ICO: Castle in the Mist, page 1
ICO: Castle in the Mist
ICO - KIRI NO SHIRO by MIYABE Miyuki
Copyright © 2008 MIYABE Miyuki
All rights reserved.
Originally published in Japan by KODANSHA LTD., Tokyo.
English translation rights arranged with OSAWA OFFICE, Japan,
through THE SAKAI AGENCY.
English translation © 2011 VIZ Media, LLC
“ICO” is a trademark of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.
© 2001 Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.
No portion of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission of the copyright holders.
VIZ Media, LLC
295 Bay Street
San Francisco, CA 94133
Haikasoru eBook edition
As the Priest Says
The Castle in the Mist
The Cage of Time
The Final Battle
THE BOOK YOU hold in your hands is a novelization of the story found in the PlayStation 2 game ICO.
My heartfelt thanks to the producers and creators of the game for so willingly giving me permission to write this, my first attempt at novelization. They gave me free reign with the story and world found in the game so that I might find my own path through the tale, for which I am also eternally grateful.
If you picked up this book hoping for a walkthrough of the game, look elsewhere. The order of events, solutions to puzzles, and even the layout of the castle have changed. While it is certainly not “spoiler-free,” someone who reads this book and goes on to play the game will find much there that is not here.
For those of you who have played the game and love it as much as I do, I hope you will enjoy this variation on the world of ICO as much as I have enjoyed revisiting the Castle in the Mist.
A story of an unknown place,
Told in an unknown age.
AS THE PRIEST SAYS
THE LOOM HAD fallen silent. The old man had noticed the absence of its rhythmic clack-clack-clack some time before, and now he waited patiently for it to resume. He sat at an old desk, its surface worn to a golden amber from years of use, on top of which he had laid open several ancient tomes. A faint breeze coming in through the lattice window ruffled the edges of the yellowed paper and made the tips of the old man’s long white whiskers tremble.
The man cocked his head, straining to hear any sound—weeping, perhaps.
They had completed the weaving room several days earlier. All the necessary purifications had been made. The room stood waiting for her whenever she was ready to begin—no, he thought, she must begin right away. Yet Oneh had wept and shouted and cursed and would not go near it. “It’s too cruel,” she had said, clinging to the old man’s robes. “Please stop this. Do not ask this of me.”
He had no choice but to let her cry until her tears ran dry. Then he spoke to her, explaining patiently, as one talks to a child. “You knew this would come. You knew it on the day he was born.”
He had pleaded with her from sunset of the day before until well into the night. Finally, around dawn, Oneh had allowed him to lead her into the weaving room. From his study, he had heard the heavy sound of the loom’s shuttle. It was an unfamiliar sound, which made its absence even more noticeable.
The old man looked out the window at the leaves shaking in the grove. Birds were singing. The light of the sun was bright, and it warmed the room where its rays struck. Yet there were no sounds of children playing, and when the villagers shuffled out to work the fields, they did so in silence. Disconsolate sighs rose in place of the forceful thudding of hoes that echoed down the furrows. Even the hunters, the old man imagined, stopped in their chase along the tracks that ran through the mountains and exhaled long laments as they looked down upon the village in the distance.
It was the Time of the Sacrifice.
The old man was the elder of Toksa Village. He had turned seventy this year, thirteen years after inheriting the position from his father. He had only just stepped into his post, filled with ideas of how he would do the things his father had not been able to do, and the things his father had never tried to do, when the boy had been born. That unlucky child, doomed to be the Sacrifice.
At that time, the elder’s father had been deeply ill, his body and spirit greatly weakened. Even still, the night when he heard that a boy had been born to Muraj and Suzu—a boy with horns growing from his head—he had leapt from his sickbed, his face filled with a furious grief. He had rushed to the birthing place in the village and cradled the newborn child in his own arms, brushing his fingers across its soft head until he felt the horns.
Upon returning home, he summoned his son. He shut the doors and windows and shortened the wick on the lamp until the room was dim, and when he spoke, his voice was a whisper, no louder than the night breeze.
“I did not pass the mantle of elder to you readily,” he had said. “Even while I saw how the other men and women of the village regarded you with pride and trust, I held you back. I’m sure you wondered why this was at times. You were unhappy, I know, and I do not blame you for it.”
The new elder sat, unspeaking, his head hanging low. He lacked the courage to meet his father’s eyes. That night had transformed the tired, sick old man who was his father into something altogether strange and frightening.
