Episode for Mar 18, 2005, Friday.
And so I rest assured, for I am tranquil that when the final fire has burned me out, the greatest part of me shall live on.
When heroes fall in love and war, they live forever.
Death is a mystery, and burial is a secret.
- Stephen King
Now this brave tale draws to its close. Listen as its finest chapter unfolds. Only a poet can do justice to a poet; only an artist can pay a fitting tribute to another artist. A legend of such sublime beauty as this one can only be retold by a worthy bard. Muses, lend us your gifts one last time or may we never pick up a quill again!
The sun had begun its westerly descent in the sky. The day, like this story, was coming to an end. For as long as their tree had been standing, the Ravena forces had been unconquerable. But Aguiluz cut down the Ravena tree, and coinciding with its fall was the collapse of the whole red army. Now only a few pockets of resistance were left here and there, which were duly crushed by the Mulawin and Taguba. The walls of Halimhim itself were torn down as the rest of the Avilan militia marched confidently into the enemy stronghold.
Savannah was aware of all this. Defeat was inevitable at this stage. Yet she could not suffer the thought of her enemies savoring victory after she was gone. Throughout her life, she had made it her occupation to wreak havoc and misery into the lives of others. She wasn’t going away now without adding one more trophy to her ignoble achievements.
This was what she had had in mind. And so that arrow had made its tragic flight from her bow to Lourdes’ flesh. A purple glow flooded the woman’s body for a second, and then she fell into Alwina’s arms.
“Mother!” Alwina cried frantically. “I’ll remove it, okay?”
Lourdes nodded, and with trembling fingers the Sugo seized the arrow by its stem and plucked it off. Lourdes winced.
“Who was it that hit you?” Alwina demanded, shaking her. “Who?”
Her reply was not surprising. “Savannah. I saw her… she was aiming for you.”
Then the Sugo’s countenance darkened with rage. Why didn’t I kill her before?
“Time for me to finish this,” she whispered to herself with grim determination.
Her archenemy was already waiting for her on a cold hilltop overlooking a mist-covered valley. From there arose hot steams that characterized Halimhim’s terrain.
Alwina brandished her shawl and said, “You always work to harm my loved ones. It’s about time I put an end to that!”
“And it’s about time I put an end to you!” her equally feisty opponent cried.
Then Savannah charged forward with a hoarse battle cry. But the Mulawin deftly avoided her blows. Alwina was waving her shawl distractingly, like a skilled bullfighter taunting an angry bull.
“Have you forgotten, Savannah?” she asked proudly. “Only a Sugo can kill a Sugo.”
Savannah attacked her again, and this time Alwina quickly wound her shawl around the girl’s arm. She gave a twist and threw Savannah down, breaking one of her wings as well. “Damn, you broke my wing!” the Ravena princess whined.
They were standing toe to toe near the edge of the hilltop now. Savannah flung herself at Alwina once more, but the latter shifted sideways and flew up. Then the Ravena fell headlong into the misty pit below, screaming as she did.
Alwina would have descended for a closer look to ensure that the villain was really dead. But her anxiety over Lourdes and Veronica recalled her to their side at once.
Meanwhile, another Sugo was likewise engaged in a final battle. Aguiluz and Ravenum were locked in an aerial duel that saw neither party ruling the fight. To his surprise, the Sugo was radiating a reddish light from his hands just like his father’s. He obviously was not inflicting any damage with it.
“Your power is coming from the blood we share!” Ravenum laughed. “It shows what you really are! You cannot beat a power with power from the same source!”
Undaunted, Aguiluz replied, “Then I’ll need a power contrary to this!”
He had discovered long before that the vital force follows one’s mind, one’s thoughts. Now he focused his mind on the Mulawin tree and prayed for help. The force responded; green bolts of light began to discharge from his palms. Aguiluz gathered all these into a gigantic ball of energy, intending to blast Ravenum with it. But Ravenum formed his own ball of fire to counter it.
