A History of the World
A hush falls over the children as they sit huddled on the thick bed of hides and furs on the floor. Old Apeke White-River stands to speak, the strong voice of the Elder easily drowning the crackle of the fire.
The First Times
’’In the beginning was Cold. Not the cold of winter. That is a mere echo, a vestige, of the ancient times. This was a chill that was everything and everywhere. Before there were heavens above or earth below, there was simply Cold.
While Cold moved, creatures formed. These were beings of Cold, the Kalakaq, the Rimeblood. They carried Cold within them, were monstrous, frozen beasts taller than houses, and knew nothing but the chill and the sleet.
But as Cold moved and the Kalakaq lived, so too were formed other creatures from Cold. In the swirls from the movement of Cold there came Rokan, He who is the Tumult, the Avalanche, the chaos in the Cold. Where the Cold moved not, there came Ankar, she who is the Calm, the Ice, the order in the Cold. And as they grew to wakefulness in the Cold, they noticed another formed. Where the Tumult became Calm, where Ice became Avalanche, where order passed to chaos or chaos passed to order, there was Zyz, He who was the Passing, the Change, the marking of endings and beginnings in the Cold.
The First Three banded together, born into Cold. The Rimeblood took little interest in them, they were mere specks in the vastness of Cold. With nowhere to stand or sit, the Three resolved to make the world, to make sure there was more than just Cold.
Ankar, primal force of motherhood, created first. She scooped her hands together and pushed and packed the Cold. Mountains and ridges formed, thus making the Land. To match her, Rokan created the Sky. Rokan saw the mistakes Ankar made with the heaviness of the Land and so tossed handfuls of Cold into the air, making Sky wild and untamed and free, but we are never sure where those handfuls of Cold will land or how they will move. Rokan named Sky Aristeia, and she was bright and brittle and shone above them, the handfuls of Cold still sparkling at night to this day. Ankar and Rokan then made the First Peoples to live on the Land and enjoy the Sky. And they lived and walked through the Land and marvelled at Aristeia above them, the Cold having been packed away into Land and moved into Sky making it possible for the First Peoples to live.
Zyz watched his fellows and then pushed his hands into Cold, digging into it. With his fingers, he made tunnels and tracks and created Toleken, the Deep, the Land Below. He tried to join Ankar and Rokan in making Peoples, but all his attempts failed. He did not understand how to make People, and so he told the other two that he would instead wait until their Peoples became tired of living on the Land and enjoying the Sky, and then he would look after them in the place he had made.
And after a while it became clear that the First Peoples were not faring well. The People Ankar had made possessed much of her stillness, and so were timid and sad, unable to hunt or find shelter. The People Rokan had made possessed much of his whim, and so were too wild and crazed, full of madness and unable to care for their children.
When they felt that there were things other than Cold, the Kalakaq came to investigate. They could not find who was responsible for creating the places that were not Cold, and so they took out their rage on the First Peoples, hunting them across the mountains, often eating them when they were caught or playing cruel sport with them. They smashed mountains in their anger at the creation of the Land, and tried crushing and collapsing the tunnels in the Deep. Aristeia was where the Rimeblood could not get her, and tried to distract herself from their threats and bellowing by painting beautiful pictures across the Sky.
Zyz welcomed many into the Deeps where they were safer, and cared for them, and discovered that many were happier with him than when they had been above even before the coming of the Rimeblood. Rokan noticed that those he had made were happier with Zyz, and a small flower of anger blossomed within him.
Ankar wept for those she lost, and she resolved to fix it so that there would be more children. She went into a long quiet, not seeing or speaking to Rokan or Zyz, and after a year she knew what she had to do. Yet she was scared of the Kalakaq, and their mighty Chieftain Ulyuq. So when no one was watching, she slipped away to visit Ulyuq in the heart of the Cold, and asked permission to create again. The Lord of Frosts laughed and threatened to eat her. But then Ankar asked what he desired most, and she would deliver it to him. And so the mighty Chieftain Ulyuq paused and thought. And then with a scowl across his face, he simply pointed upward.
