The Unicorn Guide, Chapter 8

This is a first draft of Chapter 8 of The Unicorn Guide, the fourth book in the 11 Quests series. Books 4, 5 and 6 tell a new story, so you can read The Unicorn Guide even if you haven’t yet read the first three books. Since this is a first draft, if you spot any errors please let me know! I’d be happy to find out in email and fix it. Feel free to send along any other comments you may have. Make sure you read Chapter 1 first!

Chapter 8

Running Along the Border

After reaching the end of the part of the border for which the unicorns were responsible, Esmeralda and Tumi returned to the Unicorn’s Glade for the night. They were both quite hungry. Tumi quickly devoured a mealfruit while Esmeralda started grazing in the Glade.

Esmeralda’s father approached. “Was the border secure, Esmeralda?” Eduardo asked.

“Yes, Father,” she replied. “We didn’t see anyone who had ventured into the Lost Jungle.”

“We saw this giant machine, and Esmeralda made it so that the machine couldn’t harm any more trees!” Tumi exclaimed.

Esmeralda glanced sharply at Tumi.

“What is this, Esmeralda?” Eduardo asked. “You tampered with a human machine? On the other side of the border? You know that you should not cross the border. Doing so puts the Lost Jungle in jeopardy, should anyone see you.”

“No one saw us, Father,” she said. “All of the men had left. The machine was really close to the border, and I was worried that they might soon accidentally break through the border.”

“Those machines have been close to the border before. I do not know all of the secrets of the border’s magic, but I do know that the people come near to the border, but they do not cross it. I guess there is no harm done, since no one saw you. Breaking their machine will not stop the people, but it will slow them down.”

Esmeralda’s head drooped a little. “I thought I was helping the herd.”

Eduardo touched his horn to hers and used it to lift her head back up. “Patrolling our border helps the herd, but crossing it can be dangerous for us. Protecting the herd involves knowing both what to do and what not to do. You’re doing just fine during your First Protection.”

“Thank you, Father.”

A short time later, the herd settled down to sleep, though “settling down” did not mean “lying down” as it does for humans. The unicorns slept much like horses do: standing up with their weight adjusted on their legs in a manner that they find comfortable.

“Good night, Esmeralda. And thank you for showing me the border,” Tumi said.

“You’re welcome. I enjoyed it, even though you are a human,” she replied. “Good night, Tumi.”

Tumi stretched out on the ground and enjoyed the unusually clear view of the stars that the Unicorn’s Glade offered him. He felt completely safe among the unicorns and was grateful that they allowed him to stay with them. Sleeping on the soft grass was much more pleasant than up in a tree with a vine around his hand.

 

The next morning, the air was heavy with warmth and moisture. The sun was shining, but Tumi felt certain that rain was coming. He wasn’t sure what he would do on this day. It was already the fourth day of his Usimaro and everything was going much better than he had ever imagined possible.

The herd had dispersed through the jungle, each unicorn going about its business for the day. Unlike horses, unicorns were protected well enough by their horns that they didn’t feel the need to stick together as a herd all the time. Esmeralda was still in the Unicorn’s Glade.

“Good morning, Esmeralda,” Tumi said as he approached her.

“Good morning, Tumi,” she replied.

“Is there anything you need to do now for your First Protection?”

“Not now. I just need to keep my eyes and ears open for any trouble, but otherwise I can do whatever I want.”

“What do you want to do?”

“I want to go see if those people got their machine running again!”

“Yeah!”

Esmeralda turned and galloped down the path that she and Tumi had taken the day before. Tumi went racing after her, but there was no way he could keep up with a unicorn, even though she wasn’t able to run full speed because of the bushes and trees. Esmeralda did occasionally stop and stare at Tumi impatiently while he caught up.

Tumi was out of breath by the time they could see the clearing. The men were back and appeared to be trying to repair the machine. The tires were still flat and black smoke billowed forth from the engine until one of the men started yelling at the others.

“Can we go to where we were yesterday to get a better look?” Tumi asked.

“Yes, let’s do that,” Esmeralda replied, racing off once again, forcing Tumi to run after her.

Once again, they followed the split in the path. This time, they stopped short of the border. Tumi could just barely see that the border was about two feet in front of them on the path.

They were close enough to the men that they could see the angry looks on their faces. One of the angry faces, the one belonging to the horse rider, turned and looked straight at Tumi and Esmeralda.

“I think he saw us,” Tumi exclaimed, a little too loudly.

“Quiet!” Esmeralda hissed. “He can’t have seen us. We’re still inside the border. If you’re too loud, he will hear us, though!”

“But, you said the border just distracts people. It doesn’t actually stop them. And, he doesn’t look distracted.”

In fact, the man was still staring in their direction. He finally turned and said something to the man next to him, pointing right at where the boy and unicorn stood, transfixed. The other man shook his head and shrugged his shoulders. The horse rider then grabbed his arm and started walking in the direction of the trees in which Tumi and Esmeralda were hiding.

“We’ve got to get out of here,” Tumi said.

Esmeralda looked worried. “Yes, but you can’t move fast enough.” Her eyes closed in thought for a moment. “Climb onto my back.”

“What? But, I’ve never ridden a horse before.”

“I am not a horse. Climb on, now.”

