Day 1 of the Hike: The Black Plant
As soon as Elle landed on the ground, she saw the ensuing battle. She saw Samel, Ave, and Roberto fending off an unlimited number of vines from the black plant which are attacking them viciously. She then saw Chris and Primo.
"Elle, I can't burn the vines, it's corrupted by a dark force. But I'm here to help Ave, I'm her source of light and I'm watching over Chris too", Primo said.
"Chris!" Elle called out seeing the wounded girl sitting with her back against one of the huge rocks inside the pit.
"I'm fine, I was able to deflect most of the vines but one and I think it has already infected my arms and my left foot. The least I could do was tie my arm and leg with a rope from Ave in the hopes that I can stop it from spreading but I'm not sure Elle. I'm scared, never been scared like this. The pain, I can handle it but the thought about what's going to happen to me, it's killing me slowly." Chris sobbed, finally letting her fear out of the walls.
"Chris I can help, I ..." Elle choked on her words. She came closer to Chris and hugged her then waited, for her shadow to cover her and devour the black vines which had entered Chris' system, she waited but nothing happened. "C'mon, do what you're doing. Do what you have done before," Elle whispered to herself with Chris looking confused. "This shadow power of mine, it helped the engkantos, devour the black vines remnants, it should do the same to you. But it's doing nothing Chris, I..." Elle can't finish what she's about to say.
"Look out!" They then hear Samel's shout.
Elle turned her head to the direction of the voice and seen that the black plant's vines shifted their attacks and now all of them are aimed towards her. She watched in slow motion as the black vines speed up towards her direction, Roberto and Samel, running as fast as they could, and Ave, pulling with her ropes on some vines but not all.
Elle then felt it, that pleasant feeling again. Her shadow expanded and rose to meet the vines which are just a meter away now. Her shadow expanded everywhere, like a black cave with its mouth proceeding to devour the incoming black vines. As soon as the black vines touched her shadow, they merged into one and she felt the pull, the pull of her shadow against the last remaining vine. The black plant's stalks bend and soon with all the vines pulling it wriggle base, the plant snapped into two. All the vines retreated to where Elle's huge shadow was until everything's gone. Then Elle's shadow retreated back to her with such a force that she was not able to handle it and she fell on the ground. She felt the protest of the vines, within her and she was unable to move for a couple of seconds and then silence. She can no longer feel the vines.
"Elle, Elle, are you okay?" It was Samel bringing her back to her senses. Ave ran towards where Chris is while Roberto went beside the shaking Elle and hugged her. Samel watched painfully, she would very much want to hug Elle but he knows he can't and he's thankful that Roberto did it, the girl badly needed comfort. Several minutes had passed when Elle pulled out from Roberto's embrace and look at Samel.
"The black plant, it's all gone now. You did it Elle, your shadow consumed it. It should be you then, who can repel them. Without you, we stood no chance against it, we can do nothing about it but run", Samel said.
"It's acting on its own Sam but the weird part is my shadow did not take the black vines out of Chris as it did on the engkantos" Elle replied. "But let's think about this later, for now, we need to bring Chris to the Engkantos and let them heal her wounds".
"I'll take her." Roberto said, He then opened up his wings and proceeded to get Chris then flew out of the pit towards the waiting engkantos. Ave created a ladder rope which was then used by the rest to climb out of the pit. Once the group exited the hole, they saw Mitrani healing Chris, the open wound on her palm was gone, her left foot looked fine even the hole on her shoe was repaired. The wound on her shoulder from the Ibong Adarna was healed too, much to everyone's relief.
"She still has that black vine inside of her but I did my best to create a barrier on her arm and leg to prevent it from spreading. We're lucky that it did not reach her brains. She acted fast to her advantage by tying that rope on her arm and leg." Said Mitrani. His attention then shifted towards Primo. "I see that you have a Santelmo, a lively one too. Still young but powerful. He can guide all of you outside this place"
"My creator is Samel, as expected of the son of Abba." Primo said, hovering merrily beside Ave whom it has developed a fondness for.
