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Stix489
08-06-2012, 09:37 AM
Just the beginning of a short story/maybe novel I'm currently writing. Please feel free to criticize as well as compliment :P



What is a treasure hunter without a treasure? And what is a treasure without its intricate history? I ask these questions not as a man whose adventures are limitless, but as a simple layman whose hopes and dreams may one day lead him to taste the fruits of adventure and live to tell his tale, however fantastical it may be, to anyone who is keen enough to listen, on the chance that they may learn something of this world that has yet to be discovered. This boy's dreams, for that is what they are, dreams and delusions, come and go, and with time he may very well forget his desire to suckle at the bosom of discovery and opt for more dull and realistic paths that will undoubtedly lead him away from all his inner passions and eventually choke out of him his desires and thus his will to live, for this boy, or man, as he is twenty years of age, knows that living a monotonous life will only help to crush his spirits, and a lifetime without spirit is better off spent dead.

Whether or not I will find my adventure only time itself will tell, but I cannot stand idly by and wait for the opportunity to come my way, for if one spends his days awaiting his dreams to fulfill themselves, he is only waiting for them to simmer away in the heat of his own wasted ambition. No, this man, indeed a nobody to the history of the world, will venture forth to find his own adventures, and mayhaps find himself all the same. He knows not where he must begin, nor whom he must confront, all he knows is that his very soul yearns for adventure and its hunger shall not be sated till a journey is made and a tale is formed.

I cannot stress enough the point that I had brought up earlier, of this man's habit of throwing away his old dreams for newer ones. I fear that the burning passion which is guiding me to write this will eventually dwindle away into nothing, and with it this account of my life. But never in all my years have I seen a dream so clearly, nor felt it so close to the realms of reality as this, and so with that reminder I put my mind and quill at ease, readying to begin my blind journey in the morn.

October 8th, 1856;

Here I am, a lad of twenty, standing beneath the wooden door frame of my uncle's small London house. I feel no need to heavily describe my location, for the starting point is scarcely as interesting as the middle or end. However, in order to set the mood for the readers, if at all these accounts form anything of any readability, as well as for myself, I shall set to writing of the abode which I am eager to depart. Of its exact location, however, I shall remain vague, for I wish not to reveal the whereabouts of my uncle, from whom came the initial idea of expedition by the way, as well as the tools he deemed necessary in carrying it out. How foolish of me, in having spent this whole time writing of myself, I had forgotten to make mention of my uncle and where he so importantly sits in all of this. I'm sure he would be exceedingly disappointed had I gone on to describe his place of residence before its owner.

A great man he is indeed, my uncle. Born in the year 1794 to a Scottish farmer and an English school teacher, he was raised both on good morals and a very thorough understanding of agriculture, even though he strayed from that trade as much as he could, for he had no interest in maintaining a farm or herding cattle. His name, of course, shall remain secret, for reasons I shall describe a little later. He grew up with six other boys, him being the youngest and, of course, the most spoiled of the lot. Anything he wanted, his brothers and mother provided. The reason I say his mother and not his parents is because his father was a tough soul indeed, and a bitter old man. He did his best to provide what was needed, and what was needed alone. Any wants his children fancied were rewarded with a harsh belting, to which my uncle was never spared.

Being the youngest and seeing how his older siblings were treated, he decided to run away from home. And so he did, at the young age of thirteen. He fled his family and was chanced upon by an elephant hunter who had come back home from an empty expedition in South Africa. He took the young lad under his guidance and eventually taught him everything he knew about hunting game as well as the brilliant art of survival. I can reveal that that particular hunter was indeed Reginald Thompson Smith, from whom many would-be hunters graduated under his wing. Smith was something of an idol to my uncle, and rightly so, for he cared for uncle as though he was his own son, for more than fifteen years, no less. But by and by, Reginald's age took a toll on him and he eventually lost his mind to the clutches of dementia, at which point it was not only unpleasant to be living with him, but unsafe too, for sometimes in his fits he relived past events back in South Africa and mistook humans for wild game. Eventually my uncle had to leave and ventured to learn the art of smithing a few towns over, and about six months after, much to his despair, he found that poor Reginald had shot himself dead with a hunting rifle.

Saddened by the news, my uncle took it upon himself to travel to South Africa in Reginald's stead, and to make a living there in the name of his old teacher. He did so for twenty odd years before he retired and settled in London as a blacksmith, indeed not too far from where he currently resides. My uncle, having sold ivory for more than two decades, had obviously made quite a sum of money as well as a name for himself in South Africa. The fame did indeed spread and with it came many who wished an apprenticeship under his guidance. This is why I cannot state his name or location, for if I did no doubt he would be flooded once more with students who wish to learn the art, and my poor uncle is in too bad a shape to deal with such things, for he is sixty-two years of age today and sports a very weak heart.

