Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Death and Rebirth.

Episode for Mar 14, 2005, Monday. In Halimhim, thunderbolts clapped in the air like demon-gods in a heated discussion. Ravenum was so accustomed to those sounds that he no longer heard them. Now his ears picked up the sounds of flapping wings overhead. Someone was coming. It was Lourdes, and she looked anything but happy. “You’re smoldering with anger,” he told her. “I can tell from your eyes you have yet to avenge yourself on those two.” Lourdes darted her sharp eyes at him. “Not only that,” she replied. “There is something you need to know, Ravenum. Rasmus has joined forces with Bagwis and Veronica!” This came as a surprise, but he should have expected it. “Damn that Rasmus!” he cursed. “Traitor! I myself will crush him!” He walked off in anger. “Hey, Ravenum!” Savannah called out as she caught him passing by. “That lowlander up there is useless to us. Why don’t we turn him into a Ravena so we can make use of him?” She was referring to Terong. Ravenum grinned. “I’m not that hard to talk to when it comes to that. Go on and have him brought to me then.” But Gabriel shouted, “No!” He ran to his father and said, “I don’t want Terong to become a Ravena.” “But…” Savannah began. “NO!” Gabriel put his foot down and it was final. His father nodded his head. “If that is your desire, my son,” he answered, and the matter was closed. “What is this? Am I useless here now?” Savannah grumbled. “I’m the princess here!” Gabriel shot her an angry look. “No, you aren’t! Alwina is the new princess, and soon, everyone will know that!” What exactly he meant by that, they would soon learn. Gabriel entered his lady’s chamber to tell her what he had in mind. He knelt down on one knee and said to her, “I have waited a long time for this moment. A very long time. Now I won’t let you slip away from me again. Let’s get married.” The Ravena lovers rose to their feet and wrapped their arms around each other. Let’s get married, Gabriel thought, before my brother gets a chance to take you away. Bagwis’ group was now within the vicinity of Lagaslaw, flying overhead. He gazed intently at the seed in his hand. “We better be careful with this green binhi,” he told the others. “I never thought I’d say this,” Veronica said, turning to Rasmus. “But I’m glad you’re the one who found the binhi. And I’m happy to see the change in you.” Rasmus cut her off gently. “That is enough. Look, I see something.” What he saw from afar was the Taguba camp. Aguiluz returned that same evening, utterly silent. But his face no longer wore the look of hostility he had displayed earlier. He staggered towards Dakila, and weakly embraced him. Dakila caught him in his arms. “Thank you, Aguiluz,” the old bird-man said. Nothing else had to be added. The Sugo then sat among the heroes and recounted his experience. That he had had an audience with the Highest Power was quite amazing to hear, yet they believed him. Asked if he saw the face of God, Aguiluz replied, “No, I did not see Him. Do we not see the face of God only when we die? But He talked to me.” “Aguiluz is a Sugo,” Dakila told them. “He is special and that is why God spoke to him and made His will known to him.” “What did He say?” they then asked. “What should we do with the fruit?” Aguiluz answered, “He told me we must bring it to Avila.” Niwalum was silent; he already knew what had to be done. Now Dakila gathered the Mulawin and told them to get ready, for they must reach Avila that same evening. They had to leave the lowlanders (except Kuwak) behind to make the journey easier. Aramis, still recuperating from his wounds, was lying on a bench. “Go on and do what you must,” he told them. “Friend, are you sure you don’t want me to stay behind and watch over you?” asked Mulagat. Aramis reassured him of this, so Dakila announced, “Once we reach Avila, we must go directly to where the Mulawin tree once stood.” “Bagwis!’ Habagat called out. The trio of Bagwis, Veronica and Rasmus came into view. The men immediately drew up arms at the sight of the Ravena. But Bagwis stepped forward and shouted, “No! Don’t hurt him! He’s one of us now!” Those on the opposite side groaned in disbelief. “Bagwis, have you forgotten the many crimes he has committed against our people?” Habagat asked. “No, I have not,” Bagwis replied. “But he has already asked forgiveness, and I have forgiven him. He has turned his back on being Ravena, and he wants to change.” “What proof do you have that he is sincere?” the others demanded. “How do we know he isn’t fooling us?” Rasmus cast his glance about and noticed a young boy among the Mulawin. He recognized the child, who was staring back at him. Niwalum probed into the Ravena’s reddish brown eyes; he could see all the pain and remorse in them. “I can read his eyes,” the boy declared. “He has been through many things that led the way to his soul’s salvation. Bagwis is right. Rasmus can be trusted.” Aguiluz softened then. This was the criminal who had murdered his mother and Aguilar. But having been granted a supernatural meeting with his Maker, the Sugo could no longer take matters personally. He believed Niwalum’s words, and took this as a divine sign. “This is what the Lord God meant,” he told the others, “when He said that He would take our tragedies and create peace. He would use our trials to pave the way for salvation.” Muyak had already decided. I’ve already explained it all to you, she thought. But you still won’t listen. But I have made up my mind. I won’t just stand here in Encantadia doing nothing. She had seen what had befallen Linang; but like her former mistress, Muyak was ready to pay the price of disobedience. In the war of good versus evil, no one should be neutral. No one can be neutral. To not do good is to do evil. Outside Encantadia, the air felt warm and dry and polluted. No creature can endure for long outside its own element. Muyak now felt like fish put out of water. She was looking for Aramis now. Where do I find him before my strength runs out? she wondered. The Mulawin fellowship traveled on foot towards Avila. Rasmus then suggested, “Why don’t we fly? Then we’d get there faster.” Bagwis answered, “Because our strength is almost gone. It’s because of the fall of the Mulawin tree. He and Veronica were supporting a limp Aguiluz, who was moaning over the loss of his wings and ugatpak. “Push on,” Dakila urged. “We’re quite near now.” Some time elapsed. Just when everyone was ready to collapse, Gus announced, “We’re here!” Dakila confirmed it, but no sooner had they set foot on the land than Ravena soldiers welcomed them. “Now you won’t get away from us anymore!” they cried and fell upon the Mulawin. Steel weapons clashed in the air. Veronica led the injured Aguiluz away to safety, while the bird-men covered for them. But not only were they outnumbered; their energies were now depleted. Bagwis, Habagat and Dakila barely had any fight left in them, and soon the Ravena overpowered them. Then Mulagat attacked the red ranks. The prince displayed remarkable prowess in battle despite having been deprived of the anima for so long. At the same time, Rasmus unleashed his fury at his former allies. One Ravena after another met the point of his dagger and died on the spot. As the last of the enemy crumpled before him, the Mulawin cheered. “Wow, Rasmus that was great!” Kuwak said. “You knocked them all down!” Rasmus looked around and picked up a tiny makahiya or touch-me-not from the ground. “I ask you humbly to forgive me,” he said to Dakila. “And as a symbol of my desire to become a Mulawin again, here…” He offered it to Dakila, who received it. “Welcome back with us, Rasmus,” he said. Everyone applauded. Rasmus then took turns clasping the hand of all who were present there. One lost sheep had returned to the fold. Gabriel sent for the other high-ranking Ravena to hear his announcement. Ravenum arrived with Lourdes; Savannah came alone. “What’s up?” the latter asked. The prince presented Alwina to them. “I sent for you to announce that our wedding will take place… very soon!” This was too much for Savannah. She no longer stood a chance with Gabriel now that Alwina was here. Damned love, she thought. But if Gabriel did not want her love, she could always give him pain instead. As if in response to her brooding, the Ravena women came home to report to her. Their mission was unsuccessful, but they promised to finish what they had began next time. “Now we wish to rest,” they said. “Not so fast,” Savannah told them. “You still have a job to do for me.” Maningning replied, “What might that be?” Savannah pointed with her lips. “Him,” she said. The others noticed a lowlander cutting wood in the distance. “Kill him for me,” she ordered. “Then dispose of the body and make sure Gabriel doesn’t find out about it.” My due apologies, Terong, she said smilingly herself. I’m just itching to get even with your friend. The women obeyed, and waited in ambush that evening. As Terong walked by calling for Gabriel, Maningning and her sisters attacked and cornered him. They stabbed him several times on the abdomen, and when he seemed good as dead, they carried the body and dumped it in the woods outside Halimhim. All the other women were now busy preparing for the wedding feast. Aviona had other ideas. “Since when did it become a custom among the Ravena to celebrate a wedding?” she asked. “Do what you want. But as for me, I have someone to kill.” She picked up a sword with a curved blade like a crescent, and departed. Now Alwina was alone in her room once again. “Something’s bothering you,” Gabriel told her. “If you don’t tell me, I can read your mind anyway. So you might as well admit it.” And she said, “Is that Aguiluz really your brother?” “That’s what Father said. Why?” The princess looked very thoughtful. “Maybe that’s why he talked to me like that.” “That’s just a tactic of warriors when they meet in battle.” “But he seemed to believe what he was saying,” she argued. “He said it’s him I love and not you.” Gabriel was getting impatient – and worried. “Don’t mind that anymore,” he told her. “And…” Gabriel, help me… help me… Something was up with Terong. The voice was unmistakable. The prince hesitated, and then excused himself and left. He journeyed all night, relying on his sixth sense to lead him to his friend. Terong was bleeding profusely, but he was still alive and calling out to Gabriel to rescue him. When the Mulawin fellowship reached the hallowed site of their fallen tree, Aguiluz was almost dead. The others had taken turns carrying him; now, supported by Rasmus and Bagwis, the Sugo slumped to the ground like a withered flower. “My strength is almost gone,” he sighed. Veronica was holding the torch to guide the way. “Isn’t there anything we can do for him?” she asked. “I know what to do,” Niwalum replied. “Unless his ugatpak is returned to him, Aguiluz will grow weaker and weaker, until his strength is totally snuffed out. I must give my life for him.” “What do you mean by that?” she asked again. Niwalum’s eyes never left the Sugo. “I am the fruit of the tree. And I am the atonement for sins. You must plant me. When you do, a new Mulawin tree will grow. It will drive away the dark clouds.” “Plant?” Rasmus wondered, but soon his question was answered. Niwalum stretched forth his hand and touched the half-conscious Aguiluz. He now passed on all his healing energy to the Sugo. A neon-green light wrapped around them both. As the last of his powers went to Aguiluz, the boy died. Aguiluz woke up and caught him in his arms. But Niwalum’s body dissolved into a magical green mist that now danced in the air. Bagwis followed it with his eyes and, to his amazement… “Look!” he pointed out. Before them rose a new Mulawin tree. It glowed so brightly that its trunk was like a pillar of light, and boughs of gold hang overhead. Then a voice that only Aguiluz had heard before thundered form above: “Witness the power of the new Mulawin tree!” Like a dove, a holy light descended on them from the tree’s top. As the first rays touched Rasmus, his transformation began. Bagwis knew what was happening. “You’re becoming a Mulawin again!” he cried. “I feel my strength returning to me!” Veronica exclaimed, and so did every other Mulawin there. Habagat said, “The Sugo!” Mighty wings sprouted from Aguiluz’s back, and he flexed them proudly. The feathers on his head disappeared. “I still don’t have my ugatpak,” he explained. There was jubilation among them, but Aguiluz’s happiness was tinged with sorrow. “It saddens me that Niwalum had to pay with his life for this,” he said. “That is why we must not waste this second chance given us,” Dakila replied. “Let us not waste his sacrifice. Let us not waste time. We must free those who are still oppressed by the darkness. Now it is time for the liberation of Avila!” Nine heroes they were, the last hope of Avila and of the world: Aguiluz, Bagwis, Veronica, Rasmus, Dakila, Habagat, Mulagat, Pagaspas and Kuwak. They stood united, armed with faith and hope, ready to do battle for the sake of the light and the One who sent it to them. Tonight, one lost Mulawin had returned to Avila, like a wild ram back into the fold, a prodigal son reconciled with his true family. His return coincided with the ultimate sacrifice of a boy-savior, from whose death sprang new hope and new life for the Mulawin, and for the entire world. Now the stage was set for the final great battle between good and evil… at least, in this story.

