‘No, no, no!’ Matica screamed out from the time they had seen it. She had hoped not to see it so early, especially while laying on Talon and trying to fly home. ‘It can’t be. Not so early. Not now.’
Not only was she agitated, Talon was grunting nervously as well, shaking himself and flapping his wings irregularly, hardly flying straight. Matica had difficulty holding on, being so edgy herself.
They flew for only half an hour when they were shocked through to the core. Talon turned around straight away and now they were on their way home, still not believing what they had encountered.
Talon didn’t fold his wings to his body after he had landed and Matica had slid down to the ground. Talon, with bulging and big grey eyes ran around restlessly. He couldn’t stand still and was grunting nervously. His expression showed real worry.
Matica also couldn’t stand still. She clutched her mouth with one hand, her worried eyes wide open. Pacing around, thinking it over she watched Talon, with narrowed eyes.
Tamo and Tima quietly circled the village.
‘You saw the “you know who”.’ Crayn confirmed, worry on his face as he came outside, Mira following behind him. They sat on the bench but Matica was still standing, watching the restless Talon. She nodded her head, thinking, he is more agitated than I am.
Before Crayn or Mira could inquire where they had seen the poachers, Matica faced them and said in a deep voice, as if that was natural to her, ‘Yes, we saw the “you know who”, again.’ She emphasized the word ‘again’. ‘They were in Ramah this time and were sitting on my big rock, talking.’
Then she yelled out, stamping the ground with her foot and waving her arms over her head, ‘They sat on myrock! That’s not fair.’ She pouted her lips, then started to hyperventilate.
Crayn and Mira just looked at her, wondering about her outburst and her hasty gasps and gulps.
‘Well,’ her father indicated calmly, waving at her to come to him. ‘Come here and calm down.’
She hesitated first, but then she sat on his lap, cuddling and leaning her head on his chest. Her breathing began to slow down. He spoke soothingly into her scalp, his lips touching her hair. ‘I believe the rock isn’t there just for you. But again, I know what you mean. The rock was your special place, your place where you meet Tamo. Yet, the bad news for us is, they’re way too close. And that’s not good.’
Mira had to clutch her mouth to stop herself crying out loud. But then she nodded and stated calmly, stroking Matica’s back, ‘We understand you, my love. But put the rock aside and be realistic. We have to deal with the “you know who”, not with the rock. It’s much more important, at the moment anyway.’
Matica pushed herself away from her dad, passing in front of them.
Crayn, nervous and worried about his daughter and the encounter with the poachers, sat uneasy. He couldn’t sit still and was sliding around the bench as if it became too hot for him to sit on. Worry lines spread across his face.
Then Mira whispered, not so sure anymore than she was before. ‘They are this close.’ Then, ‘No, no, no. It can’t be.’
‘Mum, we saw them and even heard them.’ Talon came to her side and nodded.
‘Yes, yes, I believe you,’ she whispered absent mindedly. ‘Oh may. It’s… it’s so horrible to know they are so close.’ She lifted her head. ‘They’ll be here soon.’
‘I know what you mean, Mum,’ Crayn pointed out. ‘Now,’ he said, turning to his daughter, ‘where have you… Oh…,’ he tapped his forehead, ‘in Ramah. Right.’ He combed his hair with his fingers, thinking.
Just then Pajaro walked slowly toward them, still red-eyed from crying for his padre, Elcano, who had passed away. But, he was alert enough to know what was going on around him.
Looking up at the condors, he asked, ‘Why are they so quiet and circling so low over our village? Is something wrong or is it still because of my padre?’
But seeing the worry lines on Mira’s and Crayn’s faces, also how upset Talon and Matica looked, he put two and two together. ‘Oh no!’ He sat heavily beside Crayn on the bench and said to Matica in a grave voice, not as a question, but as a statement, ‘You saw the “you know who” and come home quickly to tell us.’
