Ryukan hurried through the forest, his breath coming faster as he scouted the places hoping to find the water source. He cursed, knowing that it would be coming dark soon and he wanted to have filled his containers, as he had to make his way back home. The Great Festival would be starting soon enough and he needed to be back before that happened. His debut was that night and his mother would never forgive him if he failed to show. Ryukan pulled up, sniffing the air as a skilled hunter like himself could do. A scent in the air told him that he was approaching his goal – water.
He changed direction and followed his nose and as the trees thinned out, he could make out the sound and then shine of the river he sought. Ryukan pushed through the foliage and came across a vision he had never seen before. A Noblewoman was sitting by the stream, unveiled.
He averted his eyes quickly hoping she had not seen him gaze upon her or she would have the right to blind him. It was the law of the land. He kept his head down but spoke, ‘Forgive me My’ Lady, I knew not that you were here. I have great need for water.’
Silence was the only answer she gave him. Even the humming stopped.
Ryukan risked a swift glance and saw that while she was silent, her hands still brushed at her hair. The man hissed softly, knowing he did not have the time for Noble’s games today.
‘My Lady, please grant me leave to approach the river.’ He tried again, but still only silence.
Ryukan slowly unhooked his water bottle and held it in front of him. Then he inched his way to the river, making sure not to look directly at her. The only sound he heard was the water splashing and the birds singing. Ryukan risked taking another look at the Noblewoman just to make sure he did not stumble into her by accident.
Her raven hair was loose and flowing along into the water. The robes were very richly made and were a vibrant crimson colour with black swans embroidered on them. Her skin was the colour of the finest porcelain. In all she was the most beautiful creature Ryukan had ever laid eyes on.
He flushed, not sure where his thoughts were taking him. He knew it was dangerous for him to be here – it could cost him his life if she cried out.
Oddly though, she did not seem to realise that he was there. He made it to the river and averted his eyes and began to fill up his supply bottles. Moments later a rustling behind Ryukan startled him and he spun around to see the young doll like Noblewoman standing so close to him he nearly fell into the river.
Ryukan panicked and fell to his knees, his forehead on the ground. ‘I’m sorry M’lady, I did not mean to intrude. This is the only water source around and I needed to refill my bottles. Please forgive me!’
There was no answer and Ryukan wondered if this was a trick that the Nobles were playing on a lowly commoner. He risked a quick glance around the clearing, Ryukan had heard tales of bored Nobles taking sport with the people on the outskirts of the City. Only there was nobody here apart from himself, the river and the Doll Noblewoman. She was standing looking down at him with her head slightly titled a small frown on her face.
Then the noblewoman reached out and touched his forehead softly. Ryukan flinched but held still. He felt the pressure of her small finger leave but still the touch burned.
She looked at her finger and then asked him, ‘Who are you? Where am I? And lastly What is my name?’
Ryukan forgot the laws and looked at her in horror, surely she was jesting with him. Noblewoman do not forget their names, they are brought up to know everybody of importance as they were the rulers of this country.
Ryukan stammered, his thoughts scattered by this turn of events. ‘M..M’lady I do not know who you are. My n..name is Ryukan Artemis, I am a simple performer from the village Lao’re. You are in land of Harkene, Capital of the Tolronee Empire.’
He cast his eyes down again and waited for the laughter that would surely follow, Instead he got silence again.
Her sweet voice broke into his thoughts, ‘I do not know these names, I do not know this place. I am very confused. Help me please.’
Ryukan was double damned now, her blue jewel like eyes were empty and her voice was confused – she was just like a doll in flesh. The wind whipped about and the leaves circled her robes which had gotten muddy at the hems. Suddenly her eyes widened and her body trembled, a sigh left her mouth then she went limp and fell to the ground.
Ryukan did not know what to do, by law he could not look at an unveiled Noblewoman, let alone touch one. He stood up, he should leave her there and get back to the village. He had the water he was sent for, but something drew his gaze to the Noblewoman. There was a quality about her that captured Ryukan’s spirit. He stepped forward intending to leave her but he found he couldn’t leave her lying there on the ground when clearly she needed help. He cursed, Ryukan had already broken the law once today, another time would not hurt.
He made sure he had his bottles secured to the harness and then reached down to gently grab the Noblewoman. He held her close to him, her heartbeat thumping against his chest. Her warm body felt soft against his and his body started to stir. Ryukan shook his head to clear his thoughts, that he did not need right now and started on his way home.
It was fully dark when he finally reached the village. The two guards on the gates were thankfully friends of his.
‘Ryu is that you? What have you got there?’ Huan asked him,
‘Ryu your mother has been expecting you for hours now she is really mad, you better get home quickly.’ Jian said at the same time.
Ryukan stumbled to stop, breathing heavily. The Noblewoman had not stirred the whole time he had ran, but she was getting heavy. ‘Huan, Jian I need some help. Please can you send someone for Healer Tsua, tell her to come quickly to my parents house. I found this Noblewoman in the woods, she needs help.’
The guardsmen looked at Ryukan and the Noblewoman in a mixture of confused horror. They opened and shut their mouths like carp, he cursed and started past them then yelled, ‘Huan NOW!’