Then each combatant hurled his load at the other. The impact was tremendous and sent off a dazzling glow. It sent Aguiluz reeling backwards, and then everything was darkness for him.
“I can’t see!” he cried out.
Ravenum saw his chance. “The Sugo has been blinded!” he said to himself. “I still have the last laugh!”
He drew back his arm and aimed his sword, intending to give the death-blow. Then a hand passed over Aguiluz’s eyes as a voice said, “Open your eyes, my son.”
His vision returned to the Sugo, and the first thing he saw was his mother, floating beside him on his right. “Mother!” he exclaimed. “You’re back!”
“I am here to guide you,” she told him. “That is what I am here for.”
She vanished from sight, and Aguiluz looked around him. “When will I see you again?” he asked.
Salimbay reappeared on his left. “For as long as I am in your heart, I shall be here.”
Those words renewed his courage and will to fight on. Now Ravenum was slithering quietly behind him, about to strike with sword in hand. Aguiluz did not have to look at him to know he was there. Then the Sugo swung his own weapon and drove it straight into Ravenum’s abdomen. Blood trickled from the father’s mouth.
“For as long as you have love in your heart, you will have someone to guide you,” said the son. “That is what you cannot see… Father!”
He gave the blade another push, and Ravenum plummeted to the earth below.
Twilight. The last rays of the setting sun dimly illuminated the sky. Halimhim’s landscape itself was now just a sunset of red corpses strewn everywhere. The stench of blood and death was overwhelming. But the war was finally over.
There was just one more work to do here and their business would be done. The Mulawin leaders were gathered in a dark, remote site deep in the woods. Here they dug a pit for Ravenum’s body. They spoke in hushed whispers feeling the gravity of this final ritual.
“Why don’t we burn the body?” some asked.
Dakila explained to them, “Cremation is reserved only for those warriors who are killed in battle. As the smoke from the pyre rises upwards, so the soul rises on its way to God. That is not Ravenum’s destination. Swear, all of you, never to disclose the whereabouts of his body.”
“I promise,” Aramis said.
“So do I,” said Habagat.
“I shall take this secret to my grave,” Bagwis told them. Everyone else made the same vow.
Then they rolled a huge stone over the grave. In closing, Dakila said, “Let us forget this accursed place. Come. We have loved ones we need us at their side.”
So the Mulawin flew back to their camp: Bagwis carrying Veronica, and Lourdes in Aguiluz’s arms. Habagat also carried his lady, Linang, with him.
They arrived at the Avilan army camp and were met by Dakdak and Haraya’s group. “They’re here!” the former cried. “Let’s hear the news!”
“Good news!” Dakila announced. “The Ravena are gone! But we have wounded comrades here. Prepare beds for them to lie on.”
This threw a wet blanket over Dakdak’s enthusiasm. He was even sorrier to see who the casualties were. “It’s Veronica!” he said, “And Lourdes! My goodness, make way for them!”
Then Laab and the others received them and brought them to a small hut. Daragit, who was a physician, attended to both of them.
Aguiluz watched the people go, and then he turned around and saw Alwina about to follow them. The look on her face was just pitiful, but he stopped her. “I know how you feel,” he said. “But we might only disturb them if we went there. Let them do their work. In the meantime, let’s pray to God.”
Bagwis and Dakila were waiting outside the hut. After a time that seemed like an eternity, Daragit finally emerged. The expression on his face told Bagwis the doctor had bad news for them. He was right.
“The poison is spreading fast in Lourdes’ body,” Daragit informed them. “It is the same with Veronica.”
“What can we do for them?” asked Dakila.
The doctor answered, “Wait… and pray.”
Aguiluz found time alone with his brother, whom they had brought here with them. As they walked side by side, he asked, “Do you feel sorry for Father?”
“Father chose his own path,” Gabriel replied. “I feel sorry for myself. I feel sorry for those I’ve hurt.”
“You mustn’t blame yourself, Gabriel. We were all victims of what Father did.”