Matica nodded. ‘Talon came to cheer me up after your padre died, so we flew for another round. At first it worked, then we both got a shock seeing the “you know who” in Ramah. They will be here any day now.’
‘In Ramah? So close already?’ Pajaro cried out, knowing what she was talking about. He put his elbows on the table then his head into his cupped hands, shaking his head. Through his fingers he mumbled, ‘Oh, no. That is not good, not good at all.’ He let his hands fall into his lap then he looked back at Elcano’s hut, his padre, then back to Matica.
‘That is not fair. That means I have no time to mourn my padre.’
Matica looked sadly up at him. ‘I am so sorry, Mr Pajaro. I…’
Pajaro squared his shoulders, then he wiped his eyes. ‘It is not your fault Matica. But I have to say it is not fair either. But,’ he went on, looking at Talon who looked back at Pajaro, ‘as much as I do not like it, I cannot help it. The “you know who” will come first. All right, I am ready for them.’
‘You sure about that?’ Crayn asked him anxiously.
Pajaro looked him into the eyes. ‘Of course I am. Well, it will not be easy for me, but I just have to. I have to put my personal feelings away and focus on the now. When someone needs my help, I am here. And that is Matica and her condors right now. She and the condors come first. Elcano would not have wanted it differently. So, yes, I am.’
Crayn looked admiringly at him and nodded, thinking, He will be a great leader of his group. Like his father was, putting his own feelings to the side.
‘Thank you, Mr Pajaro,’ Matica acknowledged and twined her arms around his neck. Pajaro first hesitated, wondering where the Mr came from, but then he hugged her back.
When they separated again, both with wet eyes, she continued, ‘I’ll never forget that, ever, that you sacrifice the mourning and the burial of your father. If they really will come as soon as we think we have to get ready for them.’
Looking up to see the condors circling over them, she cried out, ‘Where are they? They’re gone. Talon, where are they?’ Talon looked up and shook his head. ‘Are they patrolling to make sure they are not coming right now? Or, maybe they’re making sure they will be going away again. Gone for today.’
‘Pajaro,’ Crayn cut in, nodding his head to his daughter, ‘If Matica is right with her interpretation, and I believe she is, then you can mourn your padre, at least for today.’ He put his hand on his shoulder. ‘The “you know who” are not here, yet. And they won’t come today. It’s already way too late for that, I would say. And Tamo and Tima are making sure they won’t come right now. They will inform us, right Talon?’ Talon nodded. ‘I think they might come before you can put Elcano to rest though. All right?’
Pajaro nodded. He wiped his face with one hand then he admitted, staring straight ahead, ‘My father said that he likes to be cremated, not buried.’
‘Oh, right, yes, Matica mentioned it. But I thought…’
‘I know. That is not our custom, but this is his wish and I will fulfil his wish.’
Matica nodded and put her hand on her father’s arm. ‘Elcano said that he didn’t want to have worms going through his flesh and eating him.’
‘Matica!’ Mira called out. ‘How could you?’
‘But that’s what he said, Mum.’
Pajaro nodded. ‘Mira, it is true. My padre said that. So, I guess, I have to fell a few trees and we will cremate him. But the fire might draw the “you know who”.’
He started to go on his way.
‘We can’t avoid that. All right then.’ Crayn looked at his wife, then at his daughter. Both nodded.
Just then Tamo screeched loudly from the sky. Talon ran and soon was airborne. They circled higher and soon they were gone.
Everyone watched them leave. ‘What was that about?’ Pajaro asked.
Crayn, guessing what it meant, explained, ‘That was a sign from the condors.’ Matica nodded. ‘They just told us, that the “you know who” are gone again. They are not coming this way. That was his loud screech.’
Relieved, Pajaro’s shoulders drooped then he went off to mourn his padre. Having dinner that night, the conversation was going at length concerning Elcano, the birds and about the poachers. As they talked it over, Matica’s mind cleared and became trouble-free and so she had a good night’s sleep.