Daughter of Benik [Chapter 1 - part 2]
Irene sat under a cherry tree. It was mid-May, the cherry blossoms have long faded leaving nothing but the green leaves in its branches. She stared blankly at the scene around her. This was her favourite place amongst all places. The gentle breeze, the blue sky often patched with fluffy clouds reminded her of her home back in Canada. Tears began to stream down the side of her face as she remembered the wonderful times she had back there. How she missed everyone – her parents, her sister, and her friends. She leaned back against the trees as she recalled another incident that occurred almost last year...
It was a snowy day in January, the fifteenth of January – her birthday. She was waiting in the public library at downtown for Greg. He told her that he had something to give her. She was waiting for nearly an hour. Still Greg did not come. He was never the type to be this late for a date, she began to be worried. Standing up from the table she sat at she decided to leave. Maybe he had forgotten that it was her birthday today. She left the library and made her way to cross the street.
“Irene!” She heard a voice call out to her. She turned to see Greg waving across the street.
The traffic was just changing as pedestrians made their way across the street. Blinded by excitement, he ran across the street, not seeing a car make a sharp turn; nor did the driver see him darting in front of the vehicle. Irene froze in horror as she watched her boyfriend get hit. She hid her face in hope that it was a dream she could wake up, but found it too real. Seeing him tumble to the ground burned in her mind. Fearfully, she removed her hands from her face finding him still there in the street, the car stopped, people crowding around him.
“Greg!” she called him as she made her way through the crowd. There he lay on the pavement painfully opening his eyes. He looked up to see who called him. Irene fell to her knees and tried to lift him into her arms.
“You shouldn’t do that, Miss,” said a man, who knelt beside Greg. “He may have broken something.”
“Irene,” Greg said to her softly noticing the frightened look on her face.
Irene hushed him. “You shouldn’t talk,” she told him trying to be brave, yet the tears began to fall from her eyes.
Weakly Greg reached up and lovingly stroked her face. With the other hand he held up a golden box that was crushed from the impact. “I’m sorry I’m late,” he apologized.
Irene shook her head. “Don’t worry about that,” she sniffed. “We got to get you to a hospital.” She clasped onto both his hands as she tried to hide her tears. She did not hear the people asking what happened or whether someone called an ambulance.
“Irene, don’t cry,” Greg told her gently.
“I can’t help it, Silly!” she told him, “I can’t help being worried about you.” Tears fell on his face. His golden hair, now soiled with mud and black snow, made him look different, but his blue eyes were as bright as ever – as if he knew something she didn’t.
“I love you...Irene...Happy...birthday...” his voice faded as he closed his eyes with a smile.
Irene shook her head in horror. Still holding his hand she called his name, though in her heart she knew he had left the world.
“Hey, poo-head!” called a voice.
Irene’s mind flashed back to the present. Quickly wiping her tears from her face she looked up. A bunch of girls from the senior classes surrounded her.
“Hey, look. Diarrhea-hair is crying,” said one of the students.
“Oh, poor girl! Did you miss your home?” mocked another student.
Just walk away, Irene turned to leave. Suddenly felt her head snap back as something grabbed her by her hair.
“Hey! I’m talking to you!” the student dug her fingers in to Irene’s shoulders.
“Let go!” Irene began to fight, but there were more of them and they were stronger.
“Let’s see if these foreign girls have big boobs as they suggest in those magazines,” someone suggested. Hands reached out tearing at her clothes. Irene violently struggled and kicked around blindly. She felt something make contact with her foot and a yelp of pain.
“That bitch!” an injured voice ground out.
Run! Now! She dashed, forcing her legs to carry her home. She ran through the school grounds, past some bicycles leaning against the bike racks. She saw an old bike leaning against a post she grabbed it and jumped on.
“After her!” She pedaled off the school property, hearing shouts behind her she took a left towards a cluster of bamboo growing on a steep hill. She rode onto a path that cut through the tall bamboo. In a few minutes a cry and a loud crash came from there.