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Monday, March 14, 2005

The Father and the Son.

Episode for Mar 11, 2005, Friday. One might not have chosen one’s biological parents, but the spirit is the true man, the true identity. The true father, therefore, is the father of the spirit, not of the body. And the soul that seeks the Light and walks in the Light is a Son of the Light. The one who treads the path of Darkness is a Son of Darkness. “You can go ask Dakila if you want,” Ravenum dared Aguiluz. “He would only tell you the same thing.” The Sugo staggered to his feet, bleeding profusely from behind. His spine hurt unbelievably and he could barely stand up straight. The body was utterly broken, and the spirit was not far behind. Everything about Aguiluz now lay in ruins. Even his identity was shattered, like the walls and pillars his magic sword had reduced to powder earlier. Niwalum and Pagaspas had witnessed and heard everything from afar. He dispatched his kite to the Sugo’s rescue. At once it obeyed and flew to Aguiluz’s feet. The Mulawin stepped on it as if it were a surfboard, and the kite whisked him away to safety while Ravena soldiers chased him. The two boys followed him, with Gus carrying the fruit, who said, “Now I’m losing strength also. I must give you my power and use it on the enemy.” He transmitted a dense mass of energy into Gus’ hand, who asked, “How do I use it?” “Point it at them.” Gus did so; he pointed his fingers at their pursuers so that a laser-beam hit them. The Ravena were blown to bits. “I was right to take off his ugatpak,” Ravenum insisted. “Who is he to refuse me? Who is he to say no to me, his own father? Even if he is my son, if he will only be a hindrance to my plans, it would be better for him to be gone!” Gabriel could have easily applied those words to himself. He was now beginning to realize what it had taken Rasmus ages to see: Ravenum cared for no one but himself and his own crazy ambition of world dominance. Everything and everyone else was a means to that end. He would use everyone; he would lie to everyone; he would kill anyone who got in his way. “Was what you told him true?” he asked. Ravenum nodded. “Yes, it is true. You are brothers. Forgive me for not telling you. If the book of prophecy had not told me, I wouldn’t have known either.” “I’ve known him since our days in Tierra Fuego,” Gabriel said, reminiscing. “I never even felt anything. We were always rivals, as men, as bird-men, as Sugo. We were always being pitted against each other. But I never felt anything.” “Do not let this affect you,” his father warned. “Think of Alwina. Who has her now? Isn’t it you? And she is a Ravena now like you!” Such was Ravenum. Before he did not even want her around, but now he could see she had her uses. In Lagaslaw, Habagat and his son had rejoined the others to report their encounter with Linang, only to find that the men there had likewise been attacked by their women. But there were more arrivals. The kite had very wisely brought Aguiluz to their camp, or perhaps it had followed Pagaspas and Niwalum. “Look, the Sugo!” Habagat cried. “The Sugo has been hit!” The others hurried to receive Aguiluz and lay him down on a makeshift bed. Gus did the narration while Niwalum rested in a corner. A stuttering Gus recounted the day’s battle then, but stopped short of telling them what Ravenum had said. “It would be better if Aguiluz said it himself,” he argued. While Aguiluz lay on the stretcher, the others gathered around him. “When you get better, we’ll go look for Bagwis and the others,” Habagat told him. But Aguiluz replied, “My wings are gone. My ugatpak is gone. And you still expect me to recover? You still expect me to join your search? I’m so tired of fighting and everything else. There comes a time when a man simply has had enough and he gives up. I’m there now.” “Don’t lose hope,” Dakila said. “You’ve already come this far.” Aguiluz cast a sideways glance at him. What a hypocrite and a liar. All of a sudden, Aguiluz hated him. “That’s easy for you to say because you aren’t in my shoes,” he said. Then he gestured weakly towards Niwalum. “He is the fruit of the tree.” Every man’s jaw dropped. Dakila, too, was startled. “The Sugo’s mission was successful! He was able to recover the fruit of the Mulawin tree!” “What do we do with it then?” inquired Habagat. No answer from Aguiluz only silence. “Is something bothering you?” asked Dakila. “I can see it. Let it out, Aguiluz, so you will feel better. What is bothering you?” The Sugo heaved a sigh. “My life. My identity. We need to talk about my life, Dakila.” It was a moment the elder Mulawin thought would never come. With the battle over, Alwina was about to retire to her quarters when she ran into Savannah who began to harass her. “Some nerve you’ve got claiming to be the new princess around here!” said the latter. Alwina retorted, “It was Gabriel who said that, not me. So don’t blame me for it. If you want, then talk to him about it!” “I was here before you were! I was the first female Ravena in Halimhim!” A snicker. “Ha! If Gabriel paid no attention to you back when you were the only female Ravena here, what more now that I am here?” “What’s that supposed to mean? You think you’re more beautiful than me?” “Why, compared to you, yes! By far!” Bitch! Savannah then threw her whole body weight at her rival. But Alwina dodged her blows with skill. She put forth her arm behind Savannah and swung it backwards, so that it hit the latter’s shoulder-blades. Savannah fell face first on the ground. Now their prince entered the scene. He pushed Alwina behind him protectively and rebuked Savannah. “Don’t be angry with me,” she pleaded. “You know it was Alwina who started the fight!” Gabriel knew better. “If I ever see you hurting Alwina again,” he told her, “I won’t just make you human again. I’ll throw you out and leave your body for the vultures to eat!” Aguiluz was now on his feet. “So is it true?” he asked. “Is it true that Ravenum is my father? Tell me it’s not true!” But the crestfallen look on Dakila’s face told him otherwise. And his reply was devastating. “I can’t imagine how they found out about it,” he replied. The Sugo came to him and fell at his feet. “What’s that supposed to mean?” he cried. “Is it true?” “I will tell you everything from the beginning,” said Dakila. “An oracle had declared that a son of a High Council elder would one day become ruler of Avila. I had a child, but it was a girl, Paloma. Daragit and Lumbas were unmarried. The only other member of the Council who was married was Ravenum. So it was likely that the son would be his. “But Ravenum and his wife could not have children. So he involved himself in extramarital affairs in the hope of having a son. He took advantage of Salimbay too, his wife’s lady-in-waiting. Salimbay became pregnant and confided in me what had happened. But by then, Ravenum had become very wicked, selfish and ambitious. So I decided to hide the fact from him. “To save Salimbay’s honor, I decided to create a father for the child. With the help of the fairies, I was able to see the future likeness of the child, and formed a Mulawin in his image: Aguilar who would stand as husband and father to the woman and her son.” Aguiluz then gathered himself up – with effort – and drew away. “How could you have done this to me?” he asked. “Every single day, you saw me in Avila. How were you able to keep silent when you knew the truth all along? If you had told me the truth sooner, I might have been able to accept it. But you, someone I trusted and respected so much, did this? Now I feel I have been lied to all along. Everything about my life has been a lie! “I do not belong here in Avila,” he told them. “My place is not here. I have no more wings, no more ugatpak, no more Alwina. Don’t expect any more from me.” He turned and limped away, looking back only once to say, “Don’t you dare follow me.” But he wouldn’t be gone for long. The trio of Bagwis, Rasmus and Veronica were now only a day’s walk away from Lagaslaw. But they did not know it yet. They were talking on the way that evening. “I have done you both so much wrong,” Rasmus told the couple. “Come to think of it, what I’ve done is unforgivable.” “That’s in the past now,” Veronica answered. “Don’t dwell on it.” Bagwis then asked, “If you don’t mind… what made you decide to turn your back on your father?” A pause. “I am not the son of Ravenum,” Rasmus answered. “I am not a son of darkness. So there is no reason for me not to turn and seek the light.” But did he really want to find the light? Half dozen Ravena soldiers patrolling the area spotted them. “There you are!” they shouted, rushing toward Bagwis and Veronica. Rasmus sprang to the fugitives’ defense. “You’ll have to come through me first!” he told the soldiers. Then his claws flew across the air, cutting down red guards here and there until all lay dead at his feet. The Mulawin couple thanked him, but it was nothing to him. Killing was just a matter of routine for such a hardened and brutal warrior. Something else caught his eye. A shimmering green glow farther away from there. Only Rasmus had noticed it. Walking over, he picked up the object and realized that it was a shining green binhi. A full century ago, the Mulawin tree had yielded green binhi as its fruit. Rasmus had stolen it along with the Balasik. Now, a hundred years later, only one of it remained. It was the last of the four seeds he had given Lourdes so long ago in exchange for his ugatpak. Because of that, Lourdes had forsaken Veronica who then became the Ravena queen. The first binhi had restored Bagwis’ sight; the second saved Pagaspas from death, and the third: Gabriel. The fourth and last one had gone into a river, found its way to Terong, and then to Gabriel, who lost it in the waterfall. Now, by luck or fate or destiny, it was back in the hands of the thief who had first stolen it. The seed’s emerald glow looked so enticing, as if beckoning Rasmus to claim it for himself. Very powerful, he thought. I could use this for… “Rasmus?” Bagwis called. A moment’s hesitation. The call of darkness made one last attempt to get his attention. But its voice was failing. Rasmus walked back towards his companions and showed them what he had found. “You are the ones who should keep it,” he told them. Bagwis took it from his hand. “The green binhi!” he and Veronica exclaimed. “I am a son of darkness,” Aguiluz lamented. He had gone to another part of the forest to pray. The Sugo was on his knees, weeping and bewailing his fate. “Aguiluz,” a voice from above called to him. Aguiluz looked around to see who was calling him. Before him stood a tree that was aglow as if by fire. Yet neither its branches nor its leaves were catching fire. Perhaps he was dreaming. “Is that the Lord calling me?” he asked. And the voice answered, “Yes, Aguiluz. It is I. You do not need to see Me to know it. You only need to believe.” “Forgive me,” the Sugo said. “Forgive me for everything. I have always tried to do what is asked of me But in spite of that, I get nothing in return and everything I love has been taken away from me. What should I do now? What do you want me to do?” “Nothing that has happened escapes Me,” said the voice. “Nothing comes to pass without My blessing. Now I will use these tragedies to make the way for peace; every trial as a path to salvation. I will turn your sorrows into joys. I wile take your weakness and turn it into strength. I will take the hatred you feel and turn it into love. “ But like an unwilling Biblical prophet, Aguiluz protested, “I no longer feel worthy of being your emissary. I am a son of Ravenum, a son of darkness!” “No, you are not,” answered the voice of the Father. ”You are not a son of darkness, Aguiluz. You were brought up in love. The blood of an ally of darkness may run through your veins, but I can see that your heart is pure. Therefore, more than anyone else’s, you are MY SON. “Now, it is up to you whether to linger in your state of hopelessness, or to rise up again and be strong.” Aguiluz bowed in awe before his Almighty Father. “Forgive me for my weakness and lack of faith.” And God replied, “You must forgive, Aguiluz, and you must complete your mission. For now, more than ever, the world needs you… Sugo.” “The fruit!” Aguiluz cried. “What should be done with the fruit?” “Avila,” was the reply. “You must all return to Avila.”