The men were getting closer and there was no time to waste. Tumi quickly leaped onto the back of the unicorn, who took off running when he was just barely seated. An inexperienced rider would have been thrown from a horse in an instant under these circumstances, but Esmeralda was no horse. She had magical control over her body and could sense when Tumi was slipping off and make adjustments to keep him on her back.

When they got back to the main path, they turned right and headed away from the Unicorn’s Glade. They ran for five minutes, though it seemed like much longer to Tumi. He couldn’t believe the speed with which they had passed through the jungle and knew that it would have been impossible for the men to have kept pace with them.

They had made it to the far side of the clearing, not far from the road through which the men had left the evening before. The road through the trees was a short distance from the border, which was just a few feet away from where they were standing.

Esmeralda’s body felt quite hot to Tumi. She had been running very quickly down a path that was quite difficult to navigate.

“I think we’ve gotten away,” he said reassuringly.

“Yes, for now,” Esmeralda replied, still panting from the run. “I’m worried, though, because I think they may have crossed the border.”

Tumi peered through the trees at the open fields and up the slight slope to where the men were trying to fix their backhoe.

“I think I see him there,” Tumi said, pointing to the men standing around the machine.
Esmeralda looked and saw that the two men who had been walking toward them in their last hiding spot were now back with the others by the machine.

“Whew,” she said. “I think the border worked.”

“It looks like it did.”

“Great. Now please get off my back.”

Tumi climbed down, just then realizing how exciting it had been to ride on a unicorn’s back. He had never ridden any animal before and had never traveled at a speed even close to the one he had just experienced. It had been amazing!

Esmeralda started walking and Tumi walked along beside her.

“You ran so far, so quickly, Esmeralda. I could never have run that fast on my own,” Tumi said.

“That’s true. Unicorns are much faster than humans. Much faster than horses, for that matter. You’re probably the first human to ride on a unicorn in years.”

“Really?”

“Of course! Humans treat horses like their own property. They couldn’t get away with that with unicorns!” She swished her horn around for effect.

“Good point,” Tumi said, smiling when he noticed his pun.

They were walking along a path that was not very visible, covered as it was by a great deal of undergrowth. It was clearly not used often. Perhaps the creatures of the Lost Jungle stayed away from this path because it was so close to the border, and to the road that the humans had put just on the other side of the border.

Tumi could hear the sound of flowing water and it was getting louder the longer they walked. After another two minutes of walking, they could see the Amazon river. From where they stood, the water looked greenish and was flowing swiftly. The river was only about fifty feet wide at this point and Tumi guessed that it would take nine unicorns of Esmeralda’s size to stretch all the way across.

In both directions along the river, the banks were covered in trees. The only breaks in the foliage were for the road which stopped at the river and then picked up on the other side. There was a boat docked at the side of the river with a completely flat top, except for one small compartment. Tumi guessed that this boat would carry the men across the river when it was time for them to go home.

Esmeralda was the first to spot another boat upriver that was swiftly moving in their direction. This boat was tall enough to hold people on two separate levels above the deck. Several people were standing on the deck looking into the jungle and pointing small rectangular devices this way and that as they saw things they found interesting.

“The border stops at the river,” Esmeralda said. “They won’t see us, and I don’t think those things they’re holding will see us either.”

Tumi had no idea what those rectangular devices were, but he sure hoped Esmeralda was right that the people coming by on the boat wouldn’t see them.


Continue reading with Chapter 9

The Unicorn Guide, Chapter 7

This is a first draft of Chapter 7 of The Unicorn Guide, the fourth book in the 11 Quests series. Books 4, 5 and 6 tell a new story, so you can read The Unicorn Guide even if you haven’t yet read the first three books. Since this is a first draft, if you spot any errors please let me know! I’d be happy to find out in email and fix it. Feel free to send along any other comments you may have. Make sure you read Chapter 1 first!

Chapter 7

The Machines

Esmeralda picked up the pace and Tumi saw that both the path and the border veered off to the right. During a few more minutes of brisk walking, the trees continued to extend just beyond the border. Then, the line of trees started extending farther out beyond the border. A narrow and less used trail branched off on the right, heading straight for the border. The unicorn turned onto the side trail and Tumi followed.

Out of the corner of his eye, Tumi could see the green curtain of the border, shimmering, sparkling and swaying as they approached it. He couldn’t see it directly ahead, but he felt it as they stepped through. It felt like a momentary cool breeze, pushing them away from the Lost Jungle. Even though he had spent almost his entire life outside the Lost Jungle, it already felt unsettling to him to be away from the land of magic in the Amazon.

“Where are we going? Is it okay for you to be outside of the Lost Jungle?” Tumi asked, speaking a bit faster and in a higher pitch than normal.

“Try to be quiet,” Esmeralda whispered. “If there are any people nearby, they’re more likely to hear us now that we’re past the border. We need to come out here to make sure they don’t get in.”

They rapidly approached the edge of the jungle. Tumi and Esmeralda stood in the shade of the trees, invisible to the group of men standing in the sunlight of the clearing. The sun was getting lower in the sky, and the men appeared to be leaving. One man climbed up onto the back of a horse while the others stepped into a van.

Tumi watched the van with interest. He had heard of cars and other machines of modern civilization, but had never seen them or even imagined that he would. He heard the engine start up and watched as the van bounced along the two thin tracks of dirt that led across the field. A small cloud of dust rose up behind the van which shortly entered the jungle on the other side of the field. The man on the horse followed behind more slowly, and Tumi’s attention started moving around the field.

