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Chapter 15: Jungle biome- settlement outside of the walled city

It’s really easy you just start by lining your body up perpendicular to the target,” Daniels calm voice said as he grabbed Terras waist and slightly shifted her to the right.“Make sure your back is straight and your feet are shoulder-width apart.” He pushed gently on her lower back to straighten out her stance, his hand sent a warm tingle up her spine. She shook her head and tried to focus on his words and not his hands. “Now point your bow toward the ground and attach the back of an arrow to the bow string via the nock.” He stood back as she notched the arrow. “Place 3 fingers on the string around the arrow, then pull the bow up and hold it out toward the target. When you are ready to shoot, draw the string toward your face, aim, and relax your fingers to release the arrow.” He stood next to her as she she raised the bow and tried to focus on the makeshift wooden target in front of her. She drew the string towards her face and slowly relaxed her fingers. The arrow flies through the air and hit the target with a resounding thack.

Terra hesitantly let a smile slip out when she saw she’d hit the target bullseye the first time. She dropped her bow in shock. Daniel was crowing and jumping around beside her. “You’re a natural!Wonderful woman!Brilliant!” He caught her by the waist and swung her around as he continued to praise her. Terra found herself laughing freely with him and soon they both had tears running down their faces as they continued to laugh. It was much needed release from the stress of the past few days. He eventually put her back on her own two feet and she instantly sat on the ground and tried to catch her breath. They were outside in a clearing within the boundaries of the settlement. It was dawn and the sun was setting sending shadows fluttering over everything in their path. Daniel sat down next to her.

“Why’d you drag me out here to teach you how to shoot if you already knew how to?” He smiled as he said it making it clear he didn’t mind.

“I’ve actually never shot a bow before and after that fight today with the cats I want to learn how to fight from a distance as well.” she replied softly as she watched the shadows surrounding them deepen.

Daniel was silent for a moment. “When that cat attacked you it was closer than you let on wasn’t it?”

Terra smiled slightly at him. “If i hadn’t been turning at that moment then i would have been killed on impact.” She picked at a path of grass directly below her as she spoke.

“I see. Well i’m glad that you are okay. And doubly glad I gave you the bow now. I’ve noticed that you prefer to be in the middle of a fight just like you did all those years ago,” He paused and smiled at her. “However it’s not the safest place to be. I promise that i’m not going to lapse back into any controlling behavior. I just request that you use your bow in battles when you can. It will keep you safer.” He pleaded with her with his eyes.

As she met his gaze he waited for the accompanying pain that usually came when their past came up but she found she didn’t feel any. She guessed she truly was past it especially since she knew that Tyler was alive now. She glanced up Daniels face. Beside that she couldn’t remember another reason why she didn’t want to be with him before. What he’d done by keeping her from her brother was such a black mark against him that she hadn’t needed any other reason.

“Okay. I shall try.” She acquiesced softly,still somewhat lost in thought.

“How is your shoulder feeling?” He asked as his gaze dropped to her freshly bandaged shoulder.

“Well i’m glad that I’m immune to bacterial infections because i’m pretty sure my whole arm would have fallen off by now if I wasn’t.” Terra answered lightly laughing. Daniel’s laugh rung out in response to hers.

“Does it hurt?”

“Only a little. It stings a bit whenever I raise my arm.”

Daniel looked thoughtful for a moment. “Sometimes when I go out on a mission I almost don’t make it back.” Terras eyes darted back to his face but his facial expression was serene. “Whenever that happens I feel a fear rush over me and It gets so bad that I don’t want to go out into the jungle anymore. That I even consider hiding behind the walls like so many before me have done before.” His gaze burned into hers. “The last time that happened to me was a couple days ago,I’d been attacked by one wildcat and I should have been watching for another one but instead I was watching you. You were like a siren song calling to me. You stood there with worry for me written all over your face. You looked so fierce , like you wanted to come and fight the wildcat even though though it was already dead.” He looked out towards the tree line surrounding them. “ I almost died that day because the other one attacked while I wasn’t paying attention. Usually I would have been terrified after that moment but I wasn’t. And when we reached the border settlement I was up all night trying to figure out why. I realized it was your presence. How can I be afraid of the jungle when it brought you to me?” He reached over and grabbed her hand. “The jungle takes lives but it also gives meaning to lives. Look at your parents for example. They loved the jungle and I know you do as well. Don’t let one encounter make you afraid of what brings you the most joy. I’ve seen how you’ve bloomed these past few weeks.” He squeezed her hand. “Don’t let the fear overtake you or you will let it rob you of your joy. Never give up your joy without a fight. You are doing the right thing right now by choosing to learn from the situation rather than retreat. You really should be in your room sleeping right now but instead you showered and then dragged me out here to show you a new skill.” He smiled and pulled her hand towards his mouth and kissed it gently. “ You will be okay. Okay?”

