Elsa of the jungle: The legend begins @mbcarver
Chapter 53

In loving memory of my grandmother, Kathrine Carver 1946-2018.

The leaves and palms brushed against Balto's grey coat as he scampered through the foliage. He bowed his head below the ferns, sniffing the ground beneath his paws as he scurried through the undergrowth. He came to a small cluster of palm leaves and pressed his nose against one the of the pedals. He sniffed along it's smooth green surface. Several potent whiffs of Jack's scent coated the frond. Balto cocked is head forward, sniffing the air. He could smell the wafts of Jack's scent leading ahead through the foliage.

Balto peered ahead through he leaves. He saw a tree ahead a few feet from where he stood. And noticed several ragged marking along the surface of it's trunk. Balto scurried and came up before the tree. He leaned his head forward as he then sniffed the markings. He picked up another scent, one which he had smelled before in the jungle. Yet it was but a moments thought that the realization then came to him. The scent was of a leopard and the markings were the marks of it's claws.

They had stumbled into it's territory and it was apparent that Jack had as well.

The foliage began to rustle behind the half bred Husky. And suddenly a steal blade cleaved through the palms and leaves as both Mund and North emerged from the underbrush. Mund slashed his machete at the last ounce of vegetation in his way. They then looked over at Balto and saw him facing toward a tree.

"Aye, what did you find, Balto?" He asked.

Balto looked back at Mund as he walked up behind him. He barked to his master as he turned his head back to face the tree. Mund then glanced up at the tree and noticed the claw marks embedded in the bark.

"What do we have here." He said as he came to the tree.

Balto stepped back as his master stepped in front of him. He kneeled down before the tree as he examined the claw marks.

"What is it?" North asked.

"Claw marks." Mund said as he turned to her.

"Leopard, maybe tiger."

"Do you think it's nearby?" North asked.

"These markings look about an hour old." Mund said as he stood up.

"But we better not stick around."

Balto sauntered passed the two men. Once more he lowered his head and sniffed the ground, stopping before the foliage. Picking up on Jack's scent, he looked back and barked to his masters. Mund turned to the half-bred husky.

"What is it, boy?" He asked.

Balto barked again. Mund turned to North

"Think he's got something." He said.

"Jack?" North said with anticipation.

Balto turned and scurried into the underbrush. Mund glanced at North, gesturing his head for him to follow. He then walked up to the cluster of foliage. Raising his machete and slashed the ferns as he pressed on through the jungle. North followed after him, walking along the path Mund had cleared. He glanced to the dense jungle at each side, as he gripped his riffle tightly in hands.

North had trekked through this remote part of Africa for many years. There were very few who knew this this jungle as well as he did. And in the years he spent venturing into the depths of this lush feral jungle, he had learned to be vigilant. For even now a leopard or even a pack of Hyenas may be lurking nearby in the foliage. And would pounce upon them at any moment. North had many encounters with such wild beasts before, he knew too well at how swiftly they could strike.

Following several paces behind the two men, Anna and Kristoff strayed from the path as she plowed through the leaves and palms.

"Jack!" she called.

"Jack are you there?"

As her voice fell silent, there was only the winds pressing against the leaves and the chirps of the native birds of this jungle. But there was no voice which resembled that of her brothers. Neither nearby nor in the distance.

"Jack, are you here?" Kristoff shouted at the top of his lungs.

"Jack, where are you?" Anna called out.

But still she heard nothing but the silence of the jungle.

And from the silence which shrouded the jungle, Anna narrowed her head, cupping her hands as she pressed them against her chest. Her mind raced with fear at what may had happened to her brother. Was he lost? Could he be hurt?

She hoped that wasn't so and that maybe he was someplace safe like before. But even still, the fear of otherwise seeped back to mind.

Anna felt something touch her shoulder. She looked back and saw Kristoff standing behind her.

"Don't worry," he said.

"We'll find them."

Anna smiled at Kristoff. She appreciated that he tried to make her feel better. Even now, her worries were already getting the best of her. Something which she didn't need. Not if they were going to find Jack. She needed to keep a level head.

They then heard North call them from afar.

"Anna, Kristoff, keep up!"

Anna and Kristoff turned and saw the others were far ahead of them. They saw North standing the distance, peering back at them. Kristoff turned to Anna.

"Come on." He said.

The two started running through the foliage. Clawing passed the leaves and palms, they came back on the path and raced after the others. The came up behind their escorts and passed by the armed man. They then came up behind Ingrid and just as she tried to slow down, Anna bumped into her.

