POITAR AND SHASSYN
by LAMERTU K'THAEN


This story is told and retold in different versions in the Akdorian lands. The origins are covered in shadows, and it is heavily debated among scholars whether it was conceived as one story, or a myth and a fairytale merged into one. It tells of the last days of Merinde, as the Sarvonian continent is called in Akdor, about the fate of the tragic hero Avin and what happened to his children after his death.

 


very day may bring new draughts,
Every day may bring new wolves,
But every year when Injr's furthest,
You may find a Thergerim's cavern
Where life is sweet and without worries
Eternity one step away


In Merinde[1], on the other side of the ocean, when Essuans's footsteps could still be heard, there lived a twin. They were a boy and a girl, and the boy was named Poitar, which means "hope", and the girl was named Shassyn, which means "despair". For these were the last words their mother cried before she died, giving birth to them. And they were born in hard times, when the pestilence had struck the blessed lands, and our people...

But I am not telling you this story to fill your young hearts with grief and terror, or sing to you the deeds terrible and glorious by our ancestors; you are not mature yet to grasp fully their meaning. This tale is about cakes and laughter and there even is some fireworks involved.

The twin's youth was spent in the last years of our people in Merinde, when the light was like permanent dusk. They lived in a great ancient house, but the halls that once were filled with industrious people were now as peaceful as a grave. Their only companion (for their father Avin was away most of the time governing the lands) was their old and grey nurse, who told them every night before they went to bed the now long-lost tales of the beginning of time, and the great adventures of the ancestors[2]. When the candle was blown out, it turned pitch black and dead quiet, and going to sleep in such circumstances was a difficult task, although the children fantasized about the great tales.

Before Poitar and Shassyn turned six, when the winter was nearing, the fierce wrath of the Dragon Nagir entered the ancient lands; where he passed the ground became unfruitful, the rivers were laid dry, and the trees were scorched. Men (even the bravest) fled from the unsatiable hunger and bloodthirst of the wyrm, often to no avail, trying for the havens to sail for the new-discovered land of Akdor. The twins and their father were forced to run for their lives as well, and it was even Avin who, though unwillingly, unleashed the dragon. But how that came to pass is a different story, and an inappropriate one for such young children at that.

The nurse, Yehen, would not leave the house, even though the twins and their father tried to persuade her. But she was bound to the lands as firmly as an ancient oak, by her memories of her lost husband and of her joyous youth. She was not alone, being joined by other grandfathers and -mothers. It is claimed that the dragon had no interest for them, and that they even now live on in the blessed lands.

Let's go back to the twins. They arrived safely in the harbor-city of Cerpair. The city shone with a bleak light, just like the misty morning sun looks like in the month of the Turning Star, for the ancient treasures were gathered in the imperial city. The children marvelled at the great statues of the kings of old; they still had a look of authority and sternness about them, as if they were still alive. The occasional foot or hand, and even a head was missing, and they had been withered partly away by ancient winds and waters, but on that day the kings looked as alive as on their most glorious times.

The stay of the twins at the imperial Cerpair could not last, for the wrath of Nagir was upon them; a thousand sails were readied for their flight. But do not think that our people looked forward to their departure, for the land had been their home for thousands of years, and it was indeed where man first sat foot upon Caelereth.

Avin, the cause of Nagir's awakening was assigned as captain of the "Last Defense" to keep the monster off while all but one ship set sail across the unknown seas. This last boat, carrying Poitar and Shassyn, would wait to bring the last guards of Merinde to Akdor.

But the captain Admen was weakhearted, and as the black wings flew over the last hills, his courage gave way and he left the harbor, left Merinde, left the "Last Defense", left Avin. Poitar and Shassyn however felt their heart grow when they saw their father steadfast, calling at the beast; they realized they could not leave him, jumped off into the icy waters, and started swimming back ashore.

Long and fierce the battle raged along the windswept shores
Iron spears and iron hands wrought together
Boling blood and silt water became one
Dying shadows against a dying sun.