“But know this—I did not cling to my role as elder out of a reluctance to let go. I merely wanted to spare you the burden of the Sacrifice. I was too cowardly, and put off that which I knew must come to pass sooner or later. What a fool I was. The one who rules in the Castle in the Mist sees through all our flimsy schemes. How else can we explain that just now, on the very day that my illness compels me to pass you the title of elder, a boy with horns is born to our village?”
His father’s voice trembled as though he were on the verge of tears.
In Toksa Village, it was a fact of life that every few decades, a child with horns was born. The horns were small at birth—soft, round bumps, barely noticeable beneath the infant’s fine hair.
The horned child grew up stronger and more quickly than ordinary children. His limbs grew long, his body hale. He would dash through the fields like a fawn, leap like a hare, climb like a squirrel, and swim like a fish.
While the child grew, his horns would remain much as they were at birth, sleeping beneath his hair. It was impossible to tell the horned child apart from regular children at a glance. Only his boundless energy, a voice that could be heard for miles through the forest, and eyes that glimmered with precocious wisdom set him apart.
And yet, the horns were an undeniable sign that this child was to be the Sacrifice; that one day he would have to fulfill that task dictated by the customs of the village; that he would have to go to the Castle in the Mist.
The horns were the mark of the castle’s cursed claim upon him and everyone he knew.
When the boy reached the age of thirteen, the horns would reveal their true form. Overnight they would grow, one on either side of his head, like a small ox’s, parting the hair where they jutted out and upward.
This marked the Time of the Sacrifice.
The Castle in the Mist was calling. Time was up. The child must be offered.
“The last Sacrifice was born when I was but a ch
That was why, his father explained, the Castle in the Mist hungered again so soon.
“Still,” he continued, “time yet remains before the child born tonight reaches his thirteenth year. I can teach you all you will need to know about offering the Sacrifice. You’ll have to consult the old books our family keeps. When the boy is of age, and the Time of the Sacrifice arrives, an entourage from the temple in the capital will come and arrange everything. You merely need do as the priest says.”
Then the elder’s father grabbed his wrist with astonishing strength. “Whatever happens, you must not let the Sacrifice escape. You must not allow him to leave the village. And you must impress him with the weight of his destiny, train him in every particular until he truly accepts it and will never choose flight. You must not be lenient or frail of heart. The castle has chosen him as the Sacrifice, and about that there can be no mistake.”
The elder quailed, thinking of the newborn child. How adorable, how helpless and priceless he had seemed. Even if he bore the horns of the Sacrifice, he was still just an innocent babe. How could the elder be stern with something so small? What words could he use to tell the child that his life would one day be offered up to the Castle in the Mist?
He could not protest his duty to his father. Instead, in a weak voice he asked, “What happens if I succeed in keeping the child from escaping, only to watch him fall ill? What if he is injured? What if he does not live to the proper age?”
“The Sacrifice cannot fall ill,” his father said with grim confidence. “Nor can he be easily injured. He will be exceptionally healthy, in fact. You need only raise him to become as solitary as the hawk, as pliable as the dove, and deeply committed to his fate.”
“Yes. As elder, you must raise the child born this night as though he were your own.”
“But what about the parents?”
“Once his birth mother is able to walk, the parents must be cast out from the village.”
“What? Why?” the elder asked, even though he knew what the answer would be.
“That is the custom,” his father replied. “The couple who has given birth to the horned child must leave Toksa Village.”
Then, for the first time, the hard lines of his father’s face softened, and tears shone in the corners of his eyes.
“I know it sounds harsh. But it is in fact a mercy. Imagine the anguish of parents forced to raise a child they know must leave them before he is fully grown. If separation is preordained, the better it be quick. Muraj and Suzu will live a good life in the capital. They are free to have another child, or three, or five—as many as they wish. Greedy though the castle may be, it will not take more than one child from a single family.”
The steel in his father’s voice left the elder speechless for a time, until at last he managed to utter a name. “Oneh…”
His wife. What would Oneh think? She knew the village custom as well as he did. How would she take the news that they were soon to become direct participants?
“How will I tell Oneh?”
He already had six children with his wife. Four had been claimed by accident or disease before reaching adulthood, leaving them one son and one daughter. They had grown well. Their son had already taken a wife.
“Are Oneh and I even qualified to raise a child at our age?”
“Of course. He will be like a grandson to you.” The new elder’s father smiled a thin smile, showing dark gaps where his teeth had fallen out. “Think of it this way. Because the horned child was born tonight, your own grandchild, who cannot be far off now, will be spared his fate. You should consider yourself fortunate.”