So Ankar told the Lord of Frosts that Aristeia liked to come down to the Land to bathe, and if he was quick and lay in wait for her, he would catch her. And so it happened that as Aristeia came down to the Land to bathe, Ulyuq marched out of the swirling chill and clamped her in chains to be dragged away into Cold. And so the first snow fell, as Cold claimed the Sky, and Eighty Days of Snow befell the world. What Ulyuq did to Aristeia cannot be retold here, but should you pass the trials and make yourself a Man you may learn then, or I have heard, for those of you who are daughters of the tribe, the womenfolk know secrets that they will tell you when you are first blooded. Suffice it to say that it was a cruelty, and it lasted too long.
Unknowing of the bargain Ankar had made, Rokan welcomed the sight of her after such a long absence. And Ankar whispered to Rokan that she knew of a way to make more children, and that these children would live. Rokan, seeing her eyes, began to know what she planned, and so embraced her. And so chaos and order, tumult and calm, bonded in the Cold. Their passion created the first Warmth, and while this is still a traditional method of keeping the cold at bay, it also brought forth Fire, and drove Cold back. The ice of the Land began to thaw, and the place where they joined melted and were no longer mountains, flattened and wide. The world now had rivers that flowed through it, and forests that grew, and great plains that stretched from one edge of the Land to the other. Light now filled the world.
And the Land was not the only thing changed by Warmth. Ankar and Rokan, in their joining, had changed each other, with the chaos ordered, the calm tumultuous. They each drew back from the embrace and realised that they had both become Balance, the Harmony at the heart of the world we know today. Their union, born from Ankar’s intuition but possible only through desire and passion, created She Who Is Always, the Goddess of Love as she was then. In accordance with the Laws, I will not speak her name, but you will all know her twice in your lives.
In the afterlife of the Deep, the First Peoples spoke with Zyz. He learned from them how to create children, yet he was not confident to spread his power thin by creating Peoples as the others had. Instead, he focused and created his own Three. First was Korak, as strong as the bison when he was first born. Then came Ix, wild and tempestuous. Then came Lika, quiet and studious. But he was schooled by the First Peoples, and they did not know how to care for children once they were made. And so Zyz left them cast out into the new world, where they wandered and learned. Ix, wild and savage, was drawn to the Forest Infinite and made it his home. Korak enjoyed the wildness of the place and dwelled there with his brother. Lika quietly watched and learned from her brothers and from the world around her, and remembered it in words and song.
However, in Cold, the Kalakaq felt the coming of Fire and Warmth. Chieftain Ulyuq, angered by the disturbance, was determined that these creatures not of Cold should pay for their games. The Rimeblood marched out of Cold to confront the Three.
The Three defied the Lord of Frosts, wishing to protect the new world. With a new power in Warmth they could perhaps fight the Kalakaq, but it was still only three against a thousand thousand thousand. Rokan wished to fight, especially when Zyz counselled him against it, telling Rokan that the fight may destroy the new world they had made. Ankar finally calmed her other half and told him that Zyz was wise, and that another way should be found.
Zyz had no choice but to offer his eldest son as a prisoner in exchange for his life. Satisfied they had another to cater to their whims and after making the Three agree to a painful yearly visit from them, the Rimeblood left the world to its devices and retreated into Cold. Worried over the loss of his brother, Ix turned to looking after the other children of the Three, guiding Lika and being overly protective of Always. Ever proud of the product of their union, Ankar and Rokan devoted everything to Always, ensuring she would be the perfect Goddess and heir to the world. Zyz attempted to care for his children, but did not understand them. Lika was too interested in learning about the world and what had come before, and Ix had become one with the Forest Infinite, becoming every beast in the woods, the howl in the air, the claw in the dark, the flash of teeth.
In Cold, Korak was abused and pushed to his limits. The cruel Kalakaq wished to see how far the new blood of Gods could stand, setting him tasks to test his strength and endurance. Little did they know that all they were doing was training him in the ways of War, and letting him know their secrets and vulnerabilities. The Lord of Frosts enjoyed taunting and abusing the boy, constantly giving him errands that were almost impossible even for a God. Yet when Korak saw that Aristeia was still captured, he finally decided that the arrangement was worthless and that he would escape. With the bravery of a true warrior, he managed to attack and wound the Kalakaq guarding Aristeia, and the two of them fled from Cold back to the world, dragging their captive with them.
