Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Trouble in Tierra Fuego. (Flashback IV)

Episode for Dec 13, 2004, Monday. Men are territorial, just like birds and other animals. Among civilized people, this instinct is less obvious. But the right circumstances can and do bring it out. Now the more dangerous side of their nature was showing up in both Gabriel and Aguiluz. Although it was Aguiluz who had put forward the challenge, Gabriel hit the first blow… in words. As they trod upon the rugged paths with Aguiluz in the lead, Gabriel said in a loud voice, “Hey, I thought you guys could fly all day. I was hoping that would make our journey faster.” “Well, Aguiluz’s wings disappear during the day,” said a rather embarrassed Alwina. “Oh, okay. I thought I saw them last night. I guess they just folded up. Well, anyway, I saw Aviona’s wing fold up too. But I could still see them, just like yours.” Aguiluz took this as an attack. “If you really want our journey to be easier, shut up your mouth,” he said and hurried on over the rocky pathway. Alwina caught up with him. “What’s the matter with you?” she asked. “He knows it hurts me to remember Aviona,” Aguiluz answered. “He knows how to hurt me.” Alwina could not understand him, and he went on: “Why are you so quick to trust him? What if he’s possessed just like Aviona?” This Alwina could not believe. “I’ve known Gabriel longer than you,” she said. “We go back a long time. I know him better.” “Aviona and I had known each other for a long time too,” Aguiluz retorted. “Look what happened to her.” He was still very angry and made no effort to hide it. When they arrived at a clearing later that day, which opened to two paths, Gabriel said to the others: “I know this place. I almost died here. I think we should go the other way.” “But Dakila said this is the path we should take,” said Alwina. “Can’t we go the other way?” Gabriel was insistent. “Why do you act like you know how to get to Avila?” asked Aguiluz in a harsh tone. “Are you from there?” “I’m not trying to act like I know how,” the other man replied. “It’s just that I’ve been there before.” “You act as if you know better than we do.” “Why? You don’t remember anything about where you came from, do you? So I do know better than you do.” Aguiluz walked up to him and raised his voice. “Are you calling me stupid?” “Hey, stop it!” Alwina shouted. “If you’re just going to make it harder for me, then maybe it’s better if you don’t go with me at all!” She broke away and sat by herself, trying to curb her temper. They were like two angry young bulls. Alwina had thought that having her two closest friends with her would make the quest easier. Had she been mistaken? Gabriel came over awkwardly, and offered an apology. “What is it with you men?” she asked without looking at him. “Why do you have to compete about everything?” After some consultation between her and Gabriel, Alwina went to Aguiluz and told him, “We’ve agreed to follow Gabriel’s advice. We’ll take the other way.” “Why should I be surprised?” Aguiluz seemed to ask himself. “He’s always right, isn’t he? We might as well throw ourselves at his feet.” Alwina objected, but he cut her off. “Forget I said anything. I will go where you go.” The Perico still had the sack of weapons with them. Curious, Ngasngas and Gadgad toyed with those strange-looking things called guns. They handled one heavy firearm, and through experiment were able to load the magazine into place. Dakdak looked on with mounting anxiety and begged them to stop. Just then the trigger was pulled and the thing went off with a deafening roar. The Perico were frightened but did not drop the weapon, and it was good that they didn’t. Ravena guards overheard the gunshot and went to inspect the area where the sound had come from. One soldier found the three parrot-men and said, “So it’s you cowardly Perico after all!” Innocently, the Perico cocked the armalite at him and fired. Oh, damn! The soldier dropped to the earth in a lifeless heap. The Perico were stunned; it was probably the first time any of them had slain anyone. Frightened out of their wits, they fled the scene and retreated farther back into the woods. At long last. “Now that the children are with us,” said Dakila, “we can now rejoin Alwina on the way to Avila.” Tuka and Kuwak looked at each other. “Avila? Er… Lord Ravenum is there now.” There was a pause. So there would be a confrontation after all. A nostalgic feeling captured Dakila’s mood as he thought of his old friend. “How sad to think of fate’s pranks on us, my friend Ravenum,” he thought. Ravenum was one of the highest ranking elders in their High Council. His son Rasmus had appealed to the council to approve his plan to attack the lowlands. “Do you know now what to say to the high council tomorrow?” asked Dakila. Ravenum was very thoughtful. “My son has brought this matter to me,” he said. “This is our home. This was where I learned the meaning of family and race and duty. This was where I raised my son. I love Avila. I love our people. I am prepared to defend it to my last breath.” Dakila looked back on those days with the deepest and most sincere regrets. Ravenum had been his close friend and Mount Avila their beloved