Carlos replied. “I assure you Doctor Swift, from my time spent with them, none of my crew ever found themselves as a part of the menu.”
“It’s been over a hundred years.” Hayden shrugged his shoulders. “Who knows if culinary fads have changed? Maybe eating people is the new gluten-free here?”
Danica let her eyes lock in Hayden’s direction with a scowl. “Not funny.” She said, staring forward at numerous sharp spears aimed in their direction.
Carlos tilted his head back. “Regardless of the tribe’s dietary habits, it appears we have ourselves in a Mexican standoff, colloquially speaking, no better than being between a rock and a hard place.”
Hayden let out a quick breath. “Presuming they had intended to kill us, they would have done so already. And with the stealth they recently exhibited, they could have done so easily.” He acknowledged, then looking at Carlos. “Maybe with the exception of you.”
Carlos smirked, but was seemingly unsure if he should share the sentiment.
“They revealed themselves more as intimidation, not assault.” Hayden looked to Danica and Carlos. “So I want you to follow my lead. Tribes are extremely territorial. And based on history, each time this tribe comes in contact with modern society, they get the shit end of the stick, so they will be more wary than most.”
Carlos felt the hairs on the back of his neck prickle knowing he was one of those Hayden referred to.
“We have to provide them a show of good faith.” Hayden continued. “Proving our trust in them that they will not hurt us. In turn, showing our proof we mean them no harm.” With that, Hayden carefully allowed his weapon to dangle on his one finger. He slowly and meticulously holstered it.
Danica repeated the gesture, putting her weapon under her arm pocket, yet easy to pull out in a moment’s notice. Her hands curled slightly, not forming full fists, but ready to strike if necessary.
Carlos had only his machete in his hands, the shotgun still tightly snug in his back sling. He opened his fingers and let it drop straight down, the blade tip piercing the ground and sinking deep into the moist earth, remaining upended for easy retrieval.
For several long moments, the tribe remained silent, unsure of how to react, expecting a different result. One of them muttered something aloud to the others. After several more seconds, one of the warriors stepped forward, seemingly the leader of the pack. He took a stance and stood before the trio.
The leader was six foot three, dark leathery skin from years under the sun, green eyes flecked by brown and a muscled physique that would put most body builders to shame. He was painted like the others, spear in hand, but with a bone embedded through the lower of his nasal septum.
All Hayden could think was ‘Ouch.’
The warrior leader muttered a loud series of sounds, composed of mostly blurbs, clicks and grunts, followed by an aggressive gesturing with the spear toward them.
“Tell me you understood that?” Danica queried hesitantly.
Hayden looked behind them. “They’re asking us to turn around and leave.”
“You speak their language?” Carlos was visibly impressed.
“Mostly. It’s a blend of the Aztec and Mayan language combined with some things I’ve never heard. Likely unique to their culture alone.” Hayden replied. “The people of this area tend to use gestures and sounds to fill the void of the language barrier.” He held steady. “But their movements and the fact the ones behind us have now strayed forward to form a more solid line of bodies in front of us, opening the rear, is designed to clearly communicate to us our only option of egress is back.”
Danica and Carlos turned their heads and confirmed the open area they had entered through was now devoid of enemies, fully exposed for a quick departure.
Carlos spoke first. “We’ve come too far to turn around now.”
Hayden smiled. “I’ve absolutely no intention of turning around. I was just explaining their generous offer. Now it’s our turn to reject it.”
Danica had her hands and body poised for a quick attack. “What do you want us to do?”
Hayden held his two hands up and open. “I want you to remain firm where you are. Under no circumstance are you to back up, even by one step. We must hold a position of strength. We will get no respect if we do not show our intentions to proceed, unhindered by them.”
Danica and Carlos nodded their understanding.
The warrior tribe were getting restless, unable to understand the conversation of the white people before them, but holding strong, protecting their land from the trio’s invasion. Their spears were rising and falling in a slow, but threatening manner.