Gabriel sighed. “You know, Aguiluz, it’s true what they say. It’s easy to forgive others. It’s hard to forgive oneself.”
It would take a long time for him to heal, he thought. In fact, like poor Lourdes and Veronica, Gabriel did not know if the wounds in his soul could ever heal.
When she came to, Veronica found herself lying in bed in a small room she did not recognize. The Mulawin queen was in great pain, and the loss of blood made her faint. Across the room just a few meters away was Lourdes, stretched out on another bed.
The two friends had awakened at about the same time. “Veronica, is that you?” asked Lourdes.
The Mulawin gave her a weary smile. “Yes, Lourdes, it’s me.”
“You know, I had a dream,” the other woman said. “I was told that I did not leave my child in the forest. That none of this happened. That I was able to right all the wrongs that I did.”
“Everything I did, caring for Alwina, for Pagaspas, and for Lawiswis… I did all that in an effort to make up for my sin. And now I can die without any regrets.”
Veronica listened intently. The dream made sense; she knew there was truth to it. But she could tell in Lourdes’ eyes that the guilt and regret were still there.
“There’s still time,” Veronica told her. “What if I were to tell you that your son is here?”
A messenger told Aramis that the queen had sent for him. He went to the tent immediately. Lourdes asked him about himself.
“When I was a Ravena, did we by any chance, meet in battle?” she asked.
“Yes, ma’am,” he replied. “But you refused to fight me. You said you couldn’t hurt me.”
Lourdes smiled tearfully. “So a mother’s love still prevails even upon a darkened heart!”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I am your mother,” she told him. “I abandoned you in the woods before the Diwata named Muyak found you.”
The hunter’s face changed. “That’s impossible!”
“It’s true!” she insisted. “I’m your mother!”
Then hostility erupted from within him. The mother he had been longing to meet was now before him. But now that she was here, Aramis could only despise her. “After I was banished from Encantadia,” he said, “I wound up among the Ravena among whom I suffered for so long! All that because you left me! I didn’t choose to live. I wish I’d never been born! I wish I’d never known you either!”
He stormed out of the hut in wounded fury. Lourdes broke down into quiet sobs. “Only a few hours are left of my life,” she lamented. “A few moments cannot make up for a lifetime of error.”
Veronica had been watching all of this with the keen eyes of a hawk. Everything was noted, everything. It seemed unfair to poor Lourdes. Veronica felt for her; after all, she had gone through the same phase with Alwina before. She also knew that it would pass, if the mother and son were given enough time. But Lourdes did not have enough time. Why must this happen?
The answer was coming.
The two Sugo were outside keeping vigil. Alwina was standing with her weight thrown on one leg. She was tired, tired from fighting and from weeping. As she stood thus, her lower garment moved a little. A faint green light from her waist caught Aguiluz’s attention.
“What’s that in your pocket?” he asked.
Alwina looked down with tear-filled eyes. She reached down with her hand and retrieved the green seed that had been there all along. “The green binhi!” she exclaimed. “Thank God it didn’t fall off while I was flying and fighting earlier!”
Dakila and Bagwis were there with them. The elder Mulawin spoke in a solemn voice. “The question is, whom will you give it to… Veronica or Lourdes?”
When the four of them entered the hut, they found Lourdes fast asleep. Veronica, however, was awake. She smiled at her daughter when Alwina came to her bedside. Then they showed her the green binhi, which she knew must be the same one Rasmus had earlier found. (Goody old Rasmus! Where was that poor soul now? she wondered.) Then they explained to her the situation.
“Time is running out for both of them,” Dakila said to Alwina. “You have to decide now whom to give the binhi to.”
But it was too much for her. A girl can choose between two lovers, as she had; but can that same girl choose between two mothers?
“Please don’t make me decide!” she cried, holding on to the life-giving seed.
Then Veronica spoke in a fainting voice. “This is not a decision for you to bear, Alwina,” she said. “I myself will decide for you. Give the binhi to Lourdes.”
“But Mother!” Alwina wailed.