“What is that?” he asked, a little more loudly than he had planned. Esmeralda looked in the direction in which Tumi was pointing and saw a large machine with black tires and a bright yellow body. The machine had a glass-enclosed box at the top and what looked to Tumi like a giant arm at the end of which was a huge, cupped metal hand with claws.

“That,” Esmeralda explained, “is my target. I have heard it called a backhoe. They use it to dig up the earth. They also use it to knock over trees and then dig up the roots.”

“Your target? What can you do to a machine like that?”

“You’ll see!”

Tumi could swear that the unicorn was grinning, and he felt certain that it was an expression you’d never see on a horse.

The two crept from the safety of the jungle into the clearing. One of the cows turned lazily to watch them and then went back to grazing. The man on the horse was nearly to the jungle across the field and there was no one else in sight.

Convinced that the way was clear, Esmeralda quickly ran straight at the machine. Just before reaching it, she lowered her head and her horn slid straight into one of the tires. She jumped back and the tire slowly flattened, its rim coming to rest on the ground. She ran around and did the same to the other three tires. Tumi stared in amazement as she then proceeded to push her horn straight into the metal body of the backhoe in three different places. It seemed to take her no effort at all. That horn must be sharp!

Tumi saw that Esmeralda’s horn was covered in some dark, slimy ooze.

“Yuck,” she said. “Let’s get back in among the leaves. Maybe you can help me clean that stuff off my horn.”

Tumi plucked a large leaf from a plant at the edge of the jungle and started wiping the goop off Esmeralda’s horn as they stepped back into the shade of the trees.

Meanwhile, the man on the horse was galloping back toward the machine as fast as his horse could go.


Continue reading with chapter 8

The Unicorn Guide, Chapter 6

This is a first draft of Chapter 6 of The Unicorn Guide, the fourth book in the 11 Quests series. Books 4, 5 and 6 tell a new story, so you can read The Unicorn Guide even if you haven’t yet read the first three books. Since this is a first draft, if you spot any errors please let me know! I’d be happy to find out in email and fix it. Feel free to send along any other comments you may have. Make sure you read Chapter 1 first!

Chapter 6

The Reluctant Guide

“Hey, slow down!” Tumi yelled. He was running out of breath and he could barely see the unicorn through the foliage that encroached on the path. Apparently, Esmeralda heard him because she came to a stop. She stood with her tail facing Tumi, swishing back and forth irritably.

Tumi caught up with her. “Esmeralda,” he said, “you don’t have to show me around if you don’t want to. But, I’d like it if you did. I’m new to the Lost Jungle and still finding my way around. I’ve never seen unicorns before, but you seem like amazing creatures and I can’t think of a better guide to have.”

Esmeralda’s tail stopped swishing. Her head turned so that she could see Tumi and then she brushed the ferns aside as she turned her whole body around.

“You may not have seen unicorns before, but I’ve seen humans before,” she said. “Always claiming more land and tearing up the forest. My mother told me to show you around, so I will. But, don’t get any ideas about moving into the Lost Jungle!”

“My people do not tear up the forest,” Tumi said fiercely. “We love the forest. We live in the forest, alongside all of the other creatures and plants. The Unicorn Glade is the largest open area I’ve ever seen!”

Esmeralda’s eyes widened just a little. “Truly?”

“Yes. Where my people live, we are never more than a few steps from a tree.”

“All right. I believe you. Soon, you’ll see larger open areas than the Unicorn Glade. Let’s keep going down this path.”

She led the way at a pace that was slow for a unicorn but comfortable for a boy. As they proceeded down the path, she pointed out different plants and animals. Tumi was already familiar with the huge variety of life in the rainforest, but the Lost Jungle was so different from what he had known. He was delighted when he spotted a tree that was clearly a variety that he knew from his part of the jungle.

“I know this one! It’s a kapok tree,” he said. He looked up at the umbrella-like covering of leaves high overhead.

“No, this is a message tree,” Esmeralda replied. “When I have ventured outside of the Lost Jungle, I have seen your kapok trees. They are similar. But, this is definitely a message tree.”

Tumi studied the bark of the tree and ran his fingers around the trunk. It was a fairly young kapok with a trunk that was only two feet across. “How can you tell? It looks and feels just like any kapok I have seen.”

“Look away and I’ll show you.”

Puzzled, Tumi turned and faced away from the tree. He heard just a little movement from Esmeralda before she said, “You can look now.”

The boy turned and faced the tree and his mouth opened wide. Deeply and clearly engraved on the trunk of the tree were the words “Hello, Tumi”. He was shocked that the unicorn would mark the tree like that after all that she had said about the damage that humans did to trees, but he was even more shocked that he could read the writing. Only a couple of members of his tribe had learned how to read, and Tumi had never been interested in it.

Tumi turned and faced the unicorn. “Why did you mark the tree like that? Doesn’t it hurt the tree?”
Esmeralda whinnied and Tumi thought it sounded a bit like laughter. “It doesn’t hurt the tree at all! Look again.”

He turned back to the tree and the writing that had been there moments before was gone. The bark was completely smooth.

“Where did the writing go?” Tumi asked.

