”Shhh little one, stop crying now. You
e father is here to watch over you. Be good. I will prepare his bed. ”

Handyong looked for a good spot to bury Lakan Lawin. On the other side of the Narra Tree was a perfect spot. There was a space wide enough for him to dig a hole that would accommodate Lakans frame. It was between two protruding roots of the tree. The roots looked like two arms encircling and protecting a treasure underneath.

Lakan Lawin was amongst the tallest men in the Kingdom of Namayan. Like Danao and Handyong, he was a head taller than his warriors so his frame was quite big.

He was digging for an hour now. Beads of perspiration appeared on his forehead and dripped down into his face and disappeared in the ground below. His upper body, having the color darker than wheat was naked and glistened because of the perspiration. He felt someone or something was watching him. He tightened his grip on the handle of his bolo, stood up, turned around and found himself looking at five pairs of big eyes of very dark short people with kinky hair. The tallest of them was just up to his chest.

They must be the nomadic aetas from the North. He thought.

”You need to drink. You are perspiring a lot. ” One of the aetas probably the head of the family passed him a bamboo tube filled with water.

He accepted it and drank thirstily ”Thank you. Is this the bamboo, I cut earlier? ” The short man nodded.

”We can help you with the digging so you can bury your dead soon. It is not good to keep him in the open for so long. ” He volunteered.

”Thank you. Is there someone who knows how to treat wounds? My companions were severely injured. ”

”Kamias can. She is my eldest daughter. She can help. My name is Kabihog. These are my children and my wife over there is Duhat. ” He pointed to the other side of the tree.

Handyong nodded and handed the man his bolo. He went out of the hole to check on Princess Tala but was surprised to see her being cradled and fed by Duhat.

”I had just given birth but he died the other day. The baby was about to cry so I picked her up and she automatically latched unto me. She is very hungry and very adorable. ” She smiled at him, her teeth appeared even whiter against a very dark skin.

Handyong thanked her before looking at the still body of his Lakan.

Did you send these people here to help me out Lakan? I don have to worry feeding your little princess anymore. You found her a wet nurse. ” His lips curled up and he admired his Lakan even more.

He called Kamias over and asked her to tend to the injured warriors.

After an hour of digging, using a bolo and sharpened bamboo sticks, the pit was deep enough to bury the king. Dagonoy who sustained the least injury woke up. Despite his weakened state he helped Handyong carry Lakan and laid him down respectfully on the pit.

Handyong, Dagonoy and the aeta family of Kabihog stood silently with their heads bowed before the grave a fallen king. They paid their tribute by being still.

After sometime, Handyong took Princess Tala from Duhat. He kneeled down on one knee, bowed and said in solemn oath. ”My Lakan, I promise to protect your precious princess with my life. I teach her your ways, train her to become a brave warrior so she can take back Namayan, become a great ruler like you and continue your legacy. ”

After they covered the body with soil, Handyong, with the use of a dagger curved out the name Lakan Lawin in the bark of the tree.

He suddenly felt exhausted and hungry.

”Do you have food? ” He asked Kabihog. ”Take this in exchange. ” He handed him the bolo he took from Lima, one of the warriors.

Kabihog took one basket and gave it to Handyong. The basket that was made of woven coconut leaves contained fruits, sweet potatoes and banana.

”I can cook the kamote for you and your men. ” Duhat said. She then started fire by spinning a stick over a wooden tinder nest made of dried leaves. Her two children gathered firewood while the other two fetched water from a nearby stream that they passed earlier.

After Handyong had his fill and rested, he discussed his plan with Dagonoy.

”Ill go back to Namayan tonight. I need to save her. She is pregnant and she will be heart broken if I don go back. ” He said in a determined voice.

”But it is too risky. Danao is too cunning. He will show you no mercy. ” Dagonoy protested.

”Danao, so it was him. Traitor! ” He said gritting his teeth. ”He will pay for his atrocities one day! ”

”Tonight is my only chance. Im pretty sure the new Lakan will celebrate so everyone will be busy and drunk. ” Handyong said while looking at the river and thinking of something.

”But first we need to move deeper into the forest as our location now is dangerous. The new king might have ordered a search for the princess. ”

Dagonoy nodded his head in agreement.

”There is a cave not far away. Its big. We slept there last night. You will be safer there. ” Kabihog tugged at Handyongs arm and pointed to the south.

Handyong contemplated for some time. He asked Kabihog to help him take out one of the raft from the water. He cut some more bamboos and fashioned the raft into a simple sled. He attached a few vines to the sled so up to six people can pull it.

They carried the warriors and put them on the sled and started the grueling journey to the cave that took them three hours. The cave was difficult to find because while the opening was big, it was covered by a lot of vines and shrubs.

”There are no snakes or deadly animals here right? ” Dagonoy asked.

Kabihog hesitated. ”I am not sure but we slept here last night. The fire will keep them at bay. ” He added uncertainly.

The cave was dark so Duhat started to make the fire.

”Kabihog, I entrust them to you. Watch over them. ” Handyong said in a voice that commanded obedience and respect.

Kabihog just nodded. He was intimated by this imposing warrior. He exudes an aura of a powerful person.

He handed his dagger and a bolo to Dagonoy and said in a soft voice. ”I have no choice but to trust the aetas. They looked harmless and they are normally gentle people. But just in case you, know what to do. I have to go now. ”

”Handyong… ” Dagonoy held his arm. ”Be careful and come back safely. ” he paused. ” If … if you have the chance to see Mayang, please tell her I love her.. ” he stopped as a lump blocked his throat and he cannot continue with what he wanted to say.

”I have to go now. ” Handyong left the cave in a hurry. He needed to reach the river before sunset.

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