Disclaimer: Jumanji belongs to Chris Van Allsburg, Columbia/Tri-Star Pictures, and several other people who escape my memory. I am none of them.
It was a dark and stormy night.
Nights in Jumanji were always dark, of course, but they were rarely stormy, and when Brigitte had felt the first drop of rain on her cheek, she had thought for one wild moment that she was back Above, or else that she was dead. Her next thought was that Lucia Vergilia was dead, and that the storms over which she was Guardian had been left to rage unchecked, and perhaps they would all be drowned.
Then she caught sight of Lucia Vergilia herself, standing on a nearby outcrop of rock and directing the storm with her hands, and knew that nothing so grave had occurred. The Roman maiden had simply decided, for whatever reason, that tonight would be monsoon season in the jungles of Jumanji. Satisfied, Brigitte lay back down on her bed of moss.
A few minutes later, one of her bats, already bedraggled with the rain, flew down and alighted on a branch just above her head. Brigitte smiled up at it, thankful, as she had been many times before, that she had been appointed Guardian over such a gentle Terror.
"What news, François?" she whispered in the Jumanjic tongue.
The bat did not respond in words – the link between Guardian and Terror is not so strong as that – but Brigitte sensed in it the same great unease that she had been sensing in all her bats for several days. Danger, it seemed to say. Great change. Upheaval.
The bats would know, of course. They were part of Jumanji in a way that she was not, and they were far-ranging – when night fell, as Brigitte well knew, they flew through every inch of the jungle. How often had she flown with them, closing her eyes and entwining her being with theirs – the one time she felt really at home in this jungle of dark magic.
She sighed… and as she sighed, suddenly out of the jungles came a horrible scream.
It was not like the screams that one heard when Hadassah's phantoms were feeding. Those were cries only of the momentary agony before death. This was a cry of great loss, of painful loneliness, of sudden and almost unimaginable tragedy. It was the cry of someone waking up in the middle of the night to find her best friend's body lying beside her, half torn apart by wolves.
Brigitte knew what it was, of course. She had heard it many times before.
She strained to make out the sound, to discern what sort of animal it was, but the sound of ultimate suffering is always very much the same, no matter what throat makes it. It appeared to be a solitary animal, rather than a cacophony of voices, but that was all she could determine – and then it stopped, abruptly, as though someone had cut it off.
Brigitte glanced again at the outcrop of rock. Lucia Vergilia was still standing there, frozen in place, staring wide-eyed into the heart of the jungle. Not her, then.
Brigitte glanced up at the bat, which was still dangling nonchalantly from the branch above her. "Who was it, little one?" she said. "Do you know?"
The bat cocked its head to one side, and almost seemed to say that it knew perfectly well – but the next minute it let out a little squeak of alarm, released its grip on the branch, and flew frantically toward Lucia Vergilia's outcrop of rock.
Brigitte turned her head in the other direction, toward the heart of the jungle, and saw what had frightened the bat away – and felt suddenly frightened herself.
A green mist had risen in the jungle, and was making its way lazily but definitely toward her, attenuating as it did so into the vague, wispy shape of an enormous serpent. It had no mouth, no nostrils, no features of any kind save two red, glowing eyes in which no pupils could be seen.
"Good evening, Brigitte," it whispered in the Jumanjic tongue.
Brigitte shivered, but her voice did not falter as she replied, "Good evening, Master Jumanji."
"You must come to the clearing," said the spirit of the jungle. "There has been a loss tonight. Another game must be played. You must come."
No further words were needed. The spirit passed over Brigitte's bed and drifted toward Lucia Vergilia.
Brigitte rose unsteadily from her bed of moss, her legs shaking violently. She whispered a Summons into the air, and after a few moments the bat that had flown from Master Jumanji's presence returned and alighted on her arm. Brigitte stroked its fur to calm herself, and headed for the clearing.