This story is by Karin E Weiss and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
POWER OF THE RING AND THE AMULET
The ring throbbed on her finger to the rhythm of the drums that beat in the jungle clearing. Miira’s heart pounded to the same beat, as she watched men dance in pantomime of hunters stalking wolves. Her wolves. Her family.
The dancers, trimmed in fur and feathers, stabbed the air menacingly with their spears. Miira knew this was no local tribe of hunters. It was the lost tribe of Am Arikka. They sought to capture the wolf pack with whom Miira had spent most of her 13 years.
She peered, unseen in the canopy of a giant acacia tree. Wearing a short deer-hide skirt, her bow and quiver of arrows across her back, Miira easily merged into the jungle shadows. The ring empowered her to speak with the wild creatures and allowed her to live harmoniously in the jungle. Without the ring, she would become prey of the beasts as well as quarry of the Sorceress.
Why is the ring throbbing now? She wondered. Then she saw the Sorceress, Vi Piira, on the other side of the dancer’s fire. Miira caught her breath, nearly crying out in alarm, for she saw her mother’s crystal amulet gleaming upon the evil woman’s breast. Now she knew they wanted her ring too, for it held magic to link with the amulet, giving the wearer power over all the creatures of the jungle.
Miira’s mother, Kuunda, had been high priestess to the Goddess Eehertha. Her father, Lionni, was king of the once great tribe of Am Arikka. Then the invaders came, led by the Sorceress. The invaders killed her father, but her mother escaped with a group of loyal followers. Before Kuunda vanished, she left the ring and baby Miira with the wolf pack, promising to return someday.
Now, Miira caught the leader’s words through the din of the ceremony. “Trap the young wolves and cage them. Spear the big one when she comes to attack. Take her pelt for the queen’s robe. Eat her flesh to gain her power. Use her bones for tools of magic.”
Miira felt the bile of rage build in her gut and she emitted a low growl. “I will save the wolves, retrieve the amulet and find my mother… or I will die trying!” she swore to herself.
Quickly and silently, Miira slipped back into the jungle and crept through the underbrush. Crows and starlings flew up cawing in panic. Suddenly Kaama, the great golden-eyed alpha female of the wolf pack, appeared on the path. “The invaders come,” spoke the wolf in the ancient tongue. “We must leave now.”
With tears in her eyes, Miira followed her beloved pack, stealthily moving out of the jungle, into the foothills of Maaja Mountain. They moved as gray shadows in waning moonlight, into the hidden deserted caves, high on the mountain where she had been raised.
“If the Sorceress has the crystal, what has happened to mother?” She swallowed her panic and forced herself to stay calm. “Dear Goddess, show me how to save my wolf family.”
Miira knew the wolves would be hunted down unless she could retrieve the crystal and reunite it with her ring. Then she might be able to re-connect with her mother and defeat the Sorceress. But it meant exposing herself to the enemy, and this would endanger the wolf pack even more.
She told Kaama, “The Sorceress will find where we are. I saw that she wears my mother’s crystal amulet. Even hidden in the secret caves, we will not escape detection.”
“Your ring leads the amulet,” Kaama reminded her. “Bury it by the river and they’ll be misled.”
Miira’s heart sank. It would mean giving up her treasured possession. But she knew Kaama was right. As long as she wore the ring, their hiding place was vulnerable. If she discarded the ring, they might evade capture. But without the ring, she would have to fend for herself, for the animals would no longer know her as one of their own. She would be in danger from them as well as from Vi Piira.
She crept silently that moonless night down the mountain, through the sparsely covered foothills to the river. Miira lowered herself into the water and swam silent as a mud-turtle downstream. Only her nose and eyes broke the surface of the dark water. At the farthest riverbank she removed her ring and buried it in the mud where the ancient Salmon guarded that part of the river. Then she swam back.
There, where she’d entered the river, stood the men with spears. Behind them, on a great black stallion, sat the Sorceress. Miira ducked underwater into a clump of bulrushes.
Then someone shouted, and she knew she’d been spotted. She dared not return to the pack now. She climbed out of the water and stood before the Sorceress.
“Where is the ring?” Vi Piira’s eyes pierced Miira as if she could see into her soul.
“It’s lost.” Miira kept calm.
“Then you must lead us to the wolves!” commanded the Sorceress, venom in her voice.
At that moment, two crows racketed overhead, flying in the opposite direction from Maaja Mountain and its secret caves. This was the sign Miira needed. She knew what she must do.
Knowing that the Sorceress was expert at seeing into people’s minds, Miira quickly erased any thoughts of the ring, mountain, or wolves. Then she conjured an image of a steep canyon far on the opposite side of the river. Holding that picture in her mind, she added to it the image of Kaama and her pack lurking in the depths of that canyon.
Miira met the Sorceress eye to eye. “I refuse to lead you to them!”
“Never mind,” sneered the woman. “The amulet will lead us to the ring, and you will lead us to the wolves… for wearing the ring, you must obey the amulet.” They marched along the riverbank.
Miira attempted to escape, acting as if to run to the mountain, while keeping a clear picture of the wolves at the bottom of the far away canyon in her thoughts. She could feel Vi Piira searching her mind.
They came to the Salmon’s cove. “Halt! Here is where the ring calls the amulet!” the Sorceress cried. Her warriors searched the river bank and felt around in the mud under the water, but the wise old Salmon stayed out of reach. Soon they gave up, and Vi Piira commanded them to bind Miira’s hands to the horse’s lead rope so she couldn’t run away.
“Now lead us to the pack!”
Miira turned toward the mountain, walking with her head down, so it looked like she was humbled under their control. But the whole time, Miira’s thoughts were on the canyon behind them, and the Sorceress scryed into her mind.
They had forded the river and were about halfway through the foothills when the wicked queen called “Halt!” once more. Everyone stopped. “Turn back,” she said. “We’re going to Ruugnarrak Canyon. This little brat is trying to mislead us, but I’ve read the truth in her mind.”
Miira spied the pack, prepared to attack from the cliffs above. Fearing they might be detected, she quickly erased their image as she turned around.
The Sorceress’ troupe forded the river again and marched to the canyon. Without any plan for arriving and finding no wolves present, Miira simply trusted the Goddess to help her.
At the canyon’s ledge, the amulet suddenly fell from the Sorceress’ neck and bounced down the cliff. Vi Piira made an evil rattling noise as she stared, horrified, into the canyon.
“So, at last we meet again, sister.” The voice came up from the canyon’s depths. There, on a sunlit ledge, stood Miira’s mother holding the amulet.
Vi Piira leaned over the edge of the precipice to shout curses at the priestess, Kuunda. But what came out of her mouth instead was, “AAAAaaaargh! Help!” and she fell, crashing to her death at the bottom of the canyon.
“Well done, my dear child.” Miira looked up to find her mother standing at her side. While Miira and her mother embraced, the warriors… now free of Vi Piira’s enchantment… laid down their spears, bowing to the Priestess and her daughter.
Back at the river, Old Salmon swam to the bank at Miira’s whistle and regurgitated the ring. She put it on her finger. Queen Kuunda took the amulet from her own neck and hung it on Miira. “You are now the Keeper of the Animal Powers, my daughter. Lead them well and in peace.
A great ruckus sounded from the jungle as beasts and critters came to pay their respects to their protector, Princess Miira. Finally, Kaama led the pack down from the mountain, howling their welcome greeting.