Amazon Encounter by Anne Azel Part 3
Disclaimer: The characters of Xena and Gabrielle are the property of Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning: This story is alternative fiction, please do not read if you are under age or if this material is illegal in your end of the swamp.
Note: All the flora and fauna described in this story are real, as are the Indian groups and natural topography. They are a collection of descriptions and experiences taken from my own field notes of the area. Cats Paw is being studied as a possible treatment for cancer.
The next day they left, Kris shouldering a much larger and heavier pack against the wishes of her doctor. They followed the Indian path for some distance into the rainforest and then were forced to cut a path of their own. In the rainforest there was very little under brush, Morgan noted. The dense canopy a hundred feet above their heads blocked out so much of the light that young plants found it difficult to grow. Only where a mighty tree had fallen did a multitude of plants compete for the exposed sunlight. Even then the fallen tree would often send out it's own suckers to reclaim the spot. But the ground was uneven with roots, muddy and covered with dead matter and branches and Kris, in the lead sometimes had to cut with her machete or tossed branches aside to clear a path. If a large log lay in their way or a steep embankment had to be negotiated, Kris would take the packs over first and then help Morgan across. Several times they came to streams in deep ravines and Kris would cut a branch to act as a bridge. The first time, she ran across the log tightrope as if it were flat ground and continued on her way until she heard Morgan's protest.
"Kris, I can't," she had called unable to make herself walk across the narrow log. She was hot and tired and irritable that Kris was not, but mostly she was angry at herself for giving into her fear. She had stepped out onto the bridge confidently enough, but then she had looked down. The inky water ran in rills, black like the draining blood that night. It was the sound that had triggered the flashback. She had laid waiting to die for a very long time listening to the icy-black water rushing below. Finally, the siren had drowned the sound, the flashing light washing them with another shade of red. Kris looked at her friend frozen with fear and frowned. Quietly, she took off her knapsack and laid it on the ground then walked back over the log. She helped Morgan off with her's over her stiff shoulders and carried it across to lean against her own then she returned for her friend.
"Come on, you can do it," Kris had encouraged holding her hand out and walking backwards along the log.
Something snapped in Morgan's mind, "No I can't! You God damn show-off!" she screamed and was horrified at the look on Kris's face. It was as if she had taken a knife and stabbed her.
Kris came over and stood a few feet away from Morgan. "Ahh, is it O.K. if I carry you?" she asked awkwardly, nervous in her confusion.
"I..I..Its the bridge," Morgan managed to stammer out. "It happened on a bridge."
Morgan turned away unable to look at the warrior.
Bridge?! Shit, when she was run over, realized Kris stepping forward to wrap Morgan in her arms. "Shhh, its O.K.," she said to the sobbing woman. "I'm with you now. And you're safe." It was a stupid statement, Kris knew but she couldn't think of anything else to say and she couldn't stand seeing Morgan so upset. Yeah, safe with you Thanasis, not likely, when you're life is all ready forfeited! And then there is the devil in your soul...Morgan quieted in her arms.
"I can do this," Morgan said softly, "You help me, Kris." Slowly, Kris edged the terrified Morgan along the branch. This wasn't working Kris thought, and there was going to be lots of these crossings.
Kris lead Morgan on until she was in the centre of the make shift bridge, then Kris moved close standing right in front of her with Morgan clinging to her in panic. "Look at me, Morgan," she whispered placing her hands on either side of Morgan's face. Morgan looked up in fear. "Trust me?" The small woman nodded. "I have only known you for a short weeks and yet I feel so close to you. I love you, Morgan," confessed the warrior bending down and capturing Morgan's lips. Then kissing her neck until she reached a particularly tasty ear into which she whispered the softest words of love. Slowly, the hands clinging to her body relaxed and explored over her arms and back. Kris kissed her again and again. And then held her tightly.
"Am I still on a bridge?" mumbled Morgan.
"Ah huh," affirmed Kris.
"Love bridges," sighed Morgan. "Love you." The words shot through Kris like a thunder bolt. Did she mean it? Could she love her?
Kris pulled back and carefully helped Morgan the rest of the way off the bridge. But the fear was gone now and she knew Morgan had got passed another barrier on the way to recovery. "Thanks," said Morgan giving Kris a hug. "Sorry, I was rough on you. You're wonderful you know."
Kris hugged her back, "Come on, not too many miles ahead we'll camp." They walked on for a few more hours, the going slow due to the tangled, muddy footing and the intense heat. After a while, Kris stopped by a brown mass the size of a soccer ball that was wedged between two branches. She knew the inquisitive mind of her friend would enjoy knowing about the nest but mostly she was looking for an excuse to let the young doctor rest without embarrassing her. "See this Morgan, it's a termite nest. They're pretty common in the rainforest. You can eat termites. They're high in protein. It's a good food source if you are running short of supplies on the trial."
"Ugh! You first," said Morgan sarcastically pulling a face.
"O.K.," grinned Kris enjoying the look of complete shock on her friend's face as she scrapped away some of the powdery layers from the nest. Worker termites immediately appeared to repair the damage and Kris allowed them to crawl onto her finger. She then popped the finger into her mouth and pulled it out clean. She chewed and swallowed smiling happily at Morgan.
"Ahhhh, that's gross! I'm never kissing you again Thanasis! God knows what you've been putting in your mouth!"
