Slave of a Hunter

Search for the Saviour

Who knows how long I stared at the spot where Xeenan had disappeared. I did not move, blink or breathe for what felt like ages. I still could not believe it, I wanted so much to deny it. He can't be gone, he can't be... Hot tears rolled down my face and I felt like throwing up. Something stung my wrists and I looked to see red claw marks on my forearms. I squeezed my eyes shut and could not hold back a sob. Why did Xeenan do it? Why did the idiot have to sacrifice himself like that?! A cry split the air and I looked up to see little Al, screaming her brother's name over and over with her arms clawing towards the waterfall. Sor'an was holding her around her waist to prevent her from jumping into the rapids. I suddenly felt angry and bitter. Xeenan was gone! Al had lost a brother—the only family and protector she had ever known—because of me! Dakota you're such a selfish bitch! my conscience yelled, Xeenan could have easily saved himself, but instead he chose to save you!

I bowed my head, ashamed. My eyebrows lowered and I felt a rush of determination. Xeenan was alive! He had to be, a waterfall would not stop him! So why should I give up? My eyes widened with worry and put a hand to my ear. Unbelievably, after going through rapids, the translator was still attached to my ear. I prayed this prototype was made to be waterproof like the old ones. I moved along the branch towards Becky. She was still looking at the waterfall with unblinking eyes. I could only imagine what was going through her mind. I touched her arm and she jumped, almost losing her balance. I steadied her and squeezed her arm.

"Becky," I said. She must have understood for my friend looked at me and panted as if she was breathing for the first time.

"He–He–Xeenan...he can't! He can't!" she sobbed.

I shook her shoulders to try and calm her hysterics, "I know Becky we'll find him. But we have to get to the children and climb down the cliff."

I coughed and instinctively reached at my face, but realised the converter was gone; lost forever in the rapids. I groaned, without the converter I will not be able to breathe for very long in this atmosphere. I shook my head, I had worry about that later. My friend and I made it to the edge and we jogged to the children. Al struggled out of Sor'an's hold and collided into me. I went to my knees and she proceeded to wail, burying her face into my chest.

"Xeenan! Xeenan!" she sobbed, trembling with sadness.

I rocked her back and forth, cooing into her ear, "I know sweetie, I know. Easy girl, it'll be alright. "I placed my hands around her head and gently pulled her back, looking into her eyes. "We'll find Xeenan, I promise Al. We will find him."

She nodded and calmed down enough so I could hoist her to my back. Sor'an jumped onto Becky's back and we both made our way through the trees towards the cliff. I looked over the edge and it appeared to be a demanding decent. Rocks jutted out the cliff face, creating rough, jagged steps. Thick roots and creepers grew over the rocks, providing firm holds to help us down. Mist hung thickly over the foliage and a spray of water from the falls occasionally fell over the boulders and roots, making them extremely slippery. I swallowed, and was the first to climb down with Becky following. My brain told me to hurry, but I had to force myself to take it slow. I had lost my footing twice and nearly caused Al and I to fall down the rest of the way.

Halfway down the cliff was getting steeper, the cascade seemed to grow louder, Al was getting heavier and I was feeling lightheaded. My arms and ankles stung from the scratches I received from the rapids. I stopped for a second to rest my sore arms and try to take in the thick air without choking.

"Isha, what’s wrong?" Becky shouted from above me.

I raised my head and saw she had dug her claws into a thick root to steady herself, with Sor'an clinging to her back like a monkey. I nodded, not wanting to waste my valuable breath. Pushing Al father up my back I held onto a vine and stepped onto another outcropping below me. Water sprayed on me and the child as we descended and I turned to the falls in disgust. Normally, I would have found the white curtain beautiful, but I saw it as a death trap. Finally we reached the bottom and my back ached with relief when Al slid off. I glanced at the falls and could not help but feel a twinge of hopelessness. The forty feet drop of white water crashed into a shallow pool, then continued to flow over a patch of black rocks. Moist wind blasted through my hair as a rainbow appeared over the rocks; I found no comfort from the scene. The image of Xeenan's broken body wedged underwater manage to form in my mind and I shook my head to get rid of it. We ran along the grassy bank in search of our friend. As we rounded a bend the rapids calmed, the stream widened and the falls became a low mummer. I peered into the clear water but could not see Xeenan's body, nor could I see him along the shore. I cupped my hands around my mouth.

"Xeenan!"

There was no answer. I jumped in and swam to deeper waters, while Becky hung back in the shallows.

"Xeenan!" cried Za'Becc.

