Saturday, January 22, 2005

Vanishing Act.

Episode for Jan 20, 2005, Thursday. Could evil be anyone’s destiny? Would a just God predestine a soul to tread the left-hand path even before it is born? Could the Mulawin tree – the embodiment of hope and salvation for all other beings – bestow only damnation and a monstrous transformation on an innocent man? These were the questions that now burned in Gabriel Montenegro’s heart. Until his interview with Veronica, it had never entered his mind that he was meant to be a Ravena. But she had described the Mulawin tree’s power as the power of transformation and restoration. She had to be telling the truth; she herself was proof of it. Then, Gabriel was forced to arrive at the inevitable conclusion. The effect of the tree on him had been the reverse of its effect on Veronica. She had become human again, because that was her true form. He, on the other hand… “Gabriel, where on earth are we going?” asked a worried Terong. Gabriel looked over his shoulder; he had been running through the forest without even knowing it. “Sorry, I didn’t know you were there.” “You asked me to come with you, and then you talk to me as if I came uninvited. Where are you going?” “I don’t know.” “What’s bothering you? People talk to you, and you can’t hear it. You hurry on the way, but you don’t know where you’re going. What’s up?” A third person interrupted them then. He was an elderly Mulawin leaning on his staff. Gabriel recognized him as Dakila. Now he knew why the old bird-man loathed him. “Perhaps, he is bothered because his true nature is coming out now,” Dakila sneered. “You know as well as I do that the blood running through your veins is that of a Ravena! You are the only Ravena that Ravenum did not create by having his soul sucked out of him. You were not converted; you have been a Ravena since birth. Because of that, you are more powerful than the rest. “It was laid out in the prophecy that an Adversary would come to oppose the Emissaries of the Mulawin tree. You are that adversary, aren’t you?” A cold fear chilled Gabriel. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he responded. “That’s impossible!” Terong cried. “Both his parents were human!” But Gabriel knew that Dakila was right. He ran past the other two; he wanted to run away from it all. Every morning, the people of Avila went out to gather fruits and herbs. It was not hard, as food supply was abundant. Veronica and Lourdes were going about this daily routine when Alwina showed up. She asked for permission to speak with her mother, so Lourdes took the basket from her friend and left the two to themselves. Veronica felt very awkward and embarrassed. “Is it true that you tried to kill yourself that night?” asked her daughter. “Did you do that because of me?” Veronica was silent, and in spite of herself came forward and put her arms around Alwina. The young maiden returned the gesture, but there was no warmth in her touch. After a few moments, she extricated herself from Veronica’s embrace and said, “My heart bleeds because I’ve hurt you. But when I held you, it was Vultra whom I felt.” She turned and walked away. Veronica’s eyes brimmed with fresh tears and she began sobbing. Later that day when Terong came by, she was leaning on Lourdes’ shoulder. “Just excuse Alwina for now,” the latter told her. “It’s not her nature to hurt others’ feelings. She just needs time.” Terong sat a few feet away and asked, “Have you seen Gabriel, Aling Lourdes? He just left suddenly and Aling Rosing says he hasn’t come home yet.” “No, I haven’t,” she replied. “What’s going on? Even here, we’re all messed up.” “This is all my fault,” Veronica said. “I wish Rasmus had killed me. I wish your paths and mine had never crossed!” So she went on with her dirge, and nothing Lourdes said could console her. It so happened that Salimbay was absent that day. Good spirits and angels are not idle beings as foolish people imagine; they are always on the move, busily going about their Father’s business. Aguiluz seized this opportunity to abandon his post. He began to strike upon the invisible force-field which could be seen only with the spirit-eye. Aguiluz drove one blow after another into its surface, hoping to pierce a hole into it. The impact caused the entire shield to reverberate, and had Salimbay been nearby, she could not have missed it. But Aguiluz was alone, and as soon as he discerned the first cracks appearing in the glass-like wall, he tore through it with both hands. Of course, he was not really using his physical strength; he was using sheer will and the force of his mind. But as he forced the shield open like an egg-shell, Aguiluz felt himself growing heavier. He realized that he had regained his corporeal body. Just then, Alwina came running to the Mulawin tree once more. She had gone there to voice her complaints to Aguiluz as she habitually did. “If only you were here,” she whispered again. And, as if in answer to her wish, there he was, right before her eyes. Back from the realm of the disincarnate for the second time, and for the same reason. He stretched for his hand, and she took it in hers. The two Sugo threw their arms around each other, and Alwina asked how this was possible. “Long story,” he told her. “For now, just hide me because I don’t know how to tell the others yet.” Gabriel came running toward them and called out, “Alwina! Thank