Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Siege of Halimhim.

Episode for Mar 16, 2005, Wednesday. Then Jesus said to his disciples:” If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For he that will save his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for my sake, shall find it. For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul? Or what exchange shall a man give for his soul?” - Mat 16:24-26 Finally, brethren, be strengthened in the Lord and in the might of his power. Put you on the armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the deceits of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places. Therefore, take unto you the armour of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day and to stand in all things perfect. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth and having on the breastplate of justice: And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. In all things taking the shield of faith, wherewith you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one. And take unto you the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit (which is the word of God). - Eph 6:10-17 Later that night, the Ravena prince and princess returned to their apartment. Gabriel settled into a chair in a corner, wearing a thoughtful expression on his face. He was unusually quiet, not showing any signs of excitement at all over their imminent wedding. Alwina stood by the doorway looking at him. “Are you all right?” she asked. “We should get some rest now. Tomorrow is our wedding day.” “Go on ahead,” he told her. “I’ll be there shortly.” Not in the least suspicious, she then left her groom and retired to her royal quarters. When he was sure that he was alone, Gabriel rose from his seat and headed straight to his father’s room. No one was there. Then Gabriel knelt down and opened a trapdoor on the floor that only he and Ravenum knew of. Inside was a small wooden box. Gabriel lifted out the box and raised its lid. You’re right, Terong, he thought. There’s still time. Aguiluz’s timing was perfect. True, the Avilans were still exhausted from their last battle. But he had to spur them on while the momentum was still there. Tonight, faith and good leadership had helped them overcome their fears. Now they were charged, he knew they had to make the most of it. For the chance might not come again. As Terong had said, there was still time… but not much. “Attack!” the Sugo cried. And in response, the crowd surged forward. The Mulawin and Perico propelled themselves into the night-sky with Aguiluz leading the way. The flightless Musang, Taguba and humans followed closely on foot. Like an angry bull charging towards the matador that had tormented it for so long, so the Avilans now made their offensive against the Ravena. All night they journeyed. By dawn of the next day, they were within sight of the enemy lair. At this point, a curious phenomenon seized the Mulawin’s attention. Red and green electric bolts from opposite directions were clashing in the sky, causing giant sparks. The green was originating in the direction of Avila; the red was coming from Halimhim. “The red and green lights are fighting,” Dakila observed. Aguiluz soon discovered why. “Look!” he pointed out. “They have their own tree now!” He was seeing the new Ravena tree, glowing from below like a burning bush. Savannah did not possess a Sugo’s sixth sense, but her own cool logic told her that, after liberating Avila, the Mulawin would be heading for Halimhim anytime. She was right, of course. But Ravenum was ready for them. “We have the tree of the Ravena to counter the Mulawin tree’s powers now,” he assured her. Meanwhile, all the women were busy preparing for the royal wedding. The younger ladies gathered around the Princess Alwina to congratulate her. “Say, how did you and Prince Gabriel meet?” one of them asked. Alwina searched within herself for an answer, but she could not find any. “I don’t remember,” she replied. “Oh? How come? He has known you for a long time!” The princess frowned. The face of that Aguiluz flashed before her mind out of the blue. Disturbed, she told the girls, “Please leave me alone for a while.” They only stared at her in bewilderment, so she raised her voice a few notches higher and said, “I said LEAVE ME ALONE!” This time they obeyed. Something loomed in the horizon. Something big was about to happen. No prophet had to warn the women of Halimhim; they all felt it. Yet somehow, they were unafraid. They whispered among themselves about their hunches, and all agreed something was afoot. “Hey,” Savannah scolded them. “Go get yourselves ready!” “Right,” they answered. “The Prince’s wedding.” “Bah!” she spat. “If it’s just that, forget it. You aren’t preparing for a wedding. Prepare for battle! The Mulawin are coming!” Elsewhere, Gabriel and his father were making final arrangements. “I want the place secured,” the former told the latter. “I don’t want those Mulawin interrupting my wedding.” “Don’t worry,” Ravenum answered, and then issued a search-and-destroy order to his army: “If you see a Mulawin, kill him or her at once.” So Gabriel took his bride with him and gave final instructions. Lourdes was standing nearby, gazing at Alwina and wondering. This feels wrong to me, she thought. Soon the Mulawin forces arrived within striking distance. Rasmus knew this place well; he had founded it after all. Aguiluz, Pagaspas and Mulagat were likewise familiar with it. To the others it was quite new: a dreadful realm bearing the gloom of a cemetery, and maybe the God-forsakenness of hell itself. Now the red army of Ravenum met them on the way. It was like a sea of red pouring out of Halimhim’s caverns. The final and bloodiest campaign of them all had begun. Habagat and Bagwis signaled to Aguiluz, “Go find Ravenum. We’ll handle them.” So Aguiluz went on ahead as the others covered for him. Meanwhile, in the building, the wedding ceremony had started. Ravenum was the officiating priest who read the vows to the bride and groom. But the sounds of combat blared in his mind, and he grabbed his head in pain. He turned