Monday, January 10, 2005

Songs of Love and War.

Episode for Jan 7, 2005, Friday. Alwina rushed toward the edge of the precipice. Her wings were half-open, ready to take flight at any moment. But at this height, the clouds were so thick and heavy. As she bent over the very brink of the cliff, she could see no signs of Gabriel. “I can’t see him anymore!” she cried frantically, and then quietly, “Gabriel is gone.” “Forgive me, Alwina,” Aguiluz said. “I didn’t want this to happen.” “This wasn’t your fault, but of whoever put all those things into his head. Gabriel was only their victim.” Lourdes and Lawiswis came running to embrace her. But her thoughts were far away from them. She remembered that time in Tierra Fuego when Gabriel had been trying to teach her how to fly. Alwina had refused to take flight off the top of a hill. In his desire to help her overcome her fears, Gabriel cast himself down knowing instinct would drive Alwina to save him. He obtained the desired result, and Alwina’s fear of flying left her forever. Gabriel justified his actions thus: “Maybe what I did was crazy. But I’ll do that if that’s what it takes to for you to conquer this fear. I will do that again and again. I will risk my life today to ensure your future. That’s how much I love you.” He had taken the plunge for her again, believing he was protecting her. But this time, she was unable to save him. “Why did all these have to happen just when we are so near the Mulawin tree?” she asked now. “Maybe that’s just how life is,” Lourdes told her. “We have to face many trials before we come to victory. Be strong, Alwina.” “Let’s get this mission over with,” Alwina sternly commanded, turning around to look at her Lourdes. “God be with you, Alwina,” the woman said. With a last long embrace, they parted ways once more. Theirs had been a brief reunion. Down fell Gabriel, down, down, past the heavenly clouds and through them. The rushing winds parted beneath him like curtains, and he could feel the air thinning as he neared the earth. The last thing he saw were the rocks gathered at the foot of the mountain. Against these, his body met with crushing impact and Gabriel knew no more. He never saw the figure hobbling toward him. It was Ravenum leaning on his staff. By the light of the moon, he made out Gabriel’s lifeless form on the ground. “You bastards!” he hollered. “You will pay for this!” Ravenum took out the hiyas fragment and held his breath. In a few instants, he had reverted to his spirit-form. Only his star-bright eyes could now be seen. Then he sent for three chiefs including Hasik. “Go lead the Ravena Army,” he said angrily. “The Mulawin must not escape!” Left alone now with Rosing and the children, Lourdes noticed that Wis looked unwell. She touched the child and exclaimed, “Lawiswis, you’re burning!” “The piece of hiyas I wear is fading,” the girl said. “What does that mean?” “It’s the reason why I’ve stayed young. Now that it’s getting weaker, I am too.” Lourdes clasped the child to her. “What are we going to do?” Rosing wondered. Meanwhile, Rasmus had carried off his queen to Halconia, far from the battle-scenes in Avila. Apparently, this was a more important war for him. Or, perhaps, he had something else in mind. Returning to his gloomy kingdom, the king ushered Vultra into a chamber and tied her to a huge rock. “Let me go, you bastard!” Vultra cursed. “I won’t let you slip away from me!” he shouted back. “I was the one who made you. I will be the one to finish you off as well!” “Take me back to Avila!” she pleaded as she struggled to get free. “My daughter needs me!” “Don’t waste your strength, Vultra. You know I won’t let that happen.” “I want to know the whole truth, the truth that you’ve kept secret from me.” “I kept it secret because I don’t want to lose you,” he told her truthfully. “Don’t you see that? Don’t you see that I love you? I will neither let them take you away from me, nor let you go back to being Veronica.” With these words he left her alone and helpless. Now that she had finally pierced his deception, it was back to the beginning for them. Vultra was Rasmus’ prisoner once again, bound by the fetters of a violent love she did not requite. The hour had come for the Mulawin fighters. They had stopped within the vicinity of Avila, while Mayi flew on head to spy for them. She returned with a disturbing report. “I see the Ravena soldiers now!” she said excitedly. “There are so many of them1” Sensing the fear and agitation among their number, Dakila sternly rebuked the crowd. “Comrades, do not lose heart!” he said. “They may outnumber us, but we have something they do not! Faith! And with that faith, we will prevail!” Bagwis agreed, saying, “Dakila is right! He who puts his hopes only in the visible has no hope at all!” And Gadgad said, “Just tell us when to attack, Bagwis, and we’ll do it!” “The best time for that is NOW!” Dakila told them. This elicited a chorus of battle cries that boosted everyone’s spirits. Across the wood on the other side, throngs of Ravena soldiers overheard them and answered with their own chants. Both armies now charged forward as the area hummed with the roaring songs of war. The Ravena army was aligned in the strict order of battle, while the Mulawin ranks were less organized. When they came within sight of each other, all hostilities broke out. Ravena archers were the first to strike. Hundreds of arrows whistled through the air and fell everywhere on the opposite side. This sent the lowlanders scattering and many hid behind the more capable bird-men. One arrow whizzed into the Mulawin array and found its mark in Kuskos’ chest while the Musang was shielding Mayi. The messenger cried out, “Use your remaining lives!” But the poisoned arrows were quiet lethal, and soon Kuskos had ran out of lives. “She has used up all her lives,” Laab said regretfully. Kuskos