I, in all my years of knowing my uncle and his story, had never bothered to learn the art of hunting myself. I was always a peaceful sort of fellow, especially to animals, and so I couldn't imagine myself shooting any living creature dead for its material harvest, no matter the impending wealth. It was, however, my uncle's tales in South Africa that planted within me this seed of discovery, and it was his reputation among the tribal people that watered it. But mostly, it was the wish of an old man that cast the light it needed to grow. It was his "dying wish" as he put it, for even though his heart could beat on for another decade if he took as much as little care for it, he had grown to become a paranoid man, especially so about his well-being.

And so here I am, as I have stated, standing beneath the door frame of my uncle's small London house, looking out past the horridly dull series of old grey buildings that littered the streets like some ugly scar left by the horrible machinations of man, and into the majestic horizon. The splendid view was due to my uncle's house being situated atop a steep declining avenue, where the streets criss-crossed downwards into a large warehouse that occupies an entire four acres of a dried lake bed, leaving the rest of it to look like a scorching dessert; dead and barren. The house itself, as I have promised to describe, is of a very average look, at least on the outside. Stone cut bricks laid atop each other in common London fashion, the windows, one on each side of the steel door, stretched upwards, giving the tiny house an elongated feel. The roof, on specific instruction from my uncle, was torn down and made flat, with a series of two chimney pipes protruding from within the house, one bigger than the other, with the smaller one closer to the edge on one side of the roof. On the other side lay a pigeon coop with three or four flights of pigeon fluttering around inside. My uncle, I had forgotten to mention, had made it somewhat his hobby to take care of pigeons and other birds. Sadly, however, taking care of a lot of different species of birds gave rise to a weird sort of jealousy between the animals, which forced my uncle to let most of them go; only the pigeons and a colourful African parrot by the name of Maka remained. Excepting the queer nature of the roof, everything seemed rather dull in nature, and a clear copy of all the other houses in that district. I know of about twenty or thirty more houses in that area alone that have the roof removed, and about a third of those have a pigeon coop, so I'm not very fearful about that detail giving away the location of my dear uncle.

The inside of the little house, however, would definitely be described as odd to the untrained eye of a stranger, but to me, I fear, it is just uncle's old home. "You look long enough at a diamond and you'll eventually see that it's just a rock" he used to say to me when I rummaged through his loot which he had acquired from South Africa. No doubt he had learned that from his old teacher Reginald, God rest his soul. The entrance to the house, a narrow but long hallway leading from the front door to the living room, was beautifully decorated with antelope horns of varying sizes. They were amazing to look at, black as the night and polished to a shine. "I've fought and killed a lot of devils and demons" he used to fabricate, "see, I've got the horns to prove it!" Eventually he explained to me what they were, and even though I am sort of a pacifist as I have mentioned, I couldn't help but smile at the sense of achievement and pride in my uncle's hoarse voice as he detailed his hunting expeditions to me.

The hallway eventually led to another open door frame, and stepping inside the adjacent room for the first time one would be both heartless and soulless if he is not awestruck by its majestic sight. On the far corners of the room rose two giant brown bears, frozen solid in mid attack. Their snarls and roars could be heard echoing around the room. It wasn't real, but such is the effect of the stuffed animals upon witnessing them for the very first time. Their large bared fangs are only rivaled by those of the four enormous tigers that seemed to spring forth in deadly haste from around the bears. Their lifeless eyes burning into your soul as you approach the magnificently decorated tribal couch ahead. On the right side of the room, a large stuffed elephant head with a most beautiful pair of tusks any elephant could possibly possess. They rose up as high as the ceiling, and upon them were fixated two yellow-ish semi melted candles whose effect, when lit at the dark of the night, is something marvelous indeed. On the opposite side of the room hung a flattened snake skin, covering about two meters in length. It had the most curious pattern embedded upon it, as though it was sown by an old Persian rug maker. Besides it stood a closed door that led to the rest of the house; a small kitchen, a latrine and two tiny bedrooms, which in all honesty, dull heavily in comparison to the amazing African feel of the living room.

There, I have said all I can say about my uncle and his place of residence without the fear of compromise. No doubt I could have both spared you these details or expanded upon them to no effect on the journey ahead of me, however I hoped this starting entry to be the very first point on the map towards uncharted territory, and it is true what they say, "a great journey begins with a single step". This is my step; a step out of my uncle's home, out of the comfort of my ordinary life, out of the world that I have known and loved for so long, out of reality itself and into the unknown.