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Sunday, March 13, 2005

Grudge Match.

Episode for Mar 10, 2005, Thursday. The Ravena Sugo was the first to strike. He produced a ball of fire in his hand and cast it at his opponent. Aguiluz dodged the blow easily and ran into the apartment building for cover. Gabriel pursued him, firing at him with his inexhaustible supply of flaming ammunition. In the ruins of that building there were plenty of rooms to run and hide in, and their fighting now resembled urban guerilla warfare. Hiding himself behind a doorway, Aguiluz formed a shining sphere of bluish light between his hands, and returned fire with it. Startled by this new weapon, Gabriel retreated into a corner. Aguiluz blasted the wall repeatedly with blows that had the power of a rocket-launcher. Red and blue flares lit up the air as the powers of the two Sugo clashed. Gabriel had underestimated Aguiluz. He knew a lot of things intuitively, but Aguiluz was the more experienced fighter, having trained as a warrior since childhood. Sensing this, the Ravena prince turned to flee. As wrathful Achilles had chased noble Hector round the walls of Troy, so Aguiluz now sent his rival scurrying through the corridors, and rushing up and down staircases away from his vigorous assault. At last, he cornered Gabriel into a lone standing wall outside the building. No one would ever know what the wall had once stood for. Gabriel leaned back on it, breathing heavily. Quietly he unsheathed his sword, curved and ornate, with a red jewel gleaming on the handle. Aguiluz did not see him, but he knew the enemy was there. He ran up to the other side of the wall and took a few breaths himself. With his left hand the Mulawin Sugo drew his own sword. The moment had arrived. Swinging their swords overhead, both Sugo made an about-turn and struck with all their fury. The sound of clanging metal rang through the air and the swordfight began. Aguiluz wielded his blade with such skill and finesse, but Gabriel was not to be outdone. And the tide was about to turn in his favor. When the two Sugo took their battle to the sky, Alwina joined them. She had come to fight for Gabriel. Then Aguiluz recognized her and said, “Stop this nonsense and come with me! You’re not meant for him! I’m the one you love!’ Gabriel then maneuvered himself behind his adversary. “Sugo, meet the new Princess of the Ravena: Alwina!” “Don’t touch me!” she snapped. “It’s Gabriel I love and not you!” Aguiluz shook his head, forgetting Gabriel for the moment. “That’s not true!” Then treacherously Gabriel struck with his sword. With one bloody sweep he cut off Aguiluz’s wings. The latter plummeted to the earth screaming in pain, crashing through the roof of an old warehouse into a heap of wood. Then Ravenum, Gabriel and Alwina gathered around him. As Gabriel was about to pluck off Mulawin’s ugatpak, his father stopped him. “There is something you two need to know,” he told him. Habagat rejoined his son to find the lad’s mother there. But Habagat knew better. He drew back Mulagat and said to him, “Stay away from her. She’s a Ravena now.” “He’s lying to you!” Linang cried. “Are you going to believe him more than your own mother?” ‘Now I’m confused!” Mulagat complained. “But all the women in Avila became Ravena. You must be one now too!” “I cannot be mistaken,” Habagat told him. “I saw her change with my own eyes. I used to be a Ravena myself. I know their tactics.” “If you don’t believe me, Mulagat, you will pay for it!” Linang fumed. And Habagat told her, “If you are a Ravena now, I will fight you to death for the sake of my son, and to keep him from becoming like you!” Anger betrayed Linang’s true nature now. Her eyes went ablaze and she reassumed her Ravena shape. But she did not fight them; she withdrew in a hurry and flew away. Meanwhile, Dakila was preparing his men for battle when Makisig (Kuwak) spoke up. “How do we do that, sir?” he asked. “No offense, but if you haven’t noticed, you can count on both hands the number of men there are left of us.” Dakila was only beginning to reflect on this problem when the flapping of raptors’ wings overhead alerted them. The Ravena women had come for them as Savannah had bade them, and the whole affair turned into a grudge match: the Taguba women versus their men, Tuka against Makisig, Mayi taking on Dakila, and Aviona confronting Aramis who said, “I can’t fight the woman I love! Don’t you remember me? I’m Aramis!” “I remember you all right,” Aviona replied. “I remember how you lied to me!” But Dakila had no time for this. “Stop it, Mayi,” he shouted at his erstwhile messenger. The elder did not wish to harm the child; this was now one of the few instances when he resorted to his occult gifts. He conjured a massive ball of yellow-green light and lit up the whole area with it, just in time to save the men. Blinded and distracted, the Ravena women dropped their victims and fled the scene, but vowing that there would be a return bout. “We’ll finish you off when we get back!” Maningning swore at them. They retreated back to Halimhim where Lourdes had also gone. The trio of Rasmus, Bagwis and Veronica had let her go. In Encantadia, two fairies were keeping an eye on the battle. The evil influence of Ravenum and Perena made it difficult to do so, however; the waters of the magic well darkened ever so often. “I see Aramis in danger,” observed Muyak. “Isn’t there anything we can do?” “No,” Florona replied. “Don’t be like those other Diwata who meddle with human affairs!” In Halimhim, the fighting dragged on. Niwalum felt himself weakening. He could feel Aguiluz’s injuries and he knew he was in danger. He and Gus had seen the Sugo fall from the sky and they were about to help, when Wis signaled to Gus from afar. Pagaspas followed her and asked, “What do you want?” “I want a fight!” she replied wickedly, stretching out her arms and twisting Gus’ wrists. But Niwalum came to his rescue. “I gave you that power,” he told her. “Now I will take it back!” He drew back his gifts from the Ravena child and released Gus from her grip. Then the two young heroes left her to see Aguiluz. Back at the warehouse, Aguiluz was down on his stomach, and his back was bathed in the blood of his severed wings. “You can easily put an end to your suffering, Aguiluz,” Ravenum said to him. “You just have to do what I tell you and join us.” “I’ll never do what you want,” the Sugo answered weakly. “I’ll never betray my own kind, not even if you kill me!” Ravenum almost chuckled. “That is where you are wrong. Right here is where you need to be, Aguiluz. Beside me and Gabriel. Yes, here beside me… my son.” Then Aguiluz looked up at him with failing eyes. “What did you say?” “Yes, you heard that right. I am your father.” Now it was Aguiluz who almost laughed. “Is that how desperate you’ve become, Ravenum? You’ll make up an outrageous lie like that?” Gabriel looked at his father. “Are you telling the truth?” “I cannot be lying,” he told them both. “The Balasik cannot lie.” Then Aguiluz summoned his rapidly fading strength and stood up. “You’re just trying to poison my mind,” he told them. “You are not my father!” Now Ravenum became angry with him. “We’ll see if you can still get away!” He yanked off his son’s ugatpak. Aguiluz hollered in pain and collapsed.

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The Rescue.

