Sunday, February 27, 2005

First Kiss.

Episode for Feb 22, 2005, Tuesday. Sounds of rejoicing ran throughout Halimhim – the voices of drunken Ravena warriors and their father leading them on. Rasmus was the only one not in a partying mood. “What’s going on here?” he asked their princess. “Don’t you know?” she said. “Ravenum is holding a feast for Gabriel’s triumph!” Ravenum noticed his son and told him, “You arrived on time. Gabriel is about to deliver a speech!” The new prince appeared before his rowdy siblings and announced to them what they already knew: that the tree of the Mulawin had been cut down. “The time for our reign has come!” he declared. The others roared with approval at these words. Rasmus hesitated, and then touched his father lightly on the shoulder. “In all the history of the Ravena, you never once held a celebration like this,” he said. Ravenum answered without batting an eyelash, “There was no reason to.” “But what about everything I did for you?” “No! Nothing you ever accomplished was worth celebrating.” He turned his back on Rasmus and went on listening to his favorite. Then Savannah brought their attention to the prisoner, Mulagat. “There’s no more strength left in him.” “Then get rid of him,” Ravenum ordered. Aguiluz – the impostor – arrived with Niwalum in tow. As the boy struggled in his grip, Gabriel pointed to him and said, “I know who that boy is.” In Avila, food was becoming scarce; plants and trees withered; and the population was weakening. Even Gus and Wis who were on their way home felt themselves tiring rather quickly. They had found that they could stretch their limbs as they pleased; it was a new power that Niwalum had bestowed on them. But there was no time for games. “No one knows yet that Mulagat is in Halimhim,” they told each other. No one knew either that Niwalum had been captured as well. Neither did they know who – or rather, what – Niwalum really was. Aviona expressed relief at the postponement of Aguiluz’s execution. “Maybe that’s the only good thing that has come out of this,” she told Aramis. “From the tone of Dakila’s voice, it sounds like we won’t even know if there’ll still be a tomorrow.” “But you’re still fortunate even with all this,” he replied. “You have your loved ones with you.” “Do you miss yours?” Aramis paused thoughtfully. “I don’t have any. I never knew my parents.” “We’re the same then. I wish I’d known them.” They had died at war against Rasmus’ rebels when she was little. Aramis decided that this was the right moment for him to make his move. He had no memory of love from his childhood, and had never thought that he would be capable of it. “I never believed someone could change my mind about it,” he told her. “But when I met you, you changed the way I see life. You’re right. Life is short and we don’t know what may happen tomorrow. But I love you, and if there’s not much time left, I want to spend the rest of it with you.” The Mulawin smiled at him. “You’ve made me so happy with what you said… because that’s just how I feel!” “Does that mean you love me too?” Then Aviona stretched forth her wings, and the hunter on the shoulders with them. “That is how the Mulawin show their love for someone,” she explained. Aramis nodded. “This is how we show ours,” he told her. Then he slowly bent his head towards hers and kissed her. No one else was present that night. There was still a tomorrow; the end of the world had not come. Aviona was sitting by herself when Linang called out to her. She looked so plain and harmless now that she was no longer a Diwata. Aviona hardly spared her a glance. “I know who you are… Habagat’s lady.” Linang answered humbly, “Don’t misunderstand me. I am only looking for a friend. I admit that I miss my old friends in my old home. That’s why when I saw you, I summoned my courage and approached you.” The young woman softened then. “I never got to ask what really happened to Habagat. I just heard that he got well because of you. What was his sickness?” “Someone hit him with poisoned arrows,” the mother of Mulagat replied. “It was laced with poison from the tandiosa plant.” Lurking in the shadows behind them was Aramis, eavesdropping. Meanwhile, Bagwis reiterated his plan to release Aguiluz in stealth. Dakila expressed his support, but also warned the king of the consequences. He further added, “Pardon me for my intrusion into your private lives, but is there a misunderstanding between you and your queen? I notice that she has been avoiding you.” Bagwis saw Veronica from afar, and went after her. “I don’t understand why Lourdes did that,” he said. “She was the one who tried to seduce me. I wasn’t unfaithful to you. Think about it: If I could be unfaithful to you, I would have done it a long time ago, when I thought you had died, or when you became a Ravena. But you’re the only woman I have ever loved!” By no means was the queen a rash and foolish woman; she knew he had a sound argument in his favor. “Leave me alone for now,” she told him. Veronica had her own suspicions now, but just as she had done as Vultra, the queen kept her own counsel about things she was unsure of. One look at you told me something had changed in you, Lourdes, she thought. I have to make sure that my hunch about you is right. She went – alone – to Lourdes’ dwelling. The door was open, and Veronica invited herself inside, calling out to her friend. Lourdes touched her from behind and rebuked her, “Does being a queen give you the right to enter other people’s homes without their permission?” Veronica’s heart jumped, but she tried to keep her voice steady. She looked into Lourdes’ eyes, which were dark and soulless. Had the queen seen the Aguiluz clone, she would have noted a resemblance. “Lourdes, why were you flirting with my husband?” she asked. “Why are you doing this?” The other woman laughed. “Was that what he told you?” “Wait a minute,” Veronica said. “Are you doing this for the sake of revenge? Are you trying to get back at me for what I did to you? Lourdes, I never wanted that to happen to you! I was afraid so I left!” “What…” What was she alluding to? But Lourdes’ subconscious answered it for her. Like a familiar smell that brings back memories of a past connected with it, so did Veronica’s words unearth a buried memory: A drunken man harassing the young Veronica. Lourdes had ran to her rescue and, in a state of panic, her friend abandoned the scene. Lourdes was left alone… “Was that the real reason why you left me in Halconia?” asked Veronica again. “Now I understand. You want to avenge yourself on me by taking away what I have. That happened so long ago! But now you bring it back to me!” “YES,” Lourdes hissed. “Is that the answer you want to hear? Then YES, I am doing this to get even with you both! That’s why I left Halimhim. That’s why I left…” She stopped herself, but it was too late. “What Halimhim? Where’s that? And who is the one you left there?” Lourdes broke away from her, feeling the Ravena soul in her emerging. Soon she was back to her true form again as mother of that evil race. Veronica was not far behind. Night fell bringing the sweet spell of sleep over the land. Bagwis and Dakila crept near Aguiluz’s cell and found it unguarded. “Wake up!” they whispered intensely to him. Aguiluz opened his eyes. “Dakila! Bagwis! What are you doing here?” “We’re setting you free,” they told him. They had no trouble at all unlocking the cage and letting him out. “Forgive me for listening to the others even though I knew in my heart you had nothing to do with the Balasik’s death,” said the king. “Thank you so much,” Aguiluz told them, heaping his weight on each of them. He gave thanks with such gratitude that went up to heaven itself. Dakila turned somber. “There is something you need to know,” he told the Sugo. “The Ravena are stronger now that their new leader is with them… Gabriel. He was the one who cut down the Mulawin tree.” At this, Aguiluz’s eyes burned with a fierdy glow. So he had been right all along; his vision had not deceived him. If he had been correct about Gabriel’s evil nature, then it followed that the rest of his premonition had truth to it as well. The man planned to kill Alwina. “Gabriel?” he said. “Where is he? I have to confront him!”

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Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Fall of the Mulawin Tree.

