Denise is in the shower, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to send you one more report before breakfast. If you’ll recall, I had just come out of an intense dowsing trance, and pulled a Nukpana out of the dream. I was disoriented and a bit light-headed, so it took me a moment to realize that something about the creature had changed in the transition: he no longer had the head of an owl. Instead, he was wearing an owl mask, crudely formed out of some sort of cocoon-like substance, and decorated with paint and feathers.
But this is the way of the Nukpana. They’re half-spirit creatures, with one foot in the dream and the other in the waking world. Are they an early human off-shoot, shaped by an affinity to the World Beneath the World? Or are they spirit creatures, anchored to the waking world by human blood? I couldn’t say for sure, and the Alo, if they know, have not been forthcoming on the subject.
Cheveyo does tell me that they seem to come and go like ghosts. Many in the tribe hold them sacred, as well, because of all the service they’ve offered. In the past, they kept the Alo alive through many a harsh winter, providing food when there was none to be had. But they’re also a nuisance. They frighten people, and his men are called out a few times a year to remove pairs of Nukpana rutting in someone’s back yard.
“Plus, they shit everywhere,” Hototo added. There’s not an Alo alive, it seems, who hasn’t cleaned up piles of Nukpana dung in their life. They’re called “The Holy Burden” by some, and Cheveyo made it clear that we had to keep our captive a secret. If the wrong people found out we were holding him, we’d be forced to let him go.
We had a more immediate concern in the short term, however: when caught, the Nukpana had been trying to escape into a cave. That cave sat gaping before us now, and none of Cheveyo’s men, in spite of their familiarity with every inch of the Alo reservation, knew it existed. It’s all a matter of angles, I think. It’s hard to see from above, and is fronted by a large rocky outcropping, making it impossible to see from below. That makes it an ideal hiding place, if you know it’s there, and if you’re capable of landing flat-footed after a 30-foot leap straight down. That’s something the Nukpana are tough enough to do, and I’d imagine that the Black Mirror Brute wouldn’t even blink. How I did it, I still don’t know. But what’s life without a little mystery, eh?