Monday, November 29, 2004

Children of the Ravena.

Episode for Nov 26, 2004, Friday. Alwina sped through the air to rescue her beloved. As swiftly as she went, her heart seemed to outpace her and go out to him. Hovering above the river, she scanned its raging waves with her sharp eyes for signs of Aguiluz. Now and then she would catch a glimpse of him struggling in the water. Summoning all her speed, she made one long swoop toward the river, caught him in both arms, and carried him off to safety. She laid the young man unconscious on the ground. Without hesitation, she breathed into him mouth-to-mouth to revive him. Aguiluz coughed up some water as she turned him on his side. Now awake, he looked up at her with those dark eyes. “You followed me,” she said with wonder. “Why did you try to cross the river? Why didn’t you call me?” “I tried to, but you couldn’t hear me.” “But you could have drowned!” “You still don’t get it, do you?” he said with a faint smile. “I’d take any risk to be with you.” Perhaps Alwina did not know whether to feel happy or sad at what Aguiluz had done. True, she had decided to make the journey to the Molave tree alone. Yet, how could she not be thankful that someone was willing to share her unenviable burden? In truth, she was grateful that Aguiluz was here now. In her agony of doubt, fear and loneliness, here was one faithful friend who refused to leave her side. “I didn’t expect this,” she said, “but I’m glad you’re here now.” They rested awhile before taking up the journey together. Alwina was still plagued with self-doubt. But Aguiluz held fast to his faith in God and encouraged her to do the same. They also had to trust in the others who had gone to rescue Gus and Wis. Painful though it was not to help the children, they could not abandon the quest for the Mulawin tree. As Alwina said, “I can’t avoid it. If I don’t do it, no one else will.” She also recalled what her foster-mother used to tell her: “No matter what you do, be it great or small, if you offer it up to God, you do it well.” So those two brave souls set out armed with Dakila’s map, and their own united courage. The Mulawin were omnivorous creatures; however, they still preferred a meatless diet on the whole. It was far otherwise with the Musang. Mayi would tease Kuskos about this, and the latter was not that amused. By now, Dakila’s messenger had become quite comfortable with the carnivore, who once almost hunted her down to extinction. Mayi: “Hmm, you look like you’re in a bad mood today!” Kuskos: “I’m starving!” “I knew it. As usual, you’re grumbling about your stomach.” “Easy for you to say, birdie. You have a tiny gut so don’t know how I feel.” Mayi pouted her lips. “Well, get used to it. If you don’t, you’re going to die. Why don’t you be more like Bagwis and Dakila? They’re grown bird-men but they don’t have a big appetite.” “That’s because you are birds. You know? You guys eat like a bird!” Kuskos bared her teeth in emphasis. “It’s different with us Musang. I want meat! I want meat! I WANT MEAT!” Savannah would have made a good Ravena. But she was just an ordinary girl after all. Beneath all the cruelty and spite was fear. She feared that her lies would now be exposed, and that would mean certain punishment at the hands of the most terrifying beings she had ever known. And for this she blamed Lourdes, never herself. She strode within the walls of the Montenegro mansion, thinking of how to punish her offender. And as luck would have it, she came upon a Ravena guard feasting on some food that was not his - that should have been for the king and queen. Savannah confronted him, but promised not to report him on one condition. The guard was only too happy to cooperate. Meanwhile, Lourdes searched for Vultra out in the fields, but the Ravena was nowhere in sight. So she left her work to her usual companions and went to the Montenegro mansion. She brought a basket of fruits with her for the queen and the guard let her go inside. Lourdes found her old friend in one of the rooms with the door open, her back turned. She hesitated then. Vultra had a commanding presence that never failed to inspire her with some fear. “You’ll be surprised at what I’m going to tell you, Veronica,” she whispered. “And it will be the end of Savannah.” But her delay cost her. The guard clapped her mouth with his hand and seized her from behind. The basket of fruits dropped to the floor unnoticed. He brought her to Savannah. Lourdes was not surprised. “So it’s you,” said she. “What do you want from me, Savannah?” “I told you, you’d pay for what you did, witch,” replied the girl. “Oh? You’re losing sleep now that the bird is gone? Or are you scared that the truth will come out?” “Why? What did the bird tell you?” Lourdes smiled triumphantly. “It told me about the future. I know now what will happen to you.” “Will she die?” she had asked the Balasik. “No,” it said. “A fate worse than death awaits her. Dark, terrible, horrifying.” Savannah felt anger heat her cheeks. “And what’s that? Did the birth tell you how powerful I will become?” “Set me free, then I will tell you.” “What! You think I’m stupid?” “If you don’t let me go, I won’t tell you.” “I’ll have you killed!” “Kill me and you will never know what the bird told me.” Oh, you bitch! I can’t let her go, thought Savannah. But I can’t kill her either. What do I do now? “Stay here, witch,” she said. “I’ll come back when I know what to do with you.” Habagat was not spared by the other Ravena. Now, he learned there was no room to grieve here in Halconia. Even his fellow officers had no sympathy to give. If anything, they seemed to mock him. Why did I end up like this? he asked himself over and over. Why? “So it’s true that you’re mourning over your son,” said one officer. “So you have one, huh?” He shook his head. “Not anymore. I’ve killed him.” “You’re not going after Alwina’s band now? Too bad. This seems like a good time to do that.” “Alwina’s group has broken up,” said Habagat dully. “She’s all alone now. Ravenum told me. He saw it in Perena’s magic fire. Nothing escapes the fire of Perena.” His words did not escape Rasmus either. The Ravena queen was at a loss. What on earth was she going to do with this Mulawin girl? She would not talk or eat. She could not be persuaded by hypnotism, nor intimidated by threats and beatings. How could she be made use of? Rasmus was growing impatient as well. He found his consort in the detention room where they were holding Aviona, and conveyed the news: the Mulawin fellowship had disbanded, and Alwina was on her own now with no one to defend her. Such was a splendid opportunity to finally seize her and win this race. “I have a plan,” Rasmus went on. “Why don’t we talk to Perena and ask for her help?” “Perena?” Vultra looked doubtful. “If we go to her, Ravenum will know about it. I thought we agreed not to let anyone else know of our plans?” “Why don’t we try anyway?” he answered. “My lady, I am so tired of chasing Alwina. It’s time for this to end.” It was a risk, of course, to bypass Ravenum and plot their own offensive. But their honor and position in the Ravena hierarchy were at stake. They had already lost much prestige. Not to act now could cost them everything else. Pagaspas and Lawiswis did their best to be good prisoners: they tried to escape. However, Kuwak and a prison guard caught them before they could even take flight as owls, and one of them was brought to Tuka so that she could speak to it alone. She seated herself before the bird. Here they were together at last. “I’m sorry that I had to take you by force,” she said. “This was the only way I knew how. Are you still mad at me? Don’t you want to be with me? You won’t even talk to your mother?” But the owl stood still and gave no response. Some time elapsed and Kuwak came calling. “Are you two done with your bonding?” He brought the other owl with him and as the two neared each other, a bright reddish light enveloped the one Kuwak held. The bird before Tuka, on the other hand, was wrapped up in a bluish glow. The lights withdrew. A handsome, chubby little boy sat in front of Tuka. A little girl was in Kuwak’s arms. “Pagaspas,” said Tuka. “Son, have you forgiven me?" Habagat had killed his son without knowing it. Tuka found hers alive but she did not know if he wanted to be with her. Vultra had a daughter, but she did not know who it was and where to find her… yet. Such were the Ravena and their children.

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Beneath a Lovers' Moon.