“She has only now found her son,” Veronica explained. “And God willing, she can now receive his love. I have already felt your love. I can go now knowing you will always have someone to love you.”
She removed Alwina’s necklace from her neck and placed it on her daughter’s hand, and said, “I am giving you back this necklace you gave me, for I shall take your heart with me when I go.”
Alwina closed her hand over the necklace and wept. Bagwis thought his heart would break when he heard those words. But he did not question her; she was their queen after all.
Veronica watched contentedly as they administered the binhi to the sleeping Lourdes. Then she lay back on her pillow to reflect one last time on her life. So this was where it all led up to. She had been a warrior and a queen for so long, knowing only strife and struggle for the most part. Memories of her simple life in the lowlands prior to meeting the bird-men felt remote to her. It was the times as a Ravena and then a Mulawin that stood out in her mind. As she reviewed them, Veronica realized that she had never once had peace of mind in all those years. Not once. But now she finally got it. She felt strangely satisfied and at peace with herself. It was that inner contentment that had always eluded her as Vultra.
The war – her war in particular – was over. The struggle ended here. But she would not live to relish in the victory. Had she really believed she could? Had she really believed in a “happily ever after” ending for herself and her family? Veronica believed that she had. But now that she knew it wasn’t going to happen, it did not come as a big surprise either. God had not forgotten her; He had not forsaken her. He had restored this woman to her humanity, and even graced her with some divinity through Dakila’s hands by making her a Mulawin. Most of all, He had given her such a noble and beautiful daughter.
But the Almighty had not forgotten her sins either. Perhaps this was the last price she had to pay for all the sins. Yes, Hercules had been mad when he slew his wife and children, but the oracle had pronounced him guilty anyway and imposed on him the Labors to cleanse himself of his guilt. Veronica never expected to get away from Vultra’s crimes either. And she never hid from them either. Perhaps this was a way to atone for those crimes. And it wasn’t so bad. Not many could choose how and when to die. But Veronica had been given that choice, and it was a beautiful one. Who wouldn’t find it sweet to lay down one’s life for a dearest friend?
Ah, poor Bagwis though! A widower for the second time, and losing the same woman! But Bagwis could cope; he had done it before. And Alwina would be there to console him….
Bagwis went to his wife’s bedside with tears in his eyes. Then he lifted her with both arms and carried her out of the hut. He wanted her to himself in the final moments of her life, and no one questioned this.
They sat on a bench facing east to wait for the sunrise. Veronica was leaning on his shoulder. Her life was ebbing away, and her eyelids grew heavy. She wanted to sleep. The queen fell into a timeless dream-like state even as he spoke to her. In that state she was back in those early days of their romance, when they would spend the nights together in the forest. He would keep her warm with his wings, and together they would watch the sun rise. She had always hated the dawn, because it was a signaled the time of his departure. But this time, it was different. This time, she was the one who was leaving.
“I always told you how sad each sunrise was for me,” she reminded him now, “because that was the time when you would leave.”
“But now this morning is sad for me,” he replied, “because now you are the one who is leaving.”
“And what would you tell me then?”
“I’d promise you that I would return.”
“Now it is my turn to promise you that,” she told him. “I promise I will come back for you. When the Mulawin and the humans have made peace, and you have fulfilled your duties. When you and I have both completed our trials in this world, we shall meet again. Only now, I am going home first to God.”
“I will wait for you,” Bagwis said in a voice breaking with grief. “We shall see each other again.”
Veronica did not live long enough to see this last sunrise. She passed away that night in quiet dignity. Ravenum’s poison (which had slain her as a dream had foretold Lourdes months ago) had not discolored her flesh. Even in death, she was regally beautiful. They viewed that beloved countenance one last time before covering her with a plain white shroud. Then they laid her body on a wooden raft. Aguiluz, Habagat and other chiefs carried it to the riverside. Bagwis led the funeral march with a torch in hand. Alwina and others guarded the rear.
They laid the raft on the water and stood in line along the riverbank, throwing flowers at it as the river slowly carried it away. Veronica was gone.
