CHAPTER TWELVE

Kota Kinabalu, Borneo

Many Years Ago …

Heavy Rainfall pounded the city of Kota Kinabalu just on the northernmost point of the island of Borneo. However, it made no difference as she walked into the bar drenched from head to toe. Her bright blue cerulean feathers reflected the light, making her sparkle like diamonds. Her bright sapphire eyes glared out at the large group of birds, insects, and other rabble of common, everyday, run-of-the-mill, filthy animals which she despised with all her heart. Her beak curled as she seated herself near the bar and raised a wing for the bartender to head over.

"Good evening, beautiful," he smiled, peering at her feminine features. "What can I get you?"

Jewel rolled her eyes, dropping her beak out of sheer disgust. Her voice rang out, hinting her desire to simply do business then get as far away from him as possible.

"I want good, clean, fresh water, not some tap water, not something you think is clean from the river, not rainwater. I want it pure. Got it?"

The bartender nodded. "Right, I'll be back."

The bartender, who was a white-necked babbler with brown body feathers, blackhead, and white neck, hurried off to complete her order. Before long, he brought back a small glass containing the clear liquid.

Jewel sipped the water, swishing it around her mouth as she studied the flavor for a moment. It held a sort of chemically bitter taste that she could not identify. The babbler waited by her side, grinning as he watched her finish the glass. Jewel arched a curious eye in his direction.

"What are you looking at?" she asked, slamming a wing down upon the bar. "Get back to your business and quit staring at me."

"Normally I would," the babbler admitted, "but turns out that bird over there has ordered you a drink."

Jewel followed the bartender's wing towards a blue macaw sitting at the far side of the room. He looked like her, with pure cerulean feathers and bright green eyes. He smiled as he noticed her before quickly peering away.

"Just great, another pig." Jewel sighed, rolling her eyes. "Well, I suppose I should at least thank him for the drink."

Getting up from her seat, Jewel walked over to him and sat down at his table.

"Well, good evening, beautiful," he said in a thick Russian accent.

"I heard you ordered me a drink. You're presumptuous, aren't you? What makes you think I'm even the slightest bit interested in someone like you?"

The bright blue macaw bowed his head, closing his eyes. "Surely, there is no harm in exchanging drinks between friends. I took notice of what you ordered and did you the liberty of ordering another."

Jewel nodded, watching the bartender walking over and placing a small cup in front of her. "But what do you want? What will this cost me?"

"Nothing. It's just good to see another one of my own species. There's few of us left, especially here in Borneo."

"There's not much of us anywhere," Jewel said, taking a drink from her glass.

The Spix's Macaw folded his wings together, his eyes narrowed. "Perhaps there is one way you could repay me," he admitted. "A little bit of information is all I require. You're Brazilian, aren't you?"

Jewel nodded. "Yes, I am. What about it?"

The Spix's macaw grinned, "I can tell right away from the way you handle yourself, the way you carry your feminine features. Even your beauty is top-notch."

Jewel's eyes hardened. "You don't have the right to talk about my feminine features." She growled, tossing her cup at him. "It's been nice, but no thanks, I'm not buying what you're selling, thanks for the drink."

The bird nodded, rising onto his talons. "You don't walk away from me." He said, pointing an accusing wing at her.

"Grab her!"

Before Jewel could make a move, a large variety of different birds descended upon her. Unleashing her talons, she dove forward, striking a vicious blow right to the gut of a large Bornean Bristlehead. He hadn't stood a chance. He gasped as the wind knocked from his beak and he fell to the ground. She peered back, eyeing the babble from the bar swinging a large stick to subdue her. She dodged, swinging her wing right into the backside of his skull. Her eyes glistened as she forced a confident smile. Once again, she proved she held no equal.

"Well, who is next?" She asked.

Before she could make another move, her heart lurched forward, draining her energy. The room spun. The bright spotlights became blurry, filling her eyes with nothing but blurry beams of different colors. She couldn't make out anything else except for her head swimming and spinning.

"What… what's happening?" she asked.

