The Slaying of the War Crab

The twin moons, which rose anew from the Eastern Sea, reminded Uway that he had failed to fulfill his purpose five rice harvests ago, that he must return to do what he had not done—what he was not able to do. On the day that he faced the War Crab, he was a warrior. He rushed at his adversary armed with his spear and the courage of one that had bested many warriors and war-beasts alike. He had thought that he could have won.

Though it was armored and large, the Crab moved fast and its strikes swept everything around itself—felling trees, devastating homes, and crushing the beached boats underneath its weight. Uway moved faster. Leaping high above and ducking below in search of gaps in the Crab’s carapace, he stabbed at every crevice, every crack, every sign of weakness however small, until the Crab bled its blue blood over the sandy soil. Although many of his stabs found their mark, none were deep enough. 

They battled from morning till twilight. Under the noon-light heat, Uway felt a soreness in his chest and the dryness of his lips. He moved slower. Jumped lower. Yet, he chose to ignore those and did again what he did hours before, but it was him whose cracks and crevices had begun to show. He lacked the speed to move out of the Crab’s strikes in time. The Crab’s spikes scraped him as he ducked. Its claws hammered too close to where Uway was. In his attempt to land after a jump, his knees buckled, twisting his joints and muscles. Still, he went on. But he did not make assaults anymore, for everything he did was to avert the Crab’s attacks.

Both Uway and the Crab still stood as the sun set beneath the mountains to the West; both wounded, both injured. Uway knew however, through his own blood weakening his grip on the spear-shaft, that he was on the brink of his death. There was no victory to be had that day. At least, not for Uway. The Crab retreated, sinking beneath the seashore waves. Uway sunk too, underneath his own weight, his own exhaustion, his own failure. Before he lost his consciousness and his thoughts, he saw the twin moons rising over the calm sea, uncaring that he was close to death.

On the next day, and the many days after that, Uway was a healer. His profession needed him to be a competent healer, using plants and spells and sorcery to heal most injuries and wounds. He was not first into the fray. Fisherfolk and sea-side farmers battled the Crab first as it emerged on the shores near their communes and farmlands, felling coconuts, palms, and other fruit trees. Though none of them were warriors by trade, they battled the Crab for two days using nets, hooks, and other things never meant to be weapons. It was only on the third day when Uway arrived. 

Many had died in the two days. A few succumbed to the cold seashore wind as Uway battled the crab on the third day, and a few more did so on the fourth. As Uway performed aid, healing wounds and severing limbs and appendages that were beyond what he was able to remedy—seeing that if the battle had continued for just a few seconds more, he would have had the same fate—he realized that his greatness was artificial, that he too was just a man. Despite this, he knew he had to battle the War Crab again. He needed to.

And so, he learned new magic. What he knew of healing he made better, and from his peers he learned how to borrow the strength of nature and the souls of the powerful dead. As he had little affinity to magic, five rice harvests was not enough time for mastery. He knew he had to augment what he knew with his skills of the spear and what courage he had left. When the time came for the twin moons to rise again, he made his journey to return.

On the day he returned, he was informed that the elders were meeting. The elders communed in the stilted longhouse of the village chief, with a roof curved like the profile of a boat. Even from outside, a debate could be heard. Uway intended not to listen, but he did hear.

“The only reason that warrior survived is because he was made to live! That mercy was a message to us!”

It is often said that oral curses were most effective. A victim may choose to close their eyes, but they can never shut their ears. Though Uway wanted to enter the longhouse by the assembly of elders—to announce his arrival to the community—he chose not to climb up. He was familiar with the longhouse. Five rice harvests ago, he was called into the same longhouse by the chief, for the chief’s daughter was among those who first braved the Crab. And it was the left arm of the Chief’s daughter that Uway first severed over those days.

He knew where to enter where the crowd wouldn’t see him, but the chief’s servants did. Upstairs and inside, he was made to be comfortable and was offered brewed cocoa sweetened with palm sugar. An older servant, who had come from where the elders were, greeted him welcome and relayed that the chief knew of his arrival. 

