Infiltration: Part Two

A/N Hey everyone! It's me again, Aru of course, and obviously I'm here to present the conclusion of Hortense's infiltration into St. Aggies to free the stolen owl eggs. Well, I hope you all enjoy the story, and if you ARE reading this, I urge you to review. It helps me immensely to hear what people think of my writing. You can tell me if my writing totally rots no problem.

Enough chit-chat, here we go! Remember to REVIEW!

Also, if you didn't already know, I don't own any portion of Guardians of Ga'Hoole! Lines from the book The Capture WILL BE USED!

"But how will you get into St. Aggies? You're already a full-fledged owl Hortense!" The Council asked her.

"It's fine; I was getting tired of having these feathers." Hortense replied and casually plucked a feather from her breast. The Council gasped.

"Are you sure this is what you want Hortense?" The High Councilman Perton asked Hortense. The Burrowing Owl leaned and observed with a squinted amber eye at Hortense.

The Spotted Owl nodded. "I'm positive, I'll make Ambala proud!" Hortense puffed out her chest.

"Alright, I will send for two Snowies to fly you through the HALOs tomorrow evening."

"HALO?"

"Sorry, HALO stands for High Altitude Low Opening, which means you wait for a thick cloudy day where the Snowies will blend in and fly you to the headquarters of St. Aggies."

"Alright." concluded Hortense. "I will see you tomorrow evening." She flew out of the hollow with Cedric, who bowed low to her.

"You are my hero Hortense." He whispered.

Early the next evening, Hortense was perched at the top of a towering tree, observing the forest. She had better take this sight in now, as there was a chance she'd never see it again. She swiveled her head to the right and saw the hollow she had shared with. The loving family had given up an egg just so that the location of St. Aggie's would be known. A couple of Snowy Owls followed the scout who took the egg a couple of hours ago. They would be back soon to tell Nirma and Cedric that their egg was safely delivered. Hortense would carry on after them, and ultimately save their egg and hopefully all the others. She had talked with her eagle friends Zan and Streak, who heartily agreed they would check in at the bottom. Hortense swiveled her head the other way, to the west, and saw two faint silhouettes coming off from the distance. Hortense guessed these were the two Snowy Owl messengers. Hortense sighed, and began the first phase; plucking her feathers. She winced as the feathers fell to the forest floor. Within a few minutes, she was naked pink and shivering. The Snowy Owls spotted her and landed beside her. No words were exchanged, as Hortense was cold beyond belief, and the Snowies already acknowledged Hortense as a hero. The HALO worked, and the owls weren't spotted in the cloudy fog.

They flew to a tree a few kilometers from the headquarters, and set Hortense on the ground. They gave her an encouraging smile and took off. Now Hortense was alone, and ready.

"Good luck." The Snowy Owls smiled. "One of the St. Aggie scouts will surely come and find you soon."

Sure enough, within a half hour, a Short Eared Owl was spotted taking off from the cliff, and gradually it made its way to Hortense. Hortense smiled, and started fake-crying. The Short Eared Owl flew and hovered right above Hortense.

"Are you lost, O little one?" It smiled a menacing smile. And with a swift kick, Hortense was unconscious. The Short Eared Owl picked up Hortense in its talons and flew towards St. Aggies.

As Hortense neared the canyon where St. Aggie's was located, a shrill voice pierced the cold wind. "Welcome owlets. Welcome to St. Aegolius. This is your new home. It is here that you will find truth…." Hortense didn't bother listening, mostly because she didn't want to, and because another gust of wind blocked out the sound the Great Horned Owl was making, but Hortense knew that owl to be her enemy, the Ablah General of St. Aegolius.

Hortense was forced into a line in the circling pits. She was standing behind a Barn Owl who was curious about everything and wouldn't stop moving. Interesting, she thought. A Snowy came to greet the owls in Hortense's line. "I am Finny, your pit guardian. I could also be a pit angel if you prefer, but I'd love it more if you all just called me Auntie. I must, of course, call you by your number designation, which you shall shortly be told." Finny voice was sweet, like a real nurse, but Hortense didn't buy it.

"Oh, goody!" Hortense hopped up and down, trying to act excited.

The Barn Owl turned to her and asked, "Why do you want a number instead of your name?" he curiously asked.

Hortense innocently replied, "Hortense! You wouldn't like that name either! Now shush. Remember, no questions. And that's a Snowy Owl by the way."

Finny stepped in front of Hortense, and gave her number to her, 12-8. Pah! If only Finny knew why Hortense was really here. She'd done her studying of St. Aggie's. Next she'd be ushered into the Glaucidium to be moon blinked, but she would just march in place, hide in any shadows, and gradually work her way up to be a broody.

As the owls were ushered in, Hortense saw that the Barn Owl Soren had taken a liking to looking her way. She ignored his gaze and assumed the sleeping position, reciting Ga'Hoolian Legends under her breath.

