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Stories from the Islands of the Sun

#1 User is offline   Talashar 

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Posted 28 October 2011 - 06:26 PM

The Islands of the Sun have long ago been drowned beneath the water and their inhabitants fled here and there across the world, but by good fortune some of the stories that were told in those islands have survived. These are the stories of the Latoirn who hunted horses with spear and arrow, and of the Ghadari who built towns of stone and magic.

Needless to say, I do not necessarily endorse whatever morals may be drawn in the course of these stories. They are “secondary fiction”, fictions told within a fictional world, and are meant to cast light on the people of the islands. And, ideally, to entertain readers…

1. The Stranger
(A story that the famous wanderers Ebrinn and Lrento’ were told when they stayed with the Jobainnam tribe.)

We are the free sons of the earth. We emerged from the womb of the earth and she spread her hands to make rivers for us. The Father of Deer gave his children for us to chase, and the Pirbognar traded their fish for the most beautiful of our daughters. These islands were given to us by the gods and will be ours forever.

A stranger from another tribe visited us in the time of my grandfather’s grandfather, asking for food and shelter. He spoke in a strange fashion and said that his family had been killed by a griffin. But he had not a single wound upon him.

When I speak of strangers, do not imagine that I mean to cast any shadow on you. Your sword makes you a member of every tribe, honored wherever word of you has spread.

This stranger was eager to help with the tasks of the tribe. He was strong and able, and all the women paused in their work when he passed by, so handsome was he. In time he took one of them to wife, a lovely woman named Pearl, and they lived together peacefully so that it seemed that harmony prevailed in the souls of all.

But Pearl was inquisitive as well as lovely, and she noticed that on every fifth night her husband would not lie at her side but instead go out wandering in the light of the stars, and for a time he would pass out of her sight. This puzzled her, but she was worried that she would offend him if she asked about it, so she said nothing. Strange things continued to happen in the tribe. Pearl’s father’s favorite dog ran away, stores of meat disappeared, and there were few horses to be found for miles around the camp. So we met together to discuss the problems and decide what could be done about it.

Throughout our debate the stranger was silent, but smiled to himself, and his mouth would spread wider than a normal man’s should. Not like the wide-faced Ghadari, mind you, but a smile that wrapped around the sides of his face. Now in those days we were wiser than we are now, and the stranger’s peculiarities were quickly noticed. Again and again Pearl was about to say what she knew, but time after time the stranger would give her a dark look to keep her quiet.

In her cunning soul Pearl wove a plan to ensnare her husband and discover the truth of his deeds. On the night when she expected him to leave again, she tied a string to his ankle and pretended to be asleep, until the string was tugged out of her hand and she rose silently and followed her husband.

He stalked through the darkness, and as he walked he seemed to grow in size, his arms spread out like wings, and his nose bent and curved into a great beak. He turned to face Pearl, and she saw that he had become a griffin, towering over her and staring down with cold hungry eyes. “Why have you spied on me, woman?”

“I was wondering if you were hungry,” said Pearl quickly.

The griffin laughed. “That is kind of you. But I already have a meal prepared. Go back to sleep.”

Pearl bowed her head and pretended to obey, but she continued to watch the griffin as it stalked down to the river and drank, then passed through the water and disappeared over the hill on the other side. Immediately she ran back to her hut and on her mattress she placed a bundle of nets shaped to resemble her body, and stuck a spear through it. Then she hid herself behind the back of the hut and waited for her husband to return.

I don’t know whether she fell asleep there or if she remained awake, silent and watching, until a loud screech jolted her. She ran around into the hut and found the griffin pierced through by the spear inside the hut, its innards spilling into the dirt. And then she went outside and proclaimed to all the tribe her victory over the griffin that had taken the shape of a man.

So we all must watch for those who would enter our families in guises we trust, for those who are from outside carry strange thoughts and do strange things, and to invite them in is to invite peril.

You excepted, of course.

#2 User is offline   Gehn, lord of ages 

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Posted 28 October 2011 - 09:02 PM

I like the nice aesop at the end of that one.

How many stories do you have (or plan on having)? I like the short simple style.

#3 User is offline   Talashar 

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Posted 29 October 2011 - 10:23 AM

I plan to do seven or eight. The update schedule will be irregular: these first two are the only ones I've finished so far.

