Friday, December 03, 2004

Aviona Takes a Plunge.

Episode for Dec 2, 2004, Thursday.

In the air, Alwina’s sharp ears picked up rumbling sounds from down below. Alerted of danger, she surveyed the forest floor to see what was going on. Quickly, she espied Aguiluz standing in the path of an avalanche. She swooped down to his side and bore him aloft just in time as the boulders came crashing down the slope. “That was close!” she said. But Aguiluz looked absent-minded, which indeed he was. Had that been really Aviona whom he had seen? Or was that a mere hallucination? It could not have been her, he thought. She had looked strange and frightening, and why would she want to harm him? As if his very thoughts had summoned her, there she was, standing in front of him. Alwina told her what had just happened. Aviona sighed in relief and hugged Aguiluz. “Thank God you’re safe!” she said happily. Aguiluz showed no reaction, his mind still questioning. The arrogant Hampas had finally met his match. He had entered into this contest brimming with confidence, but he had sorely under-estimated Kuskos. Whatever Sakmal’s heir lacked in skill and experience, she made up for in youth and courage. As the night grew old, Hampas felt his strength waning away like the moon. Yet Kuskos showed no signs of tiring. At last, Hampas collapsed before his opponent’s unrelenting blows. The Mulawin cheered. The cat-chieftain had been observing the contest with alarm. He knew that the deathblow could come now at any moment. But obeying the dictates of Musang law, he made no intervention. “Finish him off!” urged Mayi. Kuskos leaped at the fallen Hampas. She slashed the air with her claws, as if showing him how near he was to death. But in the end, she held back. “I won’t kill you,” she told him. “I cannot kill my fellow Musang.” The victor drew back her claws and retreated to the Mulawin corner. The other Musang rushed to Hampas’s aid. “You didn’t kill me when you could have,” said Hampas. “Thank you.” The Musang chieftain congratulate her. “You are a noble Muang, indeed,” he said, “just like your father, Sakmal.” Kuskos and the others stared at him, wide-eyed. “My father? You know my father?” “Yes,” he replied, “and I’ve heard of what happened to him. I am so sorry.” “What? What happened to my father?” “He is dead, Kuskos. He was killed.” Fumes as black as night swirled rapidly in Ravenum’s chamber. The father of the Ravena was highly vexed by what he was hearing. One of Habagat’s subordinate officers had come to report to him about his superior. “Habagat isn’t doing anything,” he said. “He can’t concentrate on his job anymore. We’ve finished our training, but he still tells us to practice. He won’t give the order to attack the other towns.” “Then it was a hollow promise when he told me he would stop grieving over his son!” thundered Ravenum. “They are all the same! They are all useless!” Ravenum seethed with rage. He had had no use for either his son or his daughter-in-law in a long time. Both of them disappointed him. He had never really liked Vultra, a mere convert from the lowlands; and Rasmus was a weakling blinded by inordinate love for his wife. Would Habagat turn out to be another letdown? What in the world was wrong with these people? In another part of Halconia, Gus was trapped in the worst predicament imaginable for him. Showing the mean streak that made her a Ravena, Tuka renewed her threat to her son. “Make up your mind, child,” she said. “I will count to three. One… “ “Don’t give in to them!” said Wis. “Two…” “Mother!” cried a sobbing Gus. Tuka paused. “He called me his mother, Kuwak,” she said thoughtfully. “That’s feels good.” But she snapped out of it soon enough and demanded an answer from Gus. “Please give me more time to think about it,” Gus pleaded. “Lawiswis is everything to me! I can’t lose her!” Tuka considered this. “All right,” she said. “I will give you until tomorrow to decide, Pagaspas. You better make up your mind then.” This was so unfair! The avalanche incident had been easily forgotten, it seemed. Aguiluz and Alwina were now practice-fighting in a forest glade: she with her trusted shawl, and he with his wooden stick. But the young bird-man looked distracted; he was smiling at her, admiring her form and movements. “I’ve never had the chance to tell you,” he said, “your outfit looks good on you.” Alwina smiled shyly and they resumed practice. Aguiluz snatched the shawl from her and refused to give it back. “Hey, give me that!” she yelled. Aguiluz grinned playfully and threw it back at her. They traded blows once more, nimbly throwing kicks into the air and swinging punches. Then, he swept an arm-lock around her neck, drawing her close to his chest. They locked their eyes on each other momentarily. But aware of another’s presence, she loosed herself from his grip and turned serious. “This isn’t the time for that, Aguiluz,” she said unsmilingly. Aviona sat under a tree, trying to ignore them. But there was that voice again, taunting her, mocking her. It had been pestering her since her arrival and would give her