'Those things that nature denied to human sight, she revealed to the eyes of the soul.'
- Publius Ovidius Naso: Roman poet -
Extract from Chapter 6. Midnight Meeting:
When the day’s events had been told the elders debate until the early hours of morning. Finally, it was decided that their duty is to heal the eagle as they are honour bound by history. They also stressed the need to keep it a tightly guarded secret because of the possible threat from the valleys inhabitants.
Once the search party had deposited their equipment and made their way back to their own wagons, Paco asked the remaining onlookers to disperse while the elders were to hold their discussion. There were a few grumbles and some half hearted protests by a few people who would have liked to hear what was being said, but on the whole, most of the Gypsies were glad to retire before another day of gruelling labour.
It was not long after the search party had disappeared that Habby joined the group of twelve Elders already seated on wooden stools, forming a semi circle around the fire. They exchanged quick greeting, then wasted no time in convening their meeting. Habby, seeing Pierre and Bellina standing away from the group, nodded in greeting and officially invited them to join the group, take a seat and listen to the proceedings.
Paco, as senior Elder declared the meeting officially open and politely asked if anyone had any objections to the meeting, besides a few glances cast at the two guests, no one raised a hand or said anything. Paco, scanning the assembly before him, nodded gravely, and declared the meeting open. Satisfied that everyone was attentive, he looked to his friend Habby.
“Habby”, he said, “I do not need to ask you why you have called this meeting, the events of this day speak for themselves. As the guardians of our people, we have gathered to hear the facts and hopefully, with the added advice of our two guests,” here Paco glanced at Pierre and Bellina, before continuing, “we may find an answer to the many questions that this day has brought us. I would like you to tell us Habby, in your own words, what happened out in Herrera's field this morning, why you think this has a bearing on the other events and lastly, why you have called this meeting.” Paco looked once more to Habby, gestured to the space at centre of the gathered semi circle of people then returned to his seat.
Habby stood, looked at his fellow Elders and friends and without any further delay, he reencountered the events of the morning with Herrera. He did not embellish or glorify his actions; he simply stated what occurred and his response. He also related his journey back to the camp, including the visit to the Bodega and the conversation he had overheard between the two old men. He finished with his subsequent return to the camp and his meeting with Paco.
Again Paco rose and made his way to stand next to Habby.
“Many of you knew of what happened between Herrera and Habby and most of you were in the camp this afternoon when the eagle flew over”.
This statement was greeted by nods and a small murmuring by the Elders. Paco waited for the voices to quieten before continuing.
“Myself and Habby both heard and saw the eagle flying over the camp earlier, and from what Habby heard in the tavern earlier, it could well be that it was the same bird Habby saved from Herrera earlier in the day. Shortly after the visit by the eagle, we find Mañana has not returned from a simple task of collecting herbs.”
Here Paco paused, looking again to the now silent audience in front of him.
“When she is found,” he continued in a more sombre tone, “she has been found tending one of these creatures. I do not think the events of this day are mere coincidence, some strange forces are at work here, and the purpose of this gathering is to find out what they are, and see if we can work out a solution to them.”
Once again Paco paused in his speech, this time looking towards Pierre and Bellina who were seated, but still a respectful distance from the main body of Elders. He raised this hand and indicated to the two guests to come and join him in the centre.
When they were standing alongside him, Paco continued. “Some of the matters we will touch on may be beyond our understanding, and for this reason, Habby and I decided it would be better if both Pierre and Bellina were to attend this hearing and hear our discussions.” Looking around the assembled gathering, Paco concluded his address to his audience by asking, “Does anyone had any objections to the guests being there?”
This question was met by silence. No one from the assembled group raised a word. Neither Habby nor Paco were surprised by the acceptance of the other Elders to what could only be seen as a break from tradition. These were all intelligent people, it would not have taken them long too realise that there was trouble in the wind and why these two particular guests should attend this meeting.