Monday, November 29, 2004

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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