B.A.T. M.Y.S.T.E.R.Y – Better Armed Thinking Must Yet Solve This Enigma Rooted Yonder

Disclaimer: All characters and settings are entirely original, with any similarities to any person or characters from other works coincidental.

This is page 2. Page 1 can be found here, and page 3 can be found here.


– Part 11 –

The plane watered successfully and came to a stop near a pier where he got out of the plane and fastened it to a post with a rope. Şakan got out next and looked around. Her eyes became fixated on the railway that crossed much of the lake and ended on an island that had a strongly fortified building on top of it. She faintly remembered something mentioned off-handedly in one of her classes once that was supposed to have taken place here.

"Isn't it true that you had some political tension here?" she asked, trying to be cautious with her wording.

– "The Zaratan incident, yeah." Huuva replied bitterly, as he was doing after-flight checks on his plane, with Başanon looking over his shoulder with great interest. "That's what started it all, in 1893. Some poor homeless fool, banished from his community, stole food from the supply center and was sentenced to death for trespassing on military grounds. This caused... difficulties with the people from his home village who saw it as Balaks usurping control over their land and occupied the island." He paused and sucked air through his teeth.

"While the situation was eventually solved diplomatically after the Balak emperor himself intervened and those responsible for the wrongful killing were punished, relations have been strained since. And now, with the most recent expansion of plantations, wood cutting and construction work here, they are at the highest again they have been in decades."

Having finished his checks, he looked at Şakan's worried eyes, mouth agape, and realized he didn't need to wait for an answer.

"Some say there's also something going on, but no one can seem to agree on what. Just rumors."

Başanon suddenly looked up from all the instruments and switches in the cockpit, almost hitting his head at the wings in the process, and asked: "Wait, like what?"

"Nothing substantial, only thing people seem to agree on that it's making animals behave weirdly and the forest and people in it sick." Huuva replied.

Şakan's eyes went large for a barely noticeable moment. She had to know more.

"Sorry for interrupting, can I ask what exactly it is you do here then, then? What does a scout do here?"

Huuva lost his characteristic smirk entirely and dejectedly looked into the distance, saying nothing for a moment, leaving only the sounds of nature and construction.

– "Fine." he finally began. "I survey the environment to find new promising spots for the workers on the ground, so they know where best to construct railways and buildings. I took it up because I thought I could limit the damage to the forest if I could control the knowledge. But eventually I had to give in to the pressure when they realized I was holding back. It might have actually better if someone more clueless were doing this job instead, it might have limited the expansion."

A deep frown was now on his faces, and his eyes looked almost pleading towards the trees still standing.

– Part 12 –

There was nothing more to say. An oddly comfortable silence that seemed to bind all three together for a moment passed quickly and they started moving towards the railway that connects the shore with the supply center on the small island to get fuel and breakfast.

No real railway station was erected at the lake, as this was a branch line to a military outpost, and so they had to suffer through a momentary downpour standing under the single umbrella Şakan had been carrying with her. The distant noise of chainsaws cutting through wood was still ruining the moment, however.

Finally, a cargo train arrived, carrying various military equipment and fuel, drawn by a red steam locomotive. Huuva made it wordlessly stop and the three had to squeeze themselves into the locomotive next to the driver and fireman.

"It's not easy working here, is it?" Şakan said after some minutes, trying to break the now increasingly oppressive silence. "All your family and homes are far away, and it's not exactly a comfortable existence here."

For a moment, it seemed like Şakan had failed at her endeavor, but then the driver spoke up.

"The worst are the mosquitoes. Even in here I get them sometimes when someone forgets to close the door, especially when it's dark outside. I feel for the poor people working in midst the trees who have to ward off entire swarms."

– "Oh yeah." Huuva chimed in. "I am always glad to be able to escape them when I get into the plane."

Şakan saw an opening. "I'm curious" she began, trying her best to hide her excitement, "are there any, well, what else flies around here? Insects, birds, ... bats? I study biology at university and would be very much interested in learning more about the rainforest here."

– "Well, you can't ask me that." answered the driver chuckling "I know more about locomotives than the lifeforms here."

The train ahd already almost reached the island, the wood and metal of the bridge squeaking and creaking almost as loud as the engine, which was being constantly fueled by the fireman. Başanon observed this just as intensely as he had with the plane, the coal dust in the air was already starting to color his brown face black. Not looking up he asked, "Is there no one else who can help us?"