Uway did not wait long. The debate died down and the elders exited, walking back into their homes to prepare for their midday meal. He had expected the old chief, but it was the daughter who greeted him and urged him to talk over a shared meal. 

“Father had died two rice harvests after the Crab. His responsibilities are now my own, as are his properties.”

“And his problems, it seems.”

“And his problems, too.”

They did not speak while eating. Though, at the end of their meal, it was the daughter who spoke the first words.

“You have a good sense of timing, Sir. We had just been discussing… past events.”

“I had just speculated, but you folk seem sure that the Crab would return.”

“We aren’t sure about the Crab, Sir. And we pray that we’d see no more of that creature. But what we are sure of is that in a few days we would begin harvesting from our replanted coconuts. It took five rice harvests for the saplings to mature and bear fruit, and only now could we see profit from them. A perfect time to ruin us.”

“You talk as if there would be villainy involved.”

“Villainy? You could call it that.”

Only as the daughter stared at Uway that Uway remembered her name: Vista. The old chief was praying and crying—invoking her name to be saved by some spirit or ancestor—as Uway severed her arm and sewed her wound shut. But Vista did not cry as her father did. Her tears did fall because of pain, but it was not sadness or mourning that showed through her eyes. It was anger. And it was the same anger that Uway saw as Vista stared at him. Uway knew, however, that this anger was not directed at him. It was deep, buried.

“Even before the Crab’s attack, many had wanted to take our land from us. Father denied all of them. This was our land, and it was our only way to earn a living.

“The last who wanted our land was some rich and connected aristocrat from the new city, and with him was an old, robed foreigner. Of course, the offer for our land was generous but Father and the community refused. 

“Right before we made our harvest, the Crab attacked. We knew what it was, from the old stories during the war. We were afraid. But we were more afraid of losing our lives. So, foolish as we were, we tried to kill it in ways we knew how. Turns out we did not know how to kill it, and as we lay injured and dying, the Crab fell our trees and ate our produce.”

Defeat was in Vista’s voice by the end, and she was silent afterwards. Though Uway listened, he was not stirred by the story. He had heard it many times before. The true villain was often clothed in the vestments of the rich and the skin of a man, but there was nothing he could have done about that. He was one man, armed only with a spear. He has no power beyond that. What he could do was kill the beast, the untrue beast, and he chose to see only that adversary. For Uway, there was only the Crab. That reason, however, was enough for Uway to stay.

Through an agreement, Uway was made to stay in Vista’s longhouse until the Crab was dealt with. Uway’s quarters faced the Eastern sea, with wide windows to let the sea-breeze in. But that night, as he slept, the twin-moons rose. The light of the twin-moons crept into the open windows of his room, shining a bright light onto his closed eyes, and projecting its presence into his dream.

Like how the twin-moons invaded Uway’s dream, so too did the Crab. In his dream however, he was weak. Though he stood his ground and pointed his spear towards his adversary, his resistance did not last. His arms bled. His feet gave in to his weight as the Crab walked towards him. Uway did not hear the sea-breeze nor the creaking of the Crab’s carapace anymore, for he was deafened by his own heartbeat and his own labored breathing. He did not know what to do, and he became afraid—afraid that he can’t do anything. Using his spear in place of his legs, digging the butt-end into the ground, he tried to crawl away. But his spear broke. The ebon hardwood shaft shattered as he dug the iron ferrule into the sandy soil.

A shadow cast over Uway as the Crab towered before and over him, and the shadow grew larger and darker as the Crab raised one of its claws to crush Uway. The Crab was on top of him. Armed only with the spearhead, he forced himself on his knee to face the Crab, challenging it with insults and screams. There was, however, no more bravery left in Uway. While his right hand held the spearhead, he forced himself to crawl backwards with his left, dragging the rest of his body. No strength was to be found in his legs. But there was pain. As the Crab pierced Uway’s left-leg with its front appendage, all coherent thoughts left Uway. 