Episode for Feb 21, 2005, Monday. The tree of the Mulawin was a towering wonder of nature that reached almost to the sky. Its massive trunk, huge dangling aerial roots, and canopy of green leaves were awesome to behold. The Ravena Sugo alone would not have been able to cut it down. He had brought his five youthful siblings with him on this mission. On they charged with battle-axes in hand, the children of Ravenum. With wicked laughter rising from the depths of him, Gabriel struck the tree with terrible force. Huge sparks ignited the wood after the initial blows; the invisible shield was being shattered by the Adversary’s power. Again and again they battered the tree. Then in a few minutes, that enormous tree crashed down to the ground with earth-shaking impact. The Mulawin’s symbol of hope, and the very fountain-source of their life, had fallen. The Ravena prince cackled with triumphant glee. Powerful tremors were felt everywhere in Avila. In Ubod Pawin, the ground swayed to and fro, throwing back Aguiluz’s executioner and sending the crowd into panic. The earthquake persisted for several minutes, and it took some time for Aguiluz to come to himself and realize what was going on. Even as people were screaming and running for their lives, Daragit and Lumbas retained their focus on the hated convict and made sure he could not escape. Meanwhile, the king bade Dakdak and the Perico to look for the queen. He found her alone by herself in the forest, dazed but unhurt. They were flying on the way to Ubod Pawin to rejoin Bagwis when Veronica espied other bird-men in the distance. “Ravena,” she declared. “Let’s hide from them.” Descending to a lower altitude, Veronica kept her eyes on the enemy. Her far-seeing eyes seemed to deceive her. “Impossible,” she said aloud. “But I can’t be mistaken. It’s Gabriel!” Dakdak and Sutsot wondered at that, for they knew the man as Alwina’s human friend. But a greater shock soon hit them. Down on the ground they saw the fallen tree. Only its bleeding stump was left where the tree had once stood proudly. Veronica roared in anger, “This can’t be! Who did this?” The earthquake was not felt in Halimhim. Not that Ravenum was unaware of what had happened; he was. But Gus and Niwalum were not. Seizing an opportunity when no one was guarding the prisoners, they went to Wis’ cage to free her. They succeeded, but the impersonator of Aguiluz arrived before they could untie Mulagat. Then Niwalum transformed into a buzzing dragonfly and charged the other youngsters, “Run! I’ll handle this!” He also blessed them with more power before sending them away. As the amused Wis was watching Niwalum’s tricks, Gus’ arm stretched like a rubber band, and he dragged her off with him. Niwalum then changed into the Balasik. “I’m back, you impostor!” he chirped tauntingly. “You can’t even kill me!” The clone growled like a furious ogre, “Why, I already killed you!” A brief chase followed. Niwalum sought to release Mulagat in vain. Then the impostor pounced on the boy like a cat on a rat. “Come here, tiny mouse,” he said. “Ravenum wants you!” The earthquake had stopped. Alwina had felt it, kneeling on the earth and clasping Aguiluz’s necklace which he had given her as a reminder of him. But the Perico came and told her the news: “The execution has been postponed; Aguiluz is still alive!” Alwina jumped to her feet and rushed to Ubod Pawin. There the lovers saw each other again. Stubbornly, Daragit announced, “The earthquake is over! Continue with the execution!” Rosing objected, “Maybe the quake was a sign to stop it.” The king seemed to agree with her, and bade the executioner stay his hand. Aguiluz was replaced in his cage as Veronica entered with her train. “The queen has something to say,” Dakdak announced, but when he nudged her, Veronica could not speak. Concerned glances were exchanged. “What is it?” the elders asked. Dakdak swallowed. “The Mulawin tree has been cut down!” he told them. Silence… then whispers. Dakila heard none of it. My worst fear has come true. What else now? A dizziness had come upon him which he had blamed on the tremors. But now he knew better. “The Mulawin tree is where we draw strength from,” he reminded them. “The hour I have always feared has arrived. I fear that the end may be near.” “I never thought I’d see you again,” Alwina spoke to the other Sugo. “Perhaps it is God’s will,” he replied. “Is it also God’s will that the tree be struck down?” Aguiluz then said to her, “Go on with them to the Mulawin tree. And if you can, if it’s possible, talk to my mother and find out how she is.” He reached for her hand through the bars of his cage, and kissed it. Alwina slowly walked away, then hurried to the Mulawin tree with her parents and everyone else. But Veronica – who had been dead silent all along – stopped on the way. “Before we go any further, I think you need to know something,” she said. They waited, and then she told them, “I saw something earlier. A group of Ravena coming from the direction of the tree.” “Ravena!” the people shouted. “They cut the tree down?” Alwina asked, “Who was leading them? Was it Rasmus?” “No,” the queen answered. “It wasn’t Rasmus.” “Who then?” Veronica could not speak his name; she hinted at it. “Your close friend.” A prolonged silence. Alwina thought this over. All her life, she had had only one close friend. “Gabriel? Gabriel is a Ravena now? That’s impossible what you’re saying!” It seemed to Dakila that all his fears had now materialized, plain and solid as a mountain before him. He knew the queen had to be telling the truth. “Do you remember when I told you that we couldn’t trust Gabriel?” he asked Alwina. “It was because I had always seen the Ravena blood in him. I had hoped that it could be prevented. But now I see he has embraced his Ravena side. “Further, the oracle had said that only the counter-Sugo would have the power to cut down the Mulawin tree. Therefore, Gabriel is the Ravena Sugo. And now, remember that the fall of the Mulawin tree is will cause us to become weaker and weaker. But since this is the first time it has happened, I do not know what else can happen.” That night, Bagwis came to his predecessor with a plan. “I know how strictly you adhere to the law,” he began. “So I wouldn’t be surprised if you disagreed with my plan. But now that Ravenum has his Sugo, we need ours too. I want to set Aguiluz free. Now, more than ever, we need a Sugo.” Dakila warned him, “Be careful, Your Majesty. Daragit and the others will say you do not know how to stand by your word. A king must not take his word back.” But Bagwis replied, “Better for them to hate me now than for more people to be hurt later on. It was enough to listen to the voice of the people once. Now I must listen only to the voice of my conscience.” And the elder Mulawin said, “I understand you, and I admire the nobility of spirit you show now. I approve of your plan.” In chorus with the thunderclaps that perpetually boomed overhead in Halimhim, Ravenum was laughing. He had never experienced such glory in victory before, but now with Gabriel’s success, he could do so vicariously. “Has he reached thee Mulawin tree?” Rasmus asked, hoping the answer would be negative. But Ravenum answered, “Not only that, but my great son has felled it! The Mulawin tree is gone!” While waiting for the prince’s return, Rasmus asked questions about his brother. Gabriel knew many things intuitively; no one had to tell him, and no one could teach him. The father explained, “Those are his latent powers that manifesting now that he is a full-fledged Ravena. Even I do not know what other powers he has.” Savannah then foolishly proposed her own marriage to their Sugo, but Ravenum ignored her. “Gabriel is here!” he announced. There he was indeed, beaming with self-satisfaction. “The tree is lost!” he gladly reported, and his father heaped praises on him. Rasmus stood by with eyes downcast. The storm of emotions in his heart was growing stronger. He did not try to stop it; he dwelt on it and fed it. You took away my father’s attention which should have bee mine. You took everything away.

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Monday, February 21, 2005

An Evil Hour.

Episode for Feb 18, 2005, Friday. The sun had set; the wild and ferocious mob was gone, to be back the next day for Aguiluz’s execution. Alwina paid a visit to his cell for the last time. He looked calm and dignified as he awaited the hour of his death. After all, he had died before, and had bowed his head before the executioner’s axe before. “Don’t be angry with your father,” Aguiluz told her. “He’s only doing his duty. Now I want you to promise me one thing. Don’t come here again. Don’t visit me anymore.” “But you need me now!” she cried. Aguiluz shook his head. “No. This is only making it harder for both us.” He called out the sentries, “Guards! Please escort her out. She’s leaving.” So they came to take her away in spite of Alwina’s protests. Aguiluz was relieved to see her out of his sight. He did not wish to see her tears; he did not hear about her pain. Aguiluz wanted to be alone. When silence returned, he knelt down and folded his hands together in prayer. “You have a visitor,” a voice of one of the guards announced. Aguiluz barely looked over his shoulder. “Have you no manners? Can’t you see I’m praying?” The guard apologized, and then the Sugo saw who his visitor was. “Dakila,” he said in surprise. Dakila had the door of the cage opened, and went inside. “Forgive me, Aguiluz,” he said, “for the things I said to you, when I said I couldn’t forgive you for leaving the tree. I, of all people, should understand you. I’m the one who has been caught many times between the law and my own feelings.” Aguiluz humbly replied, “Then I will go happily to my death, knowing I’ve been forgiven by the man who has been a second-father to me.” No marriage is a real one without any quarrels. Veronica, as the Mulawin queen, had a mind of her own and openly stated it when she disapproved of Bagwis’ decisions. “Why did you treat our daughter like that?” she asked. “Why did you dismiss her plea just like that?” “I got angry with her because she showed me no respect,” the king told her. “I am a king before I am a father.” “Then that is where we differ. Before I am queen, I am a mother.” Bagwis flashed a furious glance at her. “That’s easy for you to say! You’re not the one who’s accused of being married to a former Ravena!” That reference to her past was totally unexpected. She promptly left without a word and ran to Lourdes’ house. Seeing an opportunity to dispose of one of her prime targets, Lourdes welcomed her. Her knowledge of herbs had not been lost; she went to the garden to prepare some poisoned tea for her guest. “Here,” she said, offering the cup to Veronica. But the queen had taken only a sip when Alwina showed at the doorstep, her eyes reddened. Alwina slumped on a chair beside her mother and started crying anew. “Aguiluz doesn’t want to see me anymore,” she moaned. Veronica tried to comfort her, and offered her the cup of tea. Lourdes was stricken with fear as she looked on. Alwina must not die, she thought without knowing why. Hastily she pushed the mug off the table. “Sorry,” she said awkwardly. “I’ll make another one.” Mother and daughter exchanged looks. Like a wild young animal who has come into its own, Gabriel must now be introduced to the rest of the pack. “Hail the crown-prince of the Ravena!” a proud Ravenum cried out. The new Gabriel alighted before them, looking proud and formidable in his new armor and glorious red and yellow feathers. Savannah looked on with interest; Rasmus with mixed emotions. “Look to your future as Prince of the Ravena,” his father said to the Sugo. Gabriel’s eyes were blazed with evil passion and ambition. “I’m looking farther than that, Father,” he answered. “I look forward to the Mulawin’s destruction and defeat!” Then Ravenum directed him to go to the Mulawin tree. “As Alwina and Aguiluz went to the tree, so you also must go there as the Adversary.” The prince knew that this was the right move; his own instincts were guiding him. Ravenum offered aid, but the son declined. “I want to prove to you that you weren’t mistaken about me,” Gabriel told him. The father grinned. “If you need help, you can rely on an ally who is already in Avila… Lourdes.” Ravenum was pleased with his new favorite. He listened as Gabriel made a speech before his five half-brothers and sister. “You have been Ravena since birth,” he told them. “You are braver and stronger! Now is the time for us to fly to Avila and attack the Mulawin tree!” His siblings cheered in response, spoiling for their first real fight. “Well, what do you know,” said Habagat to his lady with a wry smile. “Here I am, so in love with you, and I’ve never been allowed in Encantadia. But you tell me this Aramis has lived there?” Linang was smiling too. “It’s a long story.” “I’m willing to listen.” So the former queen told him the story of Aramis. “He was abandoned as a child. Muyak found the baby alone in the forest and took pity on him. She brought him to Encantadia and named him Aramis. Muyak even contrived with me to keep his presence there a secret. “But we could only do so much, and as the boy grew bigger, it became harder and harder for us to hide him. Eventually, the Queen Mother found out about him, and ordered Muyak to send Aramis away. All his happy memories of Encantadia had to be erased too. So Muyak returned him to the forest. But she could not let him just fall prey to the elements and wild beasts so she gave him a special power: unusual strength, so that he could defend himself. “At first, we were able to monitor him through the magic well. But soon a dark cloud covered him and we could no longer watch him. Eventually, even Muyak gave up looking for him. Now my heart tells me that that man I saw earlier was Aramis.” Habagat was silent for a while, and then he said, “Perhaps this Aramis can help us find Mulagat, if he has been to Encantadia before.” Linang was skeptical, but he told her, “We stand to lose nothing if we give it a try.” Pamela, the late Rudy’s daughter, had opted to follow Terong through the woods in his search for his master. They were already within the perimeters of Avila when Terong noticed a small squadron of Ravena flying overhead. There were only half a dozen of them. He did not know yet that it was Gabriel leading them towards the Mulawin tree. “Run for cover,” he whispered to his companion. And as they retreated behind some trees they met Gus’ mother, Tuka. “Ay!” they all shrieked together. Gabriel had no idea that Terong was still looking for him. He set foot on Avilan soil fully minded to conquer it, but first he had to make contact with somebody already there. Using his extraordinary gifts as the Adversary of the Sugo, he sought out Lourdes mentally She was in Bagwis’ hut intending to stir trouble as usual. “I heard that you and Veronica had a fight,” she said to him. “Don’t worry about it,” he replied absent-mindedly. “It’s just a quarrel between husband and wife.” “I’m not worried about it,” Lourdes coolly replied. “I’m happy that you two are having problems.” The woman approached the king’s throne, bent over and kissed him on the mouth. This gesture was as numbing as it was unexpected. Bagwis stared wide-eyed at her. Too late did he notice his wife standing outside the open door. Oh, damn! Bagwis regained his wits in an instant. “Veronica, come back here!” he called out. But one of his sentinels arrived with news. “Your Majesty, the hour of Aguiluz’s execution has come,” he said. Feeling more and more like his predecessor Dakila, the king reluctantly went to Ubod Pawin. A crowd was waiting already to witness the first public execution in the new Avila. Lourdes was among them, congratulating herself, when Gabriel’s voice intruded into her thoughts. “This is Gabriel, the Prince of the Ravena,” he told her. “Don’t talk aloud; keep silent. Just answer me in your mind and I can hear you.” I hear you, sir, she responded obediently. “Good. Is anyone guarding the Mulawin tree right now?” No, Your Majesty. Aguiluz is to be beheaded today and everyone is watching. Gabriel turned to his siblings and gave them the go-signal. Dakila had given a letter to Alwina from Aguiluz. He had written it the night before. It was one more of their many farewells to each other. Alwina opened the letter and read it. “Life is too short,” Aguiluz had written. “I do not regret leaving the Mulawin tree for you. Even if they tell me I have no faith that you can defend yourself. Even if they tell me that since I have died before, I should not fear death. I will not defend myself to them. I would still choose life for you, my love. Do not come to witness my death. I do not want you to remember me bloodied and dying, but remember me when I was alive and smiling….” The door of his cage opened for the last time. “Your time has come,” the guard informed the convict. Aguiluz went with him to Ubod Pawin, but his spirit was not really there anymore. His spirit had wandered back to the Mulawin tree where his mother was waiting for him. “My heart bleeds for you,” Salimbay said. “You and Alwina were so focused on the future of mankind and everyone else, that you never had time to savor the present. Before we attain to heavenly bliss, we should experience first happiness on earth.” “I regret nothing about my life,” he replied. “Don’t leave me. I only wish for peace now with you and with God.” Salimbay took his hand. “I won’t leave you. I will spirit you away straight to His presence.” For the second time, the Sugo’s head bowed before death’s axe. It was an evil hour. Not far from there, unknown to the people of Avila, evil wielded another axe over the Mulawin tree. “Cut down the Mulawin tree!” Gabriel shouted to his brothers, swinging his axe to deal the tree its death-blow.

