Best Laid Plans
Chapter Two: Girls' Night
The next morning the Treehouse's three female residents were up and ready to go at first light. Veronica and Finn were their usual cheery selves; Marguerite was awake. They quickly ate breakfast and were down on the ground by the time Roxton and Challenger emerged from their rooms. Roxton headed down as soon as he heard the ladies' voices below.
"You were going to leave without saying good-bye?" he asked, catching them just shy of the gate.
"We left a note on the table, Roxton. It's not like this is the first time we've left you and Challenger alone," Veronica teased.
Roxton gave Veronica a look, causing her to cover her mouth so as not to break into laughter, and he then turned to Marguerite. He motioned with his head for Finn and Veronica to give them some time alone.
"We'll meet you in a few minutes, Marguerite," Veronica said, stifling her mirth as she grabbed Finn and headed out the gate.
"Roxton I have to go."
"I know that. I just wanted to make sure you're ok."
"I'm fine. Do you mind?" the dark-haired woman inquired. "I'd like to get going."
"Fine, don't let me keep you," the handsome lord said, stepping aside so Marguerite could pass. "You know, you can't stay upset with me forever," he called as she exited the compound.
Marguerite smiled as she turned and walked back towards the only man who had the ability to see past all her defenses, to the woman she really was. She lowered her voice so only he could hear her, "Can't I? Besides it will be fun to see how you make it up to me." After a quick kiss she walked through the gate, letting it slam shut.
Roxton just stood there for a few minutes as it slowly sank in that she had been teasing him all along. Got me again, the vixen, he thought, shaking his head and laughing a little as he headed back to the Treehouse.
"Why did she have to come along?" Finn asked petulantly as she and Veronica took the lead. They were walking slowly so Marguerite could catch up.
"Because you need her to help you find the right kind of material to make you some new clothes," Veronica answered, looking back to make sure the enigmatic adventuress hadn't heard Finn's whining. Poor Finn, not much chance for socialization in that bleak future she came from. I thought I had it rough growing up alone here after my parents got lost
"Couldn't you help me?" Finn asked.
"Finn, Marguerite is a better seamstress than I am. Why won't you talk to her about this?" Veronica said, wondering how this girl who seemed so brave in the face of danger could fear just talking with Marguerite. Though I guess I do understand a bit, she thought, smiling ruefully.
Finn looked back at the dark-haired woman trailing behind them before answering. "She's always with Roxton or helping Challenger--when she's not sleeping or reading."
"Finn, just talk to her. Trust me," the jungle woman said, gently pushing her young friend back towards Marguerite.
Marguerite had kept her distance while the two young blondes talked. She couldn't see their faces, so she wasn't able to read their lips, which had been exactly how she knew what Roxton had asked Veronica. The former British triple agent had also "read" Finn when she wondered how Marguerite knew what Roxton had asked. I suppose I could tell Finn that sometimes body language is just as clear as words, the heiress thought to herself as she noticed the young woman, whose survival instincts were almost as finely honed as her own, coming towards her, Marguerite watched her a bit warily.
"Uh, how you doin', Marguerite?" Finn asked when she finally reached the enigmatic woman.
"Fine, Finn, and you?"
"Uh, would you be willing to help me?" Finn blurted, nervously.
"Help you with what, Finn?" Marguerite asked mildly, hiding a small smile.
"Vee suggested that I should have some more clothes. I can't sew and she said you're better than she is," Finn replied.
"She did?" the older woman asked, looking at the jungle lady.
Veronica smiled, "Well you are a better seamstress than I am."
Marguerite smiled her thanks at the compliment before turning her attention back to Finn, inquiring, "What do you have in mind?"
"Not really sure but I suppose some long sleeved shirts and pants. Maybe an outfit like Vee's," Finn offered, watching Marguerite.
The mysterious heiress raised an eyebrow, but shook her head affirmatively.
"Cool, thanks!" The youngest member of the family grinned, thinking, Hey, maybe she's not such an ice queen, after all.
The three continued their journey in silence for a while. Once they reached a familiar spot, they stopped to set up camp for the night. While Finn collected wood for their fire, Marguerite and Veronica discussed who would take first watch. Marguerite volunteered, knowing it would be hours before she'd fall asleep.
After an uneventful night, Finn, Marguerite, and Veronica packed up at first light, had breakfast and continued on towards the Zanga village. Finn, being her usual energetic self, ran ahead of the two older women. Every now and then she'd run back to tell them of something she'd seen, then she was off again.
As they continued on their passage to the Zanga village, Veronica kept an eye on their surroundings. She kept looking over her shoulder. The dark-haired heiress noticed and quietly asked, "What is it?"