"Just relax," The Spix's Macaw grinned. "Let the drugs take hold. You won't remember a thing."

Jewel would have made a move to defend herself, but she fell to the ground, slamming her skull against the ground.

The next thing she knew, she woke up within a cold gray chamber. The Spix's Macaw stood over her, holding a wicked grin across his beak. She couldn't move, her wings and talons wouldn't cooperate. He leaned down, planting a kiss on her neck, and stroked his wings across her chest. His voice rang out through her ears, completely distorted and deep.

"Let me go," she pleaded, "Don't touch me."

"No," the Spix's Macaw's grin widened. "You're mine, you'll always be mine, we are mates."

"No," Jewel squawked and screeched, trying hard to fight back. Her wings and talons remained in place, frozen and completely paralyzed. "I am not your mate. I won't be your mate. Not if you were the last guy on the planet."

"I'm afraid you don't have a choice," the macaw grinned. "The deed has already been done. You didn't think your compliance was a factor, did you?"

Jewel's eyes widened in horror as she peered down at her own body. Her wings trembled as she fought the urge to cry.

"You… You… didn't?" her beak curled as she struggled to keep calm.

"I did…" Jollo grinned, "And I enjoyed every second."

With no warning, Jewel leaped forward, striking her wing directly into the Spix's Macaw's face. He stumbled back a few paces, wiping the blood from his face with a single wing. His eyes burned bright as he fought back, knocking Jewel down to the ground with the power of his own wing. His eyes darkened as he became consumed by his rage. His talon grabbed her by the throat, strangling the life from her.

"You stupid, idiotic, female!" he growled. "I'll show you how I fight. I'll show you how you'll die!"

Jewel reached her wing across the room, reaching for whatever she could use as a weapon. Once her wing reached something solid, she swung.

The Spix's Macaw stumbled back as he felt the blow straight across his face. The shards of glass from a broken bottle pierced his skin, drawing blood, separating tissue, and damaging muscles. He fell back, placing a wing upon the damaged half of his face. The blood flooded through his feathers, staining his bright cerulean feathers a blood red. He could not even fight back as he stared, too stunned to move.

Jewel attempted to run but found herself stopped as he grabbed hold of her talon. She peered back as the macaw grabbed hold of her once more.

"No… you're not going anywhere!" he growled, "You're mine… do you understand… you're mine…."

Jewel struggled to free herself from his grip, but he was still too strong for her. She couldn't fight him off. Her wings scrambled across the floor as he pulled her closer to him. Her feathers bristled as she felt his warm breath coursing down her neck. "Then prove it," Jewel snapped finally, "If your mind than prove it, do something that no one else can."

The macaw laughed, raising his damaged body from the ground.

"A contest, eh?" he grinned. "What do you have in mind?"

Jewel held a wing to her beak for a moment, thinking of what she could do to be rid of the macaw. In that small amount of time, she would flee Borneo, never to return. Her eyes shimmered with the thought of being rid of this retched land.

"I have heard the native birds of this land talk about an orchid which blooms every fifteen years. Find the blood orchid and bring it to me. Then and only then will I accept you as a mate, agreed?"

The macaw's eyes narrowed. Despite the pain of the blood surging through his left eye, he still formed a wicked smile.

"Agreed!"


Jollo lowered the hood around his face. His beak curled as he fought against his anger.

"And that is exactly what I did… I scoured the entire country of Borneo. I risked my life and drove myself deeper into the jungle. Then came the day where I found the orchid and held it within my wings. I didn't realize the power I possessed; however, I was soon about to learn the horrible truth and my life would change forever."


The moonlight peered down in pale beams of light through the jungle canopy as the Spix macaw first made eye contact with the orchid. Its potent red petals glistened as it danced and swayed in the soft tropical breeze, catching his eye and his full attention. A cruel, greedy smile passed his beak as he reached out to touch the delicate flower which rested on top of a small ledge over top of a swift-moving river.

"At last," he grinned, chuckling to himself, "I've finally found you. At long last, I have actually found you."