There was only pain. There was only fear. Uway cried as he screamed, writhing from the pain of his injured leg, but unable to move, unable to escape. With his every attempt to move, the wound on his leg tore, spewing blood all over the sand until all strength left Uway’s body. No more could be done. Uway wondered through his tears if he could have been tougher, stronger, better. But such thoughts were nothing. The last tears fell as the Crab’s claws came crashing down into Uway.

He awoke crying, as he had been in his dream. The twin-moons were no more, however. In its place was the first light of the morning and the crows of the roosters kept around the longhouse. Sweat dampened the bed and pillow he slept on, and the devastated state of the blankets and sheets relayed that he had struggled in his sleep. Uway did not notice these at first, however.

He leapt up from the bed to check the integrity of his spear and, as he caressed the shaft with his hands and examined the grain of the wood, he saw that the spear was in the same condition since before he slept. But he knew that dreams were magic, and that they meant something. What he did not know was if that dream was a prophecy or an illusion.

To regain his bearings and cool himself, Uway went outside the longhouse and walked through the plantation and along the shore. He swam to make himself forget. When he headed back, he witnessed a dying coconut beetle—perhaps toyed by a rooster prior: its wings torn, some of its legs removed, and its guts opened—being taken by an army of red ants as the beetle clawed the soil in resistance.

A messenger boat arrived later that morning. The message was from the same buyer five rice harvests ago, expressing his intent to visit in two days and perhaps agree upon a deal with the community. Vista had the message announced to the residents, not only to tell them to gather on the day but to prepare them for what would come afterwards. 

“I’d need you to be by my side on that day, Sir, but not as you are.”

“What do you mean, Miss?”

“I need you to set your spear aside, just for that day, and pretend to be my personal servant. You’d need to follow me around until I tell you otherwise.”

“I can do that, Miss, but I don’t know why you would make me do that.”

“You’re a hunter, aren’t you? Can you make yourself vanish, and stalk even someone well-versed in magic?”

“Yes, I can do that, Miss, but I still don’t follow you.”

“Is it true, what people say, that mage recognizes mage?”

“Yes, Miss.”

For any great beast to be controlled, especially those bred for use in conflict, required the magic and efforts of a beast-master. Mastery over beasts is a difficult and expensive magic to learn. Only foreign mages and sorcerers offer such services. And an old foreigner did come two days later. The buyer, dressed in foreign clothes and artificially made tall with his heeled shoes and tall-hat, came before him, of course.

It was often the host which greets the guest first, but Vista did not do so. She faced the man-with-the-hat and spoke greetings with no welcome. Although, she did try to hide her anger in the best way she knew how. 

“Why so gloomy, Vista dear?”

“I don’t intend to be friendly with you today, Sir. I suggest we continue on to business immediately.”

Offended, the man-with-the-hat responded with a smirk. He whispered something to the old foreigner that had been following him before turning to and following Vista into the longhouse. Vista also pretended to give a task to Uway but only whispered the words: Report to us afterwards.

Uway pretended to go somewhere to accomplish a task. He made his presence blend with the palms and coconuts and sea breeze that, while he was still visible, he was almost imperceivable from the bark of trees and the sound of the palm leaves swaying in the wind. In that state, he tracked the foreigner.

And the foreigner was easy to track. All things radiated magic, whether living or not. Trees and shrubs, the soil, animals, and even humans who have no control over or knowledge of the use of magic radiated it, and thus all things that had magic perceived it. For humans, those that didn’t know it sensed it as ‘something different’ with a person. Such ‘difference’ was often met with mistrust. So, people who have control over magic hid their powers to not be met with a judgement that the unaware or unlearned would have given them unjustly. But to those who knew of mage-craft, a void was often the sign of a sorcerer who was trying to hide.