"I'm not sure, but it feels like we're being followed," the younger woman replied. Just at that moment Finn came running back to them.
"Hey, Vee, what's that?" she asked, pointing to a rather murky looking river.
"It's a river, Finn, you know that," Veronica replied, gravely, trying not to smile.
"I know it's a river, I meant why is it so yellowy-gray?" the youngest woman replied, moving away from the river.
"I'm sure if Challenger were here he'd no doubt give us a lecture on the reason why," Marguerite offered, grinning.
"He'd go on for hours, more than likely," the jungle beauty added causing her companions to laugh.
Finn continued on in the lead before Veronica could suggest she stick closer. Just as she was about to call the exuberant young woman back, Marguerite placed a hand on Veronica's arm and pointed towards a clearing where a tribe of unfamiliar natives was coming closer.
"Are they Vantu?" the brunette asked, slowly backing up.
"I don't think so. I've never seen them before," the blonde said, looking around for their younger friend. Veronica slowly retreated to join Marguerite.
As they continued moving slowly, the natives unrelentingly moved closer. Bushes had shielded the natives, but as they came out from behind them, Veronica and Marguerite realized these men were not Vantu. They were naked except for a length of string tied to their foreskins. Each man had a thick goatee and hair that went straight across their foreheads to their ears causing it to grow to the back of their necks.
"Oh my," Marguerite murmured as she noticed the lack of clothing on the men.
"Well they are definitely not Vantu. I remember reading in one of my parents' journals about a tribe that, um, resemble these natives."
"Well did your parents mention if they were friendly or not?" the worried heiress questioned, surreptitiously reaching for her pistol.
"I'm trying to recall, but right now the only thing I can remember is the name of the tribe. I believe its Araweté," Veronica responded.
Finn had been hiding in the foliage when she noticed the unfamiliar natives heading towards Veronica and Marguerite. She'd come running back only to find her two older companions trapped between the native men and the yellowy-gray river. Neither woman had drawn weapons but they were ready to if need be.
The men talked so softly and quickly that it made it hard for Marguerite to pick up anything translatable.
"Can you understand them?" asked Veronica, watching as Marguerite inched closer to the Araweté, trying to grasp their language.
"No, they are talking too low and too fast. I can't understand them," Marguerite replied, frustrated, as she moved back towards her young friend.
Without warning an arrow flew between Marguerite and Veronica. They had no idea what caused the Araweté to attack, but they were soon defending themselves as best they could.
Finn leapt from her hiding place and struggling to get past a couple of the men near her. Once she finally managed to get past them, she noticed that Marguerite and Veronica had been separated and the dark-haired woman was surrounded. The perturbed heiress was able to dispatch two of the natives surrounding her. However, when Marguerite turned her back to shoot the one behind her, the remaining native rushed towards her.
"Marguerite!" the Finn yelled desperately as she ran in the direction of her two friends and the natives they were battling.
Marguerite and her attacker both turned when Finn yelled. As she got within range, the agile young woman from the future placed a bolt into her crossbow and aimed. She watched in horror as the Araweté moved so quickly that, once the bolt left the crossbow, it flew past him and slammed into Marguerite's left shoulder below the collarbone. The force of the bolt and the slippery nature of the rocks on the edge of the river caused the dark-haired beauty to fall into the river.
The youngest woman had her crossbow ready just in case she wasn't able to reach her friends in time. A couple more native men had blocked Finn's path and kept her from getting to the two older women. She watched helplessly as Marguerite started to fall. Finn's first thought was, Oh, God, Roxton's gonna kill me for sure, as she tried to move closer to the fight.
Before losing her balance, Marguerite had been able to get one shot off, hitting her assailant. She landed in the water while the native man continued to charge towards her as if the bullet hadn't touched him. He had his knife drawn, ready to slice into the injured Marguerite. Due to Finn's quick reflexes with her weapon the man was soon falling towards the same spot in the river that the enigmatic adventuress was sitting.
"Marguerite, move!" Veronica yelled from the side of the river, as Marguerite's head emerged from the water. The natives trying to attack the blonde backed off when they realized Marguerite had been hurt.
"I wish I could," the dark-haired female replied looking down at the native pinning her to the water. Finn raced to help Marguerite get free, but Veronica stopped her when she saw something moving, rather quickly, towards their trapped friend.
"Finn, no stay here. Marguerite, can you move?"
"Not much. This fellow weighs a ton and I can't move my left arm much," Marguerite snapped. She tried not to think about the fact that a naked tribesman trapped her in the disgusting water. I'll never get my hair clean, again, she thought in disgust.