The Sky was finally above the new Land, and Rokan was overjoyed to have his daughter return after assuming he had lost her to Cold. His delight turned to anger when he saw that they had brought a Rimeblood with them and he would have slain him if Aristeia had not intervened. Unbeknownst to Korak, the Kalakaq, whose name was Teyamaq, was the only kind one of the Cold, who had tried as hard as he could to delay Ulyuq’s visits, who had snuck her food and drink and diversions so she would not despair. And Rokan’s hand was stayed, and he agreed to spare Teyamaq’s life, but he enslaved him for one year for every day that Ulyuq had made it Snow in the early times.
Returned to joy, Rokan wished to give a gift to his first daughter. Knowing how long she had been in Cold, and knowing that some of the Warmth would need to be kept safe, he gave a large part of the Warmth to Aristeia to keep in the Sky. Oh, and, after Teyamaq proved himself a worthy slave and spoke nothing but the highest of Aristeia, Rokan permitted him to join her as a Spirit. You can see him today in the Sky, as Aristeia finds him calming and helpful (we know this because you can never see the Moon when Aristeia is turbulent and troubled, only when she is clear and calm), and he takes care of the Warmth in the Sky, always watching over it and keeping it banked for periods to ensure it never fully burns out.
The Sun in the Sky and Warmth spreading over the Land birthed the New Peoples, we, the Volanyi. We spread across the world, and were taught by the Gods. Always taught us the secrets of Love, emotions, devotion and the mysteries of the union. Ix showed us the dangers and power of the woods but also the strength and use of the beasts. Lika was fascinated by us and taught us the ways she had learned from all she had observed, taught us the songs that she had heard the First Peoples sing, started to teach us of Knowledge and Traditions. And Aristeia watched over us, making sure we had what we needed, shading us with clouds when the Sun was too hot, bringing rain to fill the rivers, or winds to bring us the scents on the hunt.
In the Deep, Zyz had taken some of the Warmth there and by using it on the things that the First Peoples had taken with them created a totally new thing called Metal. It was this that he proudly presented to his son on his return. Korak took the metal and made the first bronze korix, the axe that our warriors take into battle. Pleased with his son, he presented him to Rokan and made him aware that it was his bravery and cunning that returned Aristeia to her father. Rokan spoke at length with Korak, glad to find another who wished to fight the Kalakaq rather than live in fear of them. For his part, Korak grew to be more impressed with the chaotic side of Balance and his majesty, more than the father that abandoned him. In return for rescuing his daughter Rokan found an opportunity to spite Zyz by taking Metal and crafting the Brass Palace that overlooks the Forest Infinite, and giving it to Korak.
When Ix saw the return, he was suddenly drawn to the wild and free Aristeia. Her beauty above the world was in no question, but to an untamed heart such as Ix’s it was beyond glory. And so grew his jealousy. His brother had returned from Cold and not only received all this attention from his father and Rokan, but was the one to have rescued the Sky that he secretly desired. Ever eager to prove himself, he decided he would grow in stature should he have the power that Rokan wielded. But the Warmth in the Sky was too far away to take, and he could not risk upsetting his secret love. And so instead he decided to steal a portion of Rokan’s primal tumult that still remained with him.
By now, the Gods had begun camping and meeting on the Endless Plain, that part of the world you can still reach if you can find the place to walk forever. In the house Rokan had built, Ix in the form of a cunning fox snuck in and took a part of the Primal Chaos as Rokan slept.
With Korak on their side and the secrets he had obtained, and with the primal daughter returned to them and with a new set of Gods wielding their powers, the Three decided that they might finally be able to make war on the Kalakaq. The yearly visits were becoming more and more Cold, and it was hurting the new world. It was eventually time to strike back at the Rimeblood. Rokan, Ankar, Zyz, Aristeia, Always, Korak, Ix and Lika agreed that they would make war on Ulyuq and his terrors.
It was then that Rokan realised that he was weakened, some of his power sapped. In anger, he suddenly knew that a portion of his essence had been taken from him. Zyz had been in Rokan’s home that night, and was witness to Ix’s theft. Rokan, however, rounded on Zyz, accusing him of the theft. He cited Zyz bearing a festering jealousy since the early days when he could not work out how to create his own Peoples, constantly picking up what others had left behind and claiming them for his own. Honourably and with loyalty toward his son, Zyz defied Rokan and refused to say anything on the theft of his essence. In a rage, Rokan declared Zyz banished from Godhome and the Endless Plain.