Kris raised her eyebrows up and down mischievously. Then she put her finger back up to the nest and let a few termites climb on. She held the finger up to Morgan's mouth. Morgan sighed heavily and rolled her eyes then she leaned forward and took Kris's finger into her mouth. Kris pulled her finger out over the warm, soft lips and tried hard to control her baser instincts. "Quick, chew and swallow," she instructed. Morgan did so pulling the funniest faces as she did. "Well?" asked Kris.
"Sort of herby, leafy... I can safely say that even dipped in fire ant sauce these guys are not going to catch on as a fast food favourite in my neighbourhood," groaned Morgan holding her stomach and rolling her tongue around her mouth and spitting out bits of termite parts. Kris snorted and passed her friend her water bottle. Morgan took a long grateful drink and passed it back to Kris who bent her head back and let the warm water drain down her dry throat. When she brought her head back her eyes met the deep, soft green of Morgan's. Morgan stood on her tiptoes and licked the drops of water from Kris's lips. As she lowered back down Kris's head followed capturing Morgan's lips in a long, hungry kiss. "Just as I thought," whispered Morgan mischievously, "termites are one of those meals that need to be shared."
Kris laughed and resettled her backpack and rifle strap more squarely on her shoulders and then headed off again with Morgan following close behind. "So is it bigger than a bread box?" Kris asked with a grin over her shoulder.
"Is what?" asked Morgan carefully stepping over some tangled, muddy roots.
"The mysterious plant you are after. Is it bigger than a bread box?" clarified Kris holding a thorny branch back with her machete so Morgan could get by.
"Nope, not that I have any idea just how big a bread box is. I keep my loaves in the freezer," responded the doctor getting into the silly game.
"Is it green, yellow, or brown?" asked Kris playfully.
"That's three questions and the answer is yes,...to one of them..." and so they went on.
Some time later, Kris suddenly stopped and looked down. Morgan followed her gaze and gasped to see the ground for as far as she could see a sieving carpet of ants. "Run!" cried Kris grabbing the woman by the arm and pulling her forward. Morgan ran as best she could with her damaged leg. But after a short distance Kris realized that Morgan couldn't run far or fast enough. She changed direction plowing through the bush pulling the stumbling doctor painfully behind her. Kris didn't stop when she reached the bog but plowed right into the water dragging Morgan with her.
"Kris!" exclaimed Morgan as her feet sunk into the mucky bottom and the green slime of the bog closed in around her shoulders. Kris wrapped an arm around her and waded quickly across. Pulling the exhausted woman up the bank on the other side. For a few minutes they sat in the mud and panted. "What happened?" Morgan finally gasped.
"Army ants. They don't stop for anything. We could have got swarmed. Couldn't out run them so I had to take us through the bog. They wont cross water. You O.K.?" asked Kris reaching out to touch Morgan.
Morgan looked down at her sweaty, and filthy, wet body and sniffed. There was a strong reek of body odor and bog rot. Her leg hurt painfully too having been twisted and over worked with the run. "Yeah, I'm O.K. Do you want to kiss me?" she asked impishly.
Kris grinned through her own mud and leaned forward and kissed Morgan gently. "It must be love," Morgan sighed happily and Kris laughed pulling her friend to her feet.
Some time later, they came to a round clearing in the centre of which was a nicely shaped shade tree. "This is a nice spot, Kris can we camp here?" asked the hopeful doctor. Her leg was very sore now and she was limping. To make matters worse the heat had become oppressive, the humidity even higher and mosquitoes were starting to swarm around.
Kris snorted, "No not here. You see that little tree? Its called a punishment tree. It has a symbiotic relationship with a type of ant. The ant lives in the pith of the tree and in return for the nice house it runs along the roots of the tree and spits acid on any intruding roots. That keeps the competing trees back. This tree doesn't have to grow tall, the ants make sure it gets enough sunlight. The Indians used to take their prisoners to these trees and tie them to it. Then they'd bang on the trunk and the poor bastard would die a horrible, painful death. Watch." Kris walked forward and hit the trunk with the side of her machete immediately the trunk was covered by small red ants.
Kris walked back to Morgan who looked up at her in horror. Better get it over with, she thought. She has to know before things went too far. "I've done that to my father's competition to make them talk," Kris admitted quietly then turned away and walked on leaving the stunned doctor to follow.
They arrived at a black river that flowed to the Orinoco. Here Kris turned down stream and shortly they came to a lovely spot of open upcropping. Out of the dense canopy, the air was fresher and a breeze helped dissipate some of the overpowering humidity. Under the sun, the mosquitoes had retreated to some extent too. Morgan cocked her head aware that something was different. Kris smiled, "Bugs. Once you move out of the rainforest that buzzsaw noise that is the billions of insects is less obvious." Morgan nodded. "We'll make camp here," explained the warrior taking off her pack then helping the tired doctor with hers. "Ahh, you can swim here, its safe," stated the warrior awkwardly not sure how Morgan was now feeling about her.
Morgan raised a muddy hand and placed it against Kris's chest. " I wish you hadn't been that person. It must be an awful thing to live with but that's not the person I love. The one I love steps in front of leaping jaguars to protect me and holds me tight when I'm afraid. She's bright and caring and so very capable." Kris hung her head in confusion. She wanted very much to develop a relationship with Morgan but she felt she owed it to her to warn her that she was falling in love with a very evil person. "Hey, want to try something?" coaxed Morgan pushing back Kris's dark hair affectionately.
