the time to get snippy with the one person that might very well save your neck," the Old woman chided. Tar'airah stayed silent. It seemed she was lost either to the fury of her sisters, or the disappointment of her grandmother.
The old lady gathered her purple, green and blue robes and slowly ascended to her throne once more. The blond girl sat on her one cushion in a bowing position, waiting for her sentence.
"You have two days," she began.
"Two-" Tar'airah looked up sharply.
"TWO days, and then we shall see where you stand in Brehzenia's heart. Do not disappoint us, else it will be the axe for your young spine. You shall be escorted by your bed-sisters, Fa'aithlia and Buf'aneah."
That was one comfort. The two girls she had grown up with would not be as harsh as some of the other tribe warriors had been.
"From your bed to cell, they shall guard you against your sisters. In confinement I hope you find a solution to your...problem."
"Do you have any questions?"
A silence enfolded the women. The younger woman slowly asked in the tiniest voice she could muster.
"May I b-bring my journal?"
The old lady sighed. Even in the lowest confinement, the thing that would keep her granddaughter content was a leather-bound pouch of handmade paper, crafted by none other than herself. It was a birthing gift.
"Please." The lady whispered.
The young girl inwardly nodded, accepting the one gift. She knew her exit had come, and so stood, bowing solemnly. Reaching for the cloth covering the entry to the hut, she turned slightly at the soft voice once more pleading with her.
"Do not give into fear, Tar'airah."
"That is what I'm trying to do."
With that the girl left the hut and found two sets of downcast eyes, on either side of her.
"Well, take me to it," she huffily said, walked forward, regardless of her "guards'" wills.