Episode for Nov 25, 2004, Thursday. Hidalgo waited anxiously outside the ancient gate. He was not one to be bothered easily; he did not like to meddle with someone else’s business. This beast’s steady mind never swerved from his own concern, which was to do his masters’ bidding and serve them. He was also a staunch friend of the light, and an enemy of darkness. And like many other beings of the forest, he had low regard for those greedy humans dwelling in the plains. So why was he still here? In spite of his own fears, and as much as he detested those two men, he could not bring himself to leave them. Why? he wondered. Why can’t I leave them? Hmm. Is it because they have the one green binhi? He knew that the binhi must not go into the wrong hands. Beyond the gate, Gabriel had frozen into a statue just like Terong. The emerald binhi was still between his fingers, shining upon his grayed countenance like a lantern. Actually, Lourdes had time to ask Balasik a few more questions. When she was satisfied, she picked up the cage and went out through the backdoor of Savannah’s house. Outside was a broad clearing that faced the skies and forests in and beyond Terra Fuego. Lourdes opened the cage and brought out the bird. “There,” she said in her strong yet kind voice. “Go on and fly.” The talking bird said nothing. She had made him an offer that no bird in its right mind could ever refuse: freedom. It is often said that the truth shall set one free. Yet it was what had always made Balasik someone’s prisoner, a coveted possession, an invaluable asset and weapon in the wars of men and bird-men. Now, once again, this living oracle could go free. So the bird beat its wings and took to the boundless heavens. No thanks were said, for Balasik owed nothing and served no one. Poor Savannah came running there, just in time to see the bird disappear into the horizon. Oh, her incalculable anger at Lourdes then! “You damned witch!” she cursed. “Why did you do that? You don’t know how important that bird was to me!” “I do know,” the woman replied calmly. “That’s why I let it go.” Just then, a sentry arrived. “Queen Vultra sends for you,” he told Savannah. Oh, now what? She turned to Lourdes with palpable loathing. “You’ll pay for this, bitch!” Following her escort, the girl found Vultra in the detention room with Aviona. The queen had been trying in vain to hypnotize her. For every failed attempt, she punished the Mulawin with a sore whipping. Evidently, Vultra was not in a good mood. She asked her “daughter” for new insights or revelations. The latter, of course, had nothing to give, and the queen became very angry. “Nothing still?” she said. “I won’t settle with just a little information at a time. If you have to lock yourself up in a room all day to have those visions, then do it! It’s all you can do for me, and you can’t even do it right?” Savannah was hurt; she excused herself. Here’s the result of Lourdes’s meddling! Now, the fellowship had completely broken up. Dakdak had braved to return home alone for the sake of his fellow Perico. “God help me,” he now prayed as he sat on a tree, pondering his situation. “Help me cross the desert and make it to Aliwalas.” Discouragement visited the others as well. Kuskos wanted to back out. “I said I would go with you to Avila,” said the Musang, “but this is different. We’re going to the Ravena’s lair now.” But Bagwis and Dakila reminded her, “We’ve gone so far. We survived the desert and many other trials. Of all times for you to back out now. Remember what your father Sakmal said: the future of the young, not just of the Musang but of all, rests on our mission.” The Scouts and Perico held council in Aliwalas. The former wanted to go to Tierra Fuego to rescue Aviona. As always, the latter were reluctant to see action. “What could we do to help?” argued Ngas-Ngas and Gad-Gad. “Hey, it’s a long shot,” said Procopio, “but let’s try, anyway.” “You forget that Aviona had stayed behind here to help us,” Bianca told them. “So now that she’s the one who needs help, why won’t we help her if we can?” “All right, all right,” the bird-men parroted. “We’ll go to Tierra Fuego if we must.” Day gave way to night, and at last, Aguiluz could fly in search of Alwina. Guessing that she had flown all day and was now resting, he skimmed the cold evening air hoping to find signs of her. Where could she be, he wondered? Was she thinking of him? Was she sleeping or awake? How could he find her? But he had been here before. Even death had not been able to part them then, so why would he give up now? “Not these great mountains, nor these thick forests, can keep us apart,” he said to her in thought. “I will find you… we will see each other again.” Aguiluz watched the full moon rise in all its peerless beauty, the queen of the stars looking down on a slumbering earth below. Then, raising his flute to his lips, he blew gently upon it his familiar strain. Perhaps, the evening breeze would convey it to the lady he was serenading. In fact, Alwina was up and awake that moment. She was admiring the silvery charms of that same moon-goddess, thinking the same thoughts as he, asking the same questions, offering the same prayers. It was as if moonbeams could relay the lovers’ messages to each other. They would meet again quite soon, but they did not know it yet. Ravenum was becoming increasingly disappointed in everyone around him. There was Perena, who had had an argument with him. Foolish Diwata that did not know how to admit her own failures. And then there was that idle and blundering duo of Rasmus and Vultra. He did not trust either of them. “Go back to Tierra Fuego and keep an eye on them,” he told Habagat. “I don’t want any of their doings to escape me.” “Yes, sir,” Habagat replied absent-mindedly. “What is the matter with you?” asked the spirit. “Are you still grieving over your son? I thought we had already discussed this. There are bound to be casualties in war.” “But I never thought I would kill my own son in an assault I myself had led! You cannot possibly understand how I feel!” “It is you who cannot understand,” answered Ravenum. “There ought to be no room for regret or lamentation in the hearts of the Ravena.” Then asked the master, “Which would you prefer? To let go of your sorrow? Or to be disowned by me?” “What do you mean by that, Lord Ravenum?” Ravenum then made this offer: “I can make you an ordinary human being. I would send you down to Tierra Fuego and without my protection. Then the soldiers now under your command would be the first to kill you. So make up your mind, Habagat. Rule your grief or I will cut you off from me.” Habagat swallowed, then apologized. “Forgive me, my lord,” he said. “You are right.” He withdrew from the chamber in silence. No matter what you say, Ravenum, he thought, it’s not so easy to forget my son. The situation felt hopeless to Gus and Wis. Poor helpless children that they were, locked away in this dreaded place that never seemed to see the light. “Don’t you see?” Gus whispered in the silence. “Nobody knows we’re here. No one will help us.” That only meant they had to help themselves. So he stood up and walked up to the wooden bars of the cage. “What are you doing, Pagaspas?” said Wis in an equally hushed tone. “Trying to see if we can fit through these if we change into owls,” he said. “Maybe we can escape.” It was a good idea. What had been their curse could prove a blessing to them now. Daybreak and Aguiluz’s wings had left him for the next twelve hours. He traveled on, with a staff in one hand, and his flute in the other. The young Mulawin knew that he could not catch up with Alwina now if she decided to take flight; he had to hurry. So he stumbled on until he made it to a rocky riverside. There he stopped; he did not know how to cross it. The tide was high and the waters raged furiously along the channel. As he stood there, Alwina’s form emerged like a phantom in the distant greenery. She would have been beyond the scope of ordinary human sight; she was still too far away. But his eagle’s eyes spotted her, her white armor and jet-black hair standing out against the lush-green background. It was no dream, no mirage of water to a thirsty traveler. It was her! “Alwina!” he shouted over and over at the top of his lungs. But she could not hear him from the steep height where she was. She had dropped her shawl there and now picked it up and turned to depart. Through his telescopic vision, Aguiluz saw her leaving. He had to do something or he could lose track of her forever. So he blew shrilly upon his flute, hoping it would get her attention. But the roaring of the waters drowned out the sounds. Helpless and frantic, Aguiluz did the only thing he could: he went down to the river and wrestled with the tide in an attempt to cross it. Finally, Alwina thought she heard a sound and saw a figure of a man in the river. “Hello!” she called. “Is anyone there?” She strained her eyes to look, and was horror-stricken to see it was Aguiluz drowning in the water. “Aguiluz!” she hollered. Aguiluz grappled with all his might to stay afloat, but his strength soon failed against the sweeping torrent. Any moment, the tide could dash him against the rocks and break his body, if not carry him away and drown him. Either way, the river was ready to claim one who had dared to trespass its waters.

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Thursday, November 25, 2004

The Gate of Stones.

Episode for Nov 24, 2004, Wednesday. “Gotcha!” Tuka beamed at a frightened Lawiswis. Like thieves in the night, she and Kuwak seized the two youngsters and carried them off into the darkened skies. The other Mulawin, alerted by Gus and Wis’s screams, sprang into action in search of them. But they were too late. All they found was a dark red feather where the children had been. It was unmistakably a Ravena’s. The Ravena partners brought their cargo to Halconia and there locked them up in a cage. They discovered along the way that Gus and Wis changed into owls whenever kept apart. (Although freed from the curse, they still changed form if taken against their will.) Tuka cursed Dakila thinking he had doomed her offspring to perpetual childhood. This kidnapping surprised the other Mulawin. But Dakila reminded them that Wis was herself of the enemy race. “And only one Raven has reason to do this,” he said. “Tuka.” In the midst of this commotion entered Kuskos bringing Alwina’s goodbye-letter. No Ravena had taken her; she had left them. Dakila decided that they must go to Halconia to rescue the children, but Aguiluz objected. “Please don’t be offended. I love the children. But isn’t Alwina the reason why we’re here? To protect her?” “The children need us more than she does,” said Dakila. “And I showed her the way to the Mulawin tree, so she won’t get lost.” “Then no wonder she left!” Aguiluz said angrily. “You gave her a reason to think she could go it alone!” “But don’t you see?” replied the elder. “She could actually be right. We had to join her in the beginning of her quest. But in the end, she must do it alone for she is the savior.” This felt so wrong to Aguiluz. As her avowed guardian, he could never desert Alwina. Yet, he found himself in the wretched position of having to choose which friends to help and which to turn his back on. Gus and Wis were more than friends to him; they were the brother and sister he never had. But Alwina meant everything to him. Early next morning, before the group was set to leave for Halconia, Aguiluz made up his mind. Bagwis knew where the he was going. “You love Alwina,” he told him, “and love always comes first.” He told Aguiluz that he would not try to stop him, nor compel him, nor plead with him, to obey Dakila’s orders. Long ago, he too, had rebelled against authority for the sake of love. “So you understand why I have to go?” said Aguiluz. “I understand you,” answered Bagwis, seeing himself in the young bird-man. “Go and do what you must. Take my prayers with you.” “And take my prayers with you, Bagwis, so that God may guide us all.” And the two Mulawin went their separate ways. When Dakila heard of this, he seemed resigned. His worst fear had come true: their fellowship had now been disbanded. “May God help us all,” he said. Savannah was used to amusing herself at the expense of other creatures. Today, she decided to play with the Mulawin captive. But Aviona made it plain that she was to be nobody’s toy. After all, she had shown Terong that he could not just borrow her heart from Aguiluz as if it were a plaything. Why would she put up with the crass stupidity of her captors now? So the impostor made fun of Aviona, plucking a feather from her fair head and shoving it under her nose. She made a face and turned away. “Why, you don’t like how you smell, do you?” taunted Savannah. “And you, lowlander?” Aviona replied in an equally mocking tone. She looked up and down at the girl, and saw all that she had ever detested about the plain-dwellers. “You pass yourself off as the daughter of a Ravena. You’re not just telling lies. You degrade yourself by pretending to be among the basest creatures on earth!” “Some nerve you have for somebody who’s in jail!” “You talk to me about smell? What about you? Can you smell yourself? Still alive and your soul is already rotting inside you!” “Why you..!” It have turned more violent if Vultra had not entered, wondering what the shouting was all about. Savannah made some excuse while Aviona resumed her usual silence. “Doesn’t it make you wonder?” asked the queen with a cool smile.“It seems that the fates have conspired against you. Here you are in prison, while your loved one enjoys himself beside your rival!” What friendly bird had told her that? Habagat was beside himself. He had stained his hands with the blood of his own son. But as he brooded over the matter, the first shock that had turned to grief now became anger and bitterness. A burning hell of torment scorched his heart, and there was one person to thank for it. Why did you hide him from me? he asked over and over. Why? The warrior betook himself to a lakeside and called out for Linang. As queen of the water element, she could appear there if she wished. And on Muyak’s advice, she did so, seated on her enchanted raft. “Why did you hide our son from me?’ Habagat demanded. “So that I could raise him well in Encantadia away from you,” she answered. “It was the best place for him. You would have used him against me to make me do what you wanted.” “If you hadn’t kept him from me, this wouldn’t have happened!” Linang then loosened words that betrayed her true feelings. “You blame your wickedness on me? Then do so! If that’s the only way you can forgive yourself, then so be it! Because I tell you, Habagat: I will never forgive you! Never!” She faded into the mist, leaving Habagat trembling with fury. Rumors spread in Tierra Fuego swift as the wind. Lourdes soon heard about Savannah’s mystery house-guest whom she would feed with sacks of corn bits. Concerned that this might have something to do with Alwina and what that girl knew about her, Lourdes determined to find out who it could be. She contrived to gain entrance into Savannah’s house by bringing a sack of corn. Their princess had ordered for it, she told the guards, and she herself must deliver it. Once inside, she entered the room where Savannah had stowed away the Balasik. She looked around her and saw no one there. Then, she noticed a draped blanket and uncovered it. Lourdes beheld the cage with the bird inside it. The bird had snow-white feathers, a prominent gray beak, and a majestic crest above its head. “What a beautiful bird you are!” the woman said. “Don’t tell me you’re the one Savannah talks to here? I don’t see anyone else.” Balasik nodded his crest at her. “Yes, it’s me!” Lourdes was startled. “What kind of a bird are you?” “One that sees the truth behind people’s eyes,” the bird replied. “You’re the one Dakila told me about! You’re called Balasik!” Balasik affirmed it. Lourdes then asked if it was from him Savannah had obtained information about Alwina, and the bird confirmed this also. He repeated what he had disclosed to Savannah: that Alwina was the savior of the Mulawin, and of mankind. When questioned further, the bird explained that Savannah was not pretending to be the savior. Rather, she was afraid to lose favor with the Ravena once the truth came out. “And what truth is that?” “That Alwina is Vultra’s real daughter.” Lourdes felt as if a bomb had been dropped on her. Alwina was the daughter of Bagwis and Veronica! That seemed to make sense of things… but there was no time for more questions. She collected herself. “You’d make a deadly weapon in the wrong hands,” she said to the bird. “I better take you away from them.” So she picked up the cage and went outside. Gabriel and Terong had been walking all day when they arrived at a strange place. It was a place that the former seemed to know. “This is it!” he said. “This is the way to Avila!” How he knew he could not explain; he just knew. Before them was a rude arch like a gate, carved from ancient rocks. Hidalgo spoke his mind to Gabriel, and he understood that this was indeed an entrance. But it opened to a dangerous place, said the beast, and few were ever given the privilege to enter. Terong, of course, was quick to back out. But Gabriel pushed on and his loyal servant followed. Hidalgo prudently stayed behind. Beyond the gate, the two men found themselves surrounded by statues. They portrayed human beings in various positions: standing, sitting, lying down, their mouths open as if in surprise. It was as if something had hit them suddenly and they became frozen in time. “Wait a minute,” said Terong. “Those aren’t statues! They’re people! Turned to stone!” Now before them towered a great tree. On one of its higher branches was perched a strange-looking bird. It was not easy to see at first, as most of its feathers were a bright green like the leaves on the tree itself. But there it was, staring back at Gabriel and Terong. Then, with an eerie twitter it began to sing to them. As it did, the guardian of the realm breathed forth a bluish vapor. It made whoever inhaled it very drowsy. Terong soon fell unconscious on the ground. But that was not the only effect of the gas: in a matter of seconds, he was turned into stone. The same fate was waiting for Gabriel. He remembered the green binhi and reached for it in his pocket. He was about to put it in his mouth, but so swiftly did the petrification spread throughout his limbs.

