Image via Wikipedia
A few days later, EAGLE both felt, and looked, much refreshed; and CUCKOO felt a sinking feeling in his stomach.
“I may just go for a walk,” he said. “Fresh air and all that. A sort of constitutional.”
EAGLE looked at him sternly. “CUCKOO,” he said. “Don’t you know eagles never forget.”
“I thought that was elephants,” said CUCKOO. “Or are they heffalumps? Good creatures, though it’s never a good idea to offend them. Or sit behind them. Or have water-pistol fights with them. Not enough creatures know that.”
“I need to know everything there is to know about the creatures that are trying to kill me,” said EAGLE. “It’s hard enough learning eagleomics without thinking about about a bunch of psychotic vultures and snakes. It’s distracting me academically. Besides, it’s normally a very good idea to hit them before they hit you. I think Caesar said that, or if he didn’t, he should have. Otherwise it’s normally that Chinese fellow.”
“Is that really a good idea?” said CUCKOO. “Do you really want to get to know these things. Vultures are nasty thugs with foul habits; and as for those snakes: Who knows what they get up to down South. And I hear they do such-and-such, and so-and-so, and duel with banjos a lot. Dubious behavior.”
“I couldn’t give a flying canoodle?” said EAGLE. “We’re talking about Warlock. Spill the beans. You said he wasn’t a vulture, but you weren’t very clear after that. Talk; or I’ll put the EIS on you. And they won’t laugh at your jokes.”
The EIS, as the reader will know, is the infamously humorless – but effective - Eagle Investigation Service. They were particularly tough on crows. EAGLE had no idea at all about how they felt about cuckoos. Anyway, he was only bluffing. But he was serious about finding out about Warlock. The creature had put a contract out on him and he took that personally. It was, as CUCKOO liked to say every now and then: “A diabolical liberty.”
“Um,” said CUCKOO. “Isn’t this a little soon to hear such a big secret?”
“You’re the one who mentioned him,” said EAGLE in a relentless tone of voice.
CUCKOO hung upside down from his perch for a full minute. He had the notion that it cleared his mind; all the dross dropped out. Then he swiveled upright. “Let’s get comfortable,” he said.
EAGLE set out the brandy, and they gazed out at a very beautiful evening in companionable silence. A security patrol flew by, and the air commandos saluted by waggling their wings. They did it with some brio. Aviators are like that.
The word sounded as if he had been merely clearing his throat. That would never do.
“You spell it: N – E – W – T. Nasty little word really.”
EAGLE’s head went back in absolute amazement, and his eyes widened. Moments passed, and then he burst out laughing. “You mean one of those disgusting tiny poisonous creatures you find wriggling in the swamps?” he said incredulously.
“I couldn’t have described him better myself,” said CUCKOO. “But this particular newt is mostly to be found in Washington DC. – still a swamp, as you know. And he is incredibly greedy and destructive. He also has the ability to morph into various forms, but he prefers that of a human. Well, a sort of human.”
EAGLE became serious. “Go on,” he said.
“Warlock can be killed,” said CUCKOO, “though it is not easy; but he is always reincarnated in some other form because evil never goes away. This time around, the Council of the Good – my people - tried very hard to prevent him re-appearing, but the best we could do was have him re-born as a newt. We thought that might cramp his style, but then he robbed some graves – a leg here, a skull there - threw some dinosaur bones into the pile of spare parts he ended up with; and used his evil powers to stitch together a human form, and became a politician. It was, when you think about it, the obvious occupation; and he was very good at it. More recently, I think he’s too busy making money to keep his political skills sharp. But, not so long ago, at one stage, he was third in line for the presidency of EAGLE-LAND. We stopped him, but it was a close run thing.”
EAGLE was goggle-eyed. He’d imaged Warlock as many things, but not this. This was a nightmare.
“Him,” he gasped. THAT Newt!”
“One and the same,” said CUCKOO. “The one who collects dinosaur bones. He uses them for black magic, and unspeakable sexual rites. And now he’s actually running for the presidency. And he’s not the only candidate from the Dark World. There are two witches in there as well – though fortunately both are nuts. One turns into a mosquito when not in human form, and buzzes around a lot putting her proboscis where it is not wanted. Clever disguise. Lot of mosquitos in Alaska.
“Not sure about the other one, but I hear she runs around muttering: ‘Bubble, bubble, boil and trouble;’ and complains that her cauldron gives her headaches. Personally, I think she drinks too much tea; probably with something in it.”
“THEM!” said EAGLE, his rising voice in pure unadulterated shock. “What’s this country coming to!”
“That’s rather why I’m here,” said CUCKOO. “Your friends are concerned. The state of the nation is –“ he thought for a moment – “deteriorating. Nasty, nasty, word. Pretty nasty condition.”
He topped up their glasses again. “Drink up. This one’s medicinal.”
“Who or what was Warlock in his previous incarnation?” said EAGLE when he had recovered.
CUCKOO cocked his head to one side, and then closed his eyes. The he opened them. “Just checking the records,” he said. “Hope you’re up for this, EAGLE.”
“Who was he?” said EAGLE.
“Reichsmarschall Herman Goering,” said CUCKOO. “Fat Herman. And you have to admit there’s a certain resemblance. But it means the bugger can fly.
“Goering was a Nazi, a war monger, and a mass murderer, but he was an ace in WW I. Won ‘The Blue Max.’
“Commanded Jagdeschwader 1 after The Red Baron was killed. But then you’re an ace too; and, frankly, you look fitter.”
EAGLE was speechless. “I’m going to look for flying pigs,” he said and went for a leisurely glide.
A few minutes later a flight of pigs flew by. They all wagged their tails in salute as they passed EAGLE.
He returned the salute, and then flew back to face CUCKOO, who was perched there grinning.
“Couldn’t resist,” said CUCKOO.
“Who are you really, CUCKOO?” said EAGLE.
CUCKOO vanished just like that. However, his brandy glass, now unsupported, stayed just where it had been when CUCKOO was holding it. It was empty.
EAGLE ran a talon above it, below it and around it. There were no invisible wires.
He shook his head. “I’m dreaming,” he said; and promptly fell asleep.