She was awakened by a streak of lightening that had brightened the night sky, the bedroom,
and - for a moment or two - her nightmares. A violent clap of thunder followed. She lay there, disoriented and afraid. She
then became aware of comfort, the affectionate warmth which covered her back, and a gentle breath of air tickling her left
Marguerite smiled her relief, pleasantly assailed by an exquisite memory. He’d been so gentle and considerate
last night, whispering words of love as their bodies melded, two souls suddenly converging into one. His kisses were warm
and flawless but also unrelenting, as if he could not get enough of her lips, neck and body. His devotion and passionate embrace
was exactly what she needed.
With a gentle sigh, Marguerite turned onto her back and felt his body, in sleep, doing
the same. She turned a bit more and placed a hand on his smooth, tanned chest. Then, with a peaceful smile, Marguerite looked
up at his handsome, undisturbed expression.
Roxton had saved her life last night.
So many offensively strange
thoughts had entered into Marguerite’s head during the evening, even after she consumed the Zanga shaman’s powder.
The headache had thankfully ebbed but something else had taken its place. *Memory*. Marguerite heard intonations from her
past, the clear accusing voices of her enemies and those with whom she had loved and been betrayed. The voices: “You
stupid little girl. How could anyone ever love you?”, “What did you think, Marguerite? That we would be together
forever?”, “You are a beautiful face and a lovely figure and they have served you well. And yes, you can be quite
intelligent. But you will never be anything more than a puppet, dear Marguerite.” She just wanted them to stop …
All those voices.
Especially the cruelest of them all: “You’re cold and empty … and if we ever
get out of here we’re finished! Do you hear me? I mean it!', because he was the one she cared for most. He was
the one that mattered. She remembered the moment well. He’d lost his temper. Roxton was angry with her and frightened
-- and she hadn’t made things any better by bitterly reproaching the man she had come to adore; telling him their hopeless
situation was entirely his fault. “It *wasn‘t* your fault, Roxton….I stepped on the bloody switch …
I can‘t do anything right.”
She had sat on her bed and whimpered, furious with herself and an atypical
feeling of total desolation.
Forcibly, Marguerite put other more pleasant thoughts into her head. She saw herself,
with Roxton, in that cave again but it was after she told him how she felt about him …. They had made love for the first
and what they thought would be the last time. Despite the circumstances, it was beautiful and poignant and exactly what she
thought it was going to be -- PERFECT -- and later, after she and Roxton dressed, they lay together and just rested. She fell
peacefully asleep in his arms and it felt so right.
More than anything Marguerite wanted to feel that love and security
again. That was when she left her room and tottered into Roxton’s. She had taken off her nightdress, laying it at the
foot of his bed then crawled in -- and she waited. Once again she was beset by the terrible memory of a never forgotten pain.
She could see a scared half starved young girl, with filthy dark hair, running frantically through the streets of Paris, afraid
of the police but even more terrified of her brutal master. He had slapped her the day before because she, the common little
thief she was, hadn’t brought him enough jewelry or coins ….
Then Roxton appeared, entering into his dark
bedroom, and saved her.
A loud clap of thunder interrupted the thought and the dark room was once again awash with
lightening. The rain was coming down fiercely and Marguerite was suddenly afraid again. The crown to the treehouse wasn’t
going to hold, she thought. There had been a hole and she told the men they needed to fix it last week but it was never done.
The roof was going to collapse, she was sure, and they would all be …
Her mind saw it all. A lightening
strike that centered on structural weakness, at the gap in the roof, igniting their home and eventually splitting the treehouse
in two. It was a fire that would not go out. Marguerite had managed to save herself but all her friends were wailing, begging
Marguerite - who was below and looking upward - to help them. She could do nothing but hear their screams and watch them die,
one after the other.
All because the roof had not been repaired.
