contents. Prologue. The Curse. 1. Chapter 1. Kelsey. 5. Chapter 2. The Circus. 11 . Chapter 3. The Tiger. Chapter 4. The Stranger. Chapter 5. The Plane. Tiger's Voyage (Book 3 in the Tiger's Curse Series). Home · Tiger's Voyage (Book 3 in the Tiger's Curse Series) Author: Colleen Houck. downloads Read Tiger's Curse Pdf. Tiger's Curse. about Tiger's Curse book PDF: This book is writen by Colleen Houck. This Tiger's Curse book is telling about Passion.
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Read (Tiger Saga #1) Tiger's Curse PDF. Tiger's Curse PDF Colleen Houck - (Tiger Saga #1) Tiger's Curse. (Tiger Saga #1) Tiger's Curse. Houck Colleen - Tigers Curse Saga 1 - Tigers Curse (pdf) - plik 'Klątwa Tygrysa I > Colleen Houck - Klątwa Tygrysa'. Inne dokumenty: Klątwa Tygrysa I, Colleen. Houck Colleen - Tigers Curse Saga 4 - Tigers Destiny (pdf) - plik 'Klątwa Tygrysa IV (Tigers Destiny)-Przeznaczenie > Colleen Houck - Klątwa Tygrysa'.
Bid the sea forget to swell beneath the moon; Bid the thirsty flowers forget to drink the eves refreshing dew; Thyself forget thine own dear land, and its mountains wild and blue. Forget each old familiar face, each long-rememberd spot When these things are forgot by thee, then thou shalt be forgot! Keep, if thou wilt, thy maiden peace, still calm and fancy-free, For God forbid thy gladsome heart should grow less glad for me; Yet, while that heart is still unwon, oh!
Nothing had gone according to plan in the Baiga camp. Even the villagers had turned out to be weak and disloyal. True, he had captured Dhiren, the white tigerprince, and taken a vital piece of the Damon Amulet from the girl, but he hadnt been able to finish what hed started. Breathing deeply to calm his rage, he pressed his fingers together and deliberately tapped them against his bottom lip as he pondered the fight.
Theyd possessed special weapons. His underlings had discovered that the weapons were somehow tied to the goddess Durga. Clearly, there was some kind of magic involved, and it wasnt the weak country magic of the tribe. Magic was a tool, a gift to be used by those wise enough to understand and manipulate it. A trick of the universe that only a few sought and even fewer could harness. Lokesh had it, and he would use it to bring him even more power. Others thought him evil.
He didnt believe in good and evilonly in powerful and powerless. Lokesh was determined to be the former. Perhaps the goddess is somehow guiding them. Like good and evil, he didnt believe in gods.
Faith was a crutch, a convenient way to control the masses who would become mindless slaves, choosing not to use whatever meager intellect they possessed. Believers sat at home and wept and prayed, prostrating themselves for divine assistance that would never come. An intelligent man takes matters into his own hands. Lokesh frowned as he remembered the girl slipping from his.
To her, it must have seemed like he ran. Hed sent in reinforcements, but the idiots had returned empty-handed. The command center had been destroyed. The cameras and video records were missing. The Baiga, the tiger, and the girl were nowhere to be found. It was extremely vexing. A chime rang as his assistant entered the room. Lokesh listened as the man nervously explained that the tracking device hed implanted in the prince had been found.
The man opened his shaking hand and dropped the smashed remains on the desk. Without a word, Lokesh picked up the broken chip and, using the power of the amulet, threw it and the quivering assistant out of the sixtieth-story window.
He listened to the assistants screams as he dropped floor by floor. Just when the man was about to hit bottom, Lokesh murmured a few words that opened a hole in the ground under his assistant and buried him alive. Disappointing distractions dealt with, he pulled his hardwon prize from his pocket. Soon, he would unite all the pieces of the amulet and would finally have the means to accomplish what hed always dreamed of since hed learned of the amulets existence.
He knew that the completed amulet would fashion him into something new something more. Something perfect. Though he had deliberately prolonged starting the process and relished the anticipation almost as much as the victory, it was time. The moment had arrived. A crackle of pleasure raced through his blood as he touched the fourth segment to his precious amulet collection. It didnt fit. He turned, twisted, and tilted the wedge, but it would not mold to the others. I snatched it from the girls neck in the Baiga camp.
It was the same amulet piece she had worn in both visions. Instantly, a heavy black shadow of loathing fell upon him. Gnashing his teeth, he crushed the offending amulet imitation and let the powder trickle through his tight fist as each cell of his body burst with a blazing tempest. Sparkles of blue light popped and crackled between the digits.
Waves of anger washed through his mind, pummeling against the thin barrier of his skin. Without an outlet to assuage his violent urges, he clenched his fists and buried the power deep within him. The girl! She tricked me! Anger pulsed at his temples as he considered Kelsey Hayes. Now there was a woman full of fire, he rememberedunlike his own wife whom he had killed when she bore him a girl, Yesubai.