Ingrid looked back at Anna.

"Sorry." Anna said.

"It's alright." Ingrid reassured her.

"But you should try to stay close. The jungle is not kind to those who can easily lose their way."

Anna glanced questionably to the biologist.

"What's that suppose to mean?" She asked.

"I'm only saying that's safer if we stay together." Ingrid insisted to them.

"It's easy for anyone to lose their way out here."

"She's got a point." Kristoff said.

"Jack probably got too captivated with taking photos that he must have gotten lost."

Anna lowered her head.

"I hope he's okay."

"Ty not to worry." Ingrid insisted.

"We'll find him soon."

"How do you know?" Anna asked, curiously.

"Well believe it or not... Balto told me so."

Both Anna and Kristoff stared bewildered at what she had said. Though she could hardly expect a response which was any less then that.

"Wait, he told you?" Anna asked.

Ingrid chuckled.

"Well no, not exactly." She stated.

"You see, Balto has the heighten sense of smell seen in wolves. And wolves can smell up to 1.75 miles depending on the conditions of their environment. Luckily, Balto has tracked down the villagers before. He should lead us straight to your brother."

"I hope you're right." Anna said.

Like those of his ancestors in the lands far from the jungle, Balto continued to trot beneath the foliage, following Jack's scent. He was moving quickly within the leaves and ferns, he was now ahead of the others. But he knew they needed to find him and soon. Having to entered into the hunting grounds of a predator, it was likely that they may have caught whiff of his scent if they haven't already.

Balto then came out of the foliage into a small clearing. And as he peered ahead, he paused. He raised his head as he peered to a patch of long grass. He notice there was something beyond the grass. Balto squinted his eyes. Peering through the tall green strands, he saw something light brown with what looked to be black spots.

Balto eyes suddenly went wide, realizing what was hiding in the brush. He then glared as he started to growl defensively to his Opposition, hunkering down as he bared his fangs.

Mund and North emerged from the foliage and came up behind Balto. Once again they noticed he was staring forward. But not like he did a while ago. He seemed agitated.

"Balto, what is it, boy." Mund asked.

Balto hardly acknowledged them like before. He kept staring ahead, growling at whatever was in the clearing. The two men the looked up to the bed of grass in the clearing. And it was there they saw the leopard, hunkering down in the brush. North quickly drew up his rifle as he aimed for the spotted beast. He looked back to Ingrid and his niece and placed out his hand.

Ingrid stopped as she turned to Anna and Kristoff, placing out her arm to them. Their escorts unfastened their guns from their back, holding them at the ready.

North looked back at the leopard.

"Hey!" he shouted repeatedly, hoping to scare off the leopard.


But it did nothing. It just lied there motionless under the cover of the grass. North looked to Mund who looked back at him. He then Looked back at the leopard. Gripping the back of his rifle, he slowly crept toward it. He came out of the foliage, he passed by Balto as he came up behind the spotted beast. Keeping the barrel of his riffle pointed straight at the animals back.

Yet as he came just a few feet behind the leopard,. There wasn't a single gesture of movement from the animal, not even a flicker of it's tail. Though it was hardly reassuring nor was it fooling to North's two big eyes. He held the spotted beast at gun point, placing his finger over the trigger for the moment he knew would come. And as he was but a single step from the spotted beast, he paused there.

Even still the leopard was laying there, motionless over the ground. North slowly lowered his rifle as he peered curiously down at the jungle beast before his feet. There he was standing right behind one of the jungle's most fiercest hunters to stalk within it's depths. An still it didn't react or even made such an attempt.

"Uncle North?" Anna called to him.

North said nothing back, nor did he even attempt to look back at her. He knew that if he looked away for even a moment, the leopard would turn and pounce upon him. He would barely have a chance to react before being knocked onto his back with the animal standing over him. Feeling it's claws dig into his chest before sinking it's fangs into his neck.

North crept around the leopard and came beside the spotted beast. He scanned long the right side of it's body when suddenly he noticed a red mass coating the fur over it's neck. It was seeping down it's fur and formed a small puddle over the ground. North crouched down beside the leopard, pressing the butt of his rifle over the ground. He dipped his finger into the mass.

It was blood!

Slowly the realization came to him.

The leopard was dead.