Korak looked toward his father and the Lord of the Balance, and then swore loyalty to Rokan. Turning on his father, he wielded his korix and fought him in a mighty battle to cast him from Godhome. Wounded heavily, much of his essence left behind, Zyz retreated to the Deep. With that essence of the afterlife and passing, Ankar gifted her daughter the domain of Death, making her the Inevitable.
The war against the Kalakaq was mighty. One of the Three no longer stood with them, and another had been weakened. Zyz had also taken with him the secret of Metal. Yet the Gods were young and brave, with a God of War to lead them. They had a Goddess of Desires and Endings who knew how to control the hearts of even monsters. They had a God of the Wild, animalistic and bestial and terrifying in his wrath, driven to even further powers of wildness by the essence of chaos. They had the powers of the Sky, of storms and winds and lightning and sun. All the Gods fought bravely. Korak and Ix, the two wayward brothers, despite their differences, fought side by side. When Korak was wounded from diving in too deep too many times, Ix gave him the biggest and nastiest hound in the Forest Infinite to guard his flank and watch his back when he could not. And so Galok, the Battlehound, fought by his master from then on. And that’s why you see our warriors of Korak fight in battle beside Ixic Ragers, and train with galoyi mastiffs.
The Gods and their allies managed to make it to Ulyuq, primal lord of Cold, and they all fought him at once. The battle of snow and strength raged for years. Exhausted, many of the Gods retreated, too overwhelmed by the Lord of Frosts’ powers. Even the power of the Sun, brought by Aristeia, was almost all used up in the battle. Wounded and nearing complete collapse, only Korak and Rokan remained. Sensing a falter in his step, Korak directed Rokan and they both struck at once. Ulyuq howled in pain and fell to his knees. Cold heard his call and wrapped him in its arms, taking him into it. They had finally successfully overthrown the Rimeblood.
Ankar and Rokan were named as the Lord and Lady of the new Pantheon of Gods, and they began their rule over the new world and their devoted people, the Volanyi. With the Kalakaq defeated, they took more of a backseat to the running of the world, letting their children prosper in the new realm.
What? Of course there’s more. Listen.
The Trials of the Fifth
Now, Ix was falling under the spell of the essence of chaos. He had been wild to begin with, but now it threatened to overcome him. It seethed and writhed within him, spilling out through the Forest Infinite, sending wave after wave of beasts from the very depths of the Wild into the world. And these were not the wolves and bears and bison we know now. These were great and terrifying creatures, dangerous and without number. The Tagrur, the Jend, the Thalkot, the Yagumagmu. The Beasts claimed land that was ours by right, and drove us away from our homes. We tried to fight, but they were many and we had not the tools. We knew Ix wished to test us and make us respect the Wild, as is ever his way, but we were too weak to face them.
In the town of Adzmuq in the north, there was born a man named Smith into a family of hunters. He was very bright and very clever, and led a mischievous youth. His wit and adventures led him away from his upbringing, but his intelligence drew him to Lika and her love of Knowledge. From those who followed her path, he learned a great deal becoming one of the most knowledgeable acolytes in her domain. The curious mix between the clever young man and the stoic and quiet Goddess was enough to make him known to the two elder sisters, Aristeia and Always.
We do not question the wisdom of the Inevitable Always in making Smith fall in love with Lika, but none of us can claim to understand the will of the Gods. Some say she wished to teach him a lesson in pride, others a lesson in humility. Some believe she simply wished to see what would happen. Whatever the reason, Smith was now smitten with love and desire for the goddess Lika and yearned for her nightly. It was then that Aristeia, who had been often amused and entertained by the young man’s pranks and antics when she had felt poor, decided to help Smith. Which was convenient, as he was about to seek her out.
She explained that he would have to become a God in order to win Lika’s hand, and as an observer from the Sky, she could help him on his Quest.
