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(M)situ

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Offline heartstringss

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Misamia


Lt. LINDEN, Kenneth. Beloved and respected brother in arms.  Survived by his sister, Katherine Linden. Served four years in the army, with his exceptional skills retired as a lieutenant. He lead many successful missions in the name of the crown across many countries. After his leave of the service he returned to Africa to research and study the continent that had captivated his spirit. Due to his absence and lack of communication for 18 months within the heart of Africa he has been legally declared deceased for the purpose of any public and private affairs.

The obituary was small, tasteful. Only placed because of his time in the service and the place where he was last known to be. Africa was a wild adventure, anyone with a taste for danger or enough money could be heard bragging about their time to the still sparsely charred land. Most people staid north where it was most westernized while those with a real desire for the unknown went further south in the search for fame or knowledge.

Kenneth had fallen in love with the culture when he was stationed throughout the continent during his time in the service. Instead of re-enlisting like his sister or many of his brothers in arms, he took his leave and struck out for Africa on his own. He always made sure to make it home during his sisters leave but he never returned from his last trip, no trace of him could be found even through other explorers who knew him. An so he became another explorer taken by Africa and its vast land.

His home was the only place that held clues of where he had been during his time in Africa. His study wall lined with leather bound journals, each holding information about a village he had visited. Drawings could be found through the pages of the villagers, their clothes, weapons, homes, plants that grew around them. Detailed accounts of his time from the day he got there to the day he would leave. The journals behind his desk were lined with his more daily activities of his travels rather then dedicated to a specific village. These journals held more of a rambling tone to them, the adventure of finding each village and being allowed entry.

However through all his meticulous record keeping of dates in ever journal, going so far as to put the time down. There was a gap within the journals, two years prior to the obituary declaring his death a time frame of two months was missing from his journals. It simply stopped in his personal journal and picked up as if nothing had happened, even when he went home from Africa he always made note of it in his journals except for that span of two months.While curious there was never anyone that could be asked about the missing time.

Determined to find her brother, refusing to believe he was truly dead, Katherine set out in her brothers foot steps to find him and hopefully not just a body to bring home. It would take her two years to find a clue, a clue that had essentially been in the form of a ghost. It had been a hunter who knew Kenneth from the service and even did a few years together in Africa traveling from village to village. The man had been frantic upon seeing her thinking Kenneth really had been alive all this time. He was able to tell her though that some years ago Kenneth had mentioned about finding a legend that spoke of a jungle, and how he would follow the leads leaving them to part ways. The time overlapped with the missing months of the journal, and never in any of his journals did he ever speak of such a thing.

Returning to their home with more determination to find the missing journal or some clue she would finally stumble upon a hidden shelf tucked away safely from any accidental findings. Of all places it had been in his room and not the study he had tucked safely away in. This journal was nothing like the others, they held no dates and it was all haphazard in its own way as if he could never truly hold his thoughts correctly during his time in the village just the name of the village carved into the front “Mlezi Wa Msitu”. It spoke of how he learned of a legend that spoke of a jungle spirit, of a village that was known as the guardian. Every detail he learned and every contact he reached out to was jotted down until he found the village.

Normally outsiders would have been killed for being spotted near this village, but after much talking with someone who negotiated on his behalf he was finally allowed to enter on the condition he would only observe and as long as he did not harm anything they would allow him to stay. An he obeyed their demands, asking questions when he was allowed to and what he learned from that village was something that seemed fit for story books. While some pages were of simple days, there were a few that stood out for the little things and some that made it all seem unbelievable.

In all my time covering this continent I have never found something quite like this village. Every village displays a religion based on spirits, to them everything has a spirit that must be honored and respected. Some spirits holding certain meanings even, such as the spirit that resides within the elephants standing for wisdom and strength among other things. Here in this village however I have found something unheard of in other villages. It is called Imamu, but even that name is whispered quietly away from my ears for now.

A sketch of two great tusk that towered over the tents, seeming to be impossible for such a village to have taken down such a large elephant. The detail was perfect however showing the hours he had spent before this object drawing the wraps and ornaments and offering plate before, essentially what had been made into a shrine for something.

A hunting party returned from the forest. It is the first time I have seen them enter the thick brush in such a large group. It was not just men, women also went with them carrying some baskets with items inside. When they returned the baskets were filled with fruit, vegetables and the men were carrying three carcasses. I do not see signs of a hunt though.... After inspecting the animals it seems they were all older or had injuries that would have been detrimental to survival. The kills were quick with a single blade, how did they manage this?

A drawing of baskets, one holding items from the village the other showing the vegetables and fruit brought back.

They seem to go into the woods every two weeks with various offerings. Sometimes they return with food other times they return with nothing.

----

It has been two months since being allowed to reside in the village. An finally I have learned more of this Imamu. The most important is I have learned what it stands for "Spiritual Leader".... This entity is the leader of all of the spirits in the jungle. I don't know how but it seems to be who they are taking the offerings to and in return they receive these bounties from the jungle!

----

The spirit party, I have come to call them this as they seem to be the primary ones to go into the forest much like priest or nuns, brought something entirely shocking back today. A gorilla! Alive! It is still small, so small it can't even reach the tail of my coat with its head. It's injured though, and they seem to be taking care of its injuries. How odd...


Here there were multiple drawings of the baby gorilla, some even showing the wound on the arm others of how the wound was wrapped with care. A brief comment about how it never tried to take the bandage off.

I don't even know what I saw, I am a man of science! An yet I can not deny what I saw, what I witnessed. I saw Imamu!

The words were written down quickly, in such a rush it was hard to even read everything but the name was written large across the page so there was no mistake.

I dared not write about it until I could recall everything correctly and with a more calm mind. The gorilla baby has been here for a week now and is doing much better. It seems the gash is almost completely healed and the baby is doing much better. I had been near the healer who has never once left the babies side when it suddenly started calling out, the first time I had heard it make such a loud noise. I know from experience this is the sound of a gorilla calling out in greeting, but it was not to a parent but more how one sounded towards the lead silverback of the troop. when the villagers heard this they started rushing around us making quick work to clear Unnecessary things out of the way. I dared not speak among the fast speaking whispers for fear they would remember I was there. All at once though there was silence. When royalty walks into a room, there is always this awed hush followed by that presence they carry. That's the only way I can describe the feeling that I felt when this being walked into the center of the village.  I watched villagers bow in respect as it walked by and offer more space by stepping away. The baby gorilla was excited, offering a greeting and displaying submissive gestures. I thought it was maybe a female by the size of the bare feet and the hand, while not dainty compared to other women of the tribe it seemed too small to be a man's. However it picked up the gorilla by the hand and lifted it to maneuvered it to so it could latch onto its back as if it weighed nothing! Maybe it was a malnourished man? As it left it never spoke a word, not human anyways. There was a rumbling sound that left it, I couldn't even begin to try and place the source. I think it was suppose to be a thank you and then it left. Whispers of Imamu followed in its path. I am a man of science, and yet I do not know if I saw a living person or the manifestation of the "Spiritual Leader" Imamu.

There were multiple drawings but none were quite the same, the one chance meeting not as hard pressed into his memory as he would have liked. Each figure was drawn a little different but all were the same idea. A figure draped in hide in such a way you could not identify the gender, limbs lean and digits seeming to be the same. A hand village girls hand drawn and then his own, followed by his brief memory of what Imamus had looked like. Hair long and braided but in such a way it was hard to tell if it was on purpose or due to unwashed hair. Feathers, claw or fans, things twisted within the braids only adding to the confusion of what was happening with the hair.

The villagers have opened up to me more since Imamu visited. When it left it had spotted me, I still remember it looking at me. What I thought felt like royalty before turned into something else, it reminded me of a time I was studying a water hole habitat when a leopard walked past me. It could have killed me, I will forever remember those eyes as they studied me. There is something about apex predators, when you come face to face with them you are reminded how Insignificantly small  you are. An just like that time when Imamu looked at me I felt very small, I dropped my gaze as soon as our eyes caught. I had noticed no villager looked upon its face, I had worried I did some great sin and held my breath prepared to be thrown from the village. Nothing, nothing happened and that seemed to be a silent acceptance of my presence the villagers needed.

The eyes were framed with mud or dirt… dust… it was unknown but the eyes were indeed sharp. The figure had been uncertain in his drawings but those eyes had made enough of an impression in his mind. They way they seemed to pierce your soul even through the pages. The way they staid half open, while the eyebrows showed a relaxed air the look in those eyes was one always watching the world like a wild animal.

Today the village elder opened up to me. Imamu appeared about fifteen years ago. A battered spirit found in the forest. He spoke of how they brought it to the village, healed and fed it. Cared for it. It was little better then a caged hyena until they gained it's trust. It returned to the forest after some time and that is when they received the blessings. Fruit that was hard to obtain because of the tall trees, vegetables that aided in their health, and one of the cats of the jungle with a mangled leg. He spoke of how the village held a celebration, thanking the spirit for the blessings. From then on they would send offerings once every new moon. An in return they would receive blessings from the jungle.

He spoke of the great blessing. It seems impossible but I have seen the worn tusk in the center of the village, so it must be true in some ways. This great blessing where they finally had a name for this being. He says it was many seasons ago, but without any true time table for them it's hard to tell. It had been a hard year for them even with them living so close to the jungle, the savanna is all around them and dictates life for them mostly. It was not the time of blessings but they watched as a heard of elephants emerged from the forest. He speaks of the spirit that rode upon the back of the leader, how very wrinkly and battle scared the elephant was.

He said you could feel death was upon it, it had lived a long life and survived well past what they had seen others live. It stopped some distance from the village before it laid down to rest. The spirit they had healed before stepping to the ground and gently rubbing it's trunk. How a child from the village had moved forwards, no one dared to stop the child for fear of what may happen. But he says the child went up to the spirit and the elephant and offered up a flower. He spoke of how the spirit did nothing but watch as the child bowed and laid the flower at the elephants feet before retreating, but not before the elephant gave the child a nudge. (I think I shall look into elephants when I leave this village they have always fascinated me). After that the entire village gathered offerings and mimicked the child until the elephant was surrounded by gifts. (I wish I could have witnessed this funeral). The elephant died during the night, the rest of the herd was gone in the morning. The spirit gave them permission to "honor" the dead and left. The elder spoke of how the meat saved the village that year, bones replaced worn items, everything was used save for the innards. That which could not be used had been placed carefully to the side, he says they were unsure of what to do with it since normally those things were left in the savanna. However at dawn another miracle happened. Cats... The spirit returned but at its side was various big cats that resided in the jungle instead of elephants. They ate what the humans could note use, they didn't fight over the food. That was the day the spirit was first called Imamu, Spirit Leader... More accurately the King of the Spirits.


Offline heartstringss

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Life as a military nurse in the early 20th century was not an easy one, but if anyone was built to handle the stress of that reality, it was Katherine Linden. Before joining the Army with her twin brother at 17, Katherine and Kenneth Linden had already been through a great deal of tragedy on their own. Watching their parents die right before their eyes in their youth, victims among many of a dangerous fever, left them orphans, the last surviving two of their ancestry. Grief was no stranger to the Linden line, the last few generations consisting of hardly nothing else but tragedy and sorrow. How the line had survived this far was a mystery in itself.

Devoting themselves to the good fight and the protection of mankind was only natural – if not to serve, what other excuse could there be for their survival by this point? Maybe it was a death wish, maybe it was a vision… whatever it might be it was destiny for a fact. Somehow, four years later for the male and eight for the female, here at least they were prepared for the fight in their survival.

