Welcome to installment #17 of the Chasing Shadows – Making Amends series. For more information or to read the previous scene, head to this page.
Kecil dragged her feet, but Mujur didn’t rush her again. Just as well, his hold over her was precarious at best.
Yes, she trusted he would keep her safe… try at least. After all, the male was determined to lead her straight into danger with his search for the penanggalan, if he even knew where to find it.
The destruction of a demon so detrimental to her people was of high importance, but wandering aimlessly through the jungle would not likely yield positive results. Whereas, Kecil had an idea of where her mother’s killer resided, and Mujur was her best chance of finding both the southern clan and the killer located within.
Three days, she told herself. Did today count as one? Every day gone by was another opportunity for the killer to move on.
Kecil joined Mujur in two more poorly executed hunts before stopping for the evening. She helped gather leaves for bedding and hoped the night would be warm enough without a layer of tapa blankets.
No stranger to sleeping in the open, she would make do. Wherever Gemuk had slept, she did not. Even her hut had offered no relief from his torment.
Mujur stretched out, leaving ample room for Kecil. Though frustrated to the point of exhaustion, she wasn’t ready to settle down… at least not with a belly cramping with hunger. Kecil adjusted a leaf then rose.
Mujur sat straight, eyes narrowed. “Where are you going?”
She paused only for courtesy. “I have to eat.”
“We’ll hunt tomorrow.”
A muscle jerked in his jaw. “No.”
“I’ll stay within hearing,” she said, knowing it would give her a wide territory from which to forage. His quick nod was all the answer she needed.
Out of view of her protector, she called for Teman. Her friend descended a tree and pushed against her leg.
“My friend.” Kecil knelt and petted his coarse fur. The tension which had built throughout the day dissipated as she found comfort in the binturong. “Come.”
Fruit was plentiful in the area, and she gathered an assorted armful, passing a few token samples to Teman. She returned to Mujur with her harvest where she found him tossing in a fitful sleep. He had one claw imbedded in a shoulder. Trickles of blood oozed from the puncture wounds.
Kecil stopped at a distance and set her fruit down. “Mujur.”
“Jinjang.” Necromancer. His talons dug deeper, and a fresh flow of blood trailed down his arm.
Her stomach curled in on itself. “Mujur!”
He bolted upright, and his claw raked a path across his pectoral. Chest heaving, eyes wide, his face twisted in pain as he viewed the damage.
Kecil rushed to his side. Her fingers trembled as her hands flitted over the wound, afraid to touch, wanting to piece the skin back together.
“Heal.” Face blanched, Mujur managed just one word through clenched teeth. She hesitated, and he grabbed her wrist and thrust it against his chest. He pierced his lips so tightly, blotches of white, red, and yellow formed across the surface.
The stickiness of his blood seeped through Kecil’s fingers, and she pressed down, the only help she could offer.
“Great Spirit. Heal it!” His lips pulled in a sneer so fierce she expected fangs to flash at any moment.
“I… I can’t. I was not taught.” She refused to cast her gaze aside as she admitted to one more shortcoming. No one had found her worthy enough to teach her the basics of being a female wehr-tiger. Healing… the one gift all females were born to do with guidance. She was little more than a human who could shift into an insignificant cat.
Mujur thrust her away and rose. Kecil remained seated, her entire body heating with shame.
He returned moments later with one hand splayed across the deepest cuts at his shoulder and lifted her by the wrist. “Come.”
With no choice other than to let him drag her along the ground, she followed. In truth, she deserved nothing less. He’d offered her his protection. In return she couldn’t even heal the simplest of wounds.
Mujur stopped in front of a palm. “Climb it and cut down a branch. Make sure it has plenty of leaves.”
Her eyes traveled up the betel tree some twenty feet high.
Too lazy to climb the tree himself, Gemuk had forced her many times to gather the nuts he loved to chew but also stained his mouth a blood red. The memory of Gemuk and his demands followed her all the way up and down the trunk.
She slapped the branch against Mujur’s stomach, wincing with him at her carelessness. “I’m sorry.”