About half an hour later, Irene slowly made her way home covered in bruises and scrapes. Hot tears splashed down her cheeks, though she was in pain from taking a violent tumble on the bicycle, it was how the students at her school treated that hurt her the most.
“I’m home,” she muttered as she entered the house.
“You’re back,” said her great-aunt as she appeared from the kitchen busily wiping her hands. “Let’s have tea together. I’ve just bought us some green tea cake, the kind you like with the chocolate – Airi-chan, what happened to you?”
“It’s nothing, Aunty,” Irene smiled, tugging at her gaping blouse attempting to hide the missing buttons, but did not look at her aunt. “I just slipped and fell off a friend’s bike on the way home from school.” Irene continued as she removed her shoes.
“Airi-chan, is something wrong?”
“I’m – I’m fine, Aunty, I just need to wash up that’s all,” Irene said quietly as she made her way to her room.
After a warm shower, Irene came out of her room in her favourite jeans and shirt.
At the dining area, her aunt poured the green tea into teacups, as thin as eggshells, and served the green tea cake with chocolate frosting. She served her own portion and sat across from Irene.
Irene took a bite of the cake and sipped her tea. She appreciated the comforting presence her great-aunt provided. No questions asked, just there in silence as if she understood how Irene felt; a peaceful silence that Irene did not want to break with her sob story.
“Ah, yes! I have something for you.” The older woman reached into her pocket and brought out a small wooden box.
Irene took the box. “What is it?”
“Try to open it,” she smiled.
Irene tried to open the lid, but it did not move. She tried to twist it this way and that – still nothing happened.
“Is this a puzzle box?” Irene asked.
The woman smiled. “It is.”
Irene studied the box, she carefully felt its side and found a small latch nearly hidden from the naked eye. She lifted it and the lid opened. In the box, nestled in a satin cloth of wine red, was clear blue gemstone the size of a clam-shell. The stone, attached to a chain of gold, was cut and polished to look like a scallop shell.
“I meant to give this to you on your twentieth birthday, but I see that now is the time.”
Irene held up the stone by its chain and let the sunlight dance through its facets.
“This stone belonged to one of your ancestors, given to me by your grandmother Rose.” Aunty began, “We had a family union once. You were about eight then. Your father’s parents and your mother’s parents met at Canada one summer. Your father’s father asked me to come for this occasion, so I did. We have shared stories of our heritage, I was fascinated with some of the stories I have heard. Then Rose gave this to your father before us all.
“She said that she knows it is strange to give this to him at a time like this, but if something suddenly happened to anyone of us leaving someone with either you or your sister, then we are to give one of you this stone. Rose explained that this stone belonged to a white man who called himself Benik, which was passed down to his children and grandchildren. It was said that the stone was something Benik had received from his parents when something terrible happened to them. Anyway, it was the only thing that was brought and kept from the world Benik came from. I was told that he was the son of a chieftain, perhaps a king – I am not sure which. However, by how Rose had kept it I know that it is something of value.”
Irene looked up and noticed a somewhat sad look on her great-aunt’s face. “The moment I noticed the mark on your forehead I knew that Ishual had chose you for his purpose. Now the time has come.”
“Aunty, who is Ishual?” Irene asked.
“Ishual created this world and a sister world called Ditté. He’s – how would I put it? He is the ruler of time, space, and other worlds. He is the one who set the laws of nature to run its course as it is meant to be.”
“Have you met him?”
“Once, when I was three, I was lost in a field during the summer festival and he met me there. He later brought me home safely.”
Irene sat and pondered her aunt’s words.
Irene’s aunt reached over and held her hand. “Irene-chan,” she said gently as a mother would to her child, “Have you met Ishual?”
Irene looked at her aunt. “I think I have, I’m not sure. How do you know it’s him?”
The old woman smiled knowingly. “You just do.”
* * * * * * * * * *
Irene rose early the next morning after her great-aunt woke her. As Irene washed up and left for school, her feet suddenly felt like lead the moment they passed the front gates.
