Part 7: The Volcano
I squinted against the wind howling down the canyon and climbed toward the temple, shoes slipping on the volcanic rock.
Those stairs looked awfully steep, but I'd come too far to be defeated by laziness. Settling my backpack of precious cargo on my shouders, I set foot upon the smooth-worn steps.
I stepped backwards as soon as I passed through the door at the top of the temple, nearly plummeting to my death at the sight of the old man.
"You there, come closer," the old man said, his voice rough and cynical.
Cautiously, I edged forward until I was just outside the beam of light from the window. "You must be Alvarez..."
"That's PRESIDENT Alvarez to you, boy!" the old man hissed, spittle flying from his sagging lips. "Who the hell are you, you son of a whore? Why are you here?"
"I'm... I'm a journalist... Mister President."
"BULLSHIT!" Alvarez roared, barely managing to lift himself from his seat before collapsing in a coughing fit. It was then that I noticed the gun in his right hand, casually aimed in my direction. "You... American? What are you, CIA, Mercenary?"
"No, like I said, I'm a journalist. I live in Paris."
"You're a spy, or an assassin. Either way, you're not welcome here, Americano. Amerzone is not some filthy whore willing to spread her legs for any bastard country and its bombs. Amerzone is STRONG!"
"Please, you have to believe me. I am here, writing a story about the white birds."
For a moment, I thought the old man was choking. It took a moment before I realized he was heaving with laughter.
"The... white birds! White birds, he says! Do yourself a favour, boy - turn around and go back to your mother's tits. You'll find no white birds here."
I straightened up. "You're lying. Why else would you be here, of all places? You knew all along who I am and why I'm here. You know what I carry. What are you so afraid of, that some birds will take away all your power?"
Click to hear Alvarez gloat like a bond villain - highly recommended that you watch this one
And with that, the old man was still. Three men went to the Amerzone almost seventy years ago, and now, they were all dead.
I clenched and unclenched my fists a few times to try to stop them from shaking, and then cautiously approached Alvarez.
No pulse. The old man was gone for good. I reached over and snatched the medals from his shirt.
"You don't goddamn deserve these, you traitor."
I was blocked on all sides by sheer canyon walls, but there had to be some way to reach the volcano. I gave the wheel a spin and heard a deep grinding noise from outside.
The stairs were all off kilter, revealing a doorway below.
What's the worst that could happen, right?
The doorway led to a long room carved out of the cliff face. There was some kind of a glider on a raised platform - I guess there was the meaning behind the first image on that canvas back at Koryouko's village.
Generations of Ovovolaho youths had ridden these things to the volcano. It had to be safe!
Unfortunately, the glider didn't have enough speed to clear the ramp, and it rolled to an embarrassing halt just short of the door.
I was obviously missing something.
I decided to check out the old forge in the corner.
Simple enough. The crank raised an old ceramic crucible out of the volcanic heat.
As I placed Alvarez' medals into the crucible, I smiled at the thought that the old man would prove instrumental in bringing back the white birds.
I lowered the crucible back into the forge...
And soon enough, molten metal poured into the mould, forming a shiney new key!
I waited for the metal to cool, and quickly pocketed my prize.
Just past the forge, I saw a series of switches in an alcove.
Sure enough, the key fit in the oddly-shaped slot.
Turning the key inclined the series of switches. When they were all lined up, a thunderous grinding noise echoed through the chamber.
Why not give the glider another try?
Click to WHEEEEEEEE!
Well, no going back now. I dusted myself off and breathed a sigh of relief at seeing the egg still intact in my backpack.
The heat was intense and smelled of... well it smelled like a volcano. And I was well and truly stuck.
"Well, egg... here we are. Now what do we do?"
I decided to consult the journal.
I guess not all the birds I saw were vultures - apparently the Amerzone was home to an evolutionary offshoot of the white birds.
18 June 1933
Here I am finally, after several months of adventure, at the end of my journey.
Until now, I have seen only those confounded little black birds. And I have been able to observe that they lay eggs that are similar in every respect to the one I saw in the Ovovolaho village.
These birds are very prolific: I have counted up to ten birds hatching from the same egg. On the other hand, their existence is precarious: they fly badly, and generally display a salient degeneration, which would seem to confirm the expertise of the Ovovolaho priests in embryonic surgery."
"Oh, I see! The eggs still hatch regardless as long as they're near the volcano, but it takes the Ovovolaho ritual to hatch the egg into the white birds. Interesting, wouldn't you say, egg?"
I saw them this morning... They were there, right before me... They glided over the crater for a long while, and then, imperceptibly, with the heat of the day, they flew higher until they weren't, around noon, but a speck in the sky.
That was the last page. Valembois had no more to tell me, and certainly no more about what to do here in the volcano. I picked up the egg and took a look around.
I had to be careful. One false step and my journey would come to an abrupt and painful end.
How odd... I found an iron sculpture of a bird on a long handle. I took it with me for further study.
Opposite the caldera from where my glider had crashed, I found a cave entrance. The heat inside was even more intense, reflecting from the smooth walls and domed roof.
I decided to leave my backpack outside - it would be tragic to have the journal and letters go up in smoke.
Gingerly I stepped across the narrow walkway to the plinth. There was a hollow just large enough to fit the egg, but, for some reason, I was still carrying around the heavy metal stand. No worries.
I placed the egg on the altar and stepped back.
The stone in the front of the plinth began to glow brightly. This must be an incubation chamber for the egg!
My precious cargo started to wiggle slightly, as though the birds inside were awakening.
Carefully, I carried the egg to a stone platform extending over the lava. The egg shook wildly, as though the birds were struggling to break free of the thick shell.
Gingerly, I tapped the top of the egg with the iron bird.
Deep cracks ran across the surface of the egg.
Click to watch the ending!
Finally, after sixty years, the White Birds were home.