There was still no answer. The children added in their own calls as I pulled myself onto the other side and searched along the bank. Keep looking Dakota, don't give up! I thought. Sor'an leapt up on top of a tall boulder and scanned the water.

"I see something!" he screeched, pointing ahead of me.

I followed his hand and ran along the shore, coming to a sudden stop. I saw the Xeenan’s body lying face down in the water, his dread locks spread out on the surface like black snakes. A line of yellow-green blood trailed behind him and I noticed his right leg was hanging in an awkward angle; he was not moving. My heart stopped beating.

"Oh God, no!"

I bounded off the bank and dove into the water. Coming up, I swam as fast as I could to the ex–warrior. A voice in my head told me not to move him since he probably had a neck or spinal injury, but I ignored the voice. If he was alive, I could not let him drown! I gently grasped his head and ever so carefully I turned his body and stabalised his neck. Succeeding in getting him to his back, I held the male and kicked towards Becky. She waded out as far as she could then reached out and took Xeenan's left arm, while cradling his head in her other hand. I held his right arm and with as much strength Becky and I could muster, we hauled Xeenan onto dry land. We set him down and I immediately saw that he took a blow to the head and his waist and arms were covered with large cuts and bruises.

"Xeenan! Xeenan can you hear me!" Becky cried in his ear.

I knelt down and quickly felt the back of his neck for deformities. When I found none, I tilted his head back and carefully opened his mouth. Seeing no water, I turned my ear over his mouth and listened for breathing. I could not feel or hear his breath and I did not see his chest move. Panic began to build in my gut.

"He's not breathing," I informed.

The children cried out and Becky gasped, "Do something Isha! Please do something!"

Remember your training! yelled my brain, He’s not human, but you have get him to breathe!

I steeled myself and opened his mandibles as wide as I could. I pressed my hand over where I thought his nose was, put my lips over his mouth and gave a breath. Nothing went down his throat. I tilted his head back farther, pressed back the folds of skin from inside his maw and tried again. This time, I saw his chest move. I watched it go down before giving another breath, then moved to the middle of his chest and started compressions. I had to use all my weight to drive the heels of my hands into his thick sternum.

"One, two, three, four, five…" I whispered.

After twenty-five more compressions, I was starting to cough and pant. My own injuries were starting to bother me and I was becoming lightheaded again. I gave two more breaths and put my ear over his mouth; nothing! I was about start compressions when Becky put his hands on his chest.

“Is this right?” she asked.

“Yes, press his chest hard and quick thirty times. Keep your arms straight and push from your shoulders.”

Becky gave deeper and harder compressions into the middle of Xeenan’s chest. Al and Sor'an whimpered and hugged each other for security. When my friend finished I immediately gave two breaths and listened. Still nothing!

"Keep going Becky."

She pressed his chest without hesitation, grunting each time. I could feel my eyes sting with upcoming tears.

"Come on, Xeenan," I whispered, "you have to live, you can't die on us now. Not after all this–"

Becky was on her twelfth compression when Xeenan suddenly trembled. He gagged, spitting out liquid and coughing several times.

“Hurry, help me turn him to his side!”

I held the male’s head steady as Becky and I rolled him to his right side. I kept my hands on his head as Xeenan continued to cough and expel more liquid. A ripe smell of watery bile reached my nose and I shoved my face into my shoulder to stop myself from gagging. Xeenan spat once more and his breath came in short ragged gasps until he started to breathe on his own. I moved to his face and gently shoveled out the remaining liquid so he would not choke. Za'Becc and I rolled him to his back and she hovered over the male. His eyes were open and she cried out with joy. The children started to laugh happily as well. trailing her mandibles over his face.

"Thank the gods you’re alive I thought I would lose you forever..." her voice suddenly trailed off, "Xeenan.?"

The ex-warrior blinked a few times, he looked like he was trying to say something, then he closed his eyes. Becky gave me a worried glance.

"Isha..."

I saw his chest rise and fall in a steady rhythm.

"It's alright, he's just unconscious."

I had to move quickly so Xeenan would not go into shock. Croucing next to his right side I carefully probed his head. The wound was bleeding, but I did not feel any soft spots or dips in his skull. I quickly ripped a piece from my shorts and pressed it over the gash. Becky held it there while I continued my examination. I probed over his lower, left chest and saw a large bruise and some swelling. I heard something grind as he took a breath. I hoped nothing was punctured as I came to his right leg. Thankfully, the bone had not pierced the skin. Other than cuts on his body, I found no other life threatening injuries.

