|The Breath of the Nundu
Author: HedwigBlack PM
Ivy Brown is sent to Uganda as an assistant to the mysterious Rolf Scamander with very few instructions and even less expectations. Even so, she has no clue what she's in for. Magical creatures, thrill-seeking escapades, and a little romance perhaps? Feedback is greatly appreciated.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Romance - Rolf S. & OC - Chapters: 5 - Words: 9,789 - Reviews: 39 - Favs: 3 - Follows: 6 - Updated: 11-09-12 - Published: 08-09-12 - id: 8410834
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I awoke to the sound of crowing roosters and bleating goats. It took me a few moments to realize where I was, but when the reality sunk in that I was in Uganda, I jumped out of bed and raced over to the open window to look outside. I could see the orange dirt road below me that led down a hill and where people could be seen driving boda bodas and leading small cattle. The road turned so that I could see no more but the backdrop was a magnificent view of Kampala. It was a hilly area that was completely covered in low buildings and palm trees and a trail of smoke could be seen in the distance rising into the heavens which were spotted with fluffy white clouds. It was gorgeous.
Eager to go outside, I searched my bag for an outfit to wear and tried my best to make myself look presentable. I was still worried about gaining Mr. Scamander's approval as he did not seem the type to be easily impressed. I ran a brush through my light brown curls and tied them back out of my face. I didn't bother with makeup which Lavender had always found annoying, but hopefully Mr. Scamander wouldn't care. Frivolities like makeup could be done without in a place like this anyway. So far, it suited me.
I went into the living room in search of Mr. Scamander but it was deserted. The door to his bedroom was wide open and it was clear that he was not there either. I heard shuffling to my right and I was startled to find that there was a balcony overlooking the busy street that I had not noticed the night before. Mr. Scamander was lounging in a chair with a newspaper in his hand. I took a moment to study his profile. His glasses were set on the edge of his nose, his brow furrowed in concentration, and he had a cigarette dangling loosely from his lips. His hair was ruffled as though he had forgotten to comb it when he'd woken up but even so, he was quite attractive.
Without looking up from his newspaper he called out to me. "Come here, Miss Brown and let me have a good look at you."
I felt a blush rise to my cheeks but I obeyed and came out onto the balcony and took in the sights and sounds of Kampala. Mr. Scamander got up out of his chair and set his newspaper aside before circling around me, looking me up and down. It was unsettling but I stood still and let him inspect me. He stopped and backed away a few feet so that his back was against the balcony railing. He rubbed his chin thoughtfully and finally spoke. "You're of athletic build. That is well as you'll need to be able to run swiftly." My eyes widened at this statement. Why would I need to run swiftly?
He noticed my expression immediately and stuck the cigarette in his mouth and put his hands on his hips. "Ingrid didn't explain anything to you, did she?"
I shook my head no.
He groaned and ran his hand through his hair, ruffling it even more. He pondered the issue a moment or two longer before shrugging his shoulders. "Just as well, I suppose. You, Miss Brown, will accompany me north to Paraa where I shall be doing some exploring. I assume you at least are aware of my profession, yes?" He looked at me hopefully.
I swallowed hard. "Yes, sir. You work for the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, studying rare African species and their magical properties," I recited.
"Precisely!" he said emphatically, startling me. He heaved himself up onto the balcony railing so that he was sitting on it and facing away from the two story drop to the ground. Just looking at him made me nervous. "And you are going to help me, see?"
I saw, all right. Eccentric had been an understatement.
He pulled out his wand and flicked it towards the door into the living room and a tray with tea and toast came levitating out onto the balcony and gracefully landed on a small wicker table. He gestured for me to sit and eat, so I did, because I was hungry and because I didn't like the prospect of disobeying him.
While I ate, he gave me a Ugandan culture lesson which I found both informative and fascinating.
"First of all, here in Africa there are two kinds of witches: Wand-holders like us and witch doctors. Do not confuse the two or it probably won't end well for you."
I nodded my understanding.
"When you are out on the street you might hear people calling you a 'mzungu.' It means 'white person.' It's not an offensive term; it's more of an exclamation over the novelty of seeing a white person in Uganda. This society is not very mixed. Which reminds me…" He held out his wand and waved it up and down over my person and I could feel my skin tingling. "A sun blocking charm," he explained. "The sun is unforgiving here. You'll need it."
"Thank you," I said gratefully.
"Up until a few years ago, this was a war-torn country. However, the Lord's Resistance Army has moved north into the surrounding countries like Sudan, so now Uganda is at peace. That does not mean you shouldn't be wary of your surroundings. Always have your wand at the ready but keep it hidden. Despite this warning, I'll tell you, that the locals are quite friendly. They may seem shy at first but once you get them to talk, they won't shut up." He gave me a knowing grin. "But I doubt you'll have time to strike up conversation with anyone where we are going because as I've already said, we are going to Paraa!" He jumped down from the railing and with long strides crossed the living room and went into this bedroom, waving his wand around.
I watched him rush about in his excitement and then followed him boldly into his room, toast still in my hand. "And what is in Paraa?" I asked.
