Friday, December 31, 2004

Land of Fire.

Episode for Dec 27, 2004, Monday. As Rasmus was about to deliver the deathblow, Kuwak and Tuka came forth from the bushes and called out to their former king. Startled, Rasmus turned his open face to them, and as he did, they cast handfuls of soil into his eyes. Thus confounding him, the Ravena traitors bought enough time for Bagwis and Habagat to escape. Meanwhile, Lourdes waited for Bagwis from evening until morning. She was hiding behind some bushes on a slope with Wis and Gus the owl. Suddenly she noticed a formidable and majestic figure towering over them. “We meet again, lowlander,” Vultra said to her. “Vultra, remember you gave your word to protect us!” Lourdes cried. “I know I made such a promise. But you joined the rebel movement. The matter is out of my hands now.” Bagwis in his own company was also wondering about his friend. “I think something must’ve happened to Lourdes,” he said. “I’ve loved you since I first saw you,” Estrella told Gabriel. “Even when you were still a statue, I knew I loved you.” It was hard not to be touched by this maiden’s simplicity and honesty. Gabriel loathed to break her heart, but as with Paloma, he refused to lead her on or give her a false hope. “Alwina is the one I love,” he told her plainly. Hurt by this rebuff, she left him without a further word. Next morning, Gabriel watched over Terong’s body, regretting what had happened to the latter. He repeated to Alwina what he knew of the matter through Estrella. “Speaking of Estrella,” Alwina said, “she told me what happened last night.” “She admitted to me that she’s in love with me. But she’s no different from the other girls who came into my life: Savannah, Paloma… I feel nothing for them.” He walked over to Alwina and looked her in the eyes. “You’re still the one I love,” he told her. “Gabriel,” she said, “don’t make the same mistakes that you did with Paloma.” “Is it a mistake to be honest about how I feel? I can’t blame myself for what happened to Paloma.” Alwina seemed to grow cold even as she looked at him. “Then we’re the same,” she said. “Your heart is closed to others. So is mine. My only fear is that both of our hearts will turn to stone.” No need for Haraya. Alwina had changed so much since their innocent days in Tierra Fuego; at least, her attitude toward him had. Her gaze no longer had the fire of romance in them when she looked at him. She treated Gabriel now as a mere friend, almost like a brother. As Rasmus brooded over his failed encounter with his arch-enemies, Vultra entered the room with Lourdes and Wis in tow. Gus was in Lourdes’ hands. “My dear king, I have a present for you,” she said. Now that he had wiped the dust off his eyes, Rasmus could smile again. “Very good, my dear queen!” he said, and then ordered the soldiers, “Put them to the stake and burn them alive at the plaza!” Lawiswis tugged at Lourdes’ dress and began to cry loudly, and Vultra moved to change her consort’s mind. “Pardon me, my lord,” she said. “It might not be wise to act rashly in this kind of situation. This is the mother of the Sugo. We can use her as bait if we keep her alive.” Rasmus seemed to ignore her. “What were you and Bagwis talking about last night?” he asked Lourdes. “Nothing!” The king seized her by the throat and shouted, “Don’t make a fool out of me! I saw you two last night! Maybe you’d like to disembowel your pet!” He was stroking Pagaspas’ feathers with his claws, so Lourdes sobbing admitted that she had conversed with the Mulawin. “Are you going to look for Bagwis on your own?” asked his wife. His reply was negative, but before he could speak further, a soldier put another question to him: “Excuse me, but what shall we do with Tierra Fuego?” Rasmus grimaced at the mere mention of it. “This town has become a big headache for us,” he told them. “And with all the other territories we’ve conquered, it has lost its value. The people have rebelled against us, and they care nothing for this place anymore, or for their families, or their relatives.” Time for Tierra Fuego to live up to its name, he thought. But before issuing the order for what he had in mind, Rasmus set out one more time through the town with Lourdes’ owl in his grip. “Bagwis!” he called out when he espied the Mulawin. “I know you know where the Sugo is. Tell her, if she wants to see this thing and Lourdes, to go meet me in Avila!” The message loud and clear, he faded like a shadow into the darkness. Bagwis was about to pursue him, but his companions persuaded him to rescue the Perico instead. Dakdak had joined them after mourning for and burying the Scouts. Meanwhile, Rasmus issued the order to burn the whole town to the ground. His decree was no sooner given than carried out in full force. Days before the New Year, the Ravena celebrated it with a bloody feast of carnage and destruction, setting fires here and there and firing guns in the air. Tierra Fuego was being leveled to the ground, and soon, none but walls of flame would remain standing. In the commotion that ensued, Yolly and Savannah realized that this was their chance to flee together. But unfortunately for them, Vultra was not forgetful: she had sent a trooper to escort Savannah to Avila. “The Queen has sent me to fetch you,” he said. “I don’t know this woman,” Savannah aid of Yolly, disowning her again. But Yolly would not let go even as the Ravena took flight with Savannah in hand. The three of them struggled, and Savannah pleaded