Daughter of Benik [Chapter 1 - part 1]
Year: 1998 A.D.
Place: Oume, Tokyo, Japan
Airi Solomon, or known as “Irene”, sat in her room. It had been four months since she was sent to Japan by her parents. Both of her parents and her older sister, Miho, promised her three months ago that they would join there. Two months ago, it rained heavily on their way to the airport, a driver lost control of his truck and rammed into the family van. Three passengers were in the van, no one survived that accident. A week after the accident, Irene returned to Canada to attend her family’s funeral. After the funeral, Irene’s lawyer gave her the news that it was her parents’ wishes that she would live with one of her relatives. Her father, who was half Jew and half German, once mentioned about visiting Jerusalem and live with her father’s brother’s family there. However, her father remembered that he was dead to his family due to an unsettled argument and decided to not send Irene there. Her mother, who was half Japanese and half Native, decided to send her to Japan to where Irene’s great-aunt lived.
Four months ago, Irene at first didn’t like the idea of going to Japan, but once her great-aunt welcomed her warmly she began to think that staying in Japan would not be so bad. Before the accident, Irene had received letters from her mother of how much she looked forward to seeing her daughter. Now that her parents were gone along with her sister, who was her only sibling, she was alone. Once returning to Japan from the funeral, Irene’s relatives began to argue over who will support the girl. Although she was seventeen, her Japanese was at a grade nine level. Her great-aunt was willing to take care of the girl and sent her to a high school not far from her home.
Irene at first did not mind attending the school, that was until the students stared at her and began to whisper behind her back saying, “Gai-jinga-kita (here comes the foreigner),” they say as they pointed at her.
She knew she was different and was also aware that she would be treated differently. Her features were like that of a typical Japanese girl with light-coloured skin and large almond shaped eyes inherited from her Japanese and Native blood. However, the main concern was her hair and the colour of her eyes. Her hair was auburn with a natural wave. Her eyes were green like the green pastures, and because of her strange appearance, along with her funny accent, some of the students began to bully her.
On the first day of school, a bunch of students poured soy sauce all over her lunch. The next day, her shoebox was sabotaged; her indoor shoes were covered with insulting words in calligraphy ink. Other days she would find her indoor shoes filled with sand, or her desk filled with trash.
“Why do you perm and dye your hair?” one of the senpais (a senior student) asked her one morning.
“This is my natural hair colour. The perm is natural too.” Irene retorted.
The senpai eyed her as if she was a detective studying a suspect and weighing her words. “Really?” she asked somewhat mockingly.
“Yes, really!” Irene responded clearly.
“Where is your proof that you didn’t dye your hair?”
“Ask the teachers!” Irene she wanted to shout, but the words died at her throat. As if they would care to believe her.
“If I were you,” said the senpai as she leaned over Irene’s desk, pressing her face towards the girl. “I would make sure my hair is black like everyone else.”
Irene said nothing to this for it was the very thing her homeroom teacher had told her.
Irene sat on her bed. If she were in Canada, she would sit on the floor. However, because of her fear of cockroaches, she detested sitting on the floor, fearing that they would scurry over and crawl on her. She opened her album remembering her once happy life in Canada; her family, alive and laughing with joy; her friends, accepting her for who she was, whether she was red-headed or not. She looked at a gold locket she received on her birthday. Inside were engraved the words: “To Irene, from Mom and Dad.”
She fell back on her bed and stared at the ceiling. Feeling tired, she closed her eyes. In her dream she saw a familiar scene of her house she had lived in Edmonton, Alberta. She was about eight years old at the time. As she walked around the house and entered the living room, she saw herself sitting beside her older sister; with them were two aging couples. One couple had Oriental features, yet the man had lighter skin than his wife. His body frame appeared larger and stronger than his wife, who appeared to be more on the fragile side. The second couple consisted of two Caucasians, the man was red headed with curly hair, and the wife was an attractive blonde. As Irene watched the scene disappeared, she woke up and found herself in her room, back at her great-aunt’s house.
* * * * * * * * * *
Irene sat at her desk next to the window. It was fifteen minutes before her class started, and her third month at school. Ever since the incident about her unnatural appearance, she began to attend class half-an-hour early to avoid seeing people she feared facing.
