The Artifact (Book 2, Time Series)

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Chapter Three: Fight or Flight

AD 215
The Forest
Eastern Piedmont Region, North America

}}}-----> WAHYA <-----{{{

“Ah!” Wahya jolts awake, the sunlight streaming down through a tiny hole in the foliage that covers his hiding spot.

“I overslept!” He admonishes himself. Wahya had been more tired than he thought he was last night, and the comfort of being cocooned amongst the tree roots and earth had put him into a deeper sleep than he intended.

He listens before rolling out of his shelter quietly and slowly, having heard nothing that sounds like the Iroquois hunters. Looking towards the sunrise, he hopes they had either wasted so much time following his false tracks that they gave up searching for one lowly Cherokee, or have already bypassed him.

Unfortunately, not knowing makes it more difficult to figure out which way he should go. If he had in fact lost them, or they returned home themselves, then he should try to return to his people as well.

But, if they had backtracked like he had done, but hadn’t made it to his location yet, having stopped for the night themselves, then he would have to be careful heading towards the villagers for fear of running into the enemy head on.

He rubs his hand over his face, pondering his next step carefully. Finding the berry bush close to the earthen shelter, he carefully plucks a few summer berries off so as to not leave much, if any, trace that he was here. Sweet and tart, the wild raspberries and more of his deer jerky are a decent start of yet another stressful day.

He wonders how far he went yesterday, then considered whether or not the camp of transient villagers would have moved out already. But the question he didn’t want to even voice in his mind was whether or not the Iroquois had captured or killed any more of the braves. Or, even worse... Did they find the villagers?

More determined than ever to get back to his people, he sets off in the direction his group had been camping, praying that he could avoid the Iroquois if they were still tracking him now. As he walks, picking his way carefully, he tries to keep his head clear and his thoughts attentive to his surroundings. But as mid-morning approaches, and there’s been no sign of the Iroquois all morning, his thoughts begin to wander.

Turning contemplative about his situation he recalls how his village had been thriving before the sickness at nearly a hundred people. They were living well with plenty of food to hunt and resources to comfortably live off the land.

Then reflecting on the day itself, warm and sunny, but not sticky with humidity yet like it probably would be later this afternoon, he thinks of what he would give to be out hunting deer on such a fine day, instead of trying to pass through Iroquois land, being hunted himself.

At midday, he decides it’s safe to take a rest, no signs of the hunters and feeling more secure than he had at this time yesterday. Wahya sighs, his mind drifts to how life was before the sickness, when things seemed more carefree.

“Little Doe [Usdi Agisa]...” Her name resonates in his head. She was one of the first to be taken by the sickness. They had had plans to be married as husband and wife this year, and he thinks to himself, “She would have made a good wife. She was kind and fair, and pretty.”

Wahya had liked Little Doe a lot, and had they married, he would have joined her clan, as the men of his people do in marriage. And while he was very content to marry her, it had bothered him just a little that he just felt content.

Again, he picks up the stone gorget around his neck, unconsciously playing with it as he stares into space remembering moments he’d shared with Little Doe. He had many fond memories, as they had been children together and friends for most of their lives.

But it had been his best friend, Badger [Inoli] , who had planted the seeds of doubt in his mind. No doubt that he liked Little Doe - there was never any doubt that he liked her very much. But that his feelings for her weren’t enough.

“What was it that Badger always said about his wife, Butterfly [Aponi]? Oh yeah, that she made him feel good and crazy all at the same time. That his heart beat faster whenever he saw her. And my favorite... That she was burned into his mind so much that he felt like he would die without her.”

Wahya had never understood that. With Little Doe it was just so simple. Nothing exciting, just happiness and friendship, “We liked each other and that was that. And everyone thought we were a perfect pair.”

He bites off a piece of deer jerky but stops chewing as he hears the snap of a twig in the not-so-far distance. Grabbing his bone-handled stone knife from its sheath at his side, he slowly stands and turns, prepared to fight whatever or whomever is there.

Quietly he waits close to the trunk of the tree and hears yet another snap. Then a voice. In another language, the distinctly male voice shouts out, and Wahya knows that he’s been found by the Iroquois braves!

Before he has a chance to run, a tall thin man appears from the trees, his bow strung with an arrow and ready to be pulled back. Wahya realizes that if he runs away, the Iroquois hunter will be able to shoot him with the bow more easily from a distance but wouldn’t be able to aim properly if he were any closer.

So, without thinking, he runs at the brave, quickly coming in too close for the surprised man to have time to adjust his sights and shoot the incoming Cherokee brave. Clad in only his breechcloth and belt, Wahya moves with sleek, fluid ability and speed, jumping at the enemy hunter, and successfully throwing him off balance.