Huuva scratched his head. "Well, there is someone from a Samwati community working at the base, too. While I grew up in the town, they traditionally live in the rainforests here. Didn't they mention something about bats having caused problems recently, too? Those are supposed to have many habitats in this region, I think."

Unbeknownst to him, Şakan was now clenching her fists, seeing herself getting closer.

A few moments later the locomotive screeched to a halt and she almost saw herself getting close, too close to Huuva as the sudden movement threw her forwards. Başanon, despite all precautions still ended up hitting his head on a metal lever.

To the surprise of the scientists, the train had stopped within the supply center, apparently to save space and make defending the location easier. Electric light had to be turned on to allow them to find their way out of the darkness.

"What a place! I remember we were offered to be shown it in detail? I definitely would want to see more of this strange building." Şakan said. Başanon just nodded, smiling.

– "Then let the tour begin" Huuva exclaimed to them with a sad smile as they were climbing up some stairs.

– Part 13 –

Above, they reached a small platform overlooking the track and the platform, only weakly lightened by some gas laterns. Here, Huuva began to speak again.

"This is the most secure railway stop you'll ever visit. It's heavily fortified on all sides, so that nothing and no one can enter or leave unless they have permission from the two guards over there. And this is the only entrance to this supply center."

The train was now leaving.

"The next one will come only in the evening, so I better keep you occupied until then." he said wryly. "Let's head to the entrance hall. It's where you always have to pass through when you want to go anywhere here."

The heavy door made from steel opened slowly once Huuva twisted and pulled at a wheel on top of it and the Balak Emperor greeted them. Or rather, an oversized painting overlooking a giant table full of names, items, dates and times. There were three large columns. "In", "Use", "Out" was written above them, evidently tracking the flow and state of goods and people.

Several armed people in uniform were walking through the hall, some of them scurrying past them.

Huuva watched them, seemingly with some delight. "Usually it's less hectic here, but recently there have been some attacks on Imperial property and more are in planning." he said nonchalantly, hands stemmed into his side, before his voice turned more wistful. "These people would do anything to stop 'enemies of the empire'. And the current emperor encourages it."

Şakan was visibly taken aback by this, but tried to force herself to mmaintain proper posture. It made her look awkwardly like a puppet that was being pulled up at its strings on the back.

Başanon looked at her, frowning at seeing her in such distress, and then asked Huuva: "Uhh... they all seem in such a hurry. Do they even have time to, like, eat?"

– "Don't worry, there's a break room further upstairs and breaks are mandated." he responded. He looked at them, slightly grinning, before continuing: "You look like you do need a break already, and we just started the tour. Although to be fair, we skipped breakfast earlier. Time for brunch, huh? Or whatever it is you call it in Balakia. I never managed to figure out how your mealtimes work."

A lot of tension seemed to leave Şakan's body at once as she took a deep breath and relaxed her shoulders, longingly looking through a barred window on the other side of the room showing the lake and the rainforest in the distance. It was all taking longer than she wanted to get there.

– Part 14 –

Two or three moments she simply stood there, then they all walked up some simple stone stairs past more smaller barred windows which led to a smaller hall. Some munching could be heard from one of the rooms.

As the group entered it, Huuva approached a person sitting behind one of the tables. They were dark-skinned like Huuva and had long black hair bound to a bun.

"Hey, Sam! Got you some people who are interested in your bats!" Huuva exclaimed cheerily. Sam just continued munching on a pancake filled with fish. "You'll show them to these two, right?" the pilot continued with a chuckle. Sam just rolled his eyes and Huuva turned to the scientists. "I guess you'll have to wait a bit more. I'll get you some food in the meantime."

Şakan sat down and flashed a nervous smile at the bruncher in front of her, but before she could introduce herself, Başanon had already stretched out his hand to Sam and said. "Nice to meet you, Sam! We heard great things about you, right?" He momentarily turned to his expedition partner and grinned, which quickly became a chuckling that spread to the other side of the table as well.

"Yes, as you heard, I am the expert in all things bat on this base!" Sam chimed in, barely holding in a laugh.

– "Really? Then you know about the strange bats from these rainforests here? The radioactive ones?" Şakan couldn't contain her excitement anymore. She felt herself finally getting closer to her goal.

"I'm Samwati, of course I know everything there is to know about my forests! I can tell you about the nuclear sonars, no problem!" he boasted with a hint of ironic condescension.

