Chapter 8 Duck

~Back at the campsite~

I just hope Roxton can help Marguerite. That must have been some nightmare! I know I am new to the group and everyone thinks that I am chatty, oblivious at times, and innocent; but, I am actually more intuitive than what most of them think (all but Marguerite). She has this ability to see right through you, or so it seems at times (kinda creepy). Her "rough exterior" (Challenger would be happy with that word) is her "self-preservation mechanism" (again Challenger would be proud, ha), but if you can look past the "exterior" you see a woman that has been beaten down by the "society" she lived in before coming to the plateau.

Vee often makes comments about the changes Marguerite has made over the three years she has lived here as if she is trying to defend her to me. Little does she know and the others that Marguerite and I often have late night conversations because we both do not sleep well when our demons visit our dreams.

I can say now that I know her better, I trust her with my life, but at first I thought she could see my motives to just use them in order to survive. New Amazonian has one rule "survive any which way you can," and in most cases that means sell out anyone if it means you live. So, family did not mean that much to me, I know I had a mum and dad, but they died when I was very young.

As I look around the small campfire I see a new family. Challenger the father figure to all of us, Vee the wise yet innocent sister, Malone the brother who grew-up, Roxton the older brother, and Marguerite the distant yet loving big sister. Again, Marguerite is more the action type not the verbal type … in actuality its quite funny if you think about it … she can lie to your face and not even blink … BUT then she will turn around and shoot a raptor to save your life and then check you over just to make sure you didn't get a scratch. Yeah … the others are learning slowly, except Roxton and me, that Marguerite really does have a heart and her blood bleeds red. You just look at her with Mari and you see it. She still has a shield to protect herself but with Mari she is all heart … AND now with the baby and the knowledge that Roxton is Mari's father (what a twist … ONLY on the plateau!) her love for Roxton is now showing too. Roxton and Marguerite are not old enough to be my parents, but when I see them with Mari, I get that warm fuzzy feeling I use to have when my parents were still alive … so I will do anything to help them stay alive. It seems the rule of New Amazonian is starting to take over here …

"Finn!"

"What Challenger?"

"I've been addressing you for the last two minutes. Are you okay, you were in a bit of a daze?" asked a concerned Challenger. As both of them slowly scanned the campsite for trouble or possible attackers that would cause harm to their "little family."

Before Challenger could ask Finn supplied, "Yes, I was just thinking about all the sudden changes to our "little family." And if you are wondering Roxton, Mari, and Marguerite went that way looking for wood and food I believe. A little bit of family time before everyone else wakes up."

"Ah, I see. Yes, our "little family" has had some interesting changes in the last few weeks, and it looks like we are in for a lot more changes still. I have a hunch Finn that our journey to Avalon is not going to be easy."

"Yeah, starting with that turtle over there!"

"I heard that and I am not a turtle I am a lizard who is more superior to you!" exclaimed Tribune in a groggy sort of way as he slowly become conscience from his great night sleep (he did not have a watch). Veronica and Malone had also begun to stir from their light slumber upon hearing Tribune's protests.

All the travelers' eyes roamed over each other to size up the situation at hand. The tree house occupants were wondering if they could trust Tribune and his followers. They knew they could trust Tribune more so because he looked at this situation as a means to secure his future, however, one of his followers may hear about the bounty and take it upon himself to turn them in to Malick. The spell was broken as Roxton, Mari, and Marguerite emerged from the foliage.

"We have some berries for breakfast," stated an excited Mari. She went to Finn (her new hero) and Challenger to share her portion, while Marguerite went to Veronica and Malone, and Roxton ventured over to Tribune.

"How thoughtful, Lord Roxton, I'm glad someone in this camp still cares for me!" Tribune added in a snarky voice.

"Tribune, we may have our differences and yes we may not be the closest friends, BUT you have provided us with information that has put us on alert and also may have saved our hides for now. We could have been sitting ducks because we were unaware of the bounty Malick has placed on Mari's head. So … I for one thank you for that!" declared Roxton. Tribune nodded his head in acknowledgement and started to consume his food in stunned silence, for once, due to Roxton's continued humility and honorability. Roxton then went to join Marguerite.

The small group ate their berries and dried meat in silence for five minutes as other lizards began to enter their camp. Roxton and Veronica immediately noted that some of the lizards were licking blood off their lips. They must have dined on a small dinosaur or other creature of the Plateau. Once Tribune was finished with his breakfast he divided his lizards into four groups, each group to flank a side of the small group (i.e., one in the front, in the back, and then on both sides). He also instructed them to give the small group space (i.e., to give them a 10 feet radius on each side so they didn't feel crowded but also so he could keep an eye on them encase one of them became a traitor). He also knew the tree house dwellers would be on high alert as well for anyone who would betray them.

Once the small family had finished eating they quickly packed up camp and waited for Tribune to rejoin them. Silently they all agreed to push their pace much faster today. They all knew time would tell if they made it to Avalon in one piece. They needed to find Summerlee's waterfall ASAP to keep them all safe especially Mari. Roxton pulled Tribune over to tell him that the pace would be faster than normal and Tribune then gave his men orders to keep up.

The small entourage began its journey to the Zanga village and hoped to reach its gates by night fall. Veronica took the lead, with Malone following next and Challenger trailing behind him. Next in the group came Tribune who took the middle and Finn right behind him with a little shadow not too far behind her. That left Marguerite and then Roxton as the caboose. The small groups, of adults, were silent and the only noise being made was Mari humming a tune of Yankee Doodle Dandee that Malone taught her when it was just the two of them.