Huan nodded and raced off to find the healer. It took three minutes for Ryukan to reach his house and found he couldn’t open the door with his burden. He kicked on the door three times. It was a loud wooden thump that anyone inside could hear. As soon as his father angrily opened the door, he pushed in and searched for a place to lay the girl down.
‘Ryukan what is the meaning of this? How dare you kick the door? Your mother -,’ That was all his father got to say when a female voice interrupted,
‘Can speak for herself. I think the question we have to ask is Who is that? and why are you laying her on the floor?’
Ryukan stopped in the process of laying her down in front of the fireplace, ‘Mother I need a place for her, she’s sick.’
His mother gave him a disgusted look and led him to his parents bedroom. There he gently laid her down on his parents bedroll. ‘Mother, I sent for the Healer; she should be here any time.’
His mother paled when she saw clearly who he had in his arms, whispered to his father who nodded and left to wait for the healer outside the bedroom.
As Ryukan was settling the Noblewoman into the bedroll, his mother unstrapped the water bottles from his harness and carefully set them aside. She kept stealing glances at the Noblewoman, not believing her eyes.
There was a murmur of voices from the entrance hall and then the healer was shown in. Healer Tsua was an old woman with strange green eyes who was filled with no nonsense attitude – no one messed around with her. She bustled over to the bed her eyes widened when she saw who was her patient. ‘What do we have here?’
Ryukan quickly filled the Healer in about what had happened and how the girl collapsed.
Healer Tsua closed her eyes and ran her hand over the centre line of the girls body, lingering on her head. After a few minutes, Tsua opened her eyes and gazed sadly at the girl. ‘It is true what the boy says.’
Her voice was gravelly, ‘Her mind has been wiped by great magic’s. She knows things but nothing to do with her identity. She is a lost little sparrow who has had its wings clipped. I do not know if she will ever recover what she has lost. Only time will tell. She is not injured internally apart from her mind. She only had one stray memory left and it was filled with great happiness. A child has been in her life and is now gone.’
Tsua clicked her tongue then looked at Ryukan, ‘Take great care of her young man, she has a bond with you now. You will be the only face she knows and she will be frightened when she wakes up.’
Ryukan nodded his attention already taken by the beautiful creature lying there helplessly. ‘When will she awaken? Why did she collapse?’
Tsua shook her head, ‘It was a combination of the mind wipe and hunger. The wipe couldn’t have happened very long ago. She must have been wandering for a couple of days. Though why she wasn’t picked up before now I will never know. She would have made a beautiful Stars Maiden.’
Ryukan’s mother Laskan grimaced, the life of a Stars Maiden was not a job for all. It was an honoured position, but a whore was a whore no matter what it was called.
Tsua smiled and patted his hand, ‘Right young man, you must make her drink this tea and make sure she eats well. She will be ravenous when the girl wakes, which should be by tomorrow morning.’
Laskan thanked Tsua and helped her out. His father Kyan followed his wife and the healer and left Ryukan by himself for the moment. Laskan came back into her bedroom and sat down next to her son. ‘You need to go get ready Ryu, the Great Festival will not wait for one girl, no matter how beautiful she is.’
She held up a hand to forestall his protests, ‘Your father will sit with her. Healer Tsua has told you that she will not wake up till tomorrow. Now go get ready, the Gods will expect you to be there.’
Ryukan dipped his head and with one last look at the sleeping girl, stood up and left the room to get ready. Laskan stayed for a moment, fighting the instinct not to look away from the Noblewoman.
She leant over her and whispered, ‘I don’t care who you were, if you hurt my son – I will make look like you disappeared.’
She brushed some of the ebony hair off the woman’s face and then tucked the blankets tighter.
Ryukan threw on his Festival clothes not really noticing much, thinking about the Noblewoman. He wished he didn’t have to perform tonight, but he was needed. The Gods would be expecting it as tonight was the Great Festival of Akashala, a music celebration of the Gods Triumph over the Sea Beasts of Ferom a hundred years ago. It was part of his families Geas that one of them had to be chosen in each generation to play the part of Daichi Artemis, one of the principle warriors of the Gods.
That night he danced with all his passion, unleashing a force and presence that had never been witnessed before. All his energy was was focused on the small woman who had captured his heart so quickly. People cheered and the Gods smiled, pleased with the Geas. They conferenced amongst themselves and decided to reward the young man for his passion.
It was the following morning when the girl awoke and Ryukan explained everything to her. He could see her mind working trying to figure it out. She looked scared and yet a glow surrounded her. She nodded and held out her hand, he took it hesitantly while she leaned forward and whispered. ‘It is okay Ryukan, I trust you.’
The Gods made good their intentions for the seasons came and went and a year later the village was celebrating the marriage of Ryukan and his bride, whom the village named Klia which meant sparrow in the old tongue. The village loved their lost sparrow and she in turn loved the village. Klia was a lucky spirit – the crops grew faster and in abundance. Sickness was non existent and she brought a smile to every bodies face. She still did not know why her mind had been wiped, but she didn’t care. She was happy and learning new things. The flame of magic burned in her core. As soon as she said her vows a wind blew up around the happy couple and leaves swirled around them blessing them and the village.
The Australian Literature Review