Friday, December 03, 2004

Catfights.

Episode for Dec 1, 2004, Wednesday. Aviona smiled prettily at the Mulawin pair and ran toward them. “Aguiluz, Alwina!” she exclaimed. “Thank God, I’ve found you!” Aguiluz sprang up to his feet and pointed his weapon at her, motioning for Alwina to stay back. “You’re a Hunyango!” he said accusingly “You can’t be Aviona!” “No, it is me!” she told him truthfully. “The way here is too dangerous. There’s no way you could’ve made it here!” Aviona saw the hostile look in his eyes and knew there was only one way to convince him. “Do you remember that night when we touched wings?” she asked. “You told me that you would always be there for me, when the sun rose and ever afterwards.” This rocked Aguiluz and made him look again at the one speaking to him. No one could have known that but him and Aviona. The haunting memory of that night came back to him in an instant. There they had stood, their wings folded together in an embrace, their faces almost touching. So tenderly had he spoken to her, pledging love and devotion as a lover does. As he stood there speechless, Aviona turned to Alwina and said, “Do you remember when I offered you the makahiya?” Of course, Alwina remembered that incident as well. Hence the veil of doubt was torn from their minds, and the Mulawin threw their arms joyously around one another. Gus saw no help for him and Wis now. He had been reconciled to his mother, true, but if the price he had to pay in exchange for that was to become a Ravena, he did not want it. “Let’s try to escape again,” he told his friend. So the children willed themselves to morph into owls. But Tuka and Kuwak appeared from nowhere and pounced on them, thus frustrating their second escape attempt. “I’m sorry, son,” said Tuka. “You’re very stubborn so we have to do this. I’ll give you an ultimatum!” “Ultimatum?” they chorused, perhaps hearing that word for the first time in their lives. “Yes,” Tuka told them. “You will agree to become a Ravena, Pagaspas. Or we will be forced to kill Lawiswis.” This blew up in Gus’ face like hot lava. He could not believe what his own mother had said. The Musang brought Dakila’s band before their leader: an old cat-man with fierce eyes, a dark countenance and a rich furry white beard. Dakila and Bagwis would soon realize that Kuskos’s fears had been justified. The Musang king was clearly a very old-fashioned cat. The ways of his people were deeply ingrained in him and, like other felines, he hated aliens and intruders. “Why have you trespassed into our domain?” asked the Musang chieftain. “We keep telling you that we mean you no harm,” answered Dakila. “And here is one of your own with us.” The chieftain spoke slowly and deliberately. “If we do not trust even our fellow Musang,” he said, “why should we believe strangers like you?” “If you give us the chance, we will prove to you that we are your friends,” said Dakila. “And perhaps you could help us in our fight against the Ravena,” added Bagwis. “We will not involve ourselves in your affairs,” said the Musang coolly. “Why don’t we settle this in the traditional way?” “Traditional way?” mimicked Mayi nervously. ‘Yes. Pick the best fighter among you to fight ours: Hampas here.” Bagwis turned around and saw an agile black Musang with white mane like a lion’s. This was Hampas, bouncing confidently and menacingly before him. Bagwis had been a warrior for too long now to relish in violence; the mere thought of it made him sorry. But this vigorous and conceited feline was spoiling for a fight already. “If Hampas defeats your champion,” said the chieftain, “the Musang will have a feast!” His cat-eyes glowed at the prospect. “And if ours beats yours?” asked Bagwis. “You must join us on the way to Halconia.” Kuskos had been watching and listening with apprehension. She took her friends aside and made a bold offer. “Let me fight Hampas,” she told them. The cat-men erupted in laughter. “Well, it looks like you have there braggart yourselves! Hahaha!” Kuskos ignored them. “Cats have nine lives,” she went on. “If you beat him once, he will get back up again and again. But if once he strikes you down, that will be the end of you. I have used up five lives. I still have four left.” As the Mulawin group argued among themselves, the Musang king heaved a sigh of impatience. “Have you decided yet?” Aguiluz and Alwina recounted their adventures to Aviona. They told her that Paloma had been killed as well as Mulagat, the son of Habagat. She was saddened and surprised by the news. Then it was the duo’s turn to ply her with questions. Aviona answered them with a tale in which truths and lies had been woven together. “The Ravena attacked Aliwalas,” she said. “They wanted to take me with them. I don’t know why. But luckily, Bianca and the others were able to escape. I, too, was able to escape. I’d gone to look for them when I found you instead.” She was smiling at them, but something in her eyes made Aguiluz uneasy. “What could the Ravena have wanted from her?” he asked Alwina when they thought she was already sleeping. But as usual, the Mulawin angel was unsuspecting. When the two had gone to sleep, something inside Aviona stirred her awake. She felt the urge to steal the map from Aguiluz. This impulse was coming from none other than Vultra, suggesting thoughts to her through Perena’s