Near the shore, Uway caught up with the foreigner who was heading for the sea. Alone, the foreigner shed his guise and revealed his true power. In his hand he materialized a wooden staff from thin air and struck the sand, muttering strange spells as the sea parted before him—like an invisible hand digging through a pile.

Though Uway did not understand what he was hearing, he knew enough to know that those were words of magic, and that the foreigner was much more powerful and more learned than he was. Still, he needed to know what the foreigner was doing. He could have projected his senses to the foreigner’s stream of magic, but he might have made mistakes and let himself be known. Instead, he casted his own stream of magic, much weaker, parallel and lagging behind that of the foreigner’s. Uway followed, dodging and stopping to avoid being intercepted by the foreigner’s stream which was turning and circling in erratic ways. 

There in the depths, where the warmth of sunlight could not penetrate, the foreigner stopped and connected with something—something big, and powerful. Uway could almost hear the words out of the foreigner’s mouth underneath the sea as the foreigner poured more of his power into his stream, awakening that which had been contacted. As the thing underneath the waves awoke and begun to move, Uway withdrew his senses from the depths. He knew what it was. 

Hours had passed when Uway awakened in his body. The foreigner withdrew his power in haste and turned himself back into a void of magic presence and rushed back to where the man-with-the-hat was. They then rode southward on their carriage. 

Vista and the elders of the community stayed in the longhouse though, and Uway heard their discussion from outside. He rushed inside, greeted by everyone’s stares and silence. 

“What did you see, Sir?”

“The Crab has awakened. It’s coming.”

First, silence. Starting with a loud sigh, the room then burst into shouts of frustration and anger. The elders realized that they had been right since, that the first attack of the Crab was to destroy their lives and livelihood. However, Vista was silent. She looked down onto the floor, her jaw clenched and tensed, moving the fingers of her closed fist as if counting. Then, she spoke. She was unheard at first, but as she finished her sentence the room fell silent once again, eager to hear her repeat.

“I’m agreeing to sell this land. They won’t stop until all of us are dead.”

The anger and frustrations of the elders boiled over and doused the charcoal fire underneath. Uway saw in their faces and expressions that they wanted to say something. Perhaps they were picking the right words to say. But the right words did not matter anymore and as one of them spoke their truth, the rest of the elders followed.

“We don’t want to leave this place, Ayang, but if it comes down to it, we’d at least want to fight for it for one last time.”

“Every single one of my ancestors have been buried here, Ayang. My children and grandchildren can go with you if they choose but I wish to remain here, with my father and mother, with my siblings, and return to the same dirt that they now rest in.”

“If we must leave, then we shall. But all that we have saved we poured into this land for the past five rice harvests, Ayang. We can’t leave here, even if we were forced to, without this harvest.”

Ayang: cherished child. Although their sentiments disagreed, Vista saw that all the elders wanted to stay, even just for a while. What they needed was time. Vista knew she could not provide that—at least, not without shedding blood and sacrificing lives. That matter, however, had been decided but not by her. She wanted to do otherwise; she had decided to do otherwise. But there was no avoiding that fight. With her thoughts collected, she spoke, facing only the floor. 

“If we must stay, then we will. If we must fight, then we will. But first we must prepare. I’ll try to…”

Vista lifted her head slowly. She looked at all the elders one by one, eye-to-eye.

“I have a plan.”

For the remainder of that day, Uway and the community prepared. Jars of coconut and lamp oil, together with the coconut alcohol which were supposed to be for selling, were gathered on the edge of the coconut plantation fronting the sea. Tall bamboo were cut and sharpened to become spears. Fishing nets, anchors, and whale-hooks were brought out, resewn, and modified to become weapons for the coming fight.

Although Uway had no experience commanding people in a fight, Vista gave him a broad guide. His experience filled in the rest. He organized those that wanted to fight into two groups: the older folks would be forming the front lines, while the younger ones were on the rear to support. Most of the community stayed behind to rush the harvest, or to set-up makeshift dwellings for those that would be injured. 

