Day 1: Night at the Foggy Hills
"At last here you are! We thought something bad had happened to you three. But Chris told us about your adventures in the world of engkanto and I refused to believe that after all the ordeals we've been through, you won't reach the campsite not unless Sam and Elle accidentally collided and knocked you all unconscious," It was Ricka. She looked exhausted but had already changed to more comfortable clothes against the cold, she's wearing a pink puffer jacket matched with black thermal pants.
"Well we almost would not reach this place with those crazy tikbalangs. Anyway, Did you know that I traveled to another world with the Ibong Adarna and came back to this world unscathed," Roberto eagerly replied, he just can't wait to share his story.
"Well, talk to Karl about that, he befriended the bird and was given a feather which later on he'll find useful according to that bird," Jen replied.
"Hold on, before this continues, look at these three, they need to rest for a bit then set up their tent. We can retell our stories during dinnertime at seven, what do you think. " It was Karl. Looking at the disheveled hair of Sam and worn our faces of Roberto and Elle, he knew that they need to be left alone for a couple of minutes just to recharge.
"Seven sounds good," Sam answered. While the rest of the group nodded. "I'm glad we all make it here. It was never easy, wasn't it?" The serious faces around him were more than an answer.
"C'mon Sam, Roberto, Elle, I'll show you your camping spot where you can also take the necessary rest. And good news, there's a comfort room just behind that ranger station and running water you can use to clean up. See you at seven, I'm dying to hear your stories." Chris pointed at the small hut. She looked fine like she had not gone through the ordeal with the black plant alone. The three of them then followed her to a space near a huge pine tree where the other tents have been pitched. The area is overlooking a downhill covered by shrubberies and rows of pine trees and at a distance to the right was a silhouette of the edge of another mountain then the rest of the view is covered by a thick fog.
"Wow", Roberto said as he stretched his tired limbs. Then, like Elle and Samel, he also started unpacking his things and took out his tent. "I can't believe that we made it here. Do you think I can take a quick nap? ". He continued as he yawned.
"Go ahead and take that well-deserved nap, we all did when we arrived here. I'll wake you up later. " Chris answered.
Soon, the three were able to pitch their tents and after washing their tired faces, decided to sleep while the others huddled in the ranger station talking about their adventures.
It was dark when Samel opened his eyes. He exited his black tent and noticed the fairy lights around Ricka's tent. At a distance o the little hut which served as a ranger station, there's a white light coming from a small lamp. He checked his watch and it was still six. He decided to join the rest of the group and noticed Ave running towards him.
"Hey, I know this will be selfish of me but can you awaken your power and let them see Primo? I kind of talked to the rest about it and they're excited to see it like me". Ave said as she walked beside Samel.
"Uhmm sure, are Elle and Roberto up yet?" Samel asked.
"Nope, they're still at their tents," Ave said.
Samel then activated his power and soon enough Primo popped up.
"You made it out of the tikbalangs! I'm so proud of you", Primo said, hovering on top of Samel's head. His red and yellow light was full of vibrance against the night.
"Yup turned out I was able to tame the leader of those three tikbalangs," Samel said.
"Happy to see familiar faces here, Ave, glad your group safely made it here", Primo said. Ave looked pleased and soon they reach the others who were awed by Primo.
"Man, you have a pet like in those online games, can he be upgraded to a bigger ball of fire?" Karl asked.
"Asked Samel how he was able to conjure the little guy. I say guy because of the voice but hey Primo tell me if I'm wrong." Basti said as he laughed.
"Guy, girl, doesn't matter. " Primo answered coyly.
Everyone laughed as Samel retold how he coughed up the little ball of fire who surprisingly can speak and freed them from the engkantos. Ricka, Karl, and Jen showed their dismay knowing that if they have not escaped they could have joined the adventure.
"It's okay Ricka, we really didn't know what could have happened. And it's really super cool seeing you use your rifle." Jen said.
"Not as cool as fighting engkantos, " Ricka answered with regret they missed the adventure because she drove that one engkanto away. "But we did pass by the bridge and faced the dark duwendes. We'll tell the full story by dinnertime and we hope to hear the full story too of what happened with your adventures." She said.
The fog soon settled all over the place and they found the cold seeping into their bones. Soon, Roberto emerged from his tent, and by seven Elle, who was last to wake up completed the group as each from their trio called out to the diwatas who brought their food. Under the roof of the small hut, they all sat on the dry ground and placed the food in the middle. There was the hot soup which was a relief to all of them, with rice, fish, pork, and strawberries for fruit. They all ate heartily, happy with the little triumphs they have for the day.
" So the black duwendes they said that they will only let two of us pass and only two no matter what happens. So we have to decide among us who will cross the bridge." Ricka started. "Of course at that time we already activated our power and there was a river so we think we have Karl, he can summon water so we're at advantage. Then they added that whoever will stay will get a bag of jewels and gold but then will have to serve them for a year. I bet Karl was considering it, right Karl?"
"Well it was money and my family needs it most so it was tempting. But then I decided not to take the offer, it was just too good to be true, and aside from the one year stay for slavery that they're offering I know there will be a catch. Plus, they're black duwendes, not white ones." Karl answered. "Anyway, we tried to fight them, I was ready with my spear and Ricka with her rifle, Jen was quite hesitant to use her power because of what happened in the past, afraid to summon those black seeds so she stayed at the back. I'm not really sure that I'd want to hurt them, they're short and old but I throw my spear still, they won't let us pass anyway. The weird thing they wouldn't even budge at the foot of the bridge they just stood there and let me throw the spear. I hit one of them at his belly and the moment I do so..." Karl paused.
"I felt the pain." Jen continued. " The searing pain in my belly. So I screamed so loud startling Ricka and Karl of course. Then they saw me clutching at my belly, there was no blood but it was really painful. The duwendes with their small voices laughed so hard, enjoying what's happening. Then Ricka tried to shoot one of them, and still the same thing, they didn't budge and one of them was again hit then Ricka issued a command just to test." Jen said.
"Yeah, I said jump and it was Karl who jumped, the worst thing was it wasn't just a normal jump, he jumped so high we couldn't see him. Then when he landed, the ground shook with the force and his feet created a hole on the hard clay ground up to his knees." Ricka said. Everyone laughed. "Yeah it was funny now that I think of it but I guess the dilemma made us miss how funny he looked like at that time". She continued then joining the others as they laugh, imagining Karl stuck to the ground.
After a couple of minutes, it was Basti who asked what happened next.
"So while all of it is happening, Jen tried to use her powers, no matter how scared she was," Ricka said.
"Well I just think that I can't that be too unlucky to summon a black seed again", Jen answered with a smile. "But yeah, this time I summoned a dagger made of ruby. Its hilt was made of silver but the blade is this red, sparkling ruby which caught the attention of the duwendes of course. By the time I summon it though, Ricka had already an idea what we have to do which helped us cross the bridge." Jen continued as the others eagerly wait for what happened next.