Hayden then declared. “I’m about to provide a show of strength. Nothing physical, just verbal, but it will catch them off guard, especially at having an interloper speak in their tongue, even if not one hundred percent accurate.” He turned to his partners again. “Once done, remember, we need to hold our ground, no matter what.”
Danica and Carlos calmly motioned for Hayden to do what he did best, piss people off.
Hayden turned to the warrior leader and spoke back to him in his language, slower, but being very careful to enunciate everything he understood. ’We’re staying and we’re moving forward. Now move out of our way. We seek no trouble from you.” Hayden announced with authority.
The warrior’s eyes widened, shocked to have an invader speak in his tongue, but more angered by the trio’s defiance at his order to leave. In seconds, a slur of angry sounds and motions spewed forth from the warrior, maintaining his eye lock on Hayden, refusing to turn away as it was considered a show of weakness.
Like the warrior, Hayden locked his gaze on the leader, followed by a quick wink, which only confused the warrior more.
As the tribe argued, Hayden, Danica and Carlos formed a circle, backs to one another, facing out as the tribesman moved again, re-surrounding them all, spears pointed forward and their rock edges held at throat level.
“True to form.” Danica sarcastically pointed out as she was now staring at an angry tribe and the business end of three spears targeted on her. “I guess the option to turn and run is off the table.”
Carlos retorted. “It was never on there to begin with.”
Danica had her body coiled to strike at any moment perchance a sharp edge moved too close.
Hayden could see her charging her body for an all-out black belt assault, but he raised his hands to them to remain relaxed.
The trio did.
The tribal warrior stepped forward, his bare feet crunching on the dried leaves and grass, with his equally armed battalion of spear wielders behind him for support as he moved before Danica.
Hayden stepped forward and with one left step, was standing directly in front of Danica, shielding her.
Carlos moved as well, but to stand in front of both of them.
The warrior was making a snarling sound as he came face to face with Carlos. He let his teeth grind and he sputtered some sounds, obviously their language, to which the other men nodded their acceptance.
Hayden commented. “He said, ‘We can kill them now and drown them in the pools.’ And if I’m correct, he used the phrase ’As for the woman, we can keep her as a slave.”
Danica turned to Hayden in shock. “They did not just say that did they?”
Hayden smiled. “No. That’s for ‘It’s not far now’ from yesterday.”
Danica was tempted to turn and punch Hayden, but felt it would trigger the wrong response from the tribe. She held it in for later.
The trio originally suspected the Thorne’s has been through here first, obviously unimpeded by the native populace, but by the tribe’s obliviousness and surprise at their arrival, the Thornes were still long behind them.
While both sides stared one another down, the leading warrior shoved his spear tip forward towards Danica, within inches of her cheeks, revealing what he was capable of and noting to her, he understood who was being protected by the men.
Carlos reached out and grabbed the shaft of the spear, behind the tip, stopping the forward motion toward Danica. He clenched his muscles and held it firm.
The warrior’s eyes tightened with anger, surprised by the action, taking it for aggression. He snorted and with one vicious yank, pulled the spear back and free, taking a deep slice out of Carlos’ open hand. The warrior let out a mean spirited laugh, followed by the others behind him clapping like an audience enjoying a show. He was about to lunge again when he watched as Carlos rubbed his hand casually, showing no shock or pain, on his side jacket pocket.
Carlos smiled as though it was commonplace.
As Carlos wiped it away, the warrior’s eyes expanded wide when he observed Carlos’ palm and the gouge he had made within it was smaller than he presumed. And in total disbelief, getting smaller by the second, as the skin started slowly knitting itself back together before their very eyes.
The leader shouted something to the others. They all paused, confused by what they were being told.
Two of the warriors, appearing genuinely spooked turned and disappeared into the trees.
Hayden spoke again. “He said, ‘Get the Chief. He is… ’something.’” He shook his head in annoyance. “Sorry, that last bit was word I’ve never heard before.”
Danica piped up from behind. “Up until a short time ago neither had we.”
The trio held their position, hands up and exposed, awaiting the return of the two warriors and very likely the Chief.