The funeral ended at dawn. Bagwis watched the sunrise with tears running down his cheeks in generous streams. By late morning, however, his unmanly sobbing had abated. He summoned the people to assembly and spoke to them.
“Long live Bagwis our King!” they cheered.
He smiled at them with eyes clear and sparkling. And he spoke in a strong voice, “Friends, let us be glad for now Ravenum is no longer here to threaten us! I do not deny that we had received much aid in the time of need.
“From my queen, who did not regard her being a Ravena as a weakness. Instead, she used it to understand her enemies, and to open her heart to compassion and understanding.
“Dakila, the voice of knowledge and experience.
“Aviona, Aramis, Makisig, my brother Habagat, his son Mulagat…”
Each man and woman bowed in turn as Bagwis named them all. Then he turned his eyes to Gabriel.
“The Sugo,” he said, “first of who is Gabriel. His mind was enlightened during our darkest period. As your king, I ask you to treat him with respect that befits a hero.”
Gabriel looked down shyly.
“And lastly, his fellow Sugo: Aguiluz and Alwina. We all know the great sacrifices you have made. It would take too long to enumerate them all. But for all you have done, I am the one who should bow before you.”
Bagwis bowed respectfully before them.
After the assembly was disbanded, Alwina headed to Aviona’s dwelling. As expected, Aramis was there with her.
“No one wants to take away from you the right to feel the way you do,” Alwina told him. “But as someone who had been raised by Lourdes herself, I can tell you that she is a really good woman, and a good mother.”
Aramis replied, “Good mother? If she was good, then why did she leave me?”
“Life has many questions,” Aviona said philosophically. “If we tried to find answers to them all, we would only be wasting time. Time that should be spent on forgiveness, and on forming relationships with those we ought to love.”
Alwina seconded her. “Like me. I wasted so much time with my own mother. I’m just glad that we were able to make peace before she died.”
She left him to think on that, and went to see Lourdes. Alwina was feeding her from a small bowl when Aramis appeared at the door. “Excuse me. May I come in?” he asked, and then said to Alwina, “Let me have that. I think I should be the one taking care of my mother.”
They smiled at each other, and Alwina left them alone. “Here, Mother,” Aramis said affectionately as he put the spoon to her mouth. “Get well soon, okay? We still have a lot to talk about.”
Then Lourdes smiled at him through fresh tears, and embraced him.
True to her element, Florona was very down-to-earth indeed. Business-like and straightforward, she gave you the impression that she liked you, but not that much. When she spoke, it was always right on; no more, no less. She had come to Avila on an errand and went direct to the point.
“I won’t be here for long,” she told Muyak and Linang. “I’m getting weak already. I’m here to bring a message from the Queen Mother. She asks if you two would still like to return to Encantadia.”
Muyak and Linang exchanged glances. Muyak knew what she wanted to do; there was no reason to linger here on earth anyway. But as for Linang…
“I’m having a hard time deciding,” she told Habagat. “On one hand, I want to go back to Encantadia. I’m not used to an earthly body. And I have felt only grief and suffering here on earth.”
Habagat walked up to her. “Don’t worry about me,” he said. “If you want to go back to Encantadia, then do so. I won’t stop you.”
“You already proved to me once your love for me,” he interrupted. “You gave up your divinity to save my life. Now let me be the one to prove my love for you. If I must bear with a life without you beside me, then I will do so for your sake.”
He said it warmly and readily. Habagat had always been of a cheerful disposition; he could hide his pain well. Linang embraced him gratefully.
Having recuperated, Lourdes went down to the riverbank to pay tribute to her friend. She sat down and cast rose-petals at the water.
“I haven’t been able to thank you for the gift of life you have given me,” she spoke to Veronica through the water. “In our long friendship, we went through so much. We had to make difficult choices. We got separated. We were reunited. And now we have been separated again. But through it all our love for each other prevailed, didn’t it? Now I am a mother, and you of all people understand how eager a mother is to be with her child. Thank you so much for what you have given me. I shall never forget you.”