This was all Kenneth’s reasoning, anyway. The more optimistic and opportunity-driven, purpose-filled of the two, Kenneth was the last dwindling light in Kate’s life that, until it finally sputtered out, was the only thing that kept her going all this time. When his light finally did go out, the new absence left a huge gaping hole in her heart, a scar like no other. Being the last of a lifeline was a huge burden in itself, especially considering the societal expectation that if she wished to solve this problem – this problem, which was the reason for her birth in the first place, being the last fertile female of her line – she need only spread her legs and start a family! Though this was such an absurd notion; how could she manage that being such a pariah in her society, a hard-hearted, worry-worn female – a spinster, she’d even been called? A family was the last thing she wanted, the last thing she was capable of achieving by this point; if not for her brother, she’d rather suffer than conform. And so loneliness was her mate, be it the only one she needed.

And so she devoted herself to a new cause, or maybe it was more an obsession, if you will… The obituary, brief and too-formal, felt forced. There was that great new mystery of her life, her brother “legally declared deceased” though this fact had never been confirmed, no body sent back for the family, no worldly possessions in a neat care package delivered to the home. No, just the notice of death… and even that was hardly enough, especially not for someone as stubborn as Katherine Grace Linden.

It was so unusual of her brother - her best friend, her partner-in-crime - to drift out of communication for such a long period of time. So unusual for him to miss a date on one of her leaves, without any type of letter or notice beforehand to let her know the reason for his absence, and yet that is exactly what happened, that unexpected drifting out of communication over the last few months, until suddenly there was no contact at all. It was hard for Katherine to accept the hard truth of it all: death, something which had stalked her all her life, but now on a much more personal level, the last family she really had left, the only one she cared about in the first place.

She could not, would not accept it. There was no way this could be true! No, not her brother. He had survived so much already, so how could Africa kill him? Africa, the continent he had grown to love so dearly, his last-known dwelling before his so-called “death.”

And so began the hunt.

Retiring from the military for Kate was a feat within itself. Before her brother's disappearance – she refused to call it his “death” - the two had often joked she was going to take up full-time residency within the military. Finally retiring was a sad time, not necessarily for her comrades-in-arms (who had grown to respect her, but also despise her over time) but for her own emotional well-being. This had become her life's purpose, but now there was a new one taking shape: find Kenneth, bring him home... dead or alive, whichever it might be.

It wasn't hard to know where he had been all this time – Africa, that much was obvious – but where in the continent was the more difficult question. Fortunately, her brother had been nothing if not incredibly meticulous in his journey of Africa, a whole wall of journals taking up a bookshelf in the study of the pair's shared home. Kate spent weeks pouring over the books and doing hardly anything else. They were a strange, fascinating detailing, the journals numbering near the hundreds, a great many small, identical-looking leather-clad books, neat and organized on the shelves in chronological order, except for a gap of two months towards the end of the collection. That was the tipping point there, what really pushed her into action: this two-month gap, what was that? The more she thought on it, the closer she came to realizing she had never heard anything of this time period from her brother. All of the other accounts, she could remember bits and pieces of his story-telling, but a strange gap starting around mid-July in 1908, just over two years ago to this day? No, she remembered nothing of that time period...

Except possibly save for a moment of eerie silence on Kenneth's end. The twin-sense had tingled then, alerting her to a possible danger, something wrong on her brother's end, but any time she had asked him about it, he had merely smiled and informed her everything was okay. A fool, such a fool she was that she had believed him then! Surely, whatever the reason for this gap, it must have been the beginning of his undoing... It felt only natural for her to retrace Kenneth's steps in Africa, her own small leather-bound journal in hand, this one detailing a step-by-step list of each place he visited, a brief description of all the different connections he made there. She wasn't nearly as meticulous as Kenneth in her own detailing of the journey, her journals so much sloppier than his own, organized in a way that only she could understand.

It took a whole two years before she finally found her first real clue in Africa. Before that, much of her time was spent retracing, learning the language, the culture, making her own connections. By the time she did get there, it felt like she'd been born for Africa herself, slowly working south up until this point. The clue came in the form of a chance meeting in the capital of Namibia, a hunter who had journeyed with her brother through Africa in the beginning of his own expedition. A large man by the name of Morrow, Jacob Morrow. She recognized the man's name from the early journals of her brother's adventure, but was surprised to learn that apparently that sense of familiarity was a shared experience. Within the first moments of their meeting Morrow had gone stark-white upon seeing her face, almost as if he had seen a ghost! It wasn't a totally unusual occurence for there to be shock whenever someone first met the other half of their pair. The two were twins, after all. In fact, growing up, they had heard numerous times how strange it was that despite the fact they were fraternal, complete opposite sexes, they still looked so identical.

They were in an old village, a cramped marketplace, standing shoulder-to-shoulder at a shopping cart that was selling local fruits when the two first met. They had bumped elbows  pretty hard in the jostling of the crowd, which led to Morrow turning towards her to apologize, and then the shock had resulted, the ghastly expression. Kate stood stock-still confused in the circumstances of the encounter until the details became more clear. The man's expression of surprise grew even stronger when he seemed to notice the name inscribed on the dog-tags hanging around her neck – K. Linden, the same thing it had said on her brother's dog-tags. Seeing a similar chain hanging around the man's own neck more or less confirmed her suspicion: this man must have known her brother, most likely from the military. Judging by his reaction, he must have known him pretty well, too.

Once the two got to talking, and finally introduced themselves, that much became obvious. The more they spoke, the more Morrow wound up being actually quite useful in Kate's search. He spoke of that same mystery, Kenneth's disappearance, and recounted a time when the two had parted ways, a legend in a jungle being the reason for their split. So strange her brother's fascination had been, that it was in fact unstoppable. Even more so, the time Morrow spoke of overlapped with the gap in the journals!

When she returned back home she felt once again renewed with purpose, almost feverish as she tore apart her brother's study for any clue of this strange jungle Kenneth had grown so fascinated in. It took days, almost two whole weeks of searching before she finally stumbled upon the hidden shelf, not in his study with the rest of the journals, but rather his own bedroom, of all places. It was so well-hidden, it was hard to believe Kenneth had ever kept a secret like this from her. Settling down onto the edge of a still neatly tucked, but now rather dusty small mattress in the corner of his bedroom with the book in her lap, it wasn't long before Kate realized her hands had now begun to shake, her chest tight as she stared down at the journal, unable to open it.

Even on the surface, the journal was different from the rest: it bore the same leather binding, but was more worn, pages rumpled and torn in places, ink smeared along the edges. Once she finally mustered up the courage to turn the first page, that's when the real amazement began. Over the last two years, she had read and re-read so many of these journals, and never once had she seen one as disorganized as this one. It was hard to believe this was even her brother's work, but judging by the familiar (albeit messier than usual) handwriting and the curvy signature scrawled into the lower corner of the first front page, she couldn't deny the truth: this was Kenneth's work all right, and not only that, but it was indeed the account for the missing months!

After reading the journal for the first time, Kate went days without sleeping, unable to rest, simply reading and re-reading it over again and again. This wasn't altogether unusual, as Kate had suffered from night terrors since childhood, therefore restlessness was a common issue,  but this time around it was so much worse than usual. When she finally did sleep for the first time after discovering the journal, even with the help of alcohol to dull her senses and stave off the usual terrors, it was inevitable. That first night was terrible, heart-wrenching, her throat sore and raw-red from all the times she had woken up in the middle of the night to find herself either screaming or crying or both.

Finally, after nearly two weeks of repeating this ritual, she gave in. Retracing Kenneth's footsteps in Africa had been exciting before, but no longer could she settle for only knowing half of the truth. And so, packing her bags, she returned to Africa, working her way further and further south to Kenneth's last-known resting place and closest detailed location from the home of this mysterious jungle, which she only knew as Mlezi wa Msitu, the home of the one called “Imamu”, some type of spiritual leader for the forest - not just a spirit, but a real live person. The whole thing was a headache in itself, just this insane unending search, which was now leading to a more mysterious part of Africa, some place only few knew of and even fewer ventured. It was exciting, but also heart-wrenching to go to Africa on her own, a place she had never pictured herself going without the accompaniment of her twin. Fortunately, the two shared their great love of adventure. With many of Kenneth's connections now serving as her own connections, she picked her way through Africa, sometimes in the accompaniment of others, and other times traveling alone. Though, in her mind, this one truth remained: as long as she had the journals, she was never truly alone.

It took months of wandering around the lower half of the continent in search of the mystery village, fueled only by exhaustion, before she received her next clue: another man, this one local, who claimed he knew of her brother and could provide her with the answers to all of the questions she so desired on his disappearance. She was hesitant at first, but reminded herself to remain calm. Tracking Kenneth's connections, it wasn't the first time she had heard someone say they knew her brother, but the more south she got, the more promising each exchange became. If nothing else, this was just another lead she needed to follow up.

“I believe I knew your brother,” the man spoke when they first met, his hand rising to lift the thin chain from around her neck, thumb grazing over the two small stainless steel plates detailing the usual army markings: blood type, service number, last name, initials, sex, and religious designation (the last of which simply said NP, for no preference). With the man leaning down so close to her face inspect the necklace, Kate couldn't help but withdraw within herself. She visibly flinched, but restrained herself just enough so that when her hand moved up to pull the chain out from beneath his fingers and tuck it back into her blouse, the gesture would hopefully come across less rude and rather more reserved in the end.

She gave a thin, tight-lipped smile as she took a seat atop a nearby upturned bucket at what the man seemed to be using as a table beneath the canopy that extended out from the roof of his small, makeshift home. She put on her best smile, unaware of herself leaning in like a lion inspecting its prey just before it goes to strike. A stray wavy brown lock fell into her face as she leaned down, obstructing her view and those sharp green eyes which she was known best for, and she reached up to tuck it back behind her ear before going on. Her voice was low, husky, still raw from the night terrors which had plagued her for what felt like months by this point.

“K. Linden, yes... we are the same. Did you, by chance, know where he spent his last few months?” she spoke in rough Swahili, a language which had taken her months to learn. “A village, by the name of – Mlezi wa Msitu,” She pulled out Kenneth's journal on the village, and watched as the man's eyes lit up with recognition. “If so, I would like to go there... Could you take me?”


Offline heartstringss

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Misamia


Would this finally end everything? For some time this had weighed on his mind, he had always felt a little responsible for everything. Here she was though a near mirror image of the man who had come before her. While the book did bring back memories but he couldn’t stop the bark of laughter that left him. It was like seeing a ghost down to the way the name was said, that lean that spoke they finally found what they wanted, if this was not his kin then no other could dare to claim it. “Yes, I knew where he spent his hidden months” he said rubbing the back of his neck. Ken had always told him if anyone ever showed up asking after him to tell them he had never known him. However… The village had told him Imamu wanted the sister to be allowed into the village, telling him it was a direct request had needless to say been a stressful time for him.

He seemed ready to say something but a falcon flew into his home taking a perch on a piece of wood that had been buried into the ground, obviously a make shift perch for the bird. He looked at the bird for some time before looking back to the sister. “My name is Aapo, and I will take you to Msitu” peering over her shoulder he contemplated the time of day before shaking his head. “We will leave in the morning. The village will take a few days to arrive and I must gather everything, it may require a day to prepare.” Standing he moved towards a box and plucked out a mouse, tossing it towards the falcon before rummaging for something in a basket. “I will find you a place to stay tonight, I do not suggest for you to leave your tent once it is dark” he said after seeming to find what he was looking for. A piece of cloth, beige in color, was pulled from its home. Moving to the falcon he made quick work to tie it to the foot before giving it a dismissive brush of feathers. The falcon inhaled the last of the mouse before taking flight and disappearing back into the sky.

