Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Daughter of Benik [Prologue]


Planet: Ditté
Year: 1589, the tenth year of the dynasty of King Ephesus II
Place: Castle of Mer, the oceanic city of Zorr, in the kingdom of Korda.

                Queen Ishi, dressed as a peasant, quickly gave kisses to her triplet children. Princess Enka, the eldest of the three, was handed to the king’s best friend and bodyguard, Lord Bhodar. Prince Illac, the second child and the eldest son, stood with his tutor, Professor Garian. Lastly, Prince Benik, the youngest of the three, was brought to their nurse Merri. Dressed in peasant garbs like their mother, all three children looked at her with fear and sadness. The queen slipped a bracelet on Enka’s wrist; then she gave Illac an emerald ring. Lastly she came to Benik, her youngest, and placed an aquamarine pendant around his neck. The little prince watched the queen move away from him as she gave her last instructions to her servants:
                “I give you my authority in taking these children with you. Leave this place through secret passages on the east and north. The horses are saddled and ready for you there. Be careful that they do not follow you. Do not worry about me for the High King is watching over me as he is watching over all of you. If something happens to me please raise these children as your own and keep their royal blood a secret, for those who serve Beliar may still seek their blood. My blessings are with you. May the High King lead you to safety. Now go! We must leave this place.”
                The paired groups scattered, disappearing through various corridors to leave the castle. Merri, out of fear, anxiously ran down the secret stairwell with little Benik. Benik felt his face painfully hit the wall as his nurse tripped on the bottom step accidentally landing on the prince. The prince wailing in pain, Merri quickly got up as she took the little boy into her arms. She wept apologetically as she carried him to the hidden exit leading to the stable. It began to rain as the pair safely left the castle on horseback.
                A black-cloaked army reached the castle; with them they brought torches that flapped in the wind like blazing banners. Like a sea of darkness and flames the army silently surrounded the castle. Rain poured in buckets putting out their torches. They brought out their gleaming black swords and lit their blades, eerie blood-coloured flames blazed under the darkened sky. One of them, who rode on a black stallion wearing a mask of death, turned to a group of them commanding them to search the castle, making sure that no one escapes.
                Moments later, the group returned reporting that the castle was deserted and because of the heavy rain they could not find the tracks of the fugitives. The leader commanded the army to set the castle on fire so that no one would be able to return to it. The cloaked followers lit the castle as their leader watched gloating over their victory.

                Meanwhile, Merri rode through the woods as she calculated a plan. Prince Benik sat obediently in front of her on the saddle, his face pale with fear and anxiety. She wanted to ride through the woods crossing the border into the next kingdom, yet, she knew it would be impossible because of the mountain roads sealed and guarded by the followers of Beliar. What’s more, even if they did attempt the risk of crossing the mountains on foot the weather would make their journey even more arduous. The woods grew along the side a huge steep hill, the rain would make rivers off of mudslides due to the exposed surfaces, and riding across this hill would be just as dangerous. Hearing the pounding of hooves off in a distance behind them, Merri quickly changed her plans.
                The nurse slid off her horse and helped the prince off. She slapped the horse on its rump making it gallop through the woods in the opposite direction, praying that their pursuers would follow the horse. Then, taking the prince’s hand in hers, Merri ran – praying for an escape. Hearing the sound of horses, they hid in a nearby cave. Pressing themselves against the cave wall, they watched the cave entrance listening as a band of black-cloaked people rode past them.
                Oh, Ishual, she prayed, is there any way for us both to escape. If not the both of us at least save this child – for my sake. Tears streamed her face with the rainwater.
                The band stopped not far from there. She panicked; unsure of what to do she held her breath. Then she heard a snarling sound behind her. Horrified, she turned and came face to face with a bear. The bear snarled again.
                Merri begged quietly, “Please. If you are to eat one of us, please eat me, but not the child.”
                Benik buried his face into the drenched cloak of his nurse.
                The bear looked at the two intruders. Then pointing his snout towards the entrance he sniffed the air outside. He again looked at her, only this time his eyes were gentle. To the nurse’s surprise, the creature turned and headed towards where the riders were. Then, she heard a still voice from within her.
                Follow the tunnel of his den with your hand on the wall at your right, you should come to the back entrance. Exit from there. The nurse hesitated. Go! Now! Before they come!
                Taking the boy by the hand she ran, following the mysterious instructions, through be a dark tunnel in the den. Trusting that they could make to safety they ran further and further down into the tunnel. Then, they felt the route suddenly going up and up.
                “Nanny Merri,” said Benik, “I could hear the waters rushing.”
                “I do too,” said the nurse as they made their way up, the sound grew louder and louder to their ears.
                They stopped and came before a waterfall. Merri looked around her, the path stopped at where they stood. She looked up. The way up was too steep and slippery to climb.
                “Oh, Ishual! What are we to do?” she cried out.
                She heard footsteps approaching them. Knowing that those were not the footsteps of a bear she frantically looked around for a way of escape. She looked at Benik.
                Kneeling to his height she asked gently, “Benik, can you swim?”
                “I swam in a rainy day once, but you’ve scolded me for that because I could catch my deaths,” replied the boy.
                “Nanny will not scold you this time,” Merri said solemnly, “Could you dive and swim from here?”
                The boy prince looked down the falls then at Merri. “I think so,” he nodded.
                “Wonderful!” Merri embraced him. “Then, do that for your nanny.” She stroked his injured face and added sadly, “I’m sorry for hurting you,”
                “It’s all right, Nanny. I’m a big boy now!” Benik straightened himself proudly.
                The nurse smiled and embraced the little boy. She was going to miss her prince. “Then, go now, my little prince. May the High King be with you!” She said, quickly pressing him near the edge.
                The boy looked at her then at the water.
                “Go!” cried the nurse as she made her way back to the tunnel.
                Benik hesitated as he heard his nurse screaming, a painful cry rang in the tunnel. He stood in fear. “Nanny?” he called quietly.
                Suddenly, a group of cloaked men appeared with blood stained swords. Benik shook in horror as he watched them approach him. Stepping back, his foot slipped as he felt himself fall in to the cascade of waters.

