Chapter 3
Pygmalion and Galatea

Vigau, Arielle, Bonaventure

A young woman was lying in Giger Taus' bed. The wizard himself was nowhere to be seen, but the three familiars were all there. In fact, the first thing the woman saw when she opened her eyes was Happy looking right back at her.
Few people welcome the sight of a snake at any time, but to wake up to a snake is especially unpleasant for all but the most fervently ophidiophilic. There are two ways a scared person tends to react to a snake, either by screaming and jumping around in a panic or by freezing in abject terror. This woman took the latter option.
"Don't even bother to scream," said Prissy, who was sitting beside the woman with her legs tucked under her in that remarkably compact configuration cats are known for. With one of those sinister feline grins usually reserved for captive mice, she added, "It won't stop him from eating you."
The woman's eyes widened, half because she was being addressed by a talking cat and half because she believed what the talking cat was telling her. Happy, however, was quick to defend his honor as a good, decent, respectable serpent.
"How rude," he said. "I'm only getting a closer look."
Prissy grinned again, this time more slyly and directed at Happy.
"That's not the only thing you're doing, you pervert. Slithering all over her like that."
Confused, Happy cocked his head and asked, "Is that wrong? Kamellia never said anything."
"Of course she didn't. You were her familiar. Why would she mind?"
"But other women do mind?"
"Of course, you big dummy."
Happy prided himself in being a polite sort of snake, so the revelation of his inadvertent rudeness cut him to the quick. Desperate to make amends, he turned back to the woman and began to bob his head apologetically.
"Oh! Pardon me, miss!"
The woman did not quite know how to take the snake's apology, but few would. There was also the matter of said snake still lying on top of her. Pythons, even the magical variety, are not the lightest of creatures, which certainly did not help anything.
Prissy snickered at the exchange, drawing Happy's attention, and his ire.
"What's so funny?"
"You. Big scary python apologizing like some schoolboy."
"I did something wrong, didn't I? You're supposed to apologize!"
Prissy rolled her eyes.
"Enough of your bickering, you two," Ramstein said at last, having had his fill of the back-and-forth between cat and snake.
Happy turned to the venerable old raven and asked him, "Is she really an Ancient, Ramstein?"
"I would not know," Ramstein replied, shaking his head. "Remember that I was summoned after the Cataclysm. However, if Master Falkner's story is true, then it has serious implications for us all."
"You mean that the statues--"
Before Happy could finish what he was about to say, Giger came into the room.
"So you're awake?" he asked his guest.
The woman did not say anything in reply. She only looked at him blankly. After all, a green-haired man in gaudy robes is not what you typically expect to wake up to.
"Giger, I think she's broken," Prissy said. "You should get a new one."
"And why do you say that?" Giger asked.
"She hasn't said a thing this whole time."
"I'm sure they didn't have talking animals where she came from," he replied, "or perhaps I should say 'when'." He then asked the woman, "You understand us, don't you? Those earrings allow you to hear our language as your own, and with that choker around your neck, you can speak our language as well. Come, say something."
The woman touched her earlobes and then her neck, taking notice of the items in question for the first time. The earrings were simple jeweled studs and the choker a plain black ribbon with a jewel in the center.
"Maybe you got the enchantment wrong," Happy suggested. "Etch one rune wrong and the whole thing doesn't work."
"Impossible," Giger insisted stubbornly. "Maybe she's a mute."
"Put her back and get another one," Priscilla said again.
Ramstein finally intervened. "For God's sake, get her some water. The poor child has not used her own voice in over three hundred years."
"Water?" Giger asked absent-mindedly. Once it registered, he shuffled out of the room, muttering, "Water, water."
Returning after a minute, Giger presented the woman with a cup of water.
The woman sat up with some difficulty, accepting the cup nervously. She took an experimental sip before downing the contents in a single, slow draught.
She had barely finished when Giger asked her, "Is that better?" and then quickly demanded, "Now say something."
