Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Living and the Damned.

Episode for Dec 21, 2004, Tuesday. In Halconia, sentries ushered Habagat behind bars. It was clear from their manners that he had lost all authority over them. “Sorry, Habagat,” they said. “Ravenum’s orders.” “You shouldn’t have stopped me,” he said to them. “I want to die. What could Ravenum want from me now? I’m useless to him.” “Who says he’s going to use you? Maybe he has other plans for you.” A tiny creature like a firefly buzzed inaudibly through the dusky passageways. It was Muyak whom Linang had dispatched to the Ravena’s lair. She entered Habagat’s cell where she found him slumped in a corner, asleep. “This place is really scary,” she said to herself. “I hope to make it on time. God help me!” Ravenum had sent a messenger to fetch his son. On their way to Avila, Rasmus asked him, “Why has Ravenum sent for me? Do you know anything?” “I’m not sure, sir,” was the reply. “I think there’s news about Kuwak and Tuka.” Rasmus found that ridiculous. “You’re telling me this is just about Kuwak and Tuka?” “Err… I’m not sure, Your Majesty,” the soldier said. Alwina and Gabriel were conversing amiably when Dakila came between them. He had something to tell her, he said. “Gabriel must leave us,” he said. “He must not come with us to the Mulawin tree.” Now Alwina was surprised. “Yeah, I don’t know why he hates me so much,” Gabriel said. “I cannot trust him,” Dakila told her. Then Alwina replied, “You must give some explanation for this, Dakila. I’ve known him since I was a child. If there’s anyone here I trust with my life, it’s Gabriel. “When you asked me to trust in Tuka and Kuwak, it was hard for me to do so. But I did because you asked. Now I ask you to trust in Gabriel for my sake.” It was a good argument, and the elder Mulawin had no rebuttal. All he could say, after all, was that he could see the blood in Gabriel’s veins and he did not like it. Gabriel later thanked Alwina for standing up for him. Savannah entered the master’s bedroom in the Montenegro mansion; her queen-mother had summoned her. “Do you have a problem?” she asked. “Why don’t you share it with me as a mother and daughter should?” Vultra turned slowly about, as was her way. “You’re right, Savannah,” she replied. “Since you are psychic, I need your insight.” Not again, the girl thought. “About what?” “Find out for me why I couldn’t bring myself to kill Alwina when we faced each other.” Anger distorted Savannah’s features, and she shouted, “You mean you ran into Alwina! Why the hell didn’t you kill her then?” “Since when did you learn to raise your voice at me?” replied the offended queen. “I asked you that because of your power, and I thought you could help me. Now, if you have no useful information to give me, then get out of my sight!” Savannah did so for the meantime, and consulted with her real mother. Yolly advised her to make something up. “I suppose,” said the girl. “That’s what I’m good at, anyway.” The Ravena queen was still in her chamber when Savannah burst into the room once again, this time in tears. “What’s wrong?” she asked, concerned. “I had a premonition!” cried Savannah. “I was shown that if you don’t kill Alwina, she will take my place! I was also shown that it is she who will try to kill me! No! I don’t want to die! I don’t want to die!” Vultra’s face remained impassive. She stroked the girl gently. “Don’t cry,” she told her. The queen did not show it, but deep inside, she was sorely troubled. Bagwis’ team flew at full speed toward Tierra Fuego: he alone, Gus as an owl beside Tuka, and Wis in Kuwak’s arms (for some reason, she could not turn into a bird). When they alighted, three Hunyango spies were waiting in ambush for them. Setting aside their invisibility, they sprang forth from the bushes and attacked the intruders. Bagwis ordered the others to stand back while he fought them alone. “I can understand them,” he said to Tuka and Kuwak. “They were sent to look for you.” He hurled a mighty kick at the first of the three Hunyango, then another at the second, and one more at the third. Bagwis seized them and brought them all down single-handedly in a matter of minutes. When they had fallen, Bagwis led his companions to the wired fence surrounding Tierra Fuego. It did not occur to him that, since he had not slain the Hunyango, they could report back to their Ravena masters what they had witnessed. “We’re here,” said the Ravena. Bagwis observed his surroundings. He saw Ravena soldiers beating and harassing unarmed civilians with axes and other weapons he was not familiar with. “There is