“I am glad you have finally found this place” he said over his shoulder before moving further into the village. He found her an empty hut to call her own for the night. The situation even more bringing memories back of his first meeting with Ken, the man had been… He had been well liked everywhere he went and had been missed. This would allow closure for everyone he hoped, he made sure through their speaking to not say if her brother was truly dead or not. It was not his place, and if she was to be emotional it was better to be so in Msitu. He just had to get her there… That was all. What followed was out of his hands, just glad he could do something for his old friend.

The following morning they were up at dawn heading out, he had been lucky everything was able to be gathered so quickly he wanted to get there as soon as possible. When he said a few days he had meant it… To be more accurate it would take almost two weeks for them to walk and there was no village along the way, he would get her there. While occasionally she would have come across a village or two with no vehicle, more common the further south she went, this would be the first trip that required hunters to be used as a guide. Only showing just how dangerous this side of the continent could be. In the distance you could see herds of animals moving, a group of trees sheltering animals from the heat, a shimmer that hinted towards a water source. This was africa, untouched by the western world it held such a sharp feeling that had nothing to do with the heat.

The trip was conducted mostly in silence, stopping at one point under a cluster of trees to fight off the worst of the sun during the afternoon where they ate travel rations of dried meat. Sharing the shade with birds who found their homes among the branches to rest from the heat. Katherine’s previous years in africa had prepared her for this kind of trip, but even this far of a travel would push things. Thankfully in the packs of rations seems Aapo was one to bring liquor, and it was stronger then anything she would normally drink so for her mind it was a blessing to get some form of sleep.

The days blurred together by the time they could see the jungle in the distance, green spreading across the horizon. The closer they got they would finally be able to see the outline of a village. Two of the hunters had their packs filled with some of their kills from the day prior, ready to offer their host as a courtesy. It was evening by the time they finally reached the village, torches lit around the edges and a fire burning in the center. An over all the huts she could see stretching to the sky the tusks from her brothers journal, the ones from the first blessing. The villagers gathered at the edge of the village as they came closer, more specifically watching her. Some curious, others hesitant.

“You are Ken’s sister?” The voice was clipped, curious. Obviously one of the elders of the village by the markings and cloths. He studied her for some time before looking to Aapo “We thank you for guiding her. Come, rest and eat. You have traveled long” more then just the last two weeks… Ever since the man’s death it was something that had changed the village. Not so much the man himself but his death moved another that had changed how the village carried out its day to day. Ushering them in he guided them to the fire where mats, stumps, just a variety of things that were used for seats. The food had spices, better then the trips food that had nothing but the taste of the meat.

After she was able to eat, urged and near forced to do so. Any time she would try to mention her brother they would speak of something else until the elder finally patted her hand as one would their child and said “in time, now you must eat regain your strength.” It was only after she ate did he finally motion for her to follow him through the village. To a hut that seemed newer then the others that showed generations of use and patches. “This is where he staid. There was a heavy rainfall… He had been in the jungle when the ground shifted. A tree fell. The spirits brought him back to the village but his wounds were too great and we could not save him” reaching forwards he moved the flap to the side lighting up the inside of the hut with the torch in his hand. Moving forwards he set it into a small collection of wood, a fire easily building and lighting the small home. The villagers had obviously known she was coming, a bed had been prepared and the small fire that would provide light had been prepared. In the corner was a trunk, a trunk she would know well. Always strapped to her brothers back containing his belongings.

Inside was clothes, his clothes. Pictures tacked to the inside of the lid. Trinkets from various places. A few blank journals, letters that were never sent. An within it all a journal half filled, the pages so fresh from being untouched it seemed like he could walk through the door and finish it in that moment. “Tomorrow we will take you to the forest, where he was buried” the elder said before quietly slipping out to leave the sister to mourn her family.


Offline heartstringss

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Learning from Aapo that he really did have a solution to all the answers she had been seeking for so long was like a breath of fresh air after months of suffocating and suffering in silence. There was nothing that could compare to that first glimpse of true hope and progress, she had waited so long for results and now things were finally starting to look up. A real smile graced her face for a moment, then slowly slipped away into the vaguest hint of real contentment she had felt in months, maybe even years. The hunt wasn't anywhere near over just yet, but at least she was finally getting somewhere.

Katherine leaned back, her hand unconsciously moving to the chain around her neck, fingers dancing over the engraved initials on the first of the two small steel plates. If not for the sex and service number, she could almost fool herself into thinking these were Kenneth's own tags. He would still be wearing them if he were still alive, but with no way of knowing for sure if he truly were still alive or if he had in fact passed away two years ago like the obituary claimed... Well, one day, she hoped that she would get his dog tags back... If worst came to worst, at the very least, that would be a true comfort.

She could still feel the strong vice-grip of anxiety clutching at her heart, and sadly it seemed that no amount of meditation or soft-talking could soothe that fear without real proof to back everything up. The insanely intense, deeply troubled suspicion that no matter how far she searched, no matter how hard she tried, or hoped and wished, she would never find Kenneth alive. When she had spoken with Morrow, he had avoided the topic just the same as Aapo was now... it was a frustrating situation, but at the very least, at least she was being guided in what seemed to be the right direction, for once.

The entrance of the falcon had startled Katherine, but she shrugged it off as soon as she noticed Aapo treating the bird much like a pet or a servant-bird rather than a truly wild creature. These were the types of things that never would have happened in America or Europe but were so common in places like Africa, and Katherine was beginning to understand why Kenneth had been so fascinated with the continent. It truly was a whole different world down here.

When Aapo said that he would take her to Msitu, but they would not leave til the next morning, Katherine at once slipped out of her thoughts and back into present-day reality. There had been so many long pauses of silence between the two, she could almost feel herself drifting off. How long had it been since she'd last slept through the night -- four days? five? Sighing an involuntary huff of frustration, Katherine sat back up and inhaled an equally tense breath meant more to calm her nerves, reminding herself that all things took time, and it was no more Aapo's fault for the length of the journey as it was Kenneth's or her own. She dropped her gaze to the ground and nodded solemnly, accepting her fate. Soon, she reminded herself. Calm down, you will know soon enough.

When Aapo rose from his perch at the table, Kate looked back up then, and slowly did the same. She gave another small, tight-lipped smile at the comment he tossed over his shoulder voicing gratitude that she had finally found her way here, letting out a soft hum of agreement, the most she could muster at this moment through the dense fog of all her emotions weighing down on her chest. She followed the man through the village to an empty hut where he said she would be able to keep her things and rest for the night. Katherine stepped into the hut and slipped her bag from her shoulders, setting it down gently on the ground.

Maybe it was the thought of nighttime fast-approaching and the looming ever-present danger of sleep and the dramas it brought with it, but she could feel the anxiety mounting once more. Had it ever really gone away, at any point over the course of the last couple years? Her throat kept clenching and unclenching, words struggling to get out. When she finally did manage to say something, Aapo had already turned his back and started to move away. If he hadn't paused, she might have thought he hadn't heard her at first.

“Thank you,” the words came from under her breath, head tilting into a low bow to hide the slight tinging of pink spreading across her cheeks, which surely didn't help the volume of her voice being so low in the first place. “For everything... for guiding me, and Ken - and for contributing, even in a small way, to keeping him safe all this time. I truly owe you.”

When Aapo had finally left and she was once again alone, only then did the clutches of anxiety start to loosen just a little. It had been a long day mostly walking, too much socializing and worrying for her own good, but now at least she would have some time to herself. Even though she knew, settling down into the small cot in the corner of the hut, that she would get no real rest, especially with her alcohol supplies running so low – there was just one or two more small swigs left to get her through the night – at least alone she was able to think clearly. Running so incredibly low on booze would have caused her to worry any other time, and if she hadn't ran into Aapo she surely would have, but knowing they had a long journey ahead of them the next day, she couldn't afford to go without sleep any longer. She was pushing her limit already, and the last thing she needed was to pass out part-way into a multiple-days journey with a complete stranger in the middle of nowhere. And so, with only a small lump of hay covered by a thin cloth and a narrow blanket made from animal fur, Katherine downed the last of the flask and settled in for the night.

The next morning was an early rise and equally rough as the night had been, Katherine spent much of the first hour of the journey still half-way between a sort of blind numbness from the booze-fueled sleep and pure, unfiltered exhaustion. It wasn't til about mid-day a couple days in that she would finally start to slip out of the funk she had fallen into, sobriety a rough journey, though one she was far from having to conquer all on her own.

It was around the same time the two stopped beneath a cluster of trees to fight off the sun and eat a little, and also when Katherine discovered Aapo had brought alcohol with him. It was so much stronger than anything she had brought from home the last few times she'd traveled back and forth, and swallowing the strong, bitter drink was damn near a feat in itself, but she managed somehow, and was all the more grateful as such. That first night after sharing the alcohol was probably the best sleep she'd had in months, which was a good thing in the end, because it was still the start of a long journey, which led to only more mysteries ahead.

The closer they got to the jungle the more she started to feel like an alive thing again, no longer just a long pair of legs venturing endlessly onward into the sun. She could feel jittery excitement mixed with the ever-present anxiety growing in her chest, palms sweating not just from the heat but also anticipation of the great unknown that had ruled her life these last few years. It was growing darker along the horizon by the time they finally reached the village, and at first the scene was uninspiring, much the same as any other village she had wandered into, aside from the jungle it was attached to. It wasn't til they got a little farther into town and spotted the huts with the tall tusks reaching towards the sky that the whole scene truly awoke within her mind, fireworks going off in her brain. She reached into her back pocket and withdrew the tattered leather journal that had brought her this far in the first place. She'd read this one so many times, she need not even search to find the page depicting the same scenery, the highly detailed drawing of these same giant tusks. It was just like the picture he had drawn... She was here, finally here.

So enchanted by the reality of it all, she hardly noticed the locals staring, or the elder who had approached until he stood just a few feet away, studying her. Green eyes whirled around to find the source of the voice, and it wasn't hard, judging by the decorations of his robes and the curious, wandering gaze that was drawn so interestedly on her own person. “Yes, I am,” she answered vaguely, unsure how to proceed with this type of situation. The culture of this village was so much older than what she had come across in the past, it felt almost wrong for someone of her own standing to be here in the first place.

She was like an eager child for once, here in this village that held all the secrets to her brother's disappearance. More animated than she had been in months, curiosity whipping her head this way and that, eyes wide and eager to take it all in, this last known un-official resting place of the brother she had so greatly missed. It was still difficult to accept he truly was gone after all these years, but finally being here, and spotting no signs of him whatsoever on an outward scale, was damning within itself. She tried to ask questions every now and then, but time and time again she was shot down and the conversation avoided, food forced into her hands like she was some kind of starving child, though she didn't necessarily mind that part – damn, it was good, too! Much better than the cured meat rations they had been eating the last two weeks. The fire was nice too, but the anticipation of it all, that's what really killed her.

When she finally finished eating she was led into the village, away from Aapo and all others, just herself and the “chief” or elder or whatever he was. The trek was more solemn and in those few hundred steps she could feel her heart starting to pick up again, as she got closer and closer to finding out the truth, once and for all. The elder took her to a hut, noticeably newer than all the rest of the huts in the village, and pulled the flap in the entryway aside to guide her inside. She heard the words he was saying, but processing everything through the loud drum of her heart and blood pumping in her ears was much more difficult. She felt the sting of tears in the corners of her eyes, but through some last feat of strength she held back from letting the tears fall.

