Alternate ending by Nicole Cruz
This starts on page 260, where Ultima's life is hanging by a thread. Tenorio struck Ultima's owl, severely injuring it and taking it's life. The owl and Ultima's spirit that lies within it dies, and Ultima's life is slowly fading away. Antonio is by her side while Ultima is explaining what to do after she dies. In her final last words, she tells him to connect with the world, and find himself in the comfort Mother Nature offers.
"Ultima-" I wanted to cry out, don't die, Ultima. I wanted to rip death away from her and her owl.
"Shhh," she whispered, and her touch calmed me. "We have been good friends, Antonio, do not let my passing diminish that. Now I must ask you to do me a favor. Tomorrow you must clean out my room. At sunrise you must gather my medicines and my herbs and you must take them somewhere along the river and burn everything-"
"Si," I promised.
"Now, take the owl, go west into the hills until you find a forked juniper tree, there bury the owl. Go quickly."
"Grande," my mother called outside.
"This is my final word to you, mi hijo. Bury me in the llano at high noon. Right when the sun is greeting the afternoon. After my burial, stay and listen to the howls of the wind. Feel the earth become alive underneath you. Soak it all in, because every spirit you feel through the earth, sky, and sea, I will forever live in.”
I dropped to my knees.
"Bless me, Ultima-"
I followed Ultima’s instructions and stayed a while after her funeral. It was beautiful. She was sent away the way she wanted to be, incinerated and taken by the winds of the sky to spread her across the world. Her ceremony was nothing compared to the beauty I witnessed with Mother Nature. The wind painted colors across the sky, and the lonely howls of the coyotes echoed an eerie sound across llano. The sky grew dark, and the stars scattered across the moonlit night. The stars crossed just perfectly to project a picture, and I glanced up and read the stories of sky.
I walked to the tree where I was to bury the owl. It was dead, but I could still feel the spirit of Ultima living in it. I was shocked to hear a quaint hoot, thinking that I the owl still lived. Alas, the sound came from up in the tree, and I followed the soft noises. I climbed the tree only to find a nest. In it was an egg. A single,lonely, broken egg. An owl hatchling appeared from it, and it opened it’s wide eyes to greet me. I burst out in tears. I cried and cried because Ultima left a legacy and a lasting imprint on the world. I truly missed her. But now, her owl has given the world a new blessing, and I was to care for it.
What was I to do? Would I take it under my wing and watch out for it?
In it’s deep round eyes, I saw the same innocence I saw in my own reflection. I then realized that this owl, wasn't just an offspring of the mother owl, but a symbol of everyone, including I. A symbol that shows purity and prosperity for a bright future.
I knew then what I must do with it.
Let it roam free. Let it soar far. Let it soar across many skies. Let it find it’s own path, like I must do as well.
I laid it back in its nest and whispered a sincere goodbye, “Fly far, fly free.”