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Bohemond

Esrola, Heler, and Elmal

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For a while, I've been wanting a version of the Marriage Contest between Heler and Elmal. It's an important myth, especially if you're playing with the Red Cows, since they and the Dolutha are naturally reproducing that conflict. But I want a version that is quest able from all three sides of the story, both because I think we need more quests for goddesses and because I don't like the 'passive earth goddess' thing that can creep into Storm Tribe myths. So I've written three versions of the myth, one from each of the three sides. I'm looking for feedback, especially ways to give them a bit more of the strange myth-logic a good Gloranthan myth needs. 

The Esrola version owes a debt to Edan Woods, who offered a version of it on the Google+ group a while ago. I've revised it but a good chunk of his structure and wording remains. Thanks, Edan! So here's the Esrola version. This side of the myth focuses on Esrola's journey to learn what she needs to know to solve her problem.

 

Esrola’s Search (with thanks to Edan Jones)

Long ago, in the Time before Time, in the time before Death, in the time before Orlanth had come, even before the time when the Bright Emperor ruled everything, there was the Earth, and it was great and fertile. Esrola the Bounteous covered the ground with Life, providing for all so that no one was ever hungry and nothing was ever wanting. 

But one day, things changed. Esrola’s fields were turning empty and Lifeless. Life became hard for everyone, and there was too much wanting and not enough of anything good. The radiant goddess did not understand, for she was young and beautiful and had never seen such a thing happen. So she set out for her mother’s hall, Great Ezel, because her mother Asrelia knew many things that she did not. There she asked her mother what she might do to fix this problem.

The wisdom-goddess gazed deeply at her daughter, and wept. Her daughter was Life itself, and so could not see the dark things that were coming. Asrelia knew that Esrola could not solve this problem until she could see it clearly.

"Life is all important, but it is not enough," she instructed, and told Esrola that she would need to learn to see what threatened the land. The Life-bringing goddess must learn for herself what the problem was, because until she knew the problem, she could not knew the solution.

Esrola listened to her mother’s wisdom, and so she walked down into the earth, seeking to understand what could possibly threaten Life. She found the Labyrinth of Caves, where dark and terrible things lurked. She saw the Gnawer of Roots, which seeks to destroy from underneath. It sought to undermine her, but she showed it that her roots ran far deeper than it could ever understand. 

She saw the Pestilent Cold, which wraps itself around its foe like a blanket and drains it of warmth. It tried to smother her, but it could not chill her and fled from her instead. 

She saw the Withering Rot, which dries out that which lives and scorches it. It attempted to burn her vitality away, but her Life was inexhaustible and it could not overcome her.

But then she saw the thing that was beyond her, the thing that had been placed deep underneath to keep it away from the living, the thing that was what Life was not and could not be. And at last she understood. She saw clearly and learned how to see the things that could threaten her. And from that, she understood that she needed someone to combat these things for her.

Having walked the deep places of the earth, she returned to the world above and prepared herself. She put her golden hair into the Maiden Braids, with a jeweled comb to hold it in place, and put on her dress of Life. She put the Necklace of Desire about her throat and walked the land. When she did so, the entire world stopped to watch. A thousand gods offered themselves to the radiant goddess as her husband and protector, but only two of them were worthy to help her in this matter, the clouds who had turned to follow in the goddess' path, and the sun who had descended to offer his warmth to her.

Both gods were worthy, but they were too opposed to each other. The sun sought to dry up the clouds, and the clouds sought to cover up the sun. Esrola thought that she would need to choose one of them to protect her, and so it was necessary to test them.

The Life-goddess led Heler and Elmal to her fields, and showed them how they had lain fallow. She asked each god to provide and protect, to show her who was most worthy. Heler went to the fields and offered himself to them. He rained down on the withered crops, nourishing them and covering the field with his wool. He gifted Esrola with a mighty herd of sheep, and his son Voriof to herd them.

Elmal went to the fields, and offered himself to them. He shone down upon the frozen crops, warming them and ripening them with his light. He gifted Esrola with many hives of bees, and his son Minlister to protect them.

The Life-goddess was happy that each had given provision and protection, but each was as worthy and as loyal as the other, and she was unsure which she should choose. Plagued by her problem, she sought out her mother once again.

The crone of secrets laughed at her daughter's complaint. "It is no problem at all to have many worthy protectors. Although the men will insist you must choose one of them, in truth there is always another way. You do not need to pick between them. Instead, each one may serve you in turn, as the sun follows the rain, as your needs declare."

Esrola thanked the wisdom-goddess for her insight. She returned to her suitors, and told them of her decision. At first they were angry, and jealous; but the radiant goddess simply smiled, and showed them to her fields, letting them understand that she was the source of Life, and they were merely her protectors. Convinced by this, each god settled down, and loved Esrola in turn, glad for the opportunity to serve and love Life.

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Here's the Heler side of the story

 

The Contest between Heler and Elmal (Helerite Version)

            Once when Heler was out roaming, he looked down and saw the loveliest of all goddesses, Esrola, walking the land. The radiant goddess was stunning to him, with her golden hair in the Maiden Braids, with a jeweled comb to hold it in place, and wearing her dress of Life. He desired to court her, but her beauty daunted her, and he feared to approach her. But he saw that she was suffering from Elmal’s oppressive heat. She was fanning herself and lamenting for all her children around her who were withering from Elmal’s relentless glare. 

            So the rain god sought to cool her, in hopes that she would appreciate it and thank him. So he gathered his flock of clouds around him and led them toward her, to shield her from Elmal’s heat and provide her with a refreshing rain. But when Elmal saw Heler and his flock rolling in, he was angry, for he was seeking to impress the lovely goddess with the blaze of his heat. So Elmal called his thanes and with his fiery warband, he came roaring at Heler and his flock, striking the flock so hard that it scattered in all directions and sending Heler retreating from that place. 

            When Heler collected himself, he realized that his flock had been scattered, and there was no way he could comfort Esrola without first gathering his flock. And so he went searching for them. But he was unsure where to look for them. So he sought out his highest children, the Cloudhawks, because they are known for their keen eyesight, watching the world from the top of the Middle Air. Most of them were too flighty to have paid attention, and they could not say where his flock had gone. But one of them, Tolartora the High-Sighted, had watched Elmal’s attack and saw where the sheep had scattered to. He promised to help his father search them out. 

            First Tolartora took him to find Fog Lamb, the youngest of his flock, who is as quiet as the mist at sunrise. She had been captured by one of Elmal’s thanes, Roaring Fire, who intended to roast her and consume her utterly. Roaring Fire was so powerful that Heler could not possibly get close enough him to do battle. But when Roaring Fire opened his maw to swallow Fog Lamb, Heler threw his spear into Roaring Fire’s mouth, so that he could no longer roar at all. Roaring Maw fled, and Heler was able to rescue Fog Lamb. 

            Then Heler wanted to find Soggy Fleece, the wettest of his flock, who is as gentle as the summer showers. Tolartora showed the rain god that Soggy Fleece had fled into the midst of the Tanglewood Thicket and had gotten caught there. When Heler entered Tanglewood, the Queen of Tanