A Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind one-shot
DISCLAIMER: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind belongs to Studio Ghibli and its affiliates.
Rating: T - Character Death.
"From little towns in a far land we came,
To save our honour and a world aflame.
By little towns in a far land we sleep;
And trust that world we won for you to keep."
- Two Canadian Memorials, by Rudyard Kipling
The ship rumbles. Lights blink. Then comes a choking breathlessness like a punch to the chest. Lastelle knows the ship is descending, knows her time has come.
Her captors scream at her to sit down. But she rises to her feet, the chains singing with her. She wants to die standing. They warn her again. When she refuses to obey they bark at her: whelp, Pejite whore, bitch – then a tremor blows all sound from her ears. The ship lurches, tosses her at her captors.
She recovers fast enough to see, through the ship's window, the curvature of the earth, the unbroken line of the horizon where deep blue meets black. And, in a moment as quick as dream, a girl's face flashes past the window. Lastelle screams. She reaches out.
Her hands find nothing but metal and flame.
She removes her head covering, slips the navy-coloured blouse onto her body. As they exchange last words, she checks if the guard has heard. She hears Lastelle's mother apologise to the Princess from the Valley. Before they leave, she lock eyes with the foreign Princess. In this short interval, she sees a necklace of sweat in the triangle of her throat. Then the Princess is gone.
So she huddles, hearing the door open and the guard's customary footfall. A hanging second of quiet, and the door finally closes, with the stammer of multiple locks being activated. She raises her head. She has taken the foreign Princess' place.
Her head submerged in the dark tent her own body forms, she moves the tense muscles cramped under the blouse she's inherited. It's one size too small. It feels like somebody's hands are clamped over her shoulders.
Then, above the gentle purring of the brig in flight, she hears it. She pauses, sits very still. Head balanced between her knees, she concentrates. There's voices crying, the symphony of the brig's aggrieved engine, and the wrathful beating of machine-gun fire – all sung to the chorus of her hammering heart.
From above, he can see the lakes below. The Valley of the Wind lies in a whorl of cloud, its hills like knuckles of an enormous fist of earth. From above, he can see the surface of the earth stir, the blossoming of a thousand mauve lights like stars.
Lord Yupa points ahead. Asbel follows the arc of his arm. Against the shifting carbon grey of endless Ohm bodies, he sees a twinkling plateau of gold. It glows so fiercely it hurts his eyes. The threads of Ohm tongues supply the floating plain with a pillar of flesh. And right in the middle of that plain, rises a figure, a dark shadow sharpened by a background of intense white.
When the brig finally touches down, he sprints towards that figure. He criss-crosses through the gullies created by retreating Ohm, through the wrecks of Tolmekian tanks like the curled hands of dead men. Finally, he elbows his way through the people of the Valley, their bodies a protective barricade.
He finally breaks through the pressing crowd. And there, standing in a blush of sunlight, her hair flickering in the wind, is the Princess. Seeing her smiling, he can't stop himself. He takes her in his arms, then he lifts her in the air, where she truly belongs.
When the Tolmekian armies are gone and the debris of the war cleared, Nausicaa rebuilds the homes damaged during the occupation. She spends her waking hours planting seedlings, seeking locations for new wells and reading the currents in the wind. She even restores her garden, the vegetation spawned from healthy spores engulfing the dead remnants of the first, their fragile tendrils like outstretched baby fingers.
But when she sleeps, she floats back to the final moments before the Ohm stampede. She feels the wind clawing at her face like sandpaper – the explosive shock when the nearest Ohm hits – the weightlessness of her limbs as they sliced through the air, nerves blunted with the initial impact. And finally the final intake of breath, a stabbing pressure of blood blitzing the lungs, before falling into darkness –
Then she wakes, her breath rapid-firing for air, like someone drowning.
As she shakes the dreams away, the room around her surfaces into consciousness. There's a muffled voice, as if underwater, asking if she's all right. Then Asbel's arms fall over her, a diagonal slash of warmth across her shoulder to her abdomen. There's the scent of his body: a wave of sweat, linen, moist soil drying in the sun. She curls against him, folds her back into his embrace, his body the only buoy on this dark ocean of a bed of violent dreams.
When the Princess of the Valley promises to be guide her into the air at her first glider flight, the youngest cadet stays awake all night thinking of the moment she will leave the ground to soar into air, like her beloved Princess. She imagines the approving grin on the Princess' face. She imagines the glider beneath her, wiping the earth with its white wings, the Princess' blue blouse a banner blinking in encouragement.
But the Princess doesn't show up.
Later, returning the glider to its hangar, she witnesses something she will remember for a long time. In a clearing framed by the linking arms branches dense with yellowed leaves, she sees Lord Yupa. He is looking at the sky. Behind him, she sees the Princess and her Pejite companion, locked in motionless embrace, like a pair of statues left in the garden.
When they break apart, she sees the Princess' shadowed eyes, as if blackened by kohl. She sees the Princess' hands flat on her companion's chest. She sees the Princess' hands tighten, knuckles showing, like a shriveled flower in his shirt, before Lord Yupa interrupts. Then the youngest cadet understands. She remembers the chico nuts she once gave to her Princess, the stray touch of the Princess' hands. And, for that moment, watching her Princess being ushered against her will a second time, she realises she would hate to be in her place.