no peace. Now, it spoke more loudly than before. See? it said. You’re jealous, aren’t you? AREN’T YOU? He hurt you. This is your chance to get even with him! No, no! I’m over it! I know he loves Alwina and not me! I’ve accepted that! Kill him, Aviona! Kill him! Down in the Montenegro basement, Lucio and the others were discussing their plans. “I’m not saying I’m not afraid,” he said to them, “but we shouldn’t let fear get the better of us. If we’re going to die, anyway, we might as well die fighting.” “I’m angry with the Ravena just like all of you,” Lourdes said. “But how do you know that you’re not risking more lives with what you’re planning?” “Tierra Fuego is ours,” Lucio replied. “We made this town what it is now. We worked hard for it. We shouldn’t let the Ravena take what is ours for themselves. “I used to be no different from the Ravena,” he went on. “But now, I’ve seen how evil I’d been through their actions. We have to fight them.” “We know you as a strong and brave woman, Lourdes,” said Rudy. “We need you on our side.” The other men pleaded with her as well. “We hope you’ll join us in this in spite of the way we treated you.” Lourdes reflected on the matter, perhaps touched by their repentance. “I’ve waited a long time for this moment,” she said, “when I’d be treated as a part of this community. All right. Count me in.” The men rejoiced and proceeded at once to their plans. Lucio turned to Rudy. “You’re the one who knows how to handle the arms,” he said, “and you know where they are stored. You’ll be the one to smuggle weapons out of the armory. Okay?” He gave further directions, and then, on Lourdes’s advice, one or two men at a time left the room to avoid being noticed. The revolt was underway. Unknown to them, they already had sympathizers among some bird-men: the Perico. “I pity these lowlanders,” Dakdak told Gad-Gad and Ngas-Ngas as they surveyed the fields. “It’s not just Aviona who needs our help. They do too.” “So where’s Mommy?” Savannah asked Rasmus when he came her way. “Looks like your so-called mother doesn’t trust you,” he replied coldly. “She doesn’t tell you what she does or where she goes.” “Oh, come on Rasmus,” said Savannah with a sly grin. “We’re the same! She doesn’t trust you either. I asked because I’m worried she might run into Lourdes. That bitch set the talking bird free – ” “What?” Rasmus interrupted. “A talking bird, you say? You mean Balasik?” Savannah was startled; she could not speak. Rasmus seized her by her jawbone with one hand. “Tell me the truth! Are you talking about the Balasik?” “Yes! Ouch, you’re hurting me! But that was before. I told you, Lourdes let it go free!” The king released her from his grip and smiled in spite of himself. So that’s where she had been getting those visions and premonitions of hers. Hidalgo had been keeping watch all day at the gate when boredom overtook him. Well, he thought, since Dakila’s band is going this way, I’ll just stay here and take a nap. The tamaraw dropped his head to the grass-covered earth and soon fell heavily asleep. As he snoozed, the figures of three women emerged from the shadows of the night. They were tall and slender, dressed in tribal attire like natives which, in fact, they were. These young women had wandered far from their own territory and now found themselves before the gate of stones. They looked around them and beheld the statues. “This must be the place where men are turned to stone!” they whispered to one another. One of them was attracted by an emerald glimmer further down, and decided to investigate. Guided by the faint glow, they came upon Gabriel with the binhi still glued to fingers. “Let’s bring it home to Estrella as a present,” said one of the maidens. But try as they might, they could not pry the stone loose from the statue’s grip. “Let’s take the whole statue then,” she said. The third of them then suggested that they take another one with them, the one lying down in a corpse pose. That same evening, a restless Aviona was up again while her companions slept. What she would have given for a moment’s peace herself! But that voice would not leave her alone. It was like a demon tormenting her and scoffing at her. In fact, this was Vultra trying to bend Aviona’s will to her own, taking advantage of the latter’s known weakness. But Aviona was unaware of the fact. She only knew that something was happening to her. Some madness was seeping into her blood, poisoning her mind and urging her on to slay what she loved most. “Aguiluz is in danger because of me,” she said to herself. “There’s only one thing I can do.” Aviona fled too the riverside, never looking back for fear her other self might take over at any time and do harm to Aguiluz. She stepped into the still waters unhesitatingly. She must die, she thought, she must die or Aguiluz would. The waters rippled softly as they rose around her, to her legs, knees, waist, chest, neck and up to her head… ‘til the mirror-like surface closed over her like the grave and nothing else was to be seen.



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