In that moment, images of the future flashed through his mind. He would bring the flower back to Jewel, he would be her mate, and the Spix macaws would be safe at last. Without thinking, he grabbed hold of the flower, watching the blood-red liquid seep from the petals and stained his wings a bright red. At that moment, the sweetest smell of honey erupted through his nostrils, forcing him to back away.

"Yes," he chuckled, "I have you, I have you!"

As he turned back, he felt the sharp stinging thorns pierce his body. He had been so distracted by the flower. He had failed to see the sharp thorns which protected it. As he turned away, they tore into his flesh. All he could feel was the sharp stabbing pain of the poison as it coursed through his veins, popping blood vessels, destroying the interior of his internal organs, and the burning, destructive sensation of his body slowly shutting down. His vision clouded over as he fell sideways, off the ledge, and into the icy river below. The vast greenery of the jungle became nothing more than a vicious blur as his head submerged below the waves. Then everything he knew faded into darkness.

Then he heard her voice.

"What do we have here, eh?"

The Spix's Macaw's eyes widened in horror as he found himself washed along a small shoreline nestled among a pile of dead reeds and straw-like grass. His body trembled as he recalled the last couple of moments of his life. His wings surged with the same sharp pain which had caused him to plummet into the water, which now had brought him to this moment. His eyes narrowed as he peered up at two robed figures, both of whom kept their hoods over their faces, concealing their identities from him. He could see that they were birds, but as to the size or species, he could not even guess. Their black beaks curled as a cruel smile passed between the pair. He closed his eyes and lowered his head.

"W-Who are you?" he asked. "Why are you here?"

The female voice rang through his ears once more. "I am a friend. One who is searching for a creature I could not find. The Dark Robed Sage. You, however, are nothing, and yet I can see something within you, but to achieve it, you must give up your life to achieve your goals. Do you agree?"

Jollo nodded.

"Good," the female cackled. "Then we grant you the mark that matches your soul, accept it now."

The male bird bent down and, with a sharp stick and sticky red sap, carved a few lines along the course of his wing. The Spix's Macaw cringed as the lines surged and burn as they worked their way along the feather column and blood feathers rearranging into the shape of an orchid. Once it had finished, the orchid mark glowed a bright purple. The two robed birds let their smiles widen as their eyes burned down upon him. The female's voice rang out one last time.

"Welcome to the Dark Robed Society, Jollo," she cackled. "You may not know it yet, but we have just saved your life."


Jollo glanced down at the mark on his wing. The orchid continued to glow with a bright purple light which almost seemed to envelop him in its aura. He took a step forward, watching the light grow brighter the closer he got to his target, the beautiful Jewel. The female stood before him, horrified by his story. Her eyes filled to the brim with tears.

"You… you are that evil Spix's macaw?" she gasped. "You're the one who violated me? You're that Spix's Macaw who made me break the promise to my mother that I would never let a man just have that side of me and that he would have to earn it? It's been you the whole time? No… it can't be!"

Jollo spread his wings wide apart. His green hood shifted along his face as his beak curled into a vicious smile. He could feel his heart skip a beat as he watched her pain grow a little more with each passing second. He longed to make her suffer. He peered down at the lifeless form of her husband and forced a smile. Now she would be his, and she would suffer a little more every day as she remembered she could not save him.

"Believe it, Jewel," he cackled. "You and I are meant to be. You were the one who came over to me that day, not the other way around. I would never have been able to lie my wings upon you had you chosen to ignore my advances, but you didn't. However, you are very wrong about what happened that night… you were the one who started it, drugged from a little prick of poison I had left from the orchid. It infected your mind, brought out your deepest desire, and you fell right into my wings. You wanted me as much as I wanted you. Taking away your promise was my pleasure, but you were the one who broke it, not me, and you know what? I would gladly do it again if I could."

The cruelty in the macaw's voice forced Jewel to snap. She charged forward, striking Jollo straight in the face with her wing. The robed macaw, however, remained unphased by her assault. His smile only deepened as he continued to speak.