– "Please! Tell us everything! We ended up with two at our university, but even the best biologists of the country – us two here – were stumped as to how such beings could even exist!" she said in all earnestness.

Başanon laughed. "Yeah, we were hoping to study their habitat to find out more. Who else if not us, right?" Out of the corner of his eye he could see her beaming with pride and enthusiasm. It's clear that this was what made her stand out to the other scientists at the university, who preferred cushy desk jobs writing books about animals they never encountered live. And it's why he found her admirable and had let himself get dragged across three seas.

In that moment Huuva returned with bowls of milk pudding and cookies crumbled on top of it. "Oh, you got him to talk? Most people will never hear him say a word in their presence for weeks on end." he quipped while handing the two Balaks a bowl each.

Both gratefully accepted, happy to encounter a familiar dish, although Şakan found it tasted off. Must be using local ingredients, like coconut milk and banana flour. Another aspect of traveling she hadn't anticipated, but she tried to stay focused. She wasn't here to be a food critic.

After they had all eaten up, Huuva motioned for them to get up. "Okay, so most of the facility you haven't seen yet is just storage which is both illegal to access for outsiders and also boring, but I can bring you to the rooftop used for surveillance and target practice!"

Şakan tried to hide how she winced at the last two words. She left the table next to Sam and Başanon, a step behind them. She was starting to feel at unease here. It all didn't feel right, a sense of dread was slowly building up in her, clouding up her excitement.

– Part 15 –

After they had all eaten up, Huuva motioned for them to get up. "Okay, so most of the facility you haven't seen yet is just storage which is both illegal to access for outsiders and also boring, but I can bring you to the rooftop used for surveillance and target practice!"

Şakan tried to hide how she winced at the last two words. She left the table next to Sam and Başanon, a step behind them. She was starting to feel at unease here. It all didn't feel right, a sense of dread was slowly building up in her, clouding up her excitement.

As they took the circular stairs up to a lookout, a concrete room with a low-hanging black roof and barren walls that a horizontal gap extending across most of them at chest height, requiring you to knee in front of it. In the middle of the wall opposite the stairs was a small plaque with a flower in front of it.

Başanon noticed how Huuva was clenching his fists once it had come into view. He had a look of pure contempt on his face now, not tempered by irony as he had seen it before. He stepped closer to the plaque and read out: "To the heroes, defending the outpost of civilization against a barbarian invader from a culture that cares little about laws, eternal gratitude. Barahzan yuşazamşar!"

Huuva wordlessly appeared next to him and spat on the flower, and then tore it into shreds and let it fall into the lake.

"If only everything colonial could be dealt with as easily ..." he muttered, loud enough that Başanon and Şakan could hear it. The latter's cloud of dread grew twofold in response, but she felt unable to say anything. Not wanting to jeopardize her chances at getting close to what had made her come here was of the highest importance. She owed science as much.

When she finally looked out of the gap herself, she realized how high they were. She could see much further than before. The smoke she could barely see in a rainforest in the distance was probably from a town there, she assumed. Looking down, she saw the lake. How large it was. It almost felt like a small sea. And there were so many seaplanes parked on it. One of them seemed to prepare for take-off, another one was just approaching the sea and then landed, with large waves rippling from the floats of the plane.

Huuva looked towards her. "It's the largest lake of the island. Of particular spiritual and religious importance for everyone living near it" After a brief moment, his voice had gained a sharp edge as he turned to the lake again. "And now it's used as a headquarter of forces of destruction. Even worse, we invited them in, trusting their promise of friendship and cooperation. If only there was an end to this..." His voice trailed off, eyes losing themselves in the distance, observing the smoke in the distance.

Sam, who had been silent the entire time, approached Huuva and whispered something in his ear and got a nod and smile in return.

"Always good to have friends who can cheer you up, huh?" Başanon exclaimed when he saw that, slightly chuckling. "So, as our resident bat expert, could you also..." he began, but was cut off by a huge explosion sound in the distance.

Şakan pointed the apparent source out first, gesturing towards the part of the forest that had previously had a small smoke column rising. It had now expanded massively.

"There! The rainforest is on fire!".

"Ugh, I'll have to go there immediately to check it out. You two stay here, with my equipment I don't have any room for passengers anyway."

Şakan felt her pulse quickening. The clouds inside her mind were starting to unleash thunder and lightning.