Episode for Mar 9, 2005, Wednesday. It was now still and quiet at the Ravena’s nest. The groans and cries of women in labor had died down, and their weary bodies lay strewn across the field like so many casualties of war… which, in fact, they were. But they were not dead, only heavily asleep. Niwalum had already finished his work with their offspring – accelerating their growth to increase the numbers of the Ravena army – when Ravenum sent for him to put him to death. Linang was the first to rise among the mothers. She was still weary from labor, and her mind felt empty and unfocused, like when one is unable to recall last night’s dreams. She looked around slowly, cautiously, and saw Savannah walking towards her. The princess did not beat around the bush. “So you’re up,” she told the recent convert. “Your delivery is over.” Then Linang looked at her with a rather blank expression. “We have already given birth, you mean?” “Yes, I said so,” Savannah replied impatiently. “Now, you have work to do. Go get revenge and kill Habagat. He betrayed you. You have a son, Mulagat, and his father wants to take him away from you.” This information scarcely registered into Linang’s groggy brain. “I have a son?” she asked aloud, staring at the open air. “Yes, you do, damn it,” Savannah muttered. “How did it happen? How come I don’t remember?” Savannah’s eyes rolled in their sockets. Gabriel had given her only scanty information about this woman. She reiterated her false story about Habagat, as convincingly as she could, and soon Linang was persuaded. “I must have my revenge,” she declared. When the other women awakened, Savannah went through the same procedure again. “You,” she told the Taguba women, “go and kill all the men in Lagaslaw. They used to be Ravena, but not anymore.” “We are ready to do your bidding, Princess Savannah,” Maningning responded. To Aviona, the princess said, “Yours is Aramis. He lied to you through and through. All men are the same! Now go show them we women mean business!” Wisely taking a feminist stance, Savannah brainwashed all the Ravena ladies into turning against their loved ones. And she was successful: all the women flew away at once to their respective destinations, vowing to destroy their men. Back in Avila, the Ravena soldiers were driving its citizens to forced labor. The scenes there brought back painful memories of Tierra Fuego to Lino and the other lowlanders. Daragit, their foolish and treacherous king, was treated as a slave just like all the others. Such was the price he paid of negotiating with terrorists. “You better build new homes for Lord Ravenum and Prince Gabriel,” the sentries ordered as they beat Daragit and the others. “The old huts of your former kings won’t do!” Laab looked over at Daragit with a long straw hanging between his teeth. “This was what you wanted, wasn’t it?” he said in his calm, dignified voice. “You wanted to be king, didn’t you? Now is the time for you to prove that you’re more worthy than Bagwis. You lied to us, Daragit. You lied to us every step of the way.” Meanwhile, Lourdes had been interrogating the Ravena security guards for signs of Bagwis. Frustrated by their lack of success, she ventured on her own to find her enemies. She espied Rasmus’ red and brown figure alone in the woods outside Avila, and decided to follow him. Now Bagwis and Veronica were walking together, supporting each other as both had grown weak. Rasmus trailed behind them at a respectful distance; he did not feel comfortable being near them. Lourdes alighted beside him and said, “It’s good that I found you, Rasmus. Have you seen Bagwis and Veronica? Why did you let them escape?” Rasmus looked surprised and worried. He answered her with hesitation. “Um, you need to know something…” “What?” She heard voices calling out, “Rasmus, what’s keeping you?” It was the Mulawin couple; they had returned for their companion. “What!” Lourdes felt she had been kicked on the chest by a horse. “You’re all together?” Rasmus nodded. “I’ve turned my back on being a Ravena, Lourdes. I’ve turned my back on all of that. I know, I know. It’s hard to believe…” “What the hell happened to you? Are you mad? They’re our enemies! Look, kill Bagwis, but leave Veronica to me!” The Ravena shook his head. “That’s not likely to happen now.” “Bastards!” an incensed Lourdes shrieked. She struck Rasmus on the face and then lunged at Veronica and Bagwis, boxing here and there with the ferocity of a wild tiger. “You’re not like this!” Veronica cried. “You’re a good woman and we’re friends!” Bagwis was now very angry. He seized her by the arm. “Don’t make me hurt you, Lourdes!” Then Rasmus grabbed her other arm. “Give up,” he told her. “You don’t stand a chance against us.” In Lagaslaw, the Mulawin continued to speculate about Aramis’ past. Habagat explained to them, “It was Muyak who brought you there. But it was forbidden to take a mortal there so your memory of Encantadia was erased.” “Who is Muyak?” asked the hunter. “Is she my mother?” “No,” replied Habagat. “She was the Diwata who took care of you.” “Who is my mother then?” But that Habagat could not answer. In the meantime, some Perico arrived with news. “Bagwis has been freed. Someoen helped him escape.” Dakila and the others were amazed. “Who freed him?” “The reports aren’t clear,” was the reply. Then Habagat took his son aside. “We need to find Bagwis now,” he told him. “I still want to try to make a portal to go to Encantadia,” said Mulagat. Father and son went their separate ways momentarily. Mulagat tried repeatedly to open a portal, but with no success. In the corner of his eye, he suddenly noticed a woman in white, partially covered by the foliage. He could hear her crying. Always ready to help a needy person in distress, Mulagat approached her and asked, “Lady, what can I do for you?” She turned around and gazed at him with tear-filled eyes. It was a human Linang. “Mother!” he exclaimed. “You didn’t become a Ravena like they said?” “No, I did not,” she shook her head. “Your father lied to you.” Mulagat shook his head. “Why would he do that? I don’t believe you!” “He lied to you, son,” she insisted. “He wants to take you away from me.” Returning to the action in Halimhim, Aguiluz was being assailed from every corner by Ravena guards alerted of his intrusion. A spear hurled from afar found its mark on his thigh. Aguiluz winced in pain and pulled it out. But for every soldier he was able to put down, two or three took his place. “Let’s split up,” Gus suggested. “I’ll handle the Ravena children.” So off he went while Aguiluz advanced into the interior of the enemy lair. It looked like a semi-urbanized area to him. There were ruins of apartment buildings and warehouses here. The Sugo fought his way through narrow hallways and corridors, and up the staircases, when he and Gus overheard Niwalum’s cries for help. Hearing the commotion, Alwina woke up and hurried to find Gabriel. Upstairs in one of the rooms, the fruit of the tree was being held with a cloth over his head. Ravenum gave his son a sword to cut off the boy’s head. Just then Savannah entered to report the successful delivery of the Ravena women. “I’ve done as you told me to,” she happily “Wait, what are you doing?” “He must die,” Ravenum told him. “The fruit of the Mulawin tree must die!” “What does he have to do with the fruit?” she asked, bewildered. Ravenum answered, “He is the fruit!” “But why kill him?” Gabriel spoke up. “Father, don’t you feel any pity for him at all? He’s just an innocent child.” His father glared at him. “What pity are you talking about? There’s no room for pity among the Ravena! Do it!” But Gabriel merely rested his hands on the anvil of the sword, unable to obey. Ravenum snatched the weapon from him. “Give it to me! I’ll do it myself!” He raised the blade with both hands even as the boy pleaded for his life. Then a guard entered to report the arrival of the Mulawin Sugo. “Aguiluz is here, sir!” In a moment of costly stupidity, Ravenum decided to postpone Niwalum’s execution, to face the intruder. Soon Aguiluz arrived at the top floor where they were. While he wrestled with the Ravena security, Gus grabbed Niwalum and spirited him away. “You can’t go any farther,” Ravenum told Aguiluz. Gabriel faced his rival. “I’ll handle this pest,” he assured his father. Then Aguiluz flexed his wings proudly and shouted, “At last we meet, Sugo of the Ravena!” Gabriel likewise spread his wings full length and answered back, “I have waited a long time for this, Sugo of the Mulawin!” The peered at each other with their eagle-eyes, Sugo versus Sugo.

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The Fruit of the Tree.

Episode for Mar 8 2005, Tuesday. Vainly Gus pleaded with the kite to reveal its supernatural nature before Aguiluz. But in spite of entreaties, Niwalum’s kite remained just a kite in his hands. Eventually the boy gave up. Apparently, the toy obeyed only the voice of its owner. “So you’re saying Niwalum has powers?” said Aguiluz. Gus nodded. “He said he’s an Encantado.” “Oh he did? But if he is one, then he must have lost his strength by now.” The evening was upon them. Gus retired for the night while Aguiluz stayed awake, sitting under the tree where they had found the kite. He was very curious about Niwalum now; the boy and the things Pagaspas claimed he could do mystified the Sugo. Who and what was this boy really? Where did he come from? Why did he suddenly show up out of nowhere, with no father and no mother around the time when… He was playing absent-mindedly with his flute in hand. He stroked the ground with it and wrote down the boy’s name: Niwalum. “Niwalum,” the Sugo whispered. Strange name. Aguiluz felt sure that this was the boy he had seen in vision in the Interio. “I am a lost soul just like you… I can only be born if you make the right choice… if you choose the world.” “Niwalum,” he whispered, stroking his chin. Niwalum… Mulawin. MULAWIN. NIWALUM… MULAWIN! Aguiluz jumped to his feet. His eyes blazed with life and hope like a knight who had found the Holy Grail. Why didn’t I see that before? The fruit of the tree was to be found in Halimhim… Niwalum was the fruit of the tree! An electrifying thrill ran through Aguiluz’s nerves at the thought. The fruit had been right in front of them all and nobody had known! The Sugo’s first instinct was to look for Gus, who was already fast asleep. Aguiluz ran to him and shook him vigorously, “Gus, wake up! Wake up!” “What?” Gus leaped to his feet and looked about. “Where’s the enemy? Where are they?” Aguiluz shook his head smilingly. “No enemy, Gus! I woke you up because you need to know something about the fruit.” “What about it?” asked his friend. “What is it?” “Not what, Gus, but who.” “Who is it then?” “It’s Niwalum!” Aguiluz exclaimed. “Niwalum is the fruit of the Mulawin tree!” Long before Alwina’s arrival in Halimhim, Gabriel had completed his duties as prince and father the new Ravena tribe. Nearly all the women there conceived, and now the time for their delivery was at hand. The Princess Savannah (herself not pregnant) was in charge of them. She was at the moment interrogating Ravena soldiers whom she had sent to dispose of Rasmus. “What’s the matter with you?” she scolded them. “You’re a whole army going after one man and you can’t even bring back his ugatpak to me?” Then Rosing came to announce the event at the eggs’ nest. Distracted, Savannah dismissed the sentinels and went to visit the nest. Elsewhere in their lair, Gabriel was proudly showing Alwina her new home. Her eyes never left him even for an instant as he did so. “This is all yours and mine,” he told her, “the land, the mountains, the seas, and even the whole world. All these will be yours if you stay faithful to me. “Now you must forget everything in your past. You only need to remember two things. First, you are a Ravena.” Alwina repeated after him, “I am a Ravena. We are both Ravena.” “And I…” Gabriel gestured toward himself for emphasis, “I am the man you love.” “You are the man I love,” she echoed obediently, and he was satisfied. Now Terong wandered into the same spot as they, and immediately recognized Alwina. “Alwina!” he cried. “Oh, man, you’ve become a Ravena too?” He turned to his best friend. “What the hell did you do to her?” But Alwina sprang to her mate’s defense. She pounced on Terong and put a knife to his throat. “Don’t you dare lay a hand on my love!” she growled. Terong nodded with a frightful look. Ravenum was also present, and his soon took him aside saying, “There’s no need to worry about Alwina. See how fiercely she defends me!” But Ravenum did not answer. He still frowned on Gabriel’s obsession with the girl (so reminiscent of Rasmus’ career-breaking infatuation with Vultra). But he had more pressing things in his mind now. Nightfall. Bagwis and Veronica had continued their journey that day in search of Mulawin allies. Bagwis regretted many things; he had not been such a good king in his own opinion. Not firm enough, not experienced enough, he had allowed himself to be swayed by whoever shouted the loudest. And now his mistakes had cost them all. Veronica started coughing again. “Are you all right?” he asked her. “I’m just tired,” she said. “I guess it’s the effect of the Mulawin tree being cut down.” She heard noises nearby and looked up in alarm. “Somebody’s coming!” She was right. Out of the shadows emerged a tall, dark figure clad in Ravena battle gear. It was Rasmus. The couple instinctively huddled together as if expecting to be harmed. “Veronica,” he said softly, “… Bagwis… I have already decided. I’m going with you now.” It was the hardest thing to say. “Is this real?” Veronica asked. “Are you really joining us now?” "I have seen the evil fumes smoldering within me that won't go away," he told them. "My heart knows no peace. Only anger, jealousy, and greed. It sickens me just thinking about the past and what I’ve done. "Before my soul rots in my own wickedness, I want to forsake that dark place and start anew. But I cannot do that without the help of you two." The two Mulawin believed him and received him openly. “We’re so happy to hear that coming from you,” Veronica told him. “The past no longer matters now that you’re with us.” “I’m delighted,” Bagwis said with a genuinely happy smile. “The colors of our plumage may differ, but now, our goals and our principles are the same.” Then Bagwis did what he had never dreamed he would. He offered his hand to Rasmus, who once had been his closest friend, who became his most bitter rival and enemy, and now was his ally again. Rasmus clasped his hand in return. Then he stopped and pointed to something on Bagwis’ shoulder. “Your feathers…” Bagwis looked down and nodded. “It’s the effect of the fall of the Mulawin tree.” Rasmus lowered his head and said nothing. Three days ago if a prophet had told Bagwis that all this would happen, he would have died laughing. But God has such infinite and mysterious powers that He can move even the hardest hearts, and change the most stubborn minds. He knocks tirelessly on the door of every soul that has not permanently shut itself out from the light. Through even the slightest crack, repentance and hence salvation can enter, sent by a Divine Father who will suffer none of His children to be lost. Those who get lost are only those who choose to be lost. What transpired tonight was no minor miracle in Bagwis’ and Veronica’s eyes. Rasmus himself was unable to see it, but in truth, a soul had just been redeemed. “This is an awesome book,” Ravenum told his son. “It can answer all of your questions.” He handed the enchanted book to Gabriel and taught him how to use it. Then the prince sat down and began writing. “What are you called?” he asked. I am known s the book of knowledge and prophecy. Gabriel then declared, “Father, this is the Balasik.” Ravenum nodded. “Go on, my son. Ask again.” The first thing that entered Gabriel’s mind was what mattered the most: “Does Alwina love me?” What a useless and silly question, Ravenum thought but did not say. For as long as she remains a Ravena, she will love only you, it answered. “Then she will always love me,” Gabriel presumed confidently, “for she will be a Ravena for the rest of her life. Do you have any more questions, Father?” Ravenum said, “Ask where the fruit of the Mulawin tree is.” And the Sugo did so. Balasik replied, The fruit is to be found in Halimhim. “Where in Halimhim?” father and son asked in astonishment. Inside Niwalum’s cage. “What? What does that Niwalum have to do with the fruit of the tree?” Niwalum IS the fruit of the Mulawin tree. Now the Ravena leaders were aware that, although they had conquered Avila now, there were still some renegade Mulawin left. So they asked who were going to fight them for the fruit. Balasik then enumerated the Mulawin chieftains: Bagwis, Aguiluz, Veronica, Dakila, Habagat… …. And their allies, the Musang, the Perico, the Taguba, Encantado… Ravenum and Gabriel looked at each other. “Aguiluz must not get his hands on it,” they told themselves. “Does Aguiluz know now who and where the fruit is?” they asked. Balasik replied in the affirmative. “Is he near Halimhim?” Yes. Ravenum knew he had to act fast. “Take the boy and hide him1” he ordered. “The Mulawin Sugo must not find him!” Pagaspas and Aguiluz had flown all night toward Halimhim to recover the fruit. Soon the hot gases emitting from the ground like so many hot geysers came into view. These were the signs that they were now within the vicinity of Halimhim. Gus pointed this out to his friend. “Can’t you use your powers to track Alwina and Niwalum?” he asked. “We’re in the dark realm,” Aguiluz replied. “My powers here are limited. Look, somebody’s coming. Hide!” As Gus took cover, Aguiluz squared off into combat position. Half a dozen sentries assailed him from all quarters. The Sugo responded with a array of kicks and punches that floored his opponents almost at once. But this was only the beginning. They were now at the final stretch, and the fruit was just within the Sugo’s reach.