"It wasn't long after I joined the Dark Robed Society, a group of murderers who wore the marks of their souls upon their limbs, that I discovered I had a real good talent for mixing and concocting different poisons and I used them all to kill thousands of different animals. Birds, snakes, capybaras, sloths, they all fell before my powerful toxins and I enjoyed every single second of it… however… one thing remained, and that was to find my way back to you and bring you the orchid… and now here we are, standing before the very flower you asked me to bring to you. I've been a very patient bird, and you have a promise to keep. We're mates, Jewel, just like we were always meant to be."

Jewel backed away a few paces. Her wing drew to her stomach as she felt the firm roundness of her eggs. "You're sick! What makes you think I would be the mate of someone so evil, even for a single second? I could never love someone who would willingly and without mercy kill another living creature. However, you're nothing but pure evil. Should someone hurt you, I would gladly make the exception… the same goes for the rest of your group of evil robed weirdoes."

Jollo nodded his head and took a step forward. "Jollo knows, he always knows…" he cackled. "When the flower bloomed again, I came looking for you… I never expected you to be married and to have children." He admitted, shifting his attention towards Blu, who lay unmoving. "However, that problem was easily rectifiable, especially when you work alongside his mortal enemy. One who wanted revenge against him… yes… Jewel… it was I who sent Nigel upon Blu's path and he did his part perfectly, he injured him enough that I could send him to find the flower and then he met his death at the hands of the power that could heal him. Jollo is a great mastermind… Jollo is a great mate… he looked out for our future together… like it always should have been… now you'll love me, and I'll love you and we'll forget any of this happened."

Jollo proceeded forward, backing Jewel into the corner. Her feathers brushed against the thorny bush. Her eyes widened in fear. Now she could not run any further. She could not escape from her pursuer. She was trapped.

"Please don't," she pleaded. "Please don't touch me."

The macaw's smile widened; his eyes glistened as he slipped deeper into his insanity. The mark continued to glow casting its reflection deep within his eyes. "Jollo's plan was flawless." He grinned, raising his wings to touch Jewel's face. "Jollo has made no mistakes."

"UNTIL NOW!" Blu shouted, raising to his talons. With a single speedy movement and a little sleight of hand, he jammed one of the poisonous thorns right into Jollo's gut. The macaw stumbled back, peering down at the deadly shaft lodged into his stomach. He could not believe what had happened, nor who it had happened by. His wings trembled as they fell to the thorn, which now filled him with the poison of the Papapishu bush. Blu spread his now fully healed wing. The medical property of the orchid had done exactly what Jollo had promised, a sight which caused the evil macaw to back away.

"But how…?" he asked. His beak trembled as he glared at the male macaw. His courage quickly deserted him as he filled with the burning sensation of the poison. "You got hit with a thorn… you should have taken a huge dose of the poison… this isn't possible… you should be dead, Blu!"

Blu cocked his head to one side and straightened out his neck. He shuffled his feathers and flapped his wings. "I have been a pet for fifteen years," he explained, "reality check, life in a birdcage can be pretty miserable if you do not learn how to adapt to not jabbing yourself with sharp objects. Those thorns, they're no more dangerous than those hooks that once held my water bottle."

"But you collapsed!" Jollo growled. "I saw you stop breathing! I watched you die!"

"Yeah, you are right," Blu shrugged and winked at Jewel. "I learned how to play dead from the master. She taught me how to perfect the art the day we met."

"Well, now you're dead," Jollo growled, raising his wings to face off against Blu. "And this time, I'll make sure you're dead when I rip your head off." Jollo did not waste another second, plucking a small jar at his waste, he shot the lid and unleashed a deadly poisonous gas straight at his opponent, the blue macaw who kept him from the woman of his dreams. Jollo's eyes darkened as he watched the smoke envelop the macaw. Once that had been completed, he charged forward, slamming his shoulder straight into his opponent's ribcage, knocking him back and onto the ground. At that moment, Jollo reacted, raising his talons and gripping Blu by the throat. "You should have let Jewel come with me, Blu…" Jollo growled, "But you're just a stupid flightless bird! Your stubbornness will cost you your life."