2. Slayer of Peace
(A story of the Terr’eil tribe.)

There once was a boy who was born lame, and the chief man of the tribe decreed that he be left to die. “The child will not be able to help in the hunt,” he said, “unless he be used as bait for the griffin.” But the mother and father of the boy protested, so that the chief was overruled. “No good will come of this,” he warned, and named the boy Slayer of Peace.

Slayer of Peace grew and grew in the following years, until he was taller than anyone else in the tribe – lying down. Standing up he was bent by his deformity, and his companions all mocked him, calling him Slain by Peace. Slayer of Peace did nothing in response – but he remembered those who called him names. And in the hunt he did nothing.

Then it happened that a dark cloud appeared in the east and began to grow, blotting out the stars and the moon. Even the sun was terrified and hid its face. The animals all began to lose strength and perish, the hunters counted themselves among the accursed, and no children were born with the Black Stone on their foreheads. There was no hope for our people, and the chief man covered his face in ash.

Then Slayer of Peace rose up – his eyes flashed as lightning struck behind him – and said loudly, “This evil has come because we have not given proper worship to the powers of the sky. We have offended the sun and the air with our negligence, and we must appease them before we die.”

“Then what can we do?” asked the chief man. “What do we know about the powers of the sky?”

“I will tell you,” said Slayer of Peace. “I will tell you and you will do as I say, or perish. Take what horses you can catch and kill them, dedicating them to the sun, moon, and stars.”

“This Slain by Peace would have us worship the gods of the Ghadari,” said one man. “It would be better to die then become like them, with their hard houses and their unnatural magic. We are the people of the islands, the true people, but they are phantasms.” It was Little Eye, who had for many years been an enemy of Slayer of Peace.

“You may wish to die,” said Slayer of Peace, “but I wish to live.”

“Even if it means handing over your very soul as one of the true people?” Little Eye asked.

“Yes, for otherwise we die,” said Slayer of Peace.

“Then go and live apart from us,” said Little Eye, and no one spoke against him, not even the chief man. So Slayer of Peace was banished from the tribe to make his own way through the island, and all the Terr’eil forgot that he was of one blood with them. And he wandered alone over hill and river until he came to a land in the east where the trees dripped light as sap from their veins. The people he met spoke of a plague of crows that ate all the berries from the bushes and killed horses by eating their eyes, and the crows followed a woman who ran naked through the trees, her long black hair like wings behind her back.

“No one may approach her,” he was told, “for she knows no speech but that of the birds.”

But Slayer of Peace could not be daunted by anything in earth or sea, so he went out to find this woman to see if what was said about her was true. He crossed two rivers and climbed two hills and at last he saw her in the distance, wild and surrounded by crows. He called to her, and she ran.

With his lame leg Slayer of Peace could not hope to catch up with her, but his perceiving soul suddenly became aware of her name, and he called again, this time saying “Arannattattattell!”

A hundred crows flew at him, pecking his face and arms and legs, but he did not shrink back. The sky was dark with the flock, but he did not hesitate to approach the woman and take her in his arms. And they loved one another. Two children they had, a son named Bright Swords and a daughter named Fruitful.

After some time Slayer of Peace heard that in Terr’eil a sorcerer had killed the chief men and made himself lord of the tribe. Immediately his inmost soul flared with anger and, taking Bright Swords and Fruitful with him, he returned to his old home and cried out, saying, “Slayer of Peace is here. Who will welcome him back to his family?”

“Slain by Peace is no longer one of us,” said Little Eye. “Slain by Peace is a stranger, and strangers are put into the hands of the Inward Sage.” For the sorcerer was one of those who seek their salvation within themselves, rather than from family and tribe.

“Bring us to the Inward Sage, then,” said Slayer of Peace. “Let him deal with us, if he can.”

So it was that Slayer of Peace and his children stood before the sorcerer, with his coils of rope and bronze staff. He pounded this staff into the ground and from the nearby river serpents began to crawl, serpents of many colors that moved towards Slayer of Peace and showed their fangs. Bright Swords jumped into the air and with his hands seized the snakes, killing them with the might of his grip.

Now the sorcerer gathered his souls together and began to say a spell to destroy Slayer of Peace, but Fruitful held aloft an ear of wheat and the spell fell back on itself, crushing the sorcerer to the ground. Slayer of Peace stepped up to the sorcerer and, wresting the staff from his grasp, drove it into the sorcerer’s head, shattering his skull.

“I am your new lord,” he declared. “Obey me and I will protect you from famine and the sorcery of the Ghadari. Disobey me and I will destroy you as I did this deceiver.”

