TITLE: Wendigo

AUTHOR: Susan Zell

DISCLAIMER: Heck, I'm not even sure this story needs one it's so far out there, but just in case... blah, blah, blah-bity blah ... property of John Landis, Over the Hill Gang, New Line Television, Coote/Hayes....no profit made.... I'm so stuffy give me a scone.... (Sorry, Buffy moment!)

SPOILERS: "Blood Lust", "The Outlaw" and "Mark of the Beast" mainly, but anything is game. Anything more specific would give away too much of the story.

SUMMARY: Blood Lust II. Lord Roxton is again afflicted with the vampirism disease, endangering the explorers and must pay a terrible price, but as usual nothing is as it seems in the Lost World.

TIMELINE: Takes place a week or two after "Mark of the Beast" and a month before "Survivors," assuming there was plenty of time between the two. Roxton's going to need it.

NOTE: I don't know what possessed me to write this. It's darker than most of my stuff and it's fairly violent. Just think of it as if the explorers took a very wrong turn out of their normally mild reality. It was meant to be a Halloween story but I didn't get around to finishing it, and I'll use that as my main excuse. Please forgive me for taking the group outside their normal lives and roughing them up so harshly in both mind and body.

WARNINGS: Many. There's violence galore; scary beasts; more language than usual; references to cannibalism; and lots and lots of images of blood.

RATING: I'll have to rate it at the very least a PG-13. For those of you opposed to evil monsters and violence...give it a miss for bodies were bruised, souls were taken, and minds were toyed with. In other words, Happy Belated (or maybe that's Early) Halloween.



Wendigo

Blood Lust II

By Susan Zell

Chapter One

It was a perfect day in the Lost World. The sun was shining, the wind was warm, danger was absent, and Marguerite was singing.

Okay, Lord John Roxton thought, it wasn't quite the perfect day.

Up on the roof he could hear her semi melodious voice drifting up through the thatch. The sad thing was, he didn't recognize the tune at all, and he considered that a bad thing. Sometimes he thought she just made this stuff up. He wasn't sure if that was good or bad. He really wished he and Ned Malone had been able to fix that shredded windmill. They had been without electricity for too long now. He missed the phonograph.

Being without electricity once more suddenly made everything so very primitive again. They had gotten fairly spoiled with its presence. It was amazing to Roxton just how swiftly a bit of civilization had spoiled them.

He pulled another wad of thatch closer to him and set it in place. Reaching for the twine so he could start weaving it into the fronds, he paused to look about him. The height of the treehouse afforded him a spectacular view of their surroundings.

From up here the plateau appeared serene and lovely. Green as far as the eye could see, a deep azure cut across the sky so bright it made one's eyes ache to look upon it. Distant pterodactyls winged their way home for an afternoon roost, their expansive wingspan gracing the air. Roxton was almost jealous of their gift of flight. He missed it. With the balloon in disrepair for the last six months, it had been too long since he had had the opportunity to be up there with them. He now understood Malone's passion for ballooning. It offered a freedom like no other. And on a day like today such thoughts played havoc with him, especially when stuck doing routine treehouse maintenance.

"Hey up there!"

He glanced down to see Marguerite Krux beneath him, standing just below the hole in the roof. She had a scowl on her face and a canteen in her hand.

"Sorry," he said, ducking his head through the hole. "What's the matter?"

"Daydreaming, were you?"

"On a day like today, it seemed like the perfect thing to do," he admitted.

"Yes, well, I've been slaving away down here, so stop it." She tossed up the canteen toward Roxton who caught it.

"Thanks." He popped the top and drank his fill.

"I think I've got blisters on my hands," Marguerite lamented, examining her palms critically.

"Veronica will be happy to hear that."

Marguerite sniffed. "I am not going to become some ridiculous amazon out here. Just because we live in a jungle, there is no reason to let go of civilized behavior. You know, there is no reason to do this work ourselves when there are plenty of poor people living on this plateau."

"You still haven't convinced Assai to hire on as your maid, eh?" Roxton said with a grin. This had been Marguerite's latest solution to try and avoid manual labor.

"No." Marguerite pouted slightly. "I'd pay her well too. This could be the start of a whole new way of life for her and her people."

"She's the chief's daughter and far more wealthy than you could ever hope to make her with your few baubles and jewels. Jacoba's been collecting for years."