Haha, Shorty is humming Yankee Doodle Dandee that taught her during our return to the tree house last week. Or should I say I sang and she listened. Hmm … A twig snapped a few yards away from the small group and had all of them drawing their weapons, but Tribune signaled the all clear and Veronica and Roxton slowly lowered their weapons making it known to their family, Tribune was right.

This is just horrible! I can't believe this, but wait, we are on the Plateau where there is never a day without some kind of trouble nearby, but why does it have to be Mari! A bounty, really? It's unbelievable! We are making great timing and George is actually not sketching out a map right now, he must feel the tension too in the air! It's almost as if something is lurking just outside of our reach. I can tell Veronica is tense and she continues to scan our surroundings.

It's too quiet! Come on Malone be resourceful, you've been on your own! Listen to the wilderness like you've learned over the last few months. Listen … wait! Mari isn't whistling anymore. She's moved closer to her mother as if she senses something as well.

Just as Malone realized Mari had moved closer to Marguerite an arrow whizzed by Challengers head as he stumbled over a rock! Everyone in the small group darted to their left for cover as arrows and spears started flying from the right. Tribune's lizards also ran for cover as well. The only cover around them were small boulders and trees.

My goodness that arrow nearly penetrated my skull. Had I not stumbled over that rock its owner would have been successful. Alright, assess the situation. Finn and I are behind a boulder, Malone and Veronica are behind another smaller boulder to our left. Where are Roxton, Marguerite and Mari? Oh, there they are behind that wide tree … oh my, with Tribune. Hmm … Tribune's men are behind several trees as well. Now, where is my gun? I got it, now is it loaded, did I load it earlier? Oh yes I did, thank goodness I was not to distracted! Okay, now George Old Boy, survey the area. It's quiet right now with no weapons hurling toward us right now. Our attackers are not showing themselves. Think old boy, anything particular about the spears or arrows that are familiar to identify our attackers?

"Challenger, the spear beside you, from here it looks like its Zanga, it can't be, can it?" asked Veronica in disbelief. All the explorers look over to Finn and Challenger as Finn grabs a hold of the nearest spear. Every pair of eyes dart back and forth from Challenger and Finn's location and the foliage in front of them as they await the next onslaught of attacks from their unknown enemies.

I grab the spear and show it to Challenger. Challenger looks over the designs that have been carved in the spear. His face at first is all scrunched up as he if he is trying to recall the designs, I guess. Then it changes to shock and what is that horror?

"Oh my heavens, you are right Veronica. It is Zanga!" exclaimed Challenger.

"I thought they were suppose to be peaceful Vee?" asked Finn.

"I told you the bounty increased each day, even the peaceful beings will be tempted," whispered Tribune to Roxton and Marguerite. Marguerite pulled Mari a little bit closer to her even though Mari was wedged between her and the tree already and Roxton standing in front of her and Tribune on the other side of her to form a better shield. Roxton and Marguerite shared a silent conversation between them that no matter what they would go down fighting for their family. Their eyes held fear, determination, loyalty, and love.

Then out of nowhere yelling, hollering, and clinking of what would be swords and knives were coming from the direction of the attackers. Roxton signaled Ned to follow him along with Tribune. Tribune also signaled to 10 of his lizards to break into two groups, this way they could circle around "their would be killers" in three different directions. Roxton, Ned, and Tribune headed toward the right as the two groups of the lizards headed forwards and to the left.

"Challenger, what should we do now?" asked Finn.

"I think we should slowly creep toward that hill so we can be on the offensive but be careful," instructed Challenger. Veronica signaled to the other 10 lizards to follow them toward the hill. The much smaller group crouched low and darted from boulder to tree to stay covered in case arrows and spears began to fly toward them again. Marguerite and Challenger had their pistols drawn, Finn had her cross bow as well as some of the lizards ready for action, and Veronica had her knives out as well. Mari on the other hand stayed close to her mother.

"Momma, I can use my powers, if you want me too? Remember, I am forbidden to use them without an adults permission," said Mari.

Oh my sweet beautiful Mari! I just got you back and now I may lose you again! These darn hormones, I will not cry again. Be strong Marguerite you can do it!

"No my sweet girl not right now but thank you for offering," Marguerite replied as she pulled Mari into a brief hug and kiss to her temple before creeping with her toward the next boulder as she continued to scan the foliage to their right for any danger.

Slowly the group made it to the hill and positioned themselves behind several large rocks and boulders to await the rest of their group to rejoin them. The small family all positioned themselves near each other. Veronica and Finn stood by two rock formations, that made natural look out points, as Challenger, Marguerite, and Mari used the other rock formations as back rests. Marguerite and Challenger took this time to pass out food rations to their small group, as well as, keeping their eyes on the lizards for any possible betrayal as their leader was off with Malone and Roxton.

Ten minutes after the rations were consumed sighs, shuffling of feet, and other forms of inpatients and concern were displayed by each member awaiting their loved ones return. Because on one hand they were all concerned for their loved ones that were not with them and on the other hand when they glanced in the distance, in the direction they were headed, there is another small mountain range awaiting them. They knew that they had travelled half the day, prior to the attack, making great progress toward the Zanga village. If the attack had not taken place they most likely would have made it to the next hill, a little after night fall, where they would have made camp. And that would have left only half a day to the village. But now they wait …

Author's note: If anyone has ideas about other possible attacks before they reach Summerlee's water fall, please share. I have come back to this chapter so many times and just finally said "post it, it's time." I have ideas about once they reach Avalon but I want a few more confrontations with enemies before they reach it. In Avalon I am thinking about some quick training from the druids and Abigail (maybe a month or two). Please ideas will be greatly accepted.