“It disappeared because of the magic of message trees. You think of someone that you want to leave a message for and you trace the message on the tree. When that creature comes along and looks at the tree, they will see the message. As soon as they look away, it vanishes. It is a very powerful way to communicate. We use message trees all the time.”

“I never learned how to read, but somehow I knew what was written there on the tree.”

Esmeralda thought about that for a few seconds. “I think it works in the same way our speech works. You can understand me because I am a magical creature. If I was farther away, I don’t think you could read the message.”

“Oh. I’ll have to remember that. You have convinced me.”

“Convinced you of what?”

Tumi grinned. “That this is not a kapok tree.”

Esmeralda snickered, turned and started walking off. “We’d better get moving. We need to take a look at the border before it gets dark.”

 

The pair made their way through the rainforest. Esmeralda explained that the path was well-worn because the unicorns walked it each day to make sure that their border of the Lost Jungle was safe. During her First Protection, she had to prove herself capable of ensuring the herd’s safety. Any unicorn that is not too young, too old or too sick is able to lead the herd’s protection.

“How do you know where the border is between the Lost Jungle and the rest of the rainforest?” Tumi asked.

“If you look closely, at least while you’re with me, you can see a faint, greenish shimmering,” Esmeralda replied. “It’s like a very, very thin cloth. Look over there,” she said, gesturing with her horn.

Tumi looked in that direction and just saw trees, bushes and ferns. A dragonfly buzzed across his field of view and as his eyes followed it he noticed what appeared to be a greenish curtain waving in the air. He found it difficult to focus on the waving motion, but after thirty seconds of staring he finally did it.

“I see it!” the boy exclaimed. “But, why is it there? What does it do?”

“It does two things: one is it tells the magical creatures and plants where the border is so that they don’t accidentally attract attention. The other thing it does is distract any of the creatures and plants that don’t belong in the Lost Jungle. They just tend to turn around and walk a different way, back to where they belong.” Her eyes narrowed a bit at Tumi as she said this, giving the boy the impression that she still thought that he did not belong in her home.

The pair continued walking in silence after that.

 

The path snaked through the jungle. Every few seconds, Tumi would look back over at the border just to double check that it was real and still there. Sometimes it took him a couple of seconds before the green shimmer presented itself to him, but it always did. After a few more minutes of walking, Tumi noticed that the sunlight on the other side of the border was getting brighter. The dense jungle was thinning out until it disappeared entirely.

Boy and unicorn both stopped walking as Tumi stared, mouth agape, at the giant field just beyond the border. He had seen a cow once when a trader had passed his tribe and offered to sell them one. The tribe had no need of a cow, and Tumi was not sure what need people had for the hundreds of cows that he saw in the field.

“What happened to the jungle?” Tumi asked at last.

“The people decided that they wanted cows more than trees,” Esmeralda explained. “This is why we walk along the border every day. The humans have stopped coming this way, but you can see that they stopped just outside the border.”

Tumi turned around and looked back at the thick jungle. The plants and animals of the Lost Jungle were quite different from what he was used to, but the cleared off land with the herd of cows was like a different planet.

“Can we keep going now?” Tumi asked.

“Yes, I think we should. We haven’t reached the worst part yet.”


Continue reading with Chapter 7.

The Unicorn Guide, Chapter 5

This is a first draft of Chapter 5 of The Unicorn Guide, the fourth book in the 11 Quests series. Books 4, 5 and 6 tell a new story, so you can read The Unicorn Guide even if you haven’t yet read the first three books. Since this is a first draft, if you spot any errors please let me know! I’d be happy to find out in email and fix it. Feel free to send along any other comments you may have. Make sure you read Chapter 1 first!

Chapter 5

Esmeralda

A spark of sunlight flashed off of the unicorn’s horn, momentarily blinding Tumi. In the next moment, the unicorn’s horn was inches away from Tumi. Though the unicorn was smaller than the others in the herd, Tumi guessed that it weighed ten times what he did. He didn’t feel like much of a match for this creature.

Tumi couldn’t help admiring how beautiful the unicorn was. Her coat was black, but small patches would catch the sunlight and twinkle like stars. Her eyes were a deep green and looked like gems. Her horn was almost white, but subtle pinks and blues could be seen along its length.

The boy was brought back to the present when the unicorn spoke to him. Tumi still wasn’t used to the idea that the creatures here could speak at all, let alone speak in a language he could understand.

“Who are you, and what brings you to the Unicorn’s Glade?” the unicorn demanded. Though its tone was demanding, the voice sounded like that of a girl no older than Tumi.

“I am Tumi. This is my Usimaro and I am wandering the jungle so that I will not be seen by my tribesmen. And, I am enjoying the adventure. I have seen so many new things in the past day.”

The expression in the unicorn’s eyes remained as hard as stone. But her horn dipped slightly and her head turned just a little to look toward the other members of the herd. A medium-sized brown unicorn broke off from the others and walked toward the black one.

“It’s okay, Esmeralda,” said the brown unicorn to the younger one. “You can relax. This boy is clearly no threat to our herd.”

“Yes, mother,” said Esmeralda, the black unicorn. “You are right. But I had to be sure! I want no trouble in the herd while I am doing my First Protection.”

The brown unicorn turned to Tumi. “Tumi, I apologize if my daughter scared you. Esmeralda reached her 11th year just a few days ago which, in our herd, means that she spends this month as the lead protector of the herd. It’s a big challenge for a young unicorn.”

