Saturday, January 22, 2005

Niwalum.

Episode for Jan 21, 2005, Friday. Terong was half-minded to flee the scene at this point, but loyalty and concern prevailed upon him to remain by Gabriel’s side. Now that his master’s outburst had passed, he rose from his hiding-place and tentatively approached. “What’s happening to me?” Gabriel cried. “I don’t like what’s happening to me!” He sensed Terong coming near him and shot him a fierce look. Frightened, the servant fell back on the ground. “Don’t hurt me!” he said. “I’m not going to fight!” “Don’t worry,” Gabriel answered. “It’s me again. If what you saw earlier horrified you, it horrifies me even more. I hate myself for this!” The evil sparkle in his eyes had gone indeed. Now, though terrified beyond measure, Terong fought the impulse to ran away screaming, and instead, drew nearer and asked, “How did this happen to you? How did you become a Ravena? Since when? Was this what that old bird-man was talking about?” “I don’t know, Terong,” Gabriel replied. “I don’t knowIf I only knew the answers to your questions, and to mine…” His voice was shaking, and the first blush of red now colored his face as he began to weep. “Now, I know why Dakila has always hated me. He knew.” “Does Alwina know about this?” asked Terong. Gabriel shook his head. “I’ve thought of asking for her help,” he said. “But I don’t know anymore. She might not be able to accept me if she knew.” “Why not? Back in Tierra Fuego, when you found out about her wings, you accepted her, didn’t you?” “But our situation is different now. She’s a Mulawin, and the Ravena are the Mulawin’s mortal enemies. Ravena like me!” Bitter tears rolled down his cheeks as he said these words, and Terong felt helpless to aid him. “I just have one thing to ask of you,” Gabriel started to say. “Don’t worry,” Terong assured him. “Your secret is safe with me.” He was Gabriel’s truest friend o the end. Around the Mulawin tree, the Mulawin chiefs were banded together and confronted Aguiluz furiously. As the burden of blame fell on him, the Sugo realized too late the gravity of his own folly. Questions and angry comments were flung at him one after the other: “What are you doing out here?” “Why did you abandon the tree?” “It was your job to watch over it and you let us down!” Aguiluz went passed them and touched the invisible shield. The fruit was gone all right. He could not believe it. In that short span of time, someone had stolen it! The young warrior turned to the crowd and said in a tone as low as his spirits: “Forgive me.” But his apology barely registered in the ears of his listeners. Behind them all stood Alwina. “The fruit is gone because Aguiluz left the tree?” she said, surprised. “This happened as a result of his negligence,” Laab said to her. “We haven’t forgotten all that you did for us,” Dakila told Aguiluz. “But it was a serious error on your part to leave the tree. When the Sugo reached the Mulawin tree, things were restored to their proper states. But it is the fruit that will finally determine the end of evil in the world.”
Ravenum knew this as well as his contemporary did, and this was why he, too, desired to possess the fruit. Meanwhile, it seemed Veronica was resolved once again to throw away her life. Bagwis chanced upon Lourdes calling after her, and the two pursued her. The Mulawin used his eagle’s sight to locate Veronica and soon caught up with her. “Don’t do this,” he said, grabbing her on the arm. “I can’t lose you a second time!” “It would be better for me to be gone,” she told him. “I’m just messing up your lives, especially Alwina’s.” Bagwis held her and insisted, “You’re her true mother, Veronica. We’re not going to give up until she accepts you!” Lourdes had been following him through the wood. When she finally reached them, she came upon the old lovers in an embrace. It was a familiar sight. Dakila called the citizens of Avila to assembly. “By now, you must have heard the bad news,” he began. “The fruit of the Mulawin tree is missing. I ask all of you to help search for. I cannot begin to describe what can happen if it goes into the wrong hands.” The crowd moaned in fear and dismay. Aguiluz was standing behind some trees, listening. He fled the scene, unsure of what to do next. But then, a band of Musang together with Lino encountered him. “There he is!” they cried. “It’s all his fault!” Rosing stood between them and Aguiluz. “Have pity on him!” she begged. “Don’t hurt him! Aguiluz, run!” So Aguiluz hurried away from there, hated and disgraced. Their rebukes were stamped in his memory: from Dakila, from Habagat, from Bagwis, and everyone else. Even Alwina had had nothing kind to say to him, only words of reproach. But she was still on his mind. How could he convince her of impending danger coming her way? How could he make her believe that this danger was Gabriel? Gus and Wis were playing together the next day as usual. They were aware of all the recent events, including Aguiluz’s costly blunder and Veronica’s attempts at her life. “Have you accepted Veronica yet?” asked Pagaspas to his friend. “Well, she lost her memory, so I forgive her,” said Lawiswis. “But I also understand Alwina. If