Comadrito and Milvana
In the Lair of Old Lobo
Audio Ch12 A
Comadrito was swept up high above the earth. His eyes saw only rough scales and the curve of a sharp talon. He felt its grip tightly round his neck, and jaw. He could hardly breathe. The grip was strong and cruel. This bird was not Milvana. Where was she? What was going on?
From the corner of his eye he looked out at this other hooked beak, a beak designed to tear away at furry flesh. Those were the horror stories told when he was young. Stories designed to keep him away from such designer beaks. So was this it? After all the grand plans and purposes he was going to be eaten alive by a bird similar to Milvana and just as he was overcoming the fear of flying.
Why did the need to move his bowels take him out of sight of Milvana. Weasels were shy about such things as where their scats were but Milvana never cared where hers dropped. And his never ending hunger drove him him to smell out and chase a rabbit which took him even further away from her. He was hoping to please her with food but now he was food again.
Perhaps this killer bird flew down sensing the dead rabbit and picked him up by mistake. No matter, he would still be eaten small morsel though he was. He felt some slight relief as the grip of the talon lessened and he could breathe more easily. Peering out the view of the bird made him shudder. It was huge. Was the change from that cruel grip to drop him, dash him against the rocks? Could this be the monster bone breaker bird, Ossiefrage?
The bird was winging up through a valley with many tall trees. It was flying further and further up the mountainside towards an outcrop of rocks, pink in the setting sun. Flying higher to find a sharp rock to dash him against. Even near death, the beauty of the living earth made him gasp. If this was his last look upon the world then it was a beautiful ending. His highest viewpoint just before the final breath. He thought of all the rabbits, voles and mice he had caught and the look of final peace after the terror of being caught. He would rather be eaten like that than swung through the air to be broken up on a mountain ledge. His muscles lost tension. As he was giving in to this submission to death, all was plunged into darkness. He was descending downwards towards a jagged rock outside a dark cave.
The great bird glided carefully through a mossy opening, dripping with water. A drop of cold water, almost frozen, hit him on his head. This impact brought him out of his deathly stupor. He was dropped onto the floor of a dark cave. But not from a great height. His heart was beating fast. With eyes adjusting to the gloom, his feet on wet rocks, he swerved in different directions to confuse the bird. This was a desperate, final bid to escape the hooked beak. No bones were broken. Adrenaline rushed through his body again. He could fight with his sharp teeth or find an escape route. He did have a chance to survive.
An eerie echoing sound surrounded him and his body was pressed suddenly to the ground by a large heavy paw. Was he now dying? Was this the voice of the God of all Things? The Paw of God upon him? Must he apologise for all the lives he had taken in vain when he had eaten plenty? Were the turtle dove’s eggs going to haunt him? A deep growl was calling his name. Then came a sound he knew. Milvana? Was she dead too? It was too much for his weasel brain, fear overwhelmed him and all went deadly dark.
Sometime later, Comadrito's brain drifted between the strange dark and being awake. Was he still alive? He half opened one eye in order to play at being dead. Survival was uppermost again. He was not feeling pain. He had not been half eaten alive. On getting his eyes one at a time used to his dark surroundings he could see shadows of other creatures. There on a large flattened rock lay a large animal, like a fox but greyer. This must be a wolf. It was spread-eagled out next to a very large eagle. The eagle was preening its feathers just as he had seen the small birds do and the turtle dove. He was only glancing with his eye but the eagle seemed to catch the movement and stare down at him. The inner lid of the eye of the eagle came down and up twice and the wolf caught the sign. Comadrito could feel their eyes penetrating deep into him.
Gradually through skin shivery cold, it dawned on Comadrito that this was probably no ordinary wolf or eagle ready to eat him for dinner. Could it be Old Lobo? Was the bird one of the great golden eagles and not a bone breaker? Old Lobo had left Navaselva within living memory of some of the residents, or their descendants. Great eagles had visited often in those days.
