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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