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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