Wednesday, December 01, 2004

A Surprise Visitor.

Episode for Nov 30, 2004, Tuesday. Once again, Kuwak and Tuka visited the owl-children’s cell to see if the latter’s son would speak to her. Urged on by his friend, Pagaspas finally broke his silence. He said he had something to say to them. Gus climbed up the bench where he had been sitting with Wis, and stood to his full height looking at his mother. “Mother, I still love you,” said the boy awkwardly. “I love you because you’re my mother. Nothing can change that.” Tuka bobbed her head from side to side, looking far away with her wide eyes. “Did I hear that right?” she asked wonderingly. “Do you mean that, son?” Gus only nodded. “Oh, thank goodness!” She hugged him joyfully and all seemed well in that dungeon for a few seconds. Then, Kuwak wiped off tears from his eyes and spoke up. “Well,” he said, “now that you two are okay again, I guess it’s time for you to make your request, Tuka!” Gus and Wis looked at each other. “Request?” “Yes, my child,” said Tuka hesitantly. “You see… well… I want to turn you into a Ravena.” Gus broke off from her, terrified. “WHAT?” he chorused with Wis. “Yes, why not?” said Tuka. “Don’t you want to become like your mother?” “No!” he cried vehemently, no longer stammering. “I don’t want to be a Ravena! You will never convince me!” Wis could sympathize with her friend. She, too, would have been fully indoctrinated into the Ravena way like her parents, if Dakila had not cursed her and Pagaspas and banished them to the woods. That had actually been a blessing in disguise for Lawiwis, for it had freed her from the wicked influence of Ravenum and his minions. “No matter what they tell you, don’t give in,” she later told Gus when they were alone. Wishing to convert their prisoners, the Ravena began to lecture them about the origin of conflict between them and the Mulawin. It was the same old story that was taught to every young Ravena: “The Mulawin led by Rasmus and his father had launched an offensive against humans for destroying the bird-men’s habitat. Bagwis had been among them, but unable to make up his mind, he finally decided to retreat. In the confusion that ensued, Ravenum was killed. Bagwis and the others abandoned him and Rasmus. He did not help Rasmus…” But Gus and Wis would hear none of it. They covered their ears and recited a litany of nonsense to drown out the sounds. Tuka could only look despairingly at her partner. All day the tandem of Aguiluz and Alwina traveled on foot. Very little was said between them, for each was absorbed in his or her own thoughts. Here they were, together at last, just the two of them, like they had always wanted. But neither of them dared to make a move. Words of love soft as the breeze and warm as the fire remained unspoken. After all, Aguiluz had judged himself unworthy of her, the savior of his race, so what could he say now? Alwina, for her part, remembered Dakila’s advice: duty and responsibility must come first before affairs of the heart. Somewhere in the forest, Vultra had taken Aviona with her for final instructions. Perena was there. She informed the Ravena queen that Alwina was no longer alone. Aguiluz was with her. Not welcome news for Vultra, of course. He had always been a hindrance to her. “My work here is done,” said the Diwata. “I am leaving you with my magic-fire so that you will be able to observe all that happens with your new recruit. I myself shall take Aviona to where Alwina is, to make it easier. The rest will be up to you.” She conjured a ball of mystic fire from thin air, and placed it beside the Ravena queen. Perena herself thinned into mere smoke and finally disappeared.
Vultra snapped her fingers at Aviona. “Go and confound them,” she commanded. Aviona’s eyes glowed red. “I will go now, Queen Vultra,” she spoke in a voice that was not her own. Her business there done, Vultra returned to Tierra Fuego. She cast her far-seeing eyes about the fields when she noticed someone missing. Savannah came running up to her and greeted her. But Vultra ignored her. “I can’t seem to find Lourdes around here,” she said. “Takam! Have you seen her?” Takam was that gluttonous sentinel Savannah had conspired with to kidnap Lourdes. Of course, he denied having any knowledge of that woman’s whereabouts. “Maybe Princess Savannah knows,” he suggested. “Who, me?” she exclaimed, feigning announce. “Why should I know?” Vultra regarded them both with icy silence, and left. Savannah blazed her eyes at the soldier. The Ravena queen was becoming suspicious of her now. She had to act fast. Dakdak recounted his adventures to the Scouts and his fellow Perico. But what amazed him was how uneventful the journey through the desert had been. Before, with Alwina’s fellowship, he had faced storm and tornado and giant scorpion. But on the return home, Dakdak had encountered no obstacles at all. It was as if Nature had taken sides with him. But there was no more time for story-telling. The Scouts were anxious to recover Aviona from her kidnappers. So