The two hit the ground, and Wahya is on top groping to hold his blade to the other man’s throat.
But he underestimates the lanky warrior, and soon strong, long legs are wrapped around Wahya’s waist, pulling him over. And equally strong arms shove the knife back towards his own face.

They struggle against each other for some time - Wahya’s pure muscle a close match against the
surprisingly strong Iroquois. The undergrowth here is only partially dense, but still sticks and rocks dig into Wahya’s back and side as he tries to push free from the Iroquois who has since lost his bow and arrow.

Finally, he gets his foot around the man’s leg, and pulls it outward in an attempt to break the leg at the knee. Releasing his grip on Wahya, the man tries to break free from the painful foothold, but instead is thrown off as Wahya rolls away from his almost-captor.

Jumping to his feet, Wahya sees others coming through the trees and darts away in the opposite direction, already out of breath from the hand-to-hand combat. This is the closest the hunters have been on his trail yet, and they’re coming fast. Wahya pumps his legs as hard as he can, dodging tree limbs and fallen trunks, and nearly stumbles on a large rock.

The sound of the men not far behind him propel him onward, as he takes in huge amounts of air, blowing it out with each stride. His lungs feel like they’re going to explode, and he almost hits another rock, sure that he’s slowing down. Suddenly up ahead he sees a clearing. No, not a clearing he realizes suddenly.

Running past the last tree, Wahya can see the tops of more trees below him and tries to stop himself from going over the edge of the steep ravine directly in front of him. The trees are big, and he figures he’s about 20 - 30 feet above the ground level, which he cannot even see through the dense trees below.

He has no desire to jump into the unknown to find out what lies beneath the limbs. But it’s either death by the Iroquois braves behind him, or face the possibility of breaking his neck on the unknown terrain beneath the treetops far below.

Wahya lets out a roar of courage and fear as he decides it’d be better to die from the trees than at the hands of his enemy, “Ahhh!!!”

He yells at the top of his lungs as he fast approaches the top limbs below him. As he lands in the tree, his legs buckle under the narrow and unsteady branches, and he falls, continuing through the leaves and dense branches. His necklace is soon caught by the fingers of branches and the leather cord yanks free from his neck.

The ponytail he’d tied tightly this morning, comes apart, and his long black hair nearly entangles in the branches. His hip hits yet another larger branch, hard, and his shoulder blade is snagged on another limb, the scratch stinging already. He closes his eyes tight and tries to protect his face with his arms as he plummets face-first towards the forest floor below.

Just when he thinks the end should be coming soon - either the end of his fall or his life - his body is suddenly free from branches and leaves. As he hits the ground with a thud, he realizes that the trees are on a steep slope, and his already battered body instantly begins to roll downward. Sure that he’s going to be smashed into a tree or stone embankment soon, Wahya opens his eyes to see the world spinning as he continues his descent.

But soon the trees disappear, and he determines that he must be dead as everything suddenly begins to fade - the vegetation, rocks, the sky. A dense gray fog appears, and yet it glows with color. The cool grass and undergrowth dissolve away and are replaced with a much flatter, somewhat smoother, yet rough surface and the daylight glares with a suddenly cold intensity.

He closes his eyes again against the harsh light and in an attempt to keep himself from getting nauseous from the dizzying fall. The slope, now free from debris, quickly levels out and he drastically slows down, though still unable to stop himself.

Suddenly he hits a semi-hard barrier, knocking it over and thus breaking his fall completely, coming to a full stop. Taking a moment, as his equilibrium evens out, he reasons that from the sound and feel of whatever he’s hit that now lays beneath him, is a living thing for sure.

He opens his eyes slowly so he can see what he landed on top of and how much damage it and he sustained in the crash - his head and body aching, and his vision still spinning. He expects anything - a bear, a wolf, or even another Iroquois brave.

But even his worst fears, or biggest imaginings couldn’t come close to what he actually sees...

The most colorful pair of human eyes he’s ever encountered in all his life.

}}}-----> * <-----{{{

Hey Readers!
I hope that you’re enjoying “The Artifact” so far!

If you have NOT already read “An Expedition of Love,” (Book 1 in the Time Series) please head over to my profile to save it to your Reading List now. While you don’t have to read it before “The Artifact,” I do recommend doing so. Chronologically, it takes place first, and introduces you to Samantha Harrison, who you’ve met in Chapter Two of this book as Dr. Samantha Warner. “An Expedition of Love” is her story - you shouldn’t miss it!

After “The Artifact” is posted, I will embark upon the adaption of the third and final book in the Time Series, titled “The Time Traveler.” This final book brings the first two books together, explaining why and how everything happened, while following the story of Time Travel scientist, Jonas Falco who finds himself on a mission to save the future of the world!

Please give my profile a ‘follow’ and I promise to keep you posted on the progress of all three books!

Best wishes!
Gwen

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