with her mother to let go. At last, Yolly’s grip slipped and she fell away and dashed her head below. Bagwis and Dakdak ventured into the Montenegro mansion without much trouble. There were no more guards stationed there, of course, as all the Ravena had abandoned the area. Small fires had been started here and there, and choking smoke billowed in the air. Bagwis stormed into the basement and there came upon Lucio and the two Perico. In a few minutes they were all safely out of the building. Now Alwina and Estrella were practice-fighting with their spears. Both were quite impressive, and Maningning applauded. However, the mood was interrupted when Dakila appeared and called Alwina over. “Alwina, we need to talk. Just the two of us,” he said. So leaving the others, he said to her: “I think we’ve reached the point where we must go our separate ways. Haraya will be one of your tests. I do not know how you will overcome that, but the Sugo must deal with those trials alone according to what the oracle said.” “What’s going on?” Gabriel said. “What are you doing here? This is between me and her.” “So long as it’s about Alwina, I will get involved whether you like it or not.” “Why?” asked Dakila angrily. “What happened when you went there? Would you help her if you turned into stone again?” Gabriel had no answer, while Alwina accepted this change without complain. Later, near the entrance of stones, she bade her first love a restrained farewell and told him not to be upset with himself. “All my life I have leaned on others,” she told him, “my mother, you, Aguiluz… A time comes in one’s life when one must go it alone.” That was as far as he could accompany her. He could not help her anymore, and was forced to stay behind with Dakila who met Hidalgo there. “Hidalgo! I never thought we would see each other again! Huh? You traveled with him?” “Hey, lucky you,” said Gabriel bitterly. “You found a friend while Alwina is out there on her own.” “The prophecy declared that the Sugo must go alone.” “Why don’t you show me that prophecy so I can tear it apart?” Dakila smirked at him and said, “Do you really want to help Alwina? Or is it that you just want to reach Avila?” Aguiluz continued to ply Alwina with questions. “You really don’t remember anything about the Mulawin and the Ravena?” he asked. Now Alwina managed to smile. “Well, there are still rumors of the Ravena advancing in the east and conquering more villages,” she told him. “But so long as they don’t bother us, why should we care about it?” What? Aguiluz could scarcely believe what he heard. She was smiling at him, but there was something very disturbing about this Alwina; something odd. “You don’t care about that at all?” he said. In the next scene he was aware of, Aguiluz was once again running after the little boy. “Stop!” he called. “Please, stay! Why do you run away from me?” The boy stopped and looked up at him. “Because you’re selfish,” he said. “You think only of yourself.” “Me? Selfish?” “You don’t want to make a decision. We’re both lost, neither here nor there because you refuse to decide. I’m a soul that hasn’t been born yet. I can only live if you will make the right choice: the world.” “But why do you leave it to me to decide?” asked Aguiluz. “What about Alwina? Doesn’t she have a right to be happy?” “Others must not pay the price for your happiness,” the boy argued. “And if Alwina were real, how come she has no wings?” This made Aguiluz stop and think. He had almost missed that detail. Where were her wings indeed? Aguiluz sprinted back to the hut where the strange Alwina was and said to her, “You don’t have your wings. Is that why you can’t remember a thing?” “What are you talking about?” asked this Alwina, still wearing that carefree smile. “Alwina, this isn’t you,” he tried to explain. “You must care about the world. You can’t just stand here and ignore what’s happening. There’s disaster coming!” “There’s a disaster coming,” she echoed matter-of-factly. At that, Aguiluz heard the devil’s voice summoning him. He went outside where black clouds enveloped him and transported him back to the Imperio, despite his protests. “What you experienced was only a foretaste of things to come if you choose Alwina,” Belzebuth reminded him. “But now it is time for you to make a decision. If you choose her, I will snatch her from where she is now so you two can live peacefully. Or you can be brought back to life, where there will be no certainty of Alwina either fulfilling her mission or being with you in the end.” The choice now was obvious to the hero. “The Alwina I saw there was not the Alwina I fell in love with,” he said mournfully. “I fell in love with her because she is compassionate, and because she doesn’t shirk from duty. If she will only lose their qualities, then I would rather not be with her.” “Are you sure?” “I surrender my love for Alwina,” said Aguiluz. “I choose the salvation of the world.” Armed with a spear given by the Taguba, Alwina began her trek alone toward the Gate of Avila, that place where men turned to statues. She had gone a considerable distance when her practiced senses warned her of danger. Somebody was following her. “Who goes there?” she called out, wielding her javelin. Glancing about here and there, she yet missed the enemy. A solid kick to her folded wings threw her down forward. Hurt, Alwina turned around on her knees and got a heart-stopping shock. It was Aviona.


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