no hope for these people,” he exclaimed. “How could you have done such a thing?” “We regret what we did,” Kuwak told him. Meanwhile, Lourdes, the woman they had come for, was talking with her fellow rebels in hushed whispers. “I’m sure it’s Yolly,” Rudy told them. Someone told him, “Don’t say that unless you can prove it.” “Where do you think that cunning Savannah gets her attitude?” he replied. “Haven’t you noticed? Yolly is always missing? Now she’s here, now she isn’t. That means only one thing: She repots to her daughter.” “Well, the Ravena wouldn’t have known of our plans if Aling Yolly hadn’t told them about it,” a girl said. When he had set foot on Avila’s lofty peak, the facts became plain to Rasmus. It was quite unexpected. There was Habagat brought down to his knees before mighty Ravenum. “This is a surprise, Habagat,” commented Rasmus with a malevolent smile. “It turns out, you’re good only in the beginning.” “You are very stubborn Habagat,” Ravenum told him. “I made you a Ravena! I even made you commander of my Army!” “I tried what I could,” the former Mulawin answered. “I tried to forget what I did—” “But I can’t forget my son,” Rasmus finished for him. “You keep harping on the same thing!” Habagat was not the least perturbed by the notion of punishment. Indeed, he yearned for it now as an escape from the life he wished to quit. But he was foolish enough to make this desire known. “I’m tired, Ravenum,” he said. “Finish me off! Kill me now!” And Ravenum answered, “No. You will not die. That is not what I have in mind for you.” “Let me die!” Habagat insisted. “Don’t spare me!” “Do not think I am doing you a favor by sparing your life,” the spirit told him. “Death would be an easy way out for you. Instead, you will suffer the ultimate penalty for those who disobey Ravenum!” Then he spoke to his son, “Give him the red binhi, Rasmus.” Rasmus held out his palm; a sparkling ruby-colored seed was in it. Habagat’s eyes widened. “Red binhi?” Ravenum cackled with glee. “Yes, Habagat. You will drink a red binhi.” A just punishment, was it not, for someone like him? As the seed was forced down his throat, Habagat’s mind recalled his many sins, how grievous, how dishonorable. His first thought was of young Aguiluz, to whom he had given the red binhi so that he could lose his wings. He remembered when he imprisoned Dakila and took over Avila from within. He remembered the siege of Tierra Fuego. And, lastly, he recalled that fateful encounter with Mulagat. A searing pain burned him within and without, as the binhi purged away all his powers as a bird-man. This was true damnation for all winged men, to be stripped of his feathers and banished to the lowlands as a mere mortal. As Habagat was cast down, Rasmus called after him as one victorious over his rival. “Farewell, Habagat” he said. “You were useful to us for a while, but now you are inutile. Now you will pray that you had died!” In Tierra Fuego, the workers called one another’s attention to a distant object falling from the sky. As it neared land, they made out the contours of a bird-man, a Ravena. But he appeared to be shedding his feathers which were scattered in the wind. Habagat hit like a missile, and the peopled rushed to investigate. When the boat he was in reached the shore, Aguiluz got off and the ferryman said to him, “You cannot escape from the Imperio. Beyond that cave is the place of punishment for beings such as you.” So he was in Hell! “No!” Aguiluz said. “Why am I here? What have I done?” “It is not for me to make a list of your shortcomings,” said the boatman. “My duty is only to bring you here.” He left Aguiluz there still calling after him. Then the Mulawin turned to see what lay before him. There was a cave there. Its rocky surface seemed to be animated with the shapes and faces of the damned souls trapped within. He could already hear their faint cries echoing from inside the cave. Aguiluz looked about; he was in the dark wood of error where the sun never shone. He was on the threshold of hell itself. But Aguiluz could not accept this. “All my life I strove to live honorably,” he reasoned, “and now I’m here?” He attempted to escape by dashing into the opposite direction, but after a few minutes, he found himself before the cave again. “I got lost,” he said to himself, and ran bolted once more. Soon, however, he was back in the very same spot. Weary from his sprint, Aguiluz debated within himself over what to do. “If it is my fate to go to Hell, so be it,” he said aloud. “Better move forward than go in circles here.”


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