When the elder moved into the tent, taking the torch with him and setting it into the hearth to light a fire, only then did she show any type of real, lasting outward emotion: a sharp intake of breath, as the light shown onto the interior of the hut, lighting up a familiar trunk. She had barely stepped into the hut before she caught herself slipping to her knees at the foot of the trunk, fingers going to undo the clasp, much too quickly at first before she took a deep breath and forced herself to slow down, treasure the moment. Her hands continued to move over the face of the trunk, the intricate carvings on the exterior of the lid, the brass initial-plate on the lip of the lid above the clasp that would undo it all. Ears perked up when the voice spoke up once more behind her, saying that tomorrow they would take her to the forest, where her brother had been buried.

She just barely registered the soft fwishh of the flap closing behind her before she was once again alone, tears already streaming down her face, a hoarse, ugly sob choked out of her throat. Before she was even fully aware of what she was feeling, she had ripped open the top of the trunk and pulled out the first thing her fingers touched atop the inside of her twin's old trunk – a beige collared button-up, Kenneth's shirt judging by the signature army pin fastened at the collar. She hugged the stiff cloth to her chest, bringing it to her nose, but after two years, there was no remaining scent, no shadow of Kenneth lingering around. Only the pictures, the trinkets, the unsent letters could bring her any real comfort, but even those were empty-handed, just the last few scraps of a man that had been taken far too early from this world. 


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“wake up” the voice was a rumbling sound, one that she could feel both in her mind and against her side. “wake up, I’m hungry” this time it was more persistent but the only reply was a grunt. She felt the huff and knew that they would be moving now, regardless if she wanted to stay sleeping. An sure enough she felt the movement that said her bed was no longer content to stay in the same place. The action dislodging her from her comfy bed onto the cool floor of her den, her other bed mate quickly lodging it’s complaint. 
 
Sighing she stretched out her limbs before sitting up and looking over her den. It was nothing special, but compared to the others who lived in the jungle it was rather odd. From the small pile of human trinkets in the back, to the pile of clothing but even more so was those who called this den their home. A human, a cat, a monkey and a bird. An yet they all lived in relative harmony around one another, all because of a single human. Not that any other human would call her such, no one believed she was really human and until a certain age she hadn’t even known there was such a thing known as a human, or that others looked like her. 
 
“Uma, for a cat you don’t like to sleep in very much.” she pointed out watching the feline slip from the den with a flick of the tail. “Ode, Lulu…. Hungry?" there was a quiet pause before monkey and bird quickly excited the den in search of their own meals. Her eyes catching sight of the red markings painted on them, ones that Uma wore as well. It was her markings of sort, a way for the jungle to know that these few were not just family as some of the gorillas were but these were her troop, her pride, her village. These few she would take revenge for their deaths just as she had for her mother, hunting down the one who killed her mother with little remorse. She had been accused of acting like a human, hunting someone down for revenge. She had lashed out then, in a very big way and asserted her dominance more than she ever had that day in her grief. It had made a point though, even if she had a human body, she was not simply human. 
 
Shaking her head she fetched the bundle from a small table and looped it around her waist. She had been taught how to make a holster essentially, even if it only held two sets of knives made from elephant tusks with handles wrapped in hide . The air was thick from the rain last night, it was much needed but for a few days everyone would have to move carefully until it was all soaked into the ground. Dropping from the ledge she made her way towards the watering hole just through the foliage. She had chosen this spot for its ease of access, having not wanted to carry water it had been a very easy decision. All around the watering hole animals drank, all of different species. It was peaceful though, none fought or tried to eat one another. This watering hole was protected, you harmed no one or you would face the consequences for disobeying. If you wanted to hunt from a watering hole then there were plenty others to do so through the jungle. 
 
As she reached the waters edge all the animals paused stepping back from the water to allow her to drink. She had never thought of it before, it’s how it always had been. The leader drank and others waited. The leader ate and the others waited. It was the law of nature; the leader came first when it came to resources so they stayed strong enough to protect the others. But the man who had come, who she had learned from made her think more. It still did not bother her but it was something she was at least conscious about now, more so as the metal around her neck slipped from underneath the leather of her top. Once satisfied she stood back up eying those present, each set of eyes in return dropping in submission, once she was sure there were no contenders wishing to try their hand she turned and headed away from her home.
 
Some time ago a falcon had delivered a message to her. The trader was bringing an outsider and the brown cloth tied to the falcons foot said it was not just any outsider. Shaking her head she took quick strides before launching herself into the trees. Indents made into the bark well worn and easily reached through muscle memory alone. It was easier and faster to move through the tops of the trees, through the branches and vines. Through the floor it was easy to get tangled if you were not careful and she needed to see something as quickly as she could. Crouching down on the branch she rocked back on her heels before launching herself forwards on the tips of her toes reaching for the next branch, vine, tree. She could navigate the entire jungle in darkness, with daylight she held no fear of miss stepping. Only being more mindful due to the rain that made the bark wet, but even that had no sway on her speed so use to traversing during every season.
 
At the edge of the jungle she could see the village in the distance. It had been some time since she visited, she supposed it was time now that she knew the traveler was coming. How long ago had it been since she received the falcons message anyways? Shaking her head she glanced down beneath her perch, there nestled among the plants and growing trees was a small working. Placed there to mark a grave and a memory of someone who had brought change to her life more then anything else had. Slipping her way down the tree she allowed herself to drop the last bit, the height something that always had the someone cringing or openly gapping at how she wasn’t hurt. It really wasn’t that far of a drop, she’d fallen from higher as a child and managed to survive with only a broken bone.
 
“… I believe she has finally come for you” she said softly, crouched on the balls of her feet. Fingers reaching out and gently moving the fallen debris from the night before away from the marker. It was a stone, almost entirely covered in moss save for where some symbols were carved. Symbols that meant nothing except for those that knew of the old gods and those were very very few. Even the animals did not know, only that there was a feeling when looking upon the symbols that it was something to leave be. She regularly returned to this spot to keep the spot clean of any growing moss.
 
The fluttering of wings nearing had her glancing up in time to see Lulu land on one of the stronger bushes. Grey wings fluttering before settling onto the branch in satisfaction. “Satisfied with your breakfast already?” she asked standing from her crouched position and reaching out for her to step onto her finger. A puff of the chest feathers and a tip of the head was all she needed to know that she had been successful in whatever it was that she had decided to eat for breakfast. With a final glance back at the stone she retreated further into the forest towards a watering hole she used for bathing and cleaning. The rain water had everything moving freely and that made it a perfect time to bathe.
 
……
 
 
Life in the village was an early one but everyone was mindful to try and stay clear of the once empty hut. They allowed her to take her time in exciting the hut, in facing the world with the hard truth her brother had passed on. When she finally did emerge from the tent she would find her guides making preparations to return home. The man offering her a reassuring smile and a reassuring grip to the shoulder before leaving. His job was done, he told her that when she was ready to leave she only need to send word and they would come back to take her home. To take the time to learn what it was that held her brother so fond of this place.
 
A village woman urging her to sit and eat something before leaving in search of one of the elders. They had already prepared to go to the jungle when she was ready. It happened to be the day of offering which helped put some of the villagers at ease. While they had permission to enter the jungle unless they were going after resources or giving an offering most preferred to leave the jungle alone in respect. When she seemed she would eat no more the elder finally returned to her side offering a greeting. Mourning family was never an easy task, one they all knew and this one was no different. “Come, I will take you to him” he said motioning towards the jungle.
 
The walk was steady, almost calculated. The spirit party, the name would come to mind watching the group before her. Two men, two women. The women carried baskets, side by side with the men following behind in their footsteps. The elder falling in line behind one of the rows leaving Katherine to fall in line in the other line. The men carried no weapons upon them which was odd for a hunter to leave the village without any weapons, but again spirit party would ring in her mind. They need not bring weapons, they would return with their bounty regardless. Upon reaching the edge of the forest the spirit party continued moving forwards while the elder urged Katherine in another direction through the woods. This one not so well worn, a path only known from memory perhaps.
 
“This is where I shall leave you, to return to the village you must merely walk away in a straight line. You will see the village” he said before motioning towards the clearing before them. With a slight bow of the head he disappeared back the way they had come. Leaving Katherine to finish the last few steps into the small clearing. There she would find a stone the size of a small dog. Moss covering it save for a certain spot that was kept free that held symbols of sorts. What was important though, was that under the moss more carvings could be seen. An once cleared free Katherine would see the numbers that were burned into her brain as if they were her own. The numbers that were printed upon her brothers military tags were carved into the stone, proof that this was indeed Kenneths’ final resting place.


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Facing nighttime after at last learning the raw truth of Kenneth's passing was rough. A certain uneasiness pulsed through her veins, breaking down the last of her defenses. When she finally did pass out after what felt like many hours later, that same beige button-up of his remained clutched in her fingers, now drawn close underneath her chin. It wasn't an easy night at all. What little sleep she did manage to get was full of all sorts of tossing and turning, and therefore completely unrefreshing. Somehow she evaded the usual night terrors - at least that was a godsend - but in its place she suffered horrible night-sweats.

By the time morning came she was drenched clear to the bone, her clothes entirely soaked through as well. She might have given an expression of disgust upon rising, if this wasn't something she had grown used to by now. She sighed, sitting up and stripping out of her sodden blouse and the shorts she had worn to bed. In the corner of the small hut was a basin full of water, likely intended for drinking rather than freshening up, but oh well. She took a spare cloth from the sack she had brought with her, dipped it into the basin and rung out the excess water. In the corner of her hut, she ran the cloth over her body wiping off the sticky remnants of sweat and grease from the night before. It was a half-assed attempt at freshening up, but it would do well enough for now at least.

Her hair was a mess, a rough tangle of sandy-brown waves cascading just past her shoulders, but without a bath to get it properly cleaned up she could only do so much. She twisted the locks into a French braid down the middle of her back and tied it with a bit of cord she kept tied around her wrist. Standing and moving back to her duffle, Katherine pulled a clean blouse and pair of fitted men's trousers from the bag and got dressed, at last donning a pair of mid-calf dark leather boots, in fact the only shoes she had brought with her to Africa in the first place.

A solid dread sat low in the pit of her stomach as she finally finished dressing and at last ran out of things to keep her mind occupied from the emotional strain of the day ahead of her. She could already feel her brain pulsing with nerves, only outwardly present in the barest shake of her limbs, a thin layer of perspiration spreading across her brow, although that could just as easily be attributed to the heat if she needed an excuse to run with. Dark green eyes moved once again to the trunk that sit against the wall in the center of the hut, still open and scattered from the night before. She moved now to this same trunk, picking up each item and placing them neatly back inside, save for the journal she had brought with her from home. This she slipped into the deep front pockets of her trousers, the thick, heavy feel of the journal pressing against her thigh bringing her comfort.

The sky was only just starting to lighten in the distance when she finally stepped out of the hut, but already the rest of the village was up and moving around. They had been for some time, she could hear them out there, though fortunately they had left her alone, letting her move at her own pace, seeming to sense that she needed distance, privacy to work through her emotions. A few paces down from her own hut she could see Aapo standing with a pile of his belongings at his feet, clearly making preparations for the journey home. She made her way over to the man, a small nod the only greeting she offered up as she came close, the most she could muster in the way of pleasantries this early in the morning, with everything she was going through already.