Old Lobo spoke into Comadrito's mind:
‘Well friend, are you still with us? It was not our intention to frighten you to near death. You may open both eyes now. We may not know you personally but we have known your forefathers and mothers and attended the Meetings of Navaselva. We are waiting for Milvana to return with the food you dropped. It is never good to waste a rabbit when it has given its life for the likes of us to survive.’
Comadrito had no weasel words for this occasion and remained breathless and lying very flat trying to stick to the stony ground. He remembered the tales of Old Lobo and the dismay when Old Lobo had finally decided to leave Navaselva.
The wolf sat up upon its haunches and let out a long, drawn-out call. A call for the wild ones; a call to join together and meet up. There was to be a Meeting of the Many but as Old Lobo explained there were not that many of them in this remote high mountain valley. They were safe and they were some of the last of the most endangered ones, living here in a bid to defy extinction. But it was a difficult task. There would be many young ones but then nowhere for them to go. They had tried to impart to the younger members different habits, different ways to survive, what to avoid when they would have to leave the high valley in search of more food.
Old Lobo did show how to hunt boar and deer. This required skill, stealth and team work. A wolf pack cooperating as one and sharing out food hunted to all. Younger wolves or starving wolves needed easier prey but this incurred the anger of the Outsiders especially if they hunted the white cloud bleaters. Young wolves were often caught in Outsider snares, where they died slowly howling, limbs crushed, blood trickling life away. Or some got hit by a loud bang and wandered for days in pain. There was less and less forest and less and less space so the wolves were trapped in small packs but with no chance to develop better hunting skills for deer and boar.
The great eagles too found living more and more difficult and had also suffered eggs being taken by the Outsider Ones. It wasn’t only weasels that took too many eggs. The eagles needed tall trees in remote places but because the eagles were so large in flight they were often detected by Outsiders and their nests raided. So, this Eagle, Wolf and Bear kept hiding in the highest of high valleys.
Comadrito listened carefully but without response. Eventually Milvana flew in and the wolf and eagle left the cave. She had not found the rabbit Comadrito brought back for them both to eat but explained how she found Old Lobo’s cave. While Comadrito was hunting she had heard the strange wild call and was compelled to investigate. Tired and dehydrated, the calls brought her close to this cave with the dripping water. Her thirst was quenched. Here, she too had a shock to find it inhabited by Old Lobo and the Great Eagle. It was the Great Golden Eagle with its eagle eye who saw Comadrito from the top of the valley and had flown down to bring the weasel to the cave not a bone breaking bearded vulture.
There was to be a Meeting but it would take some time for all who heard the calls to gather.
Comadrito was so glad to be back with Milvana. Somehow there was a strong bond developing. Milvana beckoned to Comadrito to climb onto her back and rest in her feathers. The early terror of near death had shaken him. Milvana kept very still, creating warmth and safety to rest. But after a while, Comadrito moved about, fidgeting. He had one of his natural urges again. He needed to leave the cave but wondered how to go about this without being seen. He was in awe of the powerful wolf and just wanted to sneak out. He did not want that great paw on him again.
Just as he gradually edged himself to the outside Milvana gave a great squawk of amusement. Old Lobo and the eagle were not far outside the cave, as still as stone but their eyes missed nothing. There were rabbits gathering around. Comodrito was seen and warned not to touch or frighten them. They were here for the Meeting and not for the eating. Comadrito felt his private scatological urges had become of public interest, especially when he had to move through a line of tasty-looking furry bunnies. He was still very hungry. On his return, Milvana very freely just lifted her tail up and deposited the contents of her bowels on the rock. Guano to you! Comadrito could not understand a bird’s ways, totally unconcerned about hiding their excretions. Was that because birds were of the air and could not be tracked down by smells left on the ground? And was there a story that it was even supposed to be lucky if some dropped on you?