The rest of the tribe had stepped back, somewhat frightened by Carlos’ rapid healing.
‘Thank God for small miracles.’ Hayden thought.
After a few minutes, Hayden whispered to Danica. “Would it be awkward if I asked the first warrior dude if I could reach into my pack for a beer while we wait?”
Danica slowly turned to Hayden. “If you pull it out, I’ll personally take a spear to you myself.”
Hayden returned her look and replied back. “So yes…it would be awkward.”
Danica rolled her eyes as she let out a breath, counting to seven now. She started to think her eyeballs would freeze in a upward stare if she stayed with Hayden much longer.
Carlos offered a quick chuckle, for which the tribe observed them all in confusion, shocked the trio could find anything funny in their position.
The tribe and the warriors were holding firm for a good hour until out of the woods, two warriors split the grass weeds apart, holding it open for an older man to join and pace toward the trio.
The older man, obvious the Chief by how the warriors acquiesced to him, appeared to be almost eighty, small in stature, slightly bent forward on his spine, likely from time and old age. He had long white hair which ran down past his shoulders and was tightly tied in a simplistic braid filled with small decorative stones and feathers. He had thick sunburned skin, but not painfully so, and deep piercing blue eyes like sapphires. The most amazing thing was he walked like a teenager, energy in every step.
The warrior leader moved aside for the Chief.
The Chief stepped up and before Carlos, his appearance seeming to solidify into a position of strength. He stared deep into Carlos’ face, tilting back and forth as he examined the wrinkled features and muscled form. After a few seconds, his eyes went wide with amazement. Without turning to his comrades, he yelled something in a fast and furious series of grumbles and grunts, using words Hayden had never heard.
The entire tribal army locked eyes on Carlos, muted gasps and conversations in the same language spoken a moment before, this time; all aggression in their tone was gone.
Within seconds, every single one of the warriors, including the leader, lowered their weapons, fell to their knees and bowed. One hand forward and the other across their heart, faces and eyes on the Earth, they chanted and moaned.
Danica stared at Carlos, who was looking back at the tribe dumbfounded.
Hayden was the first to speak. “Forget to mention to us when you were here last, you also happened to be their God?”
Carlos mumbled. “If I was, I have absolutely no memory of it.”
“Well whoever they are, they’ve been to our island.” Danica stated.
Hayden turned to her. “And how do you know that?”
Danica pointed to one of the tribesman on his knees.
The kneeling figure had cut himself on his spear when he knelt as quickly as he did and like Carlos, the wound was healing right before their very eyes.
Hayden gave a satisfied smile. “Guess that means we’re really on the right trail.”
Carlos interjected. “I was never in any doubt.’
The Chief smiled, signaling for the others to rise. He spoke to them all with another series of sounds and motions.
Hayden translated. “They’re inviting us back to their village to share a meal. They feel this re-union is long overdue” Hayden looked to Carlos.
“I wish I could remember.” Carlos stated.
“What about the island? Is not time of the essence?” Danica asked.
Hayden relayed a quick question to the Chief.
The Chief turned to the others, posed a question and once responded to, turned back to Hayden, shaking his head and replying accordingly.
Hayden nodded, turning to Carlos and Danica. “He said the island entrance is currently under watch. No one has entered or even approached.” He took a breath. “They would take our decline as very offensive. And personally, having a tribe of fast healing warriors who have been to our mysterious island being on our side would be an asset.”
Danica sighed. “Fine. Dinner it is. And us without a bottle of wine.”
Hayden offered a grin. “Don’t worry. I brought plenty of beer.”
At that, Carlos laughed.
Almost immediately, so did the rest of the tribe, unsure what was said, but sharing in the jocularity.
Hayden accepted the invitation to the Chief, followed by declaring in their language. “Lead the way good sir. We’re all hungry.”
Danica quickly mentioned. “And make sure to note, it won’t be us they’re eating.”
Hayden winked. “If they do, I’m sure I’d be the tastiest.”
The trio resumed their laughing, following the tribe into the jungle.