“No,” you tell the lamia, “my friend is in that tree over there.” You motion in front of you. You can’t see Bagheera behind your tree but you assume he’s back there somewhere.
The lamia stares at you. She looks back, gives half a laugh, then looks back and forth. “Wait, you—but that’s—you’re friends with—” The lamia laughs and sinks on the branch.
You redden, apparently not in on some joke. “What’s so funny?”
“Sorry, I’m sorry,” the lamia says, wiping her eye. “I don’t mean to sound rude but, you’re friends with Bagheera?”
You blink. “Wait, you know him?”
She leans her head on an arm and looks up at you. “Yeah, he’s pretty well-known around this part of the jungle. He’s a good guy, though way too proper and boring sometimes. I just never would have thought you were out here together.”
“What do you mean by that?” you ask. Ought you be offended?
“Well, I mean, I don’t know why he would hang out with—I mean,”—the lamia looks away—“why you would be with such a boring—because you’re clearly—” she motions a hand over you up and down, but finally just looks back at you and says, “Well you’re in two different trees, that’s all.” Her face falls. “Why are you in two different trees?”
Why did you climb up a different tree from Bagheera? Were you angry at him and wanted to be alone? Did you want to prove you could handle yourself in your own tree for a night? You have trouble expressing it in words, but you do give something of an explanation to the lamia. She doesn’t seem any happier by it, though.
“That’s so sad,” she says. “I mean, understandable, in a way, but still sad. You guys shouldn’t fight.”
“He’s the one who wants me to leave the jungle,” you say, crossing your arms.
“I understand,” the lamia says with a smile, “but I think he’s just trying to look out for you. The jungle can be a dangerous place, after all.”
“No it’s not,” you say. “The jungle is peaceful.”
The lamia sighs and shakes her head, and she slides closer to your face. You move back slightly but then find yourself leaning forward.
“I imagine there’s a lot here in the jungle you’ve never seen,” she says. You didn’t notice before, but her eyes are beautiful. Or are they changing? They seem so colorful now, shifting and rippling. “That just makes your desire to stay all the more understandable.” Her words flow into your head, tinged with a melodious echo. “Maybe I can show you something truly amazing, though.”
You lean forward to look closer as her eyes sparkle with radiant beauty. The jungle blurs in your sight, and the shining colors from the lamia’s eyes ripple at the edge of your vision.
“My eyes are so pretty, aren’t they?” she says. “I’m sure you’ve never seen anything so stunning, have you?”
“N-Never . . .” you mutter; your mouth hangs open and it’s hard to speak. It’s hard to even think of the words. Your arms fall to your side as your body slackens; you feel like the inside of your head is getting a spa treatment.
The lamia sways in front of you and you sway with her to stay closer to her eyes. She gives a smiling laugh, and your mouth twitches in a dazed smile, happy that your enchanting new friend is happy. Your eyes widen as the colors fill more of your vision, but they droop as you feel sleepy. You must have been more tired than you thought.
“It’s getting rather late, isn’t it?” the lamia says. She leans closer and sings, “Go to sleep, go to sleep, time to sleep, sleep your worries away . . .”
Your eyes droop further, but you keep pushing your eyelids up. You don’t want to sleep, you just want to keep staring at her, she’s so pretty. She’s persuasive, though; maybe you should listen to her.
She rises and you lift your limp body to stay close. Her scaly tail wraps around your waist and coils its way up, and you sigh from her cool, supple touch. She’s so nice and friendly, she’s showing you these wonderful, relaxing colors, and now she’s giving you a nice, soft hug, sliding up around your body for a slowly encompassing embrace.
“Sleep,” she whispers, running a hand over your face, “sleep . . . I promise, everything will be fine.”
With those words soothing your mind your smile deepens and your eyes drift shut. You slip into a deep, warm sleep, more comforting and bubbly than any you can remember. The colors swirling in your mind tingle you with bliss, and her squeezing coils hold your arms and waist and chest tight, massaging your back and shoulders softer than any bed. You slumber in great peace, no worry or concern troubling you.
The rippling colors shake away to the jungle dawn—but even the jungle seems shake with a repeated tremble accompanied by a thud. As you lift through a haze to consciousness you hear tired mutters about a Dawn Patrol. You’re slow to find out what’s happening—wrapped around you is a scaly tail so soft that you’re loathe to leave it. When you realize that you can’t leave it—its grip is too heavy—you blink yourself awake and with a shout ask what’s going on.
“Huh? Oh, you’re awake.” The lamia hugs an arm around your head sticking out from her coils. “Did you have a nice sleep?”
You shake your head to push her away. “What happened? What did you do?”
She holds your face and smiles. “I just helped you get to sleep, that’s all.”
At this point a chorus shouts from below as a line of elephants march past, making it hard to hear, but still you shout to demand she tell you what she did. You hear a familiar deep groan.
“Do we have to do this so early?” says Bagheera, lying on the branch.
“Bagheera?” You realize you’re no longer in the tree you’d climbed up, but the one Bagheera had. “Bagheera, help me out!”
The panther gives a short laugh. “Didn’t you say you could make it on your own out here?”
You look between them. “Was this a set-up?”
“No, no, no,” the lamia says. The elephants make their way past and it becomes easier to hear. “You see, when I heard you and Bagheera were having a fight, well, I didn’t want to see you angry at each other. After I helped you get to sleep I brought you over to him.”
Bagheera sits up and stretches. “Listen, human. The jungle is dangerous, even if there are many who are kind. But Shere Khan wants to kill you. I can’t protect you from that, a wolf pack can’t protect you from that, and this lamia can’t protect you from that.”
The lamia looks away and scoffs. “I can too.” She looks at you. “I can hide you. That big orange furball will never find you.”
“Never is a long time,” Bagheera says. He turns to look at you. “The man village remains the safest place for you to go.”
“Or you could come stay with me!” the lamia says, smiling and poking her fingers against her cheeks. Her face falls as her coils slide away from you, freeing your movement. “I mean, fine, I admit the village would be safer.” She leans towards you. “And I could even still visit you, if you choose to stay in the area. I won’t let you be abandoned by the jungle.”
“I’ve made my case, human,” Bagheera said. “I don’t want to drag you all the way there, so I’m going to leave the choice to you. The village or this—lamia.”
-19a Among other things, being so easily scooped up by a lamia has shown to you that maybe staying in the jungle would be dangerous, and you agree to head for the human village everyone seems to think is so safe and great. (unfinished)
-19b Despite having met this lamia just last night and she totally hypnotized you, you’ll gladly stay in the jungle with her. It seems the most likely option to stay in the jungle, and Bagheera seems to think she’s good people.
-19c Hex with the both of them, you don’t want to go to the village nor do you actually trust this lamia, how do you know she didn’t hypnotize Bagheera into vouching for her? Your choice is to run from them both and try to make it on your own in the jungle! (unfinished)