they marched on, following along a deserted road which they guessed must lead to Tierra Fuego. They were right, for that evening they arrived at the captured town and found it wired all around, transformed into a fortress and guarded by armed Ravena soldiers at various checkpoints. Neither exit nor entry seemed possible; the area had been completely isolated. But the Scouts were undaunted. “Remember,” said Procopio, “we’re here to save Aviona.” Such bravery was theirs, and that could prove to be their undoing. After another long day of slaves' labor, Rudy was finally able to bring his tidings to Lucio. “Good news, Sir Lucio,” he said happily, for he still treated the man as his master, “the others agree with our plan. They want to join!” Two girls had snuck into the armory to see them. One was Pamela, Rudy’s daughter. Theirs was a happy reunion. But the girls feared that something had happened to one of their own. “Good for Aling Rusing and Lino, they escaped,” said Pamela. “But we think something has happened to Aling Lourdes.” “What?” Lucio said. “What happened to Lourdes?” So Pamela and the other girl repeated Yoli’s story to them. “We think they must be hiding her in the storehouse,” they said. Lucio stole out of the men’s quarters that night and went to the storehouse. There he found Lourdes, who was surprised to see him. He had brought her some food – no doubt, she had not been fed all day. As she sat down to eat, Lucio spoke. “I have something tell you.” Lourdes pushed the food aside. “If this is about the past again, forget it. If that’s what you want in exchange for the food— ” “No, no,” he interrupted, looking at her earnestly with a face puffed red from beatings. . “It’s not about that. Listen, I have a plan. We have to fight back. I’m organizing a group to fight the Ravena.” “You’re crazy!” she said. “But we can’t be like this forever,” he replied. “We have to fight back. Come with me.” What sloppy guards Takam and the others must have been, for Lucio had no trouble at all leading Lourdes to and through the Montenegro mansion. He knew this place quite well; he had grown up in it. With so many rooms, floors and doorways, the Ravena could hardly find their way about here and there were secret passages they had not yet discovered. After all, bird-men were not used to such complex dwelling places! He led Lourdes to a basement where several men were gathered. “Here,” he said. “They’re part of the movement we’re forming." It had been well for Dakila’s band for two days. But now they had cause to fear lest they crossed paths with the Musang. Kuskos would have nothing to do with her own race. She argued that they, unlike other creatures, did not take kindly to their fellow cat-people and would not trust strangers easily. Not even her. “I didn’t grow up around them,” said Kuskos. “They won’t just trust me.” So, trusting the Musang’s instincts, Dakila judged that it would be best to avert the encounter. Suddenly, a deep growling was heard. Growls and mews, and scurrying paws, alerted them of the Musang’s presence. Bagwis and Dakila brandished their weapons, but they were not going to fight. As the cat-men fell upon them, Dakila shouted, “We mean you no harm! We are your friends!” “They’re not our enemies!” said Kuskos frantically, hoping no doubt, they would listen. But would they? If Savannah was going to drown in deeper waters, she might as well take somebody with her: namely, Vultra’s pale and scowl-faced husband, Rasmus. The king would have nothing to do with Lourdes at first. “You’re wicked enough,” he told Savannah. “You can kill her yourself with no problem.” But it was her turn now to threaten him. “Be careful. I may forget to call you ‘father’ if you don’t help me.” Oh, pest! This girl was a demon in her own right. Why did he ever make a pact with this one? Fearful of being found out, Rasmus grudgingly promised to take over the matter. He followed Savannah to the storehouse. But when they arrived, Lourdes was gone. She slapped Takam angrily. “You sloppy idiot!” she said. Rasmus grimaced. Lourdes’s escape would mean trouble, not only for Savannah, but for him who had joined in her foolish game. That night when they rested, Aguiluz and Alwina took turns looking at their faded map. “You’ve come a long way,” he told her. “We’ve gone so far and gone through so much.” “I’m glad you’re with me on this journey,” she said, smiling. He smiled back at her, his own dark eyes mesmerized by hers. It meant the world to him what she had just said, and it seemed her mere gaze had touched his soul. Aguiluz could have stayed that way forever happily, frozen in time by love’s eternal spell. But something had caught Alwina’s attention, and the spell was broken. She was no longer looking at him, but beyond him. The look on her face suggested she was seeing something that was not supposed to be there. “What is it?” he asked. He followed the direction of her stare and got a jaw-dropping shock. Aviona was there.



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