Back at the lake

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David had managed to get free from the trees and almost left the new walkingsticks there. In the end he decided to keep them as a souvenir. They had cost him more work than any other that he had ever used and they were going to be useful, whether they wanted to be or not.

As he was finding his way back down the hill, he glanced behind him and found that the tree branches were no longer intertwined. Somehow this didn't surprise him and he ranted about treachery to himself until he realized that this might be a dream. The thought consoled him for a few minutes but then he tried to bend reality, as one often does in his waking hours, and found that it didn't work. He hurried his pace back to the clearing but it was empty.

"Mark?" He paused, then tried again in a louder voice, "Mark!" The only reply was the sound of insects and squirrels obscured by the trees. Maybe he had taken a hike of his own or gone back to study the pit. David decided that the best place to wait was where they had started the day.

It took a couple hours to find the lake. This wasn't because it was small, but instead was because David hadn't been paying attention earlier to where they were going. He finally saw the lake off to his left from the top of a hill. Three villages could be seen near the shore which made him glad that they had hidden their backpacks.

David half pushed his way through the forest and half blazed his own trail. At last he heard the sound of water lapping against the shore, but at the same time he saw somebody in red clothes lying face-down. The bushes were too thick for the person to have chosen to take a nap there.

He approached cautiously but soon saw that the man's shirt was torn and turning black just under his right arm. David thought it was from being stabbed; he later learned it was probably from an arrow. The man's pants were white and stained as though he had been dragged through the trees. A hat was lying nearby that looked like it was part of a uniform.

At this sight, David sped on toward the lake. He hoped that Mark was safe.

He managed to emerge pretty close to where they had woken up that morning. Peering down into the pit was another uniformed guard, just like the one in the woods. This one had a bow in his right hand, a quiver of arrows over his shoulder and a sword strapped to his waist. His hat was sitting perfectly on his head, and it did look impressive. At the sound of footsteps coming out of the forest, he turned quickly and eyed David nervously.

"Hey," David started.

"Purikuy-purikunaykita."

"Er, do you speak English?" He asked slowly then paused for a reply. "Español? Français?" French wasn't the best choice, but he had taken a year of it. He was interrupted as he tried to take a step forward.

"¡Paqtataq! ¡Ama turiyawaychu!"

David pointed behind him to the forest. "But I found your amigo back there." He hadn't meant to change languages, but it had slipped out while he was thinking that the guard didn't understand English. He mentally derided himself for trying to speak anyway.

The guard fumed for a long while before he finally said, "Tiyaykuychik kaypi," and pointed at the ground.

He refused to speak to David farther or let him move, even to get a drink. This gave David some time to consider his situation more, but then it occurred to him why the guard was so worried. He was carrying two staffs and a knife that resembled a curved machete. He also hadn't shaved in three days and wasn't wearing a shirt. His jeans and shoes were very different from the guard's uniform.

He sat for an hour until another guard came, apparently to see why the night watch hadn't returned. He was more bold than the first and the two of them conferred for a few minutes. As soon as he heard that David had been pointing at the woods, he motioned as if saying "show me." David had to help him carry the body back out but then he was finally allowed to get a drink from the lake.

While by the lake, David pulled out a folding knife and scraped his whiskers off as well as he could. He and Mark had considered returning with full beards to stir up conversation, but it wasn't right to face these strangers with stubble.

The newcomer, who appeared to be a superior officer, issued several instructions to the day guard. The fear was still in the man's eyes but he nocked an arrow and began to watch the trees more closely.

The superior turned to David and said, "Hakuyá." The two of them headed off, leaving the guard and corpse to watch the pit.

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