It was early evening when they stood looking down on the Valley of the Weeping Willow Trees. Henry heard the sound of running water somewhere in the trees. That sound always made him calm; it reminded him of the fountain in the courtyard of their house in the Old Country. His mother loved that fountain and sat next to it for hours at a time. They stood for a few seconds and pondered on whether to enter the darkness. Without the usual signs, it began to rain. The raindrops were so big they hurt a little when they bounced off of him. Within seconds they were soaked, making their gear heavy on their shoulders. Mist rose above the willow trees and hovered. Grey clouds floated overhead and lightening flashed across the sky. Henry used his hand to brush water from his face. It was hard to breathe, as the rain ran down his forehead and sucked into his nose when he inhaled. He looked at the others as if he wanted to know what they intended to do. Before he could say anything Donkor spoke,
“O K lets go,” He said and started walking down the grassy decline. The group followed him, the Bokors more reluctant then Akosua and her warriors. They stopped just before they entered the forbidding darkness. Akosua looked around, as if summing up the courage to go in. Then with marked determination she started walking.
The early evening light immediately disappeared when they walked into the cover of the trees. Henry stood for a second waiting for his eyes to adjust to the sudden change of light. Wings flapped, crickets chirped and an owl hooted. When he got used to the lack of light, he realized there was just enough light seeping through the branches for him to see. Raindrops fell off the branches making it seem like the trees were crying. Donkor walked ahead, but stopped, then turned to the others.
“See that rock over there,” he said as he pointed to the right. The group turned to the direction his hand pointed. There was a bolder about four feet tall that sat just outside the sagging branch of one of the trees. It stood taller than Henry, and curved at the top creating a natural roof.
“I ran for that spot because that was the best sport to bed down for the night.” He said, and Kwao started walking towards the rock. Donkor put his arm out stopping him,
“Oh no you don’t sonny, Akosua gets that spot,” he said and motioned for Akosua to walk past him. She brushed past Kwao smiling.
“Your Mother slept right here,” he said looking down at the dry spot under the roof of the rock. “Now it’s your spot.”
“Thank you,” she said, Kwao looked at her and shook his head, and there was a small smile of admiration on his face. She walked over to the rock and sat her wet knapsack on the ground. She sat down, removed her machete from its belt, and rested it against the rock. She looked at the others, they stood looking at her.
“Well make yourselves comfortable, the trees will make good cover from the rain” she said as she unfolded her mat and spread it out on the ground. The others went around in search of the best spots to settle into. Kwao mumbled his disapproval, and found a spot not too far from where the Bokors had settled down. Adofo and Donkor sat next to the rock and were having a conversation with Akosua. Henry found a spot under a tree where the branches did not hang all the way to the ground. He figured this would give him some protection if the rain persisted. A boy and a girl sat next to him. They were younger, and seemed to have taken a liking to him.
“Mind if we shared this spot?” The girl said, she was about thirteen years old, and the weapons and gear she carried seemed much bigger than she was. Her dreadlocks stopped just below her ears, and moved from side to side when she spoke. The boy smiled and reached out his hand, Henry remembered him from the day he first practiced throwing his spear, he was one of the kids who laughed the hardest. Henry shook his hand; the boy was so skinny Henry felt the bones in his fingers.
“This is exciting,” the boy said, his eyes bright with excitement. Henry smiled and nodded. The Bokor he had saved form the Assassin Vines came over and dropped his gear in front of them.
“Nice spot, room for more?” He asked a big smile on his face.
“Sure the more the merrier,” Henry said, the Bokor plopped down in front of them. The other Bokors looked over at them as if disapproving of their companion’s friendliness.
“The more the safer you mean,” he said and giggled, the rain had washed away most of the mud from his face. The group of kids laughed, and Kwao looked over at them then stood up and shouted,
“Hey some of us want peace and quiet!” Henry and his companions laughed, and that sent Kwao into a rage.
“You think I am a clown Kindoki?’ He screamed, and started walking towards them.
“The only Kindoki here is you,” Henry responded, Kwao stopped, as if Henry’s words were like a wall he had bumped into,
“You will get the worst trashing of your life!” He screamed and started walking again. Donkor stood up,
“Hey no arguing here be quiet,” he said Kwao stopped and turned to Donkor
“Watch who you talking to Bokor!” he shouted, but turned and walked back to his tree. Henry and his companion looked at Kwao until they were sure he had calmed down. The angry warrior sat glaring at them while he sharpened his machete.
“What’s eating him?’ The Bokor asked. Henry lay back using his right elbow to prop himself up,
“He is always mad when Adofo and Akosua are together. Actually he is always mad about something.” Henry said, the boy and the girl giggled and looked at Kwao, he growled at them, then spat on the edge of his machete and kept on sharpening it.
Donkor called over to one of the Bokors they spoke and the man went off in search of firewood. He came back in a few seconds empty handed, the torrential downpour had soaked the jungle, and there were no dry branches to be found. They tried to light the torches, but even they were too wet to light. They eat fruit and began to settle in for the night.
The rain had stopped, but water still dripped onto the ground. Wind whistled through the willow trees, causing a chill to run through Henry. He lay and listened to the drops of water hit the ground around him. A lone firefly flew into the tree above him. In the jungle, beyond the willow trees, monkeys barked, maybe it was a mating call, or it could be they were wet and cold. Wild dogs howled a haunting chorus that made Henry’s heart race. Frogs croaked in the stream not too far from where Henry and his companions lay. It was dark, so dark Henry could not see his hand when he held it up in front of him. He laid, his eyes opened wide as he tried to hear if there were any movements. He began to fall asleep, but woke himself up, afraid that something or someone would sneak up on him. But he was tired, and could not stop his body from shutting down, and he fell asleep to Akosua and Adofo’s whispering.