Thursday, December 23, 2004

Memories. (Flashback VII)

Episode for Dec 20, 2004, Monday. News of Lucio Montenegro’s capture spread like wildfire. “Is it true? Sir Lucio was caught by the Ravena?” the rebels said to one another. “Yes, and we must pray for him to be strong,” Lourdes told them. “I’m sure they will try to make him name his accomplices.” “Ah, whatever,” said Rudy. “I just know in my guts, one of us is a traitor.” Yolly was close beside him. “But who will lead us now?” asked the people. All eyes fell on one person. “Wait a minute,” said Lourdes. “Why are you all looking at me?” There arose a clamor for the witch-doctor to assume leadership. Rudy stepped forward. “You’re a brave woman, Lourdes, and we respect you,” he said. “We think you’ll make a good leader in Sir Lucio’s place.” “I learned about it from Lourdes when we met,” Dakila went on. “Rasmus had told her everything.” “Veronica and Vultra are one and the same,” Bagwis repeated as if to convince himself. “She’s a Ravena, our mortal enemy. And she has no idea that the Mulawin she has been hunting down all this time is our own daughter.” “Be grateful that, at least, you have your daughter with you now, alive and safe,” said Dakila. Bagwis assured him that he was, and after some deliberation, declared that he would make himself known to his daughter. “I will tell her the truth,” he told Dakila. “I am sorry, Bagwis, but you must not do that,” was the sage’s reply. “As soon as you tell her that you are her father, she will ask you about her mother. Imagine what her reaction would be if she found out that her mother is the Ravena queen. It will only distract her in her quest. I feel this is not yet the right time to tell her.” Discerning the soundness of this advice, Bagwis reconsidered. “You’re right, Dakila. It just hurts to have my daughter in front of me and not be able to make myself known to her.” Alwina, meanwhile, was still in an unpleasant mood. Unable to display weakness as the group’s leader, she vented her emotions through anger instead. She had become quite irritable, and even Lawiswis was not spared. “Just excuse her,” Gabriel said. “She’s still hurting over Aguiluz’s death, you know.” “You’re still jealous of him. Gabriel, he’s already dead.” The young man squatted beside the girl and explained, “It’s not that I’m jealous. But when Aguiluz died, it became clear to me that he’s the one she really loves. And now that he’s gone, I don’t know if it’s possible for Alwina to open up her heart for me again.” The Scouts hurried through the woods and were soon reunited with the Perico. “Have you seen Aviona?” asked the Scouts, but the reply was in the negative. “I guess this means she’s gone,” Bianca remarked sadly. “Say, isn’t Lourdes the name of Alwina’s mom?” said Procopio. “Yes, that’s the name she shouted at the bridge,” replied Dakdak. “She’s here!” the Scouts said. Habagat carried on his sorry monologue as usual, but this time, with a pistol in his hand. “I’m so tired of this,” he told himself. “I’m tired of taking orders from someone else. I’m tired of giving orders to kill people for no reason. My own life has become useless. What am I? A Mulawin that became a Ravena. A father that killed his own son. No one could be worse than what I am.” He raised the revolver to his temple; it should end right here and now. Linang screamed at him to stop: “No! Habagat, what are you doing?” she cried. But fate had not willed Habagat to die that hour. Sentinels led by Hasik came to arrest him as Ravenum had ordered. “Come with us, hurry!” they said rudely as they surrounded him. “Don’t stop me!” Habagat yelled at them. “I want to die! Hasik, you? What’s going on? Are you arresting me?” Muyak and Linang were likewise surprised. “What’s happening?” they asked each other. “Where are they taking him?” Both Lourdes and Bagwis could still recall the past, not vaguely like old photographs faded by time, but clearly and vividly as if it all happened yesterday. But although they were now reminiscing about the same events, each viewed it from a different perspective. For Bagwis, it brought back fond memories of a true love he had never quite forgotten. But to Lourdes’ mind, it recalled the pains of an unrequited love. She had been first to meet this strange being in the woods. Lourdes had come upon him sleeping on the forest-floor. Upon seeing her, Bagwis hesitated, wary of humans as all wild creatures are. But Lourdes spoke to him kindly. “You don’t look like an evil man,” she said. “Well, I mean, a bird-man.” Indeed, his appearance was awe-inspiring, but not frightening. He had wings like an angel’s; a heavy white and yellow plumage overlaid his head and broad shoulders; and he wore a splendid armor such as ancient warriors wore. Lourdes marveled at the sight, and very soon whispered to her best friend about it. Naturally, Veronica was skeptical. “What Mulawin are you talking about?” she asked. “You know those are just stories.” But there he was standing before them, a comic-book fantasy figure come to life. He smiled at the fair Veronica and it was love at first sigh between them. For someone with vision as keen as that, it should say a lot. One day, the two young women met, and Lourdes was carrying flowers. “Bagwis wants to meet with me,” she said happily. “He has something important to say to me.” She met the bird-man that day, hopeful for she was secretly in love with him. The triumphant