First, the woman could only mouth the sound silently, and then slowly began to stammer, "Wh, wha..."
And then the floodgates opened.
"Wh-what the hell is this place!? Where am I? Why are there animals talking? What did that bird mean when he said I haven't talked in over three hundred years? Why are you dressed like that? Don't tell me this is your bed? Did you do something to me while I was out? Did you, did you--"
Prissy rolled her eyes. "We get her to talk and now she won't shut up."
Giger held up a hand and told the woman, "Stop. You're giving me a headache."
Though breathing heavily from getting so worked up, the woman went quiet and after a moment, Giger started talking again.
"I'll give you the short version of the story. You're in Vigau, a city in the County of Arielle. This is my house and you're here because I brought you here. Before I can tell you anything more, I need to know what you know. What's the last thing you remember?"
The woman just sat there, her mouth hanging open. It took quite a while--and considerable struggle on the woman's part--to even make the first sound.
"I... I... I don't remember... I don't remember anything."
This was hardly the answer Giger was expecting, or hoping for.
"Nothing?" he asked.
"See?" Prissy said. "Broken. Get a new one."
"That's enough, Prissy," Giger said irritably. Turning his attention back to the woman, he asked her, "So you really don't remember anything at all? Not even your name?"
"No..." the woman trailed. "What's going on here?"
"It would seem she has amnesia," Ramstein observed.
"Of course it seems like amnesia!" Giger snapped, more annoyed than ever. Biting his finger, he mumbled, "I hadn't planned on this."
"Get a new one."
"Prissy, enough!"
"This could be a side-effect of the curse," Ramstein said, "or of you breaking it."
"Are you saying I made a mistake?"
"Not necessarily, but it is possible. You are, after all, only human."
Giger bit on his finger again while he brought his thoughts into order.
"Okay, it's not a problem," he said to himself. "I can fix this. I just have to find a way to restore her memory."
"You can do that?" the woman asked.
"Of course I can."
"I still say you should get a new one."
Giger shot Prissy a mean glare, which was enough to silence her for the time being.
"Perhaps you should furnish our guest with a little more information, Master Falkner," Ramstein said. "Introductions would be a good place to start."
"Very well," Giger said. He extended his hand to the woman. "My name is Giger Taus. And here you've got Priscilla, Apollos and Ramstein."
Awkwardly, the woman accepted his hand and asked him, "Why are they talking?"
"What good is a familiar that can't talk?"
"Familiar? Like familiar spirits? Like witches and stuff?"
This caught Giger's interest.
"You know something about the subject?"
"Are you an Arcanist?"
"Arcanist? What's that?"
"Allow me to explain, Master Falkner," Ramstein said, repositioning himself on his perch. "Before the Cataclysm, there was a stigma attached to the word 'magic', so it was labeled 'Arcana' and the mages called themselves 'Arcanists'. It fell out of use about two hundred years ago, when the common folk accepted magic as something normal."
"You mean there was a time when magic wasn't normal?" Happy asked.
"It would seem that way," Ramstein replied.
"Why haven't you been this forthcoming before?" Giger asked pointedly.
"I did not see much call for it, and besides, I consider my knowledge far too limited to contribute anything to your research."
Like a schoolgirl in the classroom, the woman raised her hand to get their attention.
"Excuse me..."
"Could you tell me what's going on? I don't remember anything, but I know this is all wrong."
Giger looked at the woman a moment, then adjusted his glasses, crossed his arms and said, "I'll tell you what my theory is. The only one who can confirm it is you, when, if you ever get your memory back. There was a great disaster that nearly destroyed the world. We call it the Cataclysm. There weren't many survivors. The stories say one in ten, but we have no way of knowing the actual numbers. Scattered throughout the world are these bronze statues as old as anyone can remember. Here in Vigau alone I've counted four hundred thirty-seven complete specimens, counting you."
"Me?" the woman asked.
Giger went over to the dresser, picked up a photograph and handed it to the woman.
"Here's a film plate I made," he said. "This is you, or rather, this was you."
