Friday, January 07, 2005

Prelude to War.

Episode for Jan 4, 2005, Tuesday. In Lagaslaw, everyone was at rest. Three warriors including Estrella and Dalaginding took leave of them for awhile and ventured out to the woods. Dakila then sent Mayi to watch over them to ensure their safety. The little bird sped through the air obediently, but after sometime, she lost sight of the women. Weary of flying, Mayi alighted on the ground and decided to seek them on foot. Meanwhile, Bagwis and the others had arrived in the area. When the Taguba detected the presence of these intruders, they instantly attacked them and brought them under their spears. Startled but not to be outmaneuvered, Bagwis and Habagat sprang into action as well. Habagat grabbed a sword and pointed it at Estrella’s throat. Seeing this, Mayi rushed to the scene as fast as her slender feet could carry her over land. “Stop!” she cried. “They’re not enemies! They’re friends! Bagwis? Habagat? I thought you’d become a Ravena! What are you doing here?” “Long story, Mayi!” Bagwis answered. “And there’s a time for that! But now, tell me how you can be sure these are our allies.” And Mayi told him, “Dakila and the others have found temporary shelter with them. I can bring you to them.” Bagwis looked at her and then at the warrior-women, and his face brightened. “Well, then!” he said smilingly. “They are friends indeed!” Then he turned to the others with him. “Wait here a while, comrades! Just rest here. We will come back for you tomorrow.” In that lonely cell with Rusing and the children, Lourdes paced back and forth, wondering what to do. “I have to get out of here,” she told the old lady, “so I can warn Alwina that Rasmus and Vultra want to kill her.” She started picking the lock and chains on the cage while Rusing looked on fearfully. After a few minutes Lourdes had successfully unlocked the chains. There was a moment of agitation as a soldier came by to bring her food, at which point she hastily replaced the chains. “Here,” said the guard, “have some food so you’ll be strong enough to watch the Sugo die!” Then another soldier called out to him, “Do that later! King Rasmus has sent for you1” When she thought the sentries had gone, Lourdes unlocked the cage once more and opened it. As she stepped out, she turned to the old woman. “Come with me,” she said. “No, I’m afraid,” Rusing replied. “They might do something to Lino if I leave.” “But we’ll never know what happened to Lino if we stay here!” Lourdes told her. “Come on now, come with me!” But Rusing did not have Lourdes’ courageous spirit; she shook her head and made no move. Thus Lourdes was forced to depart without her. Lawiswis and Gus followed her. Out in the open, of all the Ravena, she ran into Rasmus himself. “Where do you think you’re going?” he snarled. “Rasmus, let me go!” “Ha! You’re daydreaming!” Lawiswis began to cry; Rasmus raised his arm as if to tear at her with his claws. Then Lourdes kicked him and shouted to Wis, “Run!” But Rasmus quickly regained his footing and was about to rip her abdomen with his talons when his consort interrupted him… as usual. “What are you doing?” Vultra shouted. “Let her go, Rasmus!” Seemingly embarrassed, the king loosened his grip on the prisoner. “Vultra…” he started to say. “Why are you so eager to kill her? You’re not thinking again, are you?” Lourdes saw her chance to speak. “I have something to tell you about Alwina. She’s…” But Rasmus seized her by the neck again and cried out, “Put her back in prison! Separate her from the other inmates!” He gestured toward Wis and added, “Put that one in jail another cell. Cover their mouths so that they can make no noise!” The soldiers rushed to obey his command. As they hauled off the prisoners, their queen told Rasmus, “It seems that Lourdes wanted to say something to me.” “Whatever that is, I can assure you it’s not important. Like she said, she was going to ask you not to harm Alwina. I should have thrown her into Ugod Pawin long before.” But Vultra looked unconvinced. “I just notice that you don’t want Lourdes to talk to me,” she told him. “You keep her away from me. Why? Are you hiding something from me?” “Are you suspicious of me again?” asked Rasmus. “I didn’t know that about secret dungeons here in Avila. Is that why you brought them here and not in Halconia? So that I would know nothing about it?” “Well, forgive me! But as king and general of our army, I’ve had to make decisions without advising you first. It has never been my intention to hide anything from you, my dear.” Oh, really! “I hope so, Rasmus. I hope so.” Meanwhile, Gabriel was arguing with Ravenum. “How can I be a Sugo?” he asked the Mulawin. “I’m human! Both my parents are human!” “Think about it, Gabriel!” Ravenum said. “Why can you do the things you do? Doesn’t it make you wonder? You have those powers because you are also a Sugo. And when you and Alwina reach the Mulawin tree, balance will be restored in the world. But the scales are now turning in favor of evil, so you must act now.” Then a sharp pain ran through his body and made him stop; he fought down a scream. Ravenum turned away from Gabriel and inspected the hiyas which he kept under his garments. It was losing its shine rapidly. I’m growing weaker, he thought to himself. I won’t be able to fly with Gabriel if we stay here any longer. “What’s wrong?” asked the young man, concerned. Ravenum looked at him. “Let us not waste time,” he replied Putting his arm around his Sugo, Ravenum propelled himself into the air with his remaining strength toward Avila. The hiyas could only take him so far, however, and after sometime, Ravenum touched ground and informed Gabriel he could accompany him no further. Gabriel asked no questions. “That is the way to Avila,” the Mulawin told him. “Go now, and kill the impostor!” Gabriel lingered on a few moments, hesitant, before hurrying on in the given direction. Back in Avila, the Ravena queen had ceased to argue with her king. Rasmus found that mysterious. “Why have you fallen silent?” he asked. And she said, “Because I have been forcing myself to feel something… to feel something for Savannah. I told myself that I would find peace