Fortunately Aapo was understanding, the man offering a reassuring smile and grip of the shoulder before starting off on his way out of the village. A few words were exchanged as well, how to send word when she was ready to leave, though he assured her there was no need to rush. Katherine nodded solemnly, wishing the man farewell before she turned away. Before she could even walk ten paces, she was met with the presence of a village woman who pulled her along to the center of the village where they had all gathered at the fire the night before, urging her to sit and eat while she went to grab an elder who would lead her into the jungle when she was ready.

She barely picked at her food, her stomach aching but already knowing she would be unable to keep anything down in this state. It was something she had struggled with her entire life; whereas Kenneth had always had a very healthy appetite, she was much more picky and her stomach ruled by emotion – if something was upsetting her, she couldn't eat, no matter how much she wanted to. She managed a few bites of food and a cup or two of water before setting her plate down, shaking her head at the local's urging to eat more, that she would need her strength, something in her belly to keep her grounded. This was true, but at the same time she knew if she ate too much, she would only end up vomiting it all back up if something too dramatic happened, and if they were going to be going into the jungle to see Kenneth's grave, getting sick was honestly the last thing she needed.

The elder returned to her side then, offering a greeting before motioning for her to stand and follow him. Katherine pulled herself to her feet with a sharp intake of breath pulled deep into her lungs, already she could feel her stomach twisting into knots, anxiety grinding and tugging at her insides. The jungle loomed before them, ominous but somehow serene at the same time. Her fist moved to her stomach, pressing just below her ribcage, a deep pressure meant to keep her grounded, force of habit. A small group formed before her, two men and two women, the women carrying baskets, the men carrying...nothing at all, not even weapons for hunting, though it was obvious in the way these two men moved with such familiarity of the woods and from the markings and scarring on their limbs, they were certainly hunters.

A gnawing sense of familiarity tugged at the edges of her thoughts, but it took a moment for her brain to come up with the word Kenneth had used to describe the party gathered before her – a spirit party, that's what this was... taking offerings to Imamu, the being they worshipped in this village. The same one Kenneth had come to meet, towards the end of his journal. The elder remained nearby, but as they reached the edge of the forest the spirit party continued in one direction whereas the elder led her in another. The path he guided her through was not so well worn, the wetness and debris from the storm the night before leaving the path almost dangerous for a non-local to pick through on their own, but he helped her through most of it, and finally the end in sight was clear.

Up ahead was a small clearing, a stone just barely visible through the weeds, sitting at the base of a large tree that was overgrown with moss. The elder had left her by now, and for this she was grateful, because once again she could feel panic gripping at her limbs, her throat clenching and unclenching. She moved closer to the stone, what she knew from the locals to be the final resting place dug for her brother, though whether his body rested here as well was still a mystery to her. She dug the journal from her pocket, clenching the leather-bound book close to her chest as she at once fell to her knees at the base of that stone, her knees hitting with a hard, heavy thump against the cold earth.

Shaky hands moved over the intricate markings of some kind of mystery symbols that had been carved into the stone, the meaning of which she knew nothing. Further beneath the mystery symbols more markings could be seen. The soft, squishy feel of the moss was almost comforting at first, but now her fingers dug through it, scraping off the growth to reveal the truth of those other markings. Before she could even fully make out what the inscription said, she knew immediately what it was – the were the same markings she had all but memorized over the years, the etchings of her brother's own military tags, not too different from her own because their information had been so similar, and they had entered into the military only minutes between each other.

It was at the sight of this inscription that she felt herself once again fall apart, the journal falling from her hands and landing with a hollow thump at her side, her head moving down to rest against her knees, bangs sweeping against the cold, wet ground. She didn't even care that the moisture of the earth was beginning to soak through her pants into her knees - she never had been one to fret over getting dirty in the first place, but especially not now. Here at last she was reunited with her twin, though it was in the last possible way she had ever wanted to be. There were no tears left to be cried, but still the dry sobs wracked her torso, bare fingertips digging into the earth, hands pounding at the ground in frustration.

“Why, Ken?” She was hardly aware of herself speaking, though the words were barely audible in the first place. “Why did you have to go and get yourself killed? Now I'm all alone...”


Offline heartstringss

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The jungle was lively as ever, the wildlife offering a steady sound in the air that was became a buzz in the background the longer you staid within the tall trees. However one word could easily be heard that would cut through the sound like ice. “Ken” the name so easily ringing in the small little clearing. A flutter of wings and the rustle of plant life following after. “Ken” the name leaving from the gray parrot’s beak as clear as if spoken by a human. “Why Ken” a ruffle of feathers as it stared at her almost accusingly. “Why. Why. Why” The gray parrot, known for its ability to mimic human words. Even back home they were becoming pets for the upper aristocrats, a unique bird that had even been the focus of one of Kenneth’s trips.
 
A chittering was soon followed the seemingly accusing whys. A monkey, rather small in size was inching towards her curiously. Eyes wide as it slowly made its way to her obviously inspecting her. Well it wouldn’t be a surprise would it? While the wildlife would be use to the natives someone with her complexion would be a rather odd thing to see in the jungle. When it finally got within reach it rocked back on its legs and squatted down to peer up at her more closely. A small sound leaving it and in response a sound came from the parrot. Suddenly both of them began screeching at one another, it could have been almost comical except for the entirety of the situation.
 
Suddenly the little monkey snatched the fallen journal and launched itself at the bird who quickly departed into the tree tops. It never once looked back to see if the human was following it, no he was on a mission. Like Lulu, Ode had believed at first that the human had come back from the dead after all these years. However, when he had gotten closer he could smell the difference. More accurately to say that the book he clutched to his chest is what his memory recalled was the human who had died, the human in the clearing while similar did not smell like the other. Lulu had argued it was the one Oni had been waiting for but he refused to believe that. So he would take the matter to the one who would surely know without having to ask Oni herself.
 
“Uma!” Ode wasn’t sure how far he had ran to find the black cat but he had realized at some point the human had been following him. Not his problem! “Uma, smell smell. This is what the human smelled like. THAT, is not him though right?”
 
Uma would have like to say she was far too old for these matters but honestly, she was in her prime. An as the only other predator in their little… whatever it was which meant safety of their family, a word that little man had taught Oni, fell to her whenever Oni was not around. However from the moment the jungle had become silent some time ago save for the sound of what sounded like a elephant crashing through the brush she had laid there, watching what would reveal itself to be the source of the commotion. She never would have guessed it would have been Ode, well she could honestly, but to be more precise what was following Ode. The human was loud and clumsy, worse then that man had been when he first entered the jungle. However, watching the human fall through the brush and onto the ground once it no longer fought against leaves and branches brought her back to the first time she had met the man. Yes she could smell, and the book indeed brought back memories but the human before them brought back just as much. The flick of her tail had Ode silencing and watching her with big eyes before quickly scampering upon her back to watch the human.
 
From above a parrot settled in on one of the branches near the panther watching the human thoughtfully before clicking its beak. “Come. It Come.” Come? It? What it? The silence that settled around the jungle spoke well enough of It. The passage from one of Kenneth’s journals would easily come to mind if she still had any wits about her. How he described everything going hush, a heavy presence that spoke of power over others. In the forest though that kind of power would bring to mind the very next passage he had spoke of, when he admitted to feeling trapped at the mercy of a hunter who could have easily killed him but felt it too much effort to do so.
 
From among the foliage came a hazy memory found within the pages of the journal that had been hidden within Kenneths room.  A proud standing figure, movements smooth and effortless, angled features that spoke of lean health and strength, fingers… Kenneth had been right about her hands. However as a medic Katherine would recognize them more just not on such a large scale. Bones that had grown to accommodate the life lived, she’d seen plenty such examples during her time in the service. Those eyes though, you couldn’t really describe the color of them but they really did feel like they were piercing your soul and stealing your breath away.
 
Oni could only watch the girl before her, study her features. She had been at the offering plate, a term Kenneth had used and she had taken to calling it in her mind. It was the location where she would leave the “blessings” and where the villagers would bring their offerings. While she never made an appearance she would watch from above, watch and assess if the devotion to the ceremony still held importance. Not that she required it of them, she never had. Her concern came in the form of something else, if they no longer believed then would they hunt the forest? It was her home, her responsibility and one she did not take lightly. When they had left Lulu had come barreling in going on about how Ode has stolen his journal. How had Ode even managed to find it? It should have been safely back at the village with his things.
 
She had followed Lulu with a quick pace but she had no real rush. An when she found the cause of the commotion in the jungle she found herself facing down… a ghost? No that was impossible. No it had to be her… So she had finally arrived then had she. She couldn’t help but look the girl over, she really did look so much like him. Stepping onto the log that Uma was lazing out she crouched down, hand extending out for the journal that Ode quickly handed over. “This was not yours to take” she scolded the monkey who only hunched down. To the animals it was a simple thing to understand her words, but all Katherine would here would be what sounded like this woman before her talking like a monkey.
 
Dropping from the raised log to the ground she studied the sister before looking past her, back the way they had came. So, she had been at his grave then. Looking back at the girl she held the journal out to her silently, she didn’t really know what to say she was never good with talking to humans after all. She was curious though, oh so very curious.


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Katherine had become so immersed in what she was feeling that she hardly registered the flapping of wings at first, nor the mimicking of words that followed. It wasn't til the second time the mimicking happened that her ears actually perked up, head rising just enough to show that she had registered some kind of sound, a sound that shouldn't have been there in the first place. From the corner of her eye she caught a flash of grey among the greens and browns of the forest but could only stare, still unsure what exactly was happening. The Why. Why. Why. is what really got her jumping out of her skin, her body jerking upright, head whipping around to lock eyes with the bird, who was staring back at her so accusingly, as if she were the one responsible for Ken's death.

Shortly after the parrot's last words came a squeaky chittering noise, moving closer and closer. Before she could place exactly what was happening or where the sounds had come from, there was a small monkey standing next to her, wide-eyed and equally as accusatory as the bird had been. Only one word left her mouth, just a soft “what” as she stared back almost dumbfounded, what the hell was going on? Well of course she was in the jungle in the middle of southern Africa, no surprise there were wild animals approaching her here, but why did these animals look so personally attacked by her presence?

Wide green eyes gazed back at those of the small monkey as the two sat face-to-face for a long moment just inspecting each other. It was so quiet for such a long time that when a small sound left the monkey's mouth she jumped again, head whipping around when the bird uttered a similar noise, then the two started screeching at each other. Katherine winced at the volume and lifted her hands to her ears, however unfortunately this gesture left her quite unprepared for the next development. The fallen journal had remained at her side up til that moment, but now the monkey had snatched it up, the two creatures darting away into the woods.

“Hey!” She knew the monkey would not answer her but she couldn't help shouting out, so surprised at what had just happened and even a bit offended, obviously quite protective of the journal. Katherine stumbled now to her feet, using the stone as a counter-balance to lift herself up. Before she was even completely aware of what she was going to do next, she found herself darting through the woods after the monkey and bird, tripping over gnarled roots and heavy stones, even falling down a few times. But like her brother she was relentless, and so every time she got back up. If it weren't for the coloring of the two animals' fur - and feathers, respectively - she might have lost her way, but for the most part she stayed right on track, and maybe that ran in her blood, because it had sure been a gift Kenneth had harbored as well.