It was the selfsame statue on Rue Meredy that Giger chose for his experiment.
Looking at the film plate, disbelieving was she saw, the woman said, "This statue... is me?"
"Until I brought you back to life," Giger replied, "broke the curse. If I'm right, you haven't been flesh and blood for three hundred and twenty-one years."
The film plate fell from the woman's hands as the realization sunk in.
"Three-three hundred..."
Giger shrugged.
"The other possibility is that you were a statue all along and I gave you a fleshly body all by myself, which would essentially make you a familiar like these three."
"Wait, you don't even know if I'm human or not?"
"You're the only one who can prove that," Giger said.
"By remembering."
"And how am I supposed to do that?"
"I don't know, but I intend to work on the problem myself. I didn't bring you back for the fun of it. I need the knowledge of the Ancients. You're no good to me if you don't know anything."
Whatever his plans, nothing much would be accomplished standing around in the bedroom. Giger's rather limited patience had lasted about as long as it could.
"I have work to do," he said. "Prissy, give her the tour of the place."
"Why do I have to do it?" Prissy whined.
"Because I said so. Now get to it."
With that, Giger left the room and so the woman was back to having only the three familiars for company. Prissy stood up, arching her back to stretch as cats will do when they first get up. After stretching her arms and legs as well, she looked to the woman and said in annoyance, "Well? Don't just lie there. Let's go."
The woman pulled the cover off her and took her first clumsy step out of bed. She was unsteady on her feet, dressed only in a simple shift that was little more than a bag with three holes for her arms and head. The shift only extended to about mid-thigh. She could not help but feel a bit of a draft.
A chill ran up her spine as she felt Happy brush past her foot. He looked up at her. She did not fail to notice that he was slithering between her legs and was overcome with a sudden flush of self consciousness. She clutched at the hem of the shift for whatever good it would do her, turning bright red in the process.
Prissy swatted Happy's head.
"What!?" a confused Happy exclaimed.
"Don't pay any attention to him," Prissy told the flustered woman. She then started up the tour, saying, "Okay, this is Giger's room. This is the first and last time you'll ever be in here. Don't let me catch you trying to sneak into Giger's bed at night."
This did nothing make the woman any less flustered.
"What--? I would never-- Who you think you--"
"Please," Prissy scoffed. "I know my Giger is perfect, but he's mine."
Happy looked at the woman and said, "I don't think she's going to try anything, Prissy."
"Shut up, you. I'm letting her know before she gets any funny ideas. In fact, since there isn't anything up here except Giger's bedroom, you can consider upstairs off limits."
Prissy then led the woman downstairs. The woman had some trouble maintaining her balance on the narrow stairs and held fast to the rail with both hands like some arthritic grandmother.
Prissy hopped up on the counter and said, "Here's the kitchen. Back through there is the toilet and the bath." She then hopped down and led the woman through the house. "Over here is the dining room. Entryway right here. And here's the living room. That's it."
The woman looked around to take in her surroundings. Seeing the the unremarked door at the far end of the living room, she pointed to it and asked, "Where does that door lead?"
"Giger's study and lab," Prissy said. "That's off-limits, too."
"So what am I supposed to do?"
"Remember, so you can help Giger and then get out."
Though the cottage was small, it was still a lot for the woman to take in. She started to get unsteady on her feet again and nearly fell when she was caught by none other than Giger himself, who appeared quite unexpectedly.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"My head hurts," the woman said. "It's really hard to see."
Giger took the glasses off his own nose and put them on the woman.
"How's this?"
The woman squinted and said, "It helps. A little."
"So you need glasses," Giger said with a sigh. "What a pain."
"It's not too late to send her back, Giger."
Giger gave his feline companion an annoyed look. "Will you give it a rest, Prissy?" He then turned his attention"You, have you gotten a feel for the place."
"My name's not 'you'," the woman shot back with her own share of annoyance.
"You remember?" Giger asked.
The woman's annoyance quickly faded when she realized she had no rejoinder.