God I found you. I need your help!” Aguiluz advanced toward him and drove him off. “Go away!” he said. Unknown to them, two intruders were hiding in the bushes in the vicinity of the Mulawin tree. Rasmus said to Savannah, “Sharpen your eyes and tell me what you see, lowlander. Do you see my father?” She shrugged. “I don’t see anything but black smoke around the foot of the tree.” Rasmus grinned. “That is Father,” he said. “Huh? Your father is that smoke?” “For now. But once those three leave, we will be able to come near, and Father may assume a material body again.” Now, Gabriel saw in Aguiluz’s eyes the same hostility that Dakila had shown him. He turned away without a fight. Alwina went after him, and Aguiluz had no choice but to follow suit. In this way, the Mulawin tree was completely abandoned. Rasmus rose from the bushes and walked toward the tree where Ravenum’s spirit hovered. The son presented his father with the new hiyas fragment, and it floated in the air as if received by an unseen hand. Savannah then saw a Mulawin materialize from nowhere. He was older than Rasmus, and formidable-looking. “I’m back!” Ravenum declared in his strong voice. “Ravenum is back!” Rasmus bent on one knee and gave thanks, and his father told him, “Let us waste no more time. Get the fruit!” Rasmus looked up, and cried out, “Where is the fruit? It was just here!” The trio looked all around and found no trace of it. “The fruit is missing!” Ravenum fumed. “We’ve been outwitted again!” “Maybe Aguiluz took it with him,” Savannah suggested. Terong had been looking for Gabriel all night. The young master showed up looking like the Incredible Hulk from old comic-strips. Terong could not understand him as he ranted furiously to himself. “They all think I’m a monster!” he cried. “I haven’t done them any wrong and they do this? Even Aguiluz keeps Alwina away from me, the only person who could help me!” Then the evil fire burst forth from within him. Gabriel’s eyes burned a bright red and huge dark wings sprang out from his back. They lifted him into the air as the astonished Terong retreated. Gabriel looked at his servant from the corner of his eye and warned him, “Go away, Terong! Go away before I do something to you!” So Terong went and hid himself behind some boulders, but he did not leave. He saw Gabriel set foot on the earth once more, and pick up a large rock. Gabriel stared at it for a while, and then hit it with a clenched fist. The rock shattered into a powder. Meanwhile, Aguiluz had recalled his lady, saying, “Alwina, I came back for you!” She ran back into his arms, and then asked, “How did you get out?” He could not tell her the truth. “Aren’t you glad to see me?” he said. “Who’s guarding the tree? Is Salimbay there?” Aguiluz shook his head. Oh, no, what did he do? “It was said that one of us would have to stay behind to watch over the tree,” Alwina reminded him. “Why did you do this? You know that I want nothing more than to be with you. But I wouldn’t be happy either if you were in danger.” Then Aguiluz told her, “I came back because you are in danger.” “From what?” “Not from what, but from whom. Gabriel. He’s the one who wants to kill you.” First, it had been Gabriel who accused Aguiluz of being an impostor. Now it was the other way around? “Gabriel has always wanted my safety,” she answered. “You’re the one who is endangering us all by abandoning the tree.” “But I can’t go back anymore,” he explained. “I was told that once I left, I wouldn’t be able to go back. Alwina, I did this for you!” Aguiluz was looking for some warm response, some appreciation of the sacrifice he had made. But he met with only cool reproofs. “I was given this mission and I did my duty whether I liked to or not,” Alwina told him. “Now that you have been given this responsibility, you should fulfill it too.” So this was all he would get! All that prolonged agony of indecision, and his willful disobedience of a holy decree for the sake of love, would only make him look like a fool! Aguiluz nodded at this and turned to retrace his path back toward the Mulawin tree. Savannah and Rasmus had been watching them. “Sharpen your eyes and tell me if you think Aguiluz is carrying anything,” said he. “He isn’t. He doesn’t have it with him. How strange. Just when Aguiluz left, the fruit disappeared.” “We must return to Halconia,” his father said. “Maybe there are still Ravena left there.” “No, there are none,” Rasmus assured him. “Then we need to rebuild it.” People were quick to notice the absence of the tree’s fruit. Gus and Wis were playing by themselves that night when Mayi relayed to them what she had seen. “The fruit is missing!” she told them. So they flew back to town and reported what had happened. Soon, the Mulawin chiefs and others were gathered at the scene led by Dakila. “The fruit of the Mulawin tree is missing!” they exclaimed in horror over and over. “What about Aguiluz?” said Habagat. “Isn’t he supposed to be guarding it?” Just then, Aguiluz was on his way back to the tree. He returned to find the place crowded by an anxious and worried mob. With mounting dread, he realized that the worst possibility had come true. In the short span of time he had vacated his position as guardian of the tree, someone had stolen its fruit! “The fruit is missing?” he asked aloud, as they set their angry eyes on him.


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