Author's Note: No, this is NOT an AU fanfic where Prince Ashitaka actually, literally dies at the beginning of the movie! It is my attempt to show respect for the Emishi's beliefs by showing how they would remember him, since they see him as being dead according to their rituals.

All the children of the Emishi were gathered together in a circle, waiting to hear the wise woman tell her story. Older brothers and sisters watched over their younger siblings, and several mothers were holding their babies in their arms. One of these was the Princess Kaya, recently grown and married, with her twin son and daughter Prince Akemi and Princess Kiyoko in her arms.

"Tonight I will honor the memory of one who died saving this village," the wise woman began, causing even the youngest children to fall silent. "His name was Prince Ashitaka, and he was killed by a demon."

Kaya smiled, remembering her brother. It had been ten years since his death, but Kaya would never forget.

"It was a peaceful day in our village," the wise woman continued. "We of the Emishi were living, as we always do, at peace with the world and its spirits, and having no quarrel with the gods. But as the sun moved on towards evening, I began to feel that something was very wrong."

She looked in the direction of the nearby forest and the rebuilt watchtower. "Something was moving behind the forest wall, something that should not be there, poisoning the land with its hate. I called all our people back to the village, but Prince Ashitaka went instead to the watchtower to see what was happening in the forest."

The wise woman paused, taking a deep breath. "There Prince Ashitaka learned that the thing in the forest was a demon. It attacked the watchtower and destroyed it, but Prince Ashitaka was able to save the life of the watchman by jumping with him to the branches of a nearby tree." The wise woman closed her eyes, then opened them again. "But that was not the end of the danger."

In Kaya's lap, Prince Akemi and his sister listened with round, open eyes. They were too young to understand, but one day they would know the tale of their uncle's sacrifice.

"The demon's wrath drove it towards our village, but in its path were three young girls, including the Princess Kaya, who had not yet managed to reach the village walls."

Nodding respectfully to Kaya, the wise woman continued, "The brave Kaya prepared to defend herself and her friends, but her sword would not have saved them from the demon."

"Prince Ashitaka raced toward them on his elk, Yakuo. Shooting an arrow into the eye of the demon, he drove it back long enough for the girls to escape and reach the village. But in return, Ashitaka received a terrible wound."

Great pain filled the wise woman's eyes as she said, "By the time the demon had been laid to rest and our village saved, Prince Ashitaka's arm had been wounded by a curse that I could not remove."

Kaya bowed her head, remembering the terrible wound in her brother's arm that had resisted all attempts to heal it. Prince Akemi reached up his little hand to pat at her face, not understanding his mother's sadness, while the tiny Princess Kiyoko shifted restlessly. Kaya held them close to listen as the wise woman finished her story.

"Later that evening, I met in council with the Emishi to determine Prince Ashitaka's fate. In accordance with our customs, it was decided that he must leave the village."

The wise woman looked up, towards the sky. "Ashitaka would travel far away, to the source of the evil that had transformed a once-noble boar god into the demon who attacked us, the same evil that now lived in our prince's wound. He would travel in the hope of finding a cure for his wound, and also that he might learn to understand the evil that threatened our world - 'to see with eyes unclouded by hate.'"

The wise woman looked around at the circle of her people's children. "Prince Ashitaka accepted his fate with dignity. He cut off his long hair, turned and walked quietly out of the council house. At that moment, no matter what might happen to him later along his journey, Prince Ashitaka died according to our laws and in our hearts."

Only Kaya, thinking of the crystal dagger she once wore, knew that it had been a little longer before he died.