– "After all we have been through? Especially now that the bats there might be in danger? Science risks losing out on solving a big mystery forever! We absolutely can't have that happen!" she shouted, gesticulating wildly towards the forest.

"You'll have to take the boat with Sam, then, and wander through the forest yourself. If he agrees." Huuva replied, unmoved.

– "Of course we will! This is what we came here for!" Şakan said, voice still angrier than it had been in weeks.

Başanon turned to the prospective boat driver and asked: "Hey Sam, would you mind being our guide? We would repay the favor, of course."

After a moment of what seemed to be hesitation, Sam replied: "... Sure, I guess. At least I get to be away from here for a while, and can maybe help the forest. Not that I think I will be able to do much..."

– Part 16 –

As they went back downstairs to the railway station, Huuva notified the seemingly shell-shocked administration of the supply center who enthusiastically agreed with his idea to do a surveillance flight with whatever he needed. They also announced they would notify the imperial military leaders in Numudu.

Sam quickly grabbed some provisions and other basic supplies for a trip to the rainforest, such as rainproof clothing, machetes and flashlights and five minutes later they had passed the gate and on the railway bridge to get back to the pier. It was a solemn walk, with no one speaking a word. Clouds were gathering in the sky, and after a few minutes it started to rain, which quickly became a downpour.

"This might help contain the fire, if not even extinguish it." said Huuva finally, water dripping from his hair, "but we better still check out if everything is okay."

Once they reached the shore of the lake, they hurried to a small wooden shelter where their pilot bid them goodbye and everyone else put on dry clothing. Then they took a small boat with an engine mounted at the stern which roared up upon starting for a moment before settling on a gentler sputtering sound. Slowly, they were leaving the pier and through the still pouring rain and began moving across the lake.

An hour on the slow boat passed rather eventlessly, aside from the sight of many more seaplanes now arriving and shortly after taking off again. Was the base being put on high alert? What were they doing? Şakan could only wonder. She didn't dare bring up the topic with Sam. Not only did it unsettle her in general, she was also concerned where any such conversation could lead to. Instead she tried to direct her attention to the trees on the shore, but they were too far away for her to tell and she felt her mind being unable to focus on it. The anxiety was getting to her.

Maybe it was also her lack of sleep. She had found it hard to get rest last night, and now had to prepare for a night in the jungle. Normally she would have looked forward to this, but this was hardly the kind of scientific expedition she expected anymore. Trying to remember her religious upbringing, she closed her eyes and tuned out the world for a moment, engaging in a kind of meditation. But when she heard Başanon exclaim "SHARK!" she was abruptly jolted back to the lake and once she realized the waters were as peaceful as before, she almost threw him overboard.

He laughed and quickly she did do. At least this had snapped her out of her gloomy mindset, so she went down her mental checklist. They would be led to the bats' habitat by Sam, inspect any fire damage and then look for the bats with the help of their Geiger counter to see if they were still alright.

But she would also need to do something else, find a way to help the locals here. She couldn't help but start developing a tinge of guilt for the kind of things that were done in a way in her name, that is, in the name of the empire that she always so proudly had identified with. Its striving for prosperity, progress, knowledge... were those all coming at such a price? Unfortunately, all she could do now was to resolve to offer help to Huuva or maybe whoever needed it here and ask. She dreaded it, almost more than whatever might await them in the forest.

A strange bubbling sound in the lake next to them reminded her that all the environments here were still entirely unknown to her. She instinctively flinched away from it, causing the boat to gently shake.

Sam turned momentarily towards the two Balaks and said: "Be careful not to upset the spirits in the lake. It is their home, and falling into the water would mean intruding on it. We need to be good guests."

She tried to nervously flash a smile at him and nodded, whereas her travel companion grinned, almost ready to push his luck. At least the other shore was starting to come closer. After some hours, maybe two, maybe more, the true size of the trees in the region was becoming apparent, and how much light they were shielding from the ground. The expedition was not going to be getting easier from here on.

– Part 17 –

To her slight surprise,'t Sam didn't steer towards the shore.

"The fastest way to get anywhere in a rainforest is always a river. They guide you to your goal and also lead you out again. If you are ever lost and find a river, you are almost saved. If you know all the rivers, you likely won't ever get lost in the first place." Sam said.