The harvest went on through dusk and a few hours into the night. Sounds of organized activity could still be heard as Vista and Uway had their supper, and even after they finished. Uway would have wanted to rest right after, but Vista asked him to stay.

“I heard you scream, a few days ago.”

“I’m sorry for that, Miss. I…”

“There’s no need for an apology, I understand. To tell you the truth, where you slept was once my own room. When father died, I began having dreams… nightmares… when the moonlight passed through those windows. I thought that they’d stop if I transferred to a room with windows facing south, but they didn’t. I was so afraid of my nightmares that I can’t sleep if there was any form of light in my room, and I thought I was afraid of the dark. How fear changes us.”

Vista, then, became silent. She looked outside the window, her elbow planted on the table, her palm supporting her right cheek, as she watched one of the moons rise. She spoke, without turning her gaze away from the moon.

“Would it be possible to capture the Crab instead of killing it?”

“What for, Miss? Killing it is hard enough.”

“I want to make use of it somehow, to give us time; to protect my people.”

Fatigue showed through Vista’s eyes. She did help in the physical preparation for the fight, but her tiredness was not of the body. Uway took pause to choose his words carefully, to give the correct reasons without being misunderstood. He remembered the beetle.

“Killing a powerful beast such as the Crab is not easy, Miss. For me, for everyone in this community, for anyone. Combatting it carries with it risks. Injury. Death. And those risks are doubled when the quarry is to be captured alive, because we’d be dealing with a beast that is fighting its capture. Killing it would hurt people but attempting to capture it would hurt even more.”

Vista closed her eyes and let Uway’s words run through her. She nodded and whispered: You’re right. Yes, you’re right. 

As the first light of the morning hit the shores before Uway, the Crab emerged from the sea. It was the community who faced it as it emerged, as they did five rice harvests ago, but this time they were prepared. No longer did they run in fear upon seeing it. No longer did they cower as their livelihoods were destroyed. They did not need to win. All they had to do was to delay the Crab long enough for Vista and her harvesters to finish. 

The residents doused the Crab with the oils and alcohols they’ve prepared the day before, and as the Crab came clear of the sea, Uway waved his spear in circles above him, the spearhead glowing red, until a ring of sparks formed above him. With a strike, he threw the sparks onto the Crab. Nothing happened for a moment until the entire Crab burst into a large, searing flame that melted the sand beneath it. 

It was a relief, hearing the Crab scream. It did not actually scream, but from within its carapace was the sound of grinding rock which pierced the ears of everyone that was before it. They did not expect victory right then and there, but at least they knew the crab felt pain, that it was not invincible. 

The Crab retreated into the sea, dripping flaming oil beneath it as it ran and boiling the sea around and over it. Still, the residents stood their ground. The fight was not over, they all knew that. As the boiling in the sea stopped, they braced themselves for the Crab. And the Crab did emerge, that time with its claws raised and open and standing tall upon its armored legs. It was looking for a fight.

Hiding their fear of their adversary, those in the frontline began hurling insults at it until emotion overran coherent expression that they uttered no words, only single syllable shouts. But the Crab did not understand that form of intimidation. It walked with caution, closer and closer, its eyes shifting from one side to the next surveying the line of bamboo spears.

Uway had no experience in command. As the Crab approached, he thought when the best timing to attack was, or if there was any. In his eyes, the Crab was always a bit too far away for a mass charge. Between the screaming and his doubts, however, Uway did not notice the instant when one of the residents charged by his lonesome, inspiring the rest of the frontline to charge as well. They were successful at first, as the Crab swung without hitting any of them, and those that did not have the attention of the Crab threw their nets and whale-hooks over its carapace and legs, pulling on them to topple the Crab. But their efforts were not as one. All that Uway did, all that he knew how to do, was to find gaps in the Crabs armor, and led the assault to them.