"What?" mumbled the warrior.
"Maybe if I washed some of that mud off you, some of the black mood will be washed off too. Want to try?" Kris looked into intensely green eyes welling with compassion and she nodded getting a smile from her friend. Hand in hand they walked to the waters edge and Kris found a easy place for Morgan to remove her brace and clothes and slip into the water. Kris followed once she was sure Morgan was safe. They sat on the water- smoothed rocks and enjoyed the sensuous feeling of washing each other's sensitized bodies. Washing turned to caressing, caressing to kissing, kissing to passion. Kris hadn't planned it. Hadn't even wanted to move this quick this soon but her need to be one with Morgan was over powering when the smaller woman begged into her ear, "Make me yours hunter. I want to be yours."
With a deep growl of need she picked the smaller woman up and laid her on the hot smooth rocks. Then slowly, she lowered her cool, wet body down over Morgan. Their mouths moved together in a passionate dance and Kris's hips rocked against Morgan's wet warmth. Kris slowed, fighting for control. Willing her needs to wait while she used her hands and mouth over Morgan's curves to bring her to climax. They lay together after, Kris's head nestled close to Morgan's hot centre. After awhile, Kris felt Morgan caressing her hair and she slipped her hand up to touch where only a short time ago she had feasted. Morgan arched to her touch, moaning softly. "Morgan, we don't have to go any farther, not if you don't want," stated Kris fighting the raw desire that was building once again.
Morgan pulled Kris up along side her until they were eye to eye. " I've waited along time," said Morgan quietly, "And no matter what happens between us, I want it to be you who took me first." A hot, aching ball of raw need pooled in Kris's lions and she lifted herself over Morgan and kissed her with all the love and joy with which her heart was brimming. She made love to Morgan. She loved her gently and passionately and in the end she joined with her feeling her inner warmth and the pulsing of her being as an extension of herself. God it was wonderful! After, she held Morgan in her arms and gently stroked her hair. Kris could not remember when she had felt so at peace, so ...whole.
"You O.K.?" she whispered to her quiet friend.
"Hummm," came the contented answer from between her breasts. "You O.K.?" asked Morgan with a suddenly worried voice leaning up to look into Kris's blue eyes. They darken when she makes love, Morgan thought, "I didn't...I mean ... you must need..."
"No. Not now. I'm fine. I needed to love you. You deserved my full attention. Thank you, Morgan, that was...the most wonderful gift," Kris whispered kissing Morgan's lips softly.
Much later they quietly set up camp. Morgan insisting that she was sharing a hammock with Kris. Morgan prepared a meal of rice and smoked meat and Kris returned with some monkey fruit that had fallen from the canopy above. The fruit was so called because it was a favorite food of monkey troops. It was plum size and yellow in colour and the taste was like a cross between carrot and lime. Kris explained that the rainforest provided a wide variety of food but that much of it ripened in the canopy of the towering trees and wasn't easily accessible. Nor was it wise to wander off too far in search of food when trekking from one destination to another.
Once the sun set, the mosquitoes descended with a vengeance. They retreated under Kris's mosquito net, Kris on her back in the small hammock and a comfortable Morgan draped contentedly over top of her.
The next morning was cloudy and thunder rumbled off in the distance. Kris woke with a pain in her lower back and the beautiful warmth of Morgan's breath against her chest. Christ! I'm in love! She thought and a silly grin spread across her face. She softly caressed Morgan's hair amazed that this gentle, caring soul could love her. "Morgan, love, its time to get up," she said softly. No answer. She gave the hammock a little bounce, "Sweetheart, come on, its morning." One sleepy eye opened and looked up at Kris.
"Morning?" came a grumpy question from the still limp form.
"Ah huh," affirmed Kris. She put one arm around Morgan's shoulders and another under her legs then sat up and lowered her own long legs to the ground spinning the little doctor so that she now lay in Kris's lap. Gentle arms wrapped around Kris's neck and pulled her down for a kiss.
"Kris, I love you so very much," Morgan stated sincerely.
Kris swallowed a lump in her throat and looked over Morgan's head to the darkness of the forest beyond. "You don't know me yet," she got out painfully her body stiffening with the fear of losing Morgan.
"Yes, I do. I've been waiting for you all my life. You just don't know yourself yet, my hunter," argued Morgan hugging the insecure and sad warrior closer. Kris held on to her so hard she almost cried out in pain. Then the older woman stood up, carefully lowering Morgan to the ground and bending to strap on her brace while she leaned on Kris's shoulders for support. It was funny. She'd never let anyone do that before. She would have been furious that anyone would think she couldn't take care of herself. She rarely let anyone know she even had a problem if she could avoid it. Yet when Kris absentmindedly just bent to put it on, it wasn't insulting. It was like two married people, relaxed and comfortable with each other.
Kris looked up and their eyes met. For a minute Morgan fell through sky-blue, her heart feeling the hope and pain that dwelled there. Then Kris stood and looked at her a blush slowly rising in her face. She looked down and from her little finger she removed a ring. Taking Morgan's hand she slipped it on like a wedding band. "This was my mother's. I want you to have it. Yesterday, you gave me a precious gift and...and... I want you to be able to look down at your hand and know that moment will always be the most special time of my life. I..I..I love you, Morgan." Morgan was too moved to utter a word. She threw herself into her lover's arms and held her tight. After a long while, Kris pushed her gently away. "Got to get going. You break camp. I'm going to run down river a bit and see how close we are to the Orinoco."
