Judgment of the Dark Hunter

Chapter 2
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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Epilogue

Two days passed.

He found shelter, a shallow cave high in the side of a mountain with a fresh water spring. He created a few crude weapons to hunt with and had managed to kill a large, hulking beast. It was much like a bear but larger. He used its fur as a warm blanket to sleep on. He tied thick fur about his feet, to cushion against injury, and wore a loin cloth around his waist, draping just above his knees. He stockpiled his cave, building a fire and drying meats.

He might live like an animal but did an animal possess the cleverness to think ahead? He may not be the same as the other humans on the plateau, especially those who lived in the treehouse, but he was still more intelligent than the lower beasts.

He was still Dark Hunter.

And he was isolated … alone.

On the third day, when he was certain all was prepared, he journeyed. He held his spear firmly in a tightened right hand.

She would not come willingly, he knew.

***

“Marguerite!” Veronica called, excitement in her voice.

Startled, Marguerite looked up from her wash and saw the jungle princess rush down the pathway.

“Roxton is calling for you.”

In her eagerness, Marguerite left his shirt and pants behind, near the lake.

Dark Hunter, who had been watching, took note.

Twilight had come to the plateau.

***

From the Personal Journal of Marguerite Krux.

I was exhilarated. Roxton was awake and asking for me! He was alive and going to survive this ordeal, as he had so many other dangerous adventures in the past. How could I think otherwise?

Veronica tried to explain to me that I shouldn’t get my hopes up. As we rode up in the elevator to the common room she tried to tell me that Roxton was not yet out of danger. I would not listen. I knew Roxton. He was alive and speaking and once he saw me he would know … and he would get better.

I darted from the lift even before it had completely docked. Challenger was standing, reading a medical book I think, but looked up when I passed him. I could see how concerned he was. His expression shown confusion and he looked at Veronica. She shrugged.

Blinded by determination, I refused to take in the obvious. I ran to Roxton’s room and there he lay, his breathing easier, with Malone sitting beside the bed, looking up at me as I entered.

***

“He’s better, isn’t he?” Marguerite asked, never peeling her eyes off of Roxton, taking the chair vacated by Malone.

“He seems to be resting easier. He was conscious earlier and he asked for you.”

“But I wasn’t here. I’ll be here next time he wakes up.”

“That might not be for hours.”

“I’ll stay.” she insisted, “You go get some rest, Ned.”

Quietly, Marguerite reached down and took Roxton’s limp hand. She barely acknowledged Malone’s exit but she did know that she and Roxton were now alone. Gently, she laid her lips against his knuckles and brushed her cheek against the backs of his once powerful fingers. “Awaken for me.” she urged, “Feel my touch,” her hands caressed his arm, “You promised to take me home to your estate in Avebury one day. You’ve never lied to me before so don’t start now.” she whispered.

What would it take to rouse him? Marguerite felt she knew.

Closing her eyes, picturing a time when she was a child and fantasies still seemed so real, she whispered: “I’m going to tell you one of my secrets, Lord Roxton.” Her voice became soft and if Roxton had been aware, it might have reminded him of his mother, when he was a little boy, during those times she, not his nanny, told him bedtime stories. “I was six years old and lived near Avebury. I played amongst the fairy rings, pretending I was a princess, wishing for a handsome prince. I wanted someone to whisk me away from an adoptive family that never truly loved me and made me toil, even as young as I was, in the fields of their little farm. I was neglected … but I had my fairy rings. I was so lonely and afraid but felt at home near the standing stones. So yes, I wished for that prince … and one day I saw him. He came riding up on a pony. I hid behind one of the larger stones. I watched him, so tall and fine-looking in the saddle, and knew he was the one. He was quite mature. Not quite a teenager but close.”

Marguerite smiled sadly, opening her eyes and looking down at the sleeping man before her.

“My knight in shining armor …” She lifted a hand and touched his warm forehead, “I didn’t even know his name until his brother called for him … but I knew he was my soul mate … and one day we would meet again, Lord John Roxton.”

Roxton began to shake.

“John?” Marguerite’s smile lessened and she put her full hand on his forehead now. He wasn’t just warm he was hot. He was burning up! She now saw the perspiration on his cheeks and the dampness on his chest. “Roxton!” she cried when his shaking became worse and his hand slipped from hers to quiver wildly. “Challenger!” Marguerite shouted.

The Professor, with Veronica and Malone at his heels, came racing into the bedroom.

“He’s convulsing!” Challenger announced, looking for something to place in the hunter’s mouth, to prevent him from biting his tongue. He then barked, “Get ice! Lots of it!”

Malone ran from the room to do as commanded.

“John!” Marguerite cried and felt Veronica come up beside her, placing comforting hands on her shoulders. His chest heaved and she saw his eyes roll back.

“Bring me blankets. We’ll need to get this fever down. We’re going to have to pack him in --.”

When the women hesitated, stunned. Challenger bellowed, “Now, before it’s too late!”

***

Way below them in the darkness of night, looking up at the lighted treehouse, a figure circled the perimeter of the electric fence. He did not know what was going on inside but knew she was there and would eventually have to come out. He would wait. He had the patience of … a hunter.

The figure now wore pants and a buttoned up shirt, those left behind near the river.

Behind him - buried in the earth - lay the carcass of a dead boar.

A plan was in motion.

He just had to get her alone.

***