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The Slayer of His Son.

Episode for Nov 23, 2004, Tuesday. “It was love that ruined me, and love will ruin you also.” With these words, uttered only a few months ago, Habagat had accurately predicted Rasmus’s fall from grace. Not long after that, Ravenum dismissed his son from his post as army chief, and replaced him with the Mulawin traitor. That had been a great blow to the Ravena king, and a triumph for Habagat. But little did the latter know then that a far greater, more personal tragedy awaited him. One that he could never have foreseen. So the young Encantado was out of the way. Habagat raised the gun-barrel to Alwina’s face and took aim. “Your end has come,” he told her. He was a millisecond away from pulling the fatal trigger when someone cried out from behind him. “Habagat!” It was a voice that he had thought he would never hear again. Habagat turned around and saw Linang standing there in tears. To him she was all too familiar, but to the others there it was a complete stranger. An ethereal white lady, her whole figure suffused with a divine light, appearing as if from nowhere. What was she doing here? “My son!’ cried the fairy-queen, running past Habagat to where the Encantado lay. “My son! Mulagat!” She fell on her knees and held her dying son to her breast, venting her grief through such wailing and sobbing that made cowards of them all. “He is your son?” mumbled the Ravena general as he stood there, bewildered, his mission forgotten. Linang had a son? By whom? Was she married? Scarcely had he absorbed this first shock, when a second one hit him that he would never forget. “How could you do this, Habagat?” said his former lover, turning to him with tear-filled eyes. “How could you kill your own son?” Habagat dropped his weapon without knowing it. “Tell me you’re lying,” he said. “Tell me you’re lying!”
“He was the fruit of our love,” she told him, “the only good that came out of it!”
As Mulagat’s senses withdrew, he spoke a few parting words, to his friends Gus and Wis, to Alwina whom he so admired, and to his mother, whom he loved so dearly. It was too late for him to realize his father was there. Habagat glanced from mother to son, the one he had failed to recognize as his own. Could he not have known? Had he not seen the boy fly with wings like a Mulawin? Had he not wondered at that? On hindsight, it was painfully obvious. But Habagat would not come near and try to touch the son he had killed. A mad grief swept him away and he fled, roaring like a wild man. Where Gabriel went, Terong was sure to follow. It did not take very long for the two to find each other again. Terong was rambling about aimlessly when his master surprised him and introduced the winged carabao as his new traveling companion. They were on their way to Avila. Gabriel guessed correctly that Aviona had rejected his friend’s suit. “Or else, you wouldn’t be out here,” he said smilingly. Wishing to change the topic, Terong showed off the stone he had chanced upon in the river. “See? It looks better than a gem!” Gabriel knew at once that this was the same magical binhi that Alwina had given him as a boy. He took it from poor Terong and refused to give it back. The latter could do nothing – Gabriel was still the master, after all. All day, the young Motenegro stared at the green object, as if hypnotized. Terong feared the binhi would melt under that steady gaze. There was a strange look in Gabriel’s eyes. Perhaps, it was just the emerald glow of the stone shining in his face that gave them that odd sparkle. Or was it that the binhi enthralled him for a special reason? By the time the Mulawin fellowship had regrouped, both Linang and Habagat were gone. Only Alwina, Aguiluz and the two children had witnessed their confrontation. As they laid noble Mulagat on a raft upon the water, Alwina recounted part of the incident to the others. “She was a fairy then,” explained Dakila. “The Encantada are forbidden to appear among men. She came here only because her son was dying. Even Mulagat’s presence among us was against their law.” Then a spirit-portal opened in the air, hovering just above the water. The funeral bed wafted gently towards it, and soon was out of sight. Encantadia had reclaimed its fallen prince. “Now, you are home,” said his mother, “and no one can hurt you anymore." Grief weighed heavily on everyone’s heart, but most especially on Alwina’s. Not only grief was hers to bear, but command responsibility as well. Had all this not been for her, because of her? It was too much. “If more of you will die because of me,” she told Aguiluz, “if you, too, will die because of me, I won’t be able to handle it.” And it was the truth. Dakila took her aside later that day for a very important reason. Only a few days before, he never would have dreamed that Mulagat and Paloma would die. But they did. And as hard as it was to do so, they must now brace themselves for the very real possibility that more of them could be lost. He, too, could be next – there was no telling. “So now,” he said, “I will reveal to you a secret that nobody else knows but me. I will tell you how to find the Mulawin tree, so that, should I die, you won’t become lost.” This was just the information that Alwina needed. Dakila never guessed what she was planning. “That’s the nature of war,” Ravenum said to his commander. “There are casualties, and things one must sacrifice.” “But he was my own son,” replied Habagat. “Not only did I fail to recognize him, I killed him.” “That is all part of your former life as a Mulawin,” came the retort. “Leave that behind and be strong, Habagat. Do you want to become like Rasmus, blinded by too much love?” Habagat lowered his eyes, perhaps recalling his own words to Ramsus not long ago: Love ruined me, and love will ruin you too. He said that during Vultra’s absence. Believing her dead, the king had given himself up to despair and mourning. Had not Habagat prided himself then in being stronger and smarter than his rival? Immune to love and the pain it brings to those who feel it? Had it not been that very coldness that made Ravenum prefer him over his own son? If only he had thrown his heart out for good after Linang broke it. If the human slaves were intimidated by the Ravena, Aviona was not. Amid Rasmus’s cruel threats, and Vultra’s regal fits of fury, the young Mulawin remained impassive. She grieved at being captured; her thoughts went out to Aliwalas, the helpless friends she had left there, and of course, to Aguiluz and Alwina’s band. But outwardly, she showed no fear, no sign of being broken. In fact, she did not seem interested in what was going on around her at all. She had already told them that she did not know where to find the Molave tree - what else was their business with her? Vultra could rage on for all she cared. The Ravena offered her some food, wishing to keep her alive. But Aviona was silent, like a meek lamb among wolves. “If you don’t want to eat, then don’t!” yelled the queen, throwing aside the food with a crash. She had been shouting so much that Aviona no longer heard her. “You could lose your voice if you don’t stop,” Rasmus said calmly. “You’ve been yelling all day.” “She’s no use to us weak and starved,” Vultra told him. “Then the guards will take her to the woods where there are trees,” he answered. “There she will regain strength whether she likes it or not.” A soldier entered the detention cell with news. Habagat failed yet again to subdue the Mulawin. “Thank God,” said Aviona at last. “Aguiluz is safe!” “I knew it!” said Rasmus angrily. “Habagat is a failure!” As if he was any better. “What about Tuka and Kuwak?” asked Vultra. “They went with the army. Where are they?” Where indeed? At first, they had bumped into Dakdak in the forest, bragging to him that Aliwalas had been raided by the Ravena. Then, they hid themselves and waited until evening to see Pagaspas and Lawiswis. The two children remnised about the lost Mulagat, not knowing they were being spied on. Tuka recognized her offspring, of course, and so did Kuwak. But there was no change at all, no years added to the child’s life since they had last seen each other. How was that possible? Quite nearby, Dakdak relayed the news of Aviona’s capture to the other Mulawin. He must return to Aliwalas as king of the Perico, he told them. Bagwis and Dakila offered to go with him, but he argued that Alwina needed them in her mission. Alwina had other ideas. That same night, she made her decision. She put it down in writing; she did not wish to enter into a debate with her comrades. There was nothing to debate over as far as she was concerned. She knew, too, that they would try to stop her. Indeed, they would have lain down their lives for her. But that was just what she did not want. “I hate to do this,” she wrote, “but it must be done. It is my duty to find the Mulawin tree. This is my burden. I alone must bear it and tread on the path laid out before me.” Alwina closed the letter with a farewell to each of them, and laid it aside where she knew it would be easily found. Then, firm with resolve, she arose to depart under cover of darkness. The angel spread her lofty wings, and alone soared into the night-sky.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Editor's Comments: On Death and Redemption.