"Well we have to get you out of there, now!" Veronica insisted, as the water around Marguerite started moving faster.
Marguerite looked down at the water as she felt something swim by her arm. "Veronica something tells me whatever just swam past me is not very friendly."
"I know, I know!" Veronica suggested as she quickly tried to figure out a way to help her friend. She turned to call Finn for help, but the younger woman was rooted to the spot she had shot from. Distracted, Veronica wondered, What's wrong with her? Is she frightened because she missed the native and hit Marguerite? Before Veronica could ask for her help, Finn took off running,
"I'm going to go back to the Treehouse and get the guys. I'll be back!"
"Finn, I need your help!" Veronica yelled in vain. She turned her attention towards the river once again.
When Marguerite first attempted to move the native trapping her, a little of his blood swirled into the water; whatever had been swimming around the two started attacking the body lying on top of the now terrified adventuress.
"What kind of aggressive fish is this?" Marguerite asked, watching in horror as the fish swimming around the native and her began eating away his flesh in lighting speed. She had to turn away quickly as the sight made her stomach crawl.
Veronica managed to find a long, sturdy tree branch long and tried to shove the dead man off Marguerite. As the young blonde got closer to achieving her goal, the dark-haired woman tried to get up, growling with the effort. She turned pale as the body was finally off her and Veronica grabbed her uninjured arm to pull her out of the water.
"I think one of those fish just bit me," Marguerite said as she limped out of the river, leaning on her friend.
Veronica quickly checked Marguerite out and found the offensive fish still chewing on her friend's upper thigh, to her horror.
"Get that thing off me!" the waterlogged brunette pleaded once she realized the fish that bit her hadn't let go.
Veronica carefully grabbed the fish with one hand while trying to hold Marguerite up. The fish wouldn't let go. She looked at her weary friend as she tightened her grip on the fish. "I'm afraid this is going to hurt a lot."
"Just get it off me it hurts enough already."
Veronica quickly yanked the fish off Marguerite's leg, knowing full well that its razor sharp teeth would rip her friend's leg even more.
Marguerite gasped as a fresh wave of pain coursed through her body. "Could this day get any better?" she snarled through clenched teeth. "What kind of monster was that?"
"They're called caribes by the Zanga. You might know them as piranha," Veronica replied as she tossed the unpleasant fish back into the river with distaste.
Marguerite looked at her jungle friend a second before she started to slide down to the ground. "No wonder the vile thing thought I was lunch."
"Come on we have to get moving. With all the blood you're losing raptors will think lunch is being served," Veronica said as she gathered their packs and then gently pulled Marguerite to her feet.
"I don't think I can make it. I'm not feeling well at the moment. Give me a few minutes to catch my breath, and then I'll be ready to move," the pale adventuress mumbled, trying to stay focused.
Veronica dropped the packs and quickly found the first-aid kit she had packed. She then rummaged through the other pack and pulled a shirt out and started tearing it up to use as bandages.
"Don't use that one!" Marguerite said, trying to grab the red and white shirt from her young friend.
"Why not it's full of holes anyway."
"I need it for something else," the injured woman replied.
"Then I guess I'll tear up this one," Veronica said pulling out one of Marguerite's blouses.
"Fine just hurry up."
Veronica worked rapidly to bandage the wound on the older woman's leg. Then she tried to pull the bolt out of her shoulder, but found that it was harder to do than she originally anticipated. When Marguerite gasped in pain from the force of her pulling, Veronica stopped.
"Let's get you to the village. The shaman will have you patched up in no time," the jungle beauty said as she hauled Marguerite to her feet once again and started walking with her towards the Zanga village.
"Maybe you should just leave me here and go get help," Marguerite sighed, finding it was hard trying to walk. Her leg and shoulder hurt so much that she could barely stay conscious.
"No you don't you are going to stay awake and walk with me to the village. It's not that far. When Finn shows up I'm going to give her a piece of my mind. I can't believe she just took off like that knowing we needed her help," Veronica said as she gently shook Marguerite to keep her awake.
"Your shaking me isn't helping any," Marguerite protested, "Let's see you try to stay conscious with two gapping wounds," she finished trying to focus on the woman helping her.
"Yeah, tell it to someone who'll appreciate your complaining," the jungle beauty responded, hoping this bantering would keep her friend conscious.
"Some friend you are," the older woman grumbled.
"Right now, I'm the only friend you've got. Finn took off," the younger woman said as they continued on their journey to the Zanga village.
Continued in Chapter 3