"It looks like his leg is badly broken, I'm gonna have to find a splint," I said to my friends," and it also looks like he might have a few broken ribs. We should take care of the bleeding."

Becky and I ripped more pieces from our clothes pressed them over any bleeding wounds. I saw her stare down at Xeenan with a sorrow I thought was not possible to have. I noticed Al had moved to Xeenan's side with Sor'an standing behind her. She held her brother's hand and looked up at me.

"Is Xeenan going to be okay?" she asked worriedly.

I put my hand around her small shoulders, "He'll be alright sweetie, I promise. You two want to help me find a splint for Xeenan's leg?"

"What's that?" Sor'an asked.

"I'll explain on the way," I rubbed Al's shoulder, "you can come too Al."

She shook her head, "I want to stay with Xeenan."

I had a feeling she would be reluctant to go, but I still made and attempt.

“If you help me find a splint, we can fix your brother's leg. How does that sound?"

The promise of aiding her brother changed her mind and she sprang to her feet. I went to Becky before we left.

"Make sure to monitor his breathing and keep him very still. If anything happens give me a holler. I don’t suppose you still have your knife?

She shook her head, “I lost it.”

“Yeah, I lost mine too. And my repair kit,” I reached into my pockets and pulled out the rod. “At least I still have this. I shouldn't be gone long."

Becky nodded again and continued to tend to his wounds. I took the children's hands and the three of us left for the forest. Soon, I was back with the children, both of them carrying strands of vines and large bundles of tall grass. I carried a thick, short branch. Becky had managed to stop the bleeding head wound and continued to clean the rest of the cuts after rinsing the strips of cloth from the river. I had Sor'an and Al lay the vines on the ground and directed them to cover Xeenan’s upper body with the grass to keep him warm. Making sure his leg was straight, I carefully pushed a vine under his ankle, above and below the break, knee and near his groin. I placed the branch between his legs and tied the vines together. When I came to his ankle I made a figure-eight around his foot with the last vine. I had the children lay the rest of the grass over Xeenan’s legs. I made sure he was in a stable position and his breathing seemed fine for the moment. I stood up and cleared my throat to stop the tickled that was forming.

"Thanks everyone, you did a wonderful job. I'm going to get us some food, I found that Naxa tree Xeenan was talking about."

"How did you do it?" asked Za'Becc. “How did you know what to do?”

I shrugged, "Honestly, I didn’t know if it would work. I had to take a First Aid and CPR course before I could work at the space station. The training taught me how to handle emergency situations like these."

She stood up and wrapped her arms around me, giving me a strong hug. I was surprised, but hugged her back.

"Thank–you," she purred softly in my ear, "thank–you for bringing him back to me."

“You’re welcome.”

I let Becky go and went back into the brush. I came back carrying the fruit in my arms and the children dove for the fruit as I sat down. While they ate I had to remind Sor'an and Al to eat slowly, the last thing we all needed was diarrhea. Although I found it extremely hard to listen to my own advice after I took the first bite. The naxa was wonderfully tangy and refreshing; it tasted like a combination of watermelon and strawberries. I savoured each bite, letting the sweet juice run down my throat and dribble over my chin. I swore never to take good food for granted again. Wiping my face I tossed the seeds of the fruit into the water then glanced at Becky. I felt a pang of worry when I saw that my friend had barely nibbled at her naxa.

"Becky please eat, you need your strength."

She did take a bite and chewed slowly, but she did not eat again for a while. I sighed, then coughed a few times, spasms of pain shot through my aching body. Now what was I going to do? Bringing my knees to my chest and scanned my surroundings. A hot wind blew through the thick leaves and grass, rippling along the surface of the river. For a brief moment, everything looked beautiful in our time of despair. I saw a movement out of the corner of my eye and turned to see a rodent with a paddle tail come out of the bushes, stare at us, then continued towards the water with three tiny babies trailing behind. A sweet scent of flowers reached my nose as I turned back to my friends.

An insect that looked exactly like a butterfly with rainbow wings suddenly fluttered into view on the gentle breeze and glided towards Becky's head. She shook her head when she felt the wings brush by and stared up at the bug. The insect flapped in front of her and for a while she mesmerised by the flight of the beautiful specimen. Even the children looked up and giggled at the sight. I watched my friend slowly raise her right hand and much to my amazement, the butterfly landed on her fingers. If I had a camera, this would have been the perfect moment to snap a picture. The sparkle in Becky's eyes came back as the insect walked up and down her fingers, until the breeze picked up and it lifted off with one flap. Sor'an and Al laughed as they chased after the insect. Becky's smile stayed on her face until she looked down at Xeenan. I was still smiling, maybe the butterfly was a good omen. Another cough escaped my throat.

