The Slave Prince Chapter 8
Agawe Works for Datu Ubo
“Manteben, since you are the eldest son in the third family, I will assign you to do Masami’s job. You will supervise the workers.”
Manteben grinned from ear to ear. “I’ve been telling you that Masami could not be trusted. I am right!”
“Manteben, you know I hate traitors… I trust you are unlike Masami or Anson?”
“You can trust me, Adi.”
“Agawe here will work in the plantation. Teach him how to do work here.” Then he called out to the workers, “You there… is everything alright with you?”
“Yes…” everybody nodded.
As they left the plantation, Ubo gave instructions to Agawe, “You will work in the plantation. You will tell me everything that is going on with the workers and especially Manteben. Gain his trust. I want to know if that one is loyal to me. Can you do that?”
That afternoon, Agawe and Apô Abet negotiated the narrow trail through hills and brooks to the next village. Apô Abet sat on a sled with the gifts she brought for the girl’s family. Agawe rode on top of the carabao. One escort was on horseback.
They travelled quietly. It was past noon but the weather was fine. It was a breezy day. Maybe it was the wind that made Agawe ask, “Apô… does Tiyo Ubo and Tiya Maeng have other children?”
Agawe thought Apô did not hear him because she did not reply. He let it go.
They reached the village of Sibulan after a long trek and stopped near a large bamboo house next to a rice field.
Agawe Meets Gayon
They were met by two men who led them up the house. At the long bamboo porch, an older man stood waiting for them. With him was a young man about Agawe’s age. Agawe could see they were richly dressed.
“Andin ag ulitn no?” The man asked Apô Abet the reason for her visit as they were ushered inside the large bamboo house.
As Agawe was about to enter, the man stared at him and asked, “Sadan ni? Apô no?” He wanted to know who Agawe was and if he was Apô Abet’s grandson.
To Agawe’s surprise, Apô Abet said yes.
The man named Siawan introduced his wife Madallay and their son Gayon to Apô Abet and Agawe. Gayon’s eyes swept him from head to foot.
Agawe thought that the young man was a brat.
The man of the house offered fresh betel nuts, betel leaves, and lime for “mamâ” but Apô Abet refused saying that they would not stay long.
“We are here to inform you about our intention to ask the hand of your daughter in marriage for our young Ayong. Ayong is my grandson and I have taken care of him since his parents died when he was just a baby.” Apô Abet explained.
“How did his parents die?”
“I believe they offended the anitos…” Apô replied. “I brought gifts for you and your household from Ubo and we are willing to give a “sablag” fit for you and your daughter. If you accept the gifts I brought today, then we will be back for “pamalaye” and we will bring more gifts.
“What have you brought for us?”
Apô Abet turned to Agawe and he unfolded the gifts in front of the man. There were colorful tinalak cloths, bright colored beads, and a sword with brass handle. The man pulled the sword from the sheath half-way, pushed it back in and laid it on the floor. “I am glad you and Ubo chose my daughter to be part of your family.” He turned to his wife who sat next to him in silence throughout the conversation. “Madallay, what do you think?”
“I have no problem with Ubo’s family. They are good people,” the woman called Madallay replied. Agawe was drawn to Madallay. She looked beautiful but there was a sadness about her.
“So it’s settled. We come back in the full moon for the pamalaye,” Apô Abet stood up. “Agawe, let’s go..”
Agawe scrambled to his feet.
Agawe sat in the now empty of gifts sled with Apô Abet. Apô Abet sat there chewing her “mama” and occasionally spitting red on the road.
“Agawe, you asked if Ubo and Maeng have other children…”
So she heard me, Agawe thought. “Yes, Apô… I wonder…”
“Agawe, I have to warn you … never talk about this in front of Ubo and Maeng. Yes… they have a son…”
Apô Abet seemed anguished so Agawe did not pursue the subject although he wanted so much to ask where the son was.
After a deep breath, Apô Abet continued, “When Maeng gave birth to the boy, the mabalian took him away… and we never found him.”
Agawe could not believe his ears! “The mabalian took him away? How? Why?”
“No one knows. Maeng had a difficult delivery. She almost died so she did not know what happened. Agawe… remember, do not talk about this anymore, do you understand?”
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Agawe Blamed for Death
That night, they were at Masami’s house where his body was laid in the middle of the house flanked by his family and the wailers. The body was dressed in his best clothes. Food and drink were partaken while his family and friends talked of his virtues.
Agawe wondered if plotting to kill a half-brother was a virtue. They were all seated on the floor when the mother of Masami approached Ubo, “We will bury him tomorrow beneath this house.”
Ubo nodded. The woman turned to Agawe and without warning, “You, you brought this upon my son… madat to gimokod no…” The other women pulled her to a corner as she repeatedly screamed that Agawe possessed an evil spirit.
Agawe did not know what to do. Ubo turned to him and whispered, “Go down the house.”
Agawe stood looking up to the bright moon and his mind wandered. He was jolted out of his thoughts when a figure suddenly appeared next to him. His hand flew to his sword.
“Don’t fear. I just want to offer you this coffee. It’s cold down here,” a woman said.
“Who are you?” Agawe asked.
“I am the sister of Masami’s wife. I am helping out here.” She handed the cup to Agawe.
“Thank you,” Agawe said as the woman climbed up the stairs.
It was a cold night and the coffee smelled so good. He was about to drink when he remembered the purple stone. He moved to the side of the house and fished the stone from the pouch.
As he laid the hot cup on his open palm over the stone, he again did not feel the heat of the cup and he was amazed. Suddenly, the coffee bubbled over like soap suds.
Agawe jerked and the cup fell from his hand. His other hand gripped the stone so hard as he moved to the bottom of the stairs and looked up. The woman stood there and darted away when she saw Agawe.
His heart racing, he bounded up the stairs but Apô Abet appeared at the door. She climbed down and motioned Agawe to go back down.
“You did not drink the coffee?”
“It was poisoned… “Agawe said, still shaken.
Apô Abet stared at Agawe, took a deep breath and said, “I know you can take care of yourself. Where’s the cup?”
“Over there.” They walked to where the cup was and Apô bent down to look at it. She slowly stood up and spat on the ground.
“Come up with me. We’ll go get Ubo and we’re going home.”
Apô asked Agawe to stand by the door while she walked to where Ubo was. He saw her whisper to Ubo, then slowly walked to the woman who gave Agawe the coffee. She was seated in one corner with the other women. Apô Abet gently patted the woman’s hair who looked up scared. Apô Abet smiled faintly and walked to the door. Even before Apô reached the door, the woman shrieked and everyone ran to her. Apô Abet, Ubo, Maeng, and Agawe casually got down the stairs.
On their way home, Ayong came running to meet them. “Anson is very ill. His wife is waiting for Uncle to ask help because the mabalian cannot do anything.”
“And she thinks we can do something?” Maeng asked with a trace of annoyance.
“I will take care of this,” Apo Abet said. Ubo, Maeng, go with Ayong through the kitchen door so she won’t see you. Agawe, come with me. We will take this woman home.”
Read Chapter 9
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