A Meeting of the Not So Many
Old Lobo’s calls to those high up in the valley were successful and caused others to call out loud and clear. One strange bird call was heard echoing. The calls of these wild ones attracted a few messenger birds on their migration: swifts, swallows and even some storks. Some different wild ones appeared. A great black bird with clumsy flight and a fan tail appeared but its calls were strong and it had woken up many other creatures. It was Tetrao urugallus of the pheasant families, the rare black capercaillies with the odd mating moves. Milvana called him a grouse type that could not fly far. How did she know about so many different types of birds?
Within this Meeting of the not so Many much was shared. Comadrito let Milvana report on events at Navaselva and the disappearance of the bumble bee and bee-eater. Old Lobo and the eagle wanted Navaselva and other places to know they were still alive in the north but that resources were scarce here. The messenger birds knew there was a further north but there was always danger in going too far.
In the gloom of the cave Comadrito recognised the moving head and pointed ears of the eagle owl. This bird had not been seen during his lifetime at Navaselva but was a beast for a weasel to be most wary of. The eagle owl had a story to tell. He had seen a bright-coloured solitary bird the previous night but could not identify it. Could this have been the bee-eater? It was full of the colours of Afri Ka. The eagle owl was proud its observation was of great interest to the Meeting. But Comadrito wondered if this was the whole story. The eagle owl’s eyes flashed with a keen instinct to kill anything under its radar. Perhaps the bee-eater was in the owl’s stomach?
Old Lobo told Comadrito and Milvana they would need to go further north. There was not enough space here for any more Navaselva residents if there was to be a major move to the north. On their return from the far north they could give the news to Navaselva that Old Lobo was alive. Comadrito flinched a little. Would he, a small weasel, still be alive to tell the tale?
The cave was very deep and from its depths came a variety of bats. All a bit sluggish but beginning to wake up after hibernation. They flew close around Milvana and Comadrito, as if examining the newcomers carefully. These bats were the rare ones that had disappeared from many other places. Comadrito knew these to be furry and warm blooded like he was but with limbs that were wings. It was a relief they could live here and their stories still be heard.
Another rare and unusual creature had managed to creep up away from the spring waters, the desman. All the creatures in the Lair of Old Lobo were aware of their closeness to extinction and all feared being the last one left of their kind. This reminded Comadrito of the last turtle dove of Navaselva that no one had realised was on her own.
The desman’s role was to report on the purity of the waters. This creature needed good clear water and fast-flowing mountain streams. There was concern that there was less water sinking into rocky reservoirs. These mountains were used to abundant rain. Further down in the valleys, streams which should run through all the seasons were drying out in the summer heat. The desman was the water keeper and was worried.
Next all listened attentively to the Navaselva quest to find out about the north, to go close to the ground and try and discover what Outsiders knew about the changes in the weather, to encourage the bee-eater back to its flock and perhaps Buff the bumble bee. There were many points of view about this but most seemed to think that the bumble bee would not survive such a long journey. If the bee-eater did not eat her, something else would. Others knew that if she found a good place for a hive, she was unlikely to return.
A bumble bee with a red tail end, Bombus confusus, was present and explained Buff would be carrying in her small body the potential to create a large colony of bumble bees. She would need to gain much energy from the nectar of flowers and then find a good place for a hive. She should then disappear from view to manage many more bumble bees. Bombus confusus then became rather confused by how many new bees she would create but she would certainly be the queen. Queen bumble bees were the ones to hibernate and be ready in early spring with eggs to lay.
There could be such differences between different species of bumble bees and Bombus confusus was not that good at understanding these. But this Bombus had gathered reports from other bumble bees lower down the mountains and there was concern about changing weather and the change in flowering times too. This had led to many bumble bees not able to find enough food at the right times. There had been too many deaths from starvation. Too many heavy rainstorms in the winter drowned many hibernating bumble bees and intense heat in the summer dried up all the flowers.
