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The Slave Prince Chapter 13
Agawe Becomes a Free Man
True enough, before the sun set that day, Siawan’s men came ready to defend Ubo’s plantation. But they did not only come to defend. That night the houses of Tiyana and Nole burned to the ground and both were nowhere to be found the next day.
With their leaders gone, the mutineers admitted defeat. They came to Ubo or were forced to come, Agawe thought.
“I will not tolerate rebellion in my land. You have to leave my land at once or suffer my wrath.”
Ubo’s half-sisters pleaded for their husbands and his aunt pleaded for her sons. “How can I trust you now after what you have done?” Ubo asked them.
“It’s only Tiyana who persuaded us to do this. We will not even think of it ourselves if he did not keep urging us…” they reasoned.
Apô Abet whispered to Ubo. He took a deep breath and after a few minutes, “This is my decision… you destroyed my plantation and we suffered a loss. I asked you to leave my land but you want to stay. You can stay and work in the plantation again but you will receive only half of your usual pay until we recover the loss from the damage you caused. If you don’t want that, you leave my land!”
Their wives agreed while their husbands hang their heads in defeat.
“Another thing,” Ubo continued, “You will all work under Agawe. He will take Manteben’s place in the plantation…”
Agawe could not believe his ears. He stood still, hardly breathing.
Abanna, one of Ubo’s brothers-in-law asked incredulously, “You will make us work under the al-lang?”
Ubo deliberately said, “Agawe is no longer a slave starting today. He is a free man now. I am giving him his freedom. Anybody who calls him al-lang shows no respect and will answer to me.”
Agawe did not understand how he felt. He knelt on the mud floor and said, “Thank you! Thank you, Tiyo!!!”
That night, Agawe prayed to Manama and looked up to the stars, thanking heaven for his good fortune. Good fortune, he thought. Does it mean I no longer bring bad luck to people or to myself? I am not al-lang anymore but I still have the black ominous patch on my back – the blemish that brings bad luck. What will Apô Abet think if she knows I could be her grandson? What will Tiyo Ubo think? What if he knows I could be his son?
The next few days were peaceful. Ibuk died and was buried. Agawe hoped it was the last death in the village. Siawan’s men had left the night Agawe became a free man. He headed the workers in the plantation and everything went well.
The Wedding Arrangement
The moon was almost full and Ayong was getting nervous as it neared.
“Until now, the agreement is still on… Siawan still expects the “pamalaye” to take place. Agawe, help me… I don’t want to get married…”
“Don’t worry. Apô Abet said she will do something to get out of the arrangement…”
A day before the full moon, preparations were done for the pamalaye the next day. Ayong was so distraught but he did not want to infuriate his Uncle.
At day break, they took off to Siawan’s place. Ubo, Ayong, and Agawe rode on three horses while one carabao pulled a sled where Apô Abet, Maeng, and two kitchen staffs were seated. Several men were on foot. Another carabao pulled a sled loaded with gifts such as agongs, tinalak, swords with ornate-designed handles, and food fit for a king.
There was so much festivities in the air when they came to Siawan’s house. The gifts and food were unloaded and set before Siawan, his wife, and their son, Gayon. Agawe saw that Ayong was far from happy especially when Miting, the girl whom he had to marry was ushered in.
This girl could not be Madallay’s daughter, Agawe thought. She was not half as pretty as Madallay. True enough, the girl was the daughter of Siawan’s second wife who died at childbirth so Madallay raised Miting as her own.
As everyone was seated on the floor and engrossed in the conversation, Apô Abet casually asked Miting to hand over the dish in front of her. Miting obliged and handed Apô Abet the porcelain bowl of chicken stew. The old woman took one look and slightly pushed Miting’s hand away, “On second thought, I don’t think I want chicken now…”
Agawe thought nothing of it.
Shamed and Dishonored
As the details of Ayong’s service to the family were being discussed, Ayong turned to Agawe with pleading eyes. Just then, somebody shrieked and promptly took Ayong’s troubles out of Agawe’s mind.
The women ran to and fro and brought blankets to cover Miting who was half-crying and half-screaming. Madallay pulled her inside covering her all the way.