As Irene looked out of the window, she saw a man standing in the schoolyard. She noticed that the man was clean-shaven and had silver hair, which glittered in the morning sun. He was dressed in a white cotton tunic and wine red slacks; around his waist was a broad crimson sash. He was barefoot. He lifted his head and looked right at her. Astonished, Irene turned her back to him. Then, cautiously she turned to see if he was still looking at her only to find him gone. Irene blinked in disbelief. Was I seeing things? She thought.
“Hey, Poop-head,” said a voice, she dreaded to hear. “How come you didn’t dye your hair?”
Irene looked towards the direction of the voice and saw Mika Saito, one of her senpais. With her were two of her sidekicks, Rumi Nagatani and Yuka Katou. The three girls surrounded Irene like a pack of wolves surrounding their prey.
“I inherited this from one of my grandparents,” Irene explained, referring to her grandfather (her father’s father).
“Humph, as if. You just don’t dye it because you are a foreigner!” said Rumi.
“You know something, So-lo-mon?” Mika lowered her voice as she leaned against Irene’s desk, emphasizing each syllable on Irene’s last name. “Maybe you should return to your family back in Canada, since you are not welcome here?”
“How cruel of you, Mika,” said Yuka mockingly, “Remember? She is an orphan!”
Irene froze at the remark. “Say that again,” she demanded evenly,
“You are an –” Yuka began, but was interrupted by Irene who violently shoved the girl against the desks.
“Why you!” Yuka sprang on Irene, grabbing the front of her uniform.
Irene, with anger fuelling her strength, quickly tripped the girl and pinned her to the floor. “Say it!” she shouted at her furiously, “Say it!”
“What’s going on here!” Mr. Nagai entered the room, with some students peering at them from behind his back.
The girls stood up as they shamefully looked at the floor.
“Who started this?” the teacher demanded.
“She did!” Mika pointed an accusing finger to Irene.
Irene, aware of the gesture, said nothing.
“Solomon! I should have known!” Mr. Nagai grabbed her shoulder as he pulled her out of the classroom before them all. “Of all the foreign students we had, we never had an incident like this until you came. Who do you think you are? Huh?” He pushed her head forcefully before them all. “You think you could get away bullying your peers because you are a foreigner, don’t you?”
Remaining silent, Irene clenched her fist as she tried to control her anger.
“Well, we’ll talk to the board about this and deal with you later. But for now, you stay in the halls!” With these words he left the scene.
The students talked amongst themselves. The teacher returned with two pails full of water. “Here!” he said setting two on the floor. “Pick them up!” he commanded.
Irene stiffly glanced up, with each a hand she carried a pail. Humiliation crept up from her ankles and washed over her like an unpleasant flame as she felt all eyes of fellow students staring at her watching her receive discipline.
“Stand here!” the teacher ordered.
Irene meekly approached the place she was to stand.
The teacher quickly left and brought another pail, with it he filled both pails to the brim. “If you spill them, you’ll clean this hall. Understand?”
“Even if my arms are pulled out of the sockets?” she asked in sarcasm.
“Even if that happens you will be held responsible – not me!” The teacher turned to leave.
Irene glared at the floor, her wrath bubbling and frothing within her.
All the students snickered pointing to the red headed “haku-jin” as they whispered about her. Irene shot them an icy look. The voices stopped as all cringed away from her.
At lunch hour, Irene sat on the school roof as she had her lunch. No one was supposed to be on the roof, but she didn’t care. She wanted to be left alone for a while. Setting her now empty lunchbox aside, she lay on her back. Feeling the sun warming her face, she drifted of to sleep.
“Irene…Irene…” Irene opened her eyes and found herself in the middle of a field. She sat up.
“Irene…” she heard someone call her name again.
“Who’s calling me?” she asked. Her eyes scanned the field seeing only wild flowers dotting the emerald carpet.
“Irene…” the voice called again.
“Here!” she responded. “I’m right here!”
“There you are!” She turned and saw a tall man. No, it was the tall man; the man with the silver hair and white tunic – only this time he wore the garbs of a farmer.
She didn’t know why, but farmer seemed both familiar and mysterious. He held out his arms and she embraced him feeling at home for the first time in a long time.
Ding-dong, ding-dong… The sound of the school bell rang. Irene woke up. She slowly dragged her wrist to her face to look at her watch. Seeing she was going to be late, she sat up. Grabbing her lunchbox, she dashed to her next class.
