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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