The flower of Merinde fell on its last sad day, fighting, retreating, groaning, weeping, bleeding, dying. And with every death Essuan shed a red tear, for he knew that the glory of Merinde would never return. But do not cry, my children, and remember them by celebrating the future these people gave us.

In the end, only Avin stood tall against the dragon, his left hand hanging lifelessly beside him, as if pointing towards his dead comrades, wielding his spear with his right arm only. He was filled with grieve and rage, determined to fight to the death. The tragic hero spoke in defiance to Nagir, cursing him for the death of his friends and his comrades, the destruction of the ancient lands, and reminding him of the vengeful kings of old.

But Nagir transformed himself into Kessen, Avin's father, and in this form said that Avin himself was the curse of Merinde, and that his own downfall was initiated by his awakening of the dragon, and that the kings of old were since long dead and buried under icecold rocks, and that Avin was all alone in his hopeless battle. The Dragon's voice had grown sweet and poisonous, and at the same time harsh, as if he was speaking to a child, and full of wizardry,and it was not long before Avin began to believe its words, and he wanted to surrender himself to the beast.

But just at that moment Maharut, his horn, resounded powerfully from the hills. Some say that it were the ghosts of the buried kings, coming to help Avin in his final battle, and some say that it was the wind, and few say that it was Poitar. Whoever it was, the sound of the horn blasted away the wizardry as easy as the wind guides the waves.

Avin came back to his senses, and filled with rage he thrust forward his iron spear into Nagir's heart. But the beast was swift, and gripped the last lord in a deadly embrace. Both died on the merciless beaches. No one wept for them, no one buried them, no one guided Avin to his forefathers.

Poitar and Shassyn, lying on the forsaken beaches, were too tired from their swimming, and they were depressed. They were wet by seawater and cold by seawind, seeking comfort by each other. They fell into a restless, dreamless, endless, sleep.

No-one knows how long they slept, how long they lay there near the sea, how many days passed, or weeks, or months, or years, but one day they both woke up and watched the sun ascend again, bringing light to the lands that had been laid to waste, and watched the clear reflection on what was left of Cerpair. But the light had changed, had become more cold, ancient, as if it was only a memory of the rays that had once shone on Merinde.

From the dunes a song came down upon them, sung by a harsh tongue, but somehow they felt that it was filled with love, and it was not long before they joined in:

"Here I stand upon the beach
stand alone upon the beach
Looking at the endless waves
Over which my friends have passed.
Butterfly, you first of birds,
Sing these words into their ears:

Caves and homes are cold and dark
Changed forever, still the same
Thousand years of history stilled
Frozen by the lack of men
Hammers hammered endlessly
Manufactured axe and jewel

Here I stand upon the beach
stand alone upon the beach
Looking at the endless waves
Over which my friends have passed.
Butterfly, you first of birds,
Sing these words into their ears:

Sun and Moon stride slowly by,
thousand years have run since then,
luckless autumn when you left,
leaving me with golden leaves.
Leaves to soil, turned into trees;
Silver halls became my death.

Here I stand upon the beach
stand alone upon the beach
Looking at the endless waves
Over which my friends have passed.
Butterfly, you first of birds,
Sing these words into their ears."[3]


And from over the hills came a stunted little man wearing an impressive grey beard and dull grey cloths. He suddenly held still at the top of the dune, stopped singing and looked over the seas. After a minute he turned around, and walked away towards the direction he came from, singing another song.

Poitar and Shassyn were relieved to see that someone else was still alive, and they tried to keep up with the manikin. And as they came closer, they saw that he was only one and a half ped high, and that his clothing was beset with small glinstering jewels and brooches.

But the children could not come within five peds close to him, however hard they ran, as if he was shielded by some ancient magic. So they walked on and on, singing sombre songs. Over the plains they went, through the woods, and past the hills, until they came to a great mountain of black rock, mirroring the last white moonray.

And the bearded man stopped singing, and lay a hand on the rock and wispered as if talking to the rock: "M Chaia Yeta". Thus he created an entrance into the mountain, dark as the heart of the earth, yet warm as their long dead mother's hearth. As the twins followed the man into the total darkness of the cave, it became more and more quiet. They could not hear the birds announcing a new dawn, nor see the sun rising anew upon the land. A feeling of timelessness set in.

