Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Guardians.

Episode for Jan 19, 2005, Wednesday. Aramis felt his heart skip a beat. “You surprised me, Rasmus,” he said. The bird-man answered mockingly, “You, one reputed to be a good hunter, surprised? A good hunter surprises; he is not the one surprised. Have you seen Habagat yet?” “Not yet. I just got here. It would be easier to look for him in the outer villages than here in the area of the Mulawin tree.” Rasmus shot him an impatient look. “Well, hurry up,” he told the hunter. “I’m losing my patience!” Habagat decided to try his son’s advice. He found Aviona sitting by herself and spoke to her, keeping his distance. “I know I’ve done you and Aguiluz a lot of wrongs,” he told her, “and I guess it doesn’t to me whether you believe it or not. But I want you to know that I’m willing to work hard to earn your forgiveness.” Aviona cast a sullen glance his way. “What use is that now?” she asked him. “There’s no one here to forgive you. Aguiluz is gone.” “But you’re still here, Aviona.” “Your sweet words are no use to me now,” she said to him. “It was those sweet words of yours that separated Aguiluz and me in the first place. It was those words of yours that convinced him to take that red binhi that Rasmus gave you.” Habagat withdrew from her presence in silence (well, at least, he had tried). Behind the thicket several meters away was Aramis. When the bird-man had gone, he revealed himself to Aviona. “Who was that?” he inquired. “Someone worthless,” she replied. Aramis said softly, “Really? It must hurt to be called worthless. He seems like a good person to me.” “You’re new here, Aramis. Don’t be fooled by outward appearances. There are many out there like Habagat: good on the outside, bad on the inside.” Aramis knew only too well how right she was. “Why did you say that people avoid you?” she asked, wanting to change the topic. “What kind of a man are you?” The hunter began to explain then, but thought better not to. “You’d probably turn away from me if you knew,” he argued. “Me? But we bird-men and women have been called monsters because we have wings. Of all people, why should I do that to you?” “All right. I will tell you,” he said, and then reconsidered. “Why should I tell you? I’ll just show you.” Aramis walked toward a grown tree, and with a one shove of his hand knocked it down. The trunk broke off and dropped to the ground, leaving a lifeless stump behind. Aviona’s mouth gaped at the sight. Poor Aramis did not know how to impress a bird-woman. “See?” he told her. “Now, you know why they avoid me.” “No!” she said. “That’s not the reason why they avoid you. People ought to avoid you because you have no respect for life! How could you kill that tree just like that?” “It’s just a dead thing!” he told her. “You men are like that,” Aviona said with open disdain. “You care about nothing as long as you can boast!” Now, Rasmus happened by that part of the forest where Savannah was stuck. She had lost track of Gabriel and Terong – swift as they moved through the woodland – that she had no clue now where they were. Rasmus’ demonic laughter stunned her as he walked into her presence. “Well, what do you know?” Rasmus said. “My so-called daughter and I meet again! What are you doing here?” “And you?” she asked. “Why are you a Mulawin now?’ He seized her by the neck and growled, “Don’t meddle with what isn’t your business. You’re lucky you didn’t die for lying to Vultra.” “That was your loss as well as mine,” she told him, afraid. “Why don’t we help each other now?” “Ha! And what use are you to me, lowlander?” he said scornfully. And then, he noticed the bag she carried with her. Some shining object was inside it, glowing through its surface. “What’s that in your bag you carry?” he asked. He snatched the bag away from her and forced it open. Examining its contents, Rasmus quickly discovered the fragment of that gem of the Diwata. “Such a coincidence!” he exclaimed. “My ‘daughter’ is the one who ends up saving my father!” Perhaps, seeing some use for the girl now, Rasmus disclosed to her his immediate plan: to go to the Mulawin tree and meet Ravenum there. But he preferred to wait until nightfall to avoid being spotted by the Mulawin. Alwina brought Gabriel and Terong to Rosing’s dwelling and asked politely if the two men could stay with her for a while. Lino was there, of course, still nursing his wounds. Rosing readily admitted them, still addressing Gabriel as “Sir” although the hacienda was now gone. Old habits die hard. But Gabriel did not tarry in that house; he went for a stroll with Alwina. “I tried to forget you,” he confided in her. “I tried to move away and leave it all behind. But I keep coming back to you.” Observing the gloomy mood he was in, Alwina suggested in a brighter tone, “Let’s go for a walk to cheer you up! You want to see the Mulawin tree?” A strange feeling stole over Gabriel at the mention of this mysterious thing. He nodded. So Alwina led him to the middle of the forest where stillness and a dense fog prevailed. Before them was the mystical Mulawin tree with its golden boughs and shining leaves. The whole tree itself seemed to be imbued with an aura of fire. Alwina stopped a few meters away from it. “We can’t go any further,” she explained. “Try to move any closer and you’ll feel a shield.” “What’s so special about this tree?” Gabriel asked. “Sure, it’s golden. But other than that, it looks just like any other tree.” Alwina laughed softly. “Why, Gabriel, this is the symbol of hope for the Mulawin. But for me, coming here is like visiting a graveyard.” She began to lament for Aguiluz then, and even as she did, the unseen guardian of the tree drew near. He saw Gabriel with his fellow Sugo. How is that possible? Aguiluz