I don’t want to go to school, her heart groaned. Perhaps if I move fast enough and avoid meeting them I will be safe. So she took a route that was different from usual.
For fifteen minutes nothing happened. The usual people, neighbours, businessmen, children, all made their way to their daily destination. By the time she saw the school gates her heart sank. They were there, five of them waiting for her.
Irene closed her eyes. Should she skip school today? Perhaps take the back way to school? She remembered the bamboo forest and sprinted towards it. She climbed the steep hill.
“Whatcha doin’, poo-head?” she overheard someone calling after her. She kept running. Hands grabbed her and began to drag her.
“Where shall we take her?” someone asked.
“How about tying her up here?” Within moments, Irene found herself brought to a clearing in the woods. In the middle of the clearing was an old well with its roof gone from age and only poles that once held the roof was still standing. Someone brought out a pair of toy handcuffs and shackled her to an old pole standing at the well.
“Hey, let’s make her look nice!” someone suggested. One of the girls brought a covered coffee can. She opened it and threw something at Irene.
Seeing centipedes, worms and other bugs showered over her, Irene screamed trying to swat all of them off her body.
“Hey, look! She’s dancing!” Another girl shouted and they all laughed.
Once the bug fell from her Irene scrambled onto the edge of the well away from the creepy crawlies. Suddenly, she felt herself in the air. Her wrist gave a painful jerk, the handcuff around her left wrist kept her from falling into the well.
The girls leaned in over the edge. Then, the chain snapped and Irene fell down, down, down, down…
The moment the girls saw Irene disappear into the well, colour drained from their faces.
“She fell!” one of them said.
“It wasn’t our fault! She did it!”
“Let’s get out of here!”
By the time the school bell rang, all sat at their seats in class – all except Irene.
“Has anyone seen Solomon?” the teacher asked.
The girls looked at each other. Silently swearing to each other never to breathe a word about what just happened.
Irene woke up. Framed by treetops she saw the velvet blue sky studded with stars. Where am I?
She began to rub her wrist wondering why her wrist felt sore and felt something encircle her injured wrist. Then the memories rushed back. Immediately she jumped up examining her clothes for any other bugs. Seeing none, she sighed. Feeling something cool touch her chest she looked. It was the pendant her great-aunt had given her.
As she examined her surroundings, Irene saw a grove of moss-covered trees. Moss and lichen clung from the trees, like rags hanging from skeletons. She shuddered. What is this place? Seeing a pale blue moon appearing in the sky with a large ruby red star at its right and an emerald star at its left she knew she was not on Earth. Is this a dream?
“Nooo!” cried a voice of a child.
Irene started, wondered where the cry came from. Not far from where she stood, she saw two children standing with their backs against one of the gnarled trees, before them stood a huge figure clad in black armour.
One of children, a girl, cringed behind her brother. The boy picked up a rock and flung it at the man, only to his dismay did it land on the ground harmlessly.
“Go away!” screamed the girl, trying to be as courageous as her brother.
The figure speedily drew his sword and swung it at the helpless duo.
“Nooo!” Irene cried as she clutched the stone hanging from her neck. A sudden surge of strength and courage flowed through her body. The stone glowed brightly and let out a bright light as it transformed into a magnificent sword.
The black armour turned, the blood red eyes under his helmet grew as he saw a strange girl leaping from the trees and attacking him with the Sword of Light. Then, he saw a magnificent figure right beside her. He a high pitched screech came from within the helmet, setting the children’s teeth on edge.
In an arch of light, Irene swung. The helmet rolled, empty suit of armour collapsed with a loud clatter and crash.
Seeing the danger gone, Irene turned to the children. They stared back in awe at the scene. She looked at the sword. It glowed and quickly shrank into the stone it was with the chain still attached to it.
She approached the children, as she placed the stone into her pocket, she knelt to their height and asked gently, “Are you all right?”