died that night and came to rest in God’s cradle beside Sakmal. The three heroes had now arrived before an ancient doorway carved from stone. It stood in the middle of an open space. There were statues as well. Alwina’s ears picked up a sweet melody playing. “Something is singing,” she told the others. Aguiluz pointed out to her then, “There, look. Such a beautiful bird!” It was Haraya perched on the arch and crooning. As she serenaded the visitors, she exhaled a bluish mist into the air. The vapor began to dance and float toward the Mulawin. A pleasant drowsiness now descended on them, and Alwina recalled Gabriel’s warning. “Wait,” she said. “I think I remember Gabriel warning us about a bird whose song we must avoid!” Aguiluz understood now. “Don’t listen to it!” he shouted. “Aviona is turning to stone!” Alwina cried. True enough, the first grays had begun to cement Aviona’s feet and legs. She felt herself rooted to the ground like a tree, unable to move. Vainly Aviona struggled as the garment of stone blanketed her. To their horror, Alwina and Aguiluz realized that the same phenomenon was overtaking them both. Then he remembered his flute. “Listen to my flute instead!” he said. The warrior-musician held it to his mouth and played upon it his old song. Now, as whenever Aguiluz played it, thoughts of love and Alwina surfaced in his mind. They now trained their ears on this music, the song of true love which is the song of songs. And that love saw them through. The stony layer receded from their legs, and the spell was broken! They looked at each other, amazed, when Haraya said, “I am happy that someone has finally survived my song!” Balasik arrived and alighted beside her. “You have passed a test, Alwina and Aguiluz!” he told them. “This was one of the trials you had to go through to open the door to the Mulawin tree.” “But Aviona has turned to stone!” lamented the two. “This time, she can only be saved if you reach the Mulawin tree,” Balasik explained. Aguiluz said, “Aviona’s life depends on our coming to the tree?” “Not only that, but also the transformation of Pagaspas, the triumph of those at war, the deliverance of Vultra, and the salvation of all mankind. All these things depend on you when you reach the Mulawin tree. So go now, Sugo.” “Is there anything we need to know, Balasik? What other trials are in store for us?” “Just bear this mind: ‘He who asks will receive; he who seeks will find.’” As Vultra sat by herself, the tragic reality of the situation began to sink in. On hindsight, some things seemed blatantly obvious. Savannah lied to me, she thought. So did Rasmus. They both faked the mark. And I wanted to kill my own daughter. How did it all come to this? She remembered how she had assumed a human form to eliminate the Sugo herself. Her earlier meetings with Alwina in Tierra Fuego, her many attempts on the girl’s life, the deceptions practised upon her by those who had used her, her duels with the Emissary… All these memories now haunted her like ghosts hovering over the grave. “I’m so tired,” Vultra said aloud, looking down at the bounds she felt too weak to break. “Rasmus, let me go!” she screamed. “Give me back my memory! I’m begging you!” The supply of arrows had been exhausted. Hasik could not believe it. “After all that, we’ve killed only one of them so far!” the Ravena commanders said to one another. It was time to step up their offensive. Mayi, quickly recovering from her grief, was monitoring them. She flitted back to Mulawin camp and cried out, “They’re going to use guns now! Take cover!” No sooner had she said that, than the Ravena opened fire at them. The fellowship scarcely had time to regroup behind their shields. Dakdak opened his umbrella and used it as proof against the hail of bullets. One woman picked up a pistol from the ground and advised the poorly equipped individuals to retreat to the back. Habagat offered to do the fighting and took the weapon from her. He knew well how to use it; he had led the Ravena in their training. Leaving the Mulawin ranks, Habagat went off alone and stealthily found his way into the enemy folds. After this second phase in which firearm were used, the third phase began. Now the Ravena were launching fiery-tipped arrows. They trailed across the sky like scores of comets, and then landed at the rebels’ feet setting the grass ablaze. By now, the fellowship had moved within closer range. This was what the Musang preferred, who were masters of bare-handed combat. Hampas showed proof of this tonight. As all this frenzied violence was going on, Bagwis met a pleasant surprise. Taguba women appeared led by Maningning, their chieftain. “If this is the only way for us to be with our loved ones, we are with you,” she explained. Bagwis had to smile at that. And together they pressed on through the ranks of their common foes. Having left Haraya’s territory behind, the Sugo traveled on. Then Aguiluz paused, looking far ahead. “Do you see what I see?” he asked Alwina. She replied that she could see nothing. But he pointed it out to her, and then Alwina saw a marvelous sight. She saw a great tree in the distance with its green leaves glowing in the darkness like a beacon, or a burning bush, or a holiday tree full of lights. “The Mulawin tree!” they exclaimed. So delighted were they at seeing the wondrous tree that Aguiluz and Alwina went on ahead, and did not immediately notice the change in their surroundings. The path behind them had disappeared. Worse, a luminous river of hot lava was rising all around them. “Let’s fly,” said Aguiluz. But they looked up and saw thick billows of smoke streaking ominously above them. “How?” she asked.
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“Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you.”
- Matthew 7:7
 

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