“What does a herd of unicorns need protection from?” Tumi asked, genuinely puzzled. He had a difficult time imagining what could be frightening for such a group of powerful and dangerous creatures.

“There are wild creatures that frighten even us. You may not believe it, but even your kind can be frightening.”

“My kind? My people have been a part of the rainforest for many years and I’ve never heard of unicorns before.”

“There are other humans, though, whom we fear. We have heard stories of humans with fearsome power not far beyond the borders of the Lost Jungle. The mightiest trees are unable to stand before these people.”

“And I’m going to make sure that those people stay away!” exclaimed Esmeralda, looking at Tumi as if he was one of those people.

“Yes, I’m sure you will, Esmeralda,” said the brown unicorn patiently. “It sounds as if Tumi has not seen much of the Lost Jungle. Why don’t you show him the area in which we unicorns range?”

“Oh mother, do I have to?” she asked.

“Yes. Besides, the day is moving on and it is time to scout the borders anyhow.”

“Oh, all right.” Esmeralda looked at Tumi. “Come on, Tumi.”

Without waiting for the boy, Esmeralda trotted across the glade and onto a path that branched off at the opposite side. Tumi had to jog to keep up.

A large white unicorn stallion walked over to Esmeralda’s mother. “Miriam, I know that it’s time for the rounds, but did you really need to send Esmeralda off with that boy?”

“I think it’s for the best, Eduardo,” the brown unicorn said to Esmeralda’s father. “It’s important that she learns that not all humans are to be feared. Esmeralda takes things so seriously, and I sense that this Tumi is a bit more relaxed.”

Eduardo looked toward the path the two children had taken. “Perhaps. We’ll see if he stays relaxed after a bit of time with Esmeralda.”


Continue reading with Chapter 6

The Unicorn Guide, Chapter 4

This is a first draft of Chapter 4 of The Unicorn Guide, the fourth book in the 11 Quests series. Books 4, 5 and 6 tell a new story, so you can read The Unicorn Guide even if you haven’t yet read the first three books. Since this is a first draft, if you spot any errors please let me know! I’d be happy to find out in email and fix it. Feel free to send along any other comments you may have. Make sure you read Chapter 1 first!

Chapter 4

Animals

Tumi shrugged, smiled and started walking through the jungle in the opposite direction from the path Glider had taken. He had started this adventure alone and was fine continuing it alone. He didn’t need some old fairy to tell him what everything was. He’d figure it out for himself.

He worked his way slowly through the jungle. The thick foliage made it impossible to move very quickly, but that was just fine with Tumi as he took in all of the new sights. Many plants seemed similar to those he was used to, but there were subtle differences. For some, the leaves had purple mixed in with their normal green. One tree had green bark that looked like snake scales. Tumi had jumped when he saw that one, thinking there was a huge snake in a tree, until he realized that he was just seeing the tree itself.

The animals were even more surprising. He saw a handful of monkeys moving from tree to tree high overhead. There was nothing unusual in that sight, except that these monkeys all had really long arms and legs. Each one also had a hat on its head.

Like those monkeys, many animals were very similar to the ones Tumi was used to from his part of the Amazon rainforest. There were many others that may as well have come from the moon, because they were so different from anything he had seen. At one point, he was forced to wait as hundreds of small balls of fur rolled past him, clearly trying to get somewhere in a hurry. They came in all of the colors of the rainbow and looked so soft and cute that Tumi was very tempted to pick one up to play with. However, many of them growled with a deep, throaty sound that made the boy think that these creatures may have defenses that they usually kept out of sight.

After a couple of hours of one new sight after another, each interesting but none threatening, Tumi was so engrossed in this new world that he tripped over a fallen branch and found himself down on his hands and knees on the ground. Just inches away he saw the largest turtle he had ever seen. It was five feet across with a deep green shell and a beak that Tumi was quite certain would give a very nasty bite. He looked at the boy through two beady black eyes on the sides of his head.

“Woah there,” said the turtle in a deep, slow voice. “You might want to watch where you’re going. A little thing like you couldn’t harm me, so I’m not about to bite you. But, I saw a humdinger about an hour ago and you wouldn’t want to fall on that.”

Tumi’s eyes widened. “You can talk!”

“Of course I can talk. But are you hearing what I’m saying? There’s a humdinger around here. Just watch your step.”

“What’s a humdinger? How will I know it when I see it?”

“You don’t know what a humdinger is?” The turtle considered this for a moment, surprised that this human was not only clumsy but apparently not very smart.

“You know what a ball is, right?”

“Yes.”

“And fur?”

“Yes.”

“A humdinger looks like many balls of fur. But, the fur stings.”

“Oh! I saw the humdinger. I’m glad I didn’t touch it.”

“Perhaps you have more sense than you seem to, then. As terribly interesting as it has been to talk with you, I must take my leave. As you can tell, I am in quite a hurry.” The turtle said this in the same slow rhythm as the rest of what he said and didn’t sound in a hurry at all.

The turtle’s massive but short legs started moving and Tumi slowly stepped aside and watched the turtle pass. It took five minutes for the turtle to disappear from view, but watching him go, Tumi couldn’t help but believe that the animal truly was in a hurry. He guessed it was all a matter of perspective.