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Saturday, February 19, 2005

The Prince of Darkness.

Episode for Feb 17, 2005, Thursday. As the Aguiluz clone had hoped, Pagaspas and Niwalum followed him all the way to Halimlim. Gus ran on foot with the other boy riding on his back. Soon they reached that Ravena lair where columns of smoke perennially shot up from the ground. They saw Lawiswis locked up in a cage with Mulagat tied to a tree only a few meters away. She was calling out to him, urging him to fight on. “Use your power to get free of those ropes!” she told him. And when Mulagat replied that his strength was waning, having been away from Encantadia for so long, the girl replied, “Weren’t you the one who broke the hiyas in two? That stone came from you there.” Rasmus pricked his ears. “What did you say?” he asked, and then thought the matter over. If the hiyas came originally from the Encantado’s realm, and it drew power from there, what would happen if a fragment was put on him? So the Ravena king took a fragment of that gem and attached it to a necklace. He hung it around Mulagat’s head and immediately saw a desirable result. The fragment grew brighter and bigger. It was drawing power from the Encantado. “This Encantado is a blessing to us!” he told Savannah. “And like all blessings, it fell from heaven!” Rasmus hurriedly went to tell his father about it. Wis asked what was happening, and Mulagat explained, “The hiyas gives strength to you. But to us Encantado the effect is the opposite. The hiyas draws power from the anima. So it draws anima from me when it is not in Encantadia. It did not do that before because I was stronger then.” Meanwhile, Rasmus visited his father who was still waiting anxiously for his favorite son to awaken. “Come with me, Father,” invited Rasmus. “No, I must be here when Gabriel wakes up,” answered Ravenum without looking up at him. He did not see the pained look in his firstborn’s eyes. “You can’t leave him even for a few moments… not even to regain your strength.” Then Ravenum knew this must be worth his attention; he rose from the ground and followed Rasmus. After the others explained to him what they had done, Ravenum grasped the hiyas and willed its power to transfer to him. Mulagat groaned in pain as he did so. When he was satisfied, Ravenum roared in an unearthly voice, “My power has returned to me!” Mulagat could only take so much of this psychic vampirism. He was losing consciousness, running out of the precious anima like a man losing oxygen. Savannah called over the Ravena children and bade them touch the hiyas on the prisoner’s neck. They did so, and instantly grew up. The five Ravena began practice-fighting with Aguiluz’s clone. Rasmus and Savannah looked on with pleasure. “Look at them, stronger and better, natural-born Ravena!” Savannah marveled. “Do you know what that means, Rasmus?” “What?” he asked. She grinned. “It means we need more women!” Aviona arrived at court only in time to hear Aguiluz’s sentence being handed down by Bagwis himself. She tried to fight her way through the crowd, but in vain. The deafening roars of the people there drowned out her cries as well. She could not approach the judge’s bench, and the king for some reason never once noticed her. “The usual punishment for capital crimes,” said Bagwis, “is to have one thrown off Ubod Pawin. But this is a special case so the Council has decided on an unusual penalty. You, Aguiluz, are now sentenced to be decapitated!” Aguiluz bowed his head in silence. The sentries ushered him out of the courtroom. Alwina called out to him, “Forgive me!” but Lourdes only smiled beside her. Later, Alwina assured Aguiluz that she would go and ask her father for clemency on his behalf. Aviona, for her part, met with Dakila and the other members of the High Council. She presented to them her version of the story, but was met with skepticism. “Do you have any witnesses to support your claims?” they asked. Aviona gestured toward Aramis. “Him. He even fought twice against the impostor.” Dakila replied, “You expect us to take the word of a stranger who just popped out of nowhere? You couldn’t even bring any other evidence?” Her plea to be allowed to testify was ignored. Such arrogant old men they were, she observed. Aramis apologized, “I’m sorry that I wasn’t even able to help you.” (He could have told the truth.) Aramis did not know it, but someone in Avila had recognized him: Linang. Bagwis spoke slowly and heavily to his wife. He had just imposed the death sentence on dear Aguiluz. He had done so most unwillingly, but was not the evidence against the accused so overwhelming? Now he was beginning to feel some of Dakila’s age; not physical years, of course, but the experience of conflict between love and duty, and heart and mind that makes a man older than his actual years. “It was not easy for me to pronounce the verdict on him,” he told Veronica. “I looked around me for an ally. But when I looked in your eyes, I could see that you were not with me.” The queen answered, “In the courts of the lowlands, witnesses do not suffice to convict the accused. There must be a clear motive.” “What do you mean by that? Are you saying the Council’s decision was wrong?” “No, I am not,” she said. “I’m just saying, maybe you could postpone the execution… if only for your daughter’s sake.” Bagwis reflected on the matter further, and informed Dakila of Veronica’s counsel. The old Mulawin warned him, “Be careful. You know the people’s sentiment. They are not happy that you have chosen her as your queen.” The king nodded. “I know what their sentiments are. But if I am to be a good king, I must listen to what my heart tells me as well. I must listen to and obey my conscience. I have decided to postpone the execution.” He called the elders to assembly that afternoon, just when Linang paid a visit to Veronica in their dwelling. The Mulawin queen asked the former Diwata, “Don’t you have any regrets about leaving your old life behind?” Linang smiled. “Why do you ask?” “Because when I came here, all I wanted was to be with the man I loved, and our daughter. But now I’m here and I’m the queen, I’m not sure if I can take on all the responsibilities that go with it.” Habagat’s mate replied cheerfully. “We’re opposites, come to think of it. I gave up things; you gained them. I admit that I miss Encantadia. It seems that nothing can hurt you when you’re there. But a great price comes with it: you can’t intervene in the lives of the people you see. You can’t laugh with them; you can’t cry with them. So I chose to leave all that for my loved ones. Whether you lose or gain something, it’s the same. Without love, it’s all pointless.” Their deepening conversation was interrupted by Alwina’s arrival. She looked nervous and fearful. “I need to talk to Father,” she said. So Veronica accompanied her to the High Council where Bagwis was seated, surrounded by his elders and advisers. Alwina burst into the room unannounced. “The others and I are having a meeting,” he told his child. “We’ll talk later.” “Later?” she asked. “But time is running out for Aguiluz while you sit there!” Bagwis slammed his fist on the arm-rest of his chair. “Don’t raise your voice at me! I’m the king! Show me some respect!” “I did not come here for the king!” she cried. “I came here as your daughter! Please save Aguiluz!” Then Bagwis told her, “Even a king must bow before the law, Alwina. I cannot do that.” “Then it’s not only him that you have killed,” she wept, “but my hear as well!” She fled in tears, and her mother followed. Gabriel stared at his mother in disbelief. “Stop this,” he told her. “Come with me, Mama!” She pushed him away laughingly. “Say, I want to introduce you to someone. This is Edilberto! He’s the one who got me pregnant!” Gabriel looked from her to the young man beside his mother, a dark fellow possessed of unremarkable features. “You’re saying he’s my father?” “Ha!” Gisela threw her head back scornfully. “Have you forgotten? Ravenum is your true father! This sweaty workman in Lucio’s hacienda was only the man who planted the seed inside me!” Scenes shifted. Even as he wondered in distress at his last dream – he knew he was dreaming – Gabriel found himself in the next one. He saw Alwina before him. Even with her back turned he knew it was her. She noticed him and smiled. “Hey, Gabriel!” she said. “What’s going on?” he asked her. “I’m back in Tierra Fuego. Papa did not forgive me, and Mama is acting like a slut. It’s as if my whole life here in this town has been a lie!” Alwina cocked an eyebrow, and then the smile faded from her lips. “That’s because it is,” she told him. “Your whole life has been a lie. It was ALL a lie!” At that moment Gabriel noticed a cold cruelty her eyes that he had never seen before. But now he wondered why he had missed it all this time. “You’re saying… everything that happened between us was a lie? Our friendship was a lie?” “Come on now,” she replied. “Who wouldn’t want to be courted by the son of a powerful haciendero like Lucio Montenegro? But you’re not really his son. You’re not a rich man’s heir.” Mulawin wings sprouted from her back. She spread them out proudly and flew into the air. “But me?” she went on. “I’m the Mulawin Sugo!” “Come back here!” he called out furiously. “Liar! Bitch! Come back here!” He woke up with a mighty jolt; in an instant Gabriel was up on his two feet like a man wide-awake. Ravenum maneuvered behind him, knowing the moment had come at last. Gabriel never saw him; he only felt as sharp, stabbing pain as his father drove back his ugatpak into his spine. Then the raging inferno of evil burst forth from within him, fueled by the anger and bitterness that Ravenum had put there. Wings tore through the skin of his back, and the colorful plumage of a Ravena grew on his head. When the fire died down, Gabriel wore a dark, heavy armor on his body; and the wrathful face of evil and vengeance on his face. “Arise, Gabriel,” his father beckoned, “Prince of the Ravena!”

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Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Trial.