"Well then, I suppose I need to call you something," Giger mused. "How about Gally?"
The woman cocked her head.
"Short for 'Galatea'."
For the first time, a wry grin appeared on the woman's face as she asked him, "Does that mean I can call you Piggy? Ow!"
Her comment earned her swift judgment by Prissy, who latched into the meat of her calf.
"Prissy, down!" Giger shouted. When Prissy withdrew her claws, Giger then asked the woman, "You know about the story of Pygmalion and Galatea?"
"Yeah..." the woman said, not entirely able to make sense of it herself. "Somehow, I do..."
A sudden transformation came over Giger. He took hold of the woman's shoulders and beamed, "This is great! You're human after all! An Ancient!"
Giger was so overcome that he actually hugged the woman, causing a fresh blush to rise to her cheeks. She might have demanded an answer for his forwardness, but that was only a secondary concern at the time. Right now her actual nature was far more important.
"Wait, how do you know?" she asked.
The initial wave of euphoria passed and Giger released the woman--who we will now call 'Gally'--and cleared his throat as he regained his composure.
"There's no way a familiar would know an ancient story like that," he explained. "I figured you really were an Ancient with that talk about 'Arcanists' and such, but I had to be sure. Excellent!"
Gally could not find it in herself to share his elation.
"But I still don't remember anything!"
"You will!" Giger said excitedly, taking hold of her shoulders again. "In time. Soon, I hope. No, can't just hope. I have to make it happen. I need to go see what I can do."
With that thought in mind, Giger made a beeline to the door to his study.
"Wait, Giger!" Prissy cried. "What am I supposed to do with her now?"
"Find something for her to do," Giger said. "Put her to work."
And with that, Giger slammed the door behind him and was gone. Gally, Prissy and Happy were left looking blankly at each other.
"What am I supposed to do?" Gally asked.
"Oh, I'll think of something," Prissy replied.
Before Prissy could come up with some task for Gally, it was perhaps a mercy that they were interrupted by a knocking at the door. Or it would have been a mercy were it not for the potential threat it represented. Gally stood there uncertain of what to do, but Prissy was already on her guard, the fur on her back bristling at the possible danger waiting on the other side of the door.
"Get out of here," she hastily told Gally. "We don't know who it is. We'll wait for Giger."
Prissy and Happy withdrew to the kitchen. From there they could peek at the living room with less chance of being seen themselves and if there was any actual danger, they would have multiple options for escape. Though Gally did not understand the sort of threats they faced, fear is primal sort of emotion and it does not take much get it working.
The knocking at the door repeated a second time. A pause. Then a third time.
And then the door cracked open. Perhaps it was their imagination, but it seemed like the hinges were screaming.
However, it was no monster, burglar or any other such thing that stepped in but rather a well-groomed, well-dressed young man who called out in a soft voice, "Master? Are you in?"
The danger having passed, the wary Prissy immediately changed her attitude. She sprang forward, happily crying, "Yugo!"
She leapt into the young man's arms, who handily caught her, cradled her like a baby and scratched under her chin.
"Hi, Priscilla," he said.
Purring loudly, he eyes closed in contentment, she nevertheless chided him, saying, "Don't you know it's rude to barge into people's houses? I thought you were a Witch-hunter."
The young man--Yugo--worked his way from Prissy's chin to behind her ears as he said, "Master Taus is always in his laboratory. If I don't invite myself in, I'll never get my lessons."
It was then that Yugo took his first notice of Gally. Whether it was because he was taken by the sight of her or because he was embarrassed for not noticing her sooner or a little of both, his cheeks flushed a little as he gave her a slight bow.
"Oh, hello," he said. "And who might you be?"
"Her?" Prissy said. "She's, ah..."
"My new housekeeper," a voice said.
It was Giger, who yet again made a convenient appearance out of nowhere. This ability's connection to his wizardry remains uncertain.
Yugo let Prissy down to deliver a more formal bow to Giger.