"What is in Paraa?" he asked distractedly. Then he remembered himself and turned to give me his full attention. "Of course, they didn't tell you anything. I forgot. Yes, Paraa is the place we are going. It is where Murchison Falls is located which is the waterfall that causes the Victoria Nile to split and go off into two directions. It is the home of many different species of birds, snakes, and wild beasts including the Fwooper, the Ashwinder, and the Erumpent."
Fwoopers and Erumpents? Oh, Merlin…
"And which one of those will we be studying?" I asked.
Mr. Scamander dismissed that idea with a wave of his hand. "None of them!"
"So what will we be studying?"
"I'll tell you when we get there. Now pack your things so we can get a move on, yeah?"
"Right…" I shoved the rest of my toast in my mouth and hurried to my room. I packed the few things that I'd taken out trunk and dragged it out into the living room. He shook his head at me when he saw me struggling.
"How old are you?"
"You're old enough to use magic then. Make life a little easier on yourself, girl." He pointed his wand at my trunk and it immediately became feather-light.
"Yeah…" I easily moved my trunk and set it down beside his. "Thanks."
"As ready as I'll ever be, I suppose."
"That's the spirit!" He picked up his own trunk and led the way down the flight of stairs and out onto the street. He turned a corner to where there was a small lot where a couple of cars and several boda bodas were parked. He went over to one of the motorcycles and loaded his trunk onto the back. My heart sunk as I realized what that meant.
"What happened to using magic and making life easier on us?" I asked. "I thought we were Apparating."
"Apparating! No way! You won't get to see anything if you Apparate everywhere. Trust me, you'll get used to it. The main road is paved for the most part." He lifted my trunk on top of his and secured it with rope that he conjured from the end of his wand. He got on the boda boda, started the engine, and threw me a helmet. I hung my head in resignation and got on the bike behind him.
"How far is it to Paraa?" I asked.
"Five and a half hours or so."
The bike shook beneath me and I gripped Mr. Scamander's waist a little more firmly than I normally would have considering he was practically a stranger. But as we wound our way through the streets, I got a little more comfortable. He seemed to be a much better driver than the man who'd given me a ride last night.
We passed stalls that sold a variety of products, mostly fruit and vegetables. Others sold clothes or shoes. Vendors walked the streets carrying baskets of huge avocados or dangling live chickens from their ankles, wings flapping in all directions. The smell of exhaust fumes was overwhelming but the sights and sounds were exciting to someone like me who had never been anywhere outside of my own country. Occasionally men sitting on the side of the street would call out to us but I couldn't understand what they said over the engine. Mr. Scamander merely waved at them and kept on going.
We got to the main road leaving the city and thankfully it was paved. My back was killing me already and we still had another four hours to go. Despite this, I had to admit that Mr. Scamander was right. I would have hated to miss this view.
Everything was so lush and green and the sky was incredibly blue and covered in fluffy white clouds. We passed fields upon fields covered in purple flowers and bushes and every once in a while little huts made out of clay bricks and reeds. People could be seen lounging outside the huts or hanging up laundry on clothes lines to dry. Cows and goats were tied to stakes at the side of the road and the little children playing near them always looked up and waved at us as we passed.
After a couple of hours we got to an area that was completely covered in bushes and the pavement ended. We were traveling along dirt roads that were soft and muddy and it appeared that it had rained here recently. Orange dirt splashed around us and my legs were coated in mud by the time we had gone through a little town where the buildings looked to be made of whatever scraps of wood or metal the people could find. Signs were posted in front of each makeshift building advertising a medicine shop or a hotel. It looked like a ghost town.
"It won't be long now, Miss Brown!" called.
We passed through the town rather quickly and we found ourselves in the middle of a jungle. The road was less wet and he was able to go faster up and down the hills. Every once in a while, baboons could be seen in the middle of the path grooming themselves and they would lazily get up and move to the side of the road to let us pass. Every time this happened I would turn to look back at them in awe, but Mr. Scamander just laughed at me. "You'll see much more impressive beasts than a few baboons, Miss."
Finally, I could see the trees thinning ahead of us and I thought we must be nearly there, when he slowed the bike down to a halt and drew out his wand. He tapped our heads as well as the bike and placed a Disillusionment charm on us as well as a silencing charm on the bike. "Be sure to keep quiet while we pass the guards. I'm staying in a National Park and I don't want to draw attention to the fact that I'm here. They might get nosy if they realize how long I've been staying."
I nodded my understanding and we zoomed past the guards and the bike easily fit through the space between the gate and the surrounding trees. We passed other vehicles leaving the park and people walking along the road. There was a great hill before us and Mr. Scamander promised me that our destination was at the top. I had never been so happy for anything.
When we got to the top of the hill I could see that there was a beautiful cottage surrounded by flowers and palm trees and I could hear the distinct sound of running water. I climbed off the wretched boda boda and followed the sound until I had walked past the side of the cottage to the edge of the cliff that it overlooked. The view was utterly breathtaking. In the distance mountains could be seen rising to the heavens. The vast jungle spread out before me and off to the left I could see where it ended giving way to grassland. Directly below me, however, was the best landscape of all: the Nile River.
Mr. Scamander came to stand behind me and clapped a scarred hand on my shoulder.
"Welcome to Paraa."