Episode for Feb 16, 2005, Wednesday. Alwina hurried to her mother’s side even as the crowd pressed on them. Blood trickled down Veronica’s face as her daughter covered her from the blows. Tension was now at its peak; stones and sticks were flying and dropping everywhere. It was such a far cry from those days of triumph after the great war when they had stood united on the same Avilan plains. The Sugo cast her eyes about and wondered at this barbarous mob she had sacrificed so much for. “This is your queen!” Alwina screamed. “For God’s sake, show her some respect!” Someone shouted back, “No queen she is, but a criminal!” “What’s going on here?” Bagwis called out. “Who’s hurting my queen?” He pushed the crowd away and took his wife into his arms. “It was an accident, Father,” Alwina assured him. “They were targeting Aguiluz.” So much better. “What!” exclaimed the king. “You were stoning Aguiluz? We did not open Avila’s gates for the heartless! It’s not our way to kill someone who cannot defend himself!” “And it’s not the Mulawin’s way to put someone to death without a trial,” Alwina added. “Guards!” Bagwis summoned. “Take Aguiluz back to his cell and make sure no one makes any trouble!” He led his consort and their daughter back to his house where they tended Veronica’s wounds. Alwina blamed herself for involving the queen in the incident, but Veronica assured her she was not at fault. Suddenly Lourdes entered the room unannounced. Alwina hugged her tightly and cried with delight, “Mother! Where were you? I was looking for you!” Lourdes calmly embraced her, hiding her surprise at how this stranger had addressed her. Veronica, also, was surprised… and dismayed. She looked on with a mother’s envy as the two. She was a queen now for the second time in her life; she had wings; she was married to the Mulawin leader. But what she would give to be in that humble woman’s shoes! “I’m happy that they’re back together,” she said softly to Bagwis. “Then why is your face like that?” he asked gently. “You tell me one thing, but your eyes say another.” She smiled sadly and told Bagwis how her relations with Alwina had improved in their last meeting. “Even for a short while, I knew how it felt to be accepted by my daughter.” Bagwis smiled back at her and told her to be more patient. Savannah noticed Ravenum sitting on the ground. His back was bent and his eyes stared intently at the hiyas, as if drawing out power from it with his gaze. “I’ve been weakened by what I did for Gabriel earlier,” he told her. “It will take a while before I can recharge myself fully.” In his dream, Gabriel had arrived at what looked like a crossroads. The place was deserted. He saw two arrow signs joined together, pointing in opposite directions. A black car passed by with the windows down. He saw Lucio Montenegro in the passenger seat at the back of the car. “Papa!” he called out. Gabriel ran towards the car and looked through the open window. “I’m sorry for all that arguing we had before I left. Please forgive me. I won’t let you go before you forgive me!” “I won’t forgive you!” Lucio replied. “You’re no better than your mother! You’re the son of a faithless woman!” The car drove on and Gabriel soon found himself in Scene 2 of this false dream play orchestrated by Ravenum. He was back in Tierra Fuego. The town had not burned. He saw two people walking together down a street. Gabriel ran to them to ask for directions. He could tell from their swaying movements that the couple was drunk. One of them – the woman – was his mother. She was grinning and laughing shamelessly in the arms of her lover. “Mama?” he said. But she only laughed at him. Ravenum watched the sleeping Gabriel and said, “Go on, my son. Savor all that anger and bitterness I put in your dreams.” It was like three little chicks versus one big, bad wolf. The Aguiluz double regarded his prey like a hungry beast. Niwalum had united power once again with the two Mulawin and he wanted to see what they would do. But all Niwalum said was, “RUN!” Gus went into flash-mode and sped out of the scene faster than a bullet. Niwalum became invisible and likewise fled. Wis was left alone. Big, bad Aguiluz swept her into his arms and carried her off with him. She summoned rain to drench his feathers, and warned, “Now you can’t fly!” “Is that all you can do, little chick?” he taunted her. “Don’t think that would stop me from flying. I’m walking to make it easier for your friends to follow me!” And his plan worked; this false Sugo knew how to use his cloned brain. Gus and Niwalum soon realized that Lawiswis was not with them, and retraced their footsteps. The impostor was still within sight and they followed him. Unknown to them, he was leading them on the way to Halimhim. Rasmus and Savannah were there when he arrived. Mulagat had awakened. “What are you doing with that pest?” asked Rasmus. “She’s our bait to catch the bigger chick,” the impostor answered with a grin. “Mulagat!” cried Wis, who was immediately recognized by the Encantado. “Is there anything you would like to say, Aguiluz?” asked his king. Aguiluz sighed. “I came back here because I didn’t want to be hunted down like an animal. And because the elders promised me that I would have the chance to defend myself. Now I expect to receive the same honor and justness that I showed. I expect to be given a fair trial.” Bagwis turned to Lumbas and Daragit. “Is that true?” The two admitted it. Then the king declared, “Well then, Aguiluz will be put on trial!” Later, the two elders approached him for a closed-door meeting. They reported that the citizens did not welcome the idea of a trial with all its hassles. “But you made that promise to him!” argued Bagwis. “We said that only to convince him to come with us!” “A promise is a promise!” Bagwis thundered. “Now if you want to have a king who has no respect for promises and for life, then go find yourselves another king!” He stormed out of the area to prepare the court. Daragit turned to Dakila and said, “That might just happen.” The trial began that afternoon. Bagwis sat as judge with Dakila on his left, and Veronica on his right, with a bandage wrapped around her forehead. To her right was Daragit. Lumbas stood as inquisitor. Aguiluz stood a few meters away from them, bound with his arms across his chest. Alwina stood on the sidelines, anxious and afraid. “We call on our first witness, the Haraya!” announced the judge. Haraya walked across the plain and surveyed the crowd with her keen and proud eyes. She stood before the judge’s bench and recounted her last moments with Balasik, and how she watched him die. “Is the Balasik’s murderer present here today?” asked Lumbas in a leading question. “Yes!” she said, and pointed an accusing finger at Aguiluz. He showed no reaction. One by one, witnesses were called. Meanwhile, Aviona and her companions had arrived. The Perico relayed news of the trial to them and Aviona indicated that she would testify in Aguiluz’s defense. “I’m afraid this is where we part ways,” Tuka said to her. “But my testimony would be more credible if you also testified!” Tuka shook her head regretfully. “If Aguiluz needs you, my soon needs me,” she said. Alwina’s worst fear came true. Rosing had also volunteered to testify in favor of Aguiluz. She spoke of the Julian she had known in her hometown. But the inquisitor easily dismissed her testimony as irrelevant. “We now call on our last and most important witness,” said the king. “The Council now summons Alwina!” Alwina felt a drum roll in her heart. Lourdes whispered coldly in her ear, “It has to be done!” So the second Sugo took the witness’ stand, trembling and longing for comfort from anyone. But there was none; no one could draw near her. Everyone seemed so far away. Behind her were the jury; before her was the accused. Lumbas began his questioning. “We heard that you had been traveling with Aguiluz. Why did you leave?” No answer. “You are obligated to answer our questions,” Dakila reminded her. “We had a fight,” she told them. “You and Aguiluz had a fight? Over what?” “No, I had a fight with the one I thought was Aguiluz. I felt it from the start, it wasn’t the Aguiluz I’d known and loved!” Lumbas shook his head. “No! That’s not the point. What did you and Aguiluz quarrel over?” Now what should she say? She could not lie before the High Council. But if she told the truth, it still would not be the whole of it. How could she tell them that the Aguiluz she had seen was not this Aguiluz? She would be telling the truth, and yet she would still mislead them and convict Aguiluz with her testimony. “Something happened,” Alwina finally said. “What happened?” asked Lumbas. Never in her worst nightmares had she dreamed it would come to this. “I saw him kill the Balasik,” the Sugo told them. She turned to the other Sugo. He just stood there, calm, dignified and unperturbed. The crowd roared.

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The Witness.

