Winter Comes to Eysan
In sparsely populated Irenorn, the tribes have a rich oral history. This, I think, is because there are so few trees and thus, no paper. When I went to see how the northern reach had fared in the plague (Some villages had not even heard of it! Imagine!), I was delighted to hear a story I had never come across before. Their view of the trickster god is somehow both more terrifying and sweeter than the myths I grew up with. I'm going to write it just as it was told to me. To transcribe it into a more formal myth wouldn't be true to its Irenorn legacy.For quite a long time, the Dark Lady was depressed. She filled the dark rivers of the underworld with tears. Now, the other gods were all too afraid to do anything about it. Everywhere Ershk-gula went, death followed. The gods wondered if their immortality was really so strong against that strange and terrible power.
The only one who wasn't afraid was Ananya the trickster. He feared nothing and nobody. He saw the dark, sad pools of her eyes and was awestruck. Her grace in the face of her terrible duty fascinated him. Ananya was never given any duties for long, not ones he kept anyway. He adored the Dark Lady, and wished above all things to see her smile.
He put on a disguise and traveled from the land of the gods and into Eysan. There he found a great feast. The trickster loved a good feast - all that chaotic drinking, fighting, loving, how could he not, yeh? The celebrators welcomed the stranger and unknowingly shared their food and drink with a god.
Ananya spent three days feasting with the men and women, out of respect for their generosity, but attending a party was never his intention. On the third night, he whispered lies to the group's spiritual leaders, promising life beyond life if they sacrificed their followers.
The spiritual leaders, too drunk and blinded by Ananya's charm, took up their sacrificial knives. The feast ended in a bloodbath. When the leaders realized what they had done, they took their own lives as well. Ananya waited with the spirits of the celebrators. Before long, Ershk-gula arrived to collect them.
Ananya bowed low when he saw the Dark Lady and said, "I've made this gift for you, Ershk-gula. Fresh spirits, cut at the peak of life. Tell me they please you."
The Dark Lady frowned in response.
"Foolish trickster," she said, "I have thousands upon thousands of souls just like these."
She left with the souls, as it was her duty, but she remained as sad as ever.
Ananya didn't let it bother him. He vowed to find something another way to make Death smile.
He walked the length and breadth of Eysan, wondering what would make Ershk-gula happy. He had misjudged the problem, or rather, never considered it. Ananya isn't much of a thinker, yeh? But he made a vow and he was going to keep it.
Perhaps, he thought, she could not see her beauty? The other gods were disgusted by her because of their fear. If the Dark Lady believed them, she might be blind to those very things that made her beautiful to the trickster. He knew then he needed the mirror of Yaim'allelo.
While many fear the goddess of the underworld, like they fear their own deaths, it is shifting Yaim'allelo who smart men fear. The waters of Eysan are treacherous; only the brave and stupid make their livings upon the deep. But as dangerous as the shifting one is, men and women agree Yaim'allelo is strikingly beautiful. Yaim'allelo knows this too. He-she keeps a magical mirror that reveals all beautiful things.
Ananya walked into the ocean. He found Water swimming gracefully amidst a school of glimmering fish of all colors.
"Esteemed brother-sister of my mother, how dull it is I find you here," he said.
Yaim'allelo stopped his-her swimming, surprised, and asked "Where else would I be?"
"Why, above the waves of your domain. Isn't that obvious?"
"What good would my father's domain be to me? It is far too dry, and the wind howls." he-she scoffed.
Ananya hid his smile, for he knew he had Yaim'allelo now. He merely said, "But oh great one of the current! when the waves are calm, and D'alor's eye shines bright, your realm becomes an even greater magical mirror than your small trinket in the sand there."
Yaim'allelo eyed the trickster.
"Impossible," he-she said, "There is only one mirror like that in the world."
"No?" Ananya cooed, "Let us go up together and I will prove that your ocean is a thousand times what your small mirror claims to be."
And so, Yaim'allelo and Ananya rose to the surface. The water was placid, and their reflections were indeed brilliant, but not magical.
The shifting one held up his-her magic mirror and said, "You are wrong, little nephew. This is the only magic mirror."
Ananya smiled as he pointed to the ocean. "Look again," he said, "See what is there."
When Yaim'allelo turned to see, the trickster god used his own magic to force images to appear on the surface. So enthralled was the shifting one, he-she did not notice the water itself was not the source.
"I had no idea my domain contained such power!" He-she said.
"It reflects both your beauty and strength, it seems," Ananya said, "but what of your small mirror? It's no use to you, when you can simply come here any time."
Yaim'allelo pushed the magic mirror toward Ananya without even looking, saying, "Perhaps you can find a use for it. A gift, to think of me by."
Ananya bowed and took the mirror. Then he disappeared, transporting himself to the gates of Ershk-gula's domain and leaving Yaim'allelo staring at the visions Ananya created on the surface of the ocean.
The trickster called for Ershk-gula in a loud and very pleased-with-himself voice. When the Dark Lady came to see what the fuss was about, Ananya presented her with the mirror.
"Your beauty may be different from some of those other gods, but you should love who you are," he said.
Ershk-gula stared into the mirror. Then she handed it back, tears in her dark eyes.
"Foolish trickster," she said, "I already accept myself. It is the world that does not accept me. The dead are no company, for their minds are filled with memories, the living fear me, as do my own kin. For good reason. I cannot even enjoy my mother's creations by walking the surface. I would kill everything by merely going for a stroll. Please, just go, and leave me to my duties."
Ananya finally understood. He knew what he must do to cheer up the goddess he realized he loved. He kissed Ershk-gula's hand in farewell before she returned to the underworld. She did not realize, but he had taken a small portion of her power.
He first went to Eyso, asking the Lady of the Land to strengthen her plants against hardship. Then he went to D'alor to request that Sky cast his bright eye on other lands for a time. Ananya then tricked Zia-novalla's dragon into hunting the moon, forcing Fire to chase after her pet through the sky. When these things were done, the land began growing cold.
Ananya then took the bit of Death's power, combined with his own tricks, and made the plants and animals sleep while he created something new. He drew droplets of water from the air and froze them into snow and ice. He decorated the land with these. It was as harsh and beautiful as he found the Dark Lady to be.
When the whole of Eysan was blanketed in white, he called once more for the Dark Lady.
Ershk-gula saw what Ananya had made for her. She stepped onto the snow. Not a single blade of grass died. She wept with joy. Ananya thought he had done something wrong, and was about to unmake his gift, but the Dark Lady stopped him. Her weeping turned to laughing.
"My dear trickster," she said with a smile, "it is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen."
The two were wed a short time after. They visit Eysan every year to celebrate their strange courtship, creating winter to protect the land from Death's power when they do.