Over the weeks, Hortense had surpassed the expectations of 57-9, the fleck sorting star, and humbly requested to Jutt during the Marching that she'd do great as an assistant to Finny, or Nursey, or Auntie, or whatever she was called. Finny was also the top Broody, and would surely put in a good word for her. One day, she wound up meeting Soren again, this time he was featherless, just like her

Apparently, he had asked a question and wound up being plucked. Finny was 'nursing' him now. Quickly, to suck up to Finny, she said, "Ooh, a patient! A patient! Show me how to make moss pulp!" All was done with the perfect blank look on her face. She exchanged a few words with Soren, learning more about him. She almost burst out laughing when he said 'broodorium', but she remembered she had not yet mastered laughing as a moon-blinked owl, and merely shrugged off his remark. Nursey had left and come back, and Soren told Finny how he liked the Ga'Hoolian Legends. Nursey completely fainted. For a moment, Hortense stared hard at Soren. This owl could be something else, she thought. There's no way this owl is moon blinked if he still talks about the legends. I need to get this guy to broody status. If he really isn't moon blinked, he'll know he's going to come to me.

Sure enough, Soren did come back, but he had another Elf Owl with him, she casually walked over to them, ready to gather some more information. The Elf Owl took the initiative. Her number was 25-2 right? Quickly thought Hortense.

They exchanged a few words. This is one smart moon-blinked owl, Hortense thought. The little Elf Owl kept complimenting her on her extraordinary performance. The one sentence that caught her off guard was, "You are beyond humbleness! You are… subglacious!"

Hortense blinked, and said, "Your words are kind, 25-2. I shall hope that they might encourage me in my continuing quest for humility while in service to a great cause." Hortense put on an even more moon blinked face and walked away. She had better watch it; she almost lost her composure there. Now she was positive these owls weren't moon blinked. If those two owlets blurted anything out, it'd be the end of her campaign.

That night, Hortense was waiting on her nest in the hatchery to hand off some eggs to Zan, who would be coming later at First Light. Hortense gazed at the moonless sky and marveled at the stars. She could faintly make out the Golden Talon through the small space she had to look through to see the sky. Her ears twitched as she heard talonsteps coming up to her nest. She quickly put on her moon blinked look and watched as Soren and 25-2 came up to her nest.

"Welcome 25-2 and 12-1 to my humble abode." She raised a featherless wing and invited them closer to her nest, crowded with eggs of various species. They exchanged a few words. Hortense did her best to make herself look moon blinked, but gradually she concluded that wouldn't be necessary.

"Hortense cut the pellets. I saw you deliver an egg from this nest to an eagle." Gylfie exclaimed after Hortense tried to convince the two she was indeed moon blinked.

Hortense hesitated. Could she tell these two? "You saw?" she inquired quietly.

"I saw, Hortense. You are no more moon blinked than we are." Hortense saw that these owls were ones she could trust with the secrets of her mission. She had a good long talk with them, relishing the feeling of normal conversation again. She took off her moon blinked face and revealed her lovely bright brown eyes. She admired Soren for his bravery and Gylfie for her cleverness. Together, the two would be able to escape from this dreaded academy. She chuckled when she revealed to the two realized just how old she was. Priceless faces they had. At the end of their conversation, Hortense instructed the two owlets to come back up at about First Light to see her eagle friends rescue the eggs.

Later at First Light, Soren and Gylfie did indeed come back. Hortense was glad. She was excited to introduce Zan to her new friends. Maybe when this was all over, the whole group could go and have a feast in Ambala. She greeted them, and the three turned to the sky to see a white head and yellow beak in the distance heading towards them. Hortense's ears twitched. Someone was coming!

Gylfie and Soren dived into a small crevice in the rock wall near her nest. Zan was just almost here. If she could at least give one egg to her and then send her away, no one would notice. Hortense quickly held an egg in her wings, hopped off her nest, and walked to the little sill beside the opening in the canyon. The talonsteps were growing louder and faster. Alert, Hortense leapt back onto her nest. Up to her nest stormed an enraged Finny, Skench and Spoorn, Jutt and Jatt!

"I suspected her for some time!" Finny roared and yanked Hortense right off her nest. Zan was now at the egg, but instead decided to help Hortense. She swiped at Jutt and Jatt, keeping them back. Hortense could dimly hear Zan screeching as Finny gave her a blow to her head. The rest was a blur. The night was filled with yellow eyes, white feathers, and blood. Hortense howled as a talon slashed at her left wing, almost splitting it in half. Hortense looked up at her attacker, and received another slash, this time at her right eye. She let out a piercing scream, and began to move backwards, trying to find the egg. She heard Zan slash at another owl, probably Spoorn. Hortense found the edge and was now looking to find and protect the egg. She still heard Zan zooming around the place.

"No Zan…Leave me. Just get the egg!" Hortense cried. She wasn't sure if Zan got the message, for as soon as she got her bearings straight again, a talon appeared out of nowhere and smashed against her chest. Hortense gasped and fell backwards of emptiness. She screamed as she began to plummet down. She closed her eyes. She heard in the distance Zan letting out another screech and then slashing at Finny, who cried out in pain as she fell backwards. Hortense flapped her good but weak right featherless wing. She turned on her back, and looked at the black she was falling into. She let her eyes close themselves and spread out her body. She had accomplished so much, but she wanted to accomplish more. She hoped to death that Soren and Gylfie were still safe. Those owls would create their own legacy as they grew up. They might find the famed Ga'Hoole Tree and train to be Guardians of Ga'Hoole.

Hortense stopped thinking about anything at once and opened her eyes again, she was still falling. The blackness was now turning grey for some reason. Maybe this was part of dying? Everything seemed to slow down and stop as the mysterious grey field consumed Hortense.