While Jollo was preoccupied with crushing Blu's throat. Blu reached for a small thorn. Careful not to jab himself with it, he gripped it and in a single speedy movement and sleight of hand; he jammed it into the green-robed Spix's Macaw's wing. The second dose of poison coursed through Jollo's body.

"Wrong!" Blu laughed, "Because of you I can fly again."

With those last words, Blu kicked his talons up, throwing Jollo backwards. He stumbled at the edge and fell backwards, tumbling over the ledge.

"It's not done yet," Blu admitted, running to the ledge. He peered down to see Jollo grabbing hold of his only salvation with a single wing, which slid back a little more with each passing second.

"Surrender or fall!" Blu growled, "I don't want to hurt you."

Jollo shook his head and let himself pass a peaceful smile. His wing slipped as he fought to climb up. "You won't beat me, Blu," he cackled. "If I fall, then I will fall by my own choice. Not because of anything that you've done this day. I'll rob you of your chance to save your wife's honor… she'll still be stuck with the memory of that night… and that will be the best revenge that I could ask for. You lose, macaw."

With those words, he fell backwards, meeting his end as he impacted the ground far below with a sickening crunch.

Blu peered away and closed his eyes with disgust over the sound which erupted through the hallowed grounds of the temple. He felt Jewel crawl up behind him and wrap her wings around him.

"I thought I had lost you," she sighed. "Never do that to me again. I didn't know you were even breathing."

"I'm fine," Blu felt his feathery neck and sighed. "So, there is one thing I don't understand about all of this," he admitted. "Did you really promise to be his mate if he found the blood orchid for you?"

Jewel shook her head, peering away for a moment. "I don't remember any part of his story after waking up in the room. I don't even know if what he said about me being a willing participant is true… I remember nothing about that night." She said, weeping openly. "Do you really think all of this was my fault? Amber believed that she needed to seek revenge against me. Nigel attacked you because he wanted revenge for you defending me. Jollo said that I offered to be his mate if he found this flower. Is all of this my fault, Blu? Am I the reason these creatures are emerging now? Am I the reason our family suffers?"

"No," Blu shook his head. "I wouldn't blame you for any of this. You did nothing wrong. You have a history, but everyone does. What Jollo did, he did out of his own vindictive greed and ego. However, he did mention one bit of useful information. This will not end until we learn the identity of the Dark Robed Sage. Who is she? And when will she strike? And can she even be beaten?"

"No," Rose shook her head, fluttering down beside her parents.

Blu and Jewel stared in confusion at their daughter, who came from nowhere. Blu cocked his head to one side and addressed the female.

"But where did you-?"

Rose forced a confident smile. "Hey, you're not the only one who can play dead. I am every bit as good as you are."

Jewel nodded and eyed the rising sun. She forced a smile and spread her wings. "You're right," she laughed. "Come on let's go home."

"I'll race you!" Blu winked at his daughter. "After all, we still got more flying lessons to do."

Rose nodded and spread her wings. She took to the sky, never looking back at the temple or at her parents who followed behind her.


#


Summer was drawing to a close. Jewel laid in the private chamber eyeing the four eggs she had recently laid. A smile passed her beak as she listened to the sound of Rose and the boys flying through the sky. Their laughter rang through the grotto, filling her with delight. Getting up onto her talons, she peered out through the opening of the tree and called out to Blu.

"Hey, Pet, some of us are trying to get some sleep."

Blu stopped, hovering in place before landing on a nearby tree branch. "Hey," he smiled, "How are you feeling?"

Jewel lowered her head and peered back at the eggs. They wiggled as the babies inside kicked the shell.

"I'm doing okay," she smiled. "How are Rose's flying lessons going?"

"She's learned everything she could from me," Blu explained, "Now she just has to practice... she's a really smart one."

Jewel nodded her head. Her smile deepened.

"She's just like her father."