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Chapter 14: Jungle biome - border settlement

Terra strapped on her sword as she walked towards the door of the apartment. She’d woken up early that morning because she didn’t sleep well the night before. After the events of yesterday she didn’t think anyone could really blame her for tossing and turning all night. When she’d finally managed to get up off of the floor and go into her room the world didn’t make much more sense then when she had first sat down. She felt confused and conflicted. She never expected Dexter to want a relationship with her and she never thought she’d see Daniel again. She realized that she’d been responding to everything around her and not really taking control of her own fate. She was tired of just reacting and as she stared at the dark ceiling of her room that night she realized something about herself. She was selfish and she would honestly prefer to not choose between them because she didn’t want to lose either of them. But it had to be done.

She hadn’t seen Dexter that morning so she assumed he wasn’t awake yet but she planned to talk to him later. As she opened the door she came face to face with Daniel. “Good morning beautiful.” He smiled widely at her,his blue eyes sparkling. She felt her resolve waver momentarily but knew she had to say what she planned to say.

“Good morning Daniel.” She said softly as she smiled in response.

“I got you something. I hope whenever you use it that think of me. I know we aren’t going to always be able to be in the same place and until that day happens The least I can do is give you a piece of me.” He held out a beautiful wooden bow .It was a recurve bow hand crafted with seamless curves from tip to tip and it had a beautiful wood grain pattern . It had a hand stitched leather grip attached to it for the users comfort.

Terra gasped and reached for it slowly in awe. “It’s gorgeous!” She exclaimed excitedly as she gently stroked the wood of it.

Daniel preened under her praise. “ I made it for you. I’ve been working on it all week.”

She felt tears prick her eyes. “I’m sorry.I can’t accept this.”

Daniel looked at her questionably. “Why not ? Why are you crying ?” He’d noticed the tears in her eyes.

“I don’t deserve it. These past few days I’ve been bouncing back and forth between you and Dexter. I never expected to have either of you vying for my attention and I’ve handled it all wrong. I don’t want you to feel like you have to compete to win my affection because quite frankly you already have it. You both do. I know that you probably won’t like this and you might not want to talk to me as a result but I can’t be with either of you until I figure myself out. And that’s not me saying wait for me until I do . Even though the thought of you with someone else hurts...if it’s what will make you happy then I want that for you. And Dexter as well.” She finished quietly keeping her gaze firmly on the bow his hands.

“So you’ll be alone?” He asked after a moment of silence.

The thought punched a hole through her chest. “Yeah.”

“I understand. I can’t imagine myself with anyone else and I haven’t since the day I met you. If you feel like this is what you need to do then I support you. I want you to still have this bow regardless. Perhaps one day you’ll see it and come back to me.” He smiled at her and reached up to wipe away a tear that had escaped her eye. “Don’t cry. I’m still here for you and I always will be. I imagine I’ll be spending more time in the city now with everything going on so we will see each other.” He gently shoved the bow and arrows into her hand and bent down to kiss her on the cheek. “I’ll see you in a bit okay?” he whispered to her softly, his face twisted briefly with pain for a moment before he hid it away and smiled again. Terra fought the urge she had to comfort him and silently nodded. He seemed to study her for a moment before he turned and walked away.

She stood there for a moment watching him leave, expecting to feel relief at doing the right thing but all she felt was heartbreaking loss. She finally reached up and closed the door as she she carefully cradled the bow in her hands. She turned and saw Dexter standing behind her in the doorway to his room.

“I take it that goes for me as well?” He asked softly as his gaze burned into her.

“Yes.” Terra managed to whisper after a moment of silence where she just stared at him.

“Are you sure?” he asked gently.

“Yes.” She said stronger this time.

“Alright then. I’ll try to keep my girls out of your way when we are back in the city.” Terra felt her heart clench painfully in response to his words.

“Okay.” She replied.

Then he turned and went back into his room. She’d done the right thing technically by anyone’s standards. She knew that, but as she felt the pain of losing them both she didn’t know what the right thing was anymore. Terra strapped on her bow. She allowed a few tears to escape but quickly wiped them away as she stared at the spot where Dexter stood a moment before. Daniel would get his wish, Every time she used her bow she would think of him. And maybe she could just be friends with the both of them without it dissolving into disaster. As she stood there and mentally prepared herself for the day she decided that she would stick by her decision because when you loved someone you put their welfare above your own. And that’s all there was to it.

