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Chapter 6: Jungle biome-outside the wall

The jungle was an assault on all senses. The mild heat caressed her skin. The sounds of the insects, the birds and larger animals created a symphony of nature ringing in her ears. The virescent hues of various plants glowed iridescently continuously distracting her every few feet. The canopy of trees went on as high up as she could see.The air smelled of flowers, the scent so overpowering that she could taste them blooming on her tongue. Terra looked all around her in amazement. She’d been in the jungle over the years that she was in the academy but never like this. This was amazing. Instead of being surrounded by trainees on all sides who invariably negated from the experience, she now rode between Daniel and Dexter. They’d been given three non mutated horses for their trip through the jungle to the border. Daniel rode in front of her and Dexter behind. They’d decided a singular line was easiest when it came to watching for threats that may appear. They didn’t get along so the only person who talked was her and that got old after a while. They’d been on their way to the border since that morning.

The scenery on whole trip so far had been amazing, and she loved it with the deep nostalgia that only someone born into the land could feel, but the tension between Daniel and Dexter was palpable. Terra sighed and looked skyward choosing to ignore it. She didn’t see anyway to minimize it and until she did she wasn’t going to touch it with a ten foot pole. When they met at the gate to the city that morning with their packs and horses Daniel smiled at her and asked again, quietly, if she was ready to talk yet. She’d pretended not to hear him. She wasn’t sure how to approach the situation between them. She wanted to talk to him to understand why he did what he did, and why he genuinely believed that preventing her from rescuing the only family she had left was the right thing to do. He was the reason she’d lost her brother and no matter what he did or said, that fact still remained.
“Terra, you okay?” Dexter’s voice resonated from behind her and seemed to hang in the air. She turned and smiled at him. “Yeah , I just love being outside of the walls. I can see why my parents chose to live out here. even with the danger from beasts.”

She turned back to the front and continued to take in the external beauty around her. She noticed Daniel turn to look at her, and she could tell he was considering whether or not to say something. “ Your parents loved the wilderness. I can see the same reverence in you.” He proudly proclaimed as he shot a mischievous look at Dexter, clearly communicating his smugness at knowing that information. Terra rolled her eyes. “ I know they loved the wilderness. I still remember them.

Daniel shrugged. “I was simply trying to share information with you. It’s not my fault if Dexter gets upset because he didn’t know.” Terra heard a snort from behind her. “ Trust me, i’m not concerned with him. He’s jealous of our relationship so he’s trying to sway you towards him by using nostalgia.” He smirked. “ She’s never going to forgive you for keeping her from her brother. You should just give up now.” Terra looked back at Daniel in time to see a pensive expression cross his face. “ We will see.” He said then turned back to the front of his horse to focus on the jungle in front of him. “We should be near a militia settlement soon. We will stay there for the night and continue tomorrow.”

Terra sat on the cove bank staring up at the waterfall that cascaded like a roaring white stream down the cliff. The deafening roar of the water drowned out the sound of the jungle around her. She felt as if she was in a bubble where nothing else existed but herself and the waterfall. For the first time in years she felt herself truly relax. She watched the water vapor that hung over the cove caper about before it settled and became apart of the cove pool itself. It all seemed so simplistic and easy. It was a force of nature, both beautiful and brutal. It was as if the cascades of water conjured an influx of equally powerful emotions in her brain and it quite took her breath away. It was simply spectacular, the most magnificent sight she had ever beheld.Watching the elegance of the waterfall brought back memories of her family. The way her parents were so obviously in love even after years of marriage. The bond she and her brother shared, one only siblings would understand. The simplicity of her life before that tragic day. She felt a heavy yearning in her chest, she desperately wanted to feel that happy and carefree again.

She realized with a sharp ache in her chest that even if she managed to find a love like what her parents had it would still be at best a poor imitation of the feeling she longed to feel again. She wanted a family, she wanted her family back. It was something about knowing for a certainty that you belonged. It was like carrying a sun around inside of you that always warms your heart. Her sun had been ripped away and now she was cold forever until she found her brother again, since he was part of the sun she’d lost. And perhaps the only piece she stood a chance of reclaiming. Terra reached up and wiped away a tear that escaped her eye and continued staring at the waterfall until the darkness fully chased away the last vestiges of sunlight from the horizon.