But the Crab changed targets. Without warning, it started swinging for those that threw the nets and hooks, and it did not miss its mark. With just a few swings, the frontline fell. Uway, who had been leading the assault, was instead occupied with retrieving the injured and protecting those that were left. The magics he had learned for the last five rice harvests were of no use to him, as his focus was not anymore on himself and his adversary, but on the villagers. He had those that were left and those from the second line from another wall of spears, but he did not know what to do anymore. So, he led another charge, one after the other, but with each lull they found themselves deeper into the plantation. They lasted until midday but they had already retreated deep into the territory they were supposed to protect. 

There was no frontline anymore as those that survived were exhausted. Uway ordered for everyone to retreat, to get help. He knew, however, that no help would come. The Crab did not follow. Instead, it turned to the trees and started crushing them. 

Creaking, thunderous, loud, Uway stood in place to hear the sounds of the first felling. Was this to be another defeat? Looking around, he saw a beetle climbing up the coconut trunk, unaware, unhearing, unfazed. He knew right then that for the ants to triumph, he had to be the rooster. He’d be fighting alone. But he had been fighting alone all his life, and he knew how to plan a fight for one man.

So, he blended his presence with the wind and the trees, positioning himself behind the Crab. He lifted his spear. Borrowing the strength of a rockslide from the bare mountaintop, he struck into the rear leg of the Crab, shattering its armor, dislocating its joints to reveal tender spots which he stabbed with his red-hot spear, searing the Crab’s flesh and immobilizing its leg. As the Crab turned to respond, Uway pleaded for the wings of the King Eagle and flew high above the Crab, and from the air set the Crab ablaze as he once did on the shore. This he did again and again—for every leg, for every joint, for every crack, crevice, and weakness that he forced that Crab to show. 

With only two legs and a claw left, Uway knew that he could defeat the Crab that time. There is however, a saying shared among those learned with magic. “You may fly with the wings of the King Eagle, but it will be your own two feet which will take the fall.” As Uway landed on earth which he thought was dry and compact, he slipped over the moist and loose sand, giving enough time for the Crab to lift its remaining claw to strike.

Time slowed for Uway as he saw the claw descend onto him. He knew he’d be hit. His body raised his spear to defend, for it was the only defense it can muster for such impending suffering. Uway knew it was not enough. The shaft broke as the Crab’s strike connected into Uway’s shoulder. 

Crushed, impaled by spikes, and with a broken shoulder, Uway held on. Invoking the unmoving strength of the cliff-rock against the wind and waves of the storm, he absorbed the power and weight of the strike and resisted, holding on to what remained of his spear. He wrestled with the claw while its spikes tore through his flesh. Using his borrowed strength, he slipped underneath the Crab, stabbing the joints with his burning spearhead. 

That power, however, was not his own. As his own strength left his body like the blood which flowed from his wounds, so did that which he emulated. He found himself bearing the weight of the Crab and resisting its instinct to retreat on its last two legs.

As his body bled and his leg joints bent and dislocated, he remembered his first defeat from the Crab. He remembered his nightmare: he remembered that he was human. His greatness was artificial and the strength he had used was borrowed. The Crab was the beetle, but he was an ant like the rest, not the rooster. Help. He needed it. He wanted to shout for it, but the weight of the Crab denied him of a voice.

Among those versed in magic, it is said that a person may willingly blind themselves by closing their eyes, but they can never shut their ears. Even in his agony, Uway heard. The grinding from inside the Crab was the loudest, but a faint and familiar voice was shouting orders and directions he could not understand. Then shouting and grunting, first chaotic, but melding into counting a repeated ‘sa-‘ha-birah: one-two-pull, as he felt the weight of the Crab slowly lifted from his shoulders. He collapsed as he heard a crash. Lifting his head with the strength he had left, he saw before him the Crab, on its back and surrounded by people. Then, like an eclipse, he saw light fading until it all went dark.

He awoke among the wounded and underneath a makeshift roof. His wounds have been treated with healing plants and bandaged. His leg joints have been massaged and reset though they were still painful to move. Seeing that he had woken up, he was given a cloudy soup of egg, young corn, and a certain white meat which he did not recognize, and the taste of he did not know. Vista, seeing that Uway had awakened and recovered some of his strength, greeted him with news of victory.