Hed wanted a son. An heir. My son and I would have ruled the world. After his disappointment with the birth of his daughter, hed come up with a new plankill Rajaram and take Deschen for his own bride.
Part of the fun would have been breaking her spirit. The fight would have been exquisite. Deschen was long gone now, and fortunately, the tigers had brought him Kelsey.
She was more than he bargained for. Much more. Slowly, his seething rage transformed into something else. It cooked and bubbled in his mind, thoughts forming and bursting like cankerous blisters until his determination boiled down to a dark, maddening desire. Kelsey had the same fiery bravery that Deschen had possessed, and he would have a perverse pleasure taking her away from the sons of Rajaram. Suddenly, his fingers itched to touch her fine skin again. How pleasant it would be to put his knife to her flesh.
As he pondered that thought, he ran a finger along the sharp edge of the broken glass window. Perhaps he would even let the tigers live so he could revel in the turmoil it would cause them. Caging the princes and making them watch as I subdue the girl will be highly pleasurable.
Especially after this. So long. Ive waited so long. Only one thought calmed him: The battle was far from over. He would find her. He was a man who took no risks and left no stone unturned. He would strike again.
After all, she was only a girl. Soon, he thought.
Lokesh shuddered as he imagined touching her again. He could almost sense her. I wonder what shell sound like when she screams. It surprised him that he was almost looking forward to capturing the girl more than to obtaining the amulet. The need to have her was vicious. It tore through him as his fingers itched again. Soon he would have the girl and unite the pieces of the amulet. Once I get my hands on her though, Ill have to be patient.
Rushing things has been my downfall. He twisted one of the rings on his finger. Perhaps he shouldnt have expected grappling with the tigers to be easy. Theyd caused so much trouble the first time. However, they werent the only predators in India. He too was a creature to be feared. He was like a shark, cutting silently, swiftly, and fatally through the water.
Lokesh smiled. Sharks were creatures to admire, the ultimate predator, the dominant fish in the ocean. In the animal world, predators are born. However, a man chooses to be a predator, ripping to pieces those who stand against him, cracking the backbones of all who would oppose, and swallowing his enemies.
He chooses to be the predator, or he chooses to be the prey. Long ago Lokesh had decided to be at the top of the food chain. Now there was only one family and one young girl left that stood in his way. And no girl stands a chance after I catch the scent of her blood in the water. The waters were chummed.
They would never see him coming. Living without Love s he going to do it? I stared at Ren, searching for a hint of emotion. A full minute ticked by. The second he made his choice, I knew it. Ren stretched out his hand to make his move. I win. He sat back in his chair and folded his arms across his chest. Told you, he said.
I never lose at Parcheesi. It had been more than a month since we rescued Ren from being tortured and held prisoner at Lokeshs Baiga camp and three weeks since my terrible birthday partyand life was purgatory.
Even though I gave him my journal and used up all the flour baking my moms famous double-chocolate peanut-butter cookies, Ren sadly had no memory of me.
Something had happened with Lokesh to cause Rens amnesia. Now we were reunited, but we werent together. Still, I refused to give up hope that somehow he might miraculously recover our past, and I was determined to free him. The least I could do for the man I loved was to not let him down. Every day being near Ren but not being with him was harder than the last. Kadam did his best to distract me, and Rens brother, Kishan, respected my feelings and stood by me as a supportive friend, though every look and touch made it very clear he was still interested in something more.
Neither Ren nor I knew how to act around each other. The four of us seemed to be walking on eggshells, waiting for something, anything, to happen. Only Nilima, Mr. Kadams great-great-great granddaughter seemed to keep us all breathing, eating, and sane. One particularly tear-filled night, I found Mr. Kadam in the peacock room.
He was reading a book by the soft light of a lamp.
I sat down next to him, put my head on his knee, and cried softly. He patted my back and hummed an Indian lullaby. Eventually, I calmed down and shared my fears.
I told him I was worried that Ren was lost to me and asked him if a broken heart could really heal. You already know the answer to that, Miss Kelsey. Was your heart full and happy when you were with Ren before? Your heart wasnt too damaged to love Ren because of your parents death?
But those are two different kinds of love. Your capacity for love does not ebb. You love your parents still, do you not? Of course. Then I would suggest that what you are feeling is not the scarring or the diminishing of your heart, but the absence of your loved one. I looked at the wise Indian businessman and sighed. Its pretty sad when I feel the absence of my loved one while hes standing in the same room. It is, Mr. Kadam admitted. Maybe it would be best to do nothing.
You mean let him go? He patted my arm and, after considering a moment, said, One of my sons once caught a small bird with an injured wing.
He longed to care for it and keep it for a pet. One day he brought his bird to me. It was dead. He explained that the bird had healed and flapped its wings. But my son panicked and caught the bird before it flew away. He held it so tightly it suffocated. The bird may have chosen to stay with my son or may have flown away.
Either of those events would have led to a happier conclusion. If the bird had left, my son would have been sad, but he would have remembered it with a smile. Instead, my son was devastated by the death of his pet and had a very hard time recovering from the experience.