Finally she broke through a patch of brush that ended in a small clearing of its own, a patch of jungle that was wider than the haphazard path she had just forged on her own. The force of her momentum had her breaking through the brush at too high a speed to stop herself all at once, and before she knew it she went crashing to her knees, a stinging pain shooting through her limbs that told her she had probably drawn blood, but that was the least of her worries right now. Her eyes had remained forward all this time, and now widened almost comically large, locking onto those of the huge black leopard the monkey had been running to all this time, stretched out on a log quite lazily in its own right, though the sight was only perceived as menacing to poor Katherine. The flick of the tail only solidified that sense of danger. She went stock-still, only the sound of her own labored breathing cutting through the steady hum of those quiet forest sounds. She only moved when another sound permeated the silence – the parrot again, only this time it wasn't mimicking but speaking freely on its own.

Come. It Come. What? Her eyes cut to the parrot, but before she could make any second movement a sort of hush fell over the woods, and that sense of danger returned again, though this time in a different form than what had arose at the sight of the leopard. Somehow the leopard was all but forgotten. Now Katherine's eyes were drawn to the edge of the forest, to a shifting of the foliage that moved away to reveal a figure stepping forward - a tall, lean muscular form which seemed human yet somehow more than human at the same time. The figure moved gracefully but in a way that was much more calculated like an apex predator, somehow of a higher degree than that of the leopard. She saw hands swinging at the creature's sides, huge hands, and all at once recognized what she was seeing, where it had all seemed so familiar.

This was Imamu, the spirit of the forest her brother had described so full of wonder in his journals, the one the village apparently worshipped like a God. She continued watching the figure – was it a woman, a man, or sexless? The definition of muscle, long hair and vague shaping of the chest had her thinking woman, but overall she was unsure. Her expression shifted as recognition settled in, though she remained crouched on the ground she no longer felt completely frozen in place. A wild animal that could rip her to shreds in seconds might have had her cowering, but this figure before her only had her curious. Still a little on edge from the sense of danger and the sharp pierce of the creature's gaze, yes... but mostly just curious.

She watched as the figure – Imamu, that's what Kenneth had called her, she reminded herself – moved to the leopard's side and crouched down before the monkey, hand extended towards the journal – her journal! Her fingers itched to grab for it herself, but she remained crouched on the ground, unsure what one wrong move might lead to if she wasn't careful. An eyebrow quirked at the sight of the monkey handing the journal over so easily, then both shot up at the next development. The chittering that followed was coming not from the monkey but from the – the woman, or whatever it was! This really was a different type of creature, wasn't it? How was it that Imamu could talk to the monkey in its own tongue, and yet looked so human at the same time?

She jumped when Imamu moved off the log and turned once again in her direction, unsure how to react to the large hand outstretched before her that was holding her brother's journal firmly between those long, long fingers – an offering. Green eyes searched the creature's face, measuring the danger of this situation. The eyes remained the same, piercing and breathtakingly aware, though it seemed for the most part the feeling of danger had shifted by this point. Slowly she rose up, off her knees and back onto firmly planted feet. It might have been a mistake in that she herself stood so proudly facing Imamu, head rose high and shoulders back, but there was no intention of dominance or cockiness in this move, only great posture and a last, feeble attempt at setting her nerves straight. Whether or not it worked was a mystery, really. She could still feel anxiety buzzing in her veins, threatening to boil over.

She hesitated a moment longer, then all at once her hand stretched out grabbing for the journal. Thin, strong fingers clutched the leather-bound book like a lifeline, that desperate grasping the only indication she let on that losing it had actually terrified her, and she couldn't dare let it happen again. There remained only silence between them, no words from Imamu, and Katherine couldn't help but wonder if Imamu spoke English on top of her ability to speak monkey. Standing now only a few inches between the two, at just over 5'10” with the boots on, Katherine looked the creature over more throughly and decided – yep, definitely a woman, though the question of humanity of course still remained.

“Thank you,” she said suddenly, curiosity peaking in a way that was once again almost foolish, but she couldn't help herself. She had so many questions, and she never had been very patient. "How- how did you-" she could barely finish her sentence, unsure what she was even trying to say in the first place. Her brows furrowed, then at once she found the words. Whether Imamu understood them, she could only guess. "My brother. The grave... was that you?"


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Dejavu… the feeling the event had happened before. It was a English word Kenneth had taught her and it fit very well in this moment. To the point it was almost frustrating really. She had gotten better over the years at dealing with new things, adjusting as it was needed for survival. This situation however, was still a bit much in her mind but that she would get over. She blinked when the girl finally spoke having been lost in her own world of sorts looking at the girl remembering the first time she had met Kenneth. Times were changing, and she dearly hoped that this was only a sign that Kenneth could truly be at rest now and not a sign of humans extending their reach further.
 
Right… Kenneth. She showed no sign of understanding anything until the girl spoke in the native tongue to which she inclined her head. Instinct of not trusting a stranger ran deep, even if she knew this was Kenneths kin she did not know this person personally and would not reveal her knowledge of English to her just yet. “Yes” was the simple reply. She hesitated for some time before reaching up her hand slid into her top, though top was a very loose explanation for what she wore. A leather top that covered her breast and wrapped around her neck with a somewhat thick band protecting her throat, shoulders free of restriction for movement. It seemed almost fashionable save for the fact her stomach and shoulders were exposed, but the most telling sign for the design of fully covering the chest was the faint marks of claws in the leather that protected her heart from the world. What covered her lower regions was not much better, described merely as very very short seemingly tight-fitting leather bloomers. 
 
Pulling her hand free of her top a necklace followed, to be more accurate tags. “I return him to you” she said holding for the girl to take by the chain, the tag swaying from the movement. There engraved into the metal tag was the proof it belonged to Kenneth. As she finally took hold of the tags she released the chain, but in turn grasped her wrist. Beneath her fingers the girls wrist felt almost frail but she ignored it, tugging her along with a firm grip staying mindful not to hold on too harshly. Turning she lead the girl through the forest mindful of where she was going until she reached the edge of a clearing filled with flowers. “His favorite place” she explained, which honestly was probably odd. Sure Kenneth was all about nature but a field of flowers? An then she tossed a piece of wood into the field of flowers and the clearing erupted with butterflies. It was like a storm erupting from the ground, hundreds of colors spiraling up into the sky. Okay… this… this was probably his favorite place after all.
 
Oni stepped to the side leaning against one of the trees just watching the butterflies with a thoughtful gaze. “He wanted this. You to see this. Said… “ she took a moment to think over her words carefully. “Be a god damn butterfly tornado?” the words were unsure and slow, showing she didn’t know what it meant. Which she didn’t, not what it meant to them anyways. It had been such an od phrase to her but it probably meant something to her. An it did, it very much would. Kenneth had always had this stupid fascination with butterflies, he never collected them on the walls like a bug collector but their little garden was filled with flowers to attract them. It had started when they were young, as far back as either could really remember. They had stumbled upon a cocoon, and watched it transform into a butterfly and away from the world. From that moment on when things seemed too difficult he would always say “If things never changed then there would be no butterflies”, and a few times it probably almost got him hit. His point was that even if right now they were crawling on the ground eventually things would change and they would be free of the mess. His last words to his sister while confusing to others not to her, “You’re gonna be fine without me. It might be hard now but when you get through this you’re gonna be something you never thought you could be”
 
Oni didn’t say anything for some time, she didn’t have to even look to know the girl needed some time to collect herself. Only when she seemed to finally calm back down did she finally look at her once more. She had no words of condolences, what could she even say in that situation? They were from two very different worlds but she could keep a promise. “You have questions… or do you wish to go back?” she asked prepared to do either. This is what she could do, the only thing she could offer in these situations. It was up to the girl what happened now.


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The confirmation that Imamu had been the one to make Kenneth's gravestone was somewhat comforting, and from that moment any lasting sense of unease that had remained in her brain slipped away. She was finally able to relax a bit then, knowing that despite the great mystery of whatever this woman was, she had obviously cared for her brother a great deal during his time in this village. Why was still unknown, but they would get to that later. The brunette merely nodded at Imamu's simple reply, eyes still staring, searching, though she said nothing more for the moment. She could tell that the other woman was hesitating about something, and resolved to wait til she figured out what that something was. When she finally moved, Katherine felt a surge of relief for any sort of development that might lead to answers, watching as that same hand moved into the top of the woman's – well, you could barely call it a blouse as it was, but that was the most fitting word Katherine could find in her mind.

An eyebrow quirked curiously, noticing the design of the blouse for the first time. It was a strange top, but her gaze lingered most on the vague marks of claws in the leather over the area where her heart would have rested beneath the skin. Before she could notice much more in the way of details, a faint sound of jingling could be heard, and the woman's fingers withdrew a chain from inside of her shirt, a familiar tarnished copper ball-studded chain, with two tags hanging from the end. A soft gasp escaped lips she hadn't even realized had parted into a gape of surprise, green eyes darting from the chain to those of the woman's before her. One hand rest on her stomach as if to calm the sensation of swirling that was moving within, while the other moved upward to grasp the end of the chain now held before her. She could barely manage a reply, let alone a more concrete reaction, but anything that might have come forth was lost in the momentum of a large hand wrapping around her wrist, fingers tugging, pulling her along in an all new direction. She tripped over her feet a bit as they started off, then settled into a quick pace following along behind the other woman, too curious to be any further alarmed.

They moved through the forest, eventually coming to the edge of a clearing overwhelmed with flowers. When the other woman remarked that this had been Kenneth's favorite place she tilted her head in vague confusion, about to ask why but before she could, Imamu had picked up a piece of wood and tossed it into the field, which then erupted in a flurry of hundreds, maybe even thousands of butterflies all at once. A hand moved to her mouth, eyes alight with all the colors of the insects' wings fluttering before her, the bright blue sky peeking through the vibrant green leaves of the trees around them, all those flowers, and the clouds above. She could see it then, why Imamu was saying this had been Kenneth's favorite place. Yes... because of the butterflies.

When the other's voice came again, she could still hardly look away from the scene before her, but tore her eyes away at the mention of Kenneth again. It meant so much to her, this insight of her brother and where he had been all this time, anything he might have communicated to this strange woman in the last moments before his death. She could barely stand it, and already she could feel herself trembling, just slightly, even before the woman's voice rang out in English, a phrase with a memory attached to it, one only she and her twin would understand. When the first sting of tears hit her cheek, she turned away in an instant. So much raw emotion on her face, she hated feeling so exposed in front of a complete stranger, but she knew she couldn't simply walk away either.

Fingers sore from clenching her fists so tight now scrubbed over her face, her eyes, through her already-mussed and wind-raveled hair. She shook her head, released a shaky breath or two. Kenneth had always been her lifeline, her rock, her light in the darkness -- even though he had been the younger twin by nearly 6 minutes, a huge baby for their time, much bigger than his sister even in adulthood, a sturdy 6'3” to rival her slender 5'9”. Even when everything in the world could be going wrong, he'd always managed to find some silver lining, some thread of hope to hold onto, whereas Katherine had always been so quick to get upset or even angry. They held each other together like two halves of the same whole, Kenneth sometimes being too optimistic, too trusting, while Katherine struggled so often with pessimism and a huge lack of faith in humanity. It was true what they said about twins, there really was a connection deeper than regular siblings. And even though they were fraternal, with how close they had been you would think them identical, not only because of the great similarities in their appearance but also because of that kinship, that understanding, that great love they shared for each other.

It took a long moment before Katherine was finally able to collect herself, before she felt herself able to face back towards the other woman and not so easily fall apart. Among other things she was thankful for the silence that met her when she did finally turn around, truly no words could suffice. She merely nodded to show that she was okay now, then whenever Imamu spoke up again, asking whether she had any questions or if she was ready to go back now, she gave an unsure shrug. Questions... oh yes, she had plenty of those. But where even to begin?

