Raven the Explorer: Episode Five

September 29, 1852

My Dearest Jack,

We tracked the Whatever Bird and Were-Rabbit into the jungles for a day. I carried the Maltese Poodle in her backpack the entire way, save when she had to be let out to do dog business. The way was most rugged. I believe the two animals have chosen difficult terrain to avoid predators. Most cunning.

Our way led us past the stream where we found the tracks quite some time ago, through some very dense forest, and to the foot of some crumbling cliffs. I spotted more of the wallaby-like creatures, like the Smocked Wallaby that got into my tent. They were reclining happily in the undergrowth at the foot of the cliff, which allowed me to get a good sketch or two. When we advanced, they quickly fled.

We pressed on, continuing hard until midday, when we halted in the shelter of a huge tree and partook of a luncheon of cold meat and bread. (I must say, the one thing I do miss about London is the food. Travel rations get a mite tasteless after a while.) Bernie fell off the tree trunk he was sitting on and I had to help him. I do hope he won’t be making a regular habit of this sort of thing.

As I pulled him up, one of the native porters shouted in alarm. I looked to see what he was pointing so frantically at, and discovered a queer skull. It was truly strange to find the skull of what I believe to be a Whatever Bird. Perhaps there is a large population in these woods! Or, at any rate, there may have been. The beak is just as I expected it might be, although somewhat longer and more pointed.

I searched around for other traces of the bird, but found only a few other bone fragments. The native porters were all in a dither, and I finally asked what was wrong. Their leader explained that they believe to disturb a skull is to disturb the spirit of the animal. With a few sharp words, and the promise of extra pay upon our return to camp, they were persuaded to press onwards. Mother and Father’s funding has never been so appreciated.

The jungle was beautiful, even though our quarry continued to stay a step ahead of us. We occasionally heard the rasping call of the Whatever Bird echoing through the trees, but we had yet to catch a glimpse of so much as a feather or piece of white fluff. The natives grew quiet whenever we heard an unusual noise, and Bernie muttered constantly as he scanned the undergrowth.

We stopped for the night in a small clearing under a tree. Bernie unpacked my tent, which he had been carrying the whole time, and I gratefully sank into a deep sleep. We were all awakened shortly before sunrise this morning by a harsh cry that took me a moment to place. Then, my sleepy mind recognized the noise. It was a parrot’s cry. Many such sounds occur throughout the night, but this one was directly over our heads and most unpleasant.

In the pale morning light, I looked up and saw in the trees above me the distinct plumage of Hey and Stop. I stormed about hurling insults and bark chunks at them before realizing that I was still in my night attire and returning to my tiny tent. The Maltese Poodle took interest in my trouser leg and I tossed her outside the tent before hurriedly dressing. The camp, none of us able to sleep any longer, was awake as well.

After a quick breakfast of good strong tea and biscuits, we will resume the march. The Maltese Poodle is in her backpack, joined by Lady Harthwaite, who has perched on my left shoulder. We hear the Whatever Bird’s calls up ahead, and one of the men just found a tuft of white fur on a bush. Our path grows nearer and nearer to our quarry, and I know that soon we shall find success. Perhaps even today! All my love,

Your sister,

Raven Hardington

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