Episode for Feb 15, 2005, Tuesday. “They’re not even going to give him a fair trial,” the queen went on. “There’s no one to defend Aguiluz.” Alwina listened in icy silence. So news of Balasik’s murder had reached Avila. “I’m sorry, I can’t defend him,” she replied. “Why not?” “Why don’t you answer me first? Why are you so eager to defend the man?” Veronica felt an instant of burning anger. “Because,” she answered, “I know how it feels to be judged and accused by people who do not understand.” Her daughter had no retort for that, and was obliged to come along. She said goodbye to her friends, Pamela and Tonya, and Terong as well. “If you find Gabriel, tell him I didn’t mean to hurt him,” she requested before flying away with her mother toward home. When they had come within walking distance of Avila, the two Mulawin landed. Veronica turned to Alwina to see if she was all right, when the latter ran away. She sat down on a rock and hugged her arms as if feeling cold. “What’s wrong?” asked Veronica. “Let it out, Alwina.” Alwina shook her head and looked at her fearfully. “There’s a reason why I can’t testify for Aguiluz…. I saw him kill the Balasik.” “What? You mean the allegations are true?” “I can’t testify!” Alwina cried. “I might be the reason for his death if I did.” A new day had broken. Niwalum’s mouth stretched open in a yawn. Then he turned to his friends to wake them up. “Are you ready?” he asked. “Ready to look for breakfast?” Before Gus and Wis could answer, they noticed the towering figure of Aguiluz’s double standing over them. “I know what my breakfast will be,” he told himself aloud. “Three little chicks!” “I know you!” Niwalum cried. “You’re the one I made from Aguiluz’s feather!” The clone studied him narrowly. “So you’re the boy who made me! No wonder Ravenum wants to get you back!” The children looked at one another with terror. “Let’s unite powers again!” Niwalum said. Meanwhile in Avila, Lourdes had lost heart and failed to carry out Ravenum’s orders. Memories she could not quite understand flashed in her mind’s eye. She knew she had loved this Mulawin, and that love had been unrequited. Yet she could not bring herself to harm him. As she waited for another opportunity to slay him, and Mulawin paid a visit. He talked about the young warrior, Aguiluz, who did not interest Lourdes. Dakila greeted her on her return to Avila. “Thank you… um… Dakila,” she replied. After he left, Lourdes spoke to Bagwis, who was seated on his throne. “I hate to say this, but it was a big mistake on your part to marry Veronica,” she told him. “How can you say that?” he asked. “You are such good friends!” “Yes. But it is unseemly for the Mulawin King to be married to the former Queen of the Ravena! Think about it!” Aramis was swiftly recovering from his wounds. It seemed to be another uncanny ability of his that he would not admit to. Knowing love was in the air for the two, Tuka left the scene to them for a while. But Aviona’s mind was on other things. “May I ask you something?” she asked. “How did you know that that Aguiluz was an impostor?” Then Aramis’ heart skipped a beat. He had not expected that. “Um… I just… noticed something odd about him. He wasn’t the same Aguiluz I’d met before.” If Aviona was suspicious, she did not show it. She nodded. Aramis heaved a sigh of relief. Dismal as the stormy skies of Halimhim was Rasmus’ mood. Sharp as the crackling thunderbolts were his hurts. None of this went unnoticed to his father. “I’m sorry for scolding you earlier,” said Ravenum. “Gabriel is in a delicate situation now. He will be joining us soon. We ought to encourage him instead of drive him away.” “It just hurts to think that you’re so patient with him,” Rasmus said in his clear and earnest voice. “But with me? If I even so much as admit that I’m still in love with Vultra, it’s as if I’d committed a mortal sin already.” “That is because I can still mold Gabriel into the form I want for him,” Ravenum answered. “What’s that supposed to mean? Have I failed you?” “Rasmus,” said the father, “you grew up beside me. You have lived with me all your life. If I’d been able to mold you into the man I wanted you to be, it would have happened a long time ago.” The son was looking into Ravenum’s eyes now. There was finality in how he had spoken those words. Then his five young offspring came home to report to him. They apologized for failing their mission to seize Niwalum, and their said, “Don’t worry. You will have plenty of chances later on. Now go and play.” The youngsters cheered and ran off. Gabriel saw them and Ravenum explained to them that they would become noble and strong just like their brother. “No go and sleep,” he told the prince, “and tomorrow everything will be made clear to you.” Gabriel obeyed, and Ravenum grinned to himself. Because tomorrow you won’t have a soul anymore! Hours passed, and Ravenum went over to the sleeping Gabriel to do as he planned. He sucked out his son’s soul from him, and then exhaled his evil breath into its place. Savannah saw him and asked what he had done. “I just got rid of those things that have been bothering him,” he explained, “and I gave him some good dreams.” They weren’t. While the vast majority of the Avilans were united against the innocent Aguiluz, Rosing took her stand on the opposite end. “Not everyone believes that you are guilty,” she told him. “To me, you are still Julian, the boy I adopted in Tierra Fuego.” Aguiluz thanked her silently in his heart. But Hampas growled, “It’s his fault that the tree has withered!” “How do you know that?” she asked. Laab snapped, “And what do you know about it, old woman?” “Hey, don’t talk to my grandmother like that!” Lino said. “And don’t be rude to our lord!” the Musang replied. Dakila overheard them and rebuked them. “Stop that! Have you no respect for the tree?” He turned to Aguiluz and said, “Tomorrow you will face the consequences of your error.” While all this was going on, Alwina had stolen a little sleep for herself in the forest. When she woke up, Veronica was beside her, offering her a drink. The Sugo hesitated (not poisoned, surely!), then took the cup and drank from it. She smiled. “This tastes good. It’s so refreshing!” Veronica refused to take credit for it. “Your Nanay Lourdes taught me to make that,” she admitted with a pause. “I know you’re having a rough time. But I have faith in you. I know when the time comes you will do the right thing.” But Alwina was fearful of what might happen, and as they drew nearer Avila, she grew more fearful still. “Be strong,” her mother urged. “Aguiluz needs you.” “If only Mother were here,” Alwina sighed. “She was always the one who gave me strength. But still, I’m thankful that you’re the one who came to fetch me there.” The two women smiled at each other and went on their way. Something about humans makes them bloodthirsty on certain occasions. Death and violence appeal to them. Perhaps that taste for blood is always there; it just takes an impetus to start the saliva flowing. In a place of public execution, the clamor for someone’s head spreads among the crowd; it infects one person after another until all are struck with the same madness. Aguiluz could see all this now from where he was. He was in a cage made of bamboo wood, mounted on two long rails carried by several men. A furious mob met them, pushing the cage and hurling curses at him. Alwina and Veronica arrived in time to see this commotion. Alwina ran toward the cage and peered through the bars. Veronica stood between the crowd and Aguiluz and shouted, “Stop it! Have you no pity? Have you forgotten everything he has done for you?” They shot back insultingly, “You’re defending him? No wonder! You were a Ravena yourself! You’re just as wicked as he is!” Aguiluz whispered to Alwina in the din, “Do you believe what they say about me?” “Is that really you now?” she asked. “I want to read your eyes.” “You’ll see only two things in them,” he replied. “I love you, and I could never do what they accuse me of!” This was not the Aguiluz she had last seen. Not the one who had pitilessly broken the bird’s neck and laughed as he did so. His eyes had a soul in them. “I believe you,” Alwina told him. Then someone threw a stone. It flew past Alwina and hit Veronica on her temple. Rocks and sticks were now whizzing through the air. Alwina turned away from Aguiluz and rushed toward her mother. The other Sugo could only look on helplessly.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Point of Honor.

Episode for Feb 14, 2005, Monday. Ravenum took hold of his son’s hand. “Now that you have accepted what you really are, you must lay aside all that you have known in your former life. Forget everything and everyone you have loved.” The Ravena prince hesitated and made no reply. “I can see that you are having second thoughts,” said the father. “It is not easy to forsake what you have gotten used to. But I will show you that it is the right thing to do.” He let go of Gabriel’s hand and flew away to Halimhim. Gabriel willed his wings to appear and followed him. Savannah and Rasmus were there to welcome him in his grim homecoming. It was like visiting a cemetery, though the young man showed no fear. “Gabriel!” cried Savannah as she hurled her arms around him. He stepped back and told her, “I haven’t forgotten what I feel for you. If you think I’ll be soft on you now, you’re wrong.” “Think about it first,” she replied testily. “You and I are the same now, and we’re meant for each other. No one else will ever love someone like you!” Who would love a monster like you but another like me! The prisoner, Mulagat, was hanging by his wrists on a tree; he was unconscious. Gabriel went over to his side and then turned to his fellow Ravena. “It’s not right for us to treat him like this! This is wrong!” Then his wings vanished. Then Rasmus, in the role of a mocking devil’s advocate, asked, “Is this the future of our tribe that you boast of, Father? He stops being a Ravena when he loses heart and gets soft!” But Ravenum turned around and chastised him, “Do not ever speak of Gabriel in that way.” Rasmus fell silent; he left their company with resentment building in his heart. Mulagat’s mother was still in Avila, unable to do anything, and not knowing where to go. The only people she thought of turning to for help where the Diwata. She prostrated herself on the ground and prayed aloud to them. “Hear me out, I need your help! Have you really turned your back on me?” She was not entirely correct. They had not forgotten her, and the Queen Mother still watched over her. “But she willingly chose to become human,” she told Muyak. “We cannot interfere with the lives of ordinary people.” “It seems the door of Encantadia has shut me out for good,” Linang complained to Habagat. Before he could answer, two Mulawin men raised their voices behind them. It seemed to Linang that they were quarreling over food, like there was a shortage. Habagat addressed them thus, “There’s food left in my house if you run out of supply.” “What’s happening to Avila?” asked Linang. “After I left Avila, I ran into some men who wanted to take advantage of me,” Lourdes narrated to Bagwis. “But I fought them so they did not succeed. While I was fighting them, I thought of you. I told myself, if something is going to happen to me, I must go back here and see you again.” If Bagwis noticed anything between those lines, he pretended not to. “Thank God you made it safely back here,” was all he said. Then he stood up and spoke aloud, “What a pity that you missed Veronica.” “Ah, yes, Veronica…” The woman had drawn out a large knife. “She just left to look for Alwina,” the Mulawin went on. Lourdes paused, hearing a faint ringing of bells in her head. “Alwina?” she echoed with a blank look in her face. Bagwis smiled at her. “Yes, Alwina! Why, you look at me as if you have forgotten who she is. Alwina has gone to look for your adopted children, Pagaspas and Lawiswis, and Niwalum, their new friend. “Now it’s late,” he continued. “I will take you back to your house so you can rest.” But Lourdes pleaded, “May I spend the night with you here? I’m still afraid to be alone.” The Mulawin king felt his cheeks grow hot with embarrassment. But there was no way to politely refuse her. Meanwhile, Alwina was still looking for Gabriel and calling out to him. Yet another one of her loved ones was missing! She informed Terong of what had happened. “I hurt him when I told him that it’s still Aguiluz that I love,” she explained. “But I did the right thing, didn’t I? I told him the truth. I didn’t lie to him….” Terong was concerned about another matter. “Did you notice anything odd about him?” he asked. She shook her head. “He just ran away.” Uh-oh… Terong could imagine what she had missed. Probably he’s turned into a Ravena and left. And as if to confirm his suspicions, the servant noticed a red quill on the terrace and picked it up. It was Gabriel’s. But Alwina had heard him talking to himself. “What did you say about the Ravena?” she asked, and then snatched the feather from his hand. “Isn’t this from a Ravena?” Think fast, Terong! “You mean… you think the Ravena kidnapped Gabriel?” He answered in the affirmative, sighing in relief that she had not heard everything. Watch your mouth next time! The Mulawin youngsters were now marching toward Mount Avila. As night fell, Gus realized that they were on the wrong track. “It looks like we’re lost,” he told the others. “How hard would it be to find Avila?” Niwalum asked. “Let’s just keep climbing and climbing.” Wis complained, “But I’m so tired. Can we all fit into your kite? Honestly, my wings are tired!” “Why don’t we run?” Gus suggested. “Excuse me,” Wis replied. “Not everyone can run fast like you do.” “You’re a whiner!” “You’re a braggart!” Niwalum’s eyes rolled in their sockets. He rolled on the ground, curled up his legs and put his arms under his head. “I say we just spend the night here,” he said. “We’ll find Avila.” As Aviona prepared to leave the real Aguiluz, she spoke to Tuka and private. At first, Gus’ mother was reluctant to join her any further. But Aviona made her point well. “I have a feeling that whoever sent that impostor is also responsible for Pagaspas’ disappearance,” she said. “My only concern is, if you’re going out on your own to find him, do you know where to go?” So Tuka gave in and went along with her. Aguiluz prayed for them as he watched them leave. Then Daragit and the others ushered him out of his cage to be brought to Avila for his trial. It would become a mock trial, Aguiluz looked down with dismay at his bounds. “I won’t let myself be dragged like sheep to the slaughterhouse!” he said aloud. Then the Sugo gazed down upon his chains. In a minute or two, they had melted before his eyes and vanished completely. He looked at the guards and told them, “I’m not going with you! I’m innocent of that charge! I could never kill without pity!” The officers knew that he could easily flick them aside as one does little insects. So they answered, “Show us that you have honor then. Come with us and face the accusations made against you.” This struck a chord in Aguiluz’s heart. He would be found guilty as charged surely; he could flee and live as a fugitive until he had proven his innocence. But he was a Mulawin and a proud, law-abiding citizen of Avila. There exists an unspoken oath between an honorable man and his city or state: he must respect its laws even when they are unfavorable to him. And Aguiluz was no common citizen; he was a warrior of the tribe. He was sworn to defend this land and to honor it. By running away, he would bring dishonor on himself and pronounce his own guilt. “I will go with you,” he told the elders, “because I am an honorable Mulawin.” His double continued to wrestle with Aramis the hunter all evening. “Why do you make it harder on yourself?” asked the former. “You yourself said you have no more reason to live!” Aramis did not answer him. He saw a fallen tree trunk nearby and lifted it up with both arms. Then he threw the huge log at the false Sugo. But the impostor caught it without even flinching, and heaved it back at Aramis. It hit Aramis smack in the abdomen with such crushing force. The archer fell back; he could not breathe; he felt his organs being painfully squeezed. “Kill me now!” he gasped. The double smiled coolly. “You said it.” He waved his cloned sword in the air and was about to decapitate this annoying huntsman. Then a voice shouted, “Put that down!” The evil twin turned to see Aviona and Tuka there and laughed. “Hahaha! You? Two women are going to beat me?” Then Aviona picked up a handful of soil in her hand and flung it into his eyes. The impersonator cried out and then turned to flee. Aviona pursued him, but the Sugo’s double made himself invisible to her. Aviona sought him through the heavy clouds in vain and returned to her allies. “It feels so good to be a Sugo1” beamed the wicked Aguiluz. Tuka and Aviona now joined forces to push away the tree log. “Let me be!” Aramis cried. “Let me die!” “No, you mustn’t die!” Aviona said. “I know I made a mistake, but you have to survive!” They made one final push; Aramis mustered all his remaining strength and rolled the dead wood away from his chest. Then he blacked out like the night and Aviona held him. Meanwhile, the Mulawin queen had began her quest to find her runaway daughter. But it was destined to be a short one. Noticing the lights throughout the small town, Veronica alighted at the entrance of Carig. “Maybe I can start asking questions here,” she said to herself. But Veronica had not considered the lowlanders’ fear of bird-men. Or perhaps, she was still an ordinary human being in her own mind. She knocked on the door of a house expecting a friendly response, but the two young women who opened it screamed and ran back inside. When they returned, one of them was holding a rifle. Veronica retreated to the air and they fired at her. “Stop!” she cried. “I’m not an enemy! I just came here looking for somebody! Alwina!” Now Alwina had been conversing with Terong. When the gunshots rang out, she ran toward Pamela’s house to see what was going on. But everything had calmed down by then. “Somebody’s looking for you,” Pamela told her. Then the Mulawin queen stepped out of the house. Alwina could not hide her disappointment, but she held her tongue. “Thank God I found you right away,” her mother exclaimed. “You have to go back to Avila at once. Aguiluz is on trial on charges of killing the Balasik.” It was the dead of night; Bagwis was fast asleep in a chair. Lourdes knew she had to act swiftly. Whoever that Alwina was, she would not wonder about now. She must kill this Mulawin who had betrayed her. Ravenum’s command played repeatedly in her mind like a religious mantra. Her eyes glowered in the dark like a luminous red light. She raised the knife in her hand.

