You slap Bagheera’s fuzzy face a few times. “Wake up, Bagheera!” He blinks and sputters out confused, half-formed words, shaking his head. It takes a moment for him to focus.
You feel the lamia’s soft scales slide over your head and she spins you around to her glowing, swirling, beautiful, magnificent eyes, her smile radiating warmth and—
“Stop!” Dark fur fills your vision and you blink away the lamia’s spell. It feels like an abrasive pad scouring the spell off your mind. Between you stands Bagheera, looking away from the lamia’s gaze. “This human is protected.”
The lamia smirks. She stops her hypnotic rings. “By whom? A little kitty like you?” She reaches towards Bagheera’s chin but he moves his head aside, legs tense.
“This human is a friend of the wolf pack.”
The lamia’s smirk becomes a glower and she crosses her arms. “Well, they’re not here.”
“They’ll know if the human doesn’t reach their village.”
“Who’s going to tell them?” The lamia grins and speaks in a mushy babying voice. “A good kitty like you wouldn’t be so spiteful, would you?” She leans towards Bagheera, but the panther lifts a paw to strike.
“This human is in my charge and I will fight for them!” Bagheera says. “That’s the last warning I’m giving you.”
The lamia scowls at him with a scrunched face. “You’re the one who struck me first.”
“I tried to tell you to stop. You tried to escape with the human. I gave you a warning then, and I’m giving you a warning now.”
You jump up from behind Bagheera and shake a fist at the lamia. “Get out of here! We don’t want you here!”
The lamia fumes before her scowl flips back to a smirk. “Oh? Really? So you don’t want to stay in the jungle, then?”
You stare. “What?” What did that have to do with . . .? Was she saying she could . . .?
Bagheera moves between you. “Don’t listen to her. Lamias are deceivers. She already tried to turn your mind to her once.”
You nod. That’s true. And yet . . .
The lamia frowns. She shrugs and sighs. “Oh, you’re such a bore, Bagheera. Very well.” She turns and slithers down the branch. At the tree trunk she turns back with a grin. “But you can’t keep an eye on them forever. I’ll be there to take care of them when you can’t anymore.” She slides down the tree, looking after you like a poor soul held against your will, with a smile suggesting you would have a much better time following her. “Don’t worry, I’ll treat them well . . .”
Bagheera shakes his head and looks at you. “You see? The jungle is a dangerous place. Not everyone will be your friend, and not everyone will listen to reason. You need to return to the human village.”
You sigh. The lamia would say the opposite. Her scales did feel nice, soft, massaging. No, put that out of your mind. You rise to your full height.
“We scared her off,” you say.
“Barely.” Bagheera looks at you impassively. “One thing could have changed and it would have gone entirely different.” I, the narrator, agree! “And she was correct about one thing, I can’t watch you all the time. You need to be safe.”
You sit on the branch and scowl, watching the jungle floor.
Bagheera sighs. “Now, please, human, go to sleep. We have a long way to go tomorrow.” He settles back onto the branch muttering before he yawns.
Congratulations! You reached one of the . . . endings . . . where . . .
No, no. You keep looking at where the lamia disappeared to. What if she’s right? What if she’s your only chance of staying in the jungle?
-30a Stay with Bagheera. She’s just trying to lure you into a trap. (unfinished)
-30b Sneak off once Bagheera’s asleep and find her! She can help you stay in the jungle! (unfinished)