Morgan nodded still speechless at Kris's sudden gesture of love. She watched as Kris's trot broke into a run as she disappeared between the trees. Thunder rolled closer and the wind gusted around her causing the forest around to swirl in a green tide of motion. Morgan smiled. So this was love. Wow! Then she sighed and turned to neatly breaking camp.
Kris watched from the darkness of the rainforest a solid lump in her chest, as the three men busied themselves loading the long dugout along the shore of the Orinoco. She knew the canoe. It was one of Fernando's. She couldn't believe that either Fernando or Carlos would have betrayed her. That meant they were dead or worse. The anger rose that she carefully kept locked in her soul. A blind rage that seemed to tap into strengths that were frightening in their power. She would have liked to deal with them here and now but she didn't want to leave Morgan very long.
Where was Rodreque? She knew him well enough to know that he was too proud to let anyone brag that they had killed the warrior. No, he had made her and only he will be allowed to destroy her. That was his way. These were only his stooges. Suddenly, a pit of fear opened in her gut. He'd be doing what she was, scouting around. He'd know by now that they had left the river. He'd have got it out of the Indian family one way or another. Morgan! Turning, Kris disappeared silently back into the forest and as soon as it was safe she broke into a run.
She heard Morgan's voice first, crying out her name in fear. The sound burnt into her heart as she plunged through the forest and rounded the river bend to break into the clearing where they had camped. Morgan was on her back, the powerful man kneeing over her holding on to her fighting arms as he laughed at her. Blood dripped down the side of Morgan's mouth and the nightmare horror in her eyes tore Kris apart. She charged across the clearing with a primeval scream and dived at Rodregue with all her force. They tumbled over each other and separated as they hit the edge of the water.
"Kristinia! I thought I'd left you dead. Daughter of the Beast! You have more lives than a cat!" he smiled proudly, but the smile was cold and calculating.
Kris's face was white and tense with rage. "Kris?" came a frightened question from a small voice beyond the red haze that outlined her vision.
"Meet my father, Morgan. They call him the Beast because he is and his army of followers are the servants of Satan."
The handsome, course man growled a laugh, "Very poetic my darling. Might I remind you that you are the devil vomited from the belly of the Beast," he hissed. "Ah, but I forgot, they call you warrior now don't they? The poor, pathetic souls who turn to you for help. Do you really think you can wash all that blood off your hands, Kristinia?" he mocked shaking his head in disbelief.
"No, I don't," stated Kris through tight lips.
"You should have had the sense to disappear my special one. As soon as I started to hear of the warrior, I knew you were alive. Come back to me, you know you love the power, the blood. I know about the rage you control," he whispered tapping his own chest, "In here. I have it too. It is what makes the Rodreques great! Come my Kristinia, admit your hunger."
"I can live with it," growled Kris shaking with the effort of control. "You want to use me and when I'm no longer of use you will kill me like you had me kill Neil."
The tall, handsome man smiled evilly, "You killed Neil, my beauty. He trusted you to care for him and you shot enough crap into him to explode his heart."
Tears drained down Kris's face and she shook her head slowly. Suddenly, Morgan was there in front of her. "Leave her alone you bastard!" screamed Morgan reaching back to touch the woman that she loved. Kris's shaking hands fell to Morgan's shoulder's holding on to her for support. The same blue eyes of her lover trapped in a hard, chiseled face widened in surprise and then glowed with an inner delight.
"So Kristinia, I see you have maintained at least one of your perverted ways," he laughed softly. The eyes ran up her so like the ones she loved but without the passion and warmth. "I will enjoy her. Often."
Morgan felt the power of the rage that energized her lover's body instantaneously. It radiated from Kris and burned into Morgan's back. "You touch her and I will destroy you," came a choked voice.
The eyes of the Beast lit up, "But I've all ready had a nice feel, haven't I, blond one? I was just teaching her some obedience when you arrived."
The air was shattered by a piecing scream and Morgan felt herself pushed clear as Kris hurled herself at her father. A knife appeared in Rodregue's hand just as Kris smashed into him sending the two of them crashing over the layers of rock. A bloody trail marked their passage as they rolled then parted to stagger to their feet panting. Blood ran down from Kris's thigh.
You're going down, this time my baby," Rodregue snarled swinging at Kris's belly with the blade. Kris jerked back. "I thought for sure I'd killed you. I should have known the daughter of the Beast could not be killed by mere bullets!" He swung at her again, this time leaving beads of blood oozing from a scratch on her forearm. Kris shifted her weight and side kicked the drugdealer in the gut. He roared in rage and dived at her, the two of them splashing back into the water. Kris used the deeper water to her advantage using her flexible body to spin behind Rodregue before they broke the surface. She pulled her knife from her belt...
Morgan watched in panic as the two disappeared under the water. Then they torpedoed up and the look on Kris's face was the same as the night she had killed the jaguar, "No! Kris, don't!" screamed Morgan in horror as the blade in Kris's hand moved across her father's throat in a clean sweep. Blood poured over Kris's arm that held the jerking man and rained into the water. Then she let the now limp body go. It fell face down in the river and slid over the rocks passed Morgan and down into the pool below.
