Jasper stays alert as he watches these people efficiently set up their elaborate camp and build a fire in which they cook a large amount of food for their crew. The women are untied in small groups and taken to different tents set up around the camp. Once inside these tents, the women are not brought out again. The men drink and drink and are growing louder as the night goes on and more alcohol is consumed.
When the men have enough to drink they charge into a tent that contains the women. Jasper watches in disgust.
How are we going to get out of here?
The night gets later and Jasper does not dare to close his eyes. He must be ready for when the time presents itself for their attempt at escape. There are still a large number of men who have yet to make their exit from around the fire but appear to be growing more intoxicated. They continue to take long pulls at their bottles of dark liquid and their laughter grows obnoxiously loud.
Jasper notices the overall ease of the men. Almost no one is standing guard, apart from the older leader who looks out and around the area from time to time and then observes his men in their drunken stupor.
At last the older leader retires to a tent.
“Does everyone’s accommodations please them, fellows?” Asks the smug, young leader to the piss drunk men. His pompous demeanor knocks up a notch once the older leader leaves the group.
The men hoot and holler in response.
“Oh yeah!” Shouts an indistinguishable man in the group.
“What more could you all want men?” Continues the power tripping leader, “We give you good wine, food and fresh meat to take care of your needs!”
The men whistle and yell more in response.
“Now listen here men,” he leans closer to the group as if he were going to let them in on a secret, but still speaking in a loud tone, “If any of those women give you any trouble at all,” he says turning to point at the tents, “You let me know and I will set them right,” with this last part, he pulls up his pants as he spits the words out.
“Thank you, sir!” One calls out. The rest nod their heads in agreement.
He walks over to two of the guys sitting around the fire and smacks them on the back as he says, “Enjoy yourselves, lads!” Before making his exit to his tent.
Jasper is so taken aback by this exchange that he almost falls out of his tree post when he gets hit with a pine cone thrown from down below.
He looks down and can just barely make out the ponytail on her head.
How did she get down and over here without my noticing?
Jasper is slow to move from his spot. His legs are cramped and he wants to feel sure of himself as he climbs down the tree so as not to make any unnecessary noise that would bring attention to him and Claudia.
Claudia moves to the backside of the tree, facing away from the large group as she waits for Jasper to make his sloth-like moves down from the tree. She is doing an ancy hop from one leg to another behind the tree.
Jasper lacks the stealth that Claudia so clearly holds and with each noise he makes descending from the tree, Claudia cringes, and curls her toes in her boots. Once he reaches his last bit of climbing down, he begins sliding down the tree on accident, which creates a long scratchy sound.
Jasper can’t help but develop labored, loud breathing as he barely holds on while he slides to the bottom of the tree. Claudia grabs one of his hands to free it from the tree and Jasper can see her round eyes open big in disbelief.
Both of them turn to look in the direction of the men, to see how they will react. Their hearts are thumping hard and Jasper’s mouth is dry as a cotton. They are surprised to see that the men are still carrying on laughing and drinking and seem to not have noticed the small commotion.
Claudia tugs at Jasper’s hand and lifts her pointer finger to her lips to indicate for him to be quieter than he has been thus far.
She leads the way, still holding on tight to Jasper’s hand as she maneuvers them farther away from the camp. Jasper makes sure to follow her every step, so he does not mess up again and actually cause the group to take notice of them.
You are one lucky bastard that that group was too drunk and relaxed to catch onto your mistake. We are still in danger, though. They will see our tracks in the morning, unless they are more stupid than I give them credit or if the sky decides to release its parachuters.
One step after another leads them far enough away to where they cannot even hear or see the men anymore. Both stay silent and alert, as they know they are still not clear from the danger yet. It is miles before either of them utter a word.
She finally lets go of his hand as she says, “Those are the kinds of people Mama and Papa didn’t want me to find. They are the ones they warned me of.” She continues leading the way through the thick snow.
What Jasper did not notice until now was that Claudia was leading them in a crisscrossing way, so as to make their tracks difficult to follow.
She reaches up and grabs a branch that she breaks off.
“You should grab one too. It’s not the best way to cover up tracks, but it’s helpful. We won’t do it forever, but it should at least make our path more complicated. That’s what Mama told me,” she says.
Jasper reaches high up into a tree and pulls at a branch till it breaks free. They take turns walking in the back, backwards, covering up the footprints as best as they can.