At the end of the day, Irene made a stop the washroom and noticed something on her forehead. Peering into the mirror, she lifted her bangs. There, on her forehead, was a slender four-pointed star in the soft shade of a rose. Where did this come from? She wondered. Could it be a prank? If it were, they would draw something on her face something crude in a colour that would be very hard to hide. This colour was soft and gentle, not noticeable unless one searched for it.
“How odd,” Irene thought to herself. But felt a smile coming on her face, for that star gave her a warm pleasant feeling of comfort.
* * * * * * * * * *
Year: Forty years after the death of King Ephesus II
Place: Birrill Shire, Korda
“Here we are, four men sitting near a nice warm fire sipping tea, and no women. Maybe I should kill myself,” Philip Goldbrook, a young rilud with chestnut brown hair, said to his three friends. One of them, a blond haired rilud who nearly spewed his tea, covered his mouth with a napkin, trying to hide his laughter.
“Philip, if you are that desperate, why don’t you put up a sign on your door that says: ‘Wanted: pretty maid for wife.’ With fine print saying underneath: ‘Must tolerate crude jokes and pipes.’” commented Douglas Burrows, a red haired rilud who sat across from Philip and smiled as he lit his pipe.
“Have you considered Sunflower?” William Underoot suggested a childhood friend as he poured himself some more tea.
His friends looked at him and waved their hands at the idea.
“Well, thanks to the Order of Beliar most of our friends, families, relatives, and other possible courting candidates have left the shire,” Merlin Fourleaf, the blond haired rilud who was known by his friends as ‘Merl’, said with distaste at the reason behind their dwindling population.
The riluds were ‘little people’, whose height varied from three feet to four feet and two inches – with the exception of Douglas, Philip, and Merl. These three friends (who were also distant cousins) share the same human ancestor which explains their unusual height of five feet. The riluds generally had curly brown hair, large dark eyes, and hairy feet. Rilud males did not grow beards or mustaches; instead they had short tufts of hair growing on the backs of their hands and feet.
“Remember those days when we lived above ground in homes made on the surface?” Merl asked, recalling the peaceful times in their shire.
“Merl, you’re sounding like an old man,” Philip told his fifth cousin rather depressingly.
“You are certainly making me feel even more so,” Douglas pointed out, since he was the eldest of his friends.
“Well, it’s true,” Merl responded.
“And I agree. Our life here in Birrill Shire is not as safe as what we knew as lads,” William commented sadly.
“I can imagine years into the future when people will visit the shire as a historical site saying, ‘Now right here we have the ancient ruins of the Birrill Shire – home of the riluds. As you can see, these people were under oppression for so long that they lived like moles underground till the ends of their lives.’” Philip imitated a scholarly tone, then added, “And then guide shows the guests mummified riluds in these holes -” His friends groaned at the joke. Merl gave Philip a playful swipe with his hand only to be dodged by the chuckling rilud.
“Philip, you are terrible!” William said, “I think you’ve had enough tea and one too many cupcakes.”
“No more for you!” Douglas chimed in, moving the plate of cupcakes out of Philip’s reach.
“Have any of you considered getting a bride from outside of the shire?” Merl asked, suddenly changing the subject. His friends nearly fell out of their chairs.
“Merl,” Philip laid a hand on his cousin’s shoulder. “Are you that desperate to be married?”
Merl blushed slightly. “Well, no!” The last word was given a bit forcefully. “I – I just thought it would be nice to spend the rest of my life with someone.”
“Well, if you are that eager, I would suggest talking to good ol’ Glenn the Dwarf and ask if he knows any maids that are available,” Philip said, taking a bite of a cupcake he was able to snag from Merl’s plate who sat next to him.
Merl saw this and gave him a scowl as he took another from the tray for himself.
“I would prefer to have a rilud-maid for a wife,” William said as he downed the last of his tea.
“So would I. Someone who would not drive me to madness with naggings,” Merl gave his input.
Douglas smiled knowingly as he put out his pipe, remembering a young maid from their childhood who had indeed driven poor Merl nearly mad.
“What are you smiling at, Master Burrows?” Merl asked suspiciously.
“Just remembering someone we know, Master Fourleaf,” Douglas said with a grin.