Alwina’s reflection then appeared in the water’s mirror-like surface. She was standing beside Lourdes. “There you are,” she greeted softly.
Lourdes stood up. “I’ve asked Aramis to come with me to the lowland.”
“Has he agreed?”
“Whether or not he does, I’m leaving Avila.”
Alwina was taken aback. “I’ve already lost a mother…. Am I going to lose another one?”
It was crying time once again. Lourdes slipped her arms around the Sugo. Alwina was, after all, Alwina to her. Not a heroine, not a Sugo, but her darling little girl. “You’re still the little Alwina I raised,” Lourdes sobbed. “You’re still that naughty girl who always wore out her slippers!”
Aramis, in fact, had made up his mind to go with his mother. Expectedly, Aviona was unhappy over this development.
“So this means we won’t see each other again?” she cried.
“It doesn’t have to be that way either,” he told her. “Why don’t you come with me?”
But she refused. “No, I’m not just leaving…. And when you go back to the lowland, you will lose all memory of us here in Avila.”
It seemed that everybody was losing somebody. One could barely feel the triumph of yesterday’s battle now. She didn’t care about it either.
Meanwhile, things were better now between the two Sugo brothers. Gabriel felt at peace with himself; not happy, but at peace knowing he had done the right thing. The animosity between him and Aguiluz was gone now, and both could feel the closing of this chapter of their lives behind them.
“Now I see how beautiful Avila really is,” Gabriel said.
“Why don’t you stay here?” suggested Aguiluz.
“Are you serious?”
“Of course! Here you will find people who are ready to accept you.”
Gabriel shook his head skeptically. “You know, we’ve been rivals since the beginning, rivals for Alwina’s love.” He looked his brother in the eye and said, “We’re different in a lot of ways. This place is too small for the two of us.”
“My invitation is a sincere one,” said Aguiluz. “We may differ in a lot of ways, but we have one thing in common: our love for Alwina. And that is the main reason why you refuse to stay here.”
Gabriel’s silence confirmed what he had just said. Aguiluz smiled and spoke again. “You’re right, Gabriel. We differ in a lot of ways, but you cannot take away the fact that we are brothers.”
The day she was to leave Avila, Lourdes bade farewell to Bagwis and all the others. “Are you sure you want to do this?” he asked.
“I am,” she replied, hugging him. The way Veronica had died, Lourdes did not even entertain thoughts of a life with Bagwis now that he was free. Besides, she had Aramis. “We’re still waiting for…”
Gabriel showed up on time. Alwina looked at him. “I don’t fit in here Alwina,” he said dismally.
“Why must you all go away?” she complained.
It broke his heart to see her like that. He put her arms around her tightly, and then let go.
A few meters away, Linang was saying her goodbyes to her family. “I will be seeing you through the magic well,” she said to Habagat.
“And I will be seeing you in my dreams,” he quipped wistfully.
Mulagat had decided to stay in Avila. “It’s probably good for you to do so,” his mother said. “That way, your father won’t be so lonely. I love you both so much!” She wound her arms tightly around them both, and they returned her gesture.
And so the Musang, Perico, Taguba and all the lowlanders descended from Avila to return to their lowland dwellings. As they waved their hands and looked back a final time, Dakila cast a spell of forgetfulness upon them.
“You will remember no more of us when you reach the plains below,” he told them. “As a chapter closes, a new one begins. As we bid farewell to the past, we face the challenges of tomorrow. The wheel of life will continue to spin.”
It happened like he promised. Like last night’s dream that is remembered but soon forgotten and buried in the subconscious, so the memory of Avila and the Mulawin and all their adventures faded from their minds. As in the beginning of this story, the Mulawin were a myth – a legend – once more.
But our story is not yet concluded. One day, while Gus and Wis were playing at the foot of the new Mulawin tree, they noted that its aura seemed to be dancing. And then it was fading, dimming.