There was a fallen tree nearby, large and firmly sunk into the ground and she wandered over to it now, sitting down atop the thick hide of its weathered trunk. A tan hand raked through messy waves again, this time coming to rest against the back of her neck, holding firmly. She stared the woman down, looking her over, so curious. She was so strange...barely human, or at least not like any other human she had ever met before. The journal withdrew from her breast pocket again, fingers wandering over the worn leather cover, tracing the outline of shared initials carved into the spine. “This ends so abruptly... I know you met through the village, but how did you and Kenneth get so close? You seem like you were almost friends. And yet, you're worlds apart...” 


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Oni watched the girl move over to the fallen tree to take a seat. A incline of the head answering the silent acceptance of questions. Moving from her own position she took a spot crouched against a proud standing tree across from the girl. Eyes moving to the warn leather journal in her hands, well partially worn. She could see where he had written and what pages had yet to be touched. A journal that was not finished, just like the owner who it belonged too. She could still remember the day well enough, some days you just never forgot no matter how long ago they were.
 
Hearing her speak brought her back to the present situation at hand. Indeed, even if one never read the journal in her hand it was obvious it was left abruptly. “His first time to the village I only saw him, never interacted.” She pointed out. “When he returned… he took to the jungle every day. To the… alter?” her face scrunched slightly at the word. “It’s what he called the place the villagers trade things with me” she said, a tilt of the head as she focused on a sound in the distance. “He followed Lulu to me” a wave of the hand towards the gray parrot perched above in the trees. “Came stumbling through the brush falling just like you did” her tone holding a hint of amusement now before her eyes swept out across the jungle before them.
 
Even as she spoke, recounting bit and pieces of how they had first met, her head would tilt to a sound and her eyes would move about at everything around them. Even as Katherine's ears would hear what was being said her eyes would see how Imamu always paid attention to everything that was going on around them. Vigilant and alert like any animal she had seen in the wild, one who scraped there way through life and survived with fangs bared to the world. It was no wonder really, a ‘human’ surviving and thriving in this jungle would have to be nothing less.
 
“He wanted to learn, and teach.” She mussed after retelling some of the more entertaining memories. “Learn about the jungle and teach about the world beyond it. He spoke of you often, wanted to bring you here someday to learn as well. Said you would like out here better then city. So I would show him, show him places of the jungle and the animals in their homes. He said I was a good” there was a pause and her nose scrunched slightly “animal behaviorist?” Again her tone showed she wasn’t entirely sure what it meant, and she didn’t. She knew what animal meant in English but the other term she had never understood nor did she much care to learn what one of his fancy words meant. He would always laugh when she waved off his scientific terms and called them fancy words.

"He was a good man. Looked after everything even when it was not his place to do so. The villagers allowed him because he was known as a good man, a good white man among other villages." she mussed recalling the discussion she first had. "When he died I told him you would be allowed, not just to the village or his stone but to the jungle. He wanted you to learn about the jungle and finish his book" the last part she motioned to the journal in the girls possession. "He wanted to protect this place... sanctuary?" again a word she did not understand. Katherine would though, back home places had been marked as sanctuaries for different reasons rarely for animals that lived usually due to ancient structures but this place was probably one of the last untouched jungles with its location. It would be no surprise if Kenneth had wanted to protect the jungle as a whole from human touch.

The snap of a twig had her head tilting but just as easily she ignored it turning her attention back to the girl. "He lived here, in the tree home. He prefered here to the village, said he did not want to miss anything. So I allowed it, the tree home means nothing to me but he seemed excited. He tried to... live like me? Tried to understand. He... tried" this time her tone held more amusement as she rubbed the back of her neck in thought. As she did a black leopard slipped from around the tree over a root, wrapping itself around Oni before taking a comfortable perch at her side, the same leopard from earlier Katherine had stumbled upon. Glancing down Oni reached out rubbing her fingers firmly against a spot on her neck earning a deep rumbling purr in response before she pulled her hand away to look at Katherine once more. "Because he lived in the jungle he was here during a flood. I should have made him return to the village, should have taken him, this place is dangerous to those who do not know it during the floods." The regret was obvious across her face for a brief moment before it cleared away as she watched some birds fly by. "He took the wrong path, old trees the jungle knew would fall. I had to protect my... family. I had to leave him. When the earth shook from the tree... " she knew.... as soon as the ground had leaped beneath her feet her heart had sunk with that feeling... that knowing feeling something she was charged with had died. "Tusi helped... they all did to move and bring him to the village but" the injuries were too great. While the ground may have kept him from being crushed a tree had still fallen on him. "I promised him I would tell you the things I told you, that the village would let you come"


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Listening to Imamu speak about Kenneth, recounting the tale of their strange friendship brought a sort of offering of peace to Katherine's uneasiness. It sounded so like her brother, to just wander out into the woods one day in a strange country, to an even stranger jungle, dreaming of getting closer and understanding more about whatever otherworldly mystery had presented itself to him. He always had been an adventurer, striving for knowledge. It made perfect sense for him to throw himself at Imamu so readily, to want to learn more about her life and teach her about his. Though it was such an unlikely friendship, he had always been strange like that. He didn't scare easily, and it showed in everything he did -- in every new venture, in the scrawled markings of his journals, in this whole damn trip to Africa in the first place.

While Imamu spoke, Katherine merely listened. When certain pieces of the girl's story would brush up a fond memory, a small smile would start to tug at the edges of her lips. Then, almost as if out of habit, her hand would move to her mouth, chin going into her palm. She was all eyes, watching every movement, taking in every word. The other woman's watchfulness of the world around her did not go unnoticed, that strange perk of the ears, dart of the eyes. It was reminiscent of a life spent living in the jungle, of those same animals this girl clearly grew up living around her whole life, to the point she herself had become more animal than man. Katherine could see exactly how Kenneth had become so fascinated. She, herself, was feeling much the same curiosity, though she kept it to herself - on a much quieter, more private scale than her twin would have. That, in itself, is what set them apart in the first place. He was an extrovert, a go-getter in everything that he did, and she was not.

When Imamu got to the point in her story where she began talking about the tree home, Katherine's attention zeroed in. So that's why the hut in the village had seemed so... well, un-lived in, really. It held his trunk with all his valuables - his journals, clothes - but he clearly hadn't spent much time there otherwise.She wanted to ask about the tree home, maybe even see if Imamu would show it to her, but she dare not interrupt the woman's story, and before she could even think to cut in at the next lull in conversation, the leopard walked up. She could feel herself tense in alarm, the same way she had earlier when confronted with the wild animal, but she could tell the animal cared less for her than it did for the other woman. Like a pet, it had gone straight to Imamu for attention, the woman's fingers reaching out to rub a spot on the animal's neck, which brought forth a familiar rumbling purr, though deeper than any regular house-cat. A smirk tilted at the edge of her lips then, and the uneasiness, though not drifting away entirely, settled some.

With Imamu's eyes on her again, she stared back, sensing now the shift in the woman's story from one of fondness to one of sadness. She could feel it like a thick fog spreading out and blanketing the earth, though how that sensation had come to her she was unsure. And while the woman went on, detailing the events of her brother's death, in her own heart that same fog spread. By the end of it her head was back into her hands, fingers tugging slightly at the hair around her temples, a short, mumbled frustrated cry slipping from her lips. Her face was dark, overcome with emotion. She wanted it to stop, but at the same time she couldn't help wanting to know more.

“I think that should be enough for today,” Katherine said finally, after sitting like that for a couple minutes, her head in her hands, just struggling with the hard truth of it all. She rose from her perch on the fallen tree now, a shaky hand waving at the air like one swatting away a fly, though it was less a present-day nuisance and more an internal one that she was trying to push away. “I appreciate everything you have told me, it really means a lot to me,” her gaze darted across the forest, avoiding eye contact, hating this strange vulnerability that had taken over ever since she had first set foot in this village. When at last her eyes settled, it was on the field of flowers before her. That, at least, brought her some peace. “I don't think I know my way out of here... can you take me back?”






She hated the fact that she was technically running from the truth. If Kenneth were here, he would have helped her work through her emotions, but all she had ever been while in Africa was alone. It made her harder, more withdrawn, and she couldn't help setting up more and more walls in the process. She clung to whatever lasting bit of sanity she had left through Kenneth's returned old dog-tags now hanging loosely around her own neck, which were clinking and getting slightly tangled in the chain and tags of her own service. In any other situation she might have fretted over untangling them, worrying they would get would get damaged, but in a situation like this, with these dog tags being one of the last few scraps of her brother's life she had left to hold onto, it felt only right for them to get tangled. Tangled, like their own two lives had always been, right from conception til birth and finally death.

She followed in silence as Imamu led her back to the edge of the forest where the elder had first left her, not entirely out of the woods, but close enough to find her own way back. There weren't many more words that passed between the two, and when they finally parted she offered only a firm nod and a slight bow of the head, an act of gratitude, the least she could manage. She picked her way back through the brush til the dirt and grass and fallen leaves beneath her feet started to form into an easier, more well-worn, man-made sort of path, and it was only there that she finally stopped. For there, trapped in a snare of fallen twigs and vines on the ground near the base of a tree, just on the edge of the village, was an animal – not unusual, except this one was a baby, all by its lonesome.

It was strange enough to see the baby by itself, but even stranger when she realized it was so close to the edge of the village, where you'd think no animal would dare to put up a nest. She stooped down to get a better look at the creature, which looked like some strange cross between a tiny rodent and a primate, but also looked a little bit like a kitten. Green eyes searched the trees and ground nearby, but you'd think if a human were approaching an animal's young and the mother were still around it would likely attack or, at the very least, try to run her off. No such animal came forward. It seemed the baby was truly by itself, and no wonder why, because the thing was injured. Its tiny arm had an odd split in the side, like it had fallen to the ground and broken upon impact.

“You poor thing,” she couldn't help herself, reaching down to scoop the creature up into her palm. It was a strange furry thing, with huge dark eyes and big ears, a long furry tail, and tiny, knobby little fingers, so small in her hand it likely weighed less than half a pound. As she lifted it up, the baby peered back at her with wide eyes and opened its mouth to emit a small, startled cry. Katherine responded with a quiet hushing whisper, her thumb moving to stroke over its velvety-soft fur, ever-mindful of the injured front paw. Maybe she shouldn't have been taking a wild animal from the woods, but she could honestly care less about that at this moment. She never had been one to walk away from another living thing when she could sense that it was in need. Maybe she had only ever cared for humans up til this point, but how hard could it be? Whether she was able to save it herself or not, the least she could do is try. If she herself couldn't help this creature, then maybe the locals, or possibly even Imamu, would be able to. That, she figured, was well worth the risk.


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Oni allowed her full attention to rest on the girl before her as she spoke of Ken’s death. She rarely watched how humans mourned those they lost, she had watched villagers die and how the village would remember them. However, the families would only mourn within their homes and be strong out in the public eye. In the wild they would mourn for their dead but every animal had their own way of doing things. What was done though was those around would look after them, care for them. An while this girl was within her jungle she would look after her as she could not do for the brother. When the girl finally spoke Oni inclined her head slightly even as her eyes never left the girl, watching those eyes search for something… anything. Whatever it was she seemed to find it when they settled on the field of flowers.