Kris quickly washed Rodregue's blood from her body and knife then limped over to where Morgan crouched crying. God! Don't let her be hurt, please! she prayed her stomach churning in fear. She dropped to Morgan's side. "Sweetheart? You O.K.?" she asked earnestly reaching out to place a hand on her lover's shoulder. Morgan cringed back and looked at Kris as if she was a hideous monster.
"Get away! You killed him because of me. You killed him! My God! sobbed Morgan. Kris reached out again opening her mouth to explain but Morgan screamed and curled into a little ball sobbing. Shock washed through Kris's being ending in a vice-grip around her chest. All the castles she had been building crashed down into sand. She swallowed. Then swallowed again. Her eyes turned cold and the mask she so often wore in the past shut her emotions deep inside.
She got up painfully and moved over to their bags. Faint with exhaustion and loss of blood she pushed back the shock and concentrated on finding the medical supplies. Suddenly small, dainty hands were pushing hers away and she lay down and let the doctor see to her wounds. Neither spoke. Neither tried to make eye contact. Kris stared at the corner of Morgan's mouth, bruised and stained with blood. She couldn't take her eyes off it even though the sight ate through her guts.
Morgan sobbed as she worked, her hands trembling and clumsy with the nightmarish horror of the violence that once again had become part of her life. Kris never moaned or moved. Her body was cold and stiff like a corpse. Once done, Morgan staggered to her feet and hobbled to the edge of the forest were she retched out her guts. Then she collapsed into a heap and cried.
For a time Kris lay on the rocks painted with her own blood listening to Morgan's sobbing. Her eyes stared blankly at the grey sky. Then her jaw clamped and with a sneer she forced herself to her feet and walked over to where Morgan huddled.
The warrior grabbed Morgan by the shirt and heaved her to her feet and gave her a hard shake. "Stop it! Stop it!" she commanded and the terrified doctor choked and gasped back her tears. She looked up into the coldest, most murderous eyes she had ever seen and her heart stopped. Kris gave her one more shake, "Shut up! I mean it! Now get your god-damn backpack we're out of here!"
The rain started shortly after they left. Short, hard down pours intermittent with periods of stifling heat and humidity. The bugs swarmed around, the buzzing driving Morgan almost as crazy as the bites. The bug repellent she put on regularly, seemed to attract them more than discourage them. And then there was the silence, like a huge void between them. Kris moved on ahead with an uneven gait staying barely insight of the emotionally exhausted Morgan as she struggled to keep up. She didn't really remember leaving camp. Didn't really remember clearly all that had happened after that man came out of the forest. It was all jumbled up with the night of the accident. Ricky had been killed because she had insisted on a walk along the river in the falling snow. They'd decided to cross the bridge and walk up the hill for coffee...they shot him just because of his jacket, just because they'd been driving by...he died in her arms as the car rolled over them.... Kris had killed her own father...another death...just because of her.
What had happened between her and Kris? What had she said? Kris had tried to talk to her. Tried to help her. 'You god-damn show-off!' No, that was back on the first bridge. Why was she always attacking Kris? Tears rolled down her face and the stifled sobs jerked painfully in her chest. Oh God! What have I done?
They made camp in the jungle. Everything was too wet for a fire. They ate separately in their hammocks, under their nets away from the bugs and each other. Chewing on dry, smoky pieces of monkey meat. Morgan choked it down and then lay silently looking at the other hammock some distance away. There was no sound, no movement. It was a very long night.
Morgan was relieved when the sun rose and she could roll out of the uncomfortable hammock. She cleaned up as best she could then looked through the bags to see what she could put together for breakfast. A sound drew her attention and she looked up to see a large ugly animal the size of a pony advancing on the hammock where Kris still slept. Morgan grabbed a stick from the ground and ran placing her back to the hammock and facing the monstrous, wild creature, her weapon raised. The grey creature's long snout sniffed the air and it raised a hoof to move closer. Morgan raised her weapon to defend the sleeping woman. Suddenly, the weapon was snatched from her hand and the tall guide was at her side. "Its a tapir, for god's sakes. Leave it alone," she muttered angrily. "Its harmless. They eat leaves," snapped the exhausted warrior as she shooed the gentle creature back out of their camp.
"I was only trying to protect you!" snapped the overwrought doctor.
Kris spun awkwardly and limped back slowly to Morgan, her face cold and hard. "I don't need protecting. I don't need you. I don't need anyone," she snarled. "Get ready, a half day's walk we'll be at the village. Then you can go look for your stupid, mysterious plant," spat Kris pushing passed Morgan and working to take her hammock down. Morgan silently went to pack up, her heart as heavy as lead.
The Yanamamo lived in palisade villages. They were a small people and unlike the last Indians they had stayed with did not wear old European clothes. They barely wore anything in fact. They greeted Kris with an awkward mixture of excitement and fear. She towered over them and scowled making no attempt to hide her black mood. To Morgan, she barely talked at all, just instructing her where she should put her bag and then hobbling off to talk to the men.