Assai's tribe, the Zanga, were a simple people and still too damn rich for their own good. And worse, they didn't know what to do with all the riches they had gathered over the centuries nor their value.

"If you ask me," Roxton continued, "you should got to work for Assai. Then you could get your hands on some of her precious stones."

Marguerite scowled, miffed at his lack of support of her scheming. It was an art form, after all.

She gave a small yelp as Roxton tossed the canteen back at her. She barely caught it in time. "Are you implying I take a…a…job?!

Roxton nodded, fighting the grin that threatened to erupt widely over his face. "That is the way the labor trade works, you know."

"Yes, but not for me! Thank you very much." She sighed resignedly. "Besides, I'll find a way to get Jacoba's jewels, just you wait. I've got to make up for what I've lost last week."

Roxton arched an eyebrow. So that was what this was all about. He shook his head. Materialistic, that's what she was.

"When are you going to be finished up there?" she demanded of him.

"Another thirty minutes. Then I'll come down to help you. All right?"

"Sure, that's what you said over an hour ago." She spun on her heel and stormed back to her bucket and brush, but then reconsidered with a scowl. "I'm having lunch," she announced and detoured to the kitchen.

Roxton watched her till she disappeared. Even though she talked such silliness, she still pulled her weight when push came to shove. Sometimes it was more shoving than pushing, but that was all right. He'd still rather have her at his side in a fight than most anyone else.

Surprisingly, she had volunteered to stay at the treehouse with him while the others were out foraging for fresh food. One of Marguerite's least favorite pastimes, though most things usually fell into that category.

Roxton had been relegated to staying close to home thanks to a bullet wound a month ago. It was healed enough but he was just starting to get back full rotation of that shoulder. Each day it got stronger. Also, the fact that they had had a fiasco just the other week with the Kanu. After the pummeling he had received at the edge of the swamp, he was still aching in spots.

Besides, the hole in the roof was over his room. Last night's soaking in a quick passing rainstorm motivated him to get it repaired. He had let it go just to enjoy the fact he could gaze up into the night sky from his bed. The stars and the moon seemed so much larger and brighter here on the plateau. It took his breath away sometimes to look at it. It held answers for him if he could just find the key once more.

He had held it once in his hands, but the price was more than what he was willing to pay. Not that he had been in any condition to make that choice for himself at the time. When Calista had made him…well, whatever it was, call it a vampire if one liked, doors had been flung open for him. He saw what it was like to know all the answers to every question every raised about the universe and how it worked. He had seen his place in it, if he chose to take it. He had known what it was to truly belong.

But the price.

Living off the blood of other living things, immersed in a type of madness. It had been too much. Once Challenger had cured him and Roxton had been able to think rationally again, he knew the price was beyond even him.

He shook off the memories. It had been a long time since he had thought of Calista and what had happened that day. It had been well over a year ago now. But the thing with the Kanu had brought it all rushing back.

As he changed slowly into a wolf, he felt those same sensations come rushing back to him. He was a true hunter once again. He had the ability to become one with his prey, to hear the very heart of it whisper in his ears, to feel it fill up his senses with its heady aroma and still distinguish it all from the surrounding chaos.

Roxton took a deep shuddering breath and forced his thoughts elsewhere. They were too seductive.

He finished patching the hole and came back inside, looking forward to a nice big lunch. He was famished despite the heat of the day and the manual labor. Using the washbasin in his room he cleaned up for the meal. Afterwards, he looked for something. It took him a moment or two of rummaging on his desk, but found the item he was searching for. Only then did he head upstairs.

Marguerite was at the 'sink', which was merely a deep-set bowl with a bamboo spigot leading to a rain barrel collector in the canopy above them. She cast her head back at his entrance. "There's not much about but some vegetables left over from yesterday and a few slices of smoked raptor." She scowled. This didn't rate far up on her ladder of palatable meals.

To Roxton, however, it sounded perfect. He sat himself at the table and poured the tea that was already set out. It was close enough to afternoon tea to warrant it. They had long since run out of the stash they had brought with them over a year ago, but Professor Arthur Summerlee, botanical genius that he had been, God rest his soul, had identified a local plant that was close to an Assam blend that Roxton cherished. Once dried, it brewed a wonderful tea.