So you are saying to let Ren go. What Im saying is you will be happier if he is happy. I sighed and tucked my legs under me. I dont want to avoid him either. I like being around him and avoiding him would make finishing Durgas quest together difficult. May I suggest trying to be his friend? He was always my friend. Maybe if I could get that part of him back, I wont feel like Ive lost everything.
I think you are right. Friends with Ren? I pondered as I pulled out the ribbon holding my braid and climbed the stairs to turn in. Well, something is better than nothing, and right now I have a whole lot of nothing going on.
The next day Mr. Kadam and Nilima had set out a brunch. Theyd already come and gone, but I found Ren in the kitchen piling a plate high with fruit and sweet rolls. He looked more like himself every day.
His tall frame was filling out, and his dark hair had regained its glossy sheen. His gorgeous blue eyes watched me with a concerned expression as I took a plate. When I got to the strawberries, I bumped him with my hip and he froze. Can you move down a bit please? I asked. Id like to have a go at those cheese Danishes before Kishan gets here. Ren snapped out of it.
He set his plate on the table, and I took the seat across from him. He watched me as he slowly peeled the paper away from a muffin.
My face burned slightly from his attention. I heard you crying last night. Im fine. He grunted and started eating but kept his eyes on me. When he was half finished, he looked away. Are you sure? Im sorry if I upset you again. I just dont remember I stopped him right there by raising my hand.
How you feel is how you feel, Ren. Still, I apologize for hurting your feelings, he said softly. I stabbed my melon with a fork. Despite my protestations and my attempt to be nonchalant, I was having a hard time following Mr. Kadams advice. My eyes felt hot. Which time? On my birthday when you said Im not attractive or that you cant stand being in the same room with me or when you said Nilima is beautiful or Okay, I get the point.
Good, because Id like to drop it. After a moment, he elaborated, By the way, I didnt say you werent attractive. I just said youre young. So is Nilima by your standards. Youre more than three hundred years old! Thats true. He grinned lopsidedly in an attempt to get me to smile. Technically, you should be dating a very old lady. A tiny smile passed my lips. I also want you to know that youre perfectly easy to be around and very likeable.
Ive never had this reaction to anyone before. I get along with almost everyone. Theres no legitimate reason why I should feel the need to escape when you walk into a room. Other than the pressure to remember, you mean?
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Its not the pressure. Its something else. But Ive decided to ignore it. Can you do that?
The longer I stay near you the more intense the response. Its not talking with you thats hard; its just being in close proximity. We should try talking on the phone and see if that makes a difference. Ill just work on building up immunity. I see. So your goal is to build up a tolerance for me. I sighed. Ill keep trying, Kelsey. Dont strain yourself too much, because it doesnt matter anymore. Ive decided to just be friends with you. He leaned forward and said conspiratorially, But arent you still, you know, in love with me?
I leaned forward too. I dont want to talk about that anymore. Ren folded his arms across his chest. Why not? Because Lois Lane never suffocated Superman. What are you talking about? The point is, Im done holding you back, so if you want to date Nilima, go for it. Wait a minute! Youre just going to cut me off? Is that a problem? I didnt say it was a problem.
Its just that Ive been reading your journal, and for a girl whos supposed to be crazy about me, youre sure giving up pretty quickly. Im not giving up anything.
Theres nothing between us now to give up. He stared at me as I speared another piece of fruit. Rubbing his jaw, he said, So you want to be friends. No pressure, no tears, no constant reminders of things you forgot, no anything. Well just start over. A clean slate. Well learn how to be friends and get along despite your inner trigger to run. What do you say? I wiped my hand on a napkin and held it out.
Want to shake on it? Ren considered, smiled, and took my hand. I pumped his up and down once. What are we agreeing on? Kishan asked as he walked into what was the longest conversation Ren and I had had since before he was captured. Kelsey just agreed to give me a demonstration of her lightning ability, Ren smoothly lied. Being able to shoot fire from your hand is something Ive got to see.
I looked at him with a raised eyebrow. He smiled and winked, then stood and took both of our plates to the kitchen sink. I smacked his hand playfully before picking up a towel to help Ren. When we were finished, he swiped the towel from me, snapping it lightly against my thigh. I laughed, enjoying our newfound repartee, and turned to find Kishan frowning at us. Ren put his arm lightly around my shoulder and dipped his head closer to my ear, Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look.
He thinks too much; such men are dangerous. Better keep an eye out for him, Kelsey. I laughed, glad that he remembered his Shakespeare, if not me. Dont worry about Kishan, Caesar. His growl is worse than his bite. Has he bitten you lately? Not recently. Hmm, Ill keep an eye out for you, Ren said as he left the room.
What was all that about? Kishan growled, giving me a brief glimpse of the fierce black tiger hiding behind his eyes.
Hes celebrating his emancipation. What do you mean? Ive told him that Id like to be friends. Kishan paused, Is that what you want? What I want is irrelevant. Being my friend is something he can do. Being my boyfriend is not in the stars right now. Kishan kept thankfully silent.