Once again, Tumi was on his own, making his way through the jungle. He imagined that if he was far away and approaching the Lost Jungle from a clearing, it would look just like his home. From where he stood, though, the details seemed crazy. His legs tickled as he walked past a fern with blue feathers in place of leaves.

He continued to walk on with no particular destination in mind. As the hours passed, he managed to find some plants to eat that didn’t look or smell poisonous. He spit out one vegetable that looked like a tomato but tasted like burnt wood. He found some orange berries that were sweet and delicious, so he made a small bag from a large leaf to carry a few with him. He thought the better of trying to eat one small plant that tried to bite his finger.

Eventually, the dense foliage abruptly ended and Tumi stepped out into a grassy clearing. The boy had never seen anything like it. The only times he had ever been more than a few feet away from trees and bushes were when he was around the river. The grassy field was liberating and Tumi ran out into the field with a large “whoop!”

After the hours of making his way slowly through the jungle, it felt wonderful to be able to stretch his legs and run. The field was not very large. It would have taken Tumi only about thirty seconds to run across. He stopped running sooner than that, though, when he noticed that the clearing was occupied.

He had seen a couple of horses in his life as traders from the cities had occasionally made their way into Tumi’s part of the jungle. As with everything else in the Lost Jungle, these horses were a bit different from the ones he had seen. Each of the ten or so horses in front of him had a beautiful, spiralled and extremely sharp looking horn coming from a point on its head just above its eyes.

A small, black unicorn broke away from the others and started walking toward Tumi, the point of its horn leading the way.


Continue reading with Chapter 5

The Unicorn Guide, Chapter 3

This is a first draft of Chapter 3 of The Unicorn Guide, the fourth book in the 11 Quests series. Books 4, 5 and 6 tell a new story, so you can read The Unicorn Guide even if you haven’t yet read the first three books. Since this is a first draft, if you spot any errors please let me know! I’d be happy to find out in email and fix it. Feel free to send along any other comments you may have. Make sure you read Chapter 1 first!

Chapter 3

The Lost Jungle

With the rising of the sun, the leaves of the Fiery Ferns darkened and finally turned solid green, each leaf releasing a final wisp of smoke to welcome the day. Glider was sitting on the branch with Tumi, resting his wings.

On this morning, Tumi had no need to start running right away. He was certain that no one from his tribe had ever seen the Lost Jungle before. Having Glider with him was comforting, because the old fay would be able to teach Tumi all he needed to know to live comfortably in the Lost Jungle until it was time to return to his own jungle.

“I’m hungry,” Tumi said. He climbed down the tree and looked around at the plants in the vicinity.

Glider flew down to a small bush from which several squarish, light brown pods were dangling. He pulled off one of the pods and flew back to stand next to Tumi. Glider was stooped with age and only came up to the boy’s knees.

“Here, try this,” Glider said, handing the pod to Tumi. “It’s called mealfruit. From what I’ve heard, there’s nothing quite like it outside the Lost Jungle.”

Tumi took the mealfruit and looked it over skeptically. It certainly looked unlike any fruit he had seen before. The outside was soft and slightly porous. The smell was pleasant enough, and slightly sweet. He took an experimental bite. The inside of the mealfruit had a variety of textures, colors and flavors. There were small, round reddish bits that were like beans, sheets of something green and leafy, a yellow-brown goop spread throughout. It was a bit spicy and entirely delicious.

Glider had taken half of a mealfruit for himself, leaving the other half on the bush for some other creature to enjoy.

“Yum!” Tumi exclaimed. It didn’t take long for him to devour the whole mealfruit. The fruit was well-named because Tumi felt full and satisfied after finishing it. “Can you find mealfruit everywhere in the Lost Jungle?”

“Alas, no,” replied the fay. “They’re not very common, and they’re a bit hard to spot.”

Tumi looked around at the other plants in the vicinity. He was about to ask Glider about an unusual orange-leafed plant when the fairy spoke up first.

“What’s your name, boy of the tribes?”

“Tumi.”

“Well, Tumi, I have enjoyed our little meal together and a chance to study your bow. Now, I must take my leave.”

“Why? Where are you going?”

“I have an appointment with an old dragon friend of mine. I have learned through experience that it is best to not keep a dragon waiting. Good day.”

Tumi didn’t say another word as he watched Glider walking away, heading off into the jungle. The trees seemed to bend away from the fay as he flew through the jungle, and Tumi could briefly see a bit farther into the dense jungle. He realized that he had no idea where he was. He was lost… in the Lost Jungle.


Continue reading with Chapter 4

The Unicorn Guide, Chapter 2

This is a first draft of Chapter 2 of The Unicorn Guide, the fourth book in the 11 Quests series. Books 4, 5 and 6 tell a new story, so you can read The Unicorn Guide even if you haven’t yet read the first three books. Since this is a first draft, if you spot any errors please let me know! I’d be happy to find out in email and fix it. Feel free to send along any other comments you may have. Make sure you read Chapter 1 first!

Chapter 2

The Fay

Thinking of the danger of being up in a tree while the plants below were on fire, Tumi slid down the trunk of the tree, nearly as fast as a fireman would slide down the old firehouse poles. The air on the ground was warm, but not as hot as he expected it to be so near a fire. The fire wasn’t spreading from the ferns.