Greetings, mga kapuso. Please see the on-going discussion, Habagat Shoots Son for reference. I am very impressed with the show lately. It seems to be defying some of the accepted ideas about local TV soaps. We lose 3 good characters in 3 episodes straight. Is this what Richard Gutierrez hinted at when she and Angel Locsin appeared in SOP the other Sunday? That would've been what they were shooting at the time since episodes are shot about 2 weeks in advance, I believe. I loved Mulagat. I don't like to say that I have favorites (since I put the episodes in written form and I don't want to appear biased), but here I will admit that he was one of the most delightful characters in the show to me. If you consider that he's not even part of the original cast and story, all the more ought we to admire the Mulawin writers for their ingenuity. I still cannot memorize the name of the actor who played him, but I liked him in the role. But despite that, I honestly don't want him to be restored to life. Alwina's case should be the sole exception because she has a mission. Linang must not abuse her power by returning him to life just because he is her son. He searched for his purpose, and when he found it, he gave his life to it along with other noble deeds that will make the Mulawin group indebted to him forever. An even greater purpose on the personal level would be this: it could actually incite his father to mend his ways and fight for the light again. Either one of two things can happen to Habagat now: It can embitter him and make him a worse enemy than before (especially if he chooses to put the blame on Alwina and Linang). Or it can make him want to seek redemption and maybe become a Mulawin again. Speaking of redemption. Let's remember that most of the Ravena are not beyond that. The only ones that seem purely evil to me at this point are Ravenum and Perena, the evil Diwata. Both are spirits. Vultra, of course, has her human side, and has shown compassion a number of times. Tuka is a mother like her, and Kuwak is her friend. Anyone who has some affection for another still has some good in him or her. Even the wicked Rasmus. He has a few redeeming qualities too. He has beliefs and principles and even though they are wrong, he sticks to them. Like when he declared war on humans for their greed, and on the Mulawin for betraying him and his father. He is also loyal and strongly attached to his loved ones - and this is his weakness, as Ravenum told Habagat last night. Habagat, unlike Rasmus, will change his allegiance as well as the colors of his feathers as it suits him. Rasmus pointed out this difference between them not long ago. This is why he thinks Habagat is beneath him. He thinks Habagat has no scruples and principles and insists that HE does. He also fancies that Habagat knows nothing about love. But in fact, it was a lost love that motivated him to betray the Mulawin and side with the Ravena. Rasmus is motivated by hatred for both men and the Mulawin. Habagat is also the better strategist between the two. One thing they both have in common, however, is military ambition. They want to rule the Ravena and the world. :) But in my view, Ravenum is the only pure evil incarnate among them as of now. No love, no light, and therefore, no hope, exists for him. For the others, there is still some hope for change. If Gabriel does turn out to be the dark angel of the Ravena, then there's a big chance of this happening. Sure, I would like to see a LOT of action first, but in the end, it would be good to see Gabriel and Alwina reconciling the three races: men, Mulawin and Ravena. Since Mulawin has such a huge following among the young, that would be sending the right message to them. There is a darkness in everyone (and keep in mind: humans and Ravena of all beings are most alike). But we can overcome the darkness unless we CHOOSE to allow it to rule over us. Aviona the Mulawin "goddess," is herself an example of this. Many despised her for clinging on to Aguiluz, but all hailed her when she opted to stay behind and set him free to go with Alwina. It's always a choice. We'll see what happens with Habagat now. P.S. streetstopper, you mentioned the binhi and LOTR 3. Hmm, I seem to remember that though I never really watched the series. What I've always wondered about was this: If Gabriel is a Ravena, he must have some wicked streak hidden in him. For him to become a Ravena (or choose to be one), that streak must come out first. But how? Maybe the berdeng binhi will be key like you say. :) Seems to fit.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The Death Squad.

Episode for Nov 22, 2004, Monday. The word of Ravenum was law. He had pronounced the death penalty on the Mulawin band. It was now up to Habagat to carry out this sentence to the utmost of their resources. But the conquests of Avila and Tierra Fuego, as well as their sporadic attacks on the rebels, had been costly for the Ravena. The army had suffered many casualties at this point. And with their supreme ambition of building a dark empire in the future, Habagat knew he could not afford to lose any more troops. He reminded his soldiers of this when he called them together. “I’m looking for volunteers among you,” he said to them. “Whoever wishes to come with me, raise your hand.” Tuka raised hers; Kuwak, her inseparable companion, was forced to do the same. About a dozen foot soldiers besides them also volunteered. Short-sighted as he was, Kuwak could not fathom why his friend would want to leave the easy life they had in Tierra Fuego to fight in the war. “Don’t you get it?” she said later on. “They found my child in Bagwis’s group. This is my chance!” Now this made sense to him. But what they did not know was that she wasn’t the only Ravena who had a son or daughter among the Mulawin. There were others. Terong never saw Aviona being carried off by the Ravena. He had seen nothing at all. And as he strained his eyes looking for signs of her, he slipped off the rocks and fell into the river. “Damn,” he thought. “She turned me down and wouldn’t even save me from drowning. I should kill myself.” Dejected, he lifted up the spear in his hand to stab himself with it. But no sooner had he done so, than it dropped from his grip and splashed into the water. “Hey, spear, come back here!” he shouted. “I haven’t killed myself yet!” He bent over and fished with his hands for the weapon. Instead, he caught something that felt like a stone. Terong raised his hand to see what it was: a small, green object like a pebble stone. A green binhi, but he did not know this. He put it in his pocket and wandered off, clueless as to what to do next. Not far from there, Procopio and the Perico came home and found Sakmal dead and Bianca in tears. She told them what had happened, and they hurried to the riverside to look for Aviona and Terong. But they were nowhere to be seen. The Scout Master thought he smelled something fishy was going on. It seemed too much of a coincidence to him that the Ravena discovered Aliwalas right after the appearance of those two strangers. “You’re saying that Gabriel and Terong were spying for the Ravena?” asked his sister. “I can’t help but wonder,” he replied. “Try to remember what the Ravena said to you. Maybe there’s a clue where they’ve taken Aviona.” Bianca searched her memory. “Oh, yes, I remember! The female Ravena said they were going to take her to Tierra Fuego!” “See?” exclaimed Procopio. “Isn’t that where those men said they were from?” For the second time, Aviona was captive in Tierra Fuego. She remembered the town too well as the place where she had been held before, and where Aguiluz had once lived as Julian. Meeting her and her captors on their arrival was Savannah. If Aviona recognized her, she did not show it. She could not hide her surprise, though, when Vultra addressed this wingless girl as her child. “Child?” she echoed. “But you’re not a bird-woman! How can you be their daughter?” Irritated, Savannah balled her hand into a fist to strike the prisoner. “Kill her!” But the queen stopped her. They were hoping that Aviona might know the location of the Mulawin tree. “We can kill her after she tells us,” Vultra said. “Don’t mind her. You have proven yourself. You may not have wings like me and your father. But your spirit can fly.” Savannah smiled smugly as the guards dragged off the Mulawin. This was a strange place for Aviona. They took her to a cell, chained her by the wrists and bound her to steel bars as Rasmus and Vultra interrogated her. She screamed at them truthfully that she did not know where to find the Mulawin tree. Then, Tuka walked in and happily informed her masters that Ravenum was about to send a small army to finish off the Mulawin rebels. That was bad news for the king and queen. If Habagat succeeded, it would make them a royal pair of sitting ducks. “You bastards!” cried Aviona. “Don’t hurt Aguiluz! Don’t hurt him!” “Shut up!” Rasmus snarled at her. “You better hope and pray that they do kill Aguiluz! If that happens, you’ll be of no use to us and we’ll kill you too. Then, you’ll be reunited sooner with your lover in the afterlife!” That night, Aguiluz found Alwina by herself as usual. “Why are you still up?” he asked. “Are you still blaming yourself?” “I just have a lot of things in mind,” she answered. “Come with me,” he said with a smile. “I will show you something.” What could it be? It was nothing extraordinary, but her guardian wanted to give her whatever comfort he could. He took her to a height and, facing the east, sat beside her waiting for the dawn. As the first rays of a hidden sun lit up the firmament, Alwina spoke: “I’ve forgotten how beautiful the sunrise is.” “Sometimes it gets so hard that we forget the blessings God has given us,” he said softly. “The sunrise, family, friends…” She touched his arm. He humbled her. It was always Aguiluz who kept her spirits up and reminded her of the beauty of life. And it was he who had paid a heavy price for her sake. As they watched the day break in silence, his wings shone with a piercing glow as usual, and after a few painful moments for him, they were gone. The impostor strutted about more arrogantly than before. She had proven herself to Vultra and totally deceived her at this point. She ordered one of her old friends – now a mere slave – to gather a sack of corn for her, and she wanted it that same morning. This bizarre and unreasonable demand puzzled the other girl. When she arrived in front of Savannah’s house with a guard, the “princess” angrily picked up the sack and dismissed them. She brought this present to Balasik. “You’ve answered me well,” she told the bird, “so here’s your reward. Just be good and you’ll stay full.” The girl outside overheard this. Who could Savannah be talking to? Lourdes’s hunch was correct. Rusing and Lino had escaped and this meant hope for the others who were left. In the meantime, she tended Lucio’s wounds since no one else would. (After his foolish attempt on Vultra’s life, the queen had had him flogged.) He thanked the witch-doctor for her kindness, and even apologized to her for everything he had done in the past. “Now, I know why I fell in love with you,” he said suddenly. This was no mystery to her. She pushed him away, knowing too well what kind of a man he was. Many years ago when she had just moved to Tierra Fuego, Lucio made a pass at her. She had turned him down and he hated her for it ever since. “Nobody refuses a Montenegro,” he had told her. “If you say no to me, I will make your life miserable.” And this time around, he was no different. “I won’t take a refusal from you a second time,” he said angrily. But she brushed aside this mean bully and went her way. What could he do to her now? Tierra Fuego already lay in ruins and everything that had been hers was gone. Gabriel was exhausted. He and Hidalgo had been walking all day without rest. “Can’t we take a break for awhile?” he asked. But the carabao knew they were in dangerous territory and must not stop. “Why?” Gabriel asked again. “Where are we?” Hidalgo glanced about, his wild senses picking up trouble. “Hunyango!” he said. “Those are deadly!” Out popped his magical wings, and the anxious beast took flight. “Caloy, don’t leave me!” Gabriel shouted. He could hear the Hunyango snaking in the grass, but he could not see them. Just when he thought he was doomed for dinner, the carabao returned and Gabriel hopped onto his back. The passenger was all smiles, but Hidalgo still despised him, and he made that clear. “But to leave you to them would’ve made me worse than a Ravena,” he explained. Ravenum’s death squad skimmed the air all day searching for their targets in the forest below. When they found them at last, Habagat gave the order to open fire with their new artillery: those heavy arms they had been training with in Tierra Fuego. The Mulawin were caught by utter surprise and ran for cover among the trees. Most of them had never encountered such weapons before. “What are those?” shouted Dakila above the deafening blasts of gunfire. “Those are guns!” Aguiluz shouted back. “I got hit by those when I was in the city!” As usual, it was Bagwis who had a strategy. “Dakdak, use your umbrella!” With his trembling hands, the Perico pressed a button and the umbrella opened. Crouching low, he raised it towards the sky against the raining gunshots. This enchanted shield repelled the soldiers’ bullets until all their ammunition ran out. When the firing ceased, the Mulawin split up and ran in opposite directions, hoping to scatter their enemies. Habagat roared in anger. He would not allow Alwina to escape him a second time. With his hawk-sharp eyes he spied her fleeing in the company of the Encantado and two children. He himself had not yet fired a single shot; he now intended to use it all up on them. He aimed the gun at Alwina, but Mulagat saw him. “No!” said the lad, jumping into her place and taking the bullet. It hit his side and he fell back mortally wounded. Linang cried out his name as she watched, but he never heard her. Alwina cradled him in her arms as the children cried with her, forgetting that their own lives were in danger. Before she knew it, the Mulawin angel herself was being held at gunpoint by Habagat. She felt the cold gun-barrel against her head and dared not move. Aguiluz saw them from a distance. His heart stopped and let out a silent scream. He rushed forward without feeling it, cried out without hearing it, as Habagat was about to pull the trigger.