Because he did, I kissed his cheek on my way out. With the ice finally broken between Ren and me, we all could finally move on and soon settled into a routine. I checked in with my foster parents, Mike and Sarah, every week, telling them virtually nothing but that I was fine and busy assisting Mr.
I assured them that Id finished my freshman year at Western Oregon University online and that Id be spending summer break doing an internship in India. I practiced martial arts with Kishan in the mornings, had late breakfasts with Ren, and helped Mr.
Kadam research the third part of Durgas prophecy in the afternoons. In the evenings, Mr. Kadam and I cooked dinner togetherexcept when he wanted to make curry. Those nights I made my own dinner, using the Golden Fruit.
After dinner we played games, watched movies, and sometimes read in the peacock room. Kishan stayed in the library only if I was telling a story, and then hed curl up at my feet as the black tiger.
We began reading A Midsummer Nights Dream together. Kadam bought several copies of the play so we could take different parts to read. I liked being able to share those times with Ren. Kadam had been right, as usual. Ren did seem happy. Everyone responded to his improved mood, including Kishan, who had somehow changed from a brooding, resentful younger brother into a confident man.
Kishan kept his distance, but his golden come-hither eyes made my face burn. One such night, Ren played the song hed written for me. I watched him carefully, hoping a memory might be coming back. He was concentrating deeply as he picked softly through the notes. He kept getting stuck and started over again several times. When he caught my gaze, he dropped his hands and grinned sheepishly. Im sorry. I just cant seem to remember this one.
Do you have a request this evening? No, I said curtly and stood. Ren took my hand but dropped it quickly. What is it? Youre sad. More than usual. That song its The song? Have you heard it before? No, I lied and smiled sadly, Its lovely. I squeezed his hand and stumbled away before he could ask any more questions.
I wiped a tear from my cheek as I climbed the stairs. I could hear him working on the song again, trying to figure out where the notes belonged. Another evening, I was relaxing on the veranda, smelling the night jasmine, and looking up at the stars when I overheard Kishan and Ren talking.
Youve changed, Ren pointed out to his brother. Youre not the same man you were six months ago. I can still whip your white hide if thats what youre getting at. Youre still a powerful fighter. But now, youre more relaxed, more certain, more composed. He laughed. And much harder to get riled up. Kishan replied softly, Shes changed me. Ive been working hard to become the kind of man she needs, the kind of man she already believes me to be.
Ren didnt respond, and the two entered the house. I sat quietly, thinking deeply about Kishans words. Who knew life and love would be so complicated?
Getting Reacquainted few days later, Mr. Kadam called us together in the dining room. Im too fast for you to even come close. Want to bet? I crawled across the bed while he watched me with an amused expression. I leaned over the side, made a fist with my good hand, and swung, but he quickly spun away, got to his feet, and was now standing at the foot of the bed.
Getting off the bed, I walked around the side, trying to corner him. He laughed softly and motioned me closer. I stalked toward him slowly.
He stood his ground with a soft smile of confidence and let me approach him. When I was five steps away, he lost his smile. At three steps, he grimaced. At one step, he groaned and staggered. He moved several feet away and clutched the back of the couch for support as he took some deep breaths. Sorry, Kelsey.
I took several steps backward and said softly, Im sorry too. He opened the door, and gave me a small smile. I think it was worse this time because I touched your hand for so long. The pain built up too quickly. Normally, standing next to you doesnt affect me so strongly.
Next time Ill just have to remember to touch you at the end of the evening. A few days later, our tigers curse adventure started up again. We set off to visit the shaman Phet who had finally replied to Mr. Kadams courier and indicated that he wanted to see Tigers, Kahl-see, and Durgas special gifts. He was adamant that just the three of us make the journey.
Although I didnt voice the thought, I hoped Phet, with his odd, mystical ways and herbal potions, would be able to reverse Rens memory loss. Even though Ren and I were on much better footing and both brothers seemed to get along since our last road trip, I still felt a bit uneasy about being trapped in a small space with two hot-headed tigers.
Well, if they act up, Ill just blast them with a little lightning burn.
Thatll teach them not to fight when Im around, I thought with a grin and stepped into the morning sunshine. Kadam placed the backpack full of weapons on the backseat, winked at me, and hugged me.
I swung another bag containing my grandmothers quilt, which had so far proven to be lucky, next to our weapons. We were all wearing hiking boots and smooth seamless cargo pants that Ren had made with the Divine Scarf. He had looked up styles on the Internet and had the Scarf create them in multiple colors. He claimed my apple-green shirt would protect my body from UV rays and could wick moisture away and be breathable at the same time.
I had to admit the shirt was comfortable, and to show him how much I liked it, I had twisted my hair into two long French braids and tied an applegreen ribbon to the bottom of both tails. Kishan wore a brick-red shirt of the same fabric, but it had a pocket on the side seam, while Ren wore a seamless cerulean-blue shirt that clung to his muscular frame. He was still thin, but hed started to gain weight back in the weeks hed been home, and his daily workouts with Kishan were showing results.