More curious than afraid, Tumi walked right up to a fern and took a good look. His eyes weren’t fooling him when he was in the tree. The leaves of the fern weren’t on fire, they were fire. Each leaf was like the flickering flame of a candle. The overall effect was beautiful and Tumi thanked the gods of his tribe, convinced that this was a good omen for his Usimaro. He felt certain that this would be the most amazing thing he saw, though he was wrong.

He climbed back up the tree and got back into position to sleep. He took another look down at the glowing jungle floor and held the image in his mind so that he may see it in his dreams.

 

Tumi’s eyes popped open. For a moment, he thought that the flaming ferns had been a dream, but then he saw the moonlight streaming down from above and the golden glow coming up from below. Looking straight ahead, he saw the eyes of an old man staring back at him, and the old man was holding his bow.

Tumi shouted, “Hey! Give that back!” He was sure that this had to be a dream, because how else could the same thing happen two nights in a row?

The old man’s eyebrows shot up in alarm at Tumi’s sudden outburst.

“Okay, okay! No need to yell,” the man said, flying closer to hand Tumi his bow. “I was just looking at it. I haven’t seen a bow quite like it.”

Tumi jumped and nearly fell out of the tree.

This was no monkey! It really was a small, old man. His hair was long, white and thinning. He wore a brown shirt and pants, with a small brown pouch dangling from his brown rope belt. His wings were green, like the leaves of the trees. The wings were fluttering quickly as the man hovered in place.

“Don’t be alarmed,” said the man. “Come to think of it, it’s been many, many years since I’ve alarmed anyone.”

Tumi felt certain that the man must be a jungle spirit of some sort, but he couldn’t think of a single story told of a spirit that looked quite like this.

“Are you a good shot with your bow?” the man asked.

“Yes, I’m one of the best in my tribe,” Tumi said without a hint of bragging in his voice. He felt a little nervous around this strange, flying man, but his curiosity kept him from sliding down the tree and running away. “Who are you? How do you know the language of my people?”

“Me? I’m no one special. Just one of the jungle fay. Some would call us fairies. Among the fay, I am known as Glider.”

“How is it that you speak Pano?”

“Pano? I don’t speak Pano. The magical beings learned how to talk to one another a long time ago. It turns out to be very easy magic, since people already tend to hear what they want to hear. We all do it without even thinking. It makes things a lot more peaceful. Most of the time, at least.”

Tumi considered this for a moment. “There are more magical creatures?”

“Of course! The jungle is full of Elder Folk, as we like to call ourselves. There are all kinds. But, we stick to certain parts of the jungle and make it… inconvenient for others to find their way into our lands, as you have.”
Tumi looked at the ferns, still blazing away down below. “And there are magical plants, too?”

“Oh yes, many.”

“Are they dangerous?”

Glider followed Tumi’s gaze to the ferns. “The Fiery Ferns? Not at all. They’re actually quite helpful for getting around at night. Some, like The Trees That Watch, help the Elder Folk but can be dangerous for people who want to cause us harm.”
Glider grimaced. “Still others, like the Hiding Cactus are just plain mean.” He rubbed his arm. “Just last week, one snuck up on me and stung my arm! Oh well. I’m sure even they have their place in this world.”

Tumi had spent much of his eleven years learning about the plants and animals of the jungle. He knew what was safe and how to avoid the things that weren’t. He hadn’t been concerned at all about his Usimaro, but now it seemed that he was no longer in his jungle. His Usimaro had taken him someplace else.

“What is this place called?” Tumi asked.

“We call it the Lost Jungle.”

“The Lost Jungle” sounded a little scary to Tumi, who had lived in the “not lost” Amazon jungle all his life. On the other hand, he thought, being “lost” was a great way to avoid being seen by his tribesman. His face brightened further, as the sky lightened with the dawn. His Usimaro would be one for the storytellers.


Continue reading with Chapter 3

The Unicorn Guide, Chapter 1

This is a first draft of Chapter 1 of The Unicorn Guide, the fourth book in the 11 Quests series. Books 4, 5 and 6 tell a new story, so you can read The Unicorn Guide even if you haven’t yet read the first three books. Since this is a first draft, if you spot any errors please let me know! I’d be happy to find out in email and fix it. Feel free to send along any other comments you may have.

Chapter 1

Tumi’s Adventure

Tumi had a huge smile on his face as he ran into the jungle alone. He was setting off on his “Usimaro” which means “moon run” in his tribe’s language. The Maitsuba tribe to which Tumi belonged sent boys out into the jungle on their own as a first step to becoming grown members of the tribe. Most of the children were scared when the time came to head out into the jungle alone, but not Tumi. He knew this jungle top to bottom. Or so he thought…

Tumi would be gone from home for one night for each year since his birth, eleven nights in total. To succeed, he had to spend the whole eleven nights without anyone from his tribe seeing him. He had been running for five minutes, and already he was totally confident that he would succeed.
In America, children would take a whole backpack of stuff to a sleepover at a friend’s house. Tumi had only heard of America once and he didn’t have a backpack. The extent of his “stuff” was a small knife made from a chiseled stone, a bow and two arrows. His only clothing was a loincloth, something like a small bathing suit. That suited Tumi just fine. He could feel the jungle with all of his senses as he rapidly made his way along the trail away from the Maitsuba’s current settlement.

The Maitsubas live deep in the Amazon rainforest, far from any city. They have no televisions or electricity, and cell phones can’t get a signal anywhere near their simple village.