Elsa pondered for the longest time of the language of man. Laying over the soft bed of grass along the banks of the river, the wild woman thought of how she would learn to speak the words which her mate spoke to her. She could hardly remember the language of her people. Nor the times she could talk the way they did. All she could remember was when she had first met Jack and they had exchanged those few words.

"How am I going to speak like him?" she asked herself.

"I don't know the language of man."

The language of man was one not not known in jungle nor spoken by it's people. The only one who knew anything of man was Bagheera. For he had taught her to hunt like the primitive tribes of man. Though she doubted that he would know their language nor teach her if he knew the reason why.

Elsa turned and looked back at Jack. She saw him pacing along the jungle with his hands placed upon his sides. He seemed agitated like he was a while ago. Though for what reason the wild woman knew not. Jack then stopped and turned as he peered into the jungle.

"Hello?" He called out.

"Uncle North, Anna, Anybody?!"

Elsa leaned up off the soft bed of grass as she glanced curiously to her mate. She could hardly understand the sounds he uttered. Yet it seemed as if he was calling out. Almost like how the pride would roar to the rest of the pride whenever one of them had made a kill. Suddenly Elsa felt a sense of dread upon suspecting her mate's intentions. She remember all too well of when she had encountered man long ago. She didn't wish to bring anymore into the jungle. She wanted only Jack.

Elsa got and and rushed to Jack's side. She grabbed hold of his arm and like a child began to pull. Jack looked down at her.

"Hey." he said.

Elsa shook her head to him.

"What's wrong, El?" He asked.

Elsa pressed her finger against her lips.

"You want me to be quite?" He asked curiously.

Jack looked back to the jungle, peering through the foliage. It didn't sound like the others were anywhere nearby. And if he were to keep calling, chances are he could end up drawing another leopard or other predator to them.

Elsa's hands slid down his arm and took his hand. She began pulling him back into the clearing.

"Okay, El, I'm coming." He said as he began to follow.

Elsa continued to pull Jack along as they came over the soft bed of grass. Elsa sat down over the grass. She looked up at Jack and once more tugged on his arm. He kneeled down and sat beside the wild woman. He looked back toward the jungle.

"Doesn't sound like Uncle North and the others are nearby." He said.

"We should probably wait here till they find us."

Jack then turned and looked back at Elsa. She was staring to her with that same child-like expression. So young and innocent and yet curious.

"So...uh." Jack said as he rubbed the back of his neck.

"I know you don't understand me thank you for... saving me."

The wild women listened to her mate speak. Her feral mind captured the anomalous sounds which he utter. She repeated them in her head, trying to sound it out.

"TTTTHhhha...tttthhhaa..." She said.

"Thank you." Jack said, trying to help her.

"Tha... Thaaank..."

Jack's face lit up when she heard her say the word.

"Yes, Elsa, thank!" He said.

"Thaank... Thaannnk..." Elsa said.

Jack nodded his head.

"Yes, thank."

"Thank..." She repeated.

Elsa pondered the word which he had said. The sound was familiar, though she couldn't remember where she had heard it. Yet as she searched through the memories scattered within her feral mind, she soon recalled the meaning of the words. She remembered it was something which someone said whenever they did something for another. Usually in appreciation for what they Had done. She wonder if that's what he was saying. Was he thanking her for saving him from the leopard?

"Jack thank Elsa?" Elsa asked.

"Yeah." Jack said as he smiled and nodded his head.

"I mean, I would be dead if you hadn't had showed up."

Listening to the strange language her mate uttered, Elsa picked up on the many differing sounds he made. They ran through her mind as the slow sense of familiarity swept over her.

"Elsa... sssshoooo uap..."

"Yeah, you did." Jack said.

"You helped me."

"Elsa... Helped... Jack." Elsa said.

Elsa then glanced to her side as a sudden realization came to her. The word which she had forgotten so long ago, the language that was her people, it was all coming back to her.

Anna walked up to the leopard's body. She peered down at the spotted beast, frowning in sympathy.

"What happened to it?" She asked as she looked to Mund and North.

"It's hard to say." Mund said as he kneeled down next to the leopard.

Mund placed his hand over the leopard's head, tilting it to it's side. He peered down at it's neck, to the pool of blood over it's fur. He whipped it away with his hand. And as the blood was cleared from view, he noticed there was a thin scar-like mark embedded beneath it's fur.

"Aye, think I found something." Mund said.

North glanced to Mund.

"What is it?" He asked.

"Looks like there's a claw mark over it's neck." Mund said as he looked up to them.