It obviously didnt take long for his muscles to make a comeback. Can you even breathe in that shirt, Ren? I teased lightheartedly. You probably could have gone a size up. Ren replied, The shirt is tight so it doesnt inhibit movement. My snort turned to a giggle. Then, spurred on by Kishan, the giggle changed to loud peals of laughter.
Theres no reason for you to show off your muscles. Still laughing, Kishan claimed the drivers seat. As I grabbed the door handle, Ren leaned over and murmured in my ear. In case you didnt notice, your shirt is pretty tight too, Kelsey. My mouth dropped open.
Tiger’s Curse by Colleen Houck
And there it is. I punched him on the arm and hissed, There what is? He winced and rubbed his arm, but grinned. Your lovely blush. He hopped into the car and playfully shoved Kishan aside so he too could listen to Mr. Kadams driving instructions along with his plea that Kishan maneuver carefully and not crash the car.
I got in the back and clicked on my seatbelt, deciding to ignore the brothers antics. They tried to bring me into the conversation, but I paid no attention to them, burying my nose in a book instead. They talked the entire way, and I was fascinated by their conversation. Id never heard them speak to one another so civilly before.
Ren told Kishan about the first time wed visited Phet and politely asked me to fill in the blanks. He remembered a lot of it. He just somehow forgot anything that applied to me. Ren didnt remember that at all and had no idea how he got into places with me out of the picture. He just drew a blank. By the time we arrived at the Yawal Sanctuary, Ren was pretty desperate to get out of the car and away from me.
He took off on foot, walking through the trees. Kishan watched him go and reached around me to grab the big backpack with all the weapons.
Excerpt: 'The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival'
He slid it over his shoulders before he locked the Jeep. Shall we? Hes pretty far ahead now, isnt he? Not too far though. I can easily follow his trail. We walked silently for a few minutes. Teak trees loomed over us, which was nice, because they provided shade from the hot sun. Well hike to Suki Lake and then have lunch and rest during the hottest part of the day.
Sounds good. I listened to the crunch of my steps as I walked over the bracken covering the jungle floor. Kishan was a silent, steady presence beside me.
I miss this, he said. Miss what? Hiking through the jungle with you. Its peaceful. Yeah, when were not running from things.
I miss being alone with you. I hate to break it to you, but even now, were not alone. I know that. Still, its more alone than Ive been with you in weeks. He cleared his throat. I heard you the other night when Ren came to your room.
Then you know he gets sick around me. He cant touch me. I know it causes you pain. More like it causes him pain. Hes only hurting physically. Youre hurting emotionally. Its difficult to go through that.
I just wanted you to know that Im here if you need me. I know you are. Kishan reached over and took my hand as I looked up into his golden eyes and asked, Whats that for? I wanted to hold your hand. Not everybody cringes in pain when touching you, you know. He smiled and pressed a kiss on the back of my hand. We walked another couple of hours in silence, holding hands the entire time. I reflected again on the differences between Kishan and Ren.
Ren was always talking or writing. He liked to think out loud. He said that not communicating was the most frustrating thing about being a tiger. In Oregon, Ren would bombard me with questions every morning. Kishan was the opposite. He was still, silent. He liked to just be, just feel, just experience the things around him. When he drank a root beer float, he delighted in the experience and gave percent of his attention to it. He soaked in his environment, and was happy keeping to himself.
I was comfortable with both men. I could appreciate the quiet and the nature more with Kishan. But with Ren near, I was so busy talking with him and, Ill admit, staring at him that everything else diminished. As Suki Lake came into view, we found Ren standing at the waters edge skipping pebbles across the surface. He turned to us with a smile and saw our clasped hands.
His grin faltered briefly, but then he teased me and smiled again. Its about time you two caught up. Youre slower than honey in the refrigerator.
Im starving. Whats for lunch? I shrugged off my backpack. My shirt was stuck to my skin. I peeled it away and crouched down to unzip the pack. What would you like? Ren crouched down next to me. I dont care. Surprise me. I thought you didnt like my cooking. I like it fine. I just didnt like all of you staring at me while I ate, expecting each bite to jar a memory. In fact, I wouldnt mind some of those chocolate-peanut butter cookies. How about you? I shaded my eyes and looked up at him. He was watching Ren.
The brothers went off to throw pebbles across the lake and I could hear them laughing as they competed with each other. I asked the Golden Fruit to create a picnic basket for us filled with lemonade; fresh hot biscuits with butter and an assortment of jams and marmalades; a cold pasta salad with olives, tomatoes, carrots, and a lemon vinaigrette; a giant box of tangy Hawaiian BBQ chicken; and my chocolate-peanut butter cookies.
I used the Divine Scarf to create a red-and-white-checked blanket and spread it under a tree. Our picnic was ready.
Lunch is served! I shouted. The brothers wasted no time. Kishan reached for the chicken, and Ren, the cookies. I smacked their hands away and handed each one a bacterial wipe. Kishan grumbled, Kells, I ate my food raw off the ground for three hundred years. I really dont think a little dirts going to kill me. Maybe not, but clean hands make me feel better. I handed them the giant box of chicken and took a biscuit out of the basket, buttered it, and spread marionberry preserves over it.