Tumi had heard tales of boys who had never returned from their Usimaros. Travelers who reached their village would tell them of the huge buildings and fast-moving cars in the city. Some boys used the Usimaro as a chance to join modern life.

Not Tumi. The air was thick with moisture, but clean and refreshing and without a hint of the pollution cloud that hangs over the big city. A million different kinds of plants and animals surrounded Tumi in the jungle, but a city was just concrete and people. The boy was quite happy where he was.
Reaching the end of the trail, Tumi quickly started heading west. It was slower going off the trail, because of the narrow gaps between the trees. Tumi was a thin, four-and-a-half foot tall boy and he could zip between plants almost as quickly as a cat.

He stopped suddenly and looked at the ground. There were paw prints there. An animal smell was still fresh in the air. Tumi grabbed on to the trunk of a nearby tree and started climbing up, up, up until he was sitting on a branch twenty feet off the ground. Seconds after he sat on the branch, a black jaguar came loping along the jungle floor, right where Tumi had been. It was a beautiful animal and Tumi smiled to see it. He was not afraid. The jungle had told him that the big cat was coming.

The sun was getting low in the sky and the shadows were growing longer. In the low light, Tumi would not be able to see the black jaguar even if it were only two feet away. So, he stuck to the tree. He walked along the branch, using vines to help steady himself. Using another vine for support, he reached over to the next tree, a young coconut tree. He pulled off a nice, ripe coconut and walked back to his comfortable perch near the trunk of his tree. Tumi had plenty of practice opening coconuts with his simple knife and soon had a tasty treat before bed.

Tumi was nearly invisible in the fading light of twilight. His dark brown skin and black hair allowed him to blend in well with the tree trunk.
After he finished eating, Tumi reached up and tied a vine around his hand. That was a trick he used to keep himself from tumbling out of a tree while he slept in it. He had never fallen from a tree before, and he wasn’t about to start now. He leaned up against the trunk of the tree and stretched his legs out on the branch, smiling as he imagined the fun adventures he would have during his Usimaro. Soon, he was dreaming of playing games with the animals as he made his way through the jungle.

Tumi’s eyes popped open. It was dark, with moonlight streaming through the few gaps between the leaves. There were eyes looking back at him, just a few inches from his face. In his sleepy state, Tumi thought the face looked like it belonged to a small, but old man about half his height. As his eyes adjusted to the light, he noticed that the man had taken his bow.

He looked again at the face and realized that he was looking at a monkey sitting in his lap and holding his bow, one of the few items he needed for this adventure.

“Hey! Give that back!” Tumi exclaimed in his tribe’s language. He made a grab for the bow, but the monkey was just out of reach. He unwrapped the vine from his arm and inched forward on the branch. The monkey inched backward, eyes fixed on Tumi.

The boy made a quick and sudden grab for the monkey who turned around, dropped the bow to the ground and leapt to the nearby coconut tree. The monkey made an angry squawk at Tumi, grabbed a coconut and tossed it, narrowly missing Tumi’s head.

With a last, irritated glance at the monkey, Tumi returned to the trunk and slowly shimmied down. He paused a few feet from the ground, smelling and listening. Sensing that the jungle floor was free of predators, at least for now, he dropped the remaining few feet. Within seconds, he had the bow back in hand and was making his way back up the tree.

Tumi tied his hand and his bow to the vine and settled back down to sleep once more. Aside from a few dreams of monkeys taking his things one by one, he slept peacefully and woke with a smile when the sunlight streamed into the trees once more.

Tumi was preparing to head back to the jungle floor when he heard the snap of a twig and saw one of the hunters of his tribe making his way through the forest. Tumi froze and remained absolutely silent, worried that he would be spotted and his Usimaro declared a failure. But the hunter did not spot little Tumi, intent as he was on a set of tracks on the ground.

When the hunter was out of sight, Tumi made his way down the tree and quietly picked his way through the jungle, heading in a different direction than his tribemate was going. He was determined to put as much distance as he could between his tribe and himself. He contented himself to just eating the plants he could quickly take on the way. His first hunt would wait for the next day.

For the next several hours, Tumi switched between walking and running, but always moving as fast as he could. He stopped for a swim as he crossed a river at one of its shallower points where he could clearly see the bottom. The rivers that split off from the Amazon were home to a huge variety of animals, many of which Tumi had no desire to meet.

The boy’s smile grew wide as he walked away from the river. He had never seen this part of the jungle before, and he was sure that no one from his tribe would be walking around there. Tumi’s smile drooped a little as he looked around and realized that the plants seemed different. They looked really similar to the plants at home, but everything just seemed a bit off. It felt like he was looking at a six legged tiger.

He shrugged off his unease, and scouted around for some food. The sky was turning pink and night was approaching. Soon, with a meal of nuts and fruit in hand, he climbed into the safety of a nearby tree. He enjoyed his mango immensely. It was sweeter than any he had ever had before.

The sky dimmed and Tumi could see the stars appearing through the gaps in the foliage above. Below him, he could see the ground clearly thanks to the flickering light coming from a few of the ferns growing in this part of the jungle.

Tumi rubbed his eyes and looked back at the ferns. The leaves of the ferns which had been green during the day were now orange and flickering flames.


Continue reading with Chapter 2