to the women and said, “Go. You have to welcome some people at the gate of Halimhim.” Then he returned to the couple. “Don’t worry. I alone can stand as witness. Do you, Gabriel, take Alwina as your lawfully wedded wife for better or for worse, in plenty and in poverty, in times of joy and in times sorrow…” Gabriel repeated every word after him, and said, “I do.” Outside, the warriors clashed with a savage fury, impelled by the gods of battle. Kinsmen were pitted against kinsmen, and cherished friends shed each other’s blood. A lover fought his lover, a brother opposed his sister, and a woman faced her best friend. Lino stood facing his grandmother. “I’m not going to fight you,” he told her. “You’re right,” she agreed as other Ravena attacked him. “I’m too old to fight. So I’ll let someone else kill you!” Mulagat and Habagat encountered Linang. “Go,” the father admonished his son. “I don’t want you to see this.” Gus had a rather easier time defeating Lawiswis. He wound a rope around her and said, “Now you can’t get away anymore.” He stole a kiss on her cheek and then ran off. “Yuck,” she said with disgust. “I’m already dizzy. Do you want me to puke also?” Savannah also figured in the combat zone… against Rasmus. She taunted the rather slow warrior, “You’re getting old!” He looked at her calmly. “There’s something better than big weapons like you have there, Savannah,” he warned her, “and that is experience.” Then he sent her rolling over the dust and went on his way towards Ravenum’s headquarters, for he knew where it was. Now the Ravena mother squared off against her bitter opponent, the Queen of the Mulawin. “Don’t you ever get tired of being good?” she asked. “It’s more fun to be evil!” Easy to be evil all right. Veronica knew that too well. But wait until your conscience comes back for a bite! The Mulawin was tired from last night’s struggle, whereas Lourdes was fresh. She lunged forward and gored Veronica with her sword. Veronica mouth fell open and she crumpled to the ground. Aramis saw this. He ran to her side and dared Lourdes to fight him. As they grappled, their eyes met and Lourdes froze. “Why can’t I hurt you?” she asked aloud. But it was a fleeting sensation, and her hostility soon returned. Lourdes wounded Aramis and he fell beside Veronica. “Do you Alwina, take Gabriel as your lawfully wedded husband, for better or for worse, in plenty and in poverty, in times of joy and in times sorrow…” “I do take you…” she said, “… Aguiluz.” The word was out of her mouth before she knew it. Alwina looked terrified into Gabriel’s eyes. But even before he could react, Aguiluz appeared at the doorway. “Alwina, please don’t do this!” he cried. “Kill him!” Ravenum ordered. Gabriel drew his sword and their duel began. The swords of the Sugo clashed, when Aguiluz said to him, “We’re brothers! We should be fighting on the same side instead of against each other!” “You’re right,” the Ravena prince replied. “The question is: On whose side are we going to fight?” After further dueling, Aguiluz was able to seize Gabriel’s sword. He threw this away and his as well, and fought bare-handed. Soon, Aguiluz floored Gabriel. “You know what the oracle said,” Gabriel spoke. “Only one of us Sugo will survive; the other will be killed by the other. So kill me now lest I kill you.” “I am not a Ravena,” Aguiluz answered. “I will not kill my own brother.” Bagwis and Aviona advanced through the enemy ranks into the same building they had seen Aguiluz enter. “You are like pesky insects,” Ravenum said. “Swat one and two take its place!” He bade Alwina dispose of them, and she dutifully obeyed. Aviona tried to remind her that they were friends, but Alwina scorned the thought. “I have no friends among your people! I hate you all!” she declared, tossing Aviona to the floor and turning on Bagwis. “I’m your father!” he told her. But Alwina did not believe him, and instead pinned him to the wall and held a large dagger to his open throat. She noticed something in his belt. “What’s that you’re hiding in there?” she asked, taking out the green binhi. She grinned wickedly. “Stop!” a voice cried out. Ravenum turned to see it was Rasmus. “So my prodigal son has returned!” he said mockingly. Rasmus looked at him. “Have you forgotten, Ravenum? It was you who said I was not your son.” “You’re right. You are not my son. So I won’t be sorry to kill you!” Then Rasmus assailed him, swiping blows here and there but missing narrowly. But now Ravenum was about to show the power that hade made him the father of an evil race. He held out an open palm toward Rasmus, who was suddenly paralyzed. He could not move, and Ravenum was draining away his strength. “If only you hadn’t been a weakling!” he said. “You would be beside me now conquering the world!” Rasmus knew that the end had come for him. His body had no more fight left in it, but his spirit did. He uttered his final words with difficulty. “If the price of the world is my soul, then I’m happy to tell you this: You cannot have my soul in exchange for ruling the world!” This last act of defiance angered Ravenum exceedingly. He drove his other hand into Rasmus’ belly and ripped it apart. The Mulawin fell lifeless. Aguiluz had witnessed it. “Bastard!” he shouted at Ravenum, running towards them on impulse. But Ravenum seized him by the neck. “Why do you feel sorry for Rasmus’ death? He was a weakling! He was useless to everyone!” “He wanted to change!” Aguiluz groaned. “He was our ally and he wanted to start a new life!” His father tightened his hold. “Don’t forget that you’re in MY territory, Sugo. This is where I draw power from. And do not be a hypocrite, Aguiluz. Do not hide the darkness inside you. There is no difference between the blood in your veins and that in mine. You are meant to be a Ravena just like me! You cannot fight your own destiny!” Then he sucked his son’s soul out of him, and blew an evil spirit into its place. Aguiluz’s eyes glowed red, and then he fell unconscious at Ravenum’s feet. “Now I will end this battle,” declared the victor, raising his arm above him.
 

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