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Counterfeit Lives.

Episode for Mar 7, 2005, Monday. In Lagaslaw, there was silence. Habagat, Dakila and Mulagat were sitting side by side on a bench. Aramis stood before them waiting for their reaction. He had lived with a lie for too long, and now he was free. Even if his confession would cost him the society of the only decent people he had ever known, it was worth it. No price was too great to pay for personal freedom. Mulagat rose from his seat and walked over to him. He touched Aramis on the shoulder with his left hand. “Aramis,” he said gently, and then swung a right hook at the hunter’s jaw. Aramis’ teeth almost popped out of his mouth. “This is all your fault! You’re the reason why all this is happening to my family!” “Mulagat!” his father shouted, standing up. Aramis showed no anger. “I know that I have wronged you,” he said. “But I had no choice. I owe my life to the Ravena. My hands were tied and I had to do what they wanted. I grew up among them even though I felt no love from them.” “How long were you with them?” asked Dakila. “A good seventeen years.” “Incredible,” the old Mulawin replied. “You were with them for so long and they never turned you into one of their own?” Aramis answered, “They tried, but they couldn’t. And when they failed, Rasmus sent me away from Halconia.” Now this was a mystery to Dakila. “How can that be?” he wondered. “Ravenum is very powerful.” “I think I know why,” Habagat said. He stood up and pulled away his son from Aramis. “There is something you need to know about yourself,” he told the former Ravena spy. “Linang told me about you. You were raised in Encantadia, and it was a Diwata who gave you your unusual power. But you have no memory of it.” Savannah was desperate. Before she was the only Ravena female around, and Gabriel had ignored her. Now there was a whole army of them, what chance could she have now? But there was the wonder-boy! The princess pulled Niwalum aside. “Look here, I want Gabriel,” she said to him. “Make him like me!” Niwalum broke away in disgust. “You might as well ask for snow!” he cried. “You might as well ask me to make you beautiful! You’re asking the impossible!” Grrr! Kids these days! Savannah bared her teeth at him. “Damn you, boy! Do you want me to hurt you?” “Go ahead and do that! Then who would do all that things you make me do for you?’ Then the princess grabbed him by his shirt and tossed him in front of the egg-nest. “Fine! Just do your job and hatch those damned eggs.” Niwalum did so, but not without saying, “Even if I hatch a thousand eggs for you, you still won’t win!” Sadly for Savannah, the situation was about to get worse as far as her illusions of being wedded to Gabriel were concerned. Rasmus was walking in-between worlds now. He was still very much within the sphere of that dark influence he had followed for ages. But having gazed into the abyss for so long, the truth was finally setting on him. There was a light beyond the abyss, after all; a whole world outside the cave of hatred, anger and violence where he had been an unwitting prisoner. “I’ve been where you are and you know it,” Veronica told him. “When I was still a Ravena, I never had any peace of mind. But now no matter how many hardships come my way, I don’t get discouraged because I know I’m surrounded by those who love me.” Bagwis spoke earnestly. “You have been on the dark side for too long. But did all that help you get what you want?” Rasmus looked from one to the other. “Turn your back on your father,” Veronica said. “Do it for yourself.” “You were a Mulawin once,” said Bagwis. “You are a Mulawin. And in spite of everything, I still believe that there is still goodness left in you.” They left him alone with those words. Rasmus hated them for it somewhat; he hated their compassion. But those statements rang so true. Something inside him was crying and hollering in agreement with them, urging him to make the turn. You were a Mulawin. You ARE a Mulawin! Turn your back on your father. It’s about time you do! You’re right. I’ve been fooling you all along. You’re not my son. You can leave now! Rasmus clasped his head with both hands, feeling it would explode. “STOP IT!” he cried out. “I don’t want to live in the darkness anymore!” He was growling loudly and intelligibly. He raised his eyes to heaven and roared, “SHOW ME THE LIGHT!” But the darkness is ever on the prowl for new recruits, new victims. Lawiswis was now one of its spies. Something was telling her that she had to have Alwina’s necklace. “Nice necklace you’ve got,” she said even as she was tied to a tree. Alwina smiled at her. “You like it?” “How I wish I could have it,” Wis replied almost to herself. Now her upper arms were tied behind her, but she could still stretch her lower arms and hands. She put forth her right arm and tugged at the precious necklace. Then Alwina shrieked, “What are you doing!” Wis pulled back her arm like a spring and hid the necklace. At once, swirls of black smoke enveloped the Sugo. Aguiluz overheard her cries and ran to her side. Gus turned angrily to Wis. “Is this what you want to happen?” he asked, taking the ornament back. “Too late!” Wis said tauntingly. “She’ll be a Ravena now!” Alwina fell on the ground convulsing, like an epileptic having a seizure. She felt her soul leaving her, and another trying to take its place. “Kill me!” she begged Aguiluz. “I’d rather die than become a Ravena!” “I can’t do that and you know it!” Aguiluz shouted. “Fight it, Alwina!” But Wis was correct; the column of smoke had done its work; the necklace was useless now. A sheet of red light passed over her body, and left behind it the new Princess of the Ravena. Alwina promptly stood up and knocked Aguiluz aside. She had an appointment to keep. Meanwhile, Gabriel had received her signals in his head. “Alwina’s coming,” he told Terong. “She’s on her way to Halimhim.” Then Gabriel flew away towards the boundaries of Halimhim. He saw the red armored figure of his lady, being pursued by Aguiluz and Pagaspas. Gabriel created an invisible force-field that bar the way to Halimhim. “You cannot follow her anymore, Aguiluz,” he said in a low voice. “She’s mine now!” And so Alwina passed through the aerial gates of Halimhim without difficulty. But when it was the Mulawin’s turn, they could not get through. Aguiluz bumped into the unseen shield, hammering away in vain. “Alwina, don’t leave!” he called out. “Our feathers are falling out,” Gus noted. Then Aguiluz dropped his arms, exhausted. He could not see her anymore; she was gone, and the heroes were forced to retreat. They still must go to Halimhim, of course, for Alwina and for the fruit. As they sat resting beneath a tree, Gus spotted a green object dangling overhead. “Niwalum’s kite!” he exclaimed. “Please get it!” Aguiluz looked up. “Do you really need that toy?” “It has powers!” Gus claimed. Aguiluz himself had an odd feeling looking at it; it was oddly reminiscent of the fruit hanging on the Mulawin tree. Gus himself fetched the kite, and saying it could fly, asked Aguiluz to step on it. But the kite did not move. “Hey, kite!” Gus scolded it. “Play along with us, will you?” Aguiluz smiled in polite silence. “You’re lying!” Ravenum wrote on the book. “How did he become my son?” The answer appeared. Ravenum rewarded the book by throwing it angrily on the ground. But wait, he thought. I can use this to my advantage! A smile broke through his terrible face. Hmm, I can smell victory now! He picked up the book again when sentinels arrived to report Gabriel’s sudden departure. Ravenum decided to go to Halimhim. Terong grasped his legs and said, “Take me with you1” Ravenum looked down on him with contempt. “Fine! Fall down as you please!” At long last, the moment he had been waiting for all his life. Alwina was here now, a Ravena like him. “Do you still remember me?” he asked. “How can it be otherwise?” she replied with a smile. “Even when covered feathers, I can still recognize the man I love. And now, we will always be together, now and forever!” Gabriel walked from one side to another, and touched the feathers on her head. “My Alwina,” he said softly. “My Gabriel,” she answered. Rasmus and Aramis would have felt for them both.

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Friday, March 11, 2005

Editorial: Rant.

So that's how they explain it. Well, all I can say is: WHAT A LAME EXCUSE!!!! Well, anyway, that's God in the burning bush (or tree). I kind of wish they had made the Big Boss' voice bigger. He sounded unimpressive. It made me wonder if it was God or just Jesus talking there. But it had to be God the Father since he said it was Bathala. It's good to know that faith and religion are given so much importance in the show. I wanted to break Dakila's jaw. He looked so damned stupid as he sat there. He knew all along; he knew Aguiluz would face Ravenum sooner or later, and yet he NEVER told him the truth? When are dumb, backward people like that EVER going to learn that LYING to children is not a good thing? It destroys their trust and confidence in you. Jesus, I hate Dakila. I'd blow him to bits if he were in front of me right now. Ignorance of the truth does not protect anyone for long. Dakila has his head stuck so deeply in his ass that he can't get it out! Arrggghhh!!! Hmm, it seems more and more of our predictions come true, even as unexpected twists and upsets have come up that we never dreamed of. I actually thought a couple of times that maybe it was Rasmus who would find the berdeng binhi. It seems to be unimportant at first, but think about it. That the all-important, last berdeng binhi in the world should find its way into the right hands through a repentant sinner is very significant. It further confirms the role of the Mulawin tree (the source of the binhi) as a symbol of hope and redemption for those who want to be saved. It's also noteworthy that he (Rasmus) was tempted first by the power of the binhi. It is a sign that evil has not quite left him yet; it never completely leaves us, anyway. But evil is always a choice. We can say no, we can say yes. He said no, and again, that is a message of hope for us all. Well, my rant is through. Dakila and whoever made up this twist.... #$#&!!!

