Welcome to installment #9 of the Chasing Shadows – Making Amends series. For more information or to read the previous scene, head to this page.
Mujur drew close to the human settlement and waited on the fringe… at least for now. The canopy blocked much of the fading sun, forcing the humans to improvise with lights stationed around the camp.
Bryan and Eric—the treacherous were-tigers—had brought the humans when they’d come to the rainforest searching for healing plants.
Even now, the researchers scurried about like ants, destroying this little section of the forest. They weren’t the first to invade the sanctity the lands, and Mujur doubted they’d be the last. If only they’d come and go without so much destruction.
He waited until most were busy with mundane activities then moved quickly to Bryan’s tent. Only one short man with glasses paused and took notice. Like remnants from a fading dream, the foreigner seemed familiar with his brown hair slicked back with an oily substance. The man stood frozen. Only his head rotating as he watched Mujur steal across the camp.
Mujur had long since given up subterfuge with that researcher. The little man had an uncanny ability to sense whenever Mujur was near. Despite being unnerved by the reverse stalking, Mujur couldn’t be bothered with the researcher and slipped inside Bryan’s tent.
“Long time no see.” Bryan shook out one of his uncomfortable-looking shirts then knelt in front of his cot which was piled high with clothes. “We were worried about you.”
“One of your men saw me,” Mujur said.
“So?” Bryan folded the shirt before he tugged out a pair of pants.
“I’m leaving and not sure when I’ll return.”
Bryan’s shoulder stiffened. He set the pants down and sat on the bed. “Oh?”
“That penanggalan has had too much time already to recover… wreak destruction. It’s time someone eliminated the threat.”
Bryan grabbed a knapsack from the corner and placed his folded shirt neatly inside. “Give me an hour or two, I’ll go with you.”
“And leave Berani unprotected?” Mujur frowned as his clansman smoothed out a pair of pants then rolled it before placing it in the bag.
“She has Eric.”
Mujur laughed. “The wehr-tiger in training?”
Bryan faced him. “Seems to me, he knew enough to best you.”
Mujur growled at the reminder. Fluke or not, he couldn’t deny Eric had almost killed him on the first meeting.
The bottom edge of the tent lifted, and the red head of that bothersome cat pushed inside. The rest of the body followed with tremendous strain—chest pulling, back bowing—until finally the back legs squeezed through and popped into the tent. The cat stretched with a mew then proceeded to circle Mujur’s ankles, rubbing soft fur against his bare calves.
Unperturbed, Bryan continue to stare at him, an eyebrow arching ever so slightly. “What about your territory?”
“That’s why I’m here. I want to be sure someone’s doing a circuit on it… making sure there are no gaps regarding Berani’s protec—“
The cat licked between his toes, a moist raspy sensation. Mujur grimaced and lifted his leg high. Opening the flap to the tent, he shoved the critter out with his foot.
Bryan focused on Mujur’s feet, his face crinkled in a frown
“Odd, huh?” Mujur said.
Bryan raised his eyes to meet Mujur’s. “Yeah.”
“Will you do the circuits?”
“Fine.” Bryan focused on Mujur’s shoulder.
Mujur froze when he realized his fingers were curled over the irritation, the nails slightly elongated. How long he’d been scratching, he didn’t know, but the itching sensation had returned with fierceness. He forced his hand to his side.
“How long have you had that? Maybe you should have Berani take a look,” Bryan said.
“It’s of little consequence.” What was another mark on his already scarred body?
“Here.” Bryan reached under his bed a pulled out a metal white box with red cross. He tugged on the lid until it popped open with a snap. After a bit of rooting, Bryan removed a tube out of the box, grabbed Mujur’s wrist, and plopped it in his open palm. “This might help.”
Mujur scrutinized the unfamiliar scribbles. “What is it?”
“Ointment… a salve.”
He squeezed the flexible tube. “How does it work?”
With a sigh, Bryan snatched the container and twisted the off top. “Give me your hand.”
Bryan squeezed a dot the size of a pomegranate seed into Mujur’s palm, and a eucalyptus scent filled the air. “Rub it on your shoulder.“
Familiar with eucalyptus, Mujur didn’t hesitate to follow the instructions and was immediately rewarded as the salve penetrated the rash and soothed with a cooling sensation. “You got this from a dukun?”
“A dukun? Shaman?“ Bryan smiled. ”No. Researchers like that man you saw outside work to develop these medicines.” Bryan returned the tube to Mujur. “Look. “I have to leave for the States in a week. I have business to attend.”
Mujur stared hard at Bryan. “If I’m not back by then, it means I’m dead.”
“Uh.” The smile froze on Bryan’s face before it fell completely. “Go forward with victory.”
Mujur nodded and left the tent.
The oily little researcher waited outside, keeping watch in the exact same place. The man waved, and his lips curled into a slight smile, but his narrowed eyes and low brow gave an effect which was more ominous than friendly.
Mujur did his best to put the researcher from his mind, but the penetrating stare which followed him as he retraced his steps out of the village were like a thousand worms crawling under his skin.