stronghold. How did it all come to this? “He told me he loved Avila,” Dakila now said to Bagwis. “Ironic, isn’t it? Now he is the one who lays siege to it.” Vultra was tired of being made a fool of. If she could not procure the truth from Rasmus, then she would try with Savannah. The queen sent for her daughter. “What were you and your father talking about the other day?” she asked. “I don’t remember anything,” came the reply. “For a woman whose soul can travel out of the body, your memory is very weak,” said Vultra. “All right. I will help you. What was that about Lourdes and Balasik?” Savannah looked and felt as if fire-ants were crawling all over her. “W-well,” she stammered, “I had a premonition about the bird-man appearing, and I said ‘a bird that could talk’ instead of a bird-man.” How like her father the girl was. “Don’t you know that it’s wrong to lie to your parents?” said the queen. “Even I notice the holes in the stories you make up. Now, before my patience runs out, tell me the truth.” As usual, Savannah was saved by the bell. A sentry entered and said, “Habagat is calling for you. Something is up.” The Ravena leaders arrived at the murder scene. The soldier was lay on the ground with a bullet-hole in his abdomen. Habagat was kneeling beside the dead body, and shaking his head. “Someone shot one of our troops,” he said. “It’s right on target.” In the path chosen by Gabriel, the trio encountered a stream. Alwina was nervous; Dakila had never mentioned a river to her. “Well, this is the way Gabriel wanted, right?” said Aguiluz. “Then go take a break. Your humble servant will go build a raft.” He set off to work at once; Gabriel followed and offered to help him. “No, thanks,” said Aguiluz. “Can’t we pretend to get along, at least in front of Alwina?” “I promised I’d fight for her. Don’t tell me you’re backing out.” Gabriel realized that his rival was as immovable in his purpose as that giant stone-man. “You started this, Aguiluz,” he said. “I’m not backing off.” Linang was greatly disturbed. “I see no end to Alwina’s weeping until she reaches the Mulawin tree,” she said to Muyak. “This tension among the three of them isn’t helping.” “At least, the green binhi is with them now, case something happens to one of them,” replied Muyak. She meant the last green binhi that Gabriel had brought with him. The Ravena had stolen the green binhi from the Mulawin. But due to their importance, fate had decreed that they end up in Lourdes’ keeping. Now the last one was back in the hands of the Mulawin. But now Linang said, “Don’t be so sure. The green binhi doesn’t guarantee their safety. I pray that what I see won’t come to pass.” Meanwhile, the rebels worked nervously and excitedly. Lourdes showed them the food she had been able to smuggle out for them, and hid them in a sack. It was their only supply of food now. She wished the men good fortune. “I feel bad about this,” said one man.” “No lofty goal is easily won,” she told him. Lucio likewise encouraged his men. They had hidden dynamites in sacks of rice and were going to take them to the storehouse. The Ravena soldiers did not suspect anything. So Lucio and the others piled the sacks in a heap, lit them, and then hurried out of the room. Vultra had left the crime scene with Savannah. “I’m losing patience with your premonitions,” she told her. “They don’t come or if they do, they come after the fact. We need more than that. Your father and I need your help.” The earth shuddered beneath their feet; there had an explosion. Habagat reported at once to his royal masters. He said to the king, “Rasmus, you might want to come with me and investigate.” To the queen he said courteously, “Your Majesty may wish to go back now to the palace with Princess Savannah.” “No,” Vultra said. “I will go with you. Let her be escorted back.” The Ravena triumvirate entered the devastated storehouse; the smell of gunpowder was still quite strong. Rasmus paced across the room furiously. “Who is behind this, Habagat?” he asked. “This and the killing of one of our troops… only one could be responsible for this.” “Then find him and kill him! Cut off his head and bring him to me!” Vultra stayed calm. Something else deserved her attention. She produced a tiny ball of fire in her palm. It floated and increased in size, glowing upon her face. “The ball of fire that Perena gave me,” she said to herself. “It wants to show me something. There is something that I need to see.” The heroes boarded their raft; Aguiluz rowed forward until they met with a thick mist. “Where are we headed?” he asked. “I can’t see!” Gabriel zoomed in with his far-seeing eyes and shouted, “It’s a waterfall!” Aguiluz fought the tide with all his might, but the current was too strong and too rapid at this point. “Fly, Alwina!” he said. “Your wings are wet and you can’t carry us both!” Reluctantly, Alwina beat her wings and fled the scene. Aguiluz and Gabriel continued to wrestle with the rushing waters, but in vain. The raft was swept away over the falls and both men fell alongside. Alwina was flying overhead. She dove into the scene, seized Gabriel under his arms and rushed him to the other bank. “Aguiluz!” he said.

 

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