A Ragya; Sheda!

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“Wake up Sheda! It is time my child! You must go now. The fifteenth full moon is upon us. Take this and be careful”. My father's hushed tone roused me from sleep. My eyes cleared and adjusted to the darkness in the room. He handed me a cloak and a lamp.“Stay away from the footpath and may the gods be with you”. I could see bravery trying hard to overcome his sorrowful eyes deep in pain and worry. He parted his lips in a bid to speak again but with a gentle path across his white mustache, I silenced him and immediately scampered into the night.

My father and I shared a very sensational relationship. He taught me how to be human first before anything else. Together with my mother, they raised me to be responsible, kind, and compassionate. I had two other siblings, Diya and Muk but they paid especially more attention to me. It was almost like they pitied me. How could they not? I was nicknamed mystery by the villagers because my destiny was an unsure puzzle.

In our clan, the ruthless king and his evil witch would always determine the future of every child as soon as they turned three. When I turned three, fifteen years ago, I alongside the other three years olds were assembled before the witch at the village square for a lifelong role. I would never forget that long piercing evil stare she gave me. Her eyes turned black and she said, “ On the fifteenth full moon from now, you will be the Ragya for the gods.”

A chorus of silent whispers filled the air. Everyone knew a Ragya was offering like a piece of cake to the gods. A Ragya is given to the gods by being cast away into the wilderness never to be seen again. This is done to bring hope and wealth to the land. My mother cried profusely that entire night. She had high hopes for me especially because of a vision she held on to since I was born. The night I was born, it was a difficult labor for her. My father had to summon the help of Gana. Gana was a pure soul believed to have supernatural powers. All she did with her life was help people in need. As soon as she arrived, she helped my mother to a peaceful delivery. After I was born, she gave me a mark on my left arm and said to my mother “this child is blessed. She will be queen where the leaves are evergreen and the olives are sweet”.

My mother would always narrate the same story to me every time she oiled my hair. She would lift my face up to meet her beautiful brown eyes and say to me, “you are no Ragya. You are my Queen” she would say this with so much conviction and pride. So much that Diya and Muk always felt jealous. I believed every word she said. My father on the other hand spent his time planning how to save me when the fifteenth full moon would be upon us.

“Run my girl. Run to the mountains and shield yourself as I have taught you. The trail will lead you to your maternal village. That is the only way I can protect you from this evil looming over us. You can never be the sacrifice that brings the land riches”. Those gentle but firm words of my father kept replaying in my head as I made my way up the mountain in the dead of night. I felt the cold sting me as I tried to see ahead. The haze had created a screen that prevented me from seeing clearly. I moved faster clearing a leaf from a branch in front of me. The leaves rubbed my left arm where my scar was. Then I remembered the words of my mother. For a moment I pitied myself. There I was, a firm believer that I would have a better life, and yet I was running for the same life.

I looked back at our hut. It looked small from where I was standing. I didn't dare to run anymore - a strange feeling of determination filled my spirit. I rubbed my scar softly and then descended the path. “Our prophecy has led us and we have traveled very far to come here for the marked one.” I could see three men on strange horses. The older-looking one spoke with such authority and majesty as I approached. They had darker and shiny skin - beautiful like bronze. They wore light garments that exposed their nicely built frames. They didn't look like they were from around here.

“No! Run” my father yelled weakly sounding so defeated. “Did the king send you here? Have mercy” my mother charged at them and their horses bellowed. Tears flowing from her eyes, she looked helpless as my siblings tried to hold her down.

“Father! is that my Ragya to be?” One of the young men spoke with the most striking voice I had ever heard. He looked at me with so much intensity I felt my knees weaken. “Forgive us for not introducing ourselves. I am king Dakhla of Sha and these are my sons Thanu and Banu. We have come here following a prophecy that on this moon, my first son Thanu will find his Ragya here. He will succeed me as King with her beside him as his Queen. Then your people can freely trade with mine and enjoy the bounties of our land. We are indeed very generous and fond of our allies.

“Wait! Do you mean your ‘Ragya’ as in wife? Is that what the word means to your people? You will indeed be Queen my girl Sheda. Alas, the prophecies have united. You are the Ragya that brings hope to us after all”. My mother's pain had turned into joy. “Be my Ragya and come with me to the island of Sha. There, the waters are cool, leaves are evergreen, and the olives are sweet”. Thanu descended his horse, walked towards me with a contagious smile, and took my hand in his.

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