The two children could only look at her with huge eyes, which made them look like a pair of owls.
“Are you Ishual?” asked the girl.
Irene blinked at this. “Ishual? No, I’m just a stranger here,” she said with a smile.
“Oh,” said the girl in disappointment.
“My name is Pine, this is Caleah. Thank you for saving us.” The boy smiled with appreciation.
“Where are your parents?” asked Irene.
“They live not far from here,” said Caleah, “Would you like to come with us?”
Irene hesitated for a second, but then she thought that perhaps they would help her find out why she was in that world. “May I?” she asked politely.
“Please do!” said Pine, overjoyed at the response, “Mamma would be happy to have company,”
The two children each took Irene’s hand and led her out of the grove.
* * * * * * * * * *
Year: 1630, about forty years after the overthrow of the Ephesus II Dynasty.
Place: The village of Terrona, on the Island of Vennik, one of the Islands of Arunea.
Dalel carried a basket of food to the fields where her husband and her two sons practiced their fencing. The sun was bright and warm as it brightened the green fields on the island. She smiled as she thought of the time when she first came to the island as a shy little girl. After the hardships of rebuilding a life, things were promising; their farm prospering as well as the business they were making in trade. She was always thankful that many supported them through their difficult start. Now as a mother of two handsome and healthy boys, she did not know what more to ask for.
Amon sprang from the ground as he attempted to make a crack at his brother with his rod. His brother quickly moved from where he stood, making Amon trip and lightly tapped his forehead.
“Are you trying to kill me?” he asked, giving Amon a dirty look.
“You always beat me in points, Aryn!” whined Amon, “That one was not called for!”
Their father laughed heartily that the sight. “I just hope you boys are mature enough to deal this like men – not savages.”
Just as Amon got up Dalel stepped into the scene.
“Your dinner’s here!” Dalel announced producing the basket of goods she prepared for her family.
Aryn turned to flash his mother an impressed smile. Amon gave him a sharp slap across the head.
“Hey!” Aryn glared at his brother.
Amon grinned mischievously. Dalel stepped between the boys and handed them each an apple to settle the matter. As a mother, she did not like it when her boys bickered at each other.
“Let us thank the High King,” their father, Illac, announced.
They looked up and sang an old song that was sung in thanks for the food. After the song ended, they all settled down to eat.
“I have noticed that you have learned ways of fooling your opponent,” said their mother good-naturedly.
“You should have seen the move Aryn showed, Mother. He moves so fast that I’ve added more bruises from yesterday,” Amon grinned. Although his brother beat him in fencing, he was still proud of him.
“Well, I found him learning to trip and attack me more than last time,” Aryn added humorously.
“Probably to pay back all the bruises you’ve given him these past few days,” Illac joked with them.
“I would appreciate it more if you would court with a young lady, Aryn. It would be nice to have a girl to help me with the chores around the house,” Dalel mentioned.
“Maybe Aryn could dress up as a girl and help you around the house, Mother. That way I could catch up with my fencing skills,” Amon piped up.
“That would be a problem. I am too masculine for my form to fit into Mother’s dresses,” Aryn pointed out, implying his mother’s petite form in comparison to his height and masculine build.
“Well, it would be nice to have a girl around here, although there is no need to think of it now.” Dalel sighed, still silently wishing for a daughter.
“Mother, I could go and find myself a girl. Maybe not now....” Aryn said in hope to bring his mother’s spirits up.
Dalel smiled and patted her eldest son’s face fondly. “Thank you, but there is no need to rush.”
Aryn looked shyly at her and said, “Well, actually, I was recently beginning to think of going out into the world and gain some experience.”
“In what? Courting?” Amon asked jokingly.
“Yes, and no,” Aryn answered. “I do want to find a wife soon – though not for now. But I want to go somewhere outside of this island and discover the world.”
This was something Dalel feared. “No! Absolutely not! You shall not leave this place. If you plan on travelling around this island you may, but leaving it I will not let you!”