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Sunday, November 21, 2004

Hidalgo Speaks; Aviona Gets a Lift.

Episode for Nov 19, 2004, Friday. Mulagat was a timid flyer used to hiding his wings. Yet, they made him a lifesaver of the group for the second time in a row. So Dakila plunged down, expecting to find the death and reunion with Paloma that he yearned for. But the Encantado rushed after him with open wings, clasped him between his arms, and wafted him back to safety. The others gathered around Dakila like a protective circle. Far from being grateful, he was very wroth indeed. “Why did you have to save me?” he growled. “I want to be with my daughter! I’m tired! Avila is gone! Paloma is gone! My only child is dead! I have no reason to go on!” “You’re wrong, Dakila,” Alwina calmly replied. “Paloma was not your only child. We, too, are your children.” “That’s right,” Aguiluz seconded. “We’d be like orphans without you. We need your guidance. Whether you like it or not, we have become your children also.” “So wherever you go, there I will be also,” continued Alwina as she stood at the very edge of the cliff. “If you jump, then I jump too.” “It’s your decision,” Bagwis told him. “Do we jump? Or do we carry on?” As the Mulawin elder listened, his reason came back to him. He realized that they were right, and that he had acted like a weakling instead of the wise leader that they needed. This put out all thought of suicide from his mind, and he now determined to stay on with the group. Balasik stared at empty space quite still. He was eyeing the Mulawin group. Savannah grew impatient and asked what was up. “I asked you to find their weakness because that’s what I need to tell Vultra. Why won’t you talk?” “I’ve been quiet because I’m looking at them,” he replied. “I’m sorry, Savannah, but the Mulawin army is very strong indeed. However, they do have a weakness, but it is not within the group itself.” “Where is it then?” “It is in the place that they left behind.” He was talking about Aliwalas. Elsewhere in Tierra Fuego, Lucio sat beside himself in the field, utterly dejected. Of all people, Lourdes the “witch” came to him and offered him some food. “You have to eat,” she told him. “How can we fight the Ravena if you don’t?” He was just about to take a bite when gunfire rattled them. Someone was trying to escape. Lourdes wondered if that were Rusing and Lino. Vultra had every reason to be upset. The fact that she and Rasmus were the last to know about Alwina’s return would have been shameful enough. But she had also become the laughingstock of her own faithful troops, who doubted Savannah’s parentage. Even Tuka and Kuwak were now bold enough to mock her. This really stung the proud Ravena queen. Meanwhile, Savannah’s latest pretense was not selling well with Rasmus. Having proven her a liar the first time, he knew that in this instance it could be no different. He tried to warn his wife about this. “She may be our daughter, but the Ravena have no power such as she claims,” he argued. “Only the Balasik is capable of that.” But Vultra was willing to set aside her own suspicions at this point. Her priority was winning back the esteem of her subjects and of Ravenum. So around came their “daughter” with fresh revelations about the Mulawin. After hearing her out, Vultra decided that they must go to Aliwalas themselves and leave the captured town to their officers. Rasmus went along reluctantly. “If we come back here and find Habagat in charge,” they warned, “we’ll pluck out of every single one of your feathers.” Carabaos may look alike to most people, but Gabriel recognized this one. This was Lourdes’, the one that could fly. “Great!” he said aloud. “I can ride on you to make the journey faster!” But Hidalgo had other ideas. “Don’t even think of riding on my back, lowlander. I’d throw you off if you did.” Gabriel was startled. “You can talk?” “No, I can’t. But you can understand me. That’s one of your gifts.” “How come I can do that?” “It’s not my business to explain that to you,” said Hidalgo coldly. “Dakila warned me about you back then. All I can say is not many can do what you do. Alwina is one of them. And I’m here looking for my masters. You are not my master.” Gabriel knew that the winged creature was looking for Alwina like he was. So he tried to persuade him to let him come along. But the animal seemed irritated with him for some reason. What had he done, he wondered, that made Hidalgo’s blood boil like water in a kettle? “There’s nothing wrong with my blood!” snapped the beast. “It’s the blood in your veins that is the problem.” Terong spoke to Bianca and asked what he could do to get Aviona’s attention. The Scout could not help but laugh at him; he was so far from Aguiluz! Now Aviona was nearby, engaged in practice-fighting with the Perico. She noticed Terong watching them. She smiled cheerfully at him. “Don’t just sit there and watch. You should be training just like everyone else!” She pulled him by the arm to the practice area and threw a spear into his hand. He returned her blows awkwardly and this annoyed her. “Damn it, Terong. You’re not taking me seriously.” “That’s just want I want to do! To take you seriously!” He spoke rapidly. “I think I’m in love with you, Aviona. Can you be my girlfriend?” Aviona was taken aback. She heard the Perico and others laughing behind them, at them. “That’s not funny,” she replied with a sullen look. “I’m not trying to be funny. I’m dead serious!” This was too much. If Terong only had a mirror, he would have seen how ridiculous he was. Aviona fled the scene amid the laughter of her friends. Her suitor pursued her. Alwina never failed to impress Aguiluz. Alone with her he said, “Bagwis has known Dakila longer than you. But it’s you he listened to. You should be happy about yourself.” But she wasn’t. Alwina still felt responsible for all their setbacks and losses. “I don’t know how much more I can take of this,” she said. “Paloma is dead. What else is next? I have a feeling that this isn’t going to be the last one.” Beneath the warrior’s façade a girl’s spirit was crumbling. This was not a good sign and he knew it. “Let’s not waste any more time,” Bagwis told them. They had to move quickly before Habagat could show up again for a return bout. So the fellowship resumed its journey with Aguiluz and Mulagat guarding the rear. Everyone was relieved that their senior member seemed to be all right now. But Aguiluz was no longer concerned about Dakila; he worried about Alwina. He hoped for her sake – and theirs – that nothing like Paloma’s death would happen again soon. “I don’t know how she’d be able to cope then,” he whispered to Mulagat. Unbeknown to him, an ally shared his worry. Linang had the same fear that more trials were on the way. And their fears were not unfounded. Ravenum had had enough. With the help of Perena, he had hoped to impede the Mulawin’s progress or even slay them. He had also hoped that Paloma’s loss and Dakila’s attempted suicide would cripple them. But those pests only seemed to get stronger with every blow. Now he had only the might of his army left. The spirit bade Habagat to lead a brutal assault against the Mulawin. “The time of deliberation is over!” he said. “Punish them and spare no one!” In Aliwalas, Bianca chatted with Sakmal, the father of Kuskos. The elderly Musang was kindly advising her not to make fun of Terong when two unwelcome guests appeared. “Ravena!” he snarled. “The worst of them!” Rasmus grinned at him. “Watch your mouth, old cat,” he said. “I know you’ve used up your nine lives.” He moved quickly and stabbed Sakmal with a poisoned blade. The Musang fell on the ground, his skin discolored. Vultra then grabbed Bianca by the neck and demanded the information they sought. Terong found Aviona by the riverbank. He pleaded with the bird-woman. But she was too embarrassed now even to look at him. Her heart already belonged to someone else, she said. “It’s not a toy that can be passed around.” “Look here!” he said. “If you turn me down, I’ll just jump into the river and die.” “Sounds like a good idea. You look like you haven’t had a bath in a while.” Ouch. “I’ll count to three. One...” With their backs turned on each other, they failed to see the two Ravena who swooped down noiselessly and grabbed Aviona on either arm. “… two… three.” Terong slowly turned around to look at her. But they had carried her off. Aviona looked to her right. “Behave yourself if you want to see another day,” Vultra warned. She looked to her left. “She’s more patient than I am,” Rasmus snarled. “If I get tired, I’ll just break your neck and kill you.”

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Friday, November 19, 2004

Death of a Dove.

