Violet woke to a panicked Keel shaking her.
“Violet!” He whispered, giving her another firm shake.
“Keel, what’s wrong?” She sat up, trying to see what was going on. It was so dark in their little hideout, that all she saw was the faint yellow shimmer of his eyes.
“We need to go, now!”
“Why? What’s wrong?”
“We’ve been found. Come on,” He turned and crawled out of the trunk. She followed behind him, her heart racing as she tried to see anything around them. The jungle had an eerie silence to it. Over the last two days, she’d gotten used to the constant chirping or buzzing or rustling of leaves. But now, there wasn’t a single sound apart from their own heavy breathing.
Keel took her hand and began dragging her forward, but stopped a few paces later.
“What?” She asked.
Before Keel could answer, heavy thumps sounded from in front of them.
Now that they were out of the trunk, there were thin beams of moonlight lighting the area around them. It was still hard to see, but Violet could make out enough.
A few feet away, pacing with the slow, elegant grace of a cat, was a huge creature. It had the lean, powerful shape of a panther, with pitch black fur. There was a white stripe running along its back, like a skunk. There was a long, slim tail swinging back and forth behind it, and its large black eyes were fixed on them.
“Oh great,” She said, “What fresh hell is this?”
“It’s a White Backed Felit. Very dangerous.”
Violet took in a long, calming breath. She was getting really sick and tired of everything trying to kill them. She was tired, aching all over and fed up of this stupid jungle.
“That’s it!” She growled, pushing past Keel. She ignored his words for her to stop and marched closer to the Felit. “Shoo! Get out of here you stupid skunk looking cat thing! Go on! Shoo!” She waved her hands in the air, making herself appear bigger than she really was.
The Felit stared at her for a moment, its eyes unblinking as it took her in.
“I said SHOO! Be gone, creature of the night! Get!”
She stomped her feet at it in the hopes of being as intimidating as she could.
Finally, the Felit turned and ran into the trees, away from them.
Violet smiled and turned back to Keel. “There, it’s gone. See, nothing to worry about.”
“Violet,” Keel’s voice sounded even more afraid, which wasn’t a good sign in her books.
Her shoulders slumped, “I made it worse, didn’t I?”
“Felit’s hunt in packs. We’re surrounded.”
She tore her eyes away from Keel and carefully scanned the area around them.
Yup, they were surrounded. There were at least six of the creatures glaring and snarling at them from the shadows.
Moving slowly, Violet went over to Keel. They stood back to back, keeping each one of the beasts in sight.
She pulled her daggers from her hip, holding them tightly in her hands. This would be a hell of a fight. It was one thing to fight another person, but these things had fangs and claws. It would be like taking on a pride of lions.
Just then, something caught her eye. Thinking fast, a plan sprang into Violet’s mind. It probably wasn’t a very good plan, but it was better than being torn apart by these things.
“Keel?” She whispered, not turning to face him. The cat creatures were moving closer, circling them.
“I have a plan. When I say, throw your knife into one of the Felit’s to your left.”
“Is you’re plan to piss them off?”
She rolled her eyes. He’d learned so much of her language over the two years. It was nice to see him using it in the correct context.
“Trust me. Ready?”
Slipping one of her daggers into its sheath, she reached for the small throwing knife strapped to her wrist.
“One…Two… Three.” She hissed and they both launched a knife in opposite directions.
The creatures howled, the pain filled sound echoing in the jungle. Violet spun and grabbed Keel, pulling him to the ground just as a huge swarm of Tispi flies rushed over their heads and attacked the Felit’s.
The other beasts scattered, obviously not wanting to end up a meal for the thousands of small flies that were now devouring a thrashing, howling Felit.
Easing up to their feet, they quietly moved away from the writhing mass and eased into the bushes.
Once they were a few feet away, they turned and began to run. It was hard for Violet to see where she was going. She almost fell flat on her face a few times, but they couldn’t stop. They had to put as much distance as they could between them and the rest of the Felit pack.
Keel suddenly fell to the ground with a horse cry of pain. Violet dropped to her knees beside him, her heart pounding in her chest.
“Keel! What happened? Are you okay?”
