Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Prelude to the Coming of Darkness.

Episode for Feb 25, 2005, Friday. Being a Sugo was good; the fake Aguiluz relished in the powers of a false emissary and made the most of it. It was good that he did; his happy days were coming to an end. He would not live to see the dark clouds of the Ravena descending upon the land. In Avila, the citizens were panicking; food and water were running out. In distress they turned to their new king for help. But Daragit was a mean-spirited and selfish bigot. He was really not that different from Ravenum, his contemporary and fellow elder once in the High Council. Daragit hated foreigners and creatures of other species. When he heard that their store of grain and fruit were running low, Daragit ordered, “Hide away the remaining supplies. Keep them for our fellow Mulawin.” “But what about the Musang? The Perico? The lowlanders?” “No,” he shook his head. “I told you, the Mulawin should be our priority!” Rosing soon heard of Daragit’s racist policies and relayed the news to Dakila, who merely said, “There is nothing we can do about it. He is the king now and we must respect him.” Elsewhere in the prison grounds, Aviona was passing by and happened to run into Mayi, Dakila’s messenger. “I still can’t believe that Lourdes is a Ravena now,” the youngster said. “In my mind, I still see Alwina’s foster-mother in there.” “Well, that’s a lesson for all of us,” replied Aviona meaningfully. “There are people who look one thing on the outside, but inside they are quite the opposite.” Aramis was no different from the old Habagat after all, she must have thought. Ravenum entered the hall to see his Sugo, Gabriel, bleeding slightly from the top of his head, and his feathers in disarray. The father knew only person in that room could have been responsible. “What did you do, Rasmus?” he asked. “What did you do to my son?” “You speak as if you only have one son,” Rasmus said. “I am your son too. Have you forgotten? I am the son who has worked for you all his life! I did everything you told me to. I faced every danger. I obeyed every command. From smoke, I brought you back into a Ravena. I even turned my back on the woman I loved because you ordered me to! “This place has grown too small for Gabriel me, Father. You have to choose between us. Only one of us can stay here.” Ravenum was silent for a few moments, and then he said, “You are correct, Rasmus. Only one of you must remain here. And it is not you. Now leave!” The prince and princess of the Ravena could not hold back their laughter. Rasmus turned away and ran from there. His next meeting with father and son would soon change everything for him. The Taguba siblings looked on as Alwina lingered in the arms of this Aguiluz before them. “Are you having doubts too?” Makisig asked his sister. She nodded, but kept quiet. This Aguiluz was eerily quiet while Alwina happily chatted. It was as if he did not know what she was talking about. Unknown to them, the real Aguiluz had decided to return to the Taguba camp, worried for the safety of the people he had left there. When the Sugo arrived, he found his lady at the side of the impostor. “Alwina, stay away from him!” he shouted. Everyone steered clear as the two Aguiluzes drew their swords with their left hands (Aguiluz was left-handed) and attacked each other. Maningning pulled away Alwina and warned her warrior-sisters not to interfere. They did not know who the real Sugo was and refused to take the chance of hitting the wrong one. Dakdak the Perico king was among them. Then Alwina instinctively grasped the necklace she was wearing and prayed, “God, give me a sign so that I will know who the real Aguiluz is.” But the answer was right in her hand: the necklace was Aguiluz’s; he had given it to her. The one who was not wearing an ornament on his neck therefore had to be the true Aguiluz! Alwina’s eyes fell wide open, but she could not get a good view of what she was looking for. Both bird-men moved swiftly across the dusty plain, turning around, throwing each other and flying through the air. Then one Aguiluz hurled the other to the ground. Alwina ran towards the latter and examined his neck area; it was bare! “This is the real Aguiluz,” she said to herself. The Sugo jumped to her feet and brandished her electric shawl. The real Aguiluz likewise rose to his feet, doubtless relieved. Together they overpowered the false Sugo and threw him down on his back. “Please don’t kill me!” he begged. Aguiluz relented then. “You’re lucky that the Mulawin do not just kill as a matter of principle,” he told him, and turned away. The impostor then reached for his sword to stab Aguiluz on the back, but the latter sensed this move. He turned around and cut the impostor from shoulder to crotch with his sword, in two strokes. This cut a blazing V-shape across the enemy’s trunk, and he vanished from sight. After Alwina explained to the Taguba how she had figured out who the real Aguiluz was, they bade farewell and set out on their journey. “We’re sorry but can’t go with you,” Maningning said. “Now that the Ravena have returned, we must protect Lagaslaw.” The two Sugo understood this, and went on their way. Aguiluz was optimistic now that they would soon find the missing fruit. Lourdes thought she was dreaming. She was not; she was remembering. She was a young woman; her voice was a fresh, youthful version of what it really was now. Lourdes was in the woods, talking to an infant in swaddling clothes. She laid the child on the ground and said, “Forgive me. I cannot love you.” It was a child, born not of love, but force and brutality. Lourdes left the baby there hoping perhaps a wandering farmer or woodcutter would find it and adopt it. Or maybe it would be slain by wild beasts. She did not know. But guilt – if not maternal instincts – compelled her to return to that same spot in the forest the next day. When she came back, the child was gone; only the clothes she had wrapped it in remained. Lourdes searched for her child everywhere, but never found him. And for this, was not Veronica to blame? The Ravena mother stirred awake in her cage. Through the bars of wood she could see Bagwis in his own cell, and just outside was his loyal wife. Lourdes’ heart overflowed with spite and rage. She shook her cage furiously like an earthquake, howling and cursing. She hopelessly envied those two lovers for their happiness. Even with him imprisoned and dethroned, they were enviable to her. “Are you sorry that you sent Rasmus away?” Gabriel asked his father. Ravenum answered, “I cannot help but wonder, my son.” But Gabriel was brimming with confidence. “Don’t worry, Father. I promise I will serve you even better than Rasmus ever did.” “I believe you,” said his father. How short-sighted they really were! Savannah knew that Rasmus was no fool; he simply would not sulk in a corner, weep and sink into oblivion. If she knew that loser well, he would be making trouble soon if not taken care of. He might be a loser, but if he used even a fraction of his brain, would he not be dangerous, as biter as he was now? “Go find Rasmus and don’t come back here without his ugatpak!” she bade the other Ravena. “Ravenum isn’t thinking.” Then Gabriel called for Savannah. Ravenum was watching. The Sugo had Niwalum brought at the top of a hill overlooking the town of Carig. “As the only female Ravena,” he told Savannah, “go stand behind him. Now I will show you all the combined power of Niwalum and the hiyas!” He held the hiyas fragment – enlarged now thanks to the anima drained from Mulagat – over Niwalum’s head. The boy struggled but Savannah held him fast. With his mind, Gabriel willed the anima and the smoke from within Savannah to merge with Niwalum’s power. A bright, bluish white light shone above the child’s head, and soon, a whirling black cloud began to traverse the sky. “Below is the town of Carig,” Gabriel told the onlookers. “With this power, all the women in that town will become Ravena. Every woman in Carig, in the whole land, and in the whole world can become a Ravena now!” The dark cloud grew bigger and bigger, filling the sky, and descending on the lowland below. The storm Dakila had long foreseen had finally arrived.


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