Episode for Nov 18, 2004, Thursday. The fates gave father and daughter just enough time for reconciliation. Paloma was slowly breathing her life away as the Mulawin band gathered around her. Her skin changed from a fair flesh to a sick purple color, suggesting the arrow was poisoned. In fact, this was the same poison from Ravenum that almost killed Dakila before. Only the Hiyas had saved him, and they no longer had it with them. “I never really stopped believing that you loved me,” the bird-woman told her father. “Please forgive me before I die.” “Between you and me, I am the one who needs forgiveness,” he cried. “You saved my life; I couldn’t save yours!” Only a few seconds of life remained in her. She told him that she loved him, and then there was silence; the color of her skin returned; her body ceased to struggle. The dove was gone almost as soon as she had come. “Don’t touch her!” roared Dakila at the others when they tried to come near. “Nobody touches my daughter!” He was like a lioness guarding her dead cub. Alwina wept softly and spoke up. “Please allow us to give her a decent burial. Let’s give her the honors that she deserves.” She could not help but feel guilty all over again. It was her own mistake that led them to the wasteland, and now this? “This is my fault,” she told Aguiluz. “Almost every one of you has gotten into trouble because of me.” “Don’t cry,” he said. “We’re here because we chose to be. Nobody forced us to go with you.” But this was hardly a comfort to any of them, especially not to the grieving Dakila. Alone, he spoke to his dead child: “Take my heart with you to the other side. And when you meet the Almighty, pray that He will forgive me.” With Paloma a part of him also had died. His heart was no longer in their mission, he told Bagwis, and he feared he would only be a burden to the group now. They laid the body on a wooden raft and covered it with a white shroud. Some had some parting words for her, like Aguiluz. “I owe you my life,” he said. “Because of you, I found my way back to my own kind.” With this final salute to the noble Mulawin, they pushed the raft onward to the river, and the tide gently bore it away. Now, Habagat had some good tidings to bring his lord. After their humiliating discovery about Alwina, the Ravena couple retreated back to Lucio’s mansion. Ravenum had made it clear that he did not want them interfering with his plans. As usual, Rasmus did not want to disobey his orders; he was never inclined to oppose his father. But Vultra was defiant. “This is a great shame for me,” she told her spouse. “I led the search for Alwina to kill her and now she turns out to be alive. Are we just going to let Habagat take charge of this?” Rasmus was pessimistic. “We can’t do anything about it unless we get some information on Alwina first. Unless we do that, we’ll never get ahead of Habagat on this.” Then Savannah came to them with news… and a new story. She was fresh from a chat with Balasik, and now claimed to have clairvoyant powers. The girl began to recount a strange “experience” she just had. “I was sleepy, and then I saw myself out of the body. My spirit wandered and I had a vision. I saw Alwina with a group of Mulawin. They crossed the desert and now they are in a forest on the other side…. I also heard them say that they don’t want the Ravena to rule the world.” With the exception of the last sentence, she had parroted Balasik’s every word. But this got only a bland reaction. “That’s old news,” said Rasmus. “What we need is to find a weakness in their group,” Vultra told her. “We need to find some chink in their armor. What can your premonitions tell us about this right now?” Savannah’s eyes rolled in their sockets. “Um, I can’t control the visions.” “You have this power and you can’t control it?” Vultra seemed incredulous. Awkwardly, the girl made some demurral and excused herself. Rasmus looked at his wife. “Do you believe that our daughter has that ability?” he asked. But she replied with another question. “She’s my daughter. Why shouldn’t I believe her?” Gabriel turned again and again to his map. It wasn’t helping him. His guts seemed to tell him that this was the wrong way; they wanted to take him elsewhere. “I think I’ll just follow my instinct,” he said to himself. So he threw aside the map and let his feet carry him whither they would. He had not gone far when he heard the rustling of leaves and grass nearby. Someone was there. Unafraid, he called out: “Is somebody there? Hello?” Some moments later, the head of a beast emerged from the foliage. It was Hidalgo. Terong was not an experienced suitor. In fact, he had never really shown interest in any woman until now. And she was no ordinary woman at that. “What do I have to do for Aviona to notice me?” he asked himself. “Flowers, I guess. Women must like those.” So he went out to gather some wildflowers not far from his new home. He had no trouble at all apart from a few angry bees that had been helping themselves to some nectar. When he came back, he found Avinoa and Bianca together, preparing food. “Oh, so you’re a good cook, huh?” he said. “Be careful, Aviona. Some guy might fancy you then.” “Good cook?” she repeated. “I don’t even have all the ingredients for this.” “Oh, by the way…” He held out the bouquet to her with a smile. “Here, flowers for you.” The bird-woman’s jaw dropped. “Hey! That’s just the ingredients I need!” She snatched them from him. “How did you know?” Lourdes spent her days working in the field with all the women, and her nights wondering about Alwina. Savannah had told her something that puzzled her: she said she now knew what Alwina’s “secret” was. But what could that be? Even Lourdes did not know. Whatever that was, one thing was for sure. She missed her adopted daughter. That day, Rusing had some luck. She was able to sneak away and surprise her grandson in the field. Theirs was a happy, though brief, reunion. “You’re better off than me,” Lourdes told her later. “At least, you got to see him for a while. It was Alwina’s birthday some weeks ago, and I couldn’t be with her. I don’t even know where she is.” But her grief could not compare with that of Dakila. He was beside himself. Events had happened too quickly for him. So little time had he spent with his daughter, and now she was gone forever. “I never had time for you,” he said aloud as if she could still hear him. “I hardly saw you grow up. If only I could turn back time and change that!” The old man was quite lost in his own thoughts when he noticed a figure standing near his right. This was nothing but a Hunyango disguised as a young Mulawin girl. But to Dakila’s distracted mind, this was his daughter come back to life. “Paloma!” he said. “Yes, father, it’s me,” she said. “God heard your prayer. He has restored me to you. Come, Father, let’s play!” The Hunyango ran away and Dakila followed. The trio of Gus, Wis and Mulagat saw him running on his own. Alarmed, Mulagat and Wis ran after him; Gus hurried to report to the others. The child stopped right at the edge of a cliff. She looked back at Dakila with a smile. “Don’t you want to know what it’s like to jump without using your wings? Follow me!” In a moment, she had cast herself down and was out of sight. But Dakila could still hear her voice calling out to him. “Come! It feels good to fall!” Totally deluded, the Mulawin did not think twice. He hurled himself down after his imagined daughter. “Spread your wings!” Mulagat shouted. But he knew not if Dakila heard him.

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A Brief Reunion.

Episode for Nov 17, 2004, Wednesday. Habagat had some bad news for his master. Against all odds, the Mulawin fellowship had managed to cross the desert and reach the forest on the other side. Ravenum was startled by this. So much for all the hype around Perena. It seemed that they would have to do it the old-fashioned way after all. “Pick the best from among our troops,” he ordered, “and lead them yourself in an attack.” “You can rely on me,” said Habagat. This would be no easy task, but he relished in it. Everyday, he continued to grow in stature before the lord at the expense of his rivals. The father and daughter stared at each other. Dakila could hardly believe his eyes. Paloma turned to go, but he touched her shoulder to stop her. “Please don’t go,” he said. “I waited so long to see you again.” “You wanted to see me?” she replied. “I was a hostage in Halconia. I waited for you your help. If you cared for me at all, you would’ve come for me.” Her voice was deceptively soft; here was a stubborn and very angry young woman. “I’m so sorry,” her father said. “I did what was best for the majority.” “What majority?” She looked around her. “Your companions here? You traded your own daughter for these?” Bagwis took up for the old man. “There are many things that you don’t understand, Paloma. But if you stay awhile and let us explain, you will know what really happened.” He convinced her to stay with them for the night. The others eyed her curiously and whispered among themselves. Aguiluz, of course, saw her last in Hayuhay. They asked about the Halconia incident. Dakila did his best to explain. “It was hard for me to join Alwina in her quest while you were there,” he said. “But I had to make that decision. Rasmus wanted to know where he could find the Mulawin tree. You know what that means.” Paloma did know. If that were to happen, the cause of the good would forever be lost. Meanwhile, Gabriel was growing restless. He was becoming more and more a mystery to himself everyday; he wanted answers. But more than that, he wanted to see Alwina again. The things he had heard from Aviona rekindled this desire. This did not go unnoticed. “You’re thinking of Alwina, aren’t you?” she said. “You’re just like Aguiluz. Even when you don’t say anything, one can see in your eyes that you miss her. Alwina is so lucky.” Very lucky indeed. Gabriel consulted with Terong as usual. But the latter was not keen on wandering again. He wanted to stay in Aliwalas. “Go then,” he said. “But this time, I’m not going with you anymore. All my life, we’ve been together. Everywhere you go, I follow you. But not this time.” The haciendero’s son was taken aback. “Is this because of Aviona? I thought you were my friend!” “I am your friend. But I also have a mind of my own. I make my own decisions. Most of all, I too fall in love.” This was new to Gabriel. Of course, they were friends. But still, wasn’t he the master and Terong his loyal servant? He had thought that Terong would always be there behind him, following his every step. Yet the look in the man’s eyes told him this was no longer the case. So the two said their goodbyes. Armed with only a map made for him by Aviona, Gabriel struck out into the woods. For the first time in his life, he was on his own. Rasmus and Vultra had taken no part in the siege of Tierra Fuego. Yet the leaders who had arrived last in the battlefield were the first to enjoy the spoils. The Montenegro mansion was now theirs and they made themselves quite at home in it. Savannah could come and go there as she pleased, of course. But she had some problems. Not only the soldiers who mocked her, and the prisoners who whispered behind her back. Even Vultra seemed to be distancing herself from the girl now. Savannah had asked complained to her about the treatment she was getting, but the queen ignored her. “I have a lot of things in mind,” she said. “I will deal with that at the right time.” Bitch Almighty, thought Savannah. But she wasn’t about to give up. She had to make herself important to the Ravena if she wanted to keep her post as royal princess. The talking parrot was her key. She ran straight home to glean more information from Balasik. Alwina brought some food for the new arrival next morning. Paloma watched her closely: a tall, handsome young woman with long black hair and a nice tan. So this is the reason why Gabriel would not love me, she thought. Alwina had no idea what the guest was thinking of. Her thoughts were on the girl’s father. If anyone could understand him, it was her. “I hope you can forgive Dakila,” she said. “He’s a good father. He just tries to do what’s best for the greater number of people. I may not be in a position to say this, but I can understand him. When I first learned about my mission, I felt the weight of responsibility on my shoulders. I’ve had to put others before myself. I’ve had to sacrifice love for duty. So I understand.” Paloma listened, but did not argue. She talked instead about Aviona, her friend. “She was jealous of you back then,” she said. “If only she were here. I know that she too, would tell me to forgive.” Suddenly, an arrow wheezed through the air from behind Alwina. It hit the ground near Paloma. As the arrows sped through the air in rapid succession, the Mulawin realized that they were being attacked. The Ravena rushed at them from behind the trees. Aguiluz flashed his fighting sticks and struck down a Ravena. Alwina threw one soldier off his feet with a kick, then elbowed another. While this was going on, Habagat swooped down from above and stood facing Dakila and Bagwis. It did not take long for his brother to recognize him. But the traitor’s first words were for Dakila. “In all my days as a Mulawin, you never gave me any credit,” he said. “The only one who was any good to you was Bagwis!” It was Bagwis who answered him. “Because of jealousy and ambition, you do this? Have you forgotten that we are brothers? We shouldn’t be fighting! Look at us now!” Habagat only looked at him. There was still a glimmer of conscience there and Bagwis did not miss it. “Search yourself,” he pleaded. “You can’t judge a soul by the colors of one’s feathers.” “Stop it,” his brother said at last. “You’re not going to change anything with what you say.” Perhaps, he felt it was too late. He lunged forward with his battleaxe, and the brothers took to the sky and clashed weapons. “Go, Dakila!” cried Bagwis. “Save Paloma!” But neither of the brothers would get seriously hurt in this encounter. Not them. Paloma was surrounded by Ravena soldiers when Dakila came to her rescue. He smote them with his magic-staff and knocked them down. Thinking they were dead, he looked about him for more. But one of them was still alive. Weakly, the soldier aimed his crossbow at Dakila. “No!” cried Paloma. She pushed her father out of the way; the arrow whistled through the air and found its mark on her chest. It was too late when Dakila realized what had happened. Dark blood trickled from her mouth as his daughter collapsed in his arms. Unexpectedly, Habagat suddenly retreated. “We’re not yet through,” he told Bagwis, and withdrew out of sight. The skirmish was over. When the heroes regrouped, they found Paloma dying in her father’s arms.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Some Mulawin Links.