(Sorry for posting here. I still can't post comments to the Mulawin Kapuso blog.)

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Saturday, March 05, 2005

Truth and Lies.

Episode for Mar 4, 2005, Friday. Haraya was now the keeper of truth and knowledge. Aramis, casting aside the shroud of deception that he wore, was about to reveal the truth about himself. Rasmus had not been looking for the tragic truth about his identity, but he stumbled into it or fate led him. Ravenum now sought the truth… he was about to receive a knowledge not quite what he had expected. “Do you promise to give the book to the Mulawin?” Florona asked Haraya again. “I promise,” the lady assured her. Muyak then said, “Remember, ever since the dark clouds sent by the evil Diwata covered Avila, we have been unable to open portals there. You must go walk on the way there.” “And remember that you cannot change into your bird-form since you are carrying the book,” Florona added. “I know,” Haraya said. “I had to go a long way from Avila to be able to open a portal to enter here. But don’t worry. For as long as Balasik is with me, I can face any danger that comes my way.” She took leave of the fairies then. When she had gone, Muyak asked her companion, “Do you think the Queen Mother was right in choosing Haraya to be the guardian of the book of prophecies?” “I don’t know,” said Florona. “Not even the Queen Mother can see the future. I only know one thing: Haraya loves Balasik.” But Haraya did not have honest intentions. She had never cared much for any of them – Diwata, Mulawin, Ravena, human and all. They were so full of troubles, and brought nothing but trouble to everybody else too. She and Balasik had led a peaceful life together, and she wanted it back. Having found a quiet spot in the forest, Haraya opened the book and wrote the question, “How can we get away from all this, Balasik?” The book answered: We are not supposed to escape. There are wrongs that need to be righted. “Right! Like when Aguiluz killed you! That should be avenged!” I do not seek vengeance… because it was not Aguiluz who killed me. “But I saw it with my own eyes!” The Ravena created an illusion in the likeness of Aguiluz. It was the impostor who murdered me. “Ravena!” she cried. “I was blinded… it is the Ravena who should pay for this!” She asked again, “Is there danger on the way to Avila?” The danger IS in Avila. And it was. “Are you really so stupid?” growled Ravenum at the citizens of Avila. “Do you not see that your rightful king and prince are in front of you? Your king has no moral backbone. Daragit betrayed you! He willingly gave Avila to us!” Laab asked in his strong and calm voice, “Is that true what I heard?” “Damn you, Ravenum!” Daragit cried. “We came to you hoping to share power with you! Lourdes had to join in the fun from within her cage. “Such fine kings you have crowned, Avilans! A fool like Bagwis and an inutile like Daragit!” Daragit and Lumbas were carried off into prison; Lourdes was freed. The people were forced to labor at once. Terong was close behind his master as usual. “This isn’t right,” he said. “Nobody wants to be ruled by fear. After two years, or twenty, or even two hundred years, these people will rise up against you. Your arrogance will blow up in your faces sooner or later.” Gabriel snapped, “You nag worse than a Perico, Terong. Don’t try to confuse me. This is the first time I have a such a clear picture of my role in life.” “So this is your role? To do evil? Some role that is!” Ravenum was looking at them from afar. He did not like how this puny lowlander was influencing his son. And Lourdes suggested, “If you don’t like it, then why not turn him into a Ravena also?” Laab and his Musang men arrived at the scene of the crime that day. He saw the broken door of the cage, and the dead guard, who had been hit on the chest with a spear. “Whoever did this was very strong,” Laab observed. “Looks like he smashed the lock with one blow.” “Good thing I wasn’t on duty here last night,” Hampas quipped. Lourdes shouted, “It was Rasmus!” The Musang looked at one another. “Does that mean Rasmus and Bagwis are in cahoots? If so, then why did they leave this one?” Miles and miles away from Avila, Bagwis continued to draw strength from the great trees that sheltered him from the midday heat. When he felt strong enough, he got up and went with Veronica to see Rasmus. They found the Ravena warrior sitting by himself with his back turned to them. Bagwis spoke up. “What are you planning to do now Rasmus?” “I have no plan,” Rasmus answered grimly without looking over at them. “You may go now.” “And Veronica and I will go, looking over our shoulders for the rest of our lives? Waiting for you to stab us from behind?” “If you don’t want to believe me, that’s not my problem.” “You’re telling me that you saved your mortal enemy without a plan in mind? You want me to believe that lie? Who are you kidding?” “The only lie here,” Rasmus replied, “is my life.” He was wearing the usual scowling expression on his face. In other times, he would have unleashed his wrath at anyone who spoke to him thus. Then Veronica asked, “When you told us your whole life has been a lie, what did you mean by that?” “Why should I tell you? So you can laugh at me? Mock me? Or worst of all, pity me?” Bagwis told him, “We see that you are suffering. I have been through many such trials in my life, but I never gave up. I never let it beat me.” “And why is that?” Rasmus snarled, abruptly jumping to his feet. “Is it because you’re the chief warrior? Is it because you were chosen as king of the Mulawin?” “No,” Bagwis answered calmly. “It’s because, no matter what happens to me, I know I am always fighting on the side of truth.” Aguiluz heard the screams of Gus and Alwina. His feet barely touched as they carried him back to their camp. He saw little Wis choking Alwina and trying to steal her necklace. Gus was hitting her from behind. Then Aguiluz wrested the child away. Wis snarled at Alwina and stretched out her arm by several feet to reach for the necklace again. But Aguiluz seized that arm and nearly broke it. Wis cried in his arms. Aguiluz tied her to a tree while he and Alwina pondered over what to do with her. A few hours later, Gus offered her some food, and the girl after some resistance, did so. “In her heart, I think Lawiswis still recognizes Pagaspas,” Alwina said. “Did you know that it was her who taught me to play the flute? They were my childhood friends. But I was the only one who grew up. I became an older brother to them, and sometimes, their parent.” Alwina looked thoughtful and said, “What about us? Could we have a family of our own one day, I wonder?” He smiled at her and replied, “You know, I feel that all of our trials are coming to an end soon. And when it does, I want nothing more than to start that family you mention.” Mulagat and Aramis walked on, the latter once again thanking the former. “Forgive me for thinking so ill of you,” he said. “I was wrong about you.” “Mulagat,” Aramis began, “there’s something I need to tell you.” They were interrupted by Makisig who was patrolling the area. They were in the territory of the Taguba. “Hey, Mulagat!” he called out. “What’s up, man?” A voice called out, Dakila’s. “Who is it?” Habagat was following Dakila, with his arms crossed over his chest. He turned his eyes to see who the new arrivals were, and got a shock. Mulagat had grown quite thin; his complexion looked dry. But he was alive! “Mulagat!” he cried, running toward him. Father and son threw warm bear hugs around each other. “Mother will be so glad to hear this in Encantadia!” the prince exclaimed. Habagat and Dakila exchanged glances. “You need to know something about your mother,” his father told him. But another shocking revelation was in store. After Mulagat had recounted his adventures to the group, he praised Aramis once more. Then the archer declared, “Enough! You people owe me nothing! It’s me who is still paying his debts to you.” “What do you mean by that?” asked Dakila. Aramis looked at father and son. “Habagat, it was I who shot you. I was the reason why you almost died.” The Ravena soldiers – male and female – were all practicing together in the training grounds of Halimhim. Savannah wandered absent-mindedly into their midst. Gabriel and I are both Ravena now, she thought to herself. Then why doesn’t he like me? What else is missing? A trooper bumped into her. Savannah scolded him. “Get away from me, damn you!” The other girls started giggling. “Why, it looks like it’s Her Majesty’s time of the month!” Aviona laughed. “Oh, that zilch is having periods then?” Everyone roared. Irritated, Savannah challenged them. “Go on and hit me! Let’s see what Ravenum will do to you when he gets back! He’ll punish you!” “Probably!” Maningning replied. “But I’m willing to take that risk just to feel what it’s like to beat the hell out of you!” She lunged at the loathsome frog of a princess, but Aviona held her back. “Don’t stain your hands. Let’s go on with practice.” Haraya was now at the gate of Avila. As she wandered here and there, a Ravena sentry caught sight of her and arrested her. “Who is this now?” demanded Ravenum. “Are you a Diwata or just an ordinary woman?” No answer. But Ravenum knew from her look and bearing she was no mere mortal. “You’re not a Diwata. But you’re not an ordinary person either. You are also keeping a great secret.” He had her taken to prison, with the book concealed within the folds of her robe. Alone, Haraya asked Balasik: “Can we escape from here?” There is still hope for you to escape. But I am where I need to be. “No! You and I must never be separated again!” Ravenum suddenly appeared. “Why are you talking to that book?” He seized it from her hand. “What’s this? I don’t see anything here. Tell me what’s in this or I will hang you upside down and drown you in hot oil!” “Do it! I’d be happier if you did!” she dared. “Oh? You’re a tough one. But this book seems to be important to you. What if I tear it up?” She gave in then. Haraya was in tears now, knowing she had failed in her mission and that Balasik had gone into the wrong hands. But she had to tell Ravenum everything. She gave him the white quill also. Smiling with satisfaction, Ravenum left her inside her cage. “I already have a son who is a Sugo,” he mused, “but I need to make sure still.” He put the book on a table and wrote: “Will my son become ruler of Avila?” Magically, the answer appeared in writing on the blank pages of the book: Which one? “What do you mean? I have only one son!” There is another one, said Balasik. The one named… “Liar!” Ravenum cried. “I do not believe you!”

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The Book of Prophecies.