"Master Taus, since when do you have a housekeeper?" he asked.
"Since I got tired of wasting magic to keep the place clean," Giger replied. "After all, I have all these hangers-on who don't help out."
Ignoring Prissy's objection, Yugo looked uncertainly at Gally and then back to Giger.
"Are you sure it's all right, Master? I mean, what if--"
"It's fine. I have it under control."
That reassurance was enough for Yugo. He turned his attention to Gally and extended his hand to her.
"I'm Yugo Duchamp, Master Taus' apprentice. Pleased to meet you, Miss...?"
"Call her Gally," Giger said.
Gally took Yugo's hand, but rather than shake her hand, Yugo brought it to his lips and gave it a kiss in a demonstration of old-fashioned chivalry.
"Miss Gally then," he said with a smile.
He was blushing and Gally was blushing as well. The display did little to impress Prissy.
"Don't waste your time on her, Yugo," she said. "You can do better."
If she had been more in sorts, Gally may have objected to the insult, but for the time being, she simply took the abuse.
Yugo looked at Gally a moment longer before asking Giger, "Master Taus, forgive me for asking, but where are Miss Gally's clothes?"
Gally found herself blushing more hotly, but Giger was quick with an answer.
"She just came into town a few days ago. Her luggage was stolen and she only had the clothes on her back. They had to be washed eventually."
"That's terrible, but surely you have to have something here."
"Do I look like a transvestite to you, Yugo?"
"I mean, you could have lent her some of your own robes."
"No!" Prissy shouted.
Annoyed by his apprentice's excessive display of concern but eager to mollify him to put an end to the conversation, Giger said, "I intend to give her an advance on her first month's pay to get some clothes. If you're so worried about her, why don't you go buy her something, rich boy?"
"Me?" he asked. "Well, uh, yes..." He turned to Gally and began to stammer, "Miss, Miss Gally, if you, if you'll pardon me for be so bold, but I, I'm a man of means, you see, and, and, if it wouldn't be too much trouble, I, I'd like the privilege of assisting you."
Giger could only roll his eyes at Yugo's clumsiness and quipped, "Good luck getting her size right."
Prissy got in on the action and said, "She's barely got a curve one to her, so it shouldn't be too hard."
"Prissy, don't be rude," Yugo scolded. "Miss Gally's here to help Master Taus. You owe her some respect."
Prissy sighed, "Ah, I wish I had a white knight come to my rescue."
By now Giger had his fill of all the back-and-forth.
"That'll be enough of that," he said. "Prissy, Happy, Gally, get. I have a lesson to attend to."
"Come on," Prissy whispered to Gally. "We can listen in from the kitchen."
Gally followed Prissy and Happy to the kitchen, where they took a seat on the stairs, out of sight but not quite out of earshot.
"Master," Yugo said, "before we begin, there's something I want to tell you. I had another dream last night. I--"
Giger cut him off.
"I don't want to hear about dreams."
Yugo did not give up, though.
"But, Master, I dreamt of a bronze statue like the ones you see in town. It was the one on Rue Meredy, the slender girl. It glowed and came to life. It looked like Miss Gally. Then I saw a great field littered with the statues. There was this bright light in distance, like a star coming down to earth, then all the statues, they came to life. What does it mean?"
Gally was hanging on every word, but Giger was having none of it.
"It doesn't mean anything," he insisted. "People have wasted their lives trying to find meaning in dreams. You just have an overactive imagination is all."
"But, Master, don't you believe in prescience? In prophecy?"
"It's rubbish, all of it. Focus on what you see with your waking eyes."
Defeated, Yugo simply replied, "Yes, Master."
"Now let's begin."

* * *

Yugo's lesson lasted for an hour, maybe two. He then darted off to the market district and returned with an armful of dresses and other clothes for her. He offered to take her shopping in the future for anything else she needed and said he would gladly pay for alterations to any of the dresses he got her if they did not fit. Gally was touched, of course, but something in the back of her mind told her to keep young Yugo at a distance.