I fear, however, that I must repeat to you what my uncle had told me a few days before today, in hopes that it may enlighten you as to why I chose to depart at this particular date. I shall recount to you the tale he wished me to hear before my departure ---

"I remember the very last time I went hunting in the jungles of South Africa more so than the first or second or fiftieth.Why this is so I will duly tell you. Two others were with me at the time, hired (tribal)tribesmen as they were by the names of Tsuska and Mbuk'at; professional hunters and even better sniffers. Our old hound Lowel couldn't sniff out a trail better than these two. At any rate, it were a dead day as they call it. No game wished to show its face around that part of the land, at least not while the summer heat was harshest, which indeed it were. Taking into account the foolish actions of the hunting party that came in a few weeks prior which left near quarter of the land scorched from the fires they let loose around a herd of antelopes. Foolish morons who think brute force drops more game than a good silent hunt.

The tribesmen were ready to give up, for the fumes of the fires thickened the woods yet, and that is unfortunate business for a sniffer. I gave the order to keep going, and we marched a while, about three or four miles north of our usual hunting grounds til at last our sniffers were able to pick up a trail. A herd of elephants, according to the older tribesman, Mbuk'at, had past by where we were not so long ago, and a fresh trail due North-West could be followed right to their destination, which we assumed to be at a fresh water stream trailing off from a larger river about fifty miles due North-East. We prepared for the hunt by eating a small portion of our food rations and each drinking a small amount of water to keep hydrated. You can never know what to expect from an elephant herd, especially one that had recently fled its usual feeding ground on account of a fire. We readied our weapons, express rifles as they were, and began to follow the trail.

It took about fifteen minutes through the open road of broken down trees and ripped down vines till we finally reached the herd. Marvelous creatures, marvelous. We counted seven in total, four of which were already knee deep in the sparkling stream while the other three roamed about the banks. It was such a beautiful sight, dear nephew, that it felt almost cruel to blot the majestic imagery with their blood. But that is why we ventured there, and we could not stop there. With each of us covering one of the mammals, we took a short breath and after a moment of silence, fired. After the puff of thick smoke dispersed, we were able to see what had befallen of the glorious creatures we hunted. The one I had aimed at was already lifeless on the ground; that I had enough time to notice, but I had not the time to see where I had hit, for the elephants that the tribesmen covered survived the shots, and in mere seconds were making their way towards us at incredible speed.

We ran, the tribesmen and I, back from whence we came. But running away from a charging stampede of elephants is as effective as swimming from a crocodile, that is to say extremely futile. The tribesmen, being of native blood, were indeed much faster than I, a white man, but their gift proved to be their downfall. Mbuk'at, the fastest of us, streamed ahead at such an incredible speed that if I had the time to stand and stare I would have, but alas, a charging herd of angry beasts were on our trail and we could do nothing but run. Tsuska also ran ahead of me, but not with the same grace and speed as his companion. I had noticed that the faster they ran, the faster the mammals charged, and so in a moment of pure desperation, I dove headfirst into the dry mud and covered my head in despair. To my luck the herd charged right over and past me. I could feel the ground shake as they clumsily hobbled after the tribesmen. After the trembling ceased, and I knew I was safe, I looked up from my cover only to witness the most horrific thing I had ever seen. The elephants had caught up to the tribesmen, and in giving out a great wale, rose upwards and in a split second came crashing down on them. I could hear the terrible crunching of the bones. Tsuska went down first, and then Mbuk'at, who had tripped on a coil of vines.

I was responsible for the deaths of those men, dear nephew, not the elephants whom had crushed them. It were I who saw the beauty of the peaceful herd and it were I who chose to destroy it. It were I who chose to risk the lives of the innocent, of both the tribesmen and of the majestic creatures I forced them to hunt. That event marked my retirement, nephew, on the eighth of October. But where I have ventured to hunt and kill and collect, you will venture to learn and discover and teach. Where I have failed you will succeed, dear child. My horrible end will be thy happy beginnings, lad. That is my dying wish."

--

That is why, dear reader, I had chosen this day to mark my journey forth in my uncle's stead, indeed as he had once done in Reginald's. I had been preparing for my leave for the past day and night, gathering in my knapsack whatever tools and provisions I needed to begin my journey. My uncle, of course, was there to aid me in every which way I needed, which proved more helpful than you know. He had charted me a map of his travels, which on its own was quite extensive in annotations, coupled with a scrapbook, a journal more or less, which detailed every important expedition he had ever undertaken. Everything he had discovered and learned of was in that book. I often wondered why he hadn't published his findings, numerous as they were, for the world to enjoy and be amazed by, but alas I had never bothered to ask the old man about his ways. If there were anything in this world he were more protective of than his pigeons and parrot, it were his findings. "I'm a spiritual fellow, dear nephew, and I find my inner peace within these pages." he would say whenever I chanced upon the book.

