Thursday, February 17, 2005

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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