This power gave him the ability to visit Toleken, the Deep and seek out Zyz. Although bitter at his treatment, Zyz was still glad to see one who was not dead and welcomed Smith into his home. Through cunning, Smith teased out what had happened and was peeved by the injustice the God had suffered. Smith pledged aid to the outcast God, and Zyz in return used the methods the First Peoples had shown him, mixed with the Warmth, and granted Smith the everlife of a true God. Smith repaid this by stealing the secrets of Metal from Zyz while he performed the task.
Returning to the surface world, he found that the Beasts had truly overrun the world. Korak himself was striding the world, his bronze korix the only effective weapon against the rampaging creatures. However, even the mighty God of War was beginning to falter after so long a fight.
Now that Smith knew the secret of Metal, he taught his family the secret of tricking the Metal from the ground, finding the places from the Deep where the First Peoples had hidden their things, and then taught them the secrets of tricking the Metal into the shapes the people needed. He spread the knowledge as far and as wide as he could, so the Volanyi could arm themselves against the Beasts.
But with Power and Immortality, Smith still lacked the essence of the Divine. That which every God carries within them. So, he decided to counsel Korak when he came to find out who had managed to find the secret of Metal. Smith advised that Korak fighting the Beasts would be dangerous. He had been reckless in fights, and should he take a wife, a wound to himself in a particular place might mean that he would not be able to make sons. When next he went to war, there with the Volanyi as they fought with the new Metal, he should leave with Smith one of his testicles for safe-keeping.
Already a masterful conniver, the Powers granted to him made Smith an almost irresistible trickster. Korak could find no fault with such a plan, and so when he marched forth to do battle, he dutifully left one of his testicles with Smith. Smith of course never returned it, the final part he needed to become a God and woo the desire of his heart, Lika. And Korak, for his part, of course now hates Smith with all of his heart and they say he has one great and mighty warrior every generation given the duty of hunting for Smith in this mortal world.
With the God of War leading them and with the secret of Metal, the Volanyi took back the land that was rightfully theirs. In the fight, Korak found his brother wild and mad with power. He was able to strike him to knock him to sensibility, and convinced him to aid him in making sure the Beasts did not overrun the mortal world. Seeing the destruction they had caused and momentarily freed from the influence of the chaos essence, Ix agreed and they both fought with the Volanyi, and drove the Beasts to the East. There, eager to rid himself of some of the wild power he had stolen, Ix struck the ground with a mighty blow, and tore a great wide chasm in the earth that stretched from one side of the world to the other. And the Beasts were cast down into the Pit, there to be held in check until Warmth leaves the world.
With some more of his power, Ix gave strength and long life to one of the Volanyi who had fought bravely and truly and yet had kept his love of the Wild. The Master of the Pit was to keep watch over the Pit, keep them quiet and warn others should the prisoners attempt to escape.
To join the ranks of the Gods, Smith needed the blessing of one of their number. Always was unlikely to do so, amused as she was by his situation. Korak would likely split his skull given the choice, and Ix owed him nothing. However, Aristeia, his guide and watcher, could perhaps be convinced. And so Smith resolved to repay her kindness.
He first prepared a tree with long vines, testing its strength. He then spoke to the Master of the Pit, telling him about the wonders and beauty of the Sky, letting him know he should watch the Heavens on the eighth night after solstice, keeping his eyes firmly fixed skyward for a glorious display of Aristeia’s wonders.
Then, travelling far to the north, Smith entered Cold and hunted for Ulyuq. Time lost its meaning in the swirls of Cold, but eventually Smith found the colossal Chieftain of the Kalakaq, waiting and brooding in the ice. He called out to Ulyuq and told him that he had humiliated Korak, the boy who had escaped him and enslaved one of his men and then bested him in battle. The ancient Lord of Frosts scoffed, but Smith revealed the testicle he had taken from the God of War. Continuing, he explained that he had been wronged by the God, but had not the strength to fight him. Only the mighty Chieftain of the Rimeblood could crush him. What is more, Smith knew where to find him, where he was hiding from shame due to his weakened manhood.