Leaning back against the tree, I watched the dappled sunshine through the leaves as I slowly ate my biscuit. How far to Phets? It only took Ren and me a day or so to hike out there last time. Well have to sleep in the jungle tonight, Kishan answered. Were on the far side of Suki Lake. Save some chicken for me! I cried as the box was quickly emptying. How can you two wolf down that much chicken in just a couple of minutes? Serves you right for staring into space, Ren said.
I wasnt staring into space. I was appreciating the environment. I noticed. Gave me a good opportunity to appreciate the environment myself, he smirked, teasing me. I kicked his foot. You should have at least saved me something. Ren grinned and handed me one of the last drumsticks. What did you expect? Two or three tiny chickens to feed two hungry tigers? We need something at least the size of what would you say, Kishan?
Id say something the size of a small buffalo. A small buffalo would be good or maybe a goat or two. Did you ever eat a horse? Ren asked. Nah, too stringy. What about a jackal? Killed several though.
They liked to hang around and wait for me to be done with my kill. At least one a month. What about a are you okay, Kelsey? Can we change the topic of conversation? The chicken leg drooped in my fingers. I stared at it and imagined the animal it used to be. I dont think I can eat this anymore. Its bad enough I had to see you two hunt. Ren chewed and teased, Now that I think about it, youre just about snack-size.
Dont you think so, Kishan?
Kishan studied me with a teasing glint in his eye. Ive often thought Kelsey would be fun to hunt. I glared at Kishan. He bit into a biscuit and winked. Ren pulled his knees up to his chest and laughed. What do you say, Kelsey? Want to play hide-and-seek with the tigers?
I dont think so, I said haughtily as I carefully cleaned my fingers with another wipe. Aw, come on. Wed let you have a head start. I leaned back against the tree trunk. Yes, but the question remains what would you do when you caught me? Kishan buttered another biscuit while he tried unsuccessfully to hide a smile. Ren leaned back on his elbows and tilted his head as if seriously considering the question. I guess that would be up to the tiger that caught you.
Wouldnt you say, Kishan? She wont run, he said. You dont think so? Kishan stood and suggested we walk another hour or two then set up camp for the evening. He crouched down next to me and touched my shoulder. Its pretty hot now. Let me know when you get tired, he said and walked off into the jungle to find the trail.
I wont run, I affirmed as I sipped my lemonade. Ren sighed. Thats too bad. Most of the time the fun is in the chase, but I suspect with you the capture would be equally interesting. He stretched out a finger and brushed it against my cheek.
Made you blush again. I suspect its a sunburn, I said and glared. He stood and offered his hand to pull me up. Once upright, I let go immediately. Grabbing the box of cookies, Ren said softly, Its not a sunburn.
He swung my backpack onto his shoulders and strode off after Kishan. With nothing to carry, I mentally instructed the Golden Fruit and the Divine Scarf to make our picnic scraps disappear and trotted after Ren.
We hiked another two hours before I had to call it quits. Ren leaned up against a tree a few feet away, and Kishan used the Scarf to create a small tent. Thats not big enough for two tigers, Kishan. We dont need to sleep next to you, Kells. Its hot. Well just make you miserable. I dont mind it, really. Kishan wet a cloth and touched it to my face. That feels good, I said gratefully. Youre overheated. I shouldnt have made you walk so far in one day. Maybe I should make up a magic milk bath with the Golden Fruit, huh?
Kishan considered and grinned. A giant bowlful of milk with you in the middle might be a little too much for us cats to resist. I smiled but was too exhausted to come up with a flip response. I want you to relax now, Kelsey. Take a nap. I went into my tent to bathe my arms and the back of my neck with the wet cloth. The tent was so stifling, I was soon back outside. The two tigersone black and one whitewere resting in the shade of a tree nearby.
I heard the soft gurgle of a stream. The heat was definitely making me drowsy. I sat down between the tigers with my back to the tree. After my head dropped for the third time, I cushioned it on Kishans soft back and fell asleep. Fur tickled my nose. I mumbled and turned my head. I heard the call of a bird, blinked open my eyes, and saw Kishan sitting with his back against the tree, watching me quietly. He was barefoot and wearing the black clothes that appeared every time he changed back from a tiger.
I lifted my head, confused, knowing I had fallen asleep on his soft, sable fur. My hand was pressed against Rens white shoulder.
I quickly scooted back next to Kishan, who put his arm around my shoulders. Im sorry! Did I hurt you? He pushed up from all fours into a crouch. The late afternoon sun glinted off his white shirt while he considered me musingly. It didnt hurt. You moved in your sleep. It didnt burn or cause me any pain at all. How long? A little over two hours. You didnt feel the need to escape? To get away from me? It felt good. Maybe I need to be a tiger around you more often. He smiled, switched back into a tiger, walked up to me, and stuck his nose in my face.
