After very little consideration, the duo decided
to skip tea - it seemed toenail soup wasn't as much of a delicacy as Emvee might
The beds in the hotel room were cold, lumpy
And breakfast went more or less the same way.
It took a while before they were finally alone
and could talk about the NSPA without their main suspect constantly hanging
over their shoulders. Angel was bright and brisk, newly brushed and carrying
a little cord bag around her neck. Jen was also feeling a little better, glad
that Angel had finally freed some information about her past. She was wearing
a purple tie-dye top and baggy blue cords so as not to get too hot in the dense
and scorching jungle atmosphere.
"I'm gonna test out some of this new equipment
out," Angel announced. "This is gonna be so cool! Real hi-tech gadgets and fighting
- James Bond style!"
Jen had to correct her through laughing: "But
don't take this too lightly, Angel. Your first assignment is always your most
important if you're gonna make an impression on your piers."
"Yeah, yeah, I know. So where did ya see Emvee
The human walked briskly over to the barn
and slipped her thin fingers between the wide gap between the door and frame.
No lock. Emvee's forgetfulness was still on their side, at least.
The door creaked slightly as they gently pushed
it open. The barn was sudden flooded with morning sunlight, accentuated by the
golden hay bales dotted around all over. A few grains of corn and dust floated
off into the atmosphere, giving the impression of lightly falling, golden and
"What on earth was Emvee doing in here last
"I dunno. Sleeping? He probably couldn't stand
"Har har, very funny. Look, my side's splitting,
because that was just TOO FUNNY!"
"Spare me the sarcasm."
"Hey, look at this." Jen darted lightly over
the hay bales and came to a halt in front of the top bale, where the corner
of a small black briefcase had overlapped the side. "There's a note attached."
"Well, read it out!"
Jen lowered her voice slightly, aware of a
gentle shuffle of hay from the other side of the barn. "Top secret. For the
eyes of Mr M.V. only. That's all it says. No return address or anything."
"Hold it up to the light."
Jen squinted at the envelope, glowing coppery
as the light passed through it. "To whom it may concern... generous... payment... thirty by fifty briefcase... I can't make anything else out."
Angel folded her arms sceptically. "Odd. It
turns out I might actually be right then. But... oh, shoot... remember what Angle
told us? We need more evidence. Here, catch." She threw up a tiny PCB with the
smallest of capacitors, resistors, and many other electronic mechanisms soldered
to the board. "Jam it in the hinge. Attach the charm casing to the outside -
we'll bug the barn and wait for the evidence to come to us."
"I'll take your word for it."
She attached the makeshift 'microphone' to
the case and hopped off the hay bales. There was a sudden bang from outside,
and the sound of someone arguing loudly whilst barging down the stairs like
a small steam train. Emvee's voice bellowed through the jungle.
"Quick! Emvee's coming back! Let's go!"
The girl jumped nimbly from bale to bale,
and Angel darted round the door and helped Jen to quickly - but delicately -
shut the door.
At that moment, the Skeith rounded the corner
and stopped in front of the two, a little stunned, with his moustache falling
off his nose slightly.
"Uh... what exactly are you two doing here?"
"Waiting." Angel replied quickly.
"Waiting for what?"
"Waiting for the tour. When's it starting?
We've been waiting out here forever!"
"Oh, did I not mention it to you two ladies
yesterday? The tour is not until tomorrow. The first day is always a free day
- you can do what you like. Oh, and watch out for Kougras. There's a wild one
on the loose that we've been trying to trap for days now."
Jen scowled, putting her acting skills to
some use, and protested vigorously. "Well, this is a fine kettle o' fish! We
wait for a-g-e-s, and for what? Nuttin'! I tell you, the state of the tourist
industry is a disgrace nowadays!"
And with that she marched along a jungle trail,
dragging the Eyriess - stifling a laugh - with her and muttering all sorts of
sarcastic comments under her breath. Emvee shrugged and continued along his
"Good work, Angel! That's quick thinking, bugging the barn. Maybe you'll make
a spy yet!"
"Thanks for the encouragement, Angle," came
the far-from-enthusiastic reply from the Eyriess. "Have you finished scanning
that interview yet?"
"No, not yet. It's a bit tricky. But if you
get fresh evidence off that bug, we might not even need it. Good luck, Agent
7221. Over and out."
Angel closed the locket and smiled smugly
to herself. Agent 7221. That had a nice ring to it! Oh my goodness... was Angle8285
just giving her a compliment?! She widened her grin, and leaned back on the
snaking tropical tree trunk opposite the shaded rock where her owner was stretched
All the while, a set of hungry amber eyes
glared at them through the underbrush, patiently waiting...
Jen was looking utterly relaxed. Quietly she
filed down her nails, and then turned to Angel and asked, "You wouldn't mind
if I played a song, would you? On the flute?"
"What? On the busted up, rusting piece of
metal you call a flute? I didn't even know you took it with you."
"It helps me relax. Can I though? Pwetty pweez?"
She jutted her bottom lip and fluttered her eyelashes comically.
Angel closed her eyes softly and laughed.
"Aye, sure. Go on then. It's not gonna bother me."
He girl sat up and, taking the silver flute
to her lips, started a rendition of her favourite song - the Andante Semplice.
It was a beautiful tune. The kind of song you could maybe hear a hobo play
on his harmonica on the pavement, yet it would stay in your head for the rest
of the day. A meaningful song. The notes told a story. The rhythm as constant
and tranquil as the mood. Every crotchet accentuated - every soothing minim
drawn out - every quaver emphasised upon - so that the song seemed to paint
a portrait as if every note was a new colour or texture to the song.