Thirsty for revenge and swayed by the trickster’s evidence, Ulyuq agreed to follow Smith back into the Land. And so, constantly telling him all the cruelties Ulyuq could perform on the helpless Korak, Smith led the Chieftain to the Pit. When the mighty Rimeblood demanded to know where the boy was, Smith told him the God of War lay crippled at the bottom. The Lord of Frost was suspicious, so Smith allayed his concerns by saying he would lead the way and promptly leapt from the edge. Seeing that Smith must have spoken truly, Ulyuq followed suit. But his roar of triumph swiftly turned to a howl of rage when he realised Smith dangled by a loop of vine wrapped around his ankle and felt himself plummet past into the depths of the Pit to join the other caged monsters. He swore revenge on the Gods and on the boy who bested him, but most especially the one who had tricked him into the new prison.
Climbing back up the vine, Smith had ensured that it would be the eighth day after solstice and the Master of the Pit’s gaze would be turned elsewhere. Yet the Rimeblood Chieftain’s anger carried far and the Master of the Pit’s gaze was not devoted skyward. And so, although Smith is the only one who has ever been to the Pit and returned, the Master of the Pit would not forgive the trickery Smith used to attempt to pass by unnoticed and defy the Master’s duty in guarding the Pit. Ever since then, the Masters of the Pit have always been squarely against the trickster crafter.
Now with his power, his immortality, his divinity and his deeds, with Always watching in the background, Smith wooed the Goddess Lika, pursuing her throughout Godhome. Although taken aback by his brashness and his unorthodox behaviour, Lika eventually agreed to wed the new God, impressed by his wit and dedication.
And so a Blessed Age began. With the Five above us and amongst us, all was well. Ankar and Rokan’s Balance created new Gods and Spirits that served the Land and the Volanyi. Always was promised to Korak, and the eager God of War welcomed her as his betrothed for the status it would grant him while for her part she began to take on the aspects of the queen of Gods she had been groomed to become. As a present on their betrothal, Aristeia presented to her sister the Black Nightingale that she had created. It is now an omen of Always, and those who hear its song in the night, or sees it alight upon their roof, know that Love or Death comes soon. Ix created a new pool in which Aristeia could come to earth to bathe, sacred and formed from the melted Cold Ulyuq had brought with him into the Land, hidden deep within the Forest Infinite. This Sacred Pool relieves and washes away the powers of the divine, allowing a god to rest as the waters draw away their powers. As Ix promised not to observe her and to keep her safe, Aristeia now trusts Ix implicitly, the bond of the two wild and free children strong.
Yet not all was well. Smith resided for some time with his wife, but slowly grew to resent her serious and authoritarian ways. He could still remember having been one of us, and so could not help constantly returning to the mortal plane to play his tricks and defy authority in all its forms. He recalled his pledge to Zyz and found himself further distancing himself from the Gods. A resentment toward Always began to grow within his heart as he weathered his wife’s berating and nagging. Lika could not stand Smith’s disrespect of the right and proper ways, and Smith could not bear Lika’s hidebound attitude and upholding of authority. And so, they parted ways, their love now scattered and as dust. Ix’s distrust of Smith grew at the wayward manner he lived his life, refusing to see any similarity between the God of Manipulation’s chaos and his own. Ix, still wishing to guide his sister and growing ever more eager to maintain the cordial relations amongst the Gods, counselled her to forget the mischief-maker and find someone more appropriate.
So Lika sought a new husband, and found Dorabus, the Harvester, the Farmer. Through Tradition and Knowledge he taught the Volanyi the ways of growing the crops and harvesting the land, slow-witted though he might be. Dorabus wedded Lika, and we honour him through tithes given from the marketplaces. Of course, Smith found a new one with whom to cause mischief and delighted in making life difficult for his former wife’s new lover. Smith convinced Dorabus that he needed to till an enormous field before the sun rose against the next day, and when the Harvester complained that such effort would tire him into sleep, Smith suggested chaining himself to the plough so that he would not falter. But the trickster did not tell Dorabus that the chains were of unbreakable Metal, and so Dorabus continues to this day, still forever tied to his plough. Further, he curses the untamed trees and plants of Ix’s domain, knowing only the tame and ordered crops he fosters. This does not endear him to Aristeia, nor does his constant pleading with her to send more rain, or more sun, or less rain, or less sun, or the thousand other beseechings he makes for the weather. For all his knowledge, the Harvester still relies on the Sky, so the wise farmer knows to pay his dues to both Dorabus and Aristeia.