*              *              *              *              *              *              *              *              *              *

Planet: Earth
Year: 1800 AD
Place: Canadian Prairies (Canada)

                Chief Gold-Bear rode on his horse as he and his men made their way back from their buffalo hunt.
                “Wait till the elders see all the buffalo meat we would bring home, Father!” said Sky-Eyes to his father, White-Owl.
                The men smiled in response. This was the first buffalo hunt for some of the young men like Sky-Eyes.
                As the hunting band made their way towards a river, Gold-Bear noticed something near the water’s edge. Holding up his hand he halted the group and had Thunder-Voice examine the unidentified being.
                Within moments, Thunder-Voice returned with a young boy in his arms.
                “He looks like one of those people whom we’ve heard about – Whitemen,” said Earth-Hawk.
                Gold-Bear looked at the boy. Noticing a chain hanging from his neck he looked at it. It was a strong gold chain that had a smooth polished stone on it – the colour of the sky and water in the shape of a seashell. The clothes the boy wore were just as strange. They were not made of soft buckskin, but something much thinner and softer. The boy’s clothes were covered in mud and water scum, hiding the colour of the cloth. Gold-Bear knew that this boy had come from a band of great people and somewhere else.
                “Thunder-Voice, let him ride with you on your horse. We will take care of the boy and find out who he is.”

                Benik opened his eyes and found himself in a tent. As he sat up and looked around, he saw a girl with black braids sitting near the fire stirring its embers. Seeing Benik up, she quickly left the place and returned with a strong looking man with flowing black hair.
                “I am Thunder-Voice and this is my daughter, Autumn-Wind,” said the man in a deep strong voice, “And who do we have the honour of meeting?”
                Benik looked at the man and the girl. “I’m Benik, son of King Ephesus II and Queen Ishi,”
                Thunder-Voice looked at him with a confused expression. “Is your father a chief himself?” he asked.
                “A chief?” Benik asked.
                “A leader of his people,”
                “Yes, I suppose you would call him that,” Benik looked at them just as confused. “Could you tell me where I am?”
                “You are in my tent, in our village.”
                “Yes, but where is your village? Is it in Korda or is this another land?”
                “Korda? This is just a land we live on, the land which the Great Spirit has guided us to live upon.”
                Benik sat there blankly. “This isn’t Korda?”
                “We do not know a place called Korda,” Thunder-Voice replied.
                Benik suddenly ran out of the tent.
                “Where are you going?” asked Autumn-Wind.
                Benik stopped suddenly staring at his surroundings in disbelief. I don’t recognize this place! he thought, This isn’t Korda!
                A group of strange unfamiliar people stopped what they were doing and stared at the strange boy. Some children who were playing also stopped to stare at the young stranger’s foreign features and clothes.
                Benik ran his fingers through his dark brown hair; scenes of his past came back to him. His mother, his sister and brother, his father, the people who wanted him and his family dead, Nanny Merri.... A painful blow shot through his head, Benik held his head as he cried out. Overwhelmed by the pain, he sank to the ground. A still gentle voice whispered in his heart, I will protect you and watch over you. You will be all right.