He was frantically trying to get his belt off. She tried to see if he was being attacked by anything, but all she saw was the dark shape of him fussing with his belt.
Finally, he got it off and wrapped it around his thigh tightly, his breaths uneven and fast.
“What happened? Please, talk to me.”
“Do you have your daggers?” He asked in a rush.
“Good,” He shifted, hissing with pain. A shaft of faint moonlight broke through the canopy above and Violet saw what the problem was.
A thick, dark green vine was sticking out of his calf. There was some kind of stinger on the end, embedded deep into his flesh.
“What the hell is that?”
“The Black Web Vine. I need you to do something for me, Violet, but you won’t like it.”
“Anything. Do you want me to pull this out?”
“It won’t do me any good.”
Keel took in a few harsh breaths, his body tight and twitching with pain.
“I need you to cut my leg off.”
Violet’s mouth fell open. “Have you lost your mind! No! Absolutely not!”
“If you don’t… The poison will kill me by morning. It’s already spreading. Look,” He gestured to his leg.
Violet moved to his lower leg and with one sharp pull, she tore out the stinger of the vine. Tossing it to the side, she only took a second to watch it pull back into the bushes like some weird snake thing.
Bending to Keel’s leg, she lifted his pants and almost cried at what she saw.
There was an obvious reason why it was called the Black Web Vine. Keel’s calf had a single bloody hole on its right side. There was a small trickle of dark blood running down his leg. But it was the black veins in the shape of a spider’s web growing from the sting sight that had Violet in a near panic.
“What do I do? How do I stop this?”
“You can’t. Not without medical equipment. We don’t have anything that will stop the spread of the poison. The only thing we can do is cut my leg off. If not, the web will spread all over my body, making my flesh decay until-”
“Stop!” She cried, her face soaked with tears, “I won’t do that to you, Keel. I can’t. Please… I can’t.”
Keel nodded, letting out a long, shaky breath. “Alright… Alright, little fighter. Let me hold you for a while then.”
“What? You need to tell me how to fix this!”
“There is no fixing it, Violet. I have slowed the progress by cutting off the blood circulation to my leg, but… But it will spread, and it will kill me.”
“No,” She sobbed, “No, this can’t be happening. We survived all this other bullshit, and now a stupid plant is going to… To kill you? No! I don’t buy it.”
“The only way to save my life… is to take my leg. It’s alright. I can get a mechanical prosthetic to replace it. Besides, I should have lost this leg two years ago.”
She turned to meet his eyes, her vision swimming with a red tint from her tears, “Please don’t make me do this to you, Keel. Please,” She cried.
He reached out and cupped her cheek, “I love you, Violet. From the moment I saw you, I knew that my heart and soul belonged only to you. Please, my brave little fighter… save me.”
More tears flowed from her eyes as her entire body rebelled at the idea of what he was asking her. How could she ever forgive herself for mutilating him like that? How could he?
But the only other option was to watch him die.
“How?” She choked out, unable to meet his gaze.
“One strong, quick cut… at the knee. I will lose consciousness when you do this, so… if you do not sever the leg in the first strike, you can do it again. Once it’s off, use the healing gel. You will have to use all of it, but it will seal the wound enough so that I do not bleed out.”
“Oh, God,” Violet shook her head, praying to whichever God would listen to please do something so she wouldn’t have to do this.
“Do it, Violet. I can feel the web spreading. If it goes past my knee… You can do this. You’re strong, remember that.”
With shaking hands, Violet reached for the razor sharp dagger at her hip. She gripped it tightly in one hand, the tears flowing freely as her whole body shook with sobs.
“It’s alright,” Keel whispered, his voice filled with pain, “It will be alright.”
Shifting to get to her knees, Violet locked her gaze on his knee. She closed her eyes for a moment, unable to look at Keel.
Please, she cried out to the universe, please find another way! I love him so much… I can’t hurt him like this.
No answer came, and when she opened her eyes, she saw the black web on Keel’s leg had spread even more. It would only be minutes before it spread past his knee. If she was going to save his life, she would have to do this… now.
Raising the knife above her head like an axe, Violet braced herself.
“I love you, Keel,” She whispered, “I’m so sorry.”
With an anguished scream, Violet tensed her muscles and brought the dagger down.