Inside the palisade, the walls were lined with platformed lean-tos, each section seeming to belong to a nucleus family. The women and children did not seem to mix with the adult males unless the male came to them. Morgan sat quietly surrounded by interested children. She smiled at them and played string games to amuse them but all the while she watched Kris. She was acting strange, reckless. Were normally she was quiet, watchful and in control. Today, she was loud and aggressive. At dinner time she came over with food for Morgan after she had eaten with the men. "Kris, what's going on?"
Morgan ate silently forcing the ashy yams down that Kris had delivered on a banana leaf.
"Please be careful. I can feel...something is not right here," said Morgan softly.
Kris snorted, "Oh yeah, when did you become such an expert on Amazon cultures? There's nothing wrong. Just the usual. The men are going to get high tonight and tomorrow their going to raid the village up stream. Neat, huh, Morgan, I'll get to kill even more people," she grinned cruelly looking down at Morgan from where she stood at the edge of the lean-to.
Morgan licked her lips, "Kris, don't do this," she begged getting up and walking over to touch the taller woman's arm. "For god's sakes, Kris."
Kris shook her off in contempt. "I'll do what the hell I want. In fact, I think I'll accept the invitation to join the men in a little hallucinatory drug snorting tonight," stated the warrior looking over to where the men were preparing the powdered plant and getting out the short blow pipes. "It'll beat reality all to hell," she concluded pushing forward and heading over the square to where the men sat.
Suddenly, the little doctor was there in front of her, "Like hell you will. Stop feeling sorry for yourself, damn it!" screamed Morgan punching at Kris. The warrior grabbed the fist and for a second Morgan though she was dead. Anger vibrated from Kris like radiation, then her face softened and she pulled the small woman to her leaning down and kissing her with gentle, hungry caresses. She pulled away and looked back over at the men. "Stay with the women. You'll be safe."
"Kris, please," pleaded the younger woman holding on to the warrior's arm.
Kris's face was emotionless. "Do as I say," she growled softly and pulled away walking over to where the men sat.
The wood pipe was passed to Kris. She held the end up against her nostril and the man facing her shot a short forceful blast of breathe up the pipe. Kris grimaced as the powdered drug smashed against her sinuous cavity sending an acute pain into her head. She waited, soon the world distorted slightly and colours flashed across her eyes. She was slipping into another world. Her brother's world, one she swore she would never visit. She didn't like the way it made her feel. Why was she here? Oh, yeah, Morgan, who said she loved you and then discovered who you really were. Heart rate up, maybe it will kill me. Why'd she try to stop me? Why'd she let me kiss her? Meant it to be insulting. Hard. Kissed her like a lover instead. Is my nose running? She let me kiss her like a lover? Stupid, can't get up so good. Go ask her why. "Morrrrrr"
Morgan watched in fear and nervous disgust as Kris allowed the Indians to blow the drug into her system. Kris, Shit!, don't do this! I didn't mean to hurt you. You're not a monster, but I made you feel like one, didn't I? I never gave you the chance, did I? She saw Kris stagger to her feet, her unfocused eyes trying to seek her out. "Morrrr."
"I'm here. Come on lean on me. Over here, no this way. O.K. Just lie down here on the platform. Let me get a blood pressure reading. Damn it, Kris what have you taken?! Here let me listen to your heart." Warm fingers slipped under her shirt.
"I love you, you know," muttered the high warrior drifting in and out of consciousness.
"I love you too, Kris. Very much so," whispered the doctor wishing she had something to give the woman she loved that would help get the stuff out of her system quicker. She took out a handkerchief and cleaned the mucus from Kris's face. Then did another reading.
"Well, well if it isn't Kris Rodregue, flat on her back and vulnerable! Never thought any man would have seen that!" laughed the coarse, dirty man who had stepped up on the platform to look down at Kris. He laughed and signaled one of the two men with him to pass one of the villagers a sack of goods. The Indian smiled and trotted off.
"It's a trap," whispered Morgan softly as realization smashed in. "Kris, It's a trap!!" she yelled shaking the semiconscious woman's shoulder. The man gave a hard laugh that turned into a growl then he stepped forward and started to kick at Kris's body with all his considerable force. She rolled in a ball groaning in pain. "Your father thought he'd get you but you killed him instead, didn't you? You bitch!"
Morgan leaped up and pushed the man. "You leave her alone, you bastard!" she screamed. The man grabbed her and tossed her aside. With a crack her head hit against a rock forming a fire pit and blackness tunneled her vision. "Kris!" she screamed as loud as she could before vomiting into the cold ashes. Through her semi-conscious state she heard a scream of rage. Get them Kris, she thought and blanked out.
Rough, uncoordinated hands were holding her and wiping her face with a damp cloth. She opened her eyes to look into blurry blues over flowing with tears. "Don't die, Morgan," sobbed a slurred voice. Morgan closed her eyes against the pain that shot through her head as she giggled. Some hero of hers. High as a kite and barely able to focus her mind. She sighed and sat up leaning against her hallucinating friend.
"I'm O.K. Kris," she soothed as her lover held her painfully tight in her arms. "Hey, not so tight!" she giggled softly pulling back a little to see the silly smile on Kris's face. "Did you kick butt, warrior of mine?" she asked looking to see if Kris was hurt.
"Yup," muttered Kris looking down, her body suddenly tense.
Morgan fought her immediate reaction. "Good," she said instead with as much confidence as she could muster. Kris looked up with a puzzled, disoriented look on her face.