With a gulp of fear, unaware of the fever
that caused her entire body to break out in a glistening sweat, Marguerite pushed herself from Roxton’s bed and standing,
she reached for her nightgown. She pulled it over her head in a hurry, glancing quickly at her slumbering lover, and raced
from the bedroom up the stairs to their common room. It was dark so Marguerite lit a candle. A pan had been set out in the
middle of the living room to catch the water dripping in from the wood and burlap ceiling, where the hole was.
not enough! It’s just not enough! her brain screamed, the terrible vision starting all over again. She could see
Challenger reaching out to her, his beard and the ginger hair on his head exploding into flame; Malone tripping from his room,
his back on fire, crying out in pain. Veronica was also screaming as her blood boiled … and Roxton … falling from
the treehouse as it split in two, landing at her feet, his neck twisted at a strange angle, dead. His eyes were opened
wide and stared up at her … accusing … You’re cold and empty … You could have saved us all …
…”, Marguerite stumbled, catching the edge of the living area dining table with her hands, trembling uncontrollably.
She knew what was going to happen …. She had to stop it. Panting, the woman looked wide-eyed to the balcony
and saw that the bamboo hangings had been lowered and fastened into place. Obviously, Veronica or the men were thinking ahead
but not far enough. Marguerite had seen the future. She had to do something quickly or they would be doomed!
she crossed to the kitchen then, crouching, opened the last utility drawer near the stove. She pulled out a hammer, nails
and a few scraps of heavy burlap. She rolled the nails and hammer in the burlap, securing both ends together. Marguerite then
crossed to the hangings and untied them, drawing them upward, allowing her access to the balcony. It was early morning, not
yet four o’clock, and the sun had yet to ascend. The rain and wind thrashed against her pale flesh as she looked upward.
The cold moisture felt good against her fevered skin.
Marguerite began to climb. One foot after the other she mounted
the balcony railing, balancing herself against an upright support pole. When her feet were firmly on the top rail, Marguerite
lifted a hand to touch the roofs edge, her fingers making quick contact with the sharp edge of a drainage groove. She had
planned to shimmy herself up the pole then, with her supplies between her teeth, use both arms to pull herself onto of the
“Marguerite,” a very low voice called to her, “what are you doing?” Malone, walking very
slowly, keeping his voice soothing so as not to frighten the woman, approached. His eyes were wide with fear but he kept his
tone neutral. “Why are you standing on the railing?“ He watched as Marguerite, her dark hair plastered to her
cheeks, lightening flashing behind her, and her nightdress soaked against her slim body, stared back at him. She looked terrified
but not because she was so perilously close to falling over the edge.
“I’m saving us.” she said childlike,
simply and earnestly. “Will you help me?”
“Come inside, Marguerite.” Malone urged, his tone
never raising above a monotone. Ned then heard a quick gasp from behind him and realized Veronica too had awakened and was
now witnessing something neither could quite understand. Malone, still subdued, spoke over his shoulder: “Get Roxton.”
have to fix the hole in the roof.” Marguerite said, as if to explain. “Or you’re all going to die -- and
leave me alone.”
Malone could only stare at her, stunned and unblinking.
He only had to hear
Veronica’s urgent voice: “Roxton, hurry. Marguerite’s in trouble.” and the hunter was almost instantaneously
in his pants, pulling on his white T-shirt and running bare foot up the stairs.
Challenger was already there, with
Malone, trying to convince Marguerite all was well. “Come down, now. You don’t need to be afraid …”
Roxton’s heart leapt into his throat as he watched her. She was cold, ill and shaking, standing on the
thin wood railing, her frail body clinging to the support pole, tears and rain water rolling down her face. And her eyes were
so large and troubled. He sensed something was wrong last night. Marguerite had been so desperate as she clung to him, so
anxious with her movements and so uncharacteristically needy. And she had whispered, whether she was aware of it or not, “help
me” at least twice between heated kisses and loving caresses. This new side of her was disconcerting but made him want
her all the more.
“You don’t understand …” Marguerite sobbed.
“I do, Marguerite.”
Roxton moved gradually forward, lifting a hand to her, “You saw something, didn’t you?” At her relieved
nod, he moved bit by bit closer. He was now right before her but stood still when he saw Marguerite’s hands shift on
her only anchor, the slippery support pole. He was fearful for a moment that she might fall. “Did you see something
last night too?” he asked.
“Last night?“ She looked confused.
“Remember, you weren’t
feeling well.” he coaxed, and you don’t look well now, “ You were sad.”
rescued me.” she whispered so low that only Roxton could hear her.
“I will never let anything happen to
you, Marguerite. Never.”