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Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Angel and the Abyss.

Episode for Feb 11, 2005, Friday. Members of Ravenum’s royal household appeared to have one thing in common: they were all failures in love or had never known the happiness it can bring; only the pain. Rasmus, Savannah, Lourdes and now Gabriel: all either had never known love or had seen only its negative aspect. Unrequited love was like fuel to the fire of hatred and vindictiveness that Ravenum stoked in their souls. Spurned in romance? What kind of a Ravena would you make? Alwina, too, was groaning at her seemingly endless run of misfortunes. “You know,” she told Gabriel, “I did everything right. I did all that I was told to do. I did what was best for the greater number of people. But what about me? What about my own good? Look at this. Someone is always missing! And if they are with me, then they are taken away from me! How long does this have to go on? Why are my loved ones being taken away from me? I am SO TIRED of this!” Surprised, Gabriel held her but said nothing. They later went to sleep in the living room that night, as if expecting Lourdes to come home at any time. Alwina’s slumber was not deep; she woke up and went over to Gabriel. She apologized for her earlier outburst. “I know how you feel,” he replied. “I know how it feels to have something inside you that you cannot say aloud.” And then, remembering Terong’s words, the man decided not to dally anymore and ask her a straightforward question. They were being given another chance, Gabriel said. “And I’m still in love with you after everything,” he told her. “My feelings haven’t changed. Do you love me too?” Alwina smiled uncomfortably, and their eyes met. “I love you, you know that,” she told him, “but only as a friend. If your feelings haven’t changed, then neither have mine. It’s still Aguiluz that I love.” Gabriel shrank away from her. He had been in denial for the last couple of days. It had been his very last effort… to take up once again with his first and only love. To bring back the love and joy that had been his before the dark clouds swept into their lives and took everything away. And he had actually believed it was possible. But now, Gabriel could see plainly that it was all a pipe-dream. He had dared to hope for love one more time, and it was for the very last time. His true nature began emerge; he felt his wings tearing through his flesh and stretching his backbones. His eyes reddened, but not because of tears. Gabriel broke away and ran out of the house before Alwina could witness his transformation. She followed but could not keep up with him. Meanwhile, the Mulawin youngsters saw their first day in action against the Ravena children. And it was a rout in favor of the heroes. The quintet were all airborne now, as were Gus and Wis. Niwalum was not to be outdone; he stepped onto his kite and it flew into the air like the magic carpet of Oriental lore. The others gazed in wonder at this. He was riding the air now like a surfer riding invisible waves. Then Lawiswis emptied her lungs and blew upon their opponents with all her strength. A powerful wind drove back the Ravena and sent them scattering. Victorious, the Mulawin trio threw high fives at one another, cheering. Then they reversed their ritual, “Powers divide!” and went back to normal. “We’ll handle this ourselves,” Rasmus told Savannah. “We mustn’t let him disturb Father and Lourdes.” Then they cast a net over Mulagat who struggled like a captured game. But Mulagat used his power to pierce the net so that he could pass through. Rasmus roared and chased him, hitting him with a right hook that knocked out the prince. “Stop!” Savannah cried. “Don’t kill him! Are you really that bloodthirsty, Rasmus?” And he snarled, “Father is not here. The next time you talk to me like that, you better make sure I’m not wearing my talons.” The claws gleamed in the dark. Savannah cringed. “I… I just think that, since he’s an Encantado, and they have the hiyas that Ravenum uses, maybe he’ll still be useful to us.” Daragit led a team of Mulawin soldiers to arrest Aguiluz and bring him to justice. Bagwis looked on, feeling like a lame duck. “Forgive me,” he asked of his friend and pupil mentally. “I understand how you feel,” Dakila said. “But Daragit and the others have a point. We no longer know this Aguiluz after everything he did.” The arresting officers found Aguiluz at the gate of the town of Carig. Aguiluz had spotted one of Alwina’s friends there, and knew she had to be there. But alas for him, it was not yet time for them to be reunited. The Mulawin soldiers encircled him. “Are you going to come along willingly?” they asked. “Or would you like us carry out your sentence sooner?” Aguiluz, Tuka and Aviona exchanged confused glances. “What the hell is going on?” Within a few minutes the Sugo was bound in chains like a criminal. Aviona pleaded with the authorities not to harm him. She brought him food (“Even a criminal has a right to eat” she scolded his guards) and offered to be a witness for him during his trial. “But they we’ve been friends since childhood,” he argued. “They wouldn’t believe you. They’d think you’ve conspired with Tuka to cover up for me. If you really care about me, then please do me a favor. Find that impostor so we can prove I am innocent of their charge.” Aviona was wearing a sullen look. She did not want to leave him. “All right,” she said at last. “For you I will do this.” Aguiluz expressed his thanks, and his friend departed. “I want to avenge myself on those who betrayed me,” Lourdes announced to Ravenum. “What is it that you said I could use for that?” Ravenum smiled. She was right where he needed her to be. He showed her a shining red seed and said, “Here. Take this when you reach Avila. Then your wings will disappear. Now go unleash terror at them. Destroy them!” And like one under a spell, Lourdes obeyed her mate. She spread her wings and soared toward Avila. Now Bagwis had withdrawn from the Council and returned home. He sat outside the hut looking blankly at empty space. Veronica guessed that Aguiluz was still on his mind. “I think of Aguiluz, and Alwina and the children,” he told her. “I can’t find peace just sitting here and doing nothing. I have to go look for them.” “No, you can’t leave,” she answered. “As king, you must stay here with your people. I myself will go find Alwina and the children. Now come and get some sleep.” Her new husband nodded. “Go on ahead. I just want to be alone.” Bagwis’ eyes wandered again as soon as he was alone. He noticed a shadowy figure in the distance coming toward the house. Someone at this time of night? Who could it be? The visitor appeared to have no wings… a lowlander. The Mulawin king rose from his seat and called out. “Lourdes? You’re back!” Aramis the hunter sat brooding near a fire he had made. Being with Aviona even for only a short while had taught him many things. For the first time, somebody had made him aware of everything he had missed. Everything his keepers had deprived him of and never taught him. “I never learned anything from them but hatred. I loved once, but that was taken away from me. Now I have no more reason to live!” Someone was willing to help him in that direction. “You’re right, Aramis,” the voice of Aguiluz said. “You have no reason to live anymore.” It was the clone grinning wickedly at him. “How did you find me?” asked the startled archer. “If you didn’t want to be found, you should’ve frozen in the cold and not built a fire!” He then attacked the unprepared Aramis, hurling him to the ground with the power of a Sugo. But Aramis’ superhuman strength made the battle an even one. Each was determined to leave the other for the scavengers of nature. “How easy it was to persuade you, Lourdes,” Ravenum thought smilingly to himself. “I didn’t even have a hard time with you!” He was busy congratulating himself when an urgent call whispered in his heart. It struck the Ravena father like a mild heart attack, as if his own life was in danger. But it was Gabriel; he was in great pain. Ravenum felt it as if the hurt were his own. My son needs me, he thought. Ravenum found Gabriel alone and prostrated on the earth. The father kept aloft beside him, and called out in a gentle tone, “Gabriel, what’s the matter? Why do you run away?” Gabriel knew the voice; he glanced over his shoulder. Ravenum read despair and utter defeat in those eyes. “I did everything,” said the son tearfully. “I tried to be a good son, and to be a faithful friend. I fought for what was right and good. I faced every danger. I was willing to risk even my life. But after all that, after everything I have been through, here I am. I’m still the one who suffers. I’m so tired.” Then Ravenum knew that the moment had arrived. He held out his hands and said, “You can put an end to all that, Gabriel. You can begin a new life in which you will be the winner. Come with me, my son.” And this time, there was no more resistance. It was an invitation this poor soul could no longer refuse. He felt something from his father, a tender acceptance and caring that no one else had given. Gabriel took Ravenum’s hand. “Take me with you, Father,” he said. The angel had fallen into the abyss.