The Tolmekian scout traces the shadows in the decayed forest. He has a clear view of the clearing. Sunshine pours into it through a hole in the canopy, filling it like a container. He adjusts the angle of his weapon, and waits for his commander's orders.
There is a crackle, like the sound of paper being balled. His commander signs with his fingers, directs his gaze to the clearing. He shoulders the weapon, the weight of the missile cramming the metal shaft of the firing pin into his right shoulder. His fingers dance around the trigger.
Two figures emerge from the decayed forest, surrounded by a halo of smaller insects. When they step into the honeyed light of the clearing, his commander issues the sign. Kill. The Tolmekian scout takes a glance ahead, squaring his shoulders. Through one closed eye, he sees the figure of a tall bearded man glide into his vision. He inhales. He presses the trigger.
There is a smack of wind that kills the sound from his ears. The bearded man turns to him, eyes aglow in the sunshine, and rises in into the air, swallowed by smoke and embers. The whole forest stirs. The bark of the tree behind him bubbles and melts away. His commander yells. He picks up his weapon and runs, kicking and punching through undergrowth. As the disturbed spores fall all around him, he stops. He looks up into the bejeweled patterns of sunshine filtering down and thinks: what a beautiful day.
In a garden beneath the tallest windmill, the people of the Valley of the Wind surround the fire, their shadows blown out of proportion by the waving flames. The elders and leaders dominate the innermost circle, the younger men sit outside. In the cramped quarters, a baby yells, someone coughs and the cold wind keeps everyone's heads lowered.
One of the young men yawns. His vision blurs, refocusing on the bent-backed longbeards and the toothless old mothers in their veils. He watches their mouths move, their jaws quivering with age or uncertainty or both. He knows they are talking about the attacks, the moving armies and even arming themselves. But all he sees are the wrinkles above their eyes, grooved in darkness.
But the meeting ends, and the gloom gives way to happiness at the first good harvest after the invasion. The people of the Valley dance, and the young people begin to pair off. The young man looks across the twinned bodies at the Princess. Her hands tucked under her, she stares at the fire. So the young man stands and walks through the congregating dancers. He summons his words, bows and asks the Princess to dance.
The Princess slips a stray lock of hair behind her right ear. As she takes his hand, the young man sees the edges of her mouth twist into the faintest of smiles.
In the ship, Asbel rides shotgun with the Tolmekian commander of the unit that did the ambush. His eyes flirt with the pistol on the commander's belt. He could reach out and grab it – if not for the machine-gun muzzle buried in the nape of his neck.
The commander guides the ship into a steady descent. He sees windmills: the Valley of the Wind! They've brought him back! From the crackling cockpit windows, he can see the scattered dimples of people evading the vulture-like shadow of the Tolmekian aircraft. Buckling, the commander makes an easy landing. The soldiers disembark, firing warning shots.
The commander nods to Asbel, and he says in a brittle monotone: "An independent nation is a threat to the security of the empire."
Asbel feels the machine-gun's muzzle bite his neck, forcing him forward. And the commander says slowly, as if talking to a child:
"Convince the rogue Princess to surrender her kingdom to the empire. Or you'll die standing."
At her signal, an opening tattoo of gunfire peppers the invading soldiers, downing them before they can organize themselves. As the Tolmekian soldiers return fire, she rides her glider, leading the others, swarming the invaders in a haze of white wings.
Then: Asbel - pinned between three soldiers – gun to his head – his arms pleading up at her as the click and pop of pistol fire bursts around her. She recalls her father's body, limp, surrounded by the same soldiers. And she screams. She dives at them.
The ground zooms up at her, but she adjusts her body just at the right moment. The force of the plunge sends her crashing into Asbel's captors. She hits the ground with her blade drawn. In one moment, she cuts down the soldier holding Asbel close. Another one with a pistol, the soldier with the trappings of a higher-ranked officer, opens fire point-blank-range. But in one desperate lunge she hacks away at her assailant's throat. The soldier with the pistol stumbles, his head drooping like a withered flower.
She reaches out for Asbel, but her entire body ignites in pain.
As his comrades frantically regroup, the Tolmekian scout scrambles to cover their retreat. He lets his loaded weapon settle on the contours of his shoulder, checks the firing pin and takes a deep breath.
Peering through the iron sight he sees the prisoner and a girl framed in his sights. He sees a dark, wet rose of blood blooming from the girl's breast. As the deadly gliders float above, sunlight shatters and re-shatters around them. He sees the prisoner's tongue moving in anger, the graceful recline of the girl's body, her polished bare knee where her skirt has rode up.
He exhales. He sees two young bodies cradled in an angry ocean of thrashing grass.
My first Nausicaa fic - I wrote this after watching the movie. I used the same 4/5 paragraph style that I've been using a lot recently.
I don't know if I'll write anything more for this fandom.
Comments, feedback or criticism will make my day.