“We’ve won!”

“I hope so, Miss, otherwise I don’t know… I wouldn’t know what to do…”

“Don’t worry so much. Come, I want to show you something.”

Vista helped Uway stand with her only hand and supported him until crutches were given to them by the attending villagers. Even then, Vista supported Uway. The memory of his prior collapse was still fresh in Uway’s mind, and he felt that he can’t face forward, or look anyone in the eye. He looked down to the ground, surveying where he would place his foot next. Walking was painful. It was not just pain in the legs, but on his hips, his chest, his back, his lungs, his shoulders, his head, everywhere. If he were less injured, he could have healed himself, but he was weak. He could not give what he did not have. From the corner of his vision, however, Vista was there, smiling, happy. 

The villagers greeted Vista with a ‘good morning’ followed by ‘Ayang!’ Vista greeted them back with a ‘good morning,’ and those that tried to help her she thanked but refused the help of, sending them off with a smile. 

Uway had never thought that he would have to rely on the strength of another person, yet there he was. When they arrived, Vista helped him straighten his back so that he could look forward and see. Before Uway was the burnt carapace of the Crab, the joints of which were crushed, its underside removed, and its flesh emptied from its encasings.

Strength left his knees. He fell down kneeling on the soil and tears welled in his eyes. He did try to prevent them from falling by looking up, but they fell from the corners of his eyes and, as the drizzle preceded the flood, he began to cry. But he was not sad, nor was he happy. It was not defeat that he felt, nor triumph. All thoughts ran through his mind: his first defeat, the twin moons, the sound of the falling coconut trees, the blood, the pain, the weight of the Crab, the darkness, the fear, the trembling, and other things he only dreamt but did not think.

When the flood had run its course, Uway calmed, though he cried still. Vista spoke to him as he stared at the remains of the adversary which had defeated him twice yet had triumphed over in the end. Strength seemed to come back to him. In his mind, he could stand back up once again, and this he tried. Reality was not as forgiving, however, but it also wasn’t very cruel. Though he struggled, Vista helped him stand straight and set the crutches underneath his armpits. When Uway had become stable, she faced the remainder of the Crab and spoke.

“You were right, you know. Letting the Crab live would have hurt more people. It would have caused destruction here and persuaded us to forfeit our living, but it won’t stop with us. I didn’t need a bargaining chip to protect my people, I needed to send a message. And what better message than something that could be seen.”

She faced Uway and smiled.

“Perhaps, it’s not just them—that wizard and that buyer—who need to see this. We may need to remember this sight for the years to come. A reminder.”

For two days, Uway slept and rested, only waking when he was thirsty or hungry. His true strength returned to him on the third. First, using magic, he healed his own wounds and reset what veins and muscles were not reset by massage. When he finished with himself, he turned his attention to his fellows who were injured just as he was—setting bone, healing wounds though leaving scars, and relieving infection until none remained in their makeshift care-house. 

Harvest finished not soon after. Like with many villages, the community set aside a portion of their produce for celebration, as thanks to their ancestors and to the spirits of nature for a successful harvest, and that time it was more than just the harvest that they were thankful for. Fisherfolk returned with big-fish. Those that raised pigs and goats gave some to be slaughtered and prepared. What everyone, including Uway, looked forward to the most however, were the dishes prepared using the preserved crab meat. 

That night, surrounding a big fire fueled by the felled trees, everyone shared roasted meats and root crops, rice, stews, soups, and various meat-cakes. Every dish was made to the best, for all the cooking were directed by Vista’s cooks and servants. Vista was eager to share the meal, share the brightness and warmth of the fire, with everyone. She knew that this was the last time she’d be sharing that moment with all the people she cared about. She laughed and made speeches mocking the man-with-the-hat, his wizard minion, and the Crab. Everyone laughed with her, including Uway. After every joke, every mockery, Vista urged everyone to dance, drink, and make merry. Despite this, she herself did not drink. She did not dance. She watched, burning that moment into her mind. 