Although he had once been defeated and chained by the youth, Teyamaq had grown more and more fond of Korak as he grew into his power and took on the mantle of War. Having seen him in his might in battle, watched his glory and seen his might, it is perhaps no wonder the kindest of the Kalakaq fell in love with him. Even so, the Volanyi will not make war when Teyamaq has the Sky to himself, to honour the moon’s devotion. Should Korak find out, especially given his hatred of the Rimeblood, it will perhaps cause ruin in Godhome. Apparently not even Inikaya, Messenger of the Gods, knows of Teyamaq’s longing, as she would have certainly told the God of War: Some say she secretly owes Korak loyalty above all others, claiming that he has promised her favour should he take over as Lord of the Gods from Rokan and Ankar, others say it is just to get back at Smith who taunts her mercilessly.
In the quiet of the private shrine at the rear of the temple, Skoh chi Wahetenne bows before the huge bronze korix axe and spits the mouthful of alcoholic heyat into the offering bowl. Since great Korak had proclaimed him his champion, he has been undefeated in battle and now commands the men of six whole tribes. It is only fitting that he makes this daily journey to the shrine to proffer his thanks, even though he was the one who paid for it to be built.
Leaving the Temple of Korak, he turns his head from the Inevitable Temple, and the statues of Always. The soothsayers of Aristeia were present for his birth and had shown him the future. Love is as sure as Death, he knows, but should he ever fail to defy the hand of Always they will both come swiftly and at once. Despite that, Skoh laughs. No woman he has ever seen has come close to the beauty of a korix, nor inspired in him the passion of battle. The guards salute him as he approaches his chariot, and his mastiff growls a welcome. No, the idea of a woman who could capture his heart is ridiculous. Who could ensnare the Warlord King in such a manner? No, it is more important to slay the trickster God for great Korak, and spill his vile blood.
She removes the mask that is the blessed symbol of her goddess and regards her reflection in the bronze mirror. With tawny eyes and a perfectly round face Yeqawa knows she has been chosen as the champion of Inevitable Love and Inevitable Death. She wears the mask of Always whenever she is abroad, for she knows that the hand of her Goddess has made her the most beautiful woman in the world. Yet for all her undeniable beauty and the promise of inevitability, she is worried she will never know love. For men fall to their knees before her, become foolish and insensible when they see her face and form. Could being a champion of Love truly be a curse? What man could possibly be strong and powerful enough to stand before her beauty and be her equal?
She frees her long black hair from the thong that ruthlessly held it in check. She must not complain, must not falter. She is a chosen of Always, and must remain a symbol not only of the arrival of love, but also the presence of death. Yeqawa pulls the long blade from its hide sheath and begins to sharpen it. She has always been good with crafting and with Metal and it calms her. Her father even said it ran in the family.
Despite his predecessor being fooled so long ago, Anehute Silent-Bear watches the sky and listens to the wind. It has become tradition for the Masters of the Pit, in case the God of Manipulation was right about there being something to see in the Heavens. This attention has meant that Silent-Bear has heard the whispers of the moon as he has stood vigil over the vast depths of the Pit, and knows the secrets of Teyamaq’s heart.
But it has also meant, spending his long days looking into the sky, he has fallen for the beauty of Aristeia. He can no longer deny he desires her greatly. They have spoken, yes, but he has been guarded. Perhaps too guarded, as he can see she unsure of him. But that will change, he knows. The accursed trickster God managed it once before, and so can he. Mortals can become Gods, can pursue the love of Goddesses. And what then with that power? He is devoted to his Lord, God of the Wild, but not so to the glory hound that is his brother. Such a force as Ix deserves a greater ally by his side, a God of War who will be true and honourable, who is no traitor to his blood. And then, when he has the Brass Palace for his own, he will pledge himself to Aristeia.
How to do this? Hmmmmm… Perhaps Teyamaq will listen to him if presented with the secrets of his own heart. And then, it will soon be that one day in the year, and though he tells himself it is dishonourable and disrespectful, he reminds himself that he is one of the few mortals blessed by the Wild and knows the ways of the Forest Infinite, and the path to the Sacred Pool that lies within it…