Episode for Mar 3, 2005, Thursday. “So, who do you think Gabriel will knock up first?” asked Savannah out loud. All the female converts were gathered together in this place. Their princess stood in their midst, surveying them with her huge reddish eyes, wondering who her biggest rival would be. Aviona proudly stated, “If there’s anyone here who ought to receive the Prince’s seed, that’s me!” “You’re too young,” Maningning retorted. “The Prince needs someone strong and mature, like me!” Savannah laughed mockingly. “Confident, all of you!” “Why? What about you?” Aviona sneered. “You’ve been around here a long while. How come you haven’t lain any eggs yet?” Then the loud and rambunctious girls started jeering at the princess. (They evidently felt no respect for her.) Savannah balled her hand into a fist to challenge Aviona. “You’re insulting me!” she fumed. They embraced each other in a fierce grapple; the roars of the other women grew louder, delighted by the prospect of a wrestling match. But sentinels soon arrived to break up the fight. A messenger announced, “The Prince and Ravenum are back!” Gabriel was still recovering from the wounds inflicted on him by Rasmus. “We can’t advance to Avila when you’re in such condition,” his father told him. “I will have the final word this time, son.” So they returned to Halimhim where the new army of women was waiting for them. Savannah pointed to Rosing and argued, “She’s too old to have a child. She’s no use to us! Let’s kill her!” But Terong stood up against this. “Don’t do that,” he said to his friend. “But Savannah has a point.” Master and servant began to argue in low voices. Gabriel then walked over to the women and brought Mayi and Lawiswis to the front. “All right,” he said. “Aling Rosing will be in charge of the Ravena children.” The old woman expressed her gratitude, and Gabriel dismissed them. Terong was still very upset, unable to believe that his master was actually open to the idea of killing a defenseless old widow! “Have you really turned your back on your humanity?” asked Terong. “Yes,” Gabriel replied, “because all of humanity turned its back on me.” Terong’s face wrinkled at that. “What about me? Did I turn my back on you?” Poor Terong really had no idea how lucky he was; Gabriel could have easily disemboweled him with one stroke of his sword. But as dark and as cruel as he had become, there were still traces of the old Montenegro heir left in him. He just did not want to acknowledge it. “I don’t like how that pest is influencing Gabriel,” Savannah confided in Ravenum. “He’s a reminder of his former life as a human, you know. Let’s kill him!” Ravenum smiled coolly. “Your fists are flying too fast now. Where is the Savannah who usually looks before she leaps?” “But he’s a nagger! I know him! I grew up with him!” “Don’t raise your voice at me! I want him dead too. But we can still talk to Gabriel. And if you don’t want to get into trouble with him, we have to be careful.” Haraya turned the pages of the book to see its contents, but there was nothing in them. The book was empty. Angrily, she flung the book to the earth and screamed, “How can the Queen Mother hope that I will love an empty book as my husband?” The book fell open as it hit the grass. Amazingly enough, words in neat, calligraphic writing began to appear across the pages: It is only right for the Queen Mother to hope, the words read… because I am Balasik. Awestruck, Haraya asked, “It’s true then! How can I use you?” The previous statement vanished, and a new one was written: Take a plume from my body, and write your question with it on the pages. Haraya did so, and with the quill wrote her first and most important question: “Do you love me?” Forever, my love, Balasik answered. This reply, more than anything else, convinced the lady that it was really Balasik speaking to her. Unaware of being watched, Haraya continued to write personal questions, like a young girl composing love letters and reading the replies of her beloved. Muyak and Florona were observing her from a distance. “I don’t think this is right,” the former said. “She’s mesmerized by the book and isn’t handling it as she should.” “I will talk to her,” Florona told her. She went over to Haraya and gently rebuked her. “You were not given that book to amuse yourself with it. You are supposed to give the Balasik back to its rightful owners, the Mulawin.” “No!” Haraya shot back. “Balasik is mine!” “Then we will just have to look for someone else worthy of keeping the book.” Florona willed the book to levitate towards her hand. When Haraya realized that she was powerless, she relented. “No, don’t! I will do as you say.” Meanwhile, Mulagat was still recuperating under the care of the archer, Aramis. Aramis, for his part, was dying to get the truth to come out. At one stage, he had actually confessed his crimes verbally to his companion. But Mulagat had fallen asleep and heard none of it. Aramis sighed… he would just have to wait another time. He also informed the prince of Aviona’s fate. “We have to go back to Halimhim then,” Mulagat replied. “We must do it for Aviona’s sake… and for all of our friends who are there.” So young and uncorrupted, Aramis thought. There was an air of purity and dignity that always surrounded this Encantado. Aramis envied and respected him for it. Maybe he’s the better man for Aviona. Unknown to them, Dakila and Habagat had met with Kuwak today and decided to camp at Lagaslaw. Father and son would see each other soon. Another day had gone by, and Bagwis opened his eyes to find himself in the same spot, with the same views, and around the same people (except when the guards changed shift). He felt hot, dirty, hungry and, above all, sick in heart and body. The faithful Veronica was still there. Bagwis had advised her to steer clear of him for the time being, as it was not helping her gain the people’s acceptance. But Veronica showed no regrets. It was night-time and very quiet; the silence was broken by the whizzing sound of a flying spear. It hit straight into the guard’s belly and sent him rolling dead on the ground. Veronica, Bagwis and Lourdes turned in that direction. “Rasmus!” Someone screamed the name without knowing it. He looked around, saw Bagwis in his cage, and without a word broke the lock with his dagger. “Go on,” he said. “Get out.” Bagwis wondered if he was too hungry tonight. “Why are you doing this?” “Do you want to be free or not?” Then Bagwis hurried out of his cell, helped by Veronica. “Hey, what about me, Rasmus?” asked Lourdes rudely. “Go rot there,” Rasmus answered. “You and I were both deceived, Lourdes. Isn’t that what life is all about? Deception?” Lourdes spat and cursed at him, and then shouted the alarm. ‘Hey! Rasmus is here! He’s setting Bagwis free!” Veronica then called on Rasmus to flee with them, and all three escaped before the guards could arrive. They flew all night undetected (such poor security Avila had), and by daybreak were quite out of reach. Bagwis stumbled towards land utterly exhausted. Veronica then asked Rasmus, “Why did you help us escape?” “Because only now have I realized what a lie my life has been,” he told her. “What does that mean?” ‘Don’t be nosy,” he snapped. “Just help your husband.” Alwina woke up to find Aguiluz sitting beside her as usual. “I had a bad dream,” she told him. “I dreamed we got separated and the necklace got lost.” “Don’t worry,” he answered. “You know, they say that dreams are often the reverse of reality.” Not always. Someone tapped Alwina on the shoulder; she turned to see but no one was there. The same gesture repeated itself several times, with Aguiluz grinning to himself (it wasn’t him). Then a pair of small hands closed over Alwina’s eyes, and a small voice piped, “Guess who this is!” Alwina’s lips split into a big smile. “Pagaspas! Hey, where have you been? I looked for you for so long! Don’t you know your mother is worried about you?” Gus proudly showed off his new power to Alwina that day, running around her and Aguiluz at great speed. “You’d make a good mother,” Aguiluz told her. “But we have to find the fruit now. I only know it’s in a place called ‘Halimhim.’” Abruptly, Gus stopped. “I know where that is. That’s where I’m also headed!” “Okay, we’ll go there then,” said Aguiluz. “But let’s rest here a while.” “Even kids with superpowers need rest,” Alwina reminded the young boy. Aguiluz went to get some firewood. Unfortunately, Wis happened by that way too. She had flown away from Halimhim, weary of Rosing’s strict supervision. She noticed Alwina wearing that necklace. Some evil instinct told her that Alwina would be helpless without it. Lawiswis stretched her arms and leaped upon Alwina’s chest, clutching her necklace. Alwina gasped, and Pagaspas shouted, “Let her go!”

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Thursday, March 03, 2005

Cain and Abel.

Episode for Mar 2, 2005, Wednesday. Florona was almost done. “Haraya, look!” she cried. “I’m finished! Look at it!” The songbird had fallen asleep beside her. Haraya forced her eyes open and saw a book beneath the lantern-green rays emitting from the earth-Diwata’s hands. “This is Balasik in his true form,” Florona told her. “It contains knowledge and prophecies. Keep it and treasure it.” Haraya took the precious book in her hands and smiled through her tears. Despite the fact that Habagat no longer had an ugatpak, and that Dakila was already well-advanced in years (even for a Mulawin, they were still able to evade arrest. The Ravena soldiers pursued them out of Halimhim in vain. Ravenum offered to turn the traitors into Ravena, but the cowardly duo made excuses for delay. “You must go now to Avila and proclaim to the citizens there that their true king and prince have arrived,” Ravenum ordered. “Just be sure not to try anything funny,” Gabriel warned, “because I can read what’s in your hearts.” Ravenum called out to the guards to imprison their “guests.” “You should have listened to Dakila,” he told Daragit. “He was right. You don’t know who you’re dealing with!” The guards led the two foolish bird-men away, leaving father and son alone. Gabriel exclaimed, “Who would’ve thought that there are others as wicked as we are?” Ravenum then picked up where he had left off. “Not all of us here is utterly wicked,” he told the Sugo. “Not yet. I wanted to discuss something with you before we were interrupted. It’s about Alwina. Son, we are close to attaining our objective, yet still, a woman is bothering you.” Gabriel replied, “Not just any woman, Father! A Sugo! Can you imagine what how powerful we would be if we joined forces?” But his father read through this bluff. He had seen that look in the lad’s eyes before – the look of a love-struck idiot setting up his own ruin. “Don’t try to make a fool of me, Gabriel!” he snarled. “You boast that you can read other people’s hearts! Well, I can read yours! Don’t follow your brother’s example. Don’t let your heart rule it over you!” He left Gabriel thus, silent and stunned by the rebuke. No sooner had Ravenum vanished from sight than the renegade Rasmus swung into the scene with Terong under his arm. Gabriel recognized his old friend, and called out to Rasmus. “Damn you! What are you doing?” “If you don’t want this lowlander’s neck to get broken, then follow me!” Then brother followed brother over dense forests until they had arrived in a glade outside of Halimhim. There, Rasmus let go of his captive and turned to face his rival. Terong recognized his master too. “What foolishness is this?” asked the prince. “I’m tired of being second to you,” Rasmus told him. “Prove that you are really any good.” He stretched out his hands which were armed with claws and a dagger. Gabriel drew his sword and attacked, but Rasmus blocked the strike. Then Gabriel thrust forward again; Rasmus dodged the blow and buried with claws into his brother’s spine. Gabriel groaned in pain, and again Rasmus tore through his flesh. The evil Sugo staggered away, and his opponent kicked him down. Rasmus picked up the prince’s sword from the ground to finish off the match. What are you scared of? he asked himself. Isn’t this what you want? Get it over with! He drove the blade into Gabriel’s side, burying it with all the force he could muster. “Die!” he growled. When Mulagat finally came to, he felt so weakened that it was a wonder he was still alive. Why am I not dead yet? he wondered. As if in answer to his prayer, two fierce Musang came tumbling into the scene, attracted by the scent of death oozing from the Encantado’s body. “He’s dying,” one said to the other. “This won’t take long.” The prince was sprawled on the rocky ground, unable to raise himself. He welcomed the predators. “Please, if you must kill me, do it quickly and don’t delay,” he pleaded. But help was on the way for him. Before the Musang could touch him, a flurry of arrows rained down on them. Aramis sprang into the scene and single-handedly dismissed the cat-men. He picked up Mulagat and took him away with him. When Mulagat woke up again, Aramis offered him a drink. Mulagat looked at him suspiciously. “Where did you get your knowledge of plant-medicine?” “When you live in the forest like I do, your only friends are trees and plants, and even the animals we hunt down. You learn to love them.” It sounded nothing like the heartless archer who shot down a maya bird and knocked off a tree before. Mulagat drank, answering Aramis’ questions as he did so, explaining how he had gotten there. “Now I don’t know what happened to my father.” Meanwhile, Aguiluz scrambled for the necklace. He groped in the dark with his gloved hands and soon felt it among the dead leaves on the forest-floor. He held it close to Alwina, and like a woman possessed, the other Sugo responded immediately. The dark cloud left her and she was herself again. Aguiluz held her to him, but seeing she was tired, he put her to sleep. As with Aviona, a weak and sleepless Alwina would have less will to resist a possessing spirit. Salimbay appeared to Aguiluz that night. “Be careful not to lose the necklace,” she told her son. “As things get more difficult, your love for each other will be your only refuge.” “We need to find the fruit now,” he said. “What is it?” But she said only, “Someone is coming. That one can help you find answers to your questions.” Aguiluz heard noises and advanced towards the source. He unsheathed his sword and called out to the visitor. “Who goes there?” It was Pagaspas. “Hey, Aguiluz! Wait, are you the real Aguiluz?” Then Aguiluz’s face brightened. “I am! I know you still pee in your pants. Does the fake Aguiluz know that?” Gus ran to him and hugged him. He narrated all his adventures to his friend, including what happened to Lawswis. Aguiluz pondered the matter and concluded they must find the fruit now. Dakila decided not to return to Avila, in spite of Habagat’s protests. “Ravenum will have us arrested as soon as we set foot there,” he explained. “And the Linang there is no longer the one you loved. She’s gone.” Meantime, Veronica kept watch outside of Bagwis’ cell even as Lourdes mocked her. She observed that Bagwis’ feathers were falling – a sign of failing health. “Your undying love will never do you any good,” said the Ravena. “I’m proof of that!” “I’m not going to listen to your nonsense. It’s not Lourdes in there.” “How do you know that? How do you know this isn’t the real Lourdes?” Veronica replied, “Because I’ve been where you are. I’ve said all the lies that you say now. So you don’t fool me.” A Musang sentry was passing by and relayed news to her from the villagers. She asked if Bagwis could be released temporarily so that he could draw strength from the trees. But the Musang stoutly declined. “The king’s orders,” he said. “What did you do to my son?” a voice cried out. Rasmus turned around. “This wouldn’t have happened if you had treated me like your son too! I am your firstborn! I was the first child you had!” “You are not my child!” Ravenum declared. “I’ve been fooling you all along, Rasmus. Now it’s time you know the truth. “Long ago, an oracle foretold that one of the elders of the High Council would have a son who would rule the Mulawin. Of us all, only Dakila and I were married at the time. Dakila had a child, but it was a girl, Paloma. So it wasn’t her. I tried to have a son, but my wife was useless. I couldn’t have a child by her. “Then one day, she claimed to have given birth. But it wasn’t her child. No wonder she never let me touch her belly when she was with child, nor let me be with her in the egg-nest to see the egg hatched. One day, the woman she had bribed who was the mother of the child showed up. She missed her baby. “I killed her to silence her. Then I lived with my deceitful wife to save face. But I slept around with other women in my wish to have a son. Even my wife’s handmaid, I took advantage of. And now, the prophecy has come true! I have a son now destined to rule Avila! And that is not you, Rasmus!” Rasmus’ heart had stopped within him. It started beating again loudly when Gabriel tapped him on the shoulder and asked, “Don’t you know that it’s hard to kill a Sugo?” Fear seized Rasmus; he immediately fled the scene to the amusement of father and son. But in a moment of carelessness, neither of them thought of eliminating him. “You lied to me!” Rasmus fumed to himself. “I did everything for you and you deceived me! You made me hope for nothing.... I heard you two talking before I showed up. Now, I will betray you like you have betrayed me!”