When bumbles and other bees managed to find lowland valleys there could be plentiful food sources but there were often strange smells and many of the pollinators became confused, more confused than Bombus confusus. Others were getting infected with even tinier beings. Tiny parasites and mites were making too many bees and bumbles weak.
All agreed at the meeting that the Navaselva mission for Comadrito and Milvana was a very good idea and that it was timely to now go forth and discover as much as possible about the north and to touch on the toes of Outsiders to see what they knew about why the weather was changing so much.Too many species were struggling to survive on La Tierra, the living earth. There were too many deaths on an earth that provided so much variety of life. There might be hope for survival in the north.
Comadrito felt more nervous and the route to take seemed to be full of high mountains, more Outsiders and dangerous wide waters. This overwhelmed him as he had no idea what was meant by wide waters, more Outsiders must mean more danger and nasty smells. And how could there be higher mountains than the ones they were already in? Milvana was reassuring as her journey had taken her across some wide waters and with the directions and help of other birds there were ways through high mountains. Comadrito admired her knowledge, courage and ability to fly far.
There was a brief break which Comadrito took full use of again, slipping past frightened rabbits, voles and mice. There was then a return to reports from different species. The rabbits seemed a bit nervous and were concerned some of their kind in the lowlands were no longer able to see. Best to keep away from the sick ones and stay up here for the summer was advice given by Old Lobo.
No creatures could help with the worry of the plant kingdom about the lack of pollinators. Nor was there any more news of the even more odd pair, the bumble bee and the bee-eater. Comadrito did not know why but was sure the eagle owl had defeathered and devoured Abe Mero.
All concurred that the weather was becoming more difficult and out of season. This created one of those endless debates as to whether there was an almighty beast or tree controlling the weather. Was La Tierra angry and boiling over inside? Why would so many creatures and plants be suffering? At the use of the words almighty, creator, some argued that there was no such thing and others cried out that there must be.
Comadrito was eager to ask about the lost forest of the last living wild. Was this it? There was then more anger and cries. The eagle pronounced this lost forest was a place that did not exist. Old Lobo growled deeply. Searching for it had caused too many problems. The bats flew madly about bumping into the animals, birds and walls of the cave. Some were trying to tell the stories they knew about the lost forest but it was sending their sense of direction haywire. There was a lot of commotion until many of the bats fell, exhausted to the floor.
The really wise ones remained silent and gradually drew the meeting back to quiet and peaceful moments. Views were being shared and were not to be dismissed. The truth they did know was in their stories of the past which guided them from deep within each living cell. But the story of the lost forest of the last living wild still seemed to be a story that must not be told. Comadrito was curious.
Thankfully to break the tension there was news of a late comer. A rather elegant and beautiful creature leapt up the mountainside. A few stones were dislodged and there was alarm from some of the animals lower down the slope. Milvana compared this creature to one of those gruff old goats from the Outsider places. As this thought crossed over into Comadrito’s mind there was an immediate and proud reaction.
‘I am not a goat. I am wild. I am a chamois. I bring news not to end the Meeting. Oso Pardo, the great brown bear is on his way. He apologises for any delay but was enjoying his long sleep and it is still snow and ice around his mountain peaks.’
The chamois was amused by the sight of the weasel on the back of the black kite. To fill the time waiting for the arrival of the bear the chamois told a story of an incredible weasel.
Once many years ago Outsiders began to travel through the Cantabrian Mountains. More and more would come. Many of the Many found it difficult to live with these deadly Outsiders moving through on their forest tracks.
Ways of frightening the Outsiders were considered. Wolf packs tried to frighten those wandering through their territories. They were more frightened of the Outsiders but tried to be brave in their groups. They would rather have stayed well clear the plan had tragic consequences for the wolf packs. The Outsiders begun to trap and hunt down as many wolves as possible. Some of the large black Tetrao urugallus birds with fan-like tails also found it hard to get away and were hunted more. What else could be done?