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Child's Play.

Episode for Feb 10, 2005, Thursday. Child’s Play. Mulagat wandered through the ghost-town looking for any signs of life. He felt certain that this was unfriendly territory, but where exactly he was, he still could not tell. Danger dogged his footsteps without him even knowing it. Savannah was now stalking him, bent on making her first kill. “Stay back,” a voice warned beside her. It was Rasmus. Savannah looked at him. “Why? I’m the princess here. I have a right to attack an intruder!” “He is no ordinary being,” the son of Ravenum told her. “He is an Encantado. Don’t be hasty.” For once, Rasmus displayed some forethought. They hid themselves behind a wall, watching the white-clad stranger. Quite unaware of their presence, Mulagat willed his wings to appear and flew away. The Ravena stealthily pursued him. Meanwhile, Ravenum was engaged in a business familiar to Rasmus: brainwashing the new convert. Lourdes had began asking questions, and every answer her lord gave was calculated to inspire her with hatred and longing for revenge. “Are there people outside Halimhim?” she asked. “Yes, there are, and they are enemies. They are called Mulawin. They are ruled by Bagwis and Veronica.” The lady turned to him with puzzled eyes. “Bagwis?” “Yes,” he said again. “You need to know that what they did to you. They betrayed you. You loved Bagwis, but he chose Veronica.” “This Bagwis betrayed me?” “You loved him. You did everything for him. But they mercilessly violated you and hurt you. Go back and destroy them, Lourdes! Punish them!” Lourdes’ eyes blazed like fire. “This Bagwis betrayed me? I will punish them! I will utterly destroy them!” Lourdes’ mind until now had been blank. Like a soft piece of clay Ravenum could mold it to any shape he desired. With efficient programming, he planned to raise a monster to destroy the king and queen of the Mulawin. To destroy a powerful kingdom, one has to work from within and shake its very foundations. Lourdes and her subconscious resentment of Bagwis and Veronica would be the means to this end! But they were not alone; Mulagat spotted them from behind the bushes where he was hiding. “Isn’t that Ravenum?” he wondered. “And that’s Alwina’s foster-mother! Oh, I’m in the Ravena’s lair!” “Damn it!” Rasmus cursed. “He has seen Father and Lourdes!” Dakila introduced his guest to the members of his tribe. “This is Haraya,” he told them. “As far as I know, you do not usually appear in human form… unless something bad has happened. What happened, Haraya?” The songbird’s eyes brimmed with tears, but she controlled herself. “Balasik is dead!” she announced. “And I know who killed him: Aguiluz!” This was met by a chorus of gaps and dropping of jaws. “I cannot believe it,” Bagwis said, and Dakila seconded him. But the other elders such as Daragit were quick to believe. “I cannot be mistaken!” the grief-stricken widow roared. “It was no accident! He killed my beloved Balasik without pity!” Another elder, Lumbas, echoed Daragit’s sentiments. “There is only one thing to call Aguiluz now: a CRIMINAL! He deserves the penalty of death!” Bagwis objected, “Isn’t it enough that he has been banished?” “No! If you ask us, that punishment is too light for what he has done! He abandoned the tree, and now because of the darkness, its leaves have withered. And now the Balasik is gone!” “King Bagwis is right,” Dakila said. “And let us not forget all the sacrifice that Aguiluz made for us before.” But the smell of blood was already in the air for the majority. “Your Majesty,” they said to Bagwis, “as the new king, we expect you to decide on the matter soon!” All eyes fell on Bagwis. Back to the children. A dart now cut like a fine knife through the air. It found its mark on a tree trunk. Gus and Wis examined it and surmised that Dakila was playing a prank on them. “Hey, Dakila!” they called out. “Yoohoo! Come out of there!” But the darts kept on coming and several came within close range. Wis reconsidered. “This isn’t Dakila. He wouldn’t do this.” This warned of trouble! “Look!” cried Niwalum, pointing to five youngsters about their own size. They had wings like the Mulawin did, but their plumage was red. They looked like chubby, innocent winged devils if ever there were any. Gus remarked, “I had assumed that there were no more Ravena…” “A lot of people have died from making the wrong assumptions,” Wis quipped. The friends bolted, but Niwalum pulled them back. “No, we’re not going to retreat!” he declared. “We’re going to fight!” He thrust his fist at their opponents. “Attack!” “Attack!” went their battle-cry. The Ravena children showed no reaction, but waited for the Mulawin to advance. Gus made the first move. He ran around the quintet with blinding speed until he literally knocked the wind out of them. When he stopped, all five of their adversaries lay unconscious on the ground. Gus went back to his corner victorious and pleased with himself. But Niwalum and Wis had not yet finished their round of applause for him when the Ravena children got back on their feet, as if nothing had happened. So Wis blew upon them with her windy breath, forcing the Ravena back across the sky. This bought the heroes enough time to flee. But the villains had used their tiny wings to shield against the artificial gale. Armed with pipes, they blew their sharp darts at the Mulawin. “Step on my kite,” Niwalum directed to his friends. So they fitted themselves on the square platform as best they could. “Put your hands together and call out your names!” he cried. They put forth their right hands, and shouted their names. “Powers unite!” Niwalum prayed. Aguiluz had little time to explain himself to his companions; not that he expected to be understood. Aviona went along with him even though she did not understand. “We’re friends and you know we’re with you,” she said. “But would you mind telling us why you think Gabriel would want to hurt Alwina?” “I heard Habagat and Dakila talking about it,” he answered. “I was never able to know the whole story. But I saw in a vision that he plans to kill her.” “You shouldn’t worry too much,” Gabriel told Alwina. She sighed. “Don’t you miss the old days?” she asked. “The times when it was just you and me and Mother, and life was so simple…” “Why not?” he said with a smile. “We can try to bring those good times back.” He took down a bilao hanging on the wall and placed it in her hands. “Hey, Alwina, can I buy some of that suman?” Alwina could not help but smile. “You still have forgotten that Mother and I used to sell suman!” She happily played along with his make-believe game, and later that day, they went to play hide-and-seek like they used to do. It was hard to believe; it almost felt as if nothing bad ever happened, and nothing had ever come between them. Gabriel was transported back to those bygone days that seemed so long ago. And when the fantasy ended, all the more did he feel the bitterness of the present time; and all the more did he wish he could turn back time and return things to how they used to be. If only the Mulawin tree could do that! He did not hide his nostalgia from Terong. “It’s like fate has given us a second chance to start all over again,” he said. “Why?” asked Terong. “Are you wooing her again?” But Alwina’s mind would not allow itself to dwell long in pleasant daydreams about the past. She saw a woman pass by their house that day, and Alwina ran after her thinking it was Lourdes. The woman only looked at her, not even surprised to see a Mulawin. “Sorry, I thought you were someone else,” Alwina apologized. Daragit and Lumbas murmured among themselves as they awaited Bagwis’ decision. “Look at him,” one said, “he can’t make up his mind.” “He uses his heart, not his mind. He lacks experience.” “Not only that. Our queen is the former Ravena queen!” “If he doesn’t make up his mind soon, I’m afraid it will cause division among the people.” Soon they returned to the Council to hear what their king had to say. Dakila said to Bagwis, “Whatever you decide, I will support you.” Veronica and Habagat likewise voiced their support for the king. But the rest were less kind. “What is your decision, Your Majesty?” It was more of a demand than an inquiry. Bagwis spoke with a heavy heart, and trembling voice. “I admit that this is hard for me,” he told the elders. “And I admit that Aguiluz is very dear to me. Therefore, I am leaving this matter in the hands of the majority.” The elders looked at one another. “We do not need to deliberate further,” they told him. “Death for Aguiluz!”

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Friday, February 11, 2005

Haraya.

