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By Angela Hunt
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2007 Angela Hunt
All right reserved.
Chapter One1 APRIL 2, 3 6:12 A.M.
Though his body sang with pain, the native kept running.
Struggling to move through thickened air that pressed upon his skin, he held one hand over the gaping wound in his gut and loped toward the spangled light dancing over the crude path gleaming in the jungle shadows.
His pursuers had come close last night. One of their spears had pierced him, pinning him to a tree, but he had found the strength to pull the weapon out and fling it away. After that, his blood left a trail even a child could follow, but the Spirit of keyba had blinded their eyes while sending a beacon for him to follow.
He paused, intensifying the pressure on his abdomen, and squinted at the dazzling light hovering twenty paces away. Despite the pain that ripped at his insides like a piranha, his feet had carried him far from his pursuers. The fiery ball had led him through the deepest part of the jungle under black night, and the man knew his enemies would not follow.
Though darkness filled their hearts, still the night frightened them. The jaguar's snarl, the anaconda's hiss, the carnivore ant's silent march ... these things had frightened him, too, before he began to follow the Spirit of keyba.
The native leaned forward, bracing his free hand against his trembling knee. Air moved through his nostrils with a faint whistling sound as his jaws clamped against a spasm that sent a shaft of pure white pain ripping through his body. When he pried the stiff fingers of his right hand from the yawning hole in his gut, the brown skin parted like a pair of bloody lips.
He felt his mouth twist. He had seen wounds like this in other men, and not even the shaman could save them.
In the forest canopy, hundreds of macaws screamed and whistled as they fought each other for precious perches in the dappled rays of the rising sun. The man winced at the noise, then lifted his head and studied the trail ahead. How much farther would he have to go? He had traveled for two days before encountering warriors from the Angry People. The Spirit of keyba had not left him, but his strength would not last forever. And the barbed thorns, spiked leaves, and sharp-edged grasses of this brutal forest had sapped his power.
Blinking, he lifted his head and saw the light, still beckoning. Pressing his hand back over the wound, he straightened and stepped forward, moving with a slower gait. Breathing deeply, he inhaled the scents of orchids and mangoes, decaying vegetation, and the unmistakable acrid odor of snake.
Without pausing to investigate, he staggered toward the light, his chest burning with each breath. He had not gone far when a new sound reached his ears-the happy squeals of children. Another series of steps brought him to a fringe of forest overlooking the river. Three young ones played in the shallows, splashing and laughing while their mother bent at the water's edge.
Looking up, he saw that the light had disappeared. Apparently he had reached his destination.
Calling on the last reserves of his strength, the native left the concealing jungle and stepped into a clearing. Lifting his left hand, he called out a greeting.
The children turned to look at him with dark forest eyes. The woman whirled, one hand extended toward her young, the other reaching for a shiny object that might serve as a weapon.
He took another step forward, lifting both hands this time, and to his greeting he added a plea for help. The boy's eyes went wide at the sight of the bloody wound, and the little girl screamed. Snatching the smallest child out of the water, the woman bared her teeth and yelled in a language he could not understand.
The native waved his hands to demonstrate that he had not come to make war. He took another step forward, then realized that the muscles of his legs had become as stiff as wood. Wasps of agony buzzed along the length of his arms and swarmed in his belly. Gray pain roared behind his eyes and in his ears, drowning out the frantic woman's voice and blocking the bright sun on the river.
He took another step, saw the woman screech and lift her weapon, then his legs crumpled and the soft shoulder of the riverbank rose up to meet him.
Excerpted from THE CANOPY by Angela Hunt Copyright © 2007 by Angela Hunt. Excerpted by permission.
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