Uway sailed with the trade boats as the first fleet left for the lake-side city, Anwang Luwan-un, deep into the heartland. Though he would have wanted that it went in a different way, his job was done. He had to move on. He needed to. On the daybreak before he left, Vista accompanied him. 

“I did not know that you were an entertainer, Miss.”

“Vista.”

Uway slanted his head, confused of the response. Vista smiled.

“Call me Vista. Your job is done, and I like to think that you are a friend of our community and not some temporary hired-hand.”

“That’s very kind of you Miss.”

“Ah! Vista!”

“Yes… Vista.”

They walked around the shore as the farmers loaded their produce into the trade boats, still beached. Only when they were full would the trade boats be pushed into the sea. 

“All this time, I have not asked for your name, nor have you asked for mine.”

“I know your name, Miss, but I suppose I have not introduced myself. I am Uway, from Subong Iwahig, where the river splits.”

“It’s good to finally meet you, Uway. But it’s sad that this is also our goodbye. May we meet again under less dire circumstances.”

“I hope so too, Vista. I hope so too.”

Vista’s elder servant came to them, carrying with him payment for Uway’s service, as well as something else.

“When we were disposing the crab, we found these.”

Wrapped in old sail-cloth, Uway received the spearhead and ferrule of his broken spear. The ferrule was serviceable enough. A new shaft was all it needed. But the spearhead was chipped and bent, its temper ruined as wave-like lines of blue ran along the edges into the spine. No future would there be for that spearhead. Uway decided to keep it, however: a reminder.

“Thank you for these, Vista.”

“What are you going to do now, Uway?”

“Get a new spear first but, after that, I don’t know. I’ll figure something out. How about you and your lot”

“Well, the harvest is done and my decision still stands. I won’t force those that want to remain here. The new owner would still need workers too, so he won’t evict those of us who want to stay; not with how we treated his Crab, anyway. As for myself, and the rest of us who will go with me, I’m thinking of moving upriver and inland, into Luwan-un, establish a shipping business of some sort, hopefully with some success.”

“Vista, I owe my life to you and your people. Shipping is a chaotic business. Call for me and I will offer my service free of charge.”

With a smirk, Vista replies.

“You do know that I am a trader, right? I will accept that offer and abuse it for my own benefit.”

Both Uway and Vista laughed. Uway wanted to retort but he knew that he did not have the wit to match. They did not speak until the first light of the new day came and it became time for the trade boats to set sail.

Onboard and with a steady wind blowing on their sail, Uway saw Vista on the shore, looking at the boats, until the shoreline was too far away for a single person to be seen. From there, it’d be two days tracing the coast eastward and another day inland and upriver. A smaller and quicker boat would have just taken a day to reach Luwan-un, and less than that to go back, but their boats were laden and heavy. Still, they were not in a hurry. It was early in the season, thus there’d be little competition, ensuring that they’d have buyers for their produce. River pirates too were no concern, for maintaining a crew is costly and maintaining a boat and a crew while there was no guarantee of a prize was even more expensive. 

On the night of their first day at sea, Uway felt the labor of the past few days weigh onto his body. He was tired. With the waves rocking the boat like the wind does to the hammock, he fell asleep. The twin-moons still rose and shined throughout that night, but its light was not a reminder of anything anymore. That night, Uway had no nightmares.

This entry was posted in Fiction on by .

About Junelie Anthony Velonta

Junelie Anthony Velonta is a Dumagueteño. In 2015, he graduated from Philippine Science High School—Central Visayas Campus and is now pursuing a Physics degree in Silliman University. He tries to write poems and short fiction when not faced with a textbook. Although a STEM major, he likes to learn about and explore the various “softnesses” of the world which the modern person of the industrial age is not made to learn—or is forced to forget. His works can be found in TLDTD and Buglas Writers Journal.

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