Sometimes the groups of Outsiders would travel with animals from very far-off rising sun places. It is possible that some came on great tuskers. But that really is part of another story. In this one a large hooded snake trapped and kept by these Outsiders had escaped. This snake was from a far away but its teeth fangs had been removed and it could not capture its own food. The snake met up with a weasel. The weasel thought the snake was going to kill him so offered the snake the mouse in his mouth. A friendship began.
Incredibly the snake with no teeth looked formidable and scary when it raised its hood. The weasel came up with a plan for scaring the Outsiders. With the help of one of the black grouse birds, Urugallo, with its strange cries and flapping wings, the weasel could create a monster. This bird could carry the snake and look like a frightening winged reptilian creature. The snake would display its hood and hiss and the bird would appear to fly and utter strange noises. This plan worked as Outsiders in the half- light could not see well and were deceived. They believed this was a dangerous monster and called it a basilisk.
Because of that monster many Outsiders began to travel on a track further down the mountainside away from the land of the basilisk.
Unfortunately for the weasel, an untrue tale was told to the Outsiders that weasels were the only animal able to kill this monster. It is still not known how this story was communicated and by which creature. Although wild ones would point at half wolf, half dog, a creature that was not known for reliable information. Outsiders seemed to thrive on unreliable sources and believed in the story that weasels were the only creatures that could kill a basilisk.
But it is possible that the source was a weasel showing off its intelligence but the plan backfired on the weasel families. When Outsiders found this out, weasels would be captured and kept by Outsiders. They would then be sent into places where it was thought there were basilisks. However, it was usually a poisonous snake, and an over confident and fearless weasel would try to kill the snake but did not usually survive the encounter.
The chamois put its head to the ground with horns almost touching Comadrito and warned:
Beware of your own Basilisk.
There was a long silent stare. Comadrito was trembling..
This tale seemed similar to the one told to Milvana by the vultures. That was about trying to frighten Outsiders with mixed-up fantastical beasts. This time the tale was directed at Comadrito. What did it all mean? Could Milvana and Comadrito frighten Outsiders together? But why? Their purpose was to learn from Outsiders, not to scare them. If anything, Comadrito and Milvana were more frightened by the Outsider world. All seemed confusing. Why had they been told these disturbing tales?
Up till now, Comadrito had been lucky when faced with danger. It was clear from the meeting in the Lair of Old Lobo that there would be more obstacles and dangerous times to overcome. Milvana seemed to have great courage and this helped Comadrito. He felt he was the nervous creature and didn’t want to face up to a basilisk or go near Outsiders. But he did want to find out if there were any more turtle doves. He still hoped to save the Navaselva dove.
Later in the morning when most were resting in the warmth of the sun’s rays, there was a lot of sound and movement up the mountain. All were rudely awakened by the arrival of a big brown bear that was becoming quite grey or even white. The bear had been rather slow waking after its winter-long hibernation and so had missed the first call of the wild ones. Old Lobo and the eagle were pleased to see his return. There were so few of these great bears in the wild around here and it was a struggle to survive and pass on strong genes for such a big creature.
The bear had a strange tale of watching a bright colourful bird being attacked by an eagle owl and a bumble bee falling from the rainbow wings. The bear had drifted back into its sleepy state but the cold of the morning and the distant call of Old Lobo had woken him again.
The eagle owl shuffled on its perch as the eyes of many at the meeting turned towards this bird of prey. Who could ever trust an eagle owl now? The eagle owl flashed angry eyes at the bear who, quickly for an old bear resumed his story.
Setting off in early grey morning light, the bear caught sight of the bumble bee and decided to help the bright coloured bird by delivering the bee back. Surely the bird needed this bee for food? The bear thought the bird seemed cold and hungry and was too tropical looking for a cold mountainside. But instead of eating this bee the rainbow-coloured bird seemed to cry out with a joyful tone. The bird seemed to regard the bee as a long-lost friend and not vital sustenance. Still, the bear had tried to help and then wandered off in a post-hibernation fuggy mind.