So the Terr’eil knelt to him, and so they have ever since.

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Posted 29 October 2011 - 02:14 PM

I absolutely LOVE these tales. The style, so close to folklore and yet about unusual cultures, and so concise, is wonderful. Please write more often! :D

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Posted 20 December 2011 - 08:02 PM

My apologies for the delay: I was busy with various things, not least of which was an ebbing of my desire to just sit down and write. My apologies also for the doggerel at the end: I think my alliteration scheme grew at the cost of coherency, and I'm no poet anyway.

The Goddess of the Well
A story of the Adrall tribe.

In old times the Adrall were not bound by walls, but wandered free across the earth as the birds do in the sky. We carried with us our god, Irlrai, who was kind to us and kept famine far away, and the rumors of strangers in the east meant nothing to us. But even gods cannot guard against evil forever, and the first scouts of the Ghadari began to appear, curious to learn our tongue and our ways.

Irlrai warned us against the Ghadari, telling his bearers that the newcomers were fated to destroy the Adrall, but we saw no harm in them at first, and so we chastised Irlrai, telling him that he should not be so quarrelsome. For did the Ghadari not give us fine necklaces and garments of the wool that grew on their sheep? Were they not our friends, mighty friends who understood the nature of the world and the souls of men and women?

“Mighty friends are mighty enemies of the Adrall,” said Irlrai. “You should be wary of these strangers who do not know the gods of the land, but who force souls and plants to do their bidding. The time will come when the land spits them out and drives them into the sea again.”

Although we heard and remembered the words of Irlrai, they passed over our perceptive souls like the wind over a field, and did not change us. Our wisest men and women learned much from the Ghadari and we began to change in their image, though still we continued to follow the river like the fish, free like the birds. But we were fish and birds that were beginning to be snared in the net.

So eventually even one of Irlrai’s bearers was enticed by the gifts of the Ghadari and gave up his trust, turning to the god from across the sea. The posts of Irlrai rocked and twisted in the wind, and as they became roosts for birds we lamented these dark days and wept for our idol.

Our wise men and their wives spoke with one another, arguing about whether we should flee to the west, away from the strange folk who had brought this sorrow to us. Some said that it was the only way to preserve our tribe for generations to come, but others spoke of the grim future that we would find hunting in the hills for horses and birds, fearing the nets of our old rivals the Karaidam. In the end the oldest and wisest of the women suggested simply that we ask Irlrai what we should do.

As we approached Irlrai one of the keepers was overcome by the soul of the god and spoke in a voice that was not his own. And he said, “I have looked on the Ghadari and found many of them cruel and impious, yet others of them are mighty. I have seen the beautiful waters that hold up the islands, and the most beautiful is the river that flows under your feet. Bring her up to me, that I may touch her and take her to be my wife.”

“How?” asked the oldest and wisest of the woman. “How can we break the earth and bring forth the water?”

“The Ghadari have the power to break the earth. In this way they can make friends with Irlrai and his people.”

We heard the words of the god and knew that they were good, so we went to the Ghadari with the proposal. The priests and magicians muttered back and forth for two days before they agreed and sent forth their chief magicians with rod in their hands to strike the ground, tearing a great hole in the earth and drawing up, in a great blue torrent, the well of Adrall.

That is how Irlrai came to marry the water of the well, and we came to Adrall to live in peace and security and raise a thousand children.

How lovely stands the bride our well,
Now loosed is she to bathe and wash
And looming still in black and wood,
Our lord of sun and beast to wed.

(Note: the largely psychological/mental nature of Ghadari magic makes it unlikely to have been used in the construction of the well. This impression probably arrives from the compressed narrative and the use of the word ‘magician’ to include craftsmen of any kind.)

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 07:21 PM

A story told among the Doldeni (a Ghadari sect).

Praise Heaven, whose laws are eternal and whose judgment is certain. Praise Heaven, which has given us eyes and hands to shape the earthly world. Praise Heaven above all men and all teachers.

Magic is a corruption and a blight to the people. It makes us a stench in the nostrils of Heaven. It is the temptation of the dracas and the doom of the islands. The only way to save ourselves is to abandon it, as Saenum learned at the gates of the sun.

This Saenum had been born in the old country, and was thoroughly steeped in the old ways. He was a priest himself, but his father had been a magician who had taught him to defy Heaven with prideful rituals that raise up the soul of man to stand among the high courts. In their household magical toys were common, and even used in sacrifices to Heaven – the same toys that were used to shed blood in the great wars.