Monday, 13 May 2013

「あめふり」 ("Amefuri" - a Traditional Japanese Children's Song)

["Amefuri" - Rainy Day]
あめあめ ふれふれ かあさんが
じゃのめで おむかえ うれしいな
ピッチピッチ チャップチャップ
ランランラン
[Rain, rain, let it fall; what a joy it is;
My mother will come here with her janome* umbrella,
Drip, drip, splash, splash, la-la-la!]
*janome - a large traditional paper umbrella

かけましょ かばんを かあさんの
あとから ゆこゆこ かねがなる
ピッチピッチ チャップチャップ
ランランラン
[With the bag on my shoulders, I follow my mother;
The school bell is ringing somewhere,

Drip, drip, splash, splash, la-la-la!]

あらあら あのこは ずぶぬれだ
やなぎの ねかたで ないている
ピッチピッチ チャップチャップ
ランランラン
[Uh-oh, that girl is dripping wet;
She is crying at the foot of a willow tree,

Drip, drip, splash, splash, la-la-la!]

かあさん ぼくのを かしましょか
きみきみ このかさ さしたまえ
ピッチピッチ チャップチャップ
ランランラン
[Mother, I'll lend her my umbrella;
"Hi there. Here, use this umbrella."

Drip, drip, splash, splash, la-la-la!]

ぼくなら いいんだ かあさんの
おおきな じゃのめに はいってく
ピッチピッチ チャップチャップ
ランランラン
[You don't have to worry about me,
I could join join Mother under her big umbrella,

Drip, drip, splash, splash, la-la-la!]

[The End]



Monday, 6 May 2013

The Three Lives of Lady Bluebeard: Chapter 2



[II]

            For two months I stayed with the elderly woman and her son. The old woman was Lita; her son Iain was a shepherd. The life that their home was peaceful, I enjoyed the quiet life they shared with me. Lita had a spinning wheel, which she taught me to use. With the spinning, she taught me how to knit, sew and mend clothing. Sometimes I would miss weaving. Although I have seen Lita weave with the wool they harvested to make cloaks, I still could not make myself to weave again for I could not help remembering that horrible room located beneath my private room. Just standing at the loom brought back memories of my connections with Bluebeard.
            One day in thanks for their kindness, I finally decided to weave once more. I borrowed Lita’s loom and made a few attempts to make my cloth. At first it was painful for I could not weave as before. Finally, after practicing with wool, I decided to make the best bolts of silk and satin for them so that they would not be in need for winter. I unfurled my wings and plucked my feathers weaving them into the material for this was going to be my masterpiece. I wove every night until dawn. By the time I finished, I made one bolt of the finest silk and another of satin that even Bluebeard would covet. I nervously looked at myself in the mirror that morning and saw that very few of my feathers remained on my wings. I knew that my time was fast approaching.
            I gave Lita and Iain the bolts of cloth, telling them to sell it to the most respected merchants in the city. They did as they were told. While they were away, I wove one last bolt for them before they returned with my feathers. Just as I wove the last of my feathers into the cloth, I heard the door open. They have returned sooner than expected.
            “So that was how you wove those cloths.” Iain said in wonder for I have not told them of my talents.
            I immediately folded my wings and removed the finished bolt from the loom. “Here is the finest linen I could offer. I must now go for I cannot stay here longer.”
            As I packed my things Lita approached me and gave me a tortoise shell comb. “Thank you for all that you have done, my dear.” She then added, “Would you not consider staying here any longer?”
            I shook my head. “I will be expected home,” I told her. The word “home” tasted dry in my mouth.
            “Take care,” Iain said as he helped me onto a horse-drawn cart that would take me back.
            I told the driver where the mansion was. The horse began to pull the cart as I waved good-bye.