There was a lot of rumbling about this but it seemed to be a description of the bee-eater and a buff-tailed bumble bee. Comadrito and Milvana breathed relief that the bee-eater had not been eaten by the eagle owl. It had been seen by the bear not far from them all. And the bumble bee was still alive. The bear had watched the bird and its bee joining with some other birds to fly through the mountain passes and away from the cold heights.
Oso Pardo also heard from some of the cheeky rabbits whispering near him of a black kite and a weasel with a mission on behalf of the Many. He needed to ask a favour.
Could they, would they contact his cousins in the Pir Ron Neos? Urge them to come across the high mountain rocks to his land. More bears were needed here. Not enough bear cubs were being born. He was sure the bears of the greater rocks of the Pir Ron Neos would have many young ones ready to travel and join another group.
The great brown bear settled back on his large haunches and growled on and on about long ago. A group of bears set off to find the north. In their memories they had once lived there before the great cold time when rivers became frozen and ice flowed like rivers. This caused many bears to move away reluctantly to the south. But although bears lived well in the south for many years finally news came from the great white swans that the great cold had retreated. Some bears, wolves and other animals began to journey back.
The mountains of Cantabria had been for many years a safe and special place for the Many; a sanctuary. True there were still Outsiders that walked the lowland path but these seemed less dangerous now. Some Outsiders even walked alongside donkeys rather than weighing them down with their weight. Certainly the biggest problem was there was less forest than there had ever been. It was difficult for bears to have the territories they needed. Oso Pardo was getting too old. All the others here were mainly females who didn’t want to roam far. They needed more space and more variety of male bears.
Comadrito and Milvana agreed to help. They felt compelled to find some of the bears of the highest mountains and give them the message from the Cantabrian bear. They owed the bear for trying to help the bee-eater. After this they should also be able to continue north and catch up with that pesky bee eating bird.
Not long before they were to leave Old Lobo took Comadrito aside from all the others and deep into the cave. He wanted to speak mammal to mammal and warn of dangers ahead. It was good to be wary of Outsiders but wolves shared secret stories of looking after the young of Outsiders.Wolves knew the insides of the young Outsiders when they were helpless but could become an important part of a pack. They did not like being alone too. It was possible that Outsiders could live with wolves but the biggest problem was the fear of the wild that has grown within so many of them. You may be scared of the strangeness of Outsiders but remember they may be more frightened of you. They build up fear upon fear and then fight all they fear or hide away and forget how to live with the wild.
You can decide to keep away from Outsiders but they may know what is happening and this could help the Many to adapt and survive. And further north maybe there lies the lost forest where we all may need to go one day.
Old Lobo sighed a deep lonely wolf sigh. His partner wolf, La Loba, had not been seen for many moons. She would wander off searching for all the wolves that disappeared. She cried out when she did not hear the calls of her offspring in neighbouring valleys and she needed to search for their bones. Her howls hurt him deep inside when she found bones and she would bring them back in the hope of taking them with her to the lost forest where they might live again. For Old Lobo they were dead and would never come alive again. But listen out for La Loba when there is no hope left, just in case there is a way to the lost forest of the last living wild. She will be the one who knows the way. But beware, to enter the lost forest may mean never to return. Maybe learn where it is and bring back that knowledge.
His head lowered as he pondered the worse. Perhaps, La Loba did go inside to find her lost young. Perhaps that was why she did not return.
Comadrito returned to Milvana. She understood and was shivering. His insides felt heavy. There was so much loss in the wild world.
The task ahead seemed huge and he was only very small. He must take a message to the bears of the higher mountains, follow the bee-eater, find out more about the Outsiders. Were there more turtle doves? Where might La Loba be? He began to understand the fears about the lost forest. Was it possible La Loba had found the forest? But there were no stories, no howls, just a deadly silence of lost bones.
Comadrito longed to return to the peace of the valley of Navaselva but knew he must travel further north. He must face his basilisk whatever it might be.