Everybody stood up wondering what the ruckus was about. Agawe was stunned when Gayon raged at Apô Abet. “You did this to my sister! I saw you touch her! You want to shame her and our family!” he screamed as he approached menacingly. Agawe quickly stood in front of Apô Abet.
Gayon stopped in his tracks and stared at Agawe with a hand on his sword. Agawe’s hand went to his sword as he stared back at the seething Gayon.
“Stop this!! Gayon, what are you doing to our guests?!!” Siawan screamed at his son. “Get out! Right now!”
Gayon slowly backed off while his eyes never left Agawe. “Boso!” he spat as he called them witches, then disappeared inside.
Siawan was profuse in his apologies while Ubo’s party prepared to leave for home. Siawan refused to take any of the gifts and sent them all back.
It was a disaster as far as Miting or Siawan’s household was concerned. Custom had it that a woman who bleeds in front of men had shamed herself for life and no man in his right mind would marry her. That woman would never be seen in public ever.
They trekked back home in silence. Though he was relieved that Ayong did not have to marry that girl, Agawe thought that Gayon was probably right. Agawe played in his mind what he saw Apô Abet did. It was her. She saved Ayong from marrying that girl.
When they reached home, Ubo unceremoniously asked his mother what she did, “Innà, andig lumo no?”
Apô Abet replied, “I did not do anything! That boy is just looking for someone to blame for their shame…”
“Innà, you may have made Siawan our enemy.”
“I did not do anything... if they consider us their enemy, then so be it!”
Ubo left without saying a word.
Ayong whispered to his Apô Abet, “Apô, thank you for doing that for me… I was worried you’ll let me marry that ugly girl..”
“Hayy… ni Apô ko…” the old woman tousled her grandson’s hair, smiling.
“You were so brave out there… that Gayon had no chance with you…” Ayong proudly said.
“How sure are you? That man is intimidating…”
Three days later, they heard the news that Miting poisoned herself and died. They were informed that Gayon vowed to avenge his sister’s death.
Agawe Goes Back Home
As the days passed, Agawe felt more and more that Ubo and Maeng were his parents. There were times when he was ready to risk everything just to let them know that their son’s home, especially on days when Maeng looked sad.
But what if he was wrong? Or even if he was right, he knew Ubo would not hesitate to kill him because of his black patch which could bring bad luck. But so far, all he brought this family was good fortune. The plantation was doing well under his supervision.
One day, he reached a decision. He would go back home to ask his Apô Ugay the whole story.
Ubo at first refused to let Agawe go back home but after Apô Abet talked to him, he relented with the condition that he had to be back as soon as possible.
Agawe agreed and prepared for his journey. On the day he was to leave, Ubo lent him a horse to ride back home. Agawe was so happy. It will make his trip home a lot easier and faster.
“Can I go with you, Agawe,” Ayong asked.
“No!” Ubo snapped. “It’s dangerous for you two to travel together. It’s best if Agawe go alone.”
“Dangerous?” Ayong asked.
“Yes… Gayon clearly blames us for Miting’s death. Some of our people have seen him nearby with his al-langs. I don’t want you to run into him. It is always easier for one person to escape the enemies than for two. It’s distracting to have to think of the safety of the other.”
Agawe felt bad about the death of Miting but he did not know whom to blame. The more he thought about it, the more he blamed the tribal custom. Life would have been easier if they were free from these shackling traditions.
Agawe had some food for his trip and some gifts for his Innà Lungkayan and Apô Ugay.
When the sun became unbearable, Agawe decided to follow a trail on the edge of the forest. He rode a short distance when he heard something. Agawe used to track deers so he can pick up unusual sounds. He got off his horse, knelt and put his ear to the ground. It was unmistakable, horses’ hooves coming his direction. He got back on his horse and steered him into the thick forest. As the hooves got nearer, Agawe prodded the horse to go deeper into the thick shrubbery. Just as they were hidden from view, the horse riders came through. From where he was, he could see a richly dressed man on the lead with two obviously al-langs following him.
It could be Gayon, Agawe thought. He decided to wait for a few minutes before he moved. The thick forest would slow the horse down, so he chose to follow the trail again.
Read Chapter 14
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