When Saenum came to the islands he was an old man, set in his ways and far up in the hierarchy of priests. He expected that soon he would die and pass on into unknown seas, so he took special care to train his subordinates in the same way that he himself had been taught. He praised magic and magicians, unwittingly blaspheming the power of Heaven. But Heaven’s mercy is great, even to such as Saenum.

In his sleep Saenum was translated by good spirits that brought him to the path of the sun to show him all the world. He saw the continents and the oceans, the cities and farms, the ships and soldiers, the priests and magicians, the kings and craftsmen, all laid out before him, tiny and glittering in the sun’s light. He looked up, and saw the sun following its ceaseless glorious track, and cast over the sky was the silver net of the moon’s cycles. Beyond were the stars, and beyond that he could not see.

He trembled then, knowing that he was in the hands of a great power. “I am an impure man,” he said, “of impure birth. Overlook my transgressions, I pray, so that I may continue to kneel in this thin air and perceive what no mortal flesh has seen before.”

A cold breeze chilled his arms but he did not notice, so entranced was he by the glories that were around him. Again the cold struck him, but he did not notice. He stood firm in the sky unmoved by any being. Such is the pride of the Ghadari!

But his hand began to hurt, until he thought that he would surely die from the pain. He looked to see what had hurt him and saw a tiny man standing on his palm, driving a sword into his flesh. “Why do you do this?” he asked the tiny man.

“I am the archon of the entire world,” said the little man. “My sword lets me slay giants such as you.”

“Foolish homunculus,” said Saenum. “I could crush you with my finger.”

The little man laughed so scornfully that Saenum grew angry and began to clench his fist to destroy him, but when he saw the face of the little man he hesitated. It was his own face that he saw, and when he looked closer he saw that the little man was wearing his own clothes and holding in its other hand his own bag of magic tricks.

“My magic,” the little man said, “is great enough to challenge Heaven itself!” And he pulled out from the bag a point of white light and threw it at Saenum's head. It flared and disappeared. “I wager you felt that in your skull!”

“I felt nothing,” said Saenum in truth.

“You lie!” the little man screamed. “My power is enough to destroy you with a blink of my eye! You are trying to deceive me!”

But now Saenum was tired of this miniature image, so he brushed it aside and looked up to the stars again. To his dismay, clouds were growing to hide the stars from his view. Thunder rumbled, and in the thunder was a voice.

“Who are you, man of the earth, to raise yourself above the simple things of hand and eye, to seek to master the spirits and command them? What evil inspired you to violate the laws that Heaven laid down to govern nature?”

“Forgive me,” said Saenum. “I have reached over my head for things I cannot grasp. I will return to my home and worship Heaven in humility.”

So the vision disappeared and Saenum was in his bed again. When the sun rose the next morning he took all his magic toys and destroyed them, and for the remainder of his life he rejected the magicians' teachings, preferring the simple things given to us by Heaven for our edification and training in obedience. Heaven be praised above all things.

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Posted 15 January 2012 - 07:44 PM

Bauren's Lessons

A story told in Hurot, a town of the magicians.

In Zehilhn there lived a boy whose name was Bauren. He was an orphan who had approached the masters in that town to study magic, and one of them, impressed by his boldness, had asked him what he would do if he became a magician. “I do not know,” said Bauren, “but if I had magic, my parents and sisters would not have died when the savages raided our home and stole our sheep.”

So one of the masters took him as an apprentice to study the history of the art and the techniques used to create the artifacts. Bauren was clever, learning these things quickly, and although he was courteous to the other apprentices he did not make friends easily. He always had the appearance of thinking about something else, even when arguing (as he often was) with the masters about the proper duties of a magician. In those days many magicians believed that it had been pride that banished us from our home, that we were driven to these islands by our arrogant belief in our ability to summon and command demons, and it was a heavy burden we carried. Bauren was not one to submit to such a burden, and he decried the cowardice of the archon's aldermen. “If I was an alderman,” he would say, and then go on to explain his ideas. But for all that he was kind and hard-working, rising quickly to the point where he could take the examination to become a journeyman.