"I wish I asked Xeenan where the clearing was."

"I know where it is," said Za'Becc.

I snapped my head to her.

“He told me after to fell asleep last night,” she pointed to the forest, "the clearing is straight through there. He said to follow a line of dto trees until you hit the clearing."

She indicated which tree was the dto. The tree was quite easy to pick out, it had a ridged, twisting pattern in the dark orange bark and it had longer leaves.

“Do you know how far it is?” I asked

“Less than an hour on foot,” Beck answered.

I glanced at my watch and I saw it was close to noon. My hand went to my chin and my brow furrowed in thought. I had an idea but I did not like it and I was sure the others would not like it either. But given the circumstances there was no choice. I got to my feet.

"Becky I'm to go and find the clearing, while you stay here with Xeenan and the children. He needs proper medical attention and it’ll be faster if someone goes alone. I’ll be able to send Nadar–ian’ah here"

The female opened her mouth to argue, but she stopped and looked at the children and Xeenan. She nodded.

"You're right Isha. But please be very careful out there, there are dangers in the forest."

I groaned, recalling the giant bird I had tangled with upon my arrival. I examined Xeenan one last time, gave a few quick lessons to Becky in case of any problems, then turned to leave. I suddenly felt a tug on my shorts and peered down to see Sor'an, holding a stick in his hand.

"Can I come with you? I can protect you!"

I could not help but chuckle at the child and I knelt down to him, placing my hands on his shoulders.

"Sorry Sor'an, it would be better if you stayed. I do have a special job for you."

His eyes lit up as I turned him to face the trio.

"They will need your protection. Can I count on you to do that?"

Sor'an waved his stick and put a tiny fist on his left pec.

"I swear on my honour to protect them!" he said in a triumphant voice.

I smiled and gave the small child a big hug before standing. I waved to my friends before turning to the woods.

I found a dto tree on my right, then a few minutes later I spotted one on my left. I made sure I was in between the trees and took occasional glances behind me. My father had said to always glance behind you in unknown territory, because the angle of your surroundings looks different if you had to back track.

Twenty minutes passed and I had to stop. I leaned my back against a tree and slowly slid to my bottom, sweat stinging my eyes and feeling quite dizzy. I mentally beat myself up for not taking a drink from the river before I set off. The heaviness in my lungs was starting to increase and my aching body protested with every step. But I had to suck it up. I lasted much longer without the converter when I had to sing! I had to get to the ship as fast as I could. Xeenan's condition was getting worse with each passing second.

I suddenly heard a snap and I raised my head. I stayed still and peered into the trees and bushes, watching the suns' rays shine through the gaps of the leaves then quickly disappear. I turned my head and strained my ears to pick up any noises. Nothing, I did not see or hear a single movement. Maybe it was just a tree settling, I thought, trying to reassure myself. I got to my feet and trudge on into the dense jungle, choking on the air once again as I picked up the pace.

A rustle reached my ears and I turned around. I heard something that time and it sounded close. A chilling went down my spine and I looked up into the trees, fearing that a tracker had found me. I had learned the Predators used a cloaking device that could bend light and allow them to blend in perfectly with their environment. However, they were not completely invisible to human eyes. Their cloaks looked like ripples in the air if you looked very carefully. I could not see any disturbances in the atmosphere, but I did not stop searching. Another rustle came from behind me and I jumped, doing a one–eighty at the same time. Fear grew inside me like a ball of ice. It could not have been a tracker, they would not make so much noise—unless he wanted to taunt me. No, no that's not how these guys work; they wouldn't tease me, they'd capture me without a second thought. Whatever was out there, it was not a Yautja. I moved my head from side to side, listening and scanning the forest. I reached into my pocket and felt the smooth metal of the rod. I took it out and extended it to its full length, feeling a small sense of security.

A growling-hiss suddenly reverberated through the woods and the hair on the back of my neck stood up. That was definitely not a Yautja growl! I felt a cold sweat break on my forehead, my hands tightened on my weapon and I felt a million butterflies crash into the sides of my stomach. I tried to control my sharp breathing; hyperventilating would do me no good and my head was already spinning. When I thought I could not stay still anymore a blur appeared out of the corner of my eye. With a quickness I never knew I possessed I ducked and fell forward. Something big and heavy whizzed above me and nicked my back. I rolled over and shot to my feet, turning as I did. My blood went cold at what I saw.

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