I were here, I’d still pick Lourdes as my mother.” The inseparable companions then decided to run and play by themselves. Soon, Gus spotted an unusual-looking bird in the sky. He pointed out to it saying, “What a pretty bird!” Wis told him, “No, that’s a kite. Let’s go check it out!” So they traced the origin of the blue kite by following its thread. Their chase led them to another a boy who was about their size. “Look, a child!” they cried. A playmate other than Mayi! He had neatly trimmed hair, and dark eyes that held a steady gaze. The little boy introduced himself thus: “I am Niwalum. And you’re Pagaspas and Lawiswis.” “How do you know?” “How indeed… oh, I heard you two talking to each other.” Not far from there, Aviona was in her morning occupation of gathering fruits for herself and her friends. Aramis the hunter, eager to make amends for his recent misconduct, walked up to her and offered to help with her load. Aviona looked back glumly at him and saw a pink flower in his hand. “I was wrong to do that,” he told her. “I won’t do that to a tree again. Are you still mad at me?” But she was smiling already. “Do I look like I’m still angry?” she asked. Aramis then volunteered to carry the fruit-basket for her, but then decided to help himself to the harvest first. Aviona smiled as he did so. Alwina had stopped by Lourdes’ dwelling for breakfast. Bananas and corn were served at the table as usual. She was having mixed feelings about last night’s incident. “I don’t know whether to be happy or sad that Aguiluz and I have seen each other again,” she told Lourdes. “You talked to each other?” “Yes. I feel guilty. He left the tree because of me. Now, everyone is against him, Bagwis, Dakila, and the rest. What I don’t understand is why he keeps telling me to beware of Gabriel.” Lourdes raised her brows. “Gabriel?” she said. “But we’ve known from the very start, that he’s interested only in our welfare!” Just then, Veronica’s figure appeared outside the window. She was smiling. “So you two are here,” she said politely. “Good morning, Alwina.” Alwina turned her eyes away from her mother’s as soon as they met. She rose from her seat, excused herself, and promptly left. “So this is all that’s left of Halconia,” Ravenum mused as he surveyed the remains of their former stronghold. Rasmus nodded. “All our soldiers are gone,” he told his father, not mentioning who else he had lost. “We have no one else to rely on now but each other.” “You can rely on me,” Savannah said from behind them. “Why don’t you make me a Ravena?” The son of Ravenum almost reeled with disgust. “You, a Ravena!” he exclaimed. “Are you out of your mind?” Savannah ignored him and walked up to Ravenum himself and explained, “Before, when I pretended to be Vultra’s daughter and you offered to make me a Ravena, I was not yet ready. Now, I am. If you do that, you’ll be sorry you ever made anyone else your queen.” This remark – evidently an allusion to his lost wife – was insulting to Rasmus. “There is only one Queen of the Ravena, Savannah,” he told her indignantly, “and you cannot take her place.” “What’s that supposed to mean?” asked the girl. “You still love Vultra? It was that damned love that brought you down in the first place!” Ravenum came between them, and showed his approval to Savannah. “Why shouldn’t we turn her into a Ravena?” he said. “We can use her.” So he summoned the spirit of Perena as he used to do. Ravenum chanted several times, calling to “the Diwata of the darkness,” for her assistance. After repeated invocations, Perena made her presence felt even though she was not visible. She transformed Ravenum into a red and black-feathered bird-man. His features looked sickening to Savannah, who tried to hide her fear as she watched. Gabriel would have recognized him from his dreams. Rasmus stared in awe at his father. “I despise these feathers,” he said of his Mulawin plumage. “Turn me back into a Ravena, Father!” So the father drew his son’s soul into his mouth. Then a wall of fire leapt up from the ground and engulfed Rasmus in a red blaze. When the flames subsided, Savannah saw again the old Rasmus she had known. Rasmus yielded a faint smile. Better! Ravenum now turned to Savannah. “Are you ready?” Oh, well, she thought. Nothing left for me. No mother, no family, no town. “I’m ready,” she answered. It was the same process for her. Rasmus watched her metamorphosis in silence. Ravenum’s fire consumed her old body, and replaced it with the new. Now, Savannah had the same, predominantly crimson plumage that Vultra had had, and Ravena wings hung on her back. It was a far cry from the lost queen, of course. Even if she had been here, Savannah still would not look like her daughter. But the girl was pleased with herself. She could not see herself, of course, but Savannah definitely felt the change. Now, she felt stronger and meaner, and strangely, quite at home in her new form. Ravenum placed his hands on her shoulders and declared, “From now on, you are the Princess of the Ravena!” “I am now the Princess of the Ravena!” she echoed with glee. At least, he did not make her Queen!
 

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