Continued from Part 4
After a long arduous climb
With a mouse, dog and snake
We pause at a cave
For a much-needed break
I’m seeking the eagle
That serpents do fear
Hoping he’ll tell me
My quest’s end is near
Will he be heroic
Decisive and quick
Or fat and despondent
Like Thor when he’s “thick?”
Then I hear his cry
Shadow on the wall
And discover he’s not
What I expected at all!
Aquila: Ooh, you brought lunch!
Earnest: You’re a girl?!
Yes, the manly eagle I had sought turned out to be a female. And not just female, but a tween girl; some sort of teenybopper.
And I don’t like the way she’s eyeing my companions. Apparently, neither do they.
Qhuinn: I believe the correct canine response is: “Grr, stay away from me and my friends!”
A. Ooh, you can talk. Who’s a cute puppy? Who’s a cute puppy!
Q. I say, stop that. I’m not actually a dog. No, please, not your feathers. I’m really the incarnation of… Ooh! Right there. Ahh…
Qhuinn flips onto his back and starts flailing his legs while she scratches his belly. So much for my fierce protector.
E. Um, excuse me, we’re actually here on a serious quest.
A. Of course you are. Who’s a serious doggie? Are you a serious doggie? Are you enjoying your quest?
Q. Best… Quest… Ever.
I start to interrupt her, but then realize that tickling my friends is vastly preferable to her eating them. I decide to wait it out.
A. Okay, there you go. All done.
Qhuinn mumbles something inaudible from where he is sprawled on the floor. Aquila giggles and slaps him away.
E. What did he say?
A. “Marry me!” [snorting]
This encounter is not going at all like I planned. Sminthus is still too terrified to be of help. I gaze imploringly at Nehushtan. He sighs and raises himself up on his coils to look Aquila in the face.
N. Greetings, fair maid…
Before he can finish, Aquila transforms from dreamy schoolgirl into fierce predator. She lunges into the air and pounces on Nehushtan. One razor-sharp talon pins his head to the ground — facing away from her — while the other hovers a fraction of an inch above his throat.
A. Uh-uh-uh-uh-uh! No lookee-lookees from the snakie. I’m not old enough yet to face all my future fears. [She turns to me and winks] My parents don’t even let me date yet!
E. Oh! Parents. Er, could you perhaps call them? I’m sure there the ones we were supposed to meet. You see, we are on…
A. I know, a really serious blah blah blah save the world blah blah quest. My parents already know all about it. That’s why they sent ME!
The sight of a killer eagle batting her eyelashes is apparently enough to shock Sminthus out of his stupor.
S. My lady… are you really the one meant to help us? Then were you… just kidding about… eating us?
With a flick of her claw, the young eagle casually tosses the massive snake against the back wall of the cave. She walks over to stare out the opening, a heavy weight seeming to descend upon her young shoulders.
She doesn’t meet our gaze. Her voice is soft, almost a whisper, with none of the frivolity she so recently displayed.
A. I… am sorry. I did not realize this would be so hard. Yes, I am here to help you. But you know little of what you ask, and less of how much it would cost me. If I am to survive long enough to be of use to you, you must feed me… a sacrifice.
Cold dread freezes my bones. Could I really sentence one my companions to death, if that’s what it took to achieve my goal?
Well, maybe the snake…
No. That is not the way. At least, not The Way.
E. Eat me.
She turns at looks at me, then giggles. The toss of her head reminds me of Artemis, for some reason.
A. You? You have already laid down your life many times over. You will not get off so easily.
E. You don’t need all of me, right? Perhaps just a.. a part of me? My… heart?
A. You want to give me your heart? Silly man, I told you I was too young to date!
She snickers, then looks at me with a dangerous gleam in her eye.
A. And anyway, your Greek friends should have taught you the proper sacrifice required of those who would bring the secrets of heaven to mortal man.
A sick horror overcomes me. I glance down involuntarily at my chest. I begin to shudder.
A. That’s right. I get to eat your liver. Every. Single. Day.
To be continued in Part 6