Episode for Feb 9, 2005, Wednesday. The death of its mate would cause grief to any lovebird. But when the death is violent, cruel and planned, it is not grief alone that takes hold of the heart. Anger and desire for revenge seize it and dominate every other emotion. Haraya was in that kind of situation. Love songs and poetic idylls were forgotten. Balasik’s blood was crying out to her for a vengeance she was determined to carry out. And the belief that her wrath was justified made her passion stronger. “He had no pity,” Haraya said aloud. “He will pay for what he did to you, Balasik!” Out camping in the forest, Alwina often had had to sleep in a sitting position like other Mulawin. But here in Carig, she resumed her human habits and was dozing on the couch tonight. Gabriel watched over with Terong beside him. “Are you sure you don’t know where Aling Lourdes went?” asked the latter. And the master answered in a low voice, “Don’t tell me you suspect me of killing her too?” “It’s not that. But you were the last person with her.” Again, Gabriel protested his innocence. “Sure I did, but I saw her leave. I heard the others calling her, but I don’t even think she heard them.” He was piling up lies one on top of the other. One could see the family resemblance between him and the other males in his true family. Alwina suspected nothing, however. She was happy to have him around. “Don’t be shy around me,” she told him the next day. “I just don’t want to look as if I’m taking advantage of the situation now that you and Aguiluz have a problem.” “Don’t worry about it,” she replied. “In truth, I wouldn’t know what to do now if you weren’t here.” Meanwhile, Aguiluz and his doubles entered into their duel. The real Sugo threw the first kick, and a rapid exchange of blows followed. It was a perfectly even match from the onset, and Aguiluz felt that he was boxing against his own shadow. Every move he made his opponent seemed to anticipate and imitate. It really seemed as if they were twins with a single train of thought, the same training, the same strategy, and the same amount of courage and strength. Even his enchanted weapon had also been cloned. In the fleeting moments when he struck his flute on the ground to bring up his sword, Aguiluz had hoped that his imitator would not be able to duplicate the magic-feat. But he was mistaken; the very same blade sprang up from the earth, and his challenger wielded it with finesse and confidence equal to his own. At one point, they hurled their swords at each other, but each caught the weapon in his hand unscathed. “I’m confused!” Tuka exclaimed. “They look exactly the same!” “I’m the real Aguiluz!” each of them insisted. “He’s an impostor!” Then the counterfeit Sugo seized Tuka by the neck and pointed his sword at her. “We’re not through yet!” he warned, then fled from the scene. Aviona and the frightened Tuka ran to Aguiluz. “So Aramis was telling the truth,” Aviona realized. “Where is Alwina?” asked the emissary. They explained to him that Alwina left after what the impersonator had done. And the news of Balasik’s murder deeply shocked Aguiluz. But they did not tarry long in that place, and after Tuka assured him that she would accompany them, Aguiluz led the others in search of Alwina. Using his gift of remote-viewing, Aguiluz was able to obtain glimpses of his lady. He saw her sitting beside a girl he recognized as a former resident Tierra Fuego. “I can see her now!” he exclaimed. “This means she’s out of danger!” But suddenly, the scene went blank, and Aguiluz could not restore it to his mind’s eye. “She’s gone again1” he said. “I have a bad feeling about this. I think Gabriel has found her!” The ailing Habagat asked if it was Linang who had come to visit him. Linang confirmed it, and the Mulawin told the others, “That is Linang, the mother of Mulagat.” Linang did not delay. “Do not give up, Habagat,” she told him. “There is hope yet!” She held the shimmering red stone over him and willed all its energy to descend on him. A flood of red and white light clothed him, and Habagat felt youth and vigor return to him. When he rose, everyone knew he had completely recovered. Linang then confessed how she had procured the miraculous stone, adding, “I have no regrets about what I did. But where is Mulagat? Let’s wake him up! He should be up now!” Bagwis broke in. “Mulagat? What? Wasn’t he in Encantadia? He was going there to try to find a cure for his father.” Then the former queen cast a frightened glance around her. “You mean he left Avila? But I never saw him there before I left! And now that darkness coves this land, the enchanted portal can no longer take him to Encantadia. Instead…” She remembered the Queen Mother’s warning. “Instead, the door takes one to the dark side.” Habagat went to her. “Can’t you use your powers to open such a portal so we can follow him there?” But she shook her head. “When I gave up my powers as a Diwata, I also lost the ability to create a portal. And I can no longer ask the other Encantada for help.” Habagat put his arms around her, but could offer no other comfort. The three children had come within the vicinity of Avila when Niwalum begged to be allowed to rest. Foreseeing that Dakila would ask them many questions as soon as they arrived, Wis agreed that it would be best to stop for the night. Gus agreed. On the next day, the five Ravena toddlers set foot on the lush Avilan pastures. “At last, we’re out of Halimhim!” they cheered. Then mindful of their father’s command, they flew off like bats to find Niwalum. He went out kite-flying that morning, happy and strong once again. “I feel now that Aguiluz is headed in the right direction,” he explained to his friends, as if this were the reason for his recovery. While he was speaking, the kite flew out of his hand. Then the trio ran after it. They chased after the elusive kite for hours until poor Gus and Wis were panting like thirsty hound dogs. “Why are you so eager to get that kite?” asked Wis. “Does it have a mind of its own? Why don’t we just make another one?” Niwalum refused to give a reason for his inordinate attachment to his toy. “All right, all right!” he said. “Let’s go back to Avila then.” “Oh, at last,” sighed Wis. Finally, the boy acted with some sense! Suddenly, they heard a whizzing sound in the air like an arrow. The playmates turned to see what it was. Aramis whistled repeatedly in vain. Where was Rasmus? He needed to speak with that loathsome devil! But no one came. How long must this go on, Aramis wondered? Would Aviona be the price to pay? “Is this the price to pay to the Ravena who took me in?” he asked himself in distress. Rasmus was busy in his new home, and his unpleasant new family. “You know,” Savannah told him and his father, “there are some girls left in that town where we got Lourdes. Why don’t we go get more?’ “Looks like our princess is really trying to make a good impression,” Rasmus mocked. “There you go again. Just admit it, Rasmus. You’ve always been a has-been!” The king turned to her as if to break her jaw, when Ravenum said, “Lourdes has awakened.” The mother of the Ravena walked into their midst like one who had lost her way. They greeted her, and she said, “Your names sound familiar to me.” “That’s because you have always been with us,” Rasmus said. “You’ve just been asleep for a long time.” “Where am I?” “Halimhim,” Ravenum told her. “This is where we live.” Lourdes was looking far, far away as if her soul had not quite settled yet into its new home. “Halimhim,” she echoed. Now a stranger had inadvertently trespassed into the new Ravena lair. Mulagat could sense evil resident in this place; even the smoke spewing up from the ground like hot geysers suggested this to him. But it looked like an abandoned town where lowlanders used to live. Where exactly was he? As he wandered here and there in his conspicuous white garments, the princess of the land espied him and smiled to herself. “Who could this intruder be?” she wondered. “Hmm. Looks like I have a new victim!” A newcomer had entered the Mulawin territory as well. Aling Rosing and her neighbors huddled together, whispering. “Look at that woman,” she said. “I’ve been following her all day, but I can’t see her face. I’ve never seen her here before.” The person in question was walking alone, wearing a long black robe over a white dress, and a hood covering her head. Habagat and Linang noticed this, and he called the lady over. “Who are you?” he asked politely. “What do you need?” She said in a lovely voice, “I am looking for Dakila.” So the elder Mulawin was summoned. “Somebody’s looking for you.” Dakila went to see who this was. The woman drew back her hood, revealing her features. She had long, dark brown hair, and a beautiful mature face that wore a look of great sorrow. “Don’t you recognize me, Dakila?” she asked. “Haraya?”

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Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Spawn of Evil.

Episode for Feb 8, 2005, Tuesday. After Lourdes delivered the five precious eggs, Savannah had to take over. It was now her unpleasant duty to sit on the eggs to warm and hatch them. Rasmus then took on the role of killjoy, perhaps not wishing to give the annoying princess any credit. “The whole thing doesn’t end with the laying of these eggs,” he pointed out. “What are we going to do when they hatch? Who’s going to look after the babies?” Savannah was tired of squatting too. “You know, guys, no matter how long I sit here, these things aren’t going to hatch.” “Don’t complain,” Rasmus replied. “It’s your idea, wasn’t it?” “Why don’t we use the hiyas?” “Oh, come on, Savannah! The hiyas is used to keep on perpetually young, not to advance aging and make something grow fast.” As usual, it was difficult to get an idea through Rasmus’ thick head. Ravenum knew better. “Give me the hiyas,” he ordered, and she gave it to him. “We can use this.” The Ravena lord stood up and, after some preparation, invoked Perena with the title of “Diwata of the Darkness.” “I call on you to reverse the power of this hiyas!” he cried. Smoke filled the air suggesting Perena had answered his prayer. To Savannah’s amazement, the tiny, transparent crystal turned black as an opal in Ravenum’s hand. He pointed it toward the eggs, and a dark blue ray of light beamed at them. Under its intense glare, the eggs began to crack. “They’re hatching!” Savannah exclaimed. Soon, one egg had hatched, yielding an infant with red feathers crowning its head. Savannah gladly picked it up and cooed over the baby. The others followed suit, and soon, they were looking at quintuplets. “Is this the Ravena Army you boast of?” Rasmus taunted her. “Scary! I’ll bet this will frighten off Dakila’s troop.” “Stop insulting me, Rasmus. You should be thankful. If not for my idea, we’d still be the only Ravena left in the world!” But Perena was not done yet. Within an hour or so, the infants had grown to healthy Ravena children whose height now passed Rasmus’ waistline. Ravenum was pleased, but not content. “They still can’t compare to the boy who can change shape,” he said. Savannah then suggested that they use these innocent-looking children to find Niwalum. Expectedly, Rasmus sneered at the idea since the children still had Ravena feathers. But Ravenum was willing to take the chance. “Go find that boy,” he ordered, and they obeyed at once as if they already knew. Day broke and still Lourdes had not returned. Gabriel prepared some food, but Alwina refused to break her fast. He asked how she found her way to Carig, so she narrated to him the disappearance of the three children. “I went looking for them together with Aguiluz.” “Where is he now? Why isn’t he with you?” (Not that he was complaining.) Alwina hesitated. “It’s hard to explain. But it’s like he has changed, Gabriel. I can’t even look into his eyes anymore sometimes. He’s not the Aguiluz I fell in love with any longer.” Gabriel put his arm around her. What could that mean now? The Queen Mother stretched her arms over Linang and prayed. “Linang, surrender your powers as a Diwata,” she said, drawing out the mystical power from Linang into her hand. This energy she gathered into a medium-sized, brilliant red stone. The divine aura now left Linang, and one could see her features plainly. “Farewell, Linang,” the Queen Mother said. “You may no longer have a Diwata’s powers. But you still have the highest power of them all: love.” “I will never forget our friendship, Linang,” Muyak said. And after a few more goodbyes, Linang headed for Avila bringing the stone with her to cure Habagat. When she reached Avila, a tired Linang tripped over some rocks and accidentally dropped the precious gem. It rolled along the grass-covered earth and she chased after it. “I can’t lose the stone!” she cried. “Habagat needs it!” A Musang picked up the stone and studied it, then gave it back to her. “Did you say Habagat?” he asked. “Yes. Do you know him?” “I know him. I will take you to him, lovely maiden.” He was Laab. He took her to the hut where Habagat’s few friends were gathered. Death was imminent and he knew it. “It may be hard to accept, but the same fate awaits us all,” he told them. “If only my family were here. If you see Linang and Mulagat, send them my love.” The ailing Mulawin’s eyes were closed; he merely heard a voice say, “Laab, who is that with you?” No one among Bagwis, Dakila, Veronica and the others recognized her. But when she spoke Habagat’s name, he knew at once who it was. “Linang, is that you?” he said. Gus, Wis and Niwalum now debated over whether to take leave of Aguiluz, or simply go home without notice. He would not want them to ask for help from those who had ostracized him, but on the other hand, if they left, he would worry for them as well as Alwina. Aguiluz woke up and looked sternly at them. “What are you talking about?” he asked. So Niwalum admitted it to him. “You should go home to Avila,” Aguiluz said. “I’ll escort you to its border, but I won’t go any further.” So Pagaspas and Lawiswis flew side by side while the Sugo carried Niwalum to Avila. Once they had reached the vicinity of their home, Aguiluz declined to go further and bade farewell to them. Gus wished him luck, and the Sugo patted him lightly on the head and left. The Aguiluz impersonator studied Aviona from afar. She looked so damned useless. The world could do without her and her talkative friend who looked more like a penguin than an eagle. Time for another kill, he thought, touching Aviona’s yellow-feathered head. But Aramis had anticipated this and stopped him, ready to strike at the impostor. But Aviona turned to look at Aguiluz who had touched her. “Aramis, what are you going to do?” she shouted. ] “Let me explain! I have reason to doubt him!” “My God, are you that desperate to win me over? You’d kill Aguiluz? I trusted you and now you do this? Leave! I’d never trade Aguiluz for you!” She ran to her old friend’s side. The false Aguiluz smiled smugly at her foolishness. Aramis knew he had no leg to stand on – how could he tell her the truth? He walked away to be on his own again. But the real Aguiluz had spied Aviona’s profile from afar as he soared across the sky. Guided by his eagle’s sight, Aguiluz descended to meet her. There he saw his double – every inch just like him! Aguiluz glanced from him to the others, who shouted, “Two Aguiluz! How is this possible?” “You’re an impostor!” cried the double. “No,” Aguiluz retorted calmly. “You are the impostor.”

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