Interlude 1: Stirs in Kasanaan
“So they have gathered? Apolaki and Anitun, are protecting the kids. Abba then is serious in finding a replacement for Dumakulem. Such a shame that we can’t enter the sacred ritual space but keep an eye on the area Hukloban. We will get the opportunity during the hike. Soon we will have news on what happened during the ritual, see who among the kids will exhibit powers that would be beneficial for us” Sitan’s booming voice can be heard in the realm of Kasanaan, the Underworld of the archipelago. He was talking to his shapeshifter follower, Hukloban.
Like Abba, Sitan was wearing a robe but his is the color of the night. The robe was parted in the middle, showing his chest and black loincloth. Ringlets on his arms and ankles were the color of blood, like glowing fire against his brown skin. His wavy gray hair reached the middle of his back. His pointy nose complemented his serious eyes and arrogant sneer and he was holding a black staff on his right hand as he sits on his throne. As the realm of tortured, doomed souls, centuries of blood and suffering can be felt on the red hue which surrounds the large hall where Sitan’s throne is. The hall was made of black quartz, mostly empty except for the presence of Sitan and his four followers. Outside, the structure looked like obelisks protruding towards a black sky from a large piece of floating rock. At the bottom of the hall was where endless cries can be heard from astray human souls.
After his war with Abba who had taken the sky realm, Sitan as the loser bitterly accepted the task to rule the underworld. To this day he still wants the sky realm to be under his control, for the other gods and goddesses to follow his command. He planned for centuries and now his plan is starting to come to fruition. He recruited Dumakulem but the god’s loyalty to Abba is a diamond that he can't breakthrough. With the gods and goddesses not taking his side, he needed strong allies, needed the awakening of the kids to his advantage. After the kids manifest their power, he’ll make sure to bring them to his side, to fight or corrupt the other gods and goddesses. It’s been centuries before this awakening happened but he expects the kids to be powerful like the previous awakened ones. He was on the council of the gods and goddesses but Abba made it a point that he will not partake in the creation of challenges for the kids. Dumakulem was of the sky-realm and only those from sky-realm can plan what the kids have to go through.
“I will make sure to put the plan in motion when the hike starts. Each kid will be on their own and with Anitun’s boiling hate right now and Apolaki’s overconfidence, they won’t notice the black seeds we planted along the way. These seeds are like iron filings to a magnet. As soon as they sense the presence of an awakened, they’ll attach themselves to the kid and that’s when the corruption of their souls will start. I made sure that the distance between the black seeds is ample enough for the overseeing gods not to detect the black aura.” Hukloban answered. She’s the shapeshifter who can take any animal, plant, spirit, or human form. Right now in the presence of Sitan, she’s sporting her spirit form, a formless black smoke with no distinct features except for blood-red eyes. “Of course, there is a chance for the awakened to fight the black seed but with them alone, they’ll be as fragile as a baby.” She continued.
Sitan’s smug face showed a triumphant smile. “The gods and goddesses are in fear right now because of what they all think as the death of Dumakulem. No one understands yet why and how it happened. Quarrel among the gods can happen but nothing has come to this point, a god's death. Abba is all-seeing but of course, there are things that gods like me can hide from him. I know he is suspecting me right now but I’ll hold him off until I get the kids to be on my side. Soon, we will have the sky-realm to ourselves and we will cast down the other gods and goddesses along with Abba down to this underworld, a realm no one really wants to be in. Have Mangaguay secured the bone dust of Ulilang?” Sitan asked. Ulilang is the snake serpent who was killed by Abba during a battle. Its resurrection would be an addition to their weaponry.
“She’s collecting the last pieces, the last time I visited her, she’s near completion. I am sure that soon enough, we will hear the good news.” Hukloban answered.
“Good, until then let’s keep it low until we have all the strong allies on our side,” Sitan said. After the ritual, they’ll soon discover his child but they won’t be able to exclude her from the journey. Fate on his side, who would have thought that his kid will be among the ones with a chance to replace Dumakulem. And Dumakulem, the god did not expect his demise when he visited the mountain god on his abode.
“Sitan, an unexpected visit. You rarely leave the underworld and if you do, you prefer it not be in the presence of gods like me.” Dumakulem said. His shaggy hair carelessly falls to his strong and broad shoulders. The loincloth he’s wearing is said to be enchanted and helps him transform to any mountain animal he chooses. He is a strong and skillful hunter who has a bow and arrow for a weapon. His weapon is lethal to the gods and goddesses.
“Dumakulem, it’s been so long. The last war, ravaged your mountains, and of course Abba chose your realm to be the battlefield among us, expected as most of your realm is unexplored and unreachable to humans.” Sitan answered.
“I sense that you’re implying that Abba disrespected my realm.” As he said those words, Dumakulem reaches for the bow on his back. ” I am not playing your games Sitan, begone now.” He continued.
“Dumakulem, I come in peace and mean no harm. Don’t point your arrow towards me or else I’ll be forced to retaliate.” Sitan said, his raspy voice sounding far too dangerous than he intended to be.
“I’ll say it again, I am not playing your game. We’re no friends Sitan. I don’t want to hear what you’re about to say”, Dumakulem stressed.
“Such a shame. I thought of you first because I thought you might have wanted revenge for the mountains that are no longer in existence because of Abba. ” Sitan said and he said his words, darkness enveloped him and Dumakulem.
Dumakulem’s bow and arrows are emitting golden light just like his body. He’s ready to fight Sitan. He reached for his one of his arrows but as soon as he held it in his hand, the arrow crumbled to black dust. The black dust soon settled inside his skin. He can hear Sitan’s mocking laugh.
“Centuries Dumakulem, I have prepared for centuries. You gods who stayed on your lane, watching humans devour your creations are getting weaker and weaker as the humans ravaged your realms without recognizing your presence, without respecting your traditions. But humans feed me for centuries with their vile, evil actions. You can’t defeat me.” Sitan said.
Dumakulem heard the whisper of his mountains. “Danger all of them are screaming. Escape Dumakulem.” But Dumakulem did not take heed, his mountain crest glowed and his eyes emitted a white bright light as he took another arrow. The arrow did not disintegrate this time. Swoosh! One arrow went straight to Sitan but before it reached him, the gold arrow turned to black dust which soon flew to where Dumakulem was and the black specks of dust once again entered his skin.
Sitan threw a red ball of crackling electricity towards Dumakulem. The red electricity met one of Dumakulem’s arrows and powerful blasts can be heard. Dumakulem hurled endless arrows towards Sitan, by now he expected that Abba should be here to stop Sitan but that did not happen. As he and Sitan exchanged attacks with him and his endless arrows and Sitan’s red electricity, Dumakulem sensed his powers weakening, he cannot stop the black specks of dust coming from his arrows from entering his body.
" Defeat a god by using his own power against him. Do you feel it now Dumakulem. The black specks are from your arrows and from my power. Soon you’ll be consumed by my power but you have no choice but to defend yourself. Abba will not be here. He cannot sense this fight as this is my space. A new space I created unknown to the all-seeing God you adore so much.” Sitan said. Victory is his today.
Dumakulem, such a waste, now an unrecognized, not too strong god as he was before, Sitan thought. People forgetting the existence of the gods and goddesses wanes the vibrant power the deities had before.