There was a quick flicker and crackle of light, too fast for the naked eye. Suddenly the soft warm glow of fireflies pierced through the dark atmosphere she’d felt settle around her. They cast sugary light as they danced in a heady swarm of light, like a frozen firework explosion . Terra felt he tension in her body flee as she felt the awe she felt for the wilderness of the jungle overtake her once more. She stared in amazement as they softly buzzed through the blackened air, illuminating the sky. Terra felt a presence next to her and turned sharply to see Dexter smiling down at her. There was no use in attempting to speak, the roar of the waterfall drowned out any sounds. Terra smiled at him warmly and patted the spot next to her on the rock. He sat next her and grabbed her hand and softly kissed it.He stared intently into her face as if were fighting a mental battle internally. He reached up and cupped her cheek with his hand and drew her face closer to his. The air between them was charged with electricity as they stared wide eyed at each other. He slowly leaned towards her and she closed her eyes as she felt his lips meet hers. He kissed her and the world fell away. It was slow and soft, comforting in ways that words would never be. His hand rested below her ear, his thumb caressing her cheek as their breaths mingled. It was magic, the way his lips connected with hers. The caress of his lips softer than she could have imagined. Terra felt something warm start to heat inside of her chest. She felt like a firefly herself, as if her glow was visible to everyone around her. After a long moment they broke away for some much needed air . Terra gaped at him in shock.She’d never imagined that they would kiss. All of the years they spent sleeping in each others beds they’d never shared such an intimate moment. He laughed at her expression and leaned down to kiss her forehead. He kissed her lips lightly once again then reached for her hand and grasped it tightly in his own.She leaned against his shoulder and they just sat there in peace, holding hands and watching fireflies light up the night sky in the middle of the jungle. It felt like a beginning , a silent promise of much more.

“The desert biome has directly attacked our home and they will continue to attack our home. This is why you have all been selected to travel to other biomes and gather allies. What I am about to tell you is of the utmost secrecy and can not be repeated outside of this room.” Chris paused for a moment and scanned the crowd of hunters sitting before him. They were broken up into three groups. Each had been handpicked and grouped with the biome they had been assigned to in mind.

“We each will travel to our biomes and arrange a meeting the leaders. Quite frankly if they don’t agree to stand with us then they stand against us. If this comes to pass then you will then assassinate their leaders and assume control anyway. Protecting our biome is our first priority no matter what happens.”

As he looked across the sea of faces all he saw was shock and horror written across them. “Don’t sit there with those ridiculous looks. As a hunter you be called upon to do much worse in the name of protecting your homes. You act shocked and horrified at the thought of killing to protect your families but would you rather sit back and wait until the desert biome comes and kills them right in front of you?” Chris’s voice loudly rang throughout the room. At his words the hunters before him straightened up and he sensed determination rise throughout the room. “ Team one you will go to the blizzard biome. Team two go the cave. Team three to the aquatic biome. Your team leaders have all already been decided. You will all leave at first light tomorrow. Any questions?”

The room was silent for a moment before a hand went up. “Sir. why the sudden change in orders? Why are we now attacking others?” A young woman with bright red hair asked demanded loudly.

“It has always been apart of the plan to take control of the others biomes. The only question was if it would be under the guise of working together or completely taking control by force. The president plans to completely rule over all of the biomes so he can pass on the dynasty to his niece.” Chris stated simply.

His words were met with looks of confusion. “ He has a niece?” The same redhead exclaimed in disbelief. “Who is it?”

Everyone one else in the room had been following the conversation with avid interest.

“Its Terra. And before you ask, no she doesn’t know. She believes she is an orphan in this world and for some reason that is the way he wants to keep her.”

“That’s so sad. To be alone in this world with no family to call your own.” The redhead looked close to tears,several other heads in the crowd nodded along with her.

Chris shook his head. This was no time for tears. “ Get yourself together! You all have a mission to complete. I didn’t bring you here to gossip about other people’s families.”

At these words the whole room stood up and snapped to attention. “Yes sir!” They all shouted loudly in response.

Chris surveyed the crowd before him silently for a moment. “Go safely. You are dismissed.” As the room silently emptied he had a feeling he wouldn’t see some of them again.

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