Veronica's china cups showed wear and tear. Roxton's finger unconsciously brushed over a small chip on the edge, not sharp, just worn smooth over the constant use. Regardless, it offered a sense of civilization in the midst of all the barbarity that existed on this plateau. He added his small splash of milk and sat back to enjoy his respite with his battered teacup and his favorite stranded explorer.

Marguerite plopped down a plate of vegetable and meat in front of him and then one for herself. She smiled when she noticed that Roxton had also prepared her a cup of tea. She usually drank hers straight without sugar or cream, but Roxton's penchant for double brew usually made the tea a tad strong for her taste, so she added a pinch of sweet sugar.

As casually as he could, poorly hiding his gentle smirk, he held up the end of a delicate necklace in between his large fingers. The remainder dangled down, the sunlight in the room making it dance and glitter "So if I returned this to you, would you cease plotting to acquire more gems from Assai and her people?"

Marguerite's gasp of delight was precious. She immediately snatched the jewelry from him.

"My necklace! You found it!" Her eyes widened as the diamonds within all sparkled at her.

Roxton shrugged as if it was a small feat. "Jack Keller had it in his little stash. I made sure to collect it before he and Billie departed for parts unknown."

She reached over the table and hugged him impulsively. "Thank you, John!"

Surprised, though in no way disappointed by her show of affection, he returned the embrace, relishing the sweet fresh scent of her hair and the soft brush of her cheek against his. To his amazement she had tears in her eyes when she finally sat back. "Marguerite, why on earth are you crying?"

She wiped the tears away hurriedly. "Nothing. It's just this piece has great sentimental value to me."

"Ahh, so that's why you were so angry when the monkey pilfered it."

"It belonged to a close friend of mine who died." She gave a sorrowful smile. "You know I haven't thought of her in quite awhile." Her expression turned almost culpable. Another secret from her past come to haunt her.

"It's sometimes good to think of lost loved ones," he murmured.

Her dark eyes darted to his. "Oh yes, you're one to talk," she scoffed lightly. The man lived in the past more than she did. She offered a sweet, genuine smile of sheer gratitude that immediately made him forget whatever troubled memories of his own had surfaced. "Thank you, John. This means a great deal to me."

"Then I'm glad I retrieved it for you. I almost kept it for myself. A keepsake, if you will." His eyes danced with sensuous teasing, their usual game.

"Hmmm, if you'd like a little reward, I think I might be able to arrange to give you…something." Her voice held her usual flirtatious hint.

"Truly? Like what?" He leaned in close to her, envisioning all sorts of wondrous presents he'd love to receive from the gorgeous Marguerite Krux to add to his growing collection. Silk undergarments, like that little number he came across while creating her dowry for the boy king; one of her vivid scarves from her rather avid collection, soft and luxurious; the leather gauntlets she wore when she had played Amazon for a day. But he'd trade them all for a deep passionate, soul-searing kiss that would leave them both positively breathless.

"Oh, I don't know." She smiled wickedly, meaning she knew exactly what he wanted, and she intended to deny him all. "Perhaps I'll do one of your chores for you today. Or I'll mend your socks. Lord knows they need it."

"For mercy's sake, Marguerite, now is not the time to become an model of domesticity," he moaned in frustration. "I had far more interesting rewards in mind."

She laughed. "I'm sure you did. Shame on you. What would your mother think?"

"My mother?" Now Roxton chuckled. "She'd adore you." His gaze wandered over the incredible woman across the corner of the table from him.

"Really?" Marguerite's heart beat a little faster. It was not the first time she had wondered such a thing.

"Absolutely." Lady Roxton was a woman of fiery spirit and grace. Roxton was sure she'd recognize the kinship between herself and Marguerite and welcome her accordingly.

The heiress was silent for a second, caught up in the wondrous daydream such a thing elicited. But then she snorted with disbelief. "Of course, she would. Wait till she sees my credentials. Liar, cheat, spoiled, conceited. Oh, she'd love me all right. You, John Roxton, are demented."

Roxton's gentle smile didn't fade, nor did his stare wander from her. "In a most wonderful way," he admitted.

She shoved his plate nearer to him. "Eat." Picking up her utensils, she tried to concentrate on her own meal, ignoring the fact that his eyes were still boring into her, as if she was his meal instead. It sent shivers racing across her skin.

Her knife cut into the ripe, red tomato-like vegetable and its crimson juice oozed out. She liked this particular vegetable. It wasn't one that was found outside the plateau. Smiling, she watched Roxton finally dig in with similar relish.