wondered. The guardian pushed his hands in vain against the invisible force-field that protected the tree. “Yes, you’re with me now, but Aguiluz is still the one you’re thinking of,” Gabriel said almost to himself as Alwina mourned for her loved one. Suddenly, Gabriel uttered a small cry as in pain. Alwina turned to him immediately to see what was wrong, but Gabriel pushed her away. In the presence of the Mulawin tree, he felt a change happening in himself. He could not stop it either. “Stay away from me!” he begged her. “Leave me alone!” Gabriel broke away and ran off into another part of the wood. Confused, and thinking she had hurt him by what she had said, Alwina followed him. “I’m sorry if I hurt you,” she said. “I didn’t mean it!” Aguiluz was watching them. He realized now that it was Gabriel he had seen in visions who would slay Alwina. It seemed that Gabriel was plotting to kill her by leading her into a trap. “Don’t follow him, Alwina!” Aguiluz cried. He never saw what happened after that, as the two had gone from the vicinity of the tree. Now, Alwina was right behind Gabriel. “I said go away!” he said in a choking voice. Gabriel was clinging tightly to a tree, looking away from her. Alwina did not see his eyes shimmer with an evil glow. Just then, Bagwis came to the scene and called out to his daughter. “Alwina, we have to talk,” he told her. So Alwina had to leave her friend alone and go with her father. “What’s wrong with Gabriel?” he asked. “I think I hurt him,” she said sadly. “I kept on talking about Aguiluz.” “You said a few things to him and now you’re sorry because you don’t want your friend to get hurt,” Bagwis said. “But how many times have you hurt your mother? You’re not concerned about that.” Irritated, Alwina hardened her face and replied, “I can’t forgive her. I can’t accept her as my mother.” “And because of that,” he said, “she tried to kill herself last night.” “What? But I thought…” “No, Alwina. She went out of the house that night to commit suicide.” After confiding in his mother that he sensed danger coming for Alwina, Aguiluz declared that he wished to return to the world of men. Salimbay stoutly opposed him on this. “You are asking for the impossible,” she told him. “What you want to happen is against the will of God! Have faith that Alwina can defend herself!” “But it’s only for a short while!” he said in pleading tones. “Alwina needs me!” “No. This is where we disagree. You don’t need to make a move. You can’t make a move. God has given Alwina the means to defend herself. What we’re debating about is whether you can stand being away from her or not.” Aguiluz was very disappointed. “You don’t understand, Mother,” he told her. Salimbay then said to him, “You think I don’t understand? Son, I do understand. Before I became guardian of the tree, I was a wife and a mother. I couldn’t be with you. I missed you and your father. But I put up with all that because it was what God asked of me. Now, everyone can see the tree and its fruit hangs over them. God is asking the same of you now, Aguiluz.” Upon Bagwis’ appearance, the pain had left Gabriel. But now, a great fear seized his heart. What in the world was going on with him? Why was he turning into a Ravena? Was it because of the Mulawin tree? Gabriel knew he could not find the answers on his own; he would need help. But help from whom? Who could help him find the answers to his questions? There was Violeta. She had been a Ravena herself and now she was human again. Perhaps, she could offer him some insights. So Gabriel wended his way to Lourdes’ house and sought Veronica. She had been quiet all day, staring at empty space. But when Lucio’s son spoke to her, she answered him openly. “I need to know what you went through,” he told her. “I need to know how you became a Ravena.” Veronica told him, “I was blinded by anger and hatred, and Ravenum used that to draw my soul out. They made me a Ravena, and then they pushed me down a cliff to force my feathers and wings to sprout.” Gabriel nodded, and asked, “How did you become a human again?” “When the Sugo reached the Mulawin tree, I became human again. Once the Sugo reached the tree, all things changed back to what they really were, and what they should be.” It was as if heaven had shut its doors at Gabriel then. Damned, condemned, predestined to a living hell, was he not? “Back to what they were?” he muttered to himself. “Meaning, I used to be like this? I really was meant to be a Ravena?” He did not realize that he had been thinking aloud. “What did you say?” Veronica asked politely. “Oh, nothing… I was just surprised to know that you had been a Ravena.” Aguiluz looked up at the Mulawin tree with its mysterious fruit. “You,” he said accusingly. “All because of you, I can’t be with Alwina to protect her!” Sensing his thoughts, the queen of the earth element, Florona, responded to Aguiluz’s summons and appeared before him. “What does God want of me?” she asked. “No,” Aguiluz said. “It was only I who sent for you, Florona. I want my body back.” “I cannot help you. I would be violating God’s will if I did. Besides, it is beyond my power to do so. You were resurrected by virtue of the four elements. You do not need my help, anyway.” Aguiluz felt his heart lift up with hope. “You mean, I can go back?” he said. “Yes. Just focus your will into it, and it will be done. But remember: once you renounce your role as guardian of the Mulawin tree, you can never become its protector again.” Then she left him. Aguiluz now had the knowledge he needed to return to his fleshly garment. He cast a long look at the tree his mother had sacrificed so much to preserve. “This is hard for me, Mother,” he said, “but Alwina needs me.”


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