and happiness when I found my child. But now that I have, I don’t feel anything. You tell me she is my daughter. But I feel no love for her at all in my heart. It’s like something is telling me she is not my daughter.” Rasmus put his hands on to his waist. “This is not the time to argue about things like that,” he told her. “The enemies are on their way here. You don’t want to be caught off-guard when they arrive.” Unknown to them, the impostor was listening in on their conversation from behind a wall. Savannah could feel her world shrinking, and its walls had spikes on them everywhere. Vultra is starting to notice that I’m not really her daughter, she thought. What do I do now? In the Taguba camp, Maningning waited anxiously for her companions to return. When they did, they were accompanied by – among others – a bird-man and bird-woman with red, yellow and black feathers. Maningning had not set eyes on their kind in such a long time, but for her there could be no doubt. “It’s your kind who kidnapped our men!” she shouted, springing toward them and almost darting Kuwak with a spear. Shocked by this second surprise attack of the day, Kuwak and Tuka retreated. “Wow, you’re good!” he said. Dakila stood up. He noticed a young man in a dark red shirt. That face… oh, that treacherous smile and traitor’s eyes… “Habagat!” he exclaimed. “He is the traitor of our race!” Habagat had expected no less than this; he knew Dakila too well. But he stood his ground… until Dakila shot a bright beam of light at him that sent Habagat sprawling on the earth. “Where did you get the courage to show yourself around here?” asked the angry Dakila. “Bagwis, how could you bring this traitor here? Have you forgotten what he did to our people? To Aviona? To Avila? To Aguiluz? Paloma? And Mulagat?” Bagwis kept his calm as always. “Dakila, listen to me,” he began. “Mulagat is alive. Things are not quite right between him and his father yet, but he has forgiven him. I hope you can too. Habagat has been through so much. If I had to name them one by one for you to convince you and make you understand, then I would so.” But Dakila’s blood was boiling like water in a kettle. “All right,” he answered. “Name them one by one.” It was a long afternoon for Bagwis. Given Rasmus’ track record, it should not be surprising that Vultra was always skeptical of whatever he was planning. Usually, she was justified. Today, still pondering on her feelings for Savannah (or the lack of them), the queen passed by Aling Rusing’s cell. She had earlier overheard Rasmus speaking with his officers about a secret weapon. An old woman, an ordinary lowlander who adopted Aguiluz during his stay in Tierra Fuego, she thought. What could Rasmus want from her? Rusing was begging to be freed. Vultra approached her cage and asked her, “Do you know Savannah? Didn’t you know her in Tierra Fuego?” “Savannah,” said the old woman. “She’s the one pretending to be your daughter.” “Pretending?” “Yes. She’s not your child. She’s Yolly’s child. I was the midwife who delivered her. So I can’t be mistaken.” No woman had ever felt so betrayed and lied to as Vultra did at that moment. “I knew it!” she roared like an angry lioness. “Rasmus, why do you have to make a fool of me again and again?” She deserted that spot even as Rusing called after her, still praying to be released. But the queen’s fury now led her to seek out Savannah, who at that moment was cursing the Ravena aloud for killing her mother. She cursed them, the whole race of them. “I’ll get even with you for what you did to my mother!” she said. “I have to go back to the lowland if only to see my mother’s body!” “I don’t know if you and your mother will see each other by the time I’m through with you,” said Vultra who had been listening to her tirade. The drums of doom had started beating for the impostor. “Mommy…” she started to say. “You’re not my daughter!” Vultra said. She seized the lowlander by the arm and took her to the very edge of the mountain-peak. “You deserve to be punished for your deception!” she declared. Now Aguiluz knew that the cave held too many dangers; they could not afford to make a mistake. Aviona had made a suggestion as to which path to take, but they had to be certain of every step. Feeling that his magic sword would be of service to them once again, he held it out before them to “sense” the way for them. He ran the blade slowly from left to right, rather like a dowsing rod in the hands of a dowser searching for water underground. Aguiluz placed his hand over the blade, and when it passed the right side, a light shone along its surface from top to bottom, indicating this was the correct path. “We should head right,” he told Alwina and Aviona. The sword was faithful; it did not lead them astray. Soon, Aguiluz realized that this was an underground tunnel. He knew where it was leading to. “There’s a secret passageway here leading to Avila,” he told them. It was a shortcut. Through the tunnel they crawled without incident except once: Alwina paused at one point, and when Aguiluz inquired what the matter was, she replied, “Nothing. It’s just that something crossed my mind… Mother. I don’t know why she suddenly came to mind.” Her voice was trembling. Aviona and Aguiluz gathered around her, concerned but not knowing what to do. Aware of them, Alwina suddenly felt ashamed and composed herself. She apologized for showing weakness, and Aguiluz assured her, “Not weakness, but love and bravery is what you show.” So they traveled on. Finally, they reached the mouth or opening of the cave on the other side. Aguiluz knew they had arrived at Avila; this was confirmed by the presence of countless numbers of Ravena sentinels everywhere in the land before them. “We are now in Avila!” the heroes said to one another. At last! After so many trials, they were home, back in the land of their forefathers, the former bastion of the Mulawin, the paradise of the bird-men. As they cautiously stepped out of the underground doorway to set foot on this beloved terrain, Aviona, Alwina and Aguiluz fancied that the enemy was unaware of them. They were wrong.
 

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