The expedition had stopped for the night and were busy setting up their campsite. Each person in the party had a task to perform to make it quick and easy to get the tents up, the fire started, and the gear stowed.
As they went about their duties, none of them could know that just outside the ring of firelight, in the dusky jungle around them, evil forces were gathering. Silently, the enemy natives gathered and prepared to attack.
With little more than a jungle bird call, the marauding natives attacked the unwary Americans. Within minutes, the native warriors had overwhelmed the small party of explorers and had them secured with strong vine ropes.
As the natives chattered back and forth talking about the raid and their captors, Marcos tried to translate the chatter as best he could.
But there were so many people talking at once it was hard for him to translate everything. He tried to pick out the important parts to translate to the others so that they would know what’s going on as well.
“These are the Yupanqui, apparently, and they are taking us back to their village. They say we have…” Marcos paused to learn more, “… trespassed on their ancient tribal lands and now we have to appear before the village chief to decide what to do with us.”
“Oh dear me!” Dr. Hope said upon hearing Marco’s translation, “Did you say these were Yupanqui?”
“Yes, that what they are saying, why?” Marcos confirmed.
“Oh, this is terrible! The Yupanqui are said to be a very fierce warrior tribe and feared by all the tribes in the Amazon. They are known to take prisoners to use in sacrifices to their Amazon gods and goddesses. I fear we may be on the menu!” Dr. Hope said.
“What do you mean sacrifices? What kinds of sacrifices?” Dr. Anderson said, alarmed at this news.
“Well, not much is known about the specifics, but the Amazons are reported to have a few different types of sacrifices. With some, it is claimed that they skin their victims alive. Some, they cut the heart out. And I suppose if you are lucky, they just cut off your head and end it quickly.
“They have also been known to burn their sacrifices alive at the stake. I suppose it depends on what purpose they need and how much trouble you’re in!” Dr. Hope said.
“Well, once we get to see the king, we will have to explain that we didn’t know we were trespassing and that we are only here to find the lost city of Choque Cota to see if the legend is true. We won’t tell them we want to bring back anything from the ruins if we find them… we don’t want them to think us treasure-seekers or thieves!” Dr. Anderson said.
The raiding party led their prisoners along the trails they used–trails that the Americans had thought were animal trails all this time.
The Americans had their hands bound behind their backs and ropes around their necks linking them together in a prisoner chain.
It took only a few minutes of travel to bring the prisoners back to the raiding party’s camp where they were tied securely to trees around the camp until the next morning. Then a couple of the warriors kept watch over them all night until daybreak when their march began anew.
The Yupanqui moved quickly along the trails. They knew the forest intimately and knew just where they were going. The Americans had a hard time keeping up and stumbled often over an exposed root or loose rock.
When that happened, they were choked by the neck rope until one of the others helped him back to his feet. But the group kept moving inexorably forward.
The prisoners spent an uncomfortable second night tied to the trees and the third day brought them to the Yupanqui village. The Yupanqui were a semi-nomadic tribe somewhat reminiscent of the Plains Indian tribes in the United States. And while there were no teepees in the Yupanqui village, there were no permanent structures either.
Everything was organized in a semi-circle arrangement with the chief’s home in the middle of the semi-circle and an even number of dwellings on either side of him. In front was the main area of the camp where all the activities took place.
The dwellings could best be described as brush domes–rounded “structures” made of tree branches and leaves. Waterproofing was provided by sewing several capybara hides together and throwing the large blanket over the top.
As the group was marched into camp, Dr. Hope could not help but be impressed by the Yupanqui encampment. Even though he was a prisoner and his fate was anything but decided, he marveled at the organization and orderliness of the village.
Everyone seemed to have their jobs to do even though those jobs took a sudden halt at the strange white men came walking past them. The villagers all stopped and stared, children ran behind their mothers and people pointed and chattered in their native tongue.
“They are all wondering what is with the strange pale people. They are shocked at our skin color and strange dress… they’ve never seen anything like us before!” Marcos translated.
“Well, the same goes for us too!” Dr. Anderson replied.
They were marched into the center of the semi-circle and as they watched the chief came out of his lodge. He stood up and stretched–he was a huge man! He stood about six and a half feet tall and had broad muscular shoulders and huge arms.
He looked like he could take on any pro football player in the States and do very well. He dwarfed all the other men in his village. The rest of the villagers knelt as the king stood up from coming out of the small lodge doorway.
He walked up to the bound Americans and looked over the line of prisoners. He seemed to take particular exception to the native guides the expedition had employed, giving them a smack on the chest with the back of his hand as he barked something at them.
The guides didn’t show any signs of weakness or fear, though, standing proud and firm even though they knew that their lives were coming to an abrupt and horrific end soon.
