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The Slave Prince Chapter 2
He always felt safer in his grandmother’s hut. He believed that his Apô Ugay had some supernatural powers that could protect him.
“Agawe… what happened to you? You look terrible.”
Agawe liked spending time with his Apô Ugay. He learned the art of chewing betel from her. He is fascinated by her dexterity in putting together the betel nut and lime, then wrap them in a betel leaf.
“Agawe… I can sense you are in trouble.”
“Apô… they took Egul this afternoon..”
“Manama….. I knew it… I know they will look for al-langs here … someone in their village died…”
“How did you know, Apô? Did anyone tell you?”
“Agawe, I don’t need someone to tell me when bad things happen… I just know…”
“Egul is dead, Apô.” Agawe sobbed. “I saw how he died… why are they killing al-langs when one of their own dies, Apô?”
The old woman sighed. “It is believed that when a datu dies and goes to the other world, he needs his wordly possession to live comfortably in that world and he also needs a slave to serve him there. Most of the time, it is his own al-lang who should die with him but if before he dies, he chooses to spare his own slave, then the family goes to buy another one from far away villages.”
“You told me that Manama looks after all people… are al-langs not people?”
“Manama is powerful… He knows what He is doing. Trust in Him, Agawe…”
“I am so scared, Apô. I don’t want to die like Egul …” Agawe sobbed uncontrollably.
There was silence as Apô Ugay seemed to struggle with something. Then she took a deep breath before she said. “Let me tell you a story, Agawe…”
Agawe loved his Apô Ugay’s stories. Maybe a story would erase the image of Egul’s death from his mind. He sat on the cot next to his apô. His Apô Ugay had a way with words and Agawe had a vivid imagination.
His Apô Ugay’s story was about herself – when she was a young slave, seventeen years ago.
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“Ugay, my son will marry a young woman. I will present you to the bride as my gift to her. She will become your master. Serve her well. I know she will like you and you will like her,” her old master said.
After the wedding, the young bride said, “I like you Ugay. I want you to think of me as your daughter, not your mistress.”
One day, the news came out that the young wife was pregnant.
“I pray to the anitos that it is a boy,” the overjoyed husband said.
It was one sad day when the baby was born. The mabalian announced, “It’s a boy but there is an ominous black patch on the right side of his face.”
“No! No! Manama, help my baby…” the weak mother cried and prayed to Manama when the mabalian showed the baby to her husband.
“He cannot live,” the husband said and the mabalian was ordered to feed the baby hot ashes from burning coals.
“No, Husband, No…! Please have mercy on our baby…” the mother pleaded for her baby’s life.
But the husband’s order had to be executed. The newborn was fed with hot ashes because it was believed that any deformity or blemish on a newborn brought bad luck to the family so the baby had to die.
After the baby’s death, the young wife was inconsolable.
“Please eat so you will regain your strength,” Ugay begged her mistress who became so ill after her baby’s death.
“Ugay,” she said weakly, “It hurts so much to see my baby die. I don’t want to live anymore.”
“Mistress, you are young, you can still have other babies. I believe your other babies will be unblemished. Just pray to Manama. I know you are hurting too much and I am only your slave but I implore you to eat so that you will not die because when you die, I could die with you…”
The young mistress looked at Ugay and her tears began to flow. “Ugay… help me. I don’t want to feel this pain anymore….”
“Then be strong. I will be here as long as you need me.”
Ugay took care of her young mistress and nursed her back to health.
A month quickly passed.
“Ugay… my husband wanted me to choose a second wife for him,” the young wife said. “I am thinking my sister will become a good second wife.”
So the husband took the sister as his second wife. The husband could marry as many times as he could afford for he was a rich man. The second wife got pregnant but died at childbirth.
Ugay's mistress gladly raised the second wife’s daughter as her own. The husband did not take another wife anymore but he wanted to have children with his first wife. She was afraid because her husband could not promise that the baby would live even when blemished.
In spite of her apprehension, the young wife had to submit to the husband’s wishes so Ugay’s mistress became pregnant again.
On the month that she was due, her mistress asked her, “Ugay, how old is your daughter?”
“She’s fifteen now, Mistress…”
“Are you and your husband well provided?”
“Mistress, your father-in-law has been very good to us. He has allowed us to live in his land unbothered. We can never thank him enough for allowing us to become husband-and-wife.”
The mistress smiled, “You told me you married yourselves in front of the anitos?”
“Yes, mistress… because no tribal leader will marry al-langs…”
“Then you and your husband must be very loyal to my father-in-law…”
“My husband is still his slave but I am yours now… for me you are my only master…”
“Ugay… my father-in-law is old. He could die anytime. His children could drive you away from this land when he dies…”
“What are you saying, mistress?”
“I need you to do something for me… this may happen or may not … but when this happens, you and your husband and your daughter have to leave this place. If nothing happens, forget that we ever talked about this…” she paused, then asked, “Can you do that for me, Ugay?”
“I will do anything for you … you know that,” Ugay said. “I did not go home to my husband and daughter for months just to be with you.”
“I am grateful, Ugay….”
A week before she was to give birth, Ugay’s mistress sent her to the ritual practitioner who was going to assist in her delivery. The practitioners called mabalians were the tribal healers. They helped pregnant women in their deliveries. They healed those who had been hexed but they could also put a hex or a curse on anyone. Ugay presented the mabalian with a brass betel box containing fresh betel leaves, betel nuts, and lime.
Two days later, the mabalian died and she could not help but wonder if the contents of the betel box caused her death.
“Innà is coming to assist me in my delivery,” her young mistress said. “And Ugay, you are going to assist my mother…”
The mother of her mistress came just as soon as her daughter started labor. There was something in the old woman that scared Ugay. She exuded something inexplicable.
“Ugay, when the baby comes out, immediately check his body. If you see a blemish, then you know what to do… I trust you, Ugay,” the mistress said as she struggled with the pains of labor.
When the baby came out, the old woman held it up. It was a boy.
“Manama!” Ugay’s young mistress gasped.
“What..?” her mother asked.
The young mistress sobbed as she stared at the dark patch on the back of the baby.
The mother of the young mistress immediately cut the chord and handed the baby to her daughter. She cried silently as she held the baby close to her chest.
“Goodbye… my son,” she whispered as she handed the baby to Ugay.
Ugay wrapped the baby and went to the window where her husband was waiting with a horse. She gave the baby to him and she slowly climbed down. They left quietly… but when they were a little farther… they rode the horse as fast as it can go. They picked up their daughter waiting at the end of the road and went as far away as possible.
Read Chapter 3
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