A small grunt was the only response she offered as she stood, untangling herself from Uma who seemed less then willing to move from her spot she had nestled herself into. Turning she walked back through the brush at a slow enough pace that the girl could follow behind without stumbling over anything. At some spots she helped steady the girl through certain spots that would have been slightly tricky, a hand out reached to assist with balance or to help down from a high point. Through the entire path Oni moved effortlessly without need to check footing or even seem to have the need to check where she was even at. The jungle was her home and she had no need to pay it mind, it was something she had never told Ken it had never come up. To the jungle though was like an image she felt in her mind, she always knew where she was among the towering trees.

Uma wandered ahead of the pair in a lazy manner. Peering at the pair every so often when the human would require some assistance over a particularly slippery or steep part of the trail. It’s not like the jungle was how Ken had described their homes back where they came from. The leopard could remember Oni describing what he spoke of, long trails of stone laid together flat. That sounded rather awful, the hunting would be difficult with everything being so wide open. Then again Oni had mentioned that they didn’t have a need for hunting unless they did it for sport… or… fun. What a very odd world the two humans had come from, an how they found themselves so far into their lands would remain a mystery for Uma. Leaping over the last log Uma peered over the offerings that had been brought that day. Most of these things were rather silly things to offer to Oni as she had no need for them but that was humans for you.

“Follow that path” Oni said once the girl was steady on her feet in the clearing where the alter the villagers had made was situated. Her finger pointed ahead towards a well worn path that would lead her directly from the jungle and towards the village. “It will take you back to the village. Be mindful to stay on the path once you start back” she warned lightly. Watching her retreat down the path she glanced to Uma, an incline of the head that was all the communication needed before she turned to gather up the offerings to take them to the tree home. It’s where she took all the offerings the village brought her, some things she would use in time and others she never would. She could hear Uma moving further into the brush following lazily after the girl with some distance to make sure the girl returned to the village safely.

Moving through the forest balancing the offerings in a basket on her head was more of a game she had made herself from when she was young. It had indeed challenged her balance many years ago but now it was something as easily as breathing for her. Ken had gawked when he watched her do it the first time, also saying something like “no wonder you have such perfect posture” whatever that was. He always found the little things to get excited over like a very young child that had never seen the world, though it wouldn’t be wrong to say he had never seen her world. With the girl in her home memories of Ken kept slipping through her mind until she stood before tree home without realizing it. Plucking the basket from her head she glanced up at the winding steps thoughtfully.

The tree was old, strong but still young compared to the tree her den was made from. Those who made a home in the branches had initially used a rope ladder according to Ken when he had looked over it. They had built steps winding up and around in a way that the tree had grown after all the years to make the steps a part of it, he had explained it but… well the short was they cut wood and cut into the tree, put the wood and braced it into the tree. As the tree healed itself it also grew around the steps making them permanent. Shrugging off the memory she made her way up and around the steps to finally step onto the home platform. So many words she never knew before Ken had come. Her eyes moving along the platform, rails, windows, doors, walls, stairs, second story balcony…. Shaking her head she stepped through the entrance and deposited the contents of the basket with the rest of the offerings that resided in piles throughout the room. Once the job was done she returned the basket to the alter.

She made it fine?” her eyes settling on Uma who was lazing across the warm alter stone. A twitch of the tail her response. “Come or stay, it’s time to check damage from the rain” she pointed out. It took her two days to check the entire forest for any signs of damages, at least the areas she was most concerned with. Listening to whispers of anything else that might cause problems from the heavy rain. She was grateful when she was done, it put her mind more at ease knowing she had checked everything. “tomorrow I will check the village” she muttered that night rubbing her forehead from the building headache at having to go to the village. She always had to add more clothes, it was so annoying. For now she was content to be in her own den again, she admitted she had become spoiled since she had made her den but she had her right to be so it was a home she had made.

The next morning she was up before the sun appeared, tugging on extra layers to appease the villages ways. Not that it was much of anything, Ken had assisted her in making it. The entire thing was essentially a wrap that looped around bother her shoulders to close on itself, the length was the most annoying as it went down to her ankles. A strip of cloth to use as a belt to help keep it laying correctly. It was a design he had seen in another village the women wore, something easy for them to remove for cleaning at the river. Ode rode upon her shoulder chittering away happily about nothing and everything. He really was the most chatty of them all, Uma content to stay near the den until hunger would drive her away and Lulu was off basking in the tops of the trees with the others of her kind.

Upon reaching the village at daybreak the villagers were already moving about getting breakfast ready. Gone were the days they bowed in hushed whisper upon her arriving in the village. They still offered soft prayers as she passed but now they were polite bobs of the head and children gathered in delight for the basket of fruit at her hip. “Here you are little ones” she said kneeling down with the basket, handing them out receiving soft praises in thanks while the youngest could only manage “Ehhmammu” but it was said with such delight she found it hard not to smile at the youngest.

“How is she?” Oni asked taking a seat among the elders as she took the offered bowl that contained breakfast. There was only one she in the village Oni could have possibly meant as she knew the name of everyone in the village.

The village elder made a thoughtful sound as he finished the food in his mouth before speaking “She returned to the village with a little one, it was hurt. We did what we could but she has been taking care of it mostly. I do not believe she sleeps well” he said scooping another bit of food into his mouth. While Imamu would always be Imamu the pair had become a sort of familia in their own ways through the years. He was the only elder left from all those years ago when the “little hyena” had been brought to the village all the others finally succumbing to their age bringing in new elders from younger generations. He was now the oldest man in the village, his wife the oldest woman. They both had taken a special place in her heart through the years similar to the human parents she had never known before.

“I will go hunting with the others when I return, I will check on the little one she has” she said simply stepping into the small hunt used by the hunters that held the hunting gear. With that the hunters all left before the sun was fully up in the sky and the last of the night was gone from the earth. It was near noon when the hunting party returned, Oni dragging a large buffalo behind her with little effort while the other hunters carried on their back’s meat from other kills wrapped in hides. When Oni could hunt with them it was always a better hunt as she could help bring larger kills back that would last longer for the village.


Offline heartstringss

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Returning to the village, Katherine was promptly greeted by a couple of elders on her way in. It didn't take long for the locals to notice she had brought a small creature back with her, and they were quick to offer up a few tips for how she might nurse it back to health if she wished to do so on her own, though survival was never guaranteed for forest creatures away from their own kind. The most important thing was to make sure the creature had access to food and water at all times, and that especially since it was so young, it would need plenty of rest while also being careful of the injured forearm. The locals referred to it as a “nagapie,” though in the English language it was something called a “bushbaby”, a small nocturnal primate with huge eyes, small ears, and a large bushy tail.

Katherine was quick to return to her hut that night, her stomach too tense to bother eating, though the locals pushed her to get something in her belly - anything, she would need the strength. So focused on the small creature she now carried in her palms, she could hardly think about anything else, let alone care for her own well-being. This mostly presented itself as a defense mechanism of sorts. Being too anxious at times like these, she felt she needed to defend herself against her emotions, and had developed a habit over the years of throwing herself headfirst into her work anytime she felt this way. Kenneth had always said she was too avoidant, that it wasn't healthy, but... well, Kenneth wasn't here anymore, was he?

She took the nagapie into her tent, set him down into a pile of old cloth near her brother's suitcase, and filled a small dish one of the locals had given her with a handful of berries and leafy greens she had tucked into her pocket. She knew from the locals that nagapies also ate a diet of insects, but hadn't bothered going out to catch any for this venture. Considering they were in a tent in the middle of a wide stretch of land next to a forest with only a flap of cloth for a door and mixed dirt and straw as flooring, insects weren't that hard to come by, anyway. Once she felt the creature was properly settled, she left it alone for a little bit, giving it time to adjust to its new surroundings, and calm down from the stress of relocation.

With that, she readied herself tucking into her cot, stripping out of her blouse and men's slacks and into something more comfortable for bed. Not that she was going to sleep well in the first place, but at least she could try.

The night passed much as she had expected it to, fitful as always. She could hear the nagapie's quiet chittering cries in her sleep, and they presented themselves in her dreams as well, adding in a more auditory horror to her usual night terrors. More than once she woke up to find herself sobbing and covered in a cold sweat, and each time it took what felt like hours before she would drift back off to sleep. It was daybreak before she fully arose the next morning. Having slept in, you'd think she would have felt a bit better well-rested, but in fact you would be wrong. She never slept well, and never fully recovered as a result of such.

When she stood for the first time that next morning, she was quick to check the little nest she had made for the baby nagapie, surprised to see that it was still there and still very much alive, and that a small dent had been made in the collection of berries and leaves as well - a good sign the creature was eating. She grabbed a second small dish to fill with water from her basin, and set it beside the other dish. The locals had told her nagapies were strictly nocturnal, so when she left the tent that morning, she left the creature in there on its own - especially careful not to disturb it, as it was still asleep for the most part and would need plenty of rest in order to heal. 

She was still too tired to feel she could function properly, and without any alcohol to dull her senses late at night, it felt even more difficult than usual to function among the locals. She ate, refilled her basin with fresh water, and returned promptly to bed. Though she did not sleep right away, instead opting for picking through her brother's trunk, washing the old set of dog tags around her neck, then her face, arms and chest... Anything to keep herself busy for a little while, til at long last she felt she could no longer stay awake no matter how hard she tried. Sleep came just as roughly as it always did, a fine sweat coating her body, eyes dancing behind closed eyelids, imagination overactive and full of nothing but horror, mystery and terror.

At some point in the day, she was joined at her cot by the tiny bushbaby, who tucked itself into the crook of her arm and burrowed in. A tiny pair of claws gripping at her skin had her jerking out of sleep, but once she realized it was just the nagapie she could only smile, quickly adjusting herself to make more room. She later awoke that night to her stomach grumbling and finally left the tent for more food, but once she had returned went right back to bed.

Much of the same pattern followed over the course of the second day. When she arose the second day around mid-morning, she at least felt more awake this time, though her head was still throbbing, eyes still red and aching from exhaustion. It didn't seem to matter how much sleep she got, she never became well-rested, and a lot of that was attributed to the night terrors and lack of alcohol. In a way she could feel herself going through withdrawal, but the dependency had less to do with addiction for addiction's sake and more to do with dulling her senses.

No matter how much she needed it, she didn't dare ask the locals for a hook-up, though she was sure they kept alcohol, just the same as Aapo had. She felt a bit ashamed, and at the same time disgusted, that she needed it so badly in the first place. If Kenneth had known how much worse her night terrors had gotten over the last few years... Well, he likely wouldn't have been away in Africa all this time. And that was a passion Katherine refused to deprive him of, no matter how much she felt she had needed him around more often.

It was near mid-day two days later before she became more a presence within the village again. She started going to breakfast and sitting with the locals more, tolerating their little pleasantries of idle conversation and the curiosity of their young over the differences in her skin, hair, eyes from their own coloring. She kept Kenneth's dog tags around her neck along with her own tags, a faint tinkling the only sound she made on light feet everywhere she went. She had noticed pretty early on how fewer the numbers were among the locals at breakfast, and it wasn't long before someone informed her that the men were out in a hunting party with Imamu, due to return back around noon.

For the most part she kept to herself, and when at long last the men did return, she wasn't surprised to see the group fronted by Imamu, but she was surprised to see the woman dragging behind her a large buffalo, with all the ease as if it weighed nothing at all. “She's quite strong,” a local said from beside her, but Katherine's eyes barely strayed from the other woman, amazed at the ease with which she carried the likely hundreds-pound dead weight. “Yes, she is,” was all she said in return, remembering the ease with which the woman had navigated the forests, as if she had lived among those trees her entire life. According to Kenneth's journal, she truly had. She really was more animal than man. No wonder he had been so fascinated...