"You're not mad?" she asked.
Morgan looked off somewhere over Kris's shoulder, " I don't like violence, Kris. It really upsets me." she stated looking back into the eyes of her friend. "And I don't think you do either or you wouldn't have given up the life you did. So I guess if you resorted to violence there must have been a desperate reason to do so," stated Morgan, cupping Kris's cheek in her hand. "When you are feeling better we'll talk about it." Kris smiled and leaned drunkenly back against the palisade wall and Morgan curled into her, her head on Kris's shoulder and her arm wrapped possessively around her waist. Kris smiled and let the colours flash across her eyes and her body relax into her lover.
The sun rose into Kris's open eyes. She had awoken a few hours ago and had been content to hold the sleeping doctor in her arms. She'd acted like a fool yesterday and it had endangered Morgan's life and her own. Funny a month ago, that wouldn't have upset her much. She'd got pretty tired of living on the run. But now, now there was Morgan, and everything had changed. She sighed and looked down to see worried green eyes looking up at her. "You O.K. hon?" her lover asked.
Kris nodded and smiled weakly, "Yeh, thanks to you. I acted pretty stupid yesterday Morgan. I'm sorry."
"I acted pretty stupid yesterday too. I'm sorry," echoed the smaller woman. "Can we talk?"
Kris nodded but for a long time neither of them said anything. Then Kris started softly, "My brother had made a deal to turn my father over to the authorities. I didn't know but dad found out. Neil had been getting really bad and I'd been supplying him with stuff so he wouldn't get shit or overdose or anything. I thought I had him convinced to come with me to a clinic for treatment. Anyway, my father without my knowledge, replaced my supply with a deadly mixture and then let me kill my own brother with a lethal injection."
"Kris, that's awful! It's inhumane!" whispered Morgan in shock holding on to her hunter tightly.
Kris laughed cruelly, "He was a druglord. Kindness for him was skin deep and the price of his love was blind loyalty. He never loved Neil and he could see that I was changing. He needed a hold on me, so he got rid of Neil and set me up. Gotta give it to him, the man was smart."
"What did you do Kris?" asked Morgan, her head in Kris's lap while her soulmate absently played with her hair.
The hand stopped. "After the funeral, I drove him up into the mountains and told him I was going to spend the rest of my life trying to put him behind bars for Neil's death."
Morgan looked up, "That was brave."
"No, that was stupid. He pulled a gun out and shot me twice then left me for dead in a ravine."
"Oh God, Kris! How awful!" moaned Morgan holding on to her partner tightly. The hand started stroking her hair again.
"Nothing more than you've gone through. Anyway, a herder found me and took me to a mission clinic. It took a long time but I recovered. I changed my name and disappeared. Mostly, I've worked as a guide when I wasn't trying to find proof that it was my father who killed Neil..... Morgan?"
"Hmmm," came the quiet response.
"About the other day..."
"I know, it didn't matter that Rodregue was your father. You had to kill him because if you hadn't he'd have killed you and then me" Morgan looked up into pained eyes and smiled, "You'd have taken a chance maybe with your own life but never with mine. I'm sorry you had to do it, Kris but I understand. The other day...it was all tied up with my own nightmares and I couldn't see passed that. Please forgive me Kris. Please," whispered Morgan earnestly.
Kris bent over and planted a kiss on Morgan's head. "Only if you forgive me for reacting to what happened like such a jerk," sighed Kris softly.
Morgan turned her head and caught Kris's lips with her own. "I love you."
Kris smiled down at the woman who was using her lap as a pillow. "I love you, too."
For a long while they sat together watching the village slowly come to life. The Yanamamo stayed well away from them having witnessed the warrior's rage yesterday and fearing that she might take revenge on them for turning her over to Rodreque's men.
"What happened to those three guys?" asked Morgan looking up at Kris.
"Took their weapons and let them run off. I've been under a death sentence for two years now and I'm hoping it's over and I can get on with my life." Kris pulled Morgan closer holding her tightly. "I can't count on that Morgan. That guy who pushed you, his name is Bogara, Juan Bogara. He was real loyal to my father... I don't know," she trailed off swallowing hard and pulling Morgan even tighter into her embrace. "If he'd really hurt you. I don't know how I could handle it. Morgan, I can't... I love... I wouldn't have you in d..."
Morgan covered Kris's lips gently with her fingers. "Kris, if my life was in danger, where would you want to be?" she asked searching the pained blue eyes for the answer she already knew.
"That's different," protested Kris seriously.
"Why?" asked Kris in surprise sitting up to look at Kris intently.
"Because you're a doctor and your research helps people and you're just a really nice person. You deserve to have a good life, happiness, security. Me, I've done horrible things and I deserve what I got and a lot more. I don't want you punished for my crimes," explained the dark-haired woman looking down at a piece of grass that she was worrying between her fingers.
To her surprise, she felt the front of her shirt grabbed by the smaller woman who was brisling with rage. "You watch it, Thanasis. You're trashing the woman I love! And I'm not going to let you get away with it. Kris is gentle, intelligent and caring. And the things she did before were caused by her father's evil influence and went against her kind soul. I believe that Kris. I really do! Don't you ever pull this stunt on me again! You hear!"
Kris looked into Morgan's forest green eyes in surprise and wonder. "Morgan, I don't know if I am that person you love," she protested.