“But …” Marguerite looked beyond Roxton to her other friends, the
way they were staring at her, how they were afraid for her. She could see utter sympathy in their eyes but they didn‘t
understand. They couldn’t. She could see Veronica’s mouth move - ‘Please Marguerite … please …’
she was saying. “But how can you say that?” Marguerite unexpectedly questioned, the tears flowing unchecked down
her cheeks, feeling unworthy. “How can ANY of you feel this way?”
“We do.” Malone said, “And
that’s what matters, Marguerite. Not the why.”
But it does matter, Ned. It really does. “The
roof …” Marguerite murmured, glancing over her shoulder, “If a thunderbolt comes down while I’m on
the roof it will only be my life and the rest of you will be spared. I’ll fix it and you will all live …”
what about you, Marguerite?” Veronica asked, her bottom lip gently trembling.
Marguerite began, then: “It doesn’t matter. Life here will be so much more peaceful without me.” Then she
recalled something Roxton had once said, “You could all do with a little peace and quiet …”
Marguerite.” Veronica nearly sobbed, “We love you. We really do.”
she cried back.
“How can we not love someone who obviously cares enough for us to risk her own life?” Challenger
Veronica, eyes streaming, met Marguerite’s with a sisterly devotion and understanding.
forward two more paces, his expression sincere and expressive. “Before you came into my life, Marguerite, *I* was empty
and alone.” Roxton whispered, catching her attention once again. Both of his hands lifted to her, his heart revealed
for all to see. “Don’t make me go back to that life. Please come down. Be with me.” Then he added, because
it was the truth, “Save me, Marguerite.”
HE needs saving … Marguerite’s focus was
now entirely on her hunter. He needed her -- But the roof! Something or someone cried in her head. Yes, but the others
were now aware of the danger and … if she should fall … Marguerite looked to the side and down. She never realized
just how far up they were. She let go of the pole and pushed herself forward, “John!” Marguerite tumbled into
his embrace and they collapsed together onto the floor.
He held her, stroking her sodden hair, feeling her fevered
skin, rocking Marguerite with emotions he hadn’t felt since the day William was shot and he held his brother’s
body, watching the life drain from him ... This would never happen to his Marguerite, Roxton swore. She would live forever
and he would be there to make sure it happened.
At Malone’s urging, Roxton lifted Marguerite in his arms and
walked her over the living area sofa. Veronica brought a towel and warm quilt from her room, Malone started to boil water
for a hot liquid which he was certain she would need. Challenger took Marguerite’s wrist, checking her pulse and feeling
her clammy skin.
Tossing dry wood into the treehouse fireplace, Veronica asked: “Is she okay?”
pulse is racing.” Challenger said, noting Marguerite’s steady breath as she sat in a daze before them. He looked
up at Roxton, who had taken the towel and was now drying her hair, then Challenger tilted Marguerite‘s head back and
looked into her eyes. “Good Lord.” he said, “Her pupils are enormous.”
“What does it
mean, George?” Roxton asked, both concern and frustration in his voice.
“I’m not sure …”
Challenger looked off, considering for a moment. “But I think she’s been drugged.”
hour later, in the Zanga village, no one sat at the table staring at a candle. No one whispered words of doom and evil. Ennie
had seen the lady rescued by her friends and in anger she smashed her hand down upon the flame, burning herself, hot wax oozing
between her fingers.
She was not just a shaman but a priestess who had learned spell after spell from the mountain
witch doctors. How was it these explorers were thwarting her spells? Marguerite should be dead by now and her friends devastated
…And Roxton? He would eventually be free … free for Ennie and her persuasive powers. She had plenty of powder
Unable to stand being cooped up any longer, the shaman stepped out of her hut and watched the sun rise. The
storm had passed.
Her mind raced with what she would do next. “She believes them devoted to her. They’ve
said as much.” Ennie whispered, “But what if …” A smile upturned her mouth. She had an idea. A wonderful,
terrible idea. She was going to have a very long, draining day ahead of her, but nothing compared to what Marguerite would
From the window of she and Jarl’s hut, Assai scrutinized her cousin, watching as she stood motionless
with her eyes closed, as if she were praying and greeting the morning. Assai knew better.
Ennie turned and looked at
Assai, noting that she had been observing her. Ennie smiled a sweet morning greeting then once again walked into her own hut.