“Uh-oh, what’s this now?” they asked one another.
They reported at once to Dakila, who consulted the book of prophecies with Haraya. The tree’s powers have been depleted because of the battle, it explained. If this continues, the tree will die.
“Where can the tree get power from then?” they asked.
From the Sugo… from their ugatpak.
It was Bagwis who had to break the news to his daughter. This no longer upset Alwina. She received the news with calm and poise befitting a queen. Then he told her, “If you must give up your ugatpak, it would be better for you to become a human being who doesn’t need an ugatpak, instead of a Mulawin weak and sickly.”
“Sacrifice is nothing new to me, Father,” she told him. “Perhaps this is the last price I must pay for being a Sugo.”
Bagwis took it harder than she did, in fact. She was all that was left to him, all that was left of the love he had shared with Veronica. Now he and his brother must suffer the same fate. Only faith saved the king’s sanity now.
As for Aguiluz: it was Dakila who conveyed the oracle’s message to him. Like his counterpart, Alwina, Aguiluz expressed his willingness to make the sacrifice. He, too, would have to become human and lose his memory.
“Are you ready to give up everything?” Dakila asked to make sure. “Your powers of a Mulawin? Your memories of Avila? Even your memories of Alwina?”
Aguiluz nodded. He had been through this before; he had swallowed the red binhi to lose his wings so he could live among men. Dakila had punished him then with memory-loss. Had he not found his way home in the end? Had he not found his way to Alwina?
Another flashback came to him: His vision of hell, where Belzebo had given him a choice. The Devil had said he must choose between Alwina and world-peace. Aguiluz had chosen the world. He and Alwina had saved the world.
Aguiluz no longer wondered. He had no second thoughts, no bitterness or regret. Instead there that indomitable faith in his God, the God who had spoken to him from the burning tree. And there was hope, hope in the future. He would find her; he would find Alwina again; he would find and fight his way to her if it took him a thousand years or as many incarnations to do so.
Like Dakila said, he thought, with the closing of every chapter, a new one begins.
So they knelt side by side, with their backs turned to the Mulawin tree. It was a surreal experience, almost a religious experience. Dakila pulled off each Sugo’s ugatpak as quickly and as painlessly as possible, and then handed the quills to Bagwis. One last cry from each Sugo, and then no more.
The last thing we are told about them, Aguiluz was leading Alwina by the hand down Mount Avila. They were now in human form, wingless and powerless. He was a handsome, ordinary young man; she was a comely, ordinary young woman. Carefully they descended over the rocky steps toward the lowland that was waiting for them. But they weren’t in a hurry, for as soon as they went their separate ways and touched the plain, they would forget each other. They would be entering a strange new world without even the memory of each other’s love to comfort them.
They stopped by a nearby stream to listen to the water’s flow. The tide carried away the water swiftly, like the spell that would soon cast away their memories of everything they had gone through. Aguiluz and Alwina savored this moment; they savored the fresh mountain air suffused with the heroic spirits of all the champions of Avila. Perhaps they also hoped to breathe in that same courage to bring with them to the lowlands. They were taking nothing else with them… except a promise.
Before they had gone to the Mulawin tree for their final sacrifice, the Sugo had made a vow to each other. Their words will live on in legend and in each other’s hearts, if not in their memories.
“Promise me, Aguiluz…”
“I will always be close to your heart.”
“I promise, for as long as this heart beats, and for as long there is a soul in this body…”
“We will see each other again, won’t we?”
“We have been separated so many times, Alwina. We will see each other again. I promise that will happen.”
“You are where my heart belongs.”
“And my heart will always come home to you.”
And this covenant of love they sealed with a kiss.
So this heroic story ends. Now no one remembers seeing any Mulawin or Ravena. They are mythical creatures, and the Sugo are legend. Even Aguiluz and Alwina remember none of it. Yet they are said to have gone to the world of men to live among them. Who knows, the next hero you see wielding his sword could be Aguiluz. And the next heroine to soar in the sky could be Alwina.