Şakan quickly scribbled down some notes in a small notebook she was carrying with her that had been clad in waterproof covers, as Sam was directing the boat to a river that she hadn't even seen a moment ago, being hidden behind a tiny peninsula covered in dense undergrowth consisting of various herbs, ferns and many other plants that even she had trouble identifying.

Strangely, she still couldn't see any animals, but maybe she hadn't yet learned to pay attention. One thing she remembered from her classes and experiments was how easy it is for untrained eyes to miss something that is right in front of their eyes because you have to know what to look for and be able to tell the often wild mix of shapes, patterns and colors apart.

But she was trained, or at least considered herself as such, and suspense and curiosity were tearing her apart. So close the rainforest felt even more alluring, something of an entirely different world that had an almost mythical aura surrounding it. The leaves, still covered in water from the rain, were gently shaking in her direction, rustling in a comforting way like the crackling of a fire. It was as if the forest was reaching out to her, trying to get her to jump into the water and swim on land where she could begin categorizing all the fascinating species living in it.

Many of them were probably still officially regarded as "undiscovered" by scientific authorities at home and made her dream of fame. But for now, reason won out in her mind. She had a mission to complete and no time to lose.

With just some regret she decided to avoid rocking the boat. But she wondered how long she needed to sit still in it, just out of reach of her desired study object and with its puttering engine also drowning out most other sounds and songs of the jungle.

Time seemed to pass very slowly. Not much happened, and no one talked, the two Balaks silently observing the gradually changing landscape. As they went up the river, deeper into the rainforest, the river was getting noticeably smaller and the canopies of the trees covering more and more of the sky. She wondered if there would be a point at which trees on both sides touched each other, forming an arced roof of green leaves above her head. That would look fantastic in a park at home.

Then, she was awaken of her dreamlike state by a splashing in the water. She turned around to see a large greenish snake of some kind, perhaps an anaconda, jump out of the river and wrap itself around a lizard of some kind. Şakan really wished she had taken a camera with her now. Her eyewitness report, written down in her notebook, would have to suffice.

– Part 18 –

It was already getting dark when Sam finally moved the boat to some kind of simple pier built on a sandbank near a basic shelter that was a couple of steps away from the store, constructed of simple wooden logs fastened with jute fiber ropes to a thatched jute fiber roof, standing on a platform made of the same material.

"Guess they call this the jute island for a reason" joked Başanon.

"This is where we will stay for the night, my friends. We will probably reach the, uh, site tomorrow." He began rumma

ging in a jute bag.

"If you are hungry, I have dried jute leaves, some fish and seasonings, we can make a soup on a campfire." Sam continued.

"Yup, definitely jute island alright" Başanon quipped as they were getting out and walking up to tiny space.

In it, there were some sleeping mats and a simple ceiling lamp, made from the same fiber, a pot, and a ceramic container with fuel for the boat. A fireplace was a few steps away, surrounded by trees on three sides.

Şakan quickly ran to it, feet almost getting stuck in the muddy ground several times, anxious to be finally seeing jungle trees and possibly animals up close.

But the twilight made this difficult. Instead, what left the far bigger impression on her were the sounds of the forest that were getting clearer and clearer as she ventured deeper into the rainforest and away from the relative tranquility of the river. Frogs croaking and ribbiting, loud enough that talking would be difficult. Birds fluttering, whistling, glugging. Humming, chirping, buzzing. It all seemed to come from all directions at once and formed an incredible cacophony together, the individuals sounds of which were impossible to place for her no matter how much she looked around.

Sam, who was carrying a pot filled with water from a nearby spring, laughed at the antics of the big city girl. Şakan felt embarrassed, but undeterred. She was finally at her destination. Her worries were melting away, all the hard work starting to pay off, and she would bring new light to part of Thagha's creation that had been shrouded in so much mystery. This allowed her to honor and serve Thagha on her own terms, as she had promised her father when she went to university instead of undergoing training at the local temple. What better tool for the faithful to lead a virtuous life than knowledge, and what better way to gain it than being a scientist investigating the divine works all around us?

– Part 19 –

But this was hard to do on an empty stomach, and so she helped Sam prepare dinner. Washing jute, cutting garlic, watching over the fire while Başanon was tasked with doing maintenance work on the boat, refueling the tank and making sure it was secured for the night. Once the soup was ready, Sam handed out bowls from his supplies bag and they ate in silence next to the fire. The flavor of the jute reminded Şakan of spinach, but the texture was slimier.