"let me take a look." Ingrid said as she came beside expert tracker.

Mund stood and stepped back from the leopard. Ingrid came up and kneeled down next the leopard, examining the wound.

"What do you think?" North asked curiously.

"I'm not sure, mate." Mund said.

"Think it might have gotten into a fight with another leopard."

"This isn't a claw mark." Ingrid said.

The two men glanced down to the biologist.

"What?" Mund asked.

"The wound is too deep and clean." Ingrid said as she looked up to them.

"This wasn't another animal, this was from a knife."

"A knife?" Mund said, curiously.

"How can you tell?" Anna asked, curiously.

"An animals claw marks are more ragged and shallow." Ingrid explained.

"A knife is more precise and can cut deeper. And judging from the amount of blood, it might have had punctured an artery."

"You think it was poachers?" North suggested.

"I don't see any traps." Mund said.

"Mrs Anderson!"

Anna looked back. She saw one of the escorts standing on the other side of the clearing, holding what looked to be a small black bag with its shoulder strap sliced in two. Anna gasped as she widened her eyes, realizing what it was. She quickly rushed over to the man. Handing the beg to her, Anna snatched it from his hand. She glanced down at the beg. And it was what she had thought.

It was Jacks!

Kristoff came up behind her.

"What is it?" He asked.

"It's Jack's beg!" she said looking back at him.

The two turned back at North and Mund as they walked up to them. They suddenly heard barking off to their right. They turned and saw Balo barking to them. He leaned his head down and gestured his head to the dirt ground.

"What is it, Balto." Mund asked.

He walked up to the half-bred husky. He then gazed down to the ground he gestured to and noticed several foot prints embedded in the dirt.

"Well lookie here." he said as he kneeled down.

"What did you find?" North asked.

"Got some tracks here." Mund said.

"Think they might be Jack's."

Mund stared down at the tracks. They were shaped like the bottoms of hiking shoes and seemed to be close by one another which each step. It was clear that he must been walking. Mund the glanced up and saw them turn and faced off to the right. And over them were paw prints. Mund crept up as he peered down at the paw prints.

They were big, almost like-

Mund looked back at the leopard.

"I think our friend over there might have gotten the jump on him."

Anna and Kristoff glanced to each other worryingly.

"The leopard must have pounced out from the grass." Mund said as he examined the tracks further.

He crept along as he followed the tracks. Jack's were now further apart from each other. And a couple steps ahead, the paw prints appeared again.

"Looks like he tried to get away but the leopard must of tried pouncing on him again and- wait."

There was another set of tracks along the gap between Jack's and the leopards. But they were different. They were much smaller compared to Jack's, resembling that of a woman's and they were bear.

"What's wrong?" North asked.

"Found some more tracks." Mund said as he turned to the others.

"Their human, female. Looks like there was someone else here."

"Someone else?" North said.

"That can't be right. The villagers don't travel this deep into the jungle."

Mund leaned his head closer as he squinted his eyes. He peered up to the spot where Jack feel and saw drag marks lead into the underbrush.

"She walked over to where Jack fell." Mund explained.

"And it looks like she dragged him off that way."

Ingrid came up behind Mund. She peered down at the set of tracks. They weren't of any of the villagers to the north. And whoever it was couldn't have been from another. The nearest village wasn't for miles from here. But this wasn't someone from the village. Her suspicions tell her otherwise.

"So what now?" Kristoff asked.

North looked back at him and his niece.

"Me and Mund will continue looking for your brother." He said.

"The rest of you should go back to camp."

"What, no way!" Anna protested.

"Mund and I will find you brother, sweetie." North reassured.

"But this part of the jungle is far too three should go back to camp where it's safe."

"I'll take them back." Ingrid said as she came up.

"Thank you, Ingrid."

North turned to Mund, gesturing his to the direction of the tracks. And with that, the two men and Balto went ahead into the jungle. Ingrid then turned to Anna and Kristoff.

"Come, we should be going." She said.

Anna sighed. She and Kristoff turned and started back along with their escorts. As she was about to follow, Ingrid turned and looked to the body of the leopard. As the buzzards swarmed the carcass of the spotted beast, Ingrid could see what truth lied behind this scene of mystery. Even as the others tried to piece it together. She knew who it was that had taken Jack and why.

She frowned and sighed.

"Not again. Not you."

(God... damn. This was the hardest chapter I've ever written. Took me literally twenty rewrites. I hope it was worth the wait for all of you. Please comment and review.)

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