look in his eyes, the glow on his face, and his self-assurance, all suggested he had found the Holy Grail. “It is unlawful for us Mulawin to fall in love with a lowlander,” he told her. “But I will break all rules, and risk all dangers, for the woman I love. Yes, Lourdes. I am in love with a woman. I am in love with your friend, Veronica.” Lourdes was crestfallen, but Bagwis’ distracted senses seemed to have missed that. He saw only Veronica in his mind’s eye, and the prospect of this new romance blinded him to everything else. Deep inside, Lourdes’ heart withered like a flower during a storm. But for the sake of her friends, she never showed it. “I’m happy for you,” she told Veronica later on. As a symbol of his loyal friendship, Bagwis gave Lourdes a plume from himself. “That is a token of our friendship,” he told her. “Keep it. If you need me, I will be there for you.” But it was to Veronica that he gave his love. “Now, since you’re friends, you know her best,” said Bagwis. “Tell me what she likes, tell me what makes her happy.” So Lourdes recounted to him, as well as she could, their childhood dreams. And they dreamed as normal girls do: for a handsome hero to come one day and sweep them away, a princely figure who would dance with them and swear undying love to them. Bagwis wanted to make all her dreams come true for Veronica, and for a while, he did. He showed her the rainbow as a reminder of their love and happiness. “Whenever you feel down or sad, look at it and remember that I love you,” he said to her. But their joy was short-lived. The last time he ever saw the Veronica he knew, she was standing on the brink of a precipice. Behind her was that loathsome fiend, Rasmus, who pushed her down into the ravine and killed her… or so Bagwis and Lourdes had believed. Lourdes still loved Bagwis; Bagwis, to that very day, still loved Veronica. Lucio was hung on the ceiling by his wrists as the Ravena soldiers flogged him. In that same house where he had once been master, and maltreated his subjects, Lucio now suffered the same torments. He saw the face of poor young Julian, whom he had beaten with a whip by himself until Gabriel took up for him. How like a Ravena he had been! “Who are your accomplices?” shouted the guards amidst the relentless whipping. “Kill me!” Lucio shouted back. “I will never tell you!” Outside the torture-chamber, none of the sounds reached Vultra’s ears. She was mulling the situation with the Mulawin Sugo. “Why didn’t I finish her off when I had the chance?” she asked herself. “Why can’t I bring myself to kill her?” A deep and introspective thinker, the queen was sensitive to her inner voice. It must be telling her something. Lawiswis was distributing their rations of food to the Ravena – to Tuka in particular – when Alwina caught her. “Don’t go near them!” she scolded the girl. “Even after I’ve heard the whole story, I still don’t trust you.” Gabriel sympathized with the Ravena, saying, “Bagwis would not have taken them along if he didn’t think they could be trusted.” “Shame on you, Alwina,” said Tuka. “You should understand me and Pagaspas since you yourself have been separated from your mother.” “Leave my mother out of this!” Alwina shouted, visibly upset at Lourdes being mentioned. But then there came a revelation from the Ravena. “Don’t you know that Lourdes is in Tierra Fuego?” they said. “She’s still alive.” “What?” said Alwina. “Mother is still alive?” Dakila saw another distraction coming. “Are you sure?” he asked. “Positive!” the Ravena chorused. “Then I’m going to Tierra Fuego to save her,” Alwina said with determination. “No, you may not,” Dakila told her. “You must not abandon your mission.” “But what about my mother? I’ve already lost Aguiluz. I don’t want to lose my mother. Before it’s too late, I’m going there to rescue her.” Bagwis spoke up. “I will go to Tierra Fuego for Lourdes. Let me do it.” Alwina’s face brightened. “Really, Bagwis? You’ll do that for Mother?” “Yes, I will do so for Lourdes’ sake and for yours as well.” Wis and the Ravena expressed their desire to join. “We can be spies,” said Kuwak and Tuka. “If they ask, we’ll tell them we escaped.” “Very well, then!” said Dakila. “Begin your journey at once as Tierra Fuego is a long way from here. We will resume the journey to the Mulawin tree: Alwina, myself, Laab, Hampas, Kuskos, Mayi…” “Don’t forget Gabriel,” Alwina reminded him. “He’s with us too.” Dakila frowned somewhat and made no reply. They were not the only ones on an important mission. Linang now dispatched Muyak to her mission. Her friends, Marikit and others, sent her their best wishes. Linang gave the fairy her blessing and bade farewell. Bagwis likewise had an emotional farewell with his daughter. He promised her in his heart that they would see each other again. But in Tierra Fuego, whether he knew it or not, Alwina’s mother was there.
Now the soul of Aguiluz found himself in a strange journey quite unlike theirs. He was on a small boat, and with him was the ferryman in a dark garb like death itself. The ferryman paddled quietly along the still waters. It was quite dark and foggy. Aguiluz could see no one and nothing else around him. “Where am I?” he asked. “Where are you taking me?” “Even if you can swim, you cannot escape these waters,” the man told him in a chilling tone. “No one ever escapes the place you are going to.”


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