By Rodello Santos
As Queen Liwana stood upon her silver tower, she imagined the night sky as a dark ocean anointed with a multitude of twinkling pearls. Her soul was attuned to the firmament, to its celestial tempo and the passing of seconds and seasons. And yet…even with this awareness, the time of reckoning that she’d dreaded so long had stolen upon her.
She briefly considered playing with the stars, stirring them with a finger, and resettling them as she willed. I could fashion a constellation of myself, she thought. The Old Idiot Woman, it would be called. She laughed, a small cackle that crawled into her throat and died.
In all the Countless Isles, the most powerful spirit-talkers, babaylan healers, and mananambal ritualists had bowed to her. In her lifetime, she had achieved much good for her people: slain the Aswang Giant, tamed the moon-eating Bakunawa, vanquished the Undying Wights upon whose skins were written the names of all the children they had devoured. The list of her accomplishments ran long.
But the power she had attained had not come free. Tomorrow, the eve of the new year, Queen Liwana’s demonic debt collectors would come for her. The gambit she’d played as a young woman would finally come to a close and, likely, her life alongside it.