I laughed and awkwardly reached up behind his ear and scratched. He made a rumbling sound in his chest and collapsed at my side, twisting his neck so I could reach the other ear. Kishan cleared his throat, stood, and stretched. Since the two of you are getting reacquainted, Im going to stretch my legs a little, maybe do a little stalking just for fun.
I stood up and put my palm on his cheek. Dont get caught in a trap. Kishan lifted his hand, placed it on top of mine, and smiled.
(Tiger Saga #1) Tiger's Curse
Ill be fine. Ill be back in an hour or two around sundown. You can practice tracking me on the new cell phones if you want. I stroked his head briefly before he ran into the jungle. I settled down next to Ren with the cell phone tracker. It took me the better part of an hour to figure out how it worked. The screen looked like a Google map. I was the dot marked Ke. Ren was R. Kishan was the Ki dot, and I could see his blip move around the screen.
He was about two miles away, quickly moving east. Widening the map, I figured out how to zoom in on Mr. Kadam and Nilimas location. If I clicked on one of their dots, a small window popped up telling me the exact latitude and longitude, as well as their vital signs. Pretty cool little device. I petted Rens fur absently and explained how everything worked.
His ears flicked back and forth attentively. Then suddenly he sprang to his feet and stared at the darkening jungle. Ren changed to a man. Go inside the tent and zip it up. It doesnt have zippers. The Scarf cant make them.
Whats out there? A cobra. Hopefully it will move on and leave us alone. I went into the tent while he switched back to the tiger. Ren padded in front of the tent and waited. I peeked out and saw a giant black-and-olive green snake slither out of the jungle.
Its head was disproportionately bigger than its body. When it saw Ren, it stopped to taste the air. Ren growled softly, and the snakes head shot up, which showed the pale yellow skin of its belly. As its hood opened and it hissed a warning, I realized I was looking at a king cobra.
The snake would likely move on if we were quiet. It slowly lowered its head and slithered forward a few more inches, but then I saw Ren shake his head just before a loud tiger sneeze tore through his body. The snake lifted its upper body again and spat twin jets of poison from its fangs about nine feet.
The stream didnt hit Rens eyes, fortunately, or it probably would have blinded him. The cobra moved a bit closer and tried again. Move back! Its aiming for your eyes! Something moved in my bag. It was another snake! A golden head slipped through the tiny gap in my backpack and shot out of the tent.
Ren backed up, and I untied a couple of knots so he could come into the tent with me. We watched from inside. Fanindra wound her way right up to the king cobra, raised her head, and opened her hood. Her jeweled emerald eyes twinkled despite the diminishing sunlight. The king cobra swayed back and forth, tasted the air, and then lowered his head under hers. She slowly dropped her head to rest it on top of the cobras, which ran its head down the length of her body, turned, and slid off quickly through the jungle.
Fanindra returned to the tent, wound her body into a coil, tucked in her head, and became inanimate. We got lucky. That was an angry snake with an attitude. She calmed him down pretty quickly. Rens blue eyes and smile flashed in the dimness. I felt a light touch on my jaw. Pretty women have that effect on men. He changed back into a white tiger and sat at my feet. Kishan soon returned and made a throaty, rattling sound as he entered the camp.
After changing from a tiger to a man, he ducked his head into the tent. Why are you guys hiding? I stepped outside and told him about the snake. What was that noise you just made?
I asked as I started to prepare dinner. Ren switched to a man and sat across from me. Downhill from the cabin, closer to the entrance road, two tracks in particular caught his attention. One set traveled northward up the entrance road at a walking pace; the other traveled south from the cabin. They approached each other directly, as if the meeting had been intentional -- like an appointment of some kind. The southbound tracks were noteworthy, not just because they were made by a tiger, but because there were large gaps -- ten feet or more -- between each set of impressions.
At the point where they met, the northbound tracks disappeared, as if the person who made them had simply ceased to exist. Here the large paw prints veered off to the west, crossing the entrance road at right angles.
Their regular spacing indicated a walking pace; they led into the forest, directly toward the crows. Trush had a video camera with him and its unblinking eye recorded the scene in excruciating detail. Only in retrospect does it strike one how steady Trush's hand and voice are as he films the site, narrating as he goes: the rough cabin and the scrubby clearing in which it stands; the path of the attack and the point of impact, and then the long trail of horrific evidence.
The camera doesn't waver as it pans across the pink and trampled snow, taking in the hind foot of a dog, a single glove, and then a bloodstained jacket cuff before halting at a patch of bare ground about a hundred yards into the forest.
At this point the audio picks up a sudden, retching gasp. It is as if he has entered Grendel's den. The temperature is thirty below zero and yet, here, the snow has been completely melted away. In the middle of this dark circle, presented like some kind of sacrificial offering, is a hand without an arm and a head without a face. Nearby is a long bone, a femur probably, that has been gnawed to a bloodless white.
Beyond this, the trail continues deeper into the woods. Trush follows it, squinting through his camera while his squad and Markov's friends trail closely behind. The only sounds are the icy creak of Trush's boots and the distant barking of his dog.
