Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Council Speaks.

Episode for Feb 23, 2005, Wednesday. There was little for debate. Dakila immediately diverted the Sugo’s attention to the most pressing matter. “It’s more important for you to find the fruit of the tree,” he said, “than face Gabriel. Go now and use your powers to find it.” Guards had been alerted of intruders in the area and they were coming. “Hurry, Aguiluz,” Bagwis urged. “You can’t let them find you here!” Aguiluz hesitated, then left. The king turned to the angry crowd of soldiers and told them, “Face me. I’m responsible for this, not Dakila. This was my decision and he even warned me about the consequences.” They brought the king and the elder before the Council, whose members numbered six: Dakila, Dakdak, king of the Perico; Laab, chieftain of the Musang people; Lumbas and Daragit; and Rosing, who represented the human minority from the lowlands. She immediately spoke in favor of Bagwis. “He is our king; we should respect his decision.” But Lumbas replied, “You were included here in the Council to represent your people. We are sure that the lowlanders would rather have Aguiluz in prison than be freed!” Outside, word had spread of Aguiluz’s release. Linang informed Habagat of the Council’s meeting, so mindful of his brother’s safety, Habagat decided to attend. Some regarded him with scorn as the famous traitor of their tribe, but Habagat stood his ground. “I may not be a member of this Council or the Assembly, but I am Bagwis’ brother,” he told them. Now Daragit and Lumbas moved to depose Bagwis from his throne. “You showed no respect for the law, for this Council, for the witnesses, or for the Balasik!” they accused him. “We daresay that you should resign as king of Avila! Let us vote on the matter!” Everyone agreed to this as the only solution to the problem. Laab looked on nervously, stroking his whiskers. He had always liked Bagwis, a good and honorable warrior. But he could not ignore the concerns of the others. As the votes were cast, three raised their hands in favor of Bagwis’ retention of the crown: Dakila, of course, Rosing and Dakdak. Then Lumbas and Daragit cast their votes in favor of the king’s ouster. This was expected, and Dakila next reminded Laab to make his choice. “You cannot abstain,” he reminded him. Reluctantly, Laab raised his right paw. Three all. “How do we settle this now?” asked Dakdak in a worried tone. But there was no need for him to be concerned about that. The hairs on Laab’s neck stood on end. Someone important was coming, he thought, and his instincts proved correct. Walking ahead of a modest crowd was the proud widow of Balasik, the Haraya. She was still wearing the same white dress and black cloak of mourning she had worn on her arrival to Avila. She walked up straight to the Council members and delivered a brief speech. “As the primary witness of the trial, my vote should also be counted,” Haraya argued. “Next to Balasik, you, Dakila, are the one people consult of truth and knowledge. You know that my vote should be considered as well.” No one dared to oppose her. She raised her hand without a word. No one had to ask for which side she was voting. “Say, Aramis,” began his lady, “you’ve lived in the forest for a long time. You must be familiar with plants. Do you know about the tandiosa?” Aramis swallowed. “Um, why?’ “Because it was tandisis that struck Habagat. It came from that plant. If it’s from there, then I want to get rid of it before it can be used to harm others.” The archer’s eyes darted sideways. “I’m sorry,” he said abruptly. “I don’t know about that plant. Excuse me. I have o go somewhere.” Aviona raised her brows. “What gives?” she wondered. But Aramis was troubled. He could not hide behind his mask any longer; he must tell her the truth now before she finds out on her own. The hunter blew upon his whistle to signal to his master. He blew repeatedly, until Rasmus’ imposing and menacing figure emerged from the shadows. “This better be important,” warned the former king. “Don’t worry, this is the last time I’m calling on you.” Unfortunately, Rasmus had not been the only one who picked up the signal of the whistle. Aviona had heard it, too, and went to see where the sound originated. To her great horror, she saw Aramis speaking with the Ravena chief like two old friends. This explained his sudden disappearances, his nebulous personality, and unknown origins. She ran away crying and heard no more of the conversation. “Great, somebody saw you!” Rasmus growled. Then Aramis told him, “I’ve had enough. I want out of this. I came here to tell you that.” “You ungrateful wretch!” “Who says a debt must be paid for life? We’re even now, Rasmus. We’re through!” He thought no more of the matter and pursued Aviona in the darkness. “Let me explain it,” he begged. “Go away,” she said tearfully. “Go away before I kill you!” Aramis saw her weapon in her hand and knew she meant it. He withdrew and returned to the woods whence he had come. Rasmus came home to Halimhim to be welcomed by a mocking Gabriel. “So my brother is home!” he said tauntingly. “What’s with you?” Ravenum asked. “You just drop out of sight. Where have you been?” So Rasmus reported to them Aramis’ defection. He expected his father to be bothered by the news as he was, but Ravenum was not. Gabriel laughed, and so did he. “Why, does he think he is such a great loss to us?” said Ravenum with a smile. “He’s no loss to us, especially now that Gabriel is here.” “Right,” Rasmus snapped. “Gabriel is here. You don’t need anyone else.” “I don’t like the tone of your voice,” Ravenum answered. “You think I haven’t noticed that you envy your brother? Prove yourself first, then maybe you would treat you like I treat Gabriel.” Then he bade the impostor Aguiluz, “You must go back to Avila now that Aramis is gone. We need a spy.” The clone hastily obeyed. He landed along the outskirts of Avila where a couple of Perico were chatting on the way. He overheard them mentioning Lagaslaw, the nearby village of the Taguba. Meanwhile, Veronica had been looking around for Lourdes when the latter reappeared, calm and friendly. She apologized about the earlier incident and asked for forgiveness. “I don’t know,” Veronica replied doubtfully. “You’re not the friend I know anymore.” Then the Ravena’ true colors showed. A dark-blood hue filled her eyes. “Then have it your way!” she cried, turning into a Ravena. Veronica’s face did not change; she said only, “So I was right about you.” Attracted by their voices, Alwina came calling out to her adopted mother. Lourdes hid herself behind a thicket; Veronica followed her. Their daughter never saw them. When she left, Veronica chided her opponent, “You’re lucky she didn’t see you like that.” “Why?” Lourdes shot back. “I’d have killed you both anyway! Now you can’t get away anymore, Veronica!” She threw herself at the Mulawin queen like a wrestler, and a fierce duel began. Meanwhile, Alwina met the young Mayi in her wandering. Mayi relayed news to her of Aguiluz’s release and Bagwis’ predicament. The Sugo was about to follow her to the Council when Mayi saw Veronica in the sky struggling against a Ravena.
”I’ll go help her,” Alwina told the child, and flew towards her mother. Up close, she could see the Ravena was a fire-breathing female like Vultra had been, and Veronica could not maneuver on that account. The queen called out to her daughter, and Lourdes turned to see. A dead weight of surprise fell on Alwina’s chest. “Mother?” she said.


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