He moved on to examine the strange white-skinned people. He seemed fascinated with Dr. Andesron in particular because of his blonde hair. Everyone in the village and most probably everyone he had ever seen had dark hair mostly black. So to see a blonde man was a curiosity.
After surveying the prisoners, the chief went back and sat on a large stump while his warriors sat on mats on the ground. His higher seat was a show of power and dominance over the other warriors of the tribe.
As he began speaking, Marcos translated so everyone else could understand; “My name is Acahuana and I am chief of the Yupanqui. You have trespassed onto our ancient lands. Why have you done this?”
Then Dr. Anderson spoke and Marcos translated it to Chief Acahuana; “We did not mean to trespass, Chief, we are only explorers looking for the city of Choque Cota. We want to know if the legends are true. We mean no disrespect to you or your people.”
Chief Acahuana then rattled off a few more words pointing to the native guides as he did. Marcos once again translated; “You did not mean to trespass, yet you have these two who should have told you about our lands!”
Dr. Anderson tried once more to convince the king of his mistake. “Mighty Chief Acahuana, we are mere explorers from a far off land interested only in learning more about the legend. We do not wish to insult you or cause you any trouble. We do not know your ways and we are sorry if we have wronged you.”
Chief Acahuana sat on his stump throne trying to decide what to do with the interlopers. He wanted to dispatch the native guides because they brought these meddlesome white people. And he wanted to kill off the white people for fear they would return to their land and bring back more of them the next time.
As he pondered what to do, a beautiful young copper-skinned Inca woman walked out of the chief’s lodge and sauntered up to him. She whispered something in the Chief’s ear.
“My daughter Tika seems to have taken a liking to you. She wants the one with the yellow hair,” Chief Acahuana said. Dr. Hope was mostly bald, and what hair he did have formed a silver ring around the back of his head. Marcos and the others were all various shades of dark brown or black hair.
“I am honored that your daughter likes me,” Dr. Anderson said through Marcos, “but I would also plead for the life of my fellow explorers. They are my friends and I won’t abandon them.”
Chief Acahuana thought on the matter for a few moments. Dr. Anderson added one final comment through Marcos; “Chief, our gods are mighty ones and they would not look well at having their people killed over such an innocent mistake as this. I fear that if you do not let us go, they will send more of us down here.
There are many, many white people where we come from and our gods will send more than can be counted down here if we do not return and persuade them not to.”
Dr. Anderson knew this was a gamble; it could easily be taken as a threat and cost all of them their lives. But he also knew that the Chief feared deities–most primitive people do fear that which they cannot understand. Dr. Anderson hoped this bluff would work.
“I will think on this matter more. I will give you my answer tomorrow. For now, you will remain,” he said. He clapped his hands twice and the warriors took all the captives and put them in one of the dwellings and posted a guard in front to keep them there.
Later that night after everyone had gone to bed, Tika came out to give the guard a bowl of porridge. But unbeknownst to the guard, Tika had laced the porridge with a native plant whose dried roots made a powerful sedative.
Within an hour, the guard was completely unconscious and Tika slipped silently into the dwelling and cut the Americans free. Holding her finger to her lips telling them to be quiet she led them all quickly and quietly out of the village and down one of the paths until they were some distance away from the village and could talk normally.
“Thank you for helping us, Tika, but why did you do it?” Dr. Anderson asked the Inca woman.
She looked at Marcos who translated his words. Then she spoke to Dr. Anderson through Marcos.
“I did it because I like you and didn’t want to see you hurt,” she said, looking down as she spoke.
Dr. Anderson had no words so he just smiled and thanked her again for helping them escape. They continued on through the dark jungle putting as much distance between them and the Yupanqui village as they could.
Luckily, it was a full moon that night so there was just enough light to see shapes and carefully pick their way along the trail. Tika knew the forest too, so she knew what to look for and look out for.
By the time dawn began emerging, the party had put some distance from their would-be captors and they were feeling a little bit safer. However, they knew that by now their absence had been discovered and the whole village would be in an uproar over it. And with Tika gone as well, it was a pretty sure bet that everyone thought the Americans had escaped and kidnapped her along with them.
So a war party would be established and they would set out to recapture and subsequently kill the American invaders and kidnappers. Their first thoughts would surely be that they headed back the way they came hoping to make it to the river and their boats and head back downriver.
But the Yupanqui were also very good trackers and they would quickly discover that their enemy hadn’t gone straight back to the river. Instead, Tika was leading them further into the jungle!
“Tika, this isn’t the way we came. Where are you taking us?” Dr. Anderson asked through Marcos.