            Back at the mansion, I entered the place with a laden heart. As I passed the mirror in the hall I remembered that something was missing. I stopped. Immediately I went back to the mirror to see what it was. I felt the colour drain from my face. I did not have the lacquered comb or the key with me. I panicked. Where did I lose them? I tried to remember. Then it came to me. The last time I had those with me were when I was at the cellar door.
            I dreaded going back to that place, but I knew that if Bluebeard discovered that I did not have those things with me he would surely kill me. Not wishing my fate to be as those women in that cellar, I ran back to that wing. I stopped in front of the tapestry that covered the door. I prayed that the key would be in the keyhole. I reached over, distancing my body away from the door as I moved the tapestry. Thankfully the door was still closed with the key in the lock and the chain hanging from it. Just beneath the door I saw the lacquered comb, its fine long teeth just caught between the door and the floor. I quickly yanked the comb from the floor door and ran away from that room as fast as I could. I ran into our bedchamber and leaned against the door.
After calming myself for a moment, I looked down at my hands. I felt the floor beneath me give away, for in my hand was the broken chain and the comb with a couple teeth missing. I must have broken the teeth when I yanked the comb from under the door and snapped the chain when I ran from the room. I wanted to cry for I knew that my doom was in evitable.
“Oh, Patron, please help me!” I prayed, hoping that his help would arrive soon.
            That night I could not sleep a wink for I paced around our chamber for hours wringing my hands in agony. Though I was able to fix the chain it still had a section of it missing making it noticeably shorter. I wore it under my dress in hope that Bluebeard would not notice. But the greatest damage of all was the broken comb. The first three teeth were noticeably snapped off and were beyond repair. I had no choice, but hid it from my presence for I could not bear to see it.
            I heard the horses bring the carriage bearing their master home. I decided that I would try to buy as much time as I can, hoping that my help would come soon.
            “Where is my lovely wife?” Bluebeard called.
            I swallowed. I checked myself in the mirror before I made my way to see him.
            “Hello there, pet!” he held out his arms to me for an embrace.
            I smiled and embraced him, praying that he would not notice a change in me.
            “Did you miss me?’ he asked.
            “Of course!” I forced myself to say.
            “How did you fare in my absence?”
            “I kept myself busy.” I told him.
            “That is good to hear.” Then I heard the words I dreaded, “I hope you still have that key I put under your custody.”
            I swallowed. “Yes, yes, I do.” I held up the key to for his inspection.
            “Why is the chain shorter?” he asked.
            “Well, I – I accidentally got it caught and I snapped it. You know how long it was. I did repair it.”
            His eyes narrowed and travelled to my hair. “That is a new comb you have there. Where is the one I gave you?”
            I froze. “I – ” I could not speak.
            “Where is my mother’s comb?” he demanded darkly.
            “I have it. It – ”
            “If so, why do you not wear it? Let me see it.”
            I nervously went to the guestroom and lifted the rug, to my hiding place. From there I retrieved the comb and brought it to my husband, handle first.
            Bluebeard grabbed the comb. Seeing its missing teeth, his face filled with fury and hate. He gripped my wrist and held the broken comb to my face.
            “How did this happen?”
            I felt myself shaking once again.
            “How did this happen!” he roared, gripping my shoulders shaking me.
            “Please don’t hurt me!” I begged.
            “So, you have seen that room have you?” He threw the comb on the floor. I tried to wrestle from his grasp, but he was too strong.
            “Help! Somebody help!” I cried out.
            “They can’t hear you! Those servants cannot hear for I have given them leave for the town festival.”
            I bit his hand and broke away from him. I blindly made my way through the mansion, its halls twisting like a maze. I felt the heat coming from his hands as he reached towards me. I saw a door, praying that it was a way out I opened it. Only to my dismay, the door led to the rooftop.
            “Where are you, wife?” I heard him say.
            I ran from one end of the rooftop to the other, over looking the edge, hoping to see if Patron had sent his rescue as promised.
            “You cannot get away.” I turned and saw Bluebeard with a long knife in his hand.
            I ran away from him, trying to keep a distance. But his size and height seemed to overpower me.
            Suddenly something flew into the air and landed on Bluebeard’s head with smack. He turned furiously.
            “Run, Mitsy! Run!” I heard Iain’s voice say.
            I made a dash for the door. The knife landed deeply, waving on the doorframe, narrowly missing my head.
            I grabbed the knife and held it with both hands in front of me.
            “You think you are good with that?” he lunged at me.
            I ran to the edge and threw the knife far out of his reach.
            “You!” I heard him say as his big hands circled my throat. I felt myself lifted up, or was it because I could not breath.
            “Mitsy!” I heard another voice say.
            A horrible cry, then I felt myself fall caught by a pair of strong arms.
            “Mitsy!” I heard Toki’s voice. Dazed, I coughed and saw Toki cradling my head, while Patron stood over Bluebeard with a bloodied rapier. I heard more footsteps and saw Iain with his leather sling followed by some servants who came back to see what had happened to their master and mistress.