Hazel slept through the rest of the night, until the first early rays of golden sunlight spiked over the mountain peaks which surrounded them. She yawned, stretched, then sat up.

"Thanks for letting me sleep, dear. I was exhausted. Did you get any sleep?"

"Not really. I had no idea where we were, or what the local animal population was like. I had to keep my eyes open to prevent us from becoming something's midnight snack."

"Well, maybe you can nap now. I can keep watch."

"No, that's alright. I can sleep later. I found something when I went exploring last night. There's a large lodge just outside the city, and a settlement of some sort a short way further down. Perhaps one of them are the accommodations you booked for us."

"Oh, I do hope so. I'm starving."

They followed the pathways and found the lodge quite easily. The tantalizing aroma of cooking meat drew them to the back of the lodge, where several steaks were sizzling on a large outdoor stone fireplace, complete with grill.

A covered platter of cooked steaks sat on a serving table beside the fireplace. The travellers approached the table, just as a man in a white apron and chef's hat came out the back entrance to the kitchens. He carried an empty ceramic platter, presumably for the steaks still on the grill. Hazel was lifting the cloth cover of the platter on the table, when she heard the door slam behind the cook.

"Aaaaaaaah!" She squealed in alarm when she saw him.

" Aaaaaaaah!" He screamed in terror when he saw her, dropped the platter, and ran back into the kitchen.

A great deal of yelling in Spanish drifted out through the screen door. Several voices could be heard approaching, so Hazel grabbed the platter of meat and beat a hasty retreat, with Manfred right behind her. They hid in the highest branches of a well leafed tree on the furthest border of the back lawn, and watched the buzz of activity behind the lodge.

"Those are humans down there ... and they're wearing clothing!" Hazel gasped in amazement as she scarfed down another succulent steak.

"Did your booking agent sound human when you spoke to her?" Manfred asked.

"How would I know what a human sounds like? The ones at home can barely grunt. Well, we do know one thing for sure now ... they weren't expecting us, if their shock is any indication."

Hazel parted the leaves a bit to get a better look at the humans scurrying around far beneath them.

"Oh, look at that one, Manfred. Most of its legs are bare, and there's no fur on them. Its knees are sticking out. Knees are ugly; I don't care what kind of creature is wearing them."

Manfred smiled. "I'm pleased to see you feeling better. Maybe all you needed was a good feed of meat."

Down at the lodge, the manager shouted at the chef for somehow losing a whole platter of very expensive porter house steaks. The remaining steaks would have to be cut in half. The wealthy guests were going to have smaller steaks with their eggs for breakfast that morning.

"What happened to the steaks, Pedro? Don't give me that ridiculous story that something grabbed them and ran."

"It's true, boss. There were two of them, and they were this big!" Pedro indicated a spot an arm's length above his head.

The manager leaned forward and smelled the chef's breath. "Well, you haven't been drinking, anyway. Have you been chewing that hallucinogenic cactus that grows in this area? If you ask me, all the rumours around here of unexplained sightings are more to do with that particular strain of wacky cacti than anything else."

"No boss, I swear. I wouldn't do that while I was working. I can prove to you that something was here. They ran through the flower bed I just planted. Their tracks should be in the fresh earth."

Pedro ran toward the flower bed, the manager in hot pursuit. When they got there, they knelt down in the grass beside it. There were indeed two sets of very big, very strange footprints, deep in the soil. The manager grabbed Pedro by the shirtfront and yelled in his face.

"Did you plant these prints along with the flowers? Are you trying to pull off some sort of hoax?"

"No sir. I swear on my dear mother's grave that I'm telling the truth."

"Your mother's not dead."

"She will be if you fire me, sir. She'll have a stroke and die. I wouldn't risk my job by telling a whopper like that. I really, truly, honest to God saw what I told you I saw."

The manager looked long and hard at the man. "Alright Pedro, I believe you. I've always known you to be an honest man. When we return to the lodge, the staff will be instructed to keep strict silence. This incident must absolutely not go any further. The last thing we need is for a lot of thrill seekers and tabloid journalists swarming the ruins, and frightening the guests."

Hazel and Manfred watched all of this from the security of their perch in a tree that was a part of the dense subtropical forest in the area. They would have to wait til nightfall to return to their travel platform. With any luck it wouldn't be discovered before they reached it.

Hazel made a rudimentary nest of branches to make herself comfortable throughout the long day's wait. As she sat there she felt a little dizzy, so she hung onto a thick branch for support. She was feeling ill again. As soon as they returned home, she would have to visit their healer, to find out what was wrong with her.

The End

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