This journey of mine must mean a great deal to him if he is willing to freely hand me his book of inner peace. Maybe he finds more resolution in my carrying of his adventures than of reliving his past, which made the whole ordeal so much more important to me. I hadn't mentioned how or why I came to live with my uncle, but its important to know that I perceive him even closer than that of a father. He is, in a dramatic sense, my guardian and protector, my teacher and my guide. I look to him as he looked to Smith, and I hope that one day my own heir shall look to me the same way, with dignity and pride and every shade in-between.

"Here is where my expedition ended," he said to me, pointing to his map at an area marked with the name Oolao. "If you're patient with this old fellow, he will tell you of how it came to be and why it came to a permanent halt", he continued. And this is where, dear reader, I ask of you to be patient as well, for my uncle has a habit of delving into a story with exceptional detail, and as with the death of the tribesmen, it is of importance to your knowledge, for it marks the place wherefore I shall journey ---

"As you undoubtedly know, for I remember telling you many a time, I had been enlisted by a small prestige group of hunters as a member of their order. The 'Zualas', as they were called, consisted of about eighteen individuals excepting myself and their leader, Juan, who was given the name 'Makaba' by the tribal people, meaning 'he who speaks', for he was fluent in English, Spanish as well as a number of tribal dialects. Of course that is where the parrot's name, Maka, comes from, for it translates to the word speak, or speech.

The Zualas were a mixed group, the majority however being white, which was the reason for them being hailed as the Zualas. In South Africa, especially in the village Zulan, where these hunters grouped, the tribesmen saw the white man as a superior being to himself. It were not a racial issue, for they treated us just as their own kin, and we the same, but they marveled at our weapons and other instruments, and thought of us as the creators of magical things. Thus, when the group was founded, it had unwillingly received the name of Zuala, or in rough English, White Magic (as opposed to Nool'ai or Black Magic), and its members being the White Magicians, or White Wizards. We of course explained to the tribesmen how our weapons and gadgets worked, and that it wasn't magic but the marvel of engineering that brought them to life, and they seemed to understand well enough, but the name stuck nonetheless, having been used so frequently by the natives of Zulan.

The group undertook many hunting expeditions, especially in the Paranu forests to the north of Zulan, which at the time, was a dense thicket of elm and fern and little to no vistas, meaning it were a tough place to shoot but a proper hunt wouldn't go unrewarded. Our usual trip there brought back about ten to twelve small and about four to six large game. The place was flooded with antelopes, deer, elk, moose, wild oxen and small type of raccoon that was deemed a delicacy in Zulan and its bordering towns of Baga, Letpok and Tutwana.

It were nearing winter, the year I had forgotten, but I estimate it to be either '34 or '35, when Juan, or indeed Makaba, planned an expedition to Paranu. A hunting trip to these amazonian forests were not uncommon at that time, and so we readied our gear as per usual and began our journey. It takes about half a day's walk to reach the outskirts of the forests, and another hour or two to reach the inner sanctum where our game usually lay. We set up camp for the night, as we always did and awaited the scent of the animals. The moon rose and rolled back into the earth as the sun signaled the arrival of the morning, and yet there was no sign of any animal, large or small. A curious thing this was, for we would have spotted about ten or so game on our usual trip, and killed about three of them by this time. This queer thing lasted til noon, when at last one of us had spotted an elk just behind a thicket of fern. He lifted his weapon in haste, and in doing so alarmed the creature and sent it galloping away.

Elk are cowardice creatures, for they flee at the slightest provocation. We didn't wish to lose the only game we saw all day, and so we raced after it. Imagine that, son, twenty grown men chasing one little elk through a dense forest where, and I am not ashamed to admit, most of us did trip and tumble. As we blundered our way through the trees, we noticed that the elk was joined by another, and after a few moments yet another. This gave us the determination to keep on going, even though deep down we knew this effort wasn't going to be worth much in the end. This is the only time, dear nephew, that we had crossed the borders we had set for ourselves to never cross in the forests of Paranu. As far as we knew, this was uncharted and dangerous territory, for even the tribesmen of Zulan dared not enter it. But we knew we must go on, and so we did.

About half an hour past our boundary, we came upon a steep hill. The elk, as we had witnessed, had no difficulty in jumping on and ascending the obstacle, but for twenty heavily geared and exhausted men, it were a different tale altogether. It took us about ten whole minutes to make our way up and over, and another five to carefully slide down. In our limited concentration and lack of energy we had been blinded as to what lay before us. Only in gaining our focus did we then let out a gasp of marvel and alarm. What stood before us, chiseled right through the cliff of a towering mountain, were a series of columns that led into a large cavern. Makaba, being the leader and the only white man who could speak the language of the tribesmen, pointed out to an inscription atop the cavern. "The Crest of the Moon shall penetrate the heart of the Sun", he deciphered.