Suddenly, the man came to a halt, and the twins came close finally, bumping into him.

And there they stood for a moment in total darkness, in total silence, as if on another world. Again, the man declared: "M Chaia Yeta". But his voice had grown stronger, fuller, more solemn, and the words filled the cavern.

The words ran over the floor, bounced off the rocks, crept against the ceiling, flew over the underground waters, filled the mountain. Then, for a moment, there was absolute silence. From nowhere, an echo reached the group, a lighter, dancing, cheerful, yet serious voice, and at the same time, a torch was lit, revealing a great undergound lake, pillared with timehewn stalactites and stalacmites, flowing over into one.

A second light appeared, preceded by an older sister of the first echo, stronger and sadder. It showed an ancient bridge constructed with the strangest and most wonderful metal, which stretched over an unending chasm and was covered with runes.

Then, voices and lights sprang up from all over the cavern, showing the glittering ceiling miles above their head, as if beset with priceless jewels. A city was lighted, but silent and motionless as a grave. In the middle of it, a great statue of a sturdy man leaning on a double sided battleaxe.

The voices stopped, and there was complete silence.

For the first time that day, the Thergerim spoke to Poitar and Shassyn: "This, my children, is my home, as it had been to my race since the world was young. But my people have departed, and the Cave has grown dark and damp, and now I alone tend their Bright Carvings.

I feel my ears deafening, my eyes blinding, my legs failing, every day. And now you, two strangers, have been found on the beach, orphans to this world, just like me. All that is left to me is to show you the wonders of the Thergerim so that they may live on in your hearts and minds, into eternity."

Yet the twins were overcome by exhaustion and overwhelmed by the beauty of the cavern and had fallen asleep on the ageless floor.

The next morning (if anything could be called morning in a place the sun has never touched) the twins woke up and thought it had all been a dream or a nightmare, until they opened their eyes and saw a mountain of the most delicious spices. They beheld cakes and cookies, beef and berries, mollusks and mushrooms, stews and salmons, pancakes and pears of a most ancient breed.

And Indeed their tummies rumbled, for lo!, they had not eaten for at least a day. They ate the whole morning, the whole day, the whole week, the whole month, the whole year, until they both had forgotten the hunger they had suffered from. With satisfied stomaches, they again fell asleep on the ageless floor.

When the children woke up again, they saw the cave alit by the most beautiful fireworks, red, yellow, green, blue, drakes, khendochar, mermaids, and exploding stars. The children were so impressed that they forgot the fall of Merinde's "Last Defense". Yet the year passed, and the cave became hollow once again.

From out of the shadows the Thergerim returned to them, declaring: "Now you have seen a small part of our manufactures, and we have shown our good intentions towards you. Now, what do you desire of me?"

At first, their hearts filled with desire for more beauty, but their thoughts were darkened when they remembered the circumstances in which they were found, the uncertain future their people had. And Poitar said: "Beauty you may have, and wealth, but in this place there is only room for the dead. Please, take us back to our race, wherever they may be!"

The Thergerim's face turned white, then turned red, but at last he seemed to be able control himself. "If that is what you want, you shall have it."

The world turned black once more, and the cave seemed to close in on them, enclosed them, and the twins had to fight for their breath. Then, a light showed up above them, small, greyish, and infinitely far away. They could do nothing but crawl their way upward, to freedom. Panting, their lungs screaming for air, they reached the light.

They had arrived in Akdor.
 


Footnotes:

1 "Merinde" is the name the Penda'u use for the Sarvonian continent from where they originated. The events of the story told here obviously take place in the northern Sarvonian region of Caaehlheroth. [ok]
2  
Penda'u Ancestors are the seven bull-gods, the founders of the seven clans.
*Essuan is the main Penda'u god, and considered forefather to all men.
 [ok]
3 This is a dwarven song, maybe composed after the leaving of Brok to Denilou. [ok]

Story written by Lamertu K'Thaen View Profile