Hi guys. Here are some Mulawin links for a change. But first, I want to say that I really liked the past few episodes. Yes, the SFX can use improvement. The action sequences and camera movements are still clumsy by international standards. But let's give the Mulawin crew the credit that they deserve. This is a pioneering work in Philippine television. I am really proud of the show as a Filipino. I hope that they will make more fantasy shows and movies in the future with more advanced effects.
I must also applaud the actors for their performances, and the writers for the nice twists in the story (so far). It is good to see more of Aviona now, of course. I'm not really bothered by this new "development" involving her and Terong. I think it's a nice touch of humor now that the show has been so serious lately. It's okay, although I can also understand how die-hard Bianca Knig fans feel about this. When I first heard the Aviona-Terong pair suggested, I said it was "really insulting." But if it's just Terong who has a crush on her, then it's a pretty funny setup that's good for some laughs. I trust the writers will do justice to Aviona anyway. They won't make her look stupid.
The actors are great. The only one I do not really like is Tanya Garcia as Paloma. But we'll see. Maybe now that she's been reunited with Dakila, and more significance is given to the character, this will improve. Bianca King, of course, is mesmerziing as Aviona. Angel Locsin really does look like a warrior-princess in the tradition of Xena in her new outfit; Richard Gutierrez makes me think of a young Superman. Gary Estrada and Ara Mina are perfect as the Ravena king and queen (albeit she wasn't first choice, I heard... too bad for whoever that was). Sam the child actor is brilliant as Wis. Amy Austria, of course, needs no introduction. Karen de los Reyes deserves an award as Savannah. I also like Mulagat and the others. I wish that Bagwis would show more guts and steel though. He's always falling and hurting himself. i also want to see his character developed some more. Kind of one-dimensional compared to the others.
MULAWIN LINKS.
Mulawin Network. (which this page is a part of)

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Rasmus Weaves a Tale.

Episode for Nov 16, 2004, Tuesday. Vultra’s past was like a sunken rock that Rasmus had hoped would never resurface. But it did, and now it was causing ripples in their marriage. Big ones. Sinking it again or burying it would not do; he had to smash it. Not only would he get to keep his lady if he succeeded; he could also regain his father’s trust. He informed the queen that her daughter had a message for her. So Vultra sent for the girl and waited for her to speak. Savannah knew who had set this up. Wishing to extricate herself, she babbled about some things that were of no import. But her lying eyes gave her away. “What does my daughter want to tell me, Rasmus?” Vultra asked. And it was then that the girl saw him standing in a corner, watching them. “Let it come from her own lips, my dear,” he replied. Now Savannah knew that she was trapped. She had to play the game with him now. “I have to tell you something about my father,” she began. “Your father? Bagwis?” “No, no,” she stammered. “He is not my father.” “What? Who is your father then?” Savannah cast a fearful glance at the king. “Rasmus. He is my real father.” This hit Vultra like a blow in the face. “What? How is that possible?” Then Rasmus came forward. “That is true,” he told her. “It’s a mistake for you to think that Bagwis is her father.” Then he turned the tables on his rival. He told her that he had always been her true love, and that it was Bagwis who had tried to come between them. She should not trust her vague recollections, he said; but rather, trust him who by now had proven himself to be a faithful spouse and lover. And to cap it all, he showed her his “birthmark.” Vultra was flabbergasted by this new twist. She asked to be left alone with her husband, who went on with his story. “When I saw the child, I was shocked,” he told her. “She was different. She had no wings. I knew that the other Ravena would kill her, so I did what I thought was best and sent her away to live like a normal human being.” “If that is true, why is it only now that you tell me this?” “Because I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.” This old excuse angered her. “Liar! Since when did you care about my feelings?” “Believe it or not, I think of nothing but how you feel.” And how to lie to her too. The queen’s mind was like scrambled eggs at this point. Rasmus saw his chance. “Think about it,” he said earnestly. “Why was Ravenum so kind to her when you brought the girl to him? Trust me, if it had been anyone else, he would’ve killed her on the spot. But no, he will not kill his own grandchild.” In the desert, the battle raged. Mulagat looked on helplessly when he noticed the earth shaking anew, but not from the weight of the monster. This was an earthquake that now ripped a gaping crevice in the ground. Now they had to take to the skies and flee. But sunrise was fast approaching. A brief glimpse of the sun nearly cost Aguiluz his wings. They had to escape before daybreak. “Have faith!” Dakila cried. And, as if in answer to their prayers, the clouds covered the sky once more. This bought the young Mulawin enough time to rescue Alwina yet again. The scorpion had caught her between its fingers as she took flight, and now threatened to break her leg. Aguiluz dashed at the pincer with all his might. Distracted, the beast dropped its catch. Alwina sped away with the rest to safety. The unfortunate beast itself fell through the chasm and was seen no more. Their enemies anxiously watched these events. Perena seemed worried and this did not help Habagat’s spirits. “What happened?” he cried. “I thought you were supposed to throw them into the pit! But instead, it’s the giant scorpion that fell into it!” “Quiet!” Ravenum scolded him. “Your whining is not going to help!” But the commander was frantic. “Are we just going to stand here and watch?” He turned to the Diwata. “Do something! Send more forces against them!” “Shut up, Habagat!” she snapped. “I know what I’m doing. Don’t boss me around!” Aviona seemed not to notice her secret admirer. She paid no attention to Terong except when he annoyed her. But she and Gabriel had many stories to tell each other. He learned from her about Alwina’s mission, her identity as the Mulawin leader, and the quest she had embarked upon. “I always knew that Alwina had an important mission,” he said. “But I understand it better now.” The two men asked who had accompanied her. “It can’t be just Gus and Wis,” said Terong. “They’re just kids!” “Of course not!” Aviona snapped. “There were others, like Dakila, Bagwis, Aguiluz, many others.” The name rang a bell in Gabriel’s head. “Aguiluz? That sounds familiar to me.” He gathered his thoughts about him. “Yes, Paloma mentioned him to me. She told me he is in love with Alwina. Who is this Aguiluz?” Aviona knew too well what he was talking about. More than she would care to admit. “Gabriel,” she began, “that one you know as Julian, and the one named Aguiluz, are one and the same.” Later that day, Bianca came to Gabriel bringing some fresh leaves for his wounded leg. He politely insisted on changing the dressing himself. “I don’t want our new friends to know the strange things about me,” he told Terong. Then he applied the leaves to his wound and showed it to his friend. It healed miraculously before their eyes, not even leaving a scar. They marveled at this but kept silent. Savannah was in deep water. When she ran into her mother in Tierra Fuego, she disowned the woman in front of everyone and went away. Guilt stung her over this, but it was swim or sink for her at this point. Rasmus had renewed his threat to her that night when she made fun of his scar. So Savannah had to make the best of it. Hoping to make a good impression, she went to Vultra and told her that Alwina was still alive. The queen was startled and hurried to report this in Halconia. Rasmus, too, was surprised by the news, but not Ravenum. “I didn’t want you to interfere with my directives to Habagat to kill her,” he told them, “so I never told you.” At that moment, the proud Habagat showed up beside Ravenum. This was a huge embarrassment for the king and queen. The Mulawin group almost went mad with joy when they reached the forest that evening. At long last, they had arrived on familiar territory! It was good that they did, for Gus by now sounded like a Perico, parroting his own words, “I’m thirsty! I’m hungry!” over and over again. Now, there were trees! Now there was water! The children leapt with joy; Dakdak regained his strength; and Mulagat returned to Encantadia for a brief reunion with his mother. She received him with open arms and told him how proud she was of him. “Praise God for our deliverance!” cried Dakila. “Sing praises to the Almighty Bathala!” They all rose to offer their prayers when Bagwis heard the flapping of wings overhead. It was the slow flapping of large raptor’s wings, like a bird-man’s. “Somebody’s coming,” he warned. Then a lean female figure swooped down through the trees and stood awkwardly before them. Dakila froze in his tracks when he saw the girl. He had not seen her in a long time, but there was no mistaking her. It was Paloma.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Terror in the Wasteland.