“Someone on your mind that catches your interest, Douglas?” Philip asked with a sly grin.
“None at the moment,” came the reply.
“Aww, come on, Douglas! You must have a maid that would be of interest to you. Perhaps someone from your dreams?”
“Only if Ishual provides me one,” the redhead sipped his tea.
“Well, you certainly have faith in Ishual to provide. So...” Philip stood up, brought his chair closer and plunked down on it right in front of Douglas. “Tell us what you have in mind that Ishual should bring you.”
“You are really determined about this, aren’t you?”
“That is my specialty!”
Douglas rolled his eyes and sighed, “Oh, all right! She is tall, pretty, and red-haired.”
Silence settled over the room.
“That’s rather specific.” William said, “You mean a human maid, right?”
Douglas gave his surrendering reply, “Oh, why not!”
“And how do you expect this girl to appear?” Merl asked with interest.
“Like I said, Ishual will bring her to me… I don’t know! I’m just not sure if I’ll ever get married. I left it up to him to find someone and bring her to me. That is all I know.”
“That’s quite a step of faith you’ve made there, Douglas,” William said kindly.
Douglas looked down at the cup he cradled in his hands. “Actually, it is.” He took a sip of his tea and added: “Because I sensed him saying this to me.”
“What do you mean?”
“I know I just told you things that sounded like I made them up, but I didn’t. I actually felt Ishual telling me that this maid I will meet later on is to be our prophetess.”
A momentary hush fell over them.
“All righty, I think you’re the one who’s had too much tea,” Philip said with concern as he moved the pot away from his friend.
“Come now, Douglas. I know that you are reminding us of our childhood games, but this is –” Merl reasoned, but was interrupted.
“It’s probably something else. I know.” Douglas sighed deeply, bowed his head. After gaining his peace he lifted his head. “Wishful thinking,” he said with a smile.
“I’m sure you’ll find someone,” William said, then added, “And I believe that as the son of the High King, Ishual will grant you your heart’s desire.”
“And then there’s the option of asking Mrs. Bobbid to match you with someone,” Philip grinned. Mrs. Bobbid was the local gossip who believed she had the gift to match people, which did not always happen that way. She once tried to pair Douglas with a widow who was old enough to be his mother.
“No, thank you,” Douglas replied, shuddering inwardly.
Place: In a log cabin hidden in the forest near the foot of Cobalt Mountains, Korda
A young woman sat on the floor of a deserted house. She stared off into the distance as she held a golden bracelet in her hand. The sun poured its beams from a broken window making her long blonde hair glow with a golden sheen. Her eyes were cold and blue like the depth of an arctic sea. The bracelet had a large polished stone (which she thought was a ruby) set in wide open-ended band of gold. On it were engraved in ancient writings, that her father taught her. “Err knoc T’urn-murren b’nai lonh Korda – Always shall the Morning Star watch over Korda.”
“The Morning Star,” Shyaina said to herself quietly.
She recalled to the time when she was very small. Her mother shut her up into a hidden room in a closet. Moments later, she heard the sounds of poundings, the crashing and shattering of glass and porcelain. The loud clang of copper pots and pans. Her mother screamed. Then a sickening sound of an axe fell many times. She wanted to know what was going on, but she obeyed her mother’s orders – never to open the secret door until her father comes home. She remembered stopping her ears with her fingers praying hard that her father would come home soon. Then, everything went black.
She woke up to find her father holding her in his arms, stroking her face. He was covered in blood! She looked to see where her mother was and saw something covered with a blanket. She tried to go over to see, but her father clung to her.
“Why, Father? Why can’t I see Mother?” she asked.
Tears streamed his face as he held her firmly. “You should not see her, Child. You should not see her.”
It was then she noticed the blood pooling on floor for the first time.
She covered her ears as she recalled the horrific scene. “Mother,” she said softly, like a child suffering from a nightmare.
Then another scene flashed before her when she was twelve. Her father lay in bed sick. He handed her the jewelled bracelet.
“Child,” he told her, “though I have been one of them I have never been for them. Remember what your mother had taught you. Even when I die, do not forget the origin of this stone. For where the stone came from shall truly save you.”
She opened her eyes. Her hand tightening on the bracelet, she recalled what she was supposed to do.