Over Prissy's objections, Gally was granted access to Giger's bedroom to try on all the new clothes Yugo gave her. That alone took most of the time remaining until supper. The meal was a fillet of pan-fried fish and some chopped turnips that were fried with it. Giger told her that he expected her to come up with a better menu once she started cooking. Though she could not remember anything from her previous life, for some reason cooking seemed to be a weak point of hers. She imagined a woman's voice telling her she was never going to get a husband. Her mother, perhaps? Or was it just her imagination?
At the moment, she was going over everything that had happened in the bath. It took over an hour just to draw the bath, filling the buckets and heating them on the stove. She did not go into the bath right away, though. Instinct told her to wash first before getting into the tub. She prepared two extra buckets, one to get herself wet and another to rinse off. She was on the latter step when she felt a breeze.
She turned to see three sets of eyes peeking in at her. Her reaction was perfectly natural. She screamed.
Her scream was followed by hasty footfalls scrambling to the door. Giger then burst in, scattering the three familiars.
"What's wrong?"
Gally screamed again.
"Konaide, baka!"
Covering herself his one arm, she reached out with the other to grab a bucket and threw it. Young David himself could not have struck truer when he felled Goliath.

* * *

Giger lay in his bed, holding a washcloth to his injured forehead. Later he would work a charm to make the cut go away entirely, but first he wanted the headache to subside. Those tin buckets hurt, after all.
"Are you saying I was the one in the wrong?" he asked angrily.
Gally stood with her arms crossed, no less angry than him but without half as good a reason by his reckoning.
"You're the one who barged in on me while I was taking a bath."
"You were the one who screamed," he shot back. "And it's not like you don't have anything that I or anyone else in Vigau haven't seen over the past three hundred years."
Gally recalled the film plate of the statue on the street corner. It was a nude and if it was indeed her, then Giger was right that everyone in town had been looking at her stark naked for the past three centuries.
Overcome with mortification, with that same woman's nagging voice ringing in her head, she muttered, "I'll never get married..."
"What does that mean?" Giger asked, unfamiliar with the expression.
"Oh, never mind," Gally said, not entirely certain herself. "Anyway, what were they doing watching me like that?"
"I was curious," Happy said, with an innocence that was not at all feigned. "I was wondering if Ancients were built any different from normal humans."
"And I thought it would be funny," Prissy said, without a smidgeon of Happy's innocence.
That left Ramstein, who should have had the least reason of the three of them.
"And what about you, Old Bird?" Giger asked. "Every bit as perverted as your master?"
Ramstein puffed up his feathers in offense and said, "I do not know why you have all this hostility toward Master Grummond, but the accusations could not be farther from the truth. At any rate, I am under no obligation to answer."
"Hee hee, dirty old bastard," Prissy snickered.
"Priscilla, language," Giger said harshly.
"How come you can say it?"
Prissy's objection to the double standard was swiftly overruled.
"You want me to treat you like a young lady?" Giger asked. "You have to act like one."
Giger turned his attention back to Gally and asked her, "Anyway, why did you take off your choker?"
"You didn't expect me to wear it in the bath, did you?" Gally asked in turn.
"You shouldn't take it off."
Setting that aside, Gally then asked, "Am I really supposed to work as your housekeeper?"
"You're just now asking that?" Giger scoffed. "I needed some excuse for having a strange woman in my house. It'll give you something to do and maybe something'll wriggle loose while you're working and you can remember."
"That is why you brought me back, isn't it?"
"And don't you forget it," Giger said. He then waved her off. "You can sleep on the couch in the living room for now. Maybe I'll get a cot or something for you later. It's been a long day, I've got a really bad headache thanks to you and I haven't slept hardly any since yesterday, also thanks to you. Good night."
"Good night," Gally said as she started to walk out of the room. She stopped in the doorway and looked back to say, "And, Mr. Giger... thank you."
"Don't thank me yet," Giger replied. "Before this is over, you may wish I left you on that street corner."