Suddenly, the little peace they have after the battle was interrupted as the ground shook. The trees above them swayed as if there's a passing storm.
"It's Lavealle", Mitrani said alarmed. "You have to leave now! We will stop her for as long as we can. That's the most that we can do for you. Please take the fairies and the white duwendes with you. They too have to leave this place. I hope you could have stayed longer and we could thank you in a better manner. " Mitrani said with regret in his voice. All of the engkantos then bowed and waved at them gratefully as they move to face their incoming chief.
Everyone soon followed Primo with Samel, Roberto, and Basti stayed at the rear of the line. Soon, fairies and white duwendes joined them with their shackles removed by Primo.
"Basti, when we leave this place, I think you'll go back to your own divine space. But if ever you encounter a black plant along the way, just stay away from it. Elle certainly can devour it but the rest of us, we have no chance against it, we can only run." Samel said.
"I agree with you Samel and thank you for giving us the courage to fight. We were scared, Ave and I, seeing the Ibong Adarna, with blood dripping out of our ears after it's the first song. But now, we have to fight for sure, for survival and now to help those we can like we did on those engkantos. It's not just us that are being targeted by Sitan but he's also after the other mythical creatures."
"We don't know what he's up to yet but for now yes, let's survive this. We have powers and we'll use it." Samel said.
Soon they reached the exit, the fairies and white duwendes said their goodbye and thank them for saving them, next were the black duwendes lead by Pingala, they all bowed.
"Your challenge by the bridge, we decided not to have you go through with it, you have enough challenges today. It was nice meeting all of you, children of gods and goddesses. You all bore the goodness of the creators and guardians of the archipelago." Pingala said.
"We could not have escaped without your help. We are in debt to you and we'll never forget this", Samel answered. With that, the black duwendes were gone.
Next was Chris who looked well after she's been healed, Ave who's also smiling, and Basti who looked more determined than ever.
"So glad that you're here guys. Thank you for helping us." Chris said. "Without you, who knows what could have happened to us".
"In the end, all of us did our best and finally we will be back to the trail. Take enough rest and food then continue with the hike, we'll see you on the Marlboro hills, at the campsite where our divine spaces converge." Elle said.
"Take care you all okay." Samel and Roberto said in chorus.
"Same to you three, see you all". The other three answered. And with that, they exited the place. Then it was Samel, Elle, and Roberto's turn. As soon as they're back at the Edith River, they saw their water bottles beside the river. Each of them picked up their respective bottles and continued with the refill.
"Do you think they'll be safe?" Roberto asked as they hiked back to the resting place where their backpacks were waiting.
"They had to be, we can just hope that they'll be safe just as how we will try to be safe too. But, I'm worried about Chris, she still has that black vine within her. And hopefully, the engkantos are able to subdue their chief" Samel answered. "I wonder why they did not Elle to help their chief."
"I wonder too. Mitrani just sad she's way too powerful for us to handle but c'mon Elle's shadow handled the black vines." said Roberto.
"There's something that they're not telling us," said Sam. "But I guess we did what we can even when we don't understand what's happening," Sam said. "And I hope the barrier created by Mitrani on Chris's arm and leg lasts until we reach the exit of the mountain. By then we can ask from the Tala or Apolaki to help her.
"Guys look at the time, it's crazy, an hour has just passed by I feel like we have spent two days within the engkanto's realm." Elle suddenly interrupted.
"I feel like I'll go crazy anytime soon but hey promise me you both won't leave me alone if that happens," Roberto answered.
"I feel like you'll leave us first if you go crazy. I mean you have wings and for sure your crazy side would want to enjoy that flying feeling more", Samel answered with a laugh.
They soon reached the resting place and prepared their backpacks. After thirty minutes, they were back on track, crossing the steel bridge, taking a last look at the river, and then proceeding to hike the waiting steep slope towards the campsite.