Now a rich merchant's widow came to Zehilhn with her daughter Celhrid, who was admired by all the young men of the town but paid attention to none. Bauren had shut himself up with his teacher to prepare for the examination, so for a time he did not even know of Celhrid's being in Zehilhn. But one day he went for a walk along the shore to rest his mind, and when he came across the young woman, washing her feet and picking up stones, he was struck dumb by her beauty, which surpassed (so he thought at the time) the most intricate diagram in his studies. Words came from his mouth unbidden, and he was surprised to hear her respond in kind. So Bauren and Celhrid were in love with one another, though they hid it from her mother, fearing that in her grand hopes for an advantageous marriage she would take Celhrid away from Zehilhn, separating the two forever. Bauren's studies languished as he became more and more fascinated with Celhrid, and she, fascinated in her turn, did nothing to keep him on the proper path.

Bauren's master, who was no fool, could not help but notice that the boy was even more distracted than usual, and with an iris he learned of Bauren's dalliance. He shook his head and left his house, and found the young people kissing in a hidden cave in the northern sheepfolds. Whatever he had been about to say to them, it was forestalled by the savages, who swept down from the surrounding hills with ravening dogs. “Now attend, apprentice,” said the master, and producing a silver rod he bent the minds of the savages and drove them away so that no one was harmed. Bauren saw and understood, and telling Celhrid that he would have to return to his studies for a time so he could pass his examination, departed with his master.

Celhrid waited patiently, keeping silent about Bauren until the time when he would be proclaimed a journeyman. But her mother at last found a match that pleased her, with a cousin of the archon, who was young, handsome, and not at all to the taste of Celhrid herself. Out of necessity, therefore, she found Bauren and together they went to her mother to announce their intention to wed. The worst storm on the eastern sea could not be more violent than her response, and she forbade Bauren and Celhrid to meet again. Now Bauren angrily swore that when he became a master he would make Celhrid his wife by fair or foul magic, so that Celhrid's mother, horrified, took her away to Faron, which was then nothing more than a border outpost, but an outpost where Celhrid's prospective husband was stationed as the archon's representative.

Bauren took the journeyman examination, and he passed with a perfect score. The final lessons began, training his mind to take control of the Ideas of this world, but long before they were complete, he left Zehilhn for Faron, to find Celhrid. He carried with him a hooked blade imbued with a powerful Idea, for Bauren had little need for the final lessons, so far had he surpassed his teachers. He already understood the Ideas and the Forms, and was ready to break the mind of Celhrid's mother, to drive his rival out into the rain to perish, so strong was his fury!

As he drew near the walls of Faron, Celhrid emerged and threw herself at his feet, begging him not to harm anyone. “We can flee together to another island, no matter what my mother says. Or we can go farther into the wild lands and live alone there. But magic was not given to us to violate the laws Heaven made to govern men and women. Do not let your anger overpower you, beloved, but consider the future and align your magic with the path of moderation.” Bauren was persuaded by her soft words and tearful eyes, and so they went south and founded Hurot, where Bauren started a school of magic following his new precepts: magic should be used for the good of all, never for revenge or petty quarrels. All glory be to Heaven.

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 06:45 PM

The Solar Garden
A story connected with the School of Shadows in Morlizomal.

I found myself within the walls of a pleasant garden, lit by the noonday sun and watered by twelve channels. A flight of stairs led up to a gazebo that overlooked the garden, made of stone inscribed with symbols I did not understand. From that high place I saw a maiden standing by a pool, her eyes fixed on me. “Come down here,” she said. “I have a task for you to accomplish. No, do not take the stairs.”

“I do not understand,” I said. “How am I to reach you without them?”

“You think it is impossible?”

“I do.”

“Then take the stairs, if you can find no other way.”

Somewhat ashamed, I went down. She gestured at the pool, asking me what I saw in those waters. “I see fish of many colors. A red fish with black discoloration. A silver fish with a wide mouth.”

“This is the archon's garden, but he did not place these fish here. There is one fish in particular that you should look for, and when you find it, grasp it firmly and do not let go.”

“What does this parable mean?” I asked.

The maiden laughed. “You are slow-witted indeed. It will not be long before night comes and all these plants perish.”

“It would be a pity for all this beauty to pass away,” said I.

“Then catch your fish,” said the maiden. “Bring it through the east gate where I will be waiting.”

It took me a great deal of time to discover which fish I was to catch, but once I saw it I knew there could be no other. It was small and long and shone like a rainbow, and it was terribly difficult for me to keep a hold of it, but I took it through the gate, which was carved on each side with shapes of lions grasping suns in their jaws. As I stepped through the gate, the fish in my hands became a golden ring, which I handed to the maiden. “Now explain what you meant when
you said the archon did not put the fish in the pool.”