Seven men have been stunned to silence. Not a sob; not a curse. Trush's hunting dog, a little Laika, is further down the trail, growing increasingly shrill and agitated. Her nose is tingling with blood scent and tiger musk, and she alone feels free to express her deepest fear: the tiger is there, somewhere up ahead. Trush's men have their rifles off their shoulders, and they cover him as he films. They arrive at another melted spot; this time, a large oval.
Here, amid the twigs and leaf litter, is all that remains of Vladimir Ilyich Markov. It looks at first like a heap of laundry until one sees the boots, luminous stubs of broken bone protruding from the tops, the tattered shirt with an arm still fitted to one of the sleeves.
Trush had never seen a fellow human so thoroughly and gruesomely annihilated and, even as he filmed, his mind fled to the edges of the scene, taking refuge in peripheral details. He was struck by the poverty of this man -- that he would be wearing thin rubber boots in such bitter weather.
He reflected on the cartridge belt -- loaded but for three shells -- and wondered where the gun had gone. Meanwhile, Trush's dog, Gitta, is racing back and forth, hackles raised and barking in alarm. The tiger is somewhere close by -- invisible to the men, but to the dog it is palpably, almost unbearably, present.
The men, too, can sense a potency around them -- something larger than their own fear, and they glance about, unsure where to look. They are so overwhelmed by the wreckage before them that it is hard to distinguish imminent danger from the present horror. Save for the movements of the dog and the men, the forest has gone absolutely still; even the crows have withdrawn, waiting for this latest disturbance to pass.
And so, it seems, has the tiger. Then, there is a sound: a brief, rushing exhale -- the kind one would use to extinguish a candle. But there is something different about the volume of air being moved, and the force behind it -- something bigger and deeper: this is not a human sound.
At the same moment, perhaps ten yards ahead, the tip of a low fir branch spontaneously sheds its load of snow. The flakes powder down to the forest floor; the men freeze in mid-breath and, once again, all is still. Since well before the Kung's engine noise first penetrated the forest, a conversation of sorts has been unfolding in this lonesome hollow. It is not in a language like Russian or Chinese, but it is a language nonetheless, and it is older than the forest.
The crows speak it; the dog speaks it; the tiger speaks it, and so do the men -- some more fluently than others. That single blast of breath contained a message lethal in its eloquence. But what does one do with such information so far from one's home ground? Gitta tightens the psychic leash connecting her to her master. Markov's friends, already shaken to the core, pull in closer, too. The tiger's latest communication serves not only to undo these men still further, but to deepen the invisible chasm between them -- poachers to a man -- and the armed officials on whom their liberty and safety now depend.
Markov's friends are known to Trush because he has busted them before -- for possessing illegal firearms and hunting without a license. Of the three of them, only Zaitsev's gun is legal, but it is too light to stop a tiger.
As for the others, their weapons are now hidden in the forest, leaving them more helpless than Trush's dog. Trush is unarmed, too. There had been some back-and-forth at the entrance road about who was going to follow that grisly trail, and comments were made implying that Trush and his men didn't have what it took. Fear is not a sin in the taiga, but cowardice is, and Trush returned the challenge with a crisp invitation: "Poshli" -- "Let's go.
Besides, he said, they had no weapons. Trush called his bluff by urging him to fetch his unregistered gun from hiding. It was a bold gesture on several levels: not only did it imply an expectation of trust and cooperation, but Trush's semiautomatic was a far better weapon than Dvornik's battered smoothbore.
It also short-circuited the argument: now, there was no excuse, and no way that Dvornik -- with six men watching -- could honorably refuse. It was this same mix of shame, fear, and loyalty that compelled Zaitsev and Onofrecuk to go along, too. Besides, there was safety in numbers.
But it had been a long time since Dvornik was in the army, and Trush's weapon felt strangely heavy in his hands; Trush, meanwhile, was feeling the absence of its reassuring weight, and that was strange, too. He still had his pistol, but it was holstered and, in any case, it would have been virtually useless against a tiger.
His faith rested with his squad mates because he had put himself in an extremely vulnerable position: even though he was leading the way, he did so at an electronic remove -- in this drama but not of it, exploring this dreadful surreality through the camera's narrow, cyclopean lens.
Because Zaitsev and Dvornik couldn't be counted on, and Deputy Bush had only a pistol, the Tigers were Trush's only reliable proxies. Those with guns had them at the ready, but the forest was dense and visibility was poor. Were the tiger to attack, they could end up shooting one another. So they held their fire, eyes darting back and forth to that single, bare branch, wondering where the next sign would come from. Behind the camera, Trush remained strangely calm.
The animal was maneuvering northward to higher ground, the place every cat prefers to be.Ren, do you want me to share your white tiger breeding program story with Kishan? I summoned. Now no more teasing or fighting about that subject, or Ill shock you with lightning. If he gets those. Trush had a video camera with him and its unblinking eye recorded the scene in excruciating detail.
Hes a different man now. He didnt believe in good and evilonly in powerful and powerless.