The elder shivered. His father was right. Because the Sacrifice had been born tonight, the village would live in peace for many years, maybe decades. My grandchildren will be spared. Still, he could not tell whether the chill that ran down his spine was one of relief or of horror that his father would say such a terrible thing.
His father clasped his hands once more, shaking them with each word. “Know this,” he said. “The elder must never fear. The elder must never doubt. No one will blame our village for this, nor will they blame you. We are merely following custom. Do everything the priest tells you to do. Accomplish your task, and the Castle in the Mist will be sated.”
Do as the priest says. It is the priest’s doing—no one will blame the village—or the village elder—the elder—
The voice brought him back over thirteen years of time in an instant. Back to his seventy-year-old self; back to long whiskers growing from his chin; back to thin, bony shoulders.
“Sorry, Elder, didn’t mean to intrude.”
In his doorway, several men of the village stood shoulder-to-shoulder, still dressed for field work.
“It is no intrusion, I was merely doing some reading.”
The men exchanged glances until one of them spoke.
“Mistress Oneh’s weeping in the weaving room.”
“She became violent,” said another man, “like a madness took her, and she tried to break the loom. We held her back, Elder, but she’s wild yet.”
That explained why the loom was still silent.
“I will go myself,” the elder said, placing both hands upon his desk for support as he rose from his chair.
Oneh, sweet Oneh. There have been enough tears.
How long would it take for her to understand that no amount of tears or rage could change what had happened? That no matter how high she raised her fist to the heavens or how hard she beat the ground in lamentation, it was all for naught.
Their cries would not reach that ancient castle perched upon the cliff at the end of the world, far to the west where the sun sank after its daily journey. The only thing that could lessen the rage of the master in the castle, that could stave off the castle’s curse for even a short time, was the chosen Sacrifice.
SMALL PEBBLES FELL down from above the boy’s head, plinking on the sandy floor. First one, then another.
The boy sat up, looking up at the small window set at the highest point of the cave. The window had been hewn out of the rock, and long years of wind and rain had smoothed its edges.
A face appeared.
“Psst! Hey!” a voice called down. “I know you’re in there!”
“Toto!” the boy replied with a smile, wondering how his friend had managed to climb up to the window like that.
“What,” Toto said, “don’t tell me you were still sleeping.”
The boy had been lying on his side—there wasn’t much else to do.
“You’ll get in trouble if they catch you.”
Toto grinned. “I’m an old hand at this. No one saw me.”
“Hey, you should be thanking me. I brought you something—”
Toto threw down a white cloth bag into the cave. The boy snatched it up and looked inside. There was a fruit and a wrapped bundle of baked sweets.
Toto grinned. “Don’t let them catch you eating those,” he advised. “That old fogey they got by the door will take ’em away.”
“He wouldn’t do that.”
The boy’s guards weren’t particularly friendly, but neither were they cruel. When they brought him his three meals a day or came to set a blaze in his fireplace on cold nights, they would look down at the floor or off to the side—fearfully, apologetically—and leave the moment their business was done.
“Psst, Ico.” Toto lowered his voice to a whisper. “Don’t you ever think of running away?”
That was how long ago the custom had started and the sacrifices had begun.
It would take many words to describe how he felt at that moment, and they all jostled for attention in Ico’s head. Yet he lacked the confidence to choose just the right ones and line them up in just the right order. He was thirteen.
“I can’t run away,” he finally answered.
Toto gripped the edge of the window with both hands and stuck his head farther in. “Of course you can! I’ll help you!”
“It won’t happen.”
“Says who? I can break you out tonight, and then it’s a quick run to the woods. I’ll swipe the keys and you’re free!”
“Where would I go? Where would I live? I can’t go to another village. When they see the horns they’ll know I’m the Sacrifice, and they’ll drag me back.”
“So don’t go to a village. You could live in the mountains, hunt game, eat nuts and berries—you could even clear a field for a garden. You never get sick, and you’re strong as a bull, Ico. If anyone can do it, you can.” Toto frowned. “Of course, I’d be going with you. Let’s do it! Let’s go live in the wild! It’s better than…this.”
Toto was a full year younger than Ico. As good a friend as he was, he was also fiercely loyal to his family, especially his younger brother and sister. Ico couldn’t imagine him leaving them behind. And yet, there was a sincerity in Toto’s voice that made Ico think he really meant what he said. That sincerity hurt. Toto’s willing to throw everything away…because of me.
“Thank you, Toto,” Ico said, trying to sound somber. His voice cracked.
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