Silence filled the whole place at Dalel’s sudden reaction.
“Come now, Dalel. Aryn is not going to a dangerous place. He just wants to experience adventure –” Illac tried to calm his wife, but knew it may take some time until she settled down.
“We have gone through this before, Illac. Last week, he has told me the same thing! I cannot let my son go to Korda,” Dalel explained.
Illac stared at his son grimly. “Where did you hear about Korda, Aryn?” he asked, his voice low
Aryn swallowed. He sensed his father’s anger coming like a thunderstorm. “Two weeks ago when I was talking to Wynn during an errand,” Aryn answered quietly. Though he was twenty, he still feared his own father’s anger. “Father, I’m sorry if you don’t want me to go. But remember the time when you gave me the ring on my tenth birthday? You told me that there will come a time when the High King will call you on a journey you will have to take. The High King had laid it in my heart to go to Korda.”
“How do you know if it is the High King?” Illac asked.
“I know this desire is from the High King. The moment I heard about Korda I felt this desire to go.”
Illac looked at his son and saw the determined look on his face. He sighed. Like himself, he knew his son was stubborn in taking risks and actions like these. “Let me tell you something about Korda, Aryn,” Illac began.
“Before I married your mother, I came from a royal family. My father – your grandfather – was a king who ruled Korda wisely and well. Your grandfather, King Ephesus II, was a servant of the High King himself. Yet, there came a time when he made a costly mistake. Your grandfather’s father – your great-grandfather, Ephesus I – died before your grandfather became king. There had been a rumour that Ephesus I’s prime minister, Malduke, put poison in his wine goblet one evening. Yet, your grandfather did not want to believe it because Malduke was good to him. It was several years later that Malduke’s plan was revealed.
“I was seven at the time. I remember it being the darkest day of my life. Ephesus II was at war against an army called the Order of Beliar, an army made by a band of evil magic artists. Your grandmother, Queen Ishi, received news that the king was slain in battle by Malduke. The messenger said that the royal family must flee to safety, before the Order reaches the castle. Queen Ishi had everyone in the castle dressed as peasants. She had us three children divided to the king’s most trusted and faithful friends. My sister, Princess Enka was handed to the royal bodyguard, Lord Bhodar. My brother, Prince Benik, was handed to our nurse Merri. As for me, I was handed to our tutor, Professor Garian. Before we parted, the queen handed each of us an item we are to hold close to us. Enka was given a garnet bracelet called Blood Stone. There was a legend that the stone was formed from the blood of Ishual – the son of High King – when he was killed. Benik was given a stone pendant he named Wind Voice. He gave the stone the name for its clear blue colour that reminded him of the wind and the sea. I was given the ring that I gave you on your birthday.”
Aryn looked at the ring he had on his finger.
“That ring,” Illac said, pointing to its bright green gem, “is called Hope Spring. I named it after a small spring we had not far from our palace, where we had wonderful times during the days of peace.”
Aryn looked at his father and noticed him appearing as if he had aged ten years more by remembering his past.
“We all left the castle, through secret passage ways and different routes. We did this so if one group were attacked the others would be safe. All who fled from that place hoped to leave the kingdom safely. Professor Garian took me to the harbor to leave the kingdom and come to this island for safety. Ever since I have left that place in fear I vowed to myself that I would return to help those who were unable to escape. Yet, as time flew, life was difficult for a start here and after I have married your mother and had you boys, I did not want to think of the place again. Too many sad memories.” Illac looked down sadly as he let out a deep sigh.
“My son, if the High King called you on this journey – then go. Whatever the reason, the High King may have a purpose for you there, perhaps to help those who are lost.” Illac then turned to his wife, “You know too well, my dear. Once the High King calls, there is no way we could stop him. For as the creator and the ruler of this world and many others, he makes sure his plan is established – even if dangers and risks must be taken.”
Dalel sadly looked at Aryn and nodded. “I understand,” she said quietly, as if speaking to the High King himself.