“My people will be expecting you to head back to the river. This will help throw them off your trail. Besides, weren’t you looking for Choque Cota? I will help you find it. I cannot go back to my village now–if they learn that I have helped you to escape, I will be killed. The daughter of a chief is still subject to the chief and he will have to kill me to save face with the village and show that his word is the law and applies to everyone,” she said.
“It would seem that you are a fugitive now too, my dear!” Dr. Anderson said.
“What is foogiteeve?” Tika asked trying to pronounce the strange word in her mouth.
“Fugitive,” he corrected, “it means that you are a runaway from a crime. You helped us to escape and now you are a criminal along with us. You no longer have a home, Tika.”
“My father, the chief, was going to kill your guides. They are from this land and should have known not to come here. Without your guides, you would be lost in the jungle and would have died even if my father didn’t kill you himself. I could not allow this. I believe you when you say you didn’t mean to trespass. I believe you when you say you are just looking for Choque Cota,” Tika said.
“Well, I thank you for your help in escaping and in finding Choque Cota. I hope we can find it and not have any more trouble with your father or the Yupanqui,” Dr. Anderson said.
“We had better get going… my people will be looking for us and they will be along this way soon. The warriors of my village are excellent trackers and won’t be fooled for long.” Tika said.
So the group forged ahead moving more quickly now that it was light out. The group had traveled about half the day, staying ahead of their pursuers, when the trail they were on broke into the open. Ahead of them lay a wide steep canyon with a very rickety old rope bridge across it.
“Come, we can cross here,” Tika said.
Dr. Anderson looked at the bridge doubtfully. “Tika are you sure? This thing looks like it can barely keep itself up let alone putting people on it too!” he said.
“Yes, the bridge is very strong. We use it all the time. Now come quickly!” she insisted. She crossed the bridge first to show them all how to do it. Then one at a time they crossed, slowly and carefully. It was several hundred feet down to the jagged rocks below and no one wanted to fall.
Finally, only Dr. Anderson and Dr. Hope remained left to cross. “Go ahead, William, you’re next,” Dr. Anderson said.
“James I don’t think I can. I am terribly afraid of heights and I am an old man,” Dr. Hope said.
“Nonsense, William, you can’t stay on this side of the canyon, the Yupanqui war party will be here shortly and you will be killed. Your only chance is to cross, now let’s go!” Dr. Anderson said.
Reluctantly, he began crossing, moving very slow and deliberately. “Don’t look down, just keep looking at the other side of the canyon, William!” Dr. Anderson said.
At last Dr. Hope made it across the canyon and Dr. Anderson began to cross. He had made it almost all the way across when Tika shouted “They’re here!” and pointed across the canyon. Dr. Anderson turned and saw the Yupanqui warriors bursting out of the jungle and gathering on the other side of the rope bridge, telling and screaming and brandishing their weapons.
Out of range of their blowguns and short spears, he was thankful that none of them knew anything about bows and arrows lest he be shot right off the bridge.
He was able to bring his bow and arrows from the village when they escaped–the Yupanqui didn’t know what they were, so they didn’t bother to take them from him. They did, however, know about spears so he was relieved of that when he was captured.
Dr. Anderson continued across the bridge once he realized he was safe for the moment. When he had made it safely across Tika took her knife and cut the ropes on their side of the canyon letting the bridge fall into the canyon. “Now they cannot follow us,” she said as the bridge collapsed.
This only made the Yupanqui warriors even more furious because this was a frequently used bridge to their favorite hunting grounds. It would take them several days to walk to the next possible crossing point and then back up to the trail to resume the chase.
With their pursuers effectively stopped for a while and no longer an immediate threat, the American’s turned and headed into the forest again. They could move at a more leisurely pace now that there was a wide gulf between them and the Yupanqui tribesmen.
With Tika in the lead, they made their way through the forest getting further and further from the canyon and the river that would take them home.
Tika seemed to know where she was going and so the party followed her through the forest without fear now. And Tika moved with purpose and confidence as she glided along the forest trail. It was almost as if she had been this way many times before.
At the end of this harrowing day where they almost met their fate at the hands of the Yupanqui tribesmen, they stopped for the night and made a quick camp under the roots of a fallen tree.
“Tomorrow we should reach the place where Choque Cota is,” she said, as they sat around the campfire. The news stunned both Dr. Anderson and Dr. Hope.
“You mean the legends are true? Choque Cota really does exist?” Dr. Anderson asked incredulously.
“Yes, Choque Cota exists and I have been there,” she said, smiling.
Well, that tidbit of information assured the good doctors would not get any sleep that night!
Copyright © 2020 by Master_Jonathan
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<a href=”https://www.lushstories.com/stories/love-stories/-jungle-love-chapter-2-.aspx”> Jungle Love, Chapter 2 </a>