Terra smiled as she rode through the jungle back towards the city. They’d left early the next morning after the attack. Everyone was up and about like it just a normal day and they just got attacked all the time. She asked Daniel about it and he told her that they were actually used to being attacked every night. When they left the atmosphere was light and normal just as it was the first time they’d come into the city. Terra tried to shake the random thoughts out of her head. She was in her element and needed to relax. She felt embraced by nature and weightless feelings she didn’t enjoy often. . Once again she was riding alongside Daniel and Dexter. Since the presidents hazy directions included what to do if they did manage to capture a hunter from the desert biome they were headed back to the city instead of into the desert like she thought she would be. They didn’t have to accomodate the prisoner because the border settlement had experience with this type of situation. Which made Terra wonder how long this border skirmish had really be going on and where they held the prisoners within the city. She’d never seen one in all the time she’d been in the academy. She was going to ask Dexter about it later...well she planned to if he ever talked to her again. He hadn’t said another word to her since the conversation that morning. His face was completely unreadable and she worried that their relationship would always be like this. It seemed ridiculous to her. He’d only ever shown interest in sleeping with her until yesterday night. He had plenty of women to fulfill that need back in the city. It was obvious from the way he told her that he would keep his girls out of her way moments after she’d explained that she couldn’t be either of them because it wasn’t fair to them. Yes she wanted him to be happy and if sleeping around did that then she supposed she couldn’t truly be upset that he didn’t seem to care or want anything to do with her anymore. It made sense in her mind but her heart disagreed. Even if they weren’t sleeping together she still wanted his presence in her life.

She glanced over at Daniel who was riding beside her and was excitedly talking about some of the adventures he’d been on in the last few years. When they met up this morning she’d worried that he would be standoffish but he talked to her like nothing happened between them. She was relieved by this and sad at the same time. He knew she couldn’t be with him and still insisted on being near her and making her laugh constantly. She normally would have been worried that Dexter thought she’d told Daniel something different then what she’d told him, however since he’d heard the full conversation between them this morning she knew it wasn’t the case. She looked over his shoulder at the group that followed closely behind them. The border settlement sent five men to guard the woman. They rode surrounding her. Terra silently questioned the wisdom of giving the woman a horse of her own. They’d bound her hands and one of the men held the other end of the rope . She held up her head up high, proud and defiant. Terra realized she didn’t get a good look at her last night and took the opportunity now to do so. The woman had bright red hair and green eyes that shone brightly in her pretty face. She wore a tan shortsleeve t-shirt along with a pair of black cargo shorts. She wore similar boots to Terra’s own. Her gaze met Terra’s and there was no animosity there. Terra thought she saw shock before the woman abruptly looked away and continued to gaze into the trees surrounding them like she had before. Terra tore her gaze away from the woman and focused on Daniels words instead. He had stopped taking without her realizing it and now just stared at her waiting for her attention to return.

“I know you want to talk to her soon.” He said softly. “You might have a chance to once we camp for the night. The people from my settlement will let you speak to her.”

Terra found her lips turning upwards into a smile before she was aware of it. “Thank you Daniel. You’re right of course. I’ve just been anxious to talk to her since I saw tyler with her. I could tell they share a bond.”

“Don’t worry in a couple of hours im sure youll get your answers.” he smiled at her then lowered his voice.“Now about what we talked about this morning.” Terra glanced automatically at Dexter who remained stoic as he focused on the jungle in front of him. She turned her gaze back to Daniel who she saw follow her gaze.

“Don’t worry about him. This is about you and me. Okay?” He made eye contact with her until she nodded her assent. “I respect your decision but I refuse to let you be alone. I want you to be with me and i’m not going to stop until you are married to someone else.”

Terra shook her head in frustration. Would he ever give up?

“But don’t you see that i’m not good for you? You deserve better and i’m trying to give you the opportunity to find that.” shw argued fervidly.

You are my better Terra. I can understand why you feel the way you do but for me there is no one else. I’ve told you before and i’ll tell you again until you truly understand.”

Terra couldn’t help herself she glanced sideways at Dexter to see if he’d heard their conversation. His head was turned towards them and his eyes were hard. She heard Daniels voice over her shoulder. “If he doesn’t realize that you are worth fighting for whether you believe it or not then he’s not worth your time anyway.”