It took terra a moment to find her voice again. “Okay.”

Daniel smiled brightly at her response then stood up and pulled her to her feet as well. “Now come on. There are about twenty minutes of daylight left, let’s use it.”

Terra reached for another arrow and notched it. As she watched it fly through the air she decided that Daniel was right. She wouldn’t let one encounter scare her from being in the place she enjoyed the most. She would just get stronger and learn new skills. “Adapt and overcome obstacles.” She muttered to herself remembering the words of her teachers at the academy. That’s what she would do. She smiled to herself as the arrow hit the target dead on once again.

Finally the city’s walls came into view. Its walls were seventy feet tall made out of stone, it was heavily fortified and had fourteen towers along the wall that the guards used to walk and patrol. The wall had two gates, one leading towards the desert biome and the other leading towards the mountainous biome that lay on the opposite border of their biome. The common nickname for that biome was cave biome since its inhabitants were rarely seen and it was common knowledge that they dwelled within caves most of their lives.

Terras trio was currently approaching the gate that faced the desert biome. Terra smiled with relief. They’d only rested a few hours before they jumped back unt their horses and headed for the city. Since they were supposed to be arriving when the prisoner did it was best to not arrive several days later. They ridden hard through the night and day only taking minimum breaks for the horses. Terra was exhausted and she felt bad because she knew her mouth was as well, she didn’t usually push her horses so hard. As they approached the gate they slowed. The gate was open but it was more guards than usual standing in the open pathway. They pulled their horses to a stop as they came to a complete stop in front of them.

“State your name and business.” One of the hunters guarding the gate barked out harshly before he looked up to see their faces.

“Oh, I didn’t realize it was you sir.” He was looking at Dexter with reverence in his gaze. “Please continue through.” He backed away and his fellow hunter followed creating a path for their horses. “ Why is the security amped up?” Dexter demanded and he stared down at the man awaiting an answer. “The president ordered it. Hs says we should be vigilant until the situation with the Desert is resolved.” The man hurriedly explained. Dexter nodded and snapped his reins to make his horse move. Terra and Daniel followed after him. When they crossed into the city Terra gazed around trying to see if there was any difference in the atmosphere. She could see it immediately from the way people scurried to where they were going rather than stop and talk with each other as they did their day to day business. She searched through the crowds that congested the streets and couldn’t find a smile anywhere. She feared that something bigger than just vigilance had happened while they were gone. They slowed their horses to a trot as they made their way towards the stables at the academy.

Mia rode with a group of alexander’s men and her own mixed together. They’d been riding all morning and weren’t too far dom the border separating the biomes now. After the night she and alex had spent together she was glad she was leaving. He was too much of a distraction to her,If she’d stayed he would have completely derailed her mission eventually. She’d left behind two of her men so that they could stay in constant contact with the cave biome and be able to relay information back and forth. The two men she’d left volunteered to stay back,from the look she saw on their faces she guessed she wasn’t the only one who was getting busy last night. Trying to shake off thoughts of last night she focused on the path in front of her. She was just happy to be outdoors again. While the mountain sun didn’t have the same warmth as the jungles it was still better than being inside of the mountain with no sun or warmth at all. The mountain path they were on spanned several hundred yards wide.The mountains bordering the path soared upward as if determined to kiss the heavens. They hadn’t had a run in with any beasts from this region yet and Mia wanted to ask one of the cave hunters why that was but she didn’t want to jinx herself accidently. Alex had sent fifty of his own hunters to reside within the jungle biome for the time being. They were all young pale women and men who look like they’d never been under the sun before. She’d spoken to one briefly when they first set out and she learned that none of them had ever left their own biome before,that it was actually rare to leave the caves because their whole society was built within them. She glanced back over her shoulder at the way they’d come and all she saw was an empty mountain pass. She had a feeling that she would be seeing alex again soon She just couldn’t put her finger on why she was so certain. As she turned back to look back towards the front she saw the first of their group pass into the jungle biome and sighed in contentment as she passed through the border as well. Immediately the air turned from cold and crisp air to intense overpowering heat. She loved it. They only had two more days of riding and they would be at the city, less than that if they rode throughout the night. She was determined to get back to the city’s sooner rather than later. She felt a sense of urgency she didn’t understand,but would follow anyway.

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