“There are other rules besides the archon, for every one of us can become a ruler through magic. The transformation of one of us is equivalent to the transformation of this entire garden. The fish you saw are the souls of men and women, both the Ghadari who were born in the sun and the Latoirn who were born in the earth, and it is not for the archon to dictate their destinies. But now you must make a choice between day and night, between servitude to the old ways and the creation of a new garden, where the sun will shine constantly and the earth will provide grain without fail.”

“It is not a choice, is it?” I asked. “Only a fool would reject what you offer.”

“You understand,” she said, and smiled so that my heart sang. “Now you only need to change into unsoiled garments so that you may attend the wedding of Idea and Form. You will find your new clothes under the lion's mouth.”

At the far end of this yard was the statue of the lion, and when I approached it I heard words that I cannot reveal now, nor ever until the new day comes. But there I received my new clothing, and when the horns sounded I was among the guests. Idea was a stern man in robes of many colors; Form was a fair and pleasing woman in simpler attire that revealed more patterns the more I gazed on it.

The maiden who had welcomed me to the garden was seated next to me, and she whispered in my ear, “This is the culmination of magic: the transformation of disunity into unity. What are the six words that will accomplish this transformation?”

“Phoenix. Mountain. Ocean. Sky. Pearl. Shadow.”

“You are half right. So for now the transformation will remain half complete, until the pearl is fully built. And she will be the bride who will take the hand of the most glorious Idea that has ever been thought by human mind, and she will carry the new world in her womb. Forever peace. Forever the new day.”

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Posted 22 January 2012 - 06:17 PM

The Last Battle of the Gods
A story of the Reatam tribe.

Many of our people have forgotten their origins, telling ridiculous stories about the wisdom and the power of the gods. They do not remember that the gods created us in the beginning as slaves so that they could enjoy the luxuries of the islands while we gathered food and made sacrifice to keep them from perishing. Nor do they remember that we were the ones who cast the gods out from their thrones.

It was many generations ago, before the strangers came from the east, when the gods dwelt atop the mountains and plucked us from the plains to serve in their homes. Who, in these days of freedom, can comprehend the nature of the old gods? Who can say fully what they intended for us? But our ancestors consulted
their souls and resolved to break free of their bondage, even if it seemed impossible for mortals to fight the gods.

For very powerful were the old gods, Atan the far-seeing and Taturr the mighty and Warrmak who was beautiful and stern like the mountains themselves. All had sacrificed themselves to acquire power and knowledge, and through their maiming they had achieved immortality. “What sacrifices have we made?” the Reatam asked themselves. “We are all healthy of limb and eye, and whatever losses we have suffered have not been of our own will.”

We attempted to climb the mountains by our own power, but the bitterness of the air and the difficulty of the ascent drove us back down again. So we consulted our wisest and best-spoken leaders, who decided that we too would have to make a sacrifice so that we could rise up and battle the gods in their own land. “One man from each family must come forward to die for the sake of our freedom,” they told us, and with reluctance we made the difficult choice.

A great pit was dug to swallow up the victims, offered to the earth in exchange for the wings we would need to rise up to the home of the gods. Widows and mothers wailed for their loss, and this was when men first began to take multiple wives to make up for the loss of the victims. But the advice of the elders was good, and we rose up to battle the gods, casting down the bridges that connected their temples and burning them in their sanctuaries. Atan fled without fighting, seeing that his cause was hopeless. Taturr struggled with his one hand to overthrow the warriors who came against him, but was beaten and bound in the caverns of the earth. Warrmak called monsters to aid her: fierce griffins, beasts like dogs with great manes, enormous serpents, but the Reatam have always been excellent hunters and soon Warrmak was driven back through the gates of heaven.

We were borne aloft by our pride, having defeated the very gods who created us. We claimed their tools and devices as our own, even considering using the divine gates to leave the islands for other realms of which no mortal can speak. One woman in particular, distraught over the loss of her husband, attempted to leap from the peak of one mountain to the peak of another. “We are the new gods,” she said in her delirium. “We can do whatever we want in our new world.” And she fell, broken, amid the rocks, and we came, mourning, down from the peaks.

So that is the end of the tale. The old gods are no more, but it is not yet time for us ascend. Some of our seers say that will never happen, that it is in our nature to remain bound to the earth. But others say that the arrival of the magicians is the harbinger of the end, that soon we will follow the gods into a paradise grander and lovelier than our fondest dreams of this mortal world.

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