fire. But Aviona did not know this. She deftly snatched the map from Aguiluz’s side and unfolded it. Through her eyes Vultra scanned the faded document. “Why isn’t the Mulawin tree in this map?” she hissed through Aviona’s voice. Very wisely, Dakila had never put it down on paper; he had transmitted the knowledge to Alwina orally. Aguiluz could not sleep well. He rose from his slumber and turned to Alwina, who had also awakened. The Mulawin’s keen instincts warned him something had changed. So he took out the map from his side, and opened it. “Alwina, did you look at the map?” he asked. “No, I didn’t. Why?” “Then why did the folds change? I know exactly how I folded it.” The bell of doubt chimed again in his head. Despite their colorful plumage and outfits, the Perico and Scouts had been able to keep watch in Tierra Fuego without being spotted. But the one they were looking for was nowhere to be seen. “Those are all humans,” said Dakdak. “They won’t put Aviona there with them.” “Why don’t we split up?” suggested Procopio. “We’ll have better chances of finding her if we do so.” He took his little sister with him and went elsewhere. Dakdak and the others continued to observe as the Ravena drove their slaves to labor. Habagat had been in Tierra Fuego for a few days now, but he was not really there. Once, he had been a brilliant military strategist and general, rallying the Ravena army to victory in two major campaigns. He had inspired so much confidence in the troops that they came to prefer him over their own king, Rasmus. Most of all, Habagat had become Ravenum’s trusted favorite. The prospects of him being propelled to the highest rank seemed very high indeed. But all that meant nothing to Habagat now. Like a lost herd of goats, his men turned to him for guidance. But Habagat could not think for them; he could not function anymore as a leader. He thought only of his own sorry loss, and the rest of his days stretched before him as one long funeral wake. “We have practiced enough with those new weapons,” reported one officer to him. “Our troops are eager for battle. I think it’s time we launch another attack. What’s your plan for Pugad Lawin and the others?” Habagat shook his head. “No. You will practice some more.” “But— ” The general cut him off. “You heard me. Dismissed.” Linang and Muyak were watching him in the latter’s magic basin of water. “Looks like Habagat has been really hurt by what happened,” mused the little fairy. “Aren’t you going to forgive him, Linang?” But the queen held on to her own anger and grief. “Time does not heal all wounds, Muyak,” she answered. Kuskos’s finest hour had arrived. The others gave way and the two Musang squared off. With claws swirling and jaws snarling, they threw themselves into a fierce wrestling match with such speed and mobility as only their own kind possessed. They dazzled the spectators with overhead body slams, flying kicks, sweeping hooks, and other aerial acrobatics. Mayi watched on anxiously as Dakila held her back. Hampas seemed to be gaining the upper-hand. He tossed Kuskos with one of his revolving kicks; she hit smack into a tree. With another blow or two, he ended her fifth life. But no sooner had he done so, than a living white light shone throughout her body, signaling resurrection. Then Kuskos sprang into her sixth life in all her feline fury. Another fight – but this time on the level of the soul – would now take place within Aviona. Day broke and Aguiluz rose early to hunt for food. “Say, Aguiluz,” said Aviona to him, “are we still a long way off from the Mulawin tree? Did Alwina ever mention to you where it is exactly?” Doubt’s bell rang again. “I’m here to join her and protect her in this quest,” he said. “But as for where the tree is, I don’t know.” He excused himself then. Far, far away in another forest, Vultra heard his words. So Aguiluz is useless then, she thought. She touched Aviona’s mind again. “Kill him, Aviona! Kill him!” Aviona looked about, puzzled and distressed at what she was hearing. The voice seemed to be coming from inside and yet outside, of her. Its suggestions were so against her will, yet it felt so intimate that she could have sworn it was herself. “Kill Aguiluz?” she echoed. “But I love him!” Perena had not taken full possession of Aviona. But she had left a spark of evil in her. With her hypnotic power, Vultra was now stoking this flame into a wildfire. “Yes, you DO love him,” she said. “But does HE love you? You will never get even a little love from him. He will never love you! Show no pity, Aviona! He doesn’t know where the Mulawin tree is, and he has no love for you! So he’s useless! Kill him!” “No! No! I won’t kill the one I love!” “Kill him now, Aviona!” Vultra ordered. “Kill him or I will kill you!” The flame of Perena burned within Aviona and cast out the angel. Aguiluz was now returning from the hunt. He saw her, her skin flushed red, her eyes burning like coals. She looked down and noticed some boulders at her feet. “There! Use that to kill him!” said the voice. “Die, Mulawin!” She kicked off the huge rock nearest her with inhuman strength. It tumbled down the rocky slope, launching an avalanche of boulders in Aguiluz’s direction. He was too stunned to move; he could not believe that Aviona really meant to kill him.
 

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