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Traitors to the Tribe.

Episode for Mar 1, 2005, Tuesday. One did not need to have red plumage to be a Ravena. Daragit and his lieutenant, Lumbas, were about to prove it. Apparently the magic stone that healed him had also added strength to Habagat permanently. He followed the Ravena all the way from Avila to Halimhim without feeling exhausted, even though no longer had an ugatpak. He was there, watching from afar. So many women! he thought. Alarmed at the immense size of the crowd, the Mulawin stole away, vowing to return for his lady. Meanwhile, Ravenum was trying to pacify Gabriel. “Calm down,” he told his son. “We have enough females here to increase our numbers.” But Gabriel pointed an accusing finger at them like a child who did not get what he wanted. “They are good only for bearing children!” he whined. “Alwina is different! Why isn’t she here? Why was the Sugo able to resist it?” Outside Bagwis’ cage, Dakdak and his Perico came to report what had happened in the rest of the area. “Aguiluz found Alwina too,” he reported, and then looked curiously at Veronica. “Why didn’t you become a Ravena too?” he asked. “All the other women did.” Aramis soon joined them and was told the same thing. “What about Aviona?” he inquired. “No doubt she is with her own kind now,” Dakdak replied. Hearing of Veronica’s experience, the High Council summoned her. She attended as a commoner, not a queen. And she did not have much to tell them. “All I know is that I held on to this necklace that Alwina gave me,” she told them, “thinking of my daughter’s love for me.” Lumbas was somewhat incredulous. “Are you saying then,” he responded, “that it was love that saved you?” Deep in the woods that night, one Ravena was completely unaware of what was going on. Rasmus would have cared nothing for it, anyway, had he known. Why was I the one you sent away? he wondered bitterly. But never mind. I’ll prove to you that your favorite is no good! His ears picked up a familiar noise. It was a whistling sound. Knowing it was Aramis’ signal, Rasmus went in the direction of the sound. Perhaps the hunter could be of use to him. But it was Aramis who was looking for help. “I don’t care about al the women that you’ve converted into Ravena,” Aramis said, “but I have to rescue Aviona. Talk to your father!” Rasmus turned away. “You have such faith in my influence over him. But I know nothing about what you are saying.” “How can you not know what your father has been doing?” “Because he has cast me out of Halimhim.” Not far from there, a group of male Ravena warriors were scouring the foliage for signs of the renegade son of Ravenum. “We have to find him or Princess Savannah will have a piece of each of us,” they said to one another. And then they found him beside the archer. “Why are you here? Does Father want me back?” Rasmus asked foolishly. And they answered, ‘It is Savannah who wants you. She wants your head!” They pounced on both men like hounds on cornered deer. But Aramis with his superhuman strength easily overpowered them. Rasmus – having a bad day, perhaps, or getting old – was quickly floored by the other Ravena. Then Aramis fell on them with all his power and flung them away like rag dolls. Rasmus regained his footing and the two men stood back to back. “Looks like you’re the one who owes me now,” Aramis observed. “Turn your back on your father, Rasmus! Join me!” But Rasmus answered, “Just because you helped me, that doesn’t mean you can tell me what to do. I have my own plans. If you want to save that little Mulawin, do what you want.” Florona stood over Balasik’s lifeless body. Haraya was weeping over it. “What are you going to do?” she asked. “Are you going to resurrect him?” “I would need the Queen Mother and the others to help me with that,” replied the Diwata. “And besides, only the Sugo may return from the dead. But I will give Balasik a form that fits his true nature. The body can die, but not the knowledge. And Balasik was given to the Mulawin as a source of knowledge and prophecy.” She poured forth a green shower of light upon the white corpse, and began to work her magic. High on Avila’s lofty peak, overlooking the dark clouds that had covered it with for several weeks now, Daragit discussed matters with Lumbas. A faint ray of light shone through the king’s mind, like it were his own conscience. “Sure, we finally got what we wanted,” Lumbas said, “to become rulers of Avila. But we never dreamed it would come about in this way.” “Could it be,” he asked Lumbas, “that we have judged Aguiluz and Bagwis wrongly? Could it be that we are the ones wrapped in darkness in our hearts?” But Lumbas was defensive. “No! Bagwis and Aguiluz have done evil! What we did was right! This is all Aguiluz’s fault! We are the most powerful Mulawin now, Daragit. It is now up to us to save our people.” Dark gray clouds covered them even as he said those words. They returned to the High Council where Dakila and the others were. Habagat had just flown back from Halimhim. “What should we do now?” Daragit asked. “You’re the king,” replied Dakila. “You should know what to do.” Daragit then turned to Habagat. “Take us to where they have brought the women. We will try to negotiate with them.” “What?” Dakila raised his voice. “Your Majesty, I don’t think it’s a wise move to try to settle the matter in that way.” “Our numbers are getting smaller. They have taken all our women away! It’s time we try to make peace with them. War isn’t the only solution to problems like you think it is!” “That is the only language the Ravena can understand,” Dakila argued. But the king refused to listen to him. Now Terong had tried to chase after the two Ravena – Tuka and Pamela – for Gabriel’s sake. But he was less lucky than Habagat. “Jesus, those women fly so fast,” he said to himself. “I’ve lost track of them.” A hand dropped on his shoulder. “Perhaps you are more used to being hunted down and caught than being the hunter yourself!” Terong looked over his shoulder and met with Rasmus’ grinning face. “Please don’t kill me!” he begged. Rasmus laughed, grabbing him under his arm. “Why should I kill you? You’ll be my bait now!” A Ravena sentry came running to his king and prince. He bowed respectfully and informed them that they had visitors. “And who would want to visit us?” said Gabriel, even as the High Council elders entered the scene. Daragit was at the lead. When Dakila tried to speak, the former raised his hand. “I am the king. Leave it up to me.” Then he turned to his Ravena counterpart and said, “I am the new king of Avila. We come in peace. We expect you to treat us accordingly. We are here to have talks with you.” Ravenum smiled slyly. “I’m listening. What might this be about?” The elders seated themselves and Daragit said, “We have seen you demonstrate your great power. We acknowledge it, and we have come here to join forces with you.” Dakila’s jaw dropped to the earth. “What! You traitor! This wasn’t what you said before!” “You cannot peddle our race like merchandise!” Habagat fumed. Ravenum laughed deeply. “Your own king has made a fool of you, Dakila!” Then he said to Daragit, “Our talks will come to no resolution if those two keep on interfering. Guards, take them away!” “So be it,” Daragit said. Alwina was worried about her parents. “Use your inner sight to look into Avila,” she pleaded with Aguiluz. “See if my parents are all right.” The other Sugo obliged, but even with all his effort, his spiritual eye could not pierce the darkness that blanketed Avila. “I can’t see anything,” he said. And then Salimbay appeared to them. The glow of her aura was subdued so that the mortals could look at her without strain. “Mother!” Aguiluz cried. “Is this real? Since I left the tree, I haven’t seen you except in dreams only!” “It is no dream,” she told him, embracing both him and Alwina. “After the tree was cut down, I roamed the earth for a while. I wondered why God was not calling me yet to His side. I came to the conclusion that my mission here is not yet complete. I still have work to do.” And she assured them, “I will help you in your search for the fruit of the tree, and I will be near you even when you cannot see me. Be strong for you are up against a powerful force now.” She vanished from sight, leaving the Sugo feeling greatly comforted. Aguiluz then took leave of Alwina for a short while. But as if it had been waiting for an opportunity all along, the evil spirit struck again. It seized Alwina quite unexpectedly. She felt it, the same choking and sucking feeling that was like a vacuum. And this time, she did not have her necklace on. When Aguiluz returned, he realized what was happening. Not again! “Where’s the necklace?” he said, dropping to his knees in a frantic search for it.

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