Episode for Nov 15, 2004, Monday. The power of remote-viewing is shared by high-ranking beings good or evil. If fairies and nymphs such as Linang can scry through the medium of water, spirits like Ravenum and Perena, the evil Diwata, can divine with the fiery element and other things. So Habagat watched the events in the wasteland with this ghostly company. “Let’s see if this tornado doesn’t tear them to pieces!” he laughed with them. In a few terrifying minutes, the twister sent by Berena roared through the dunes. Tracing a snake-like path on the ground, it whipped the desert into chaos in pursuit of the Mulawin who fled in every direction. Running as fast as his feet could carry him, Bagwis fell on his knees, but Aguiluz helped him up. Alwina pushed on Gus and Wis and was about to take flight with them when Bagwis called after her, “Don’t fly! It’s more dangerous!” But help was on the way for them. Linang could see nothing as there wasn’t any moisture in the desert. Yet the water she divined with was very agitated. That was enough sign that Mulagat’s group was in danger. Muyak suggested that they call on Amihan for help. In fact, the wind-goddess had sent an emissary to Encantadia already. They, too, had felt Ravenum stirring the wind. She assured Linang she would do what she could. So the aerial spirits dispelled the tornado. The air calmed again and the heroes gathered together to rest. “Wait!” said Alwina. “One of us seems to be missing!” She was right. Not far from them they saw Mayi with an injured Dakdak in her arms. They all rushed to his side. The twister had swept him into its funnel and torn his wings. The Perico, as Bagwis explained, are not used to harsh weather and their wings have not the resilience of other bird-men’s. “Leave me here to die!” moaned Dakdak. “What use am I now? My wings are broken and I can’t walk!” “You took us in when we were homeless,” Bagwis reminded him. “There is no way that we will leave you now.” But the Perico king shook his head, broken in body and spirit. “If you that is what you want,” said Dakila. He motioned for the rest to move on and leave Dakdak where he was. Bagwis and the others were aghast, but nobody questioned the sage. Kuskos, however, disobeyed the order. She turned around, nimble legs hopping over the hot sand, and crouched beside Dakdak. Soon, everyone else was back. Kuskos and Mulagat carried the fallen bird-man with them and the group marched on, their number undiminished. When the Queen is away, the soldiers will play. If Savannah really made Vultra believe that she was her daughter, she had a hard time convincing everyone else. In Tierra Fuego, she found herself mocked and harassed by the soldiers. “This is the Queen’s daughter? Man, you’ve GOT to be kidding me!” “Not this dog-eyed bitch!” “I don’t see the resemblance! Hahahaha!” They would say these and similar things much to her chagrin. Then Rasmus showed up and dismissed the rowdy troops with a word. Casting a baleful glance at Ssvannah, he took her roughly by the arm for a few words. He told her that he knew she was making all this up. “If you fooled Vultra, you did not fool me,” he said. “And you should know what would befall you if I ever speak out and tell the truth.” Savannah broke off from his grip, trying to hide her fear. “What’s it to you? Why do you have to wallow in it?” Rasmus bared his teeth. “I just happen to be the husband of the one you claim as your mother, so I ‘wallow’ in it as you say.” “You’re so pitiful! You’d pick on even Vultra’s daughter!” “You’re really hanging on to that lie!” he fumed. “How long are you going to hold out? What would you do if I told you I know who Vultra’s real daughter is? You must know her. She’s from Tierra Fuego as well…. Alwina.” Savannah quaked at this. Now it was clear to her that Rasmus not only suspected, but really knew, the truth. “What do you want in exchange for keeping quiet about this?” she asked. “Very simple,” said the Ravena king. “Pretend that I am your true father.” She balked at this. To pose as the child of one demon was enough. But of two? “It’s your choice,” Rasmus told her as he turned to go. “Claim me as your father… or hasten your own death.” In Aliwalas, Aviona introduced the new arrivals to the inhabitants of Aliwalas: the Perico, the Musang and the Scouts. Gabriel did not seem frightened by the new faces – and new species – all around them. “By the way,” said Aviona, “how did you two end up here? Did you flee from Tierra Fuego because you knew the Ravena would come?” The two men exchanged looks. “So they invaded Tierra Fuego,” Gabiriel said. “I’m sorry to tell you such bad news,” she said sadly. “Do you want to go back?” asked Terong. But Gabriel had no desire to return. “Something should tell me to go back, but I don’t want to. And my father is the reason. He is why I don’t want to go back there.” It was Lucio who utterly killed all the love Gabriel had had for his hometown. Terong cared nothing for Tierra Fuego either. But something caught his heart now… or someone. Nosily, he inquired of the Perico if Aviona was already spoken for. “Nope,” they said. “She and the guy broke up.” Gabriel didn’t miss this. Suspicious, he took his friend aside. “What’s this about now? You’re not setting me up with Aviona, are you?” But Gabriel assumed too much this time. “Oh, hell, no,” Terong replied. “You’re not always the center of the show, Gabriel. You’re not always the one with a love interest.” “Don’t beat around the bush. What’s this now?” “Well…” Terong did not quite know how to say this. “I have a crush on Aviona. Isn’t she cute? I know, I know. I’m eating up everything I told you about bird-women. I never thought I’d fall in love with a woman with wings too.” Now this made sense. “Yep,” Gabriel quipped. “You just ate up everything you said, all right. Let’s just hope you don’t choke on it.” That night, in the midst of this barren wasteland, Dakila could only wonder about his daughter, Paloma. He had refused to help his own daughter. It was as if he had abandoned her to a place as desolate as this one. As he mused over this, the children cried out: “Water!” They had come upon an oasis. Eagerly, the heroes rushed toward it. But Dakila stopped them as they were about to refresh themselves. “I don’t feel good about this,” he told them. “The ground seems to be trembling,” observed Mulagat. In fact, there were ripples in water. But it was not an earthquake. They were hearing the thundering footsteps of a giant scorpion sent again by Perena. If they survived this, they would cross the desert by next evening. But the Ravena were determined to stop them. As the monstrous arachnid emerged from the darkness, its shell glistening in the moonlight, the Mulawin lined themselves up for battle. They would not flee this time. But the enemy must have been laughing at them. Alwina with her magic-shawl, Aguiluz with his daggers, and everyone else could scarcely harm the beast. The scorpion swung its pincers in the air and knocked off Mulagat as if he were a fly. With its leg it almost crushed poor Dakdak with his umbrella. Dakila’s and Bagwis’ throwing blades hardly put a dent on the metallic carapace. Then the scorpion whipped its pedipalps again and flung Alwina into the air. She fell on the ground and Aguiluz ran to her side. The giant arachnid’s shadow fell over them as it moved to catch the two between its snapping pincers.

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Monday, November 15, 2004

Welcome to Aliwalas.

Episode for Nov 12, 2004, Friday. Tuka and Kuwak had wondered what Ravenum sent them for. But now they knew. Rasmus was there waiting for them with a solemn look on his face. He removed his left arm-band and stretched out his arm to them. He flinched but a little as the two sidekicks, upon Ravenum’s signal, burned something into his skin. He then held up that arm and showed his father the new scar. What was this? Nothing else but that same meaningful “A” mark that Savannah had faked. Sometimes, we imitate those we despise the most. Now, a queen may be a lot of things, but stupid isn’t one of them. Some things were not adding up in Vultra’s mind. Why did Ravenum show such kindness to Savannah? Why was he so quick to accept the daughter of a Mulawin? And the girl herself – what could she know about Bagwis? As she pondered these questions, the Ravena winged her way back to Tierra Fuego in search of answers. The impostor, meanwhile, discovered that she was now playing with her own life. With Alwina still alive – and she being that monster’s real daughter – Savannah’s own existence was now at stake. “Will I die if Vultra finds out that I made all this up?” she asked the bird. “You’d be dead meat, Savannah!” chirped Balasik. Just then, she heard the queen’s voice outside, calling for her. However terrified, the girl had to keep her wits about her. “I should tell her that Alwina is still alive,” she said to herself. “But how? I can’t say that a bird told me!” She hid the cage out of sight then went out into the terrace. Vultra stood outside several meters away, flanked by her guards. “I have a question for you,” she called aloud. Uh-oh. Now what? “Have you ever had the chance to meet your father? What can you tell me about Bagwis?” Savannah raised her brows and grinned stupidly. “Oh, that. Bagwis who? Oh! I mean… um…. er….” Vultra’s stern face shone in the midday sun, her brows frowning as she waited for a response. “Are you deaf?” she asked. “Why won’t you answer me?” As Savannah groped for a reply, Lucio entered the scene yelling and brandishing a pistol. The guards swiftly pinned him down and disarmed him. But it was enough to distract the queen. “We’ll talk about this at another time,” she said and left with her entourage. Saved by the bell, Savannah thought. Now, Gabriel and Terong had sojourned awhile when they had to ask… just who were they looking for? Paloma or Alwina? Gabriel still preferred the latter on the whole, of course, as this was their original purpose. Yet in the end, he said, “Never mind. Let’s just see who we can find.” They were about to meet a bird-woman, all right. But it was neither Paloma nor Alwina. One morning in Aliwalas, Bianca came running to Aviona with news. “There are people coming!” she warned. “I saw them!” Alarmed, the Mulawin went to see for herself, following the Girl Scout with spear in hand. But she could have done without help as her own keen senses informed her. The intruders had hidden themselves in some thick foliage and she knew it. Swinging back her arm, Aviona thrust her weapon deep inside. The blade found its mark and a man cried out in pain from behind the leaves. To her surprise and confusion, two familiar faces emerged: Terong and a wounded Gabriel. Terong and Aviona startled each other. It seemed to be disdain at first sight between the two. “You!” he cried. “You’re the one in the cage!” “You’re the ones who freed me!” she said. Sakmal the Musang (Kuskos’s father) lunged at Terong from nowhere. “Now you will die!” “No!” he screamed. “Don’t eat me! I taste bad!” Aviona broke up the commotion and calmed everyone down, confused as she was herself. She clearly remembered these two as those who had come to rescue her when she was being held captive in Tierra Fuego by the people. “We’re your friends,” Gabriel had said. “We’re here to help you.” Aviona and the others dressed up Gabriel’s new wound as he lay unconscious. “Sorry,” she told Terong. “Don’t worry. Those herbs are wonderful. He will recover, you’ll see.” “You should look before you hit somebody,” Terong said angrily. Vexed, she only looked at him from the corner of her eye. “I said, SORRY.” When Gabriel came to, Terong took his hand and put it in Aviona’s like in a handshake. “His name is Gabriel and I’m Terong.” He was about to take that milky white hand into his own when he noticed her offended look. “Oh, sorry. You guys don’t know about handshake, right?” She did not move. “My name is Aviona.” “Aviona,” whispered a tired Aguiluz. He thought he saw her in the distance, looking back at him and smiling. But this bleak desert was only toying with his senses and he knew it. “My eyes are just playing with me,” he thought sadly as the specter Aviona vanished. Alwina, also, weary and half-asleep, was visited by dreams of her and Aguluz together. Just the two of them amidst the dunes, speaking softly and looking into each other’s eyes. Wis, meanwhile, was suffering from a nose-bleed. Dakila tried to keep their spirits up in spite of it all. But this was just the beginning. They were having a conversation when they the sky darkened; a strong wind blew; the roaring of billowing sand was heard, and dust rose all around them. “Sandstorm!” Bagwis cried out. Displaying the resourcefulness that made him a Mulawin leader, he told them, “Form a shelter with your wings! Those with no wings, hide inside!” So four Mulawin and one Perico spread their wings and cast an umbrella around the others. The storm raged, and they stayed this way until it passed. Then they broke up and checked one another if everyone was all right. But scarcely had they breathed a sigh of relief when Aguiluz saw another disaster on their way next. “Tornado!” Now, Bagwis knew that a feathered umbrella would be useless against this. “That won’t work this time,” he said. “Run!” And the heroes sprang up at once for their lives.

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