Dexters eyes flashed in response to those words and he went back to staring straight forward. Terra turned back to Daniel. Maybe he was right. She smiled at him happily. She was suddenly glad he decided to stay beside her despite her words from this morning. All of a sudden a cry of pain ripped through the air. Terra pulled on the reins of her horse and jerked her horse to a stop then quickly descended to the ground drawing her sword as she turned to face whatever threat attacked. She saw six purple wildcats surrounding the group that was guarding the desert woman. They had their blades out brainsiing them at the cats to stop them from coming any closer. Terra started running before she was aware of it. Daniel and Dexter flanked her as she charged the one closest to her. She swung her sword in a high arc as she brought it down in a powerful stroke. She felt her sword easily slice through the cats back leaving a deep gash its its path. It whipped around and immediately lunged for her. She jumped back and swung again, this time slicing across its throat while it was mid lunge. The cat’s bright green eyes went wide with surprise then shuttered shut as it collapsed on the ground in front of her. Terra tried to catch her breath as she looked past the cat towards the fray she could hear going on around her. The remaining five cats had completely forgotten about the bigger group and turned on her trio. As she watched Dexter and Daniel each finished off a cat on their own then slowly backed up trying to get to her so they could all watch each others back while they fought. These wildcats were best known for attacking from the back so it was best to be wary. They’d gotten within a few feet of her when she felt a presence behind her. She started to turn but it was too late,the furious cat was already upon her. She was roughly slammed to the ground with a furious wildcat on top of her trying to tear out her throat. Her movement at the last moment had thrown off its aim or it would have been perched on top of her while it roughly smacked at her head. Instead it was positioned directly over her and she with its throat right above her. She had felt its claws cut into her shoulder when it lunged initially, she was grateful that she was immune to bacterial infections or sh could easily have died just from that wound alone. Her struggles were preventing it from repositioning so it could reach her with its teeth and finish the job, it still tried to bite her regardless.. Its harsh breath washed over her and she felt nausea roll over her. It’s breath smelled of decay and rotten meat. All she could see was the purple fur of its throat as she fought desperately punching and kicking at the cat to keep it from tearing out hers. She knew she could only keep this up for so long, as the cat had three hundred times the strength she did.With one hand she continued to push at its chest to keep its head out of striking range while she grasped for the knife she kept strapped to her thigh. She felt the hilt and smiled grimly as she struggled to pull it upwards into a striking position. She had to end this now. There was no doubt in her mind that the cat was going to overpower her momentarily. If she hadn’t been turning already when it attacked she would have been already dead. She plunged the blade into its stomach and twisted it savagely with a cry. She felt warm blood and things she didn’t want to identify hit her hands and slide down her arms as she grunted in excretion. The cats attempts to lunge for her throat slowly ceased until it became completely still and dropped its full weight onto her. Terra dropped her knife and put all her strength into pushing its dead weight off of her. It weighed at least two hundred pounds. Slowly she managed to shift its weight off of her and wiggle out from underneath it. She kept going until her entire body was free praying that she wasn’t attacked by another beast while she was unable to defend herself. Once she was free she grabbed her knife and took a ready stance to fend off the next attack but it was unneeded. She saw Dexter and Daniel finishing off the last two then they both turned back towards her with anxiety written across both of their faces.

“We tried to get to you but the other cats attacked at the same time. Are you okay?” Dexter explained apologetic as he took in her appearance with wild eyes.

Terra didn’t look down to check but she could feel blood seeping running down her arm and seeping into the bottom of her shirt and pants. Her shoulder also burned a where she’d been cut by the cats claws.she undoubtedly knew she would feel this fight later on. “I’m fine. Where did the other group go?” She replied calmly trying to compress the panic that was building inside her.

“I told them to go on ahead to the city during the fight. Hopefully they get out of this part of the biome without any more trouble but even if they do run into some its enough of them that they will be alright. I believe that the cats were after the woman since she has a different scent than the rest of us being from a different biome.” Daniel explained as he approached her.

Terra nodded and looked around at the bodies of the beasts. They were all so beautiful but vicious. She realized how close she came to dying and felt her legs give out. She fell to her knees suddenly as the shock washed over her. “What’s wrong?” They both rushed over at her first sign of distress.

Terra stared at the ground blankly for a moment before she collected herself enough to answer their question.

“Nothing...I’m fine.” She shook her head and rose to her feet. She would freak out later but right now they had a job to do.

Daniel eyed her with worry in his eyes. “Okay but we are stopping at that settlement again tonight. We need to clean up and rest.” His eyeing of her injuries made it clear who he was talking about.

Dexter and Terra nodded silently and turned to head towards their horses.

“What do you mean you failed?” The president’s voice boomed across the room as Deon stood in front of his desk leaning a pair of crutches.

“Sir their sentries wouldn’t even let us near the city. I challenged the leader and simply put... they were of a high caliber warrior than I am.”

“What exactly do you mean by that?” The president’s voice was deadly.

“He was faster and stronger than me sir. The only person i’ve met before who fought with such intensity was Terra.”

The presidents gaze turned from anger to specialtive. “ You’re sure about that?”

“Yes sir.”

“Well then...we will have to change how things are done around here. Starting today.”

“How do you plan to to do that?” deon asked hesitantly.

“No,that is not the question you should be asking. The question you should be asking is how will you do that? You knew what you were lacking. You have one week to make the rest of the forces ready to fight at that level. When Terra gets back I will send her to deal with the aquatic biome.” The president fists were clenched as he spoke, his body language radiated anger and discomfort.

“Yes,sir.” Deon responded as he awkwardly turned and headed towards the door,barely managing to navigate with his crutches.

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