Morgan wrapped her arms around her insecure lover. "I'm willing to take the chance. I believe in you Kris. If you tell me honestly that you don't love me anymore, I'll go away but otherwise I'm sticking to you like glue!"
Kris wrapped her own long arms around Morgan and buried her head into her lover's soft hair. "I'm never going to fall out of love with you, sweetheart. You are more than just my lover and friend. I feel...bonded to you," she pulled back to see how Morgan was going to take that revelation.
Morgan smiled and nodded, "My soulmate." And Kris smiled too.
Morgan settled at Kris's side under her strong protective arm. For a few minutes they sat in comfortable silence. "Kris, you're not going to take drugs again, are you?"
Kris stiffened. Well, I guess I had that coming. "I never had before and god knows I had every opportunity to do so. Yesterday, I thought I'd lost your love," explained Kris fidgeting with embarrassment. "I just couldn't deal with knowing that the person I loved couldn't love me because ... I thought, when you saw the devil that's part of my soul that... I just wanted to die."
"Oh Kris! I'm sorry I hurt you so badly. I know what you've done and...and I'm not comfortable with it. But that was your past and I want so very much to be part of your future, if you'll let me."
Kris looked down at Morgan, ice-blue eyes filled with pain and worry, "All I can really offer Morgan is one day at a time. My deeds, who I am, what I was, I'm going to have to deal with all those things sooner or later. I can't offer you anything permanent." Kris felt the little body beside her tremble.
Morgan swallowed and blinked back the tears, "O.K. It's not what I want but if it's all you've got to offer then I'll accept it for now." She sat up with a deep breath and looked around. "Do we have to stay here Kris? After yesterday, I'd just rather be somewhere else."
Kris looked at her wounded lover and felt her heart contract in sorrow. It's better this way... to be honest with her. Right? "Sure we can move on, I know a place. You going to tell me about this mysterious plant now?"
Morgan turned around and looked at Kris in surprise. "Kris, I'm so sorry! I forgot that I hadn't told you! What with everything that's happened... " She reached into her knapsack and pulled out a folded piece of paper. "This was in an old journal by a man called Ellburn that I researched," Morgan explained handing it over to the hunter.
Kris unfolded a Victorian watercolour print of a vine. It was identified only by the date it was found and a longitude and latitude reading that was certainly close to this area. She studied the plant more closely, " Cat's Paw," she concluded and handed it back to Morgan.
"You know this plant?!" exclaimed Morgan.
"Yeah, you see it around, why?" asked Kris disinterested.
"It might lead to the cure for cancer," Morgan explained.
Kris looked up to see if her friend was serious. The eyes leveled at her were intense and concerned. "Really?"
"Last year, a group of Indians in North-West Peru were studied by a medical team. They were surprised to discover that there was virtually no signs of cancer in the tribe. The local Shanman said it was because they used a plant similar to this one in their food preparation. Before any follow-up research could be done a fire started by a lumbering company wiped out the area where the plant grew. This specie," said Morgan tapping the paper, "Is very close in likeness. We want to take a look at it."
Kris sighed and looked off into the distance. It seemed to be her day for disappointing Morgan. "Look at these people, Morgan. They cling to life in a world that is just about as hostile an environment that it is humanly possible to live in. They just don't live long enough to die of cancer. They eat healthy, basic food and their world is just not as polluted as ours. I'm not sure the team in Peru found anything out of the ordinary." She looked up to see Morgan sitting with her head down playing with the corners of the folded paper. " But you never know I guess. I've never heard of this plant being used by the Indians for anything in particular."
Kris got to her feet stiffly. "Come on let's get something to eat and then see if we can get a canoe off these people. I think they owe me," smiled Kris raising an eyebrow and looking mean.
Morgan shook her head and got up with a smile, "That's my hunter. Go and kick some butt while I see about trading with the women for some food." Kris moved off happily and for a second Morgan followed her with sad eyes. She knew she loved Kris, but the violence that was part of her life, part of her...that was really difficult for her.
An hour later they were shoving off into the waters of the Orinoco.
After some time of paddling silently down the river, Morgan gave in to her natural instinct to fill in silence with good natured chatter. "So what kind of a spot do you have in mind for us to set up our field camp in?"
"How about a bamboo lodge with real camp cots and a hot shower?" suggested Kris.
Morgan snorted. "Don't tease the girl here Kris. I've learned to be happy when nothing living falls out of the tree I'm sleeping under into my hammock! And the simple joy of not finding anything disgusting in the toe of my boots? It makes my day."
Kris's giggle drifted from the stern of the dugout. "Do I detect a degree of sarcasm here, Oh love of mine. No. I was serious. I know this guy. We go way back. He lives a couple of day's canoe from here. I think from there we will still be in the area where Cat's Paw can be found. What do you think?"
A moment's silence. Then a worried little voice, "You go way back?"
Kris grinned delightedly. The woman was jealous! Wow! She really did love her!
"In friendship, Morgan. Nothing else. When I first knew him, he was a priest, actually."
"And then he met you, right?" asked Morgan knowingly.
"Nah, He just decided to get away from it all. You know like Saint Francis."
"He lives with the animals?"
"No, more the animals live with him," responded the dark-haired woman happily.
"Great," the petite blond responded, "I knew there had to be a catch."
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