But the pair weren't the only ones listening
to the song.
Deep in the underbrush, two amber-coloured
eyes softened as the melody continued to drift along the gentle sultry zephyrs,
and his face - blemished with pain and aggression - suddenly creased into a
relaxed smile. He padded forward, step by step, and stopped, just slightly in
Angel opened her eyes a slit just by chance
- and saw the Kougra. Her eyes sprang open and she felt the muscles in her legs
tense, but she waited for a reaction from him first.
There was none.
Not only that, but he seemed to be enjoying
Angel looked over at her human friend to warn
her, but her eyes were already wide and alert, fixed on the trespasser, but
not bitter. She continued playing - music really does soothe the savage beast.
Having him stand so still and in the light
gave Angel a chance to see him properly. His eyes were closed slightly in an
expression of serenity and peace. His yellow fur was covered in leopard-like
black spots, except for his tail, which was black-tipped and covered in bands
of stripes, and he had one black stripe that ran from his neck down his back
and stopped at his tail. His paws were a charcoal, powdery black and faded up
to halfway up his legs. He had a white front too. And his hairstyle was placed
comically so three long clumps of fur stuck out in front of his forehead, almost
obscuring his vision. But on his eyes were the most distinctive marks. His left
eye sported a large scar that extended over his eye, though it didn't seem to
have damaged the eye at all. And on his right was the most unusual of spots.
A tear shape. A perfect raindrop, but black. Symbolic? Perhaps.
But this was not the most spectacular part
of his regalia. For on his left front paw, adjacent to his scar, was an enormous
bangle, sparkling silver and gold-rimmed, with a purplish writing carved into
it. Like hieroglyphs. An ancient Island language.
But there was no time to inspect it now. They
were coming face to face with a creature that had just attacked them yesterday!
Angel's heart started to beat faster. Her eyes widened in time with the Kougra's
own amber orbs, which raised to meet her panic-stricken face. But she was not
met with an expression on hatred, of grief, or of bitterness. His eyes were
filled with relief. Yes, relief. Relief, possibly, at not being turned out of
the glade at first sight, or relief that Jen and Angel hadn't just ran away
screaming, like most people had done, or even tried to hunt him down. Quite
the opposite. After a few minutes they were starting to enjoy his company.
But the peaceful serenity of the glade was
short lived. A low rumble of thunder tore through the silence, interrupting
their meditation and waking a few unwanted visitors from their slumber. In a
few seconds, Emvee could be heard charging through the jungle and shouting their
Jen edged gently up to Kougra so they were
facing each other, looking each other straight in the eye in honesty, and said,
"You'd better go. I dunno what those guys want with you, but I can vouch they'll
do something horrible to you if you show yourself. Just stay around if you need
The Kougra curled his lip. "I don't need any
help from anyone. I can take care of myself."
"Like you could take care of a Meerca riding
a Uni? I don't think so. And - if we're right - this guy's a lot worse. You've
never had an owner, have you?"
The Kougra's fearful expression became suddenly
bitter. "No. How could you tell?"
"Just a hunch. That and you're not even that
old, and only at level one, ignoring the fact that you tried to attack me and
Angel when we first arrived here."
"Oh. Sorry 'bout that."
"S'all right." The sounds of size 16+ feet
echoing through the jungle trail were becoming stronger by the second. "Do you
want to tell me your name?"
"NO! A Feerall's name is sacred, and only
his closest friends and family can ever discover it..."
The Kougra fell silent.
Angel suddenly stepped forwards and hesitantly
placed her paw on the Kougra's shoulder. The Kougra's fur tensed at the touch,
and then relaxed slightly.
"You... you're the nicest anyone's... ever been
to me. Just by not running away, or not trying to trap me."
"It doesn't take much. Now go. Get back to
us if you want to talk. But avoid the resort. Go!"
The Kougra sprang from the pair and pounced
onto the rocks where Jen had just been sitting. He started to run... then stopped
and turned a half-circle.
"Oh, and by the way... my name's Rincham."
"Rincham. Thank you. We'll remember that."
Maybe it was just a trick of the light. Maybe
it was just heat waves smearing their vision through the moist and humid jungle
air. But Angel could have sworn she saw Rincham smile before leaping off into
"That poor Kougra," Jen whined, as she had been since they returned to the
resort. "Who could have thought all he wanted was someone not to go running
off into the horizon whenever they saw him."
"Can you blame them?" Angel shook her fur
free of water, and knocked a bottle of perfume off the counter with her tail.
"We were terrified of him the first time we saw him. He tried to attack us!
Wait... no he didn't. He tried to attack that Meerca, didn't he?"
Another rumble of thunder emerged from somewhere
beyond the mountains near Denholm Valley, many miles away from Retsinis Jungle,
and a flash of lightning illuminated every edge the room. Angel jumped in fright,
and knocked another bottle from the dressing table.
"Will you quit that! That was my best Ice
"Sorry, sorry. Sheesh. Funny how quickly that
storm came up, like."
"Mmmmmm... I hope he's all right."
"He'll be fine! Stop worrying!"
There was another thump.
"Hey! I told you to pack it in! I'm gonna
have no perfume or deodorant left!"
Angel sat up.
"Knocking stuff off the dresser! Pack it in!"
"But, I've been sitting here. I haven't moved."
There was another thump, and a voice rattled
through the room suddenly...
To be continued...