However, as soon as the hunter did so and the thick red liquid seeped out and coated the raptor meat, staining it crimson, his silverware froze. He just stared at it, a look of shock spreading across his face.

Roxton's pulse raced and his stomach bottomed abruptly out. For a split second, a memory flashed.

Blood. It looked like blood, warm and rich. Suddenly, he could feel it sliding down the back of his throat, filling his mouth. A pale form lay in front of him, eyes frozen in terror, throat exposed and open, lacerated, soaking in excess blood.

Roxton's knife and fork fell with a clatter to the table and then to the floor. In horror, he flung himself back and out of the chair. It was so sudden, so loud, Marguerite let out a cry.

Before her, Roxton was pale as a ghost, his breathing heavy and distorted. Fear immediately filled her. "What's wrong?" She looked wildly about for danger. Anything that scared Roxton terrified the hell out of her. She leapt back from the table also. "What's the matter?" she asked again when no answer came forth.

Roxton calmed himself as best he could. He blinked rapidly and the vision faded, leaving only the plate of meat and vegetables. Everything was as it had been. He straightened and stepped away from it regardless. "Nothing. Sorry," he muttered.

Marguerite regarded him with astonishment. "Nothing? You call that reaction nothing?" She scrutinized the table. "Was it a disgusting bug or something?" Nothing crawled into view.

Roxton wiped his damp face with a trembling hand. "I'm not feeling well. I'll be in my room." He departed abruptly.

"Roxton," Marguerite called after him. "John?"

He didn't respond and disappeared downstairs.

She shook her head with exasperation. If the man was making another statement about her cooking, he was going to be sorely sorry. One's hair could be cut even shorter after all.

She lifted his plate gingerly, wondering where the mysterious bug might have crawled. Who would have thought a bug would have affected the mighty, great white hunter so acutely? She'd have to file that information away for later.

If it really was a bug.

She hoped he wasn't really sick. The man had the constitution of a mule. If he caught something, the rest of them were doomed. She'd check on him in a bit. Maybe it was just the heat.

****



Roxton bent over the washbasin in his room and poured cool water over the back of his neck, hoping to calm the queasiness rolling through his gut. He breathed out roughly.

All that thinking about Calista, it needed to stop. It was not something he had dwelled on in months, but the damn business with the Kanu had brought it all rushing back.

He took of deep draught of water from the carafe by his bed, draining it by half. He held his last swallow and swished it around his mouth. Instead of swallowing it, he spit it into the washbasin.

It came out dark red.

Roxton stared at it as the red swirled and mixed with the water within, staining it crimson. He could once again taste the blood in his mouth, metallic and warm.

That did it. He dry heaved in the corner. There was nothing in his stomach but water, but it didn't stop the reflexive action. It took a few moments before he regained control. He hunched there on the floor, shaking and soaked to the skin with clammy perspiration.

"Oh God," he mumbled. It was another minute or so before he felt steady enough to stagger over to the bed. He lay down and curled up on his side, facing the outside. A small breeze blew in through the open windows and cooled him. It took several minutes but eventually he felt better. Rational thought determined that he must have bit himself somehow. He just hadn't realized it. The bitter iron taste had brought back those horrid memory flashes.

He used his tongue to probe experimentally for any cuts inside his mouth, but found none that were obvious, but it didn't matter. Wounds like that healed quickly. He took several deep cleansing breaths and after awhile drifted off to sleep. He never heard the soft footsteps come down the stairs and pause inside his room.



***



Marguerite watched Roxton and determined that he was sleeping. Her concern mounted. That was something Lord Roxton was not wont to do, not after such a mild morning as today. She debated covering him but when she saw how soaked his shirt was, she let him alone. Her fingers gently brushed his brow, but thankfully felt no fever. He didn't stir at her touch.

Maybe he just needed to rest, she decided. It was most likely just heat exhaustion. She should have called him in sooner and offered him the canteen more often. She noticed the water carafe was partially empty. That was good. The more liquids he could drink, the better. She took a cloth and soaked it with the remaining water from the pitcher, holding it over the washbasin so that it caught the excess. It dripped into the clean, clear water already in the basin. She rung out the cloth and then placed it gently on his forehead. He moaned and shifted, but still didn't awaken.

She crept back up the stairs, letting him rest, wishing Challenger and the others would get back.

***

To be continued in Chapter 2