By now, night had fallen which made all sounds coming from the jungle seem all the more intimidating. She was glad for the fire and the company. But even then, it felt like the three of them were alone in the world, a single light surrounded by a noisy void of darkness.

"Is it time to tell spooky stories?" Başanon ironically asked, looking around expectantly.

– "I could tell you more about the forests and the nuclear sonars. That might be spooky enough for you?" Sam replied grinning.

Şakan shifted uncomfortably around. She reasoned she still needed time to get used to the forest at night, being so used to the lights of the city. She looked away from the darkness, to the sky. Through the trees she could see some stars above her, shining so much clearer and brighter than anywhere else she had ever been. Anticipation and excitement were building up in her again, letting her smile happily.

"So these bats have always lived here in this corner of the island. Very beautiful bats, probably the most graceful ones in the world" Sam continued, not bothering to hide the pride in his voice. "They are treated as an omen. If you encounter one such messenger of the spirits you are said to be able to see your and the island's future in them." His tone went almost conspiratorial, as if this was a big secret he was letting the Balaks in on.

"So now that they are radioactive, that means – " Başanon asked.

– "It's tradition to arrive at your own conclusions here." Sam tried to put on a solemn face, but a slight grin was still shining through. "Divination is seen as a very personal process, it'd be inappropriate for me to tell you what to think."

– Part 20 –

The night went on and they kept talking, planning and joking for another hour before Sam extinguished the flames and let the void consume them all. The walk back to the shelter was short, but the most disorienting one Şakan had ever experienced. She couldn't even see where she was walking and ended up accidentally wandering off into the forest, and when trying to turn around after being called out by Sam the ground beneath her yielded, as if caving in and coating her in some wet substance. Then she realized she had fallen into the river.

Moments later she heard another splash near her. She felt a shiver down her spine as she heard a loud distorted voice. But it was just Başanon who had jumped into it. He sounded annoyed.

"Even the water probably can't wash it all off. I should have brought more clothes..." he said, clearly not aware that someone was approaching him from the side, taking advantage of the cover nighttime provided.

Şakan, quiet as a mouse, tapped him on the shoulder from behind and whispered a "boo!" in his ear. He yelped and fell backwards into the river again.

"So what are you even doing here? Is this where we both admit we have such a bad sense of direction we happen to walk into the same river?" she asked.

– "No, I walked into this river purposefully." He stressed the last word, as if it was a matter of pride.

"Wait, what? Why?"

– "To wash of all the mud and twigs that had attached themselves to me when I slipped earlier on the wet ground. I must have looked like some forest spirit."

Not a single moment had passed yet when a loud shriek that seemed to border on fierce hissing pierced the silence, shattering their careless existence in the middle of nowhere. The second hiss already felt like a stab into the chest, painful fear welling up all in her body, freezing her.

The sight of Başanon didn't help. Against the moonlight she could see how he was looking around hectically, but found himself unable to locate the origin of the sound. Unlike all the times before, including on all the expeditions they had been on before, this time he failed to keep himself together. She had never heard his voice tremble like this and become so quiet.

"H-hey, Şakan, no need to cry out, heh... I didn't look that bad, and it's all gone now. Don't worry..." He stopped to listen for the sound again, and heard nothing, which only unsettled him more. "That was you, right? Please say yes..." he pleaded, almost sounding like a scared child.

"Sorry, no... it wasn't me..." she whispered, in an almost whimpering tone.

– "Please... at least tell me it's not right behind me"

"I wouldn't know, I can barely see you!"

Another hissing shriek, uncomfortably closer now. It was accompanied by a fast clicking sound that puzzled her. It seemed oddly familiar. Then it hit her: It was her geiger counter. The sturdy small metal box she had put in a pocket of her flight suit, had apparently not only survived all the dousing in water intact, but was now detecting dangerous levels of radiation.

Şakan wasted no more time. She moved towards the shore as quickly as possible, splashing water everywhere, and began climbing out of the water, only to lose grip and almost fall into the river again. Başanon would have laughed, but his fear let a grin turn instead into a painful grimace as he hurried on land as well. The source of the sound stayed hidden, but the persisting clicking sound made it clear it was still nearby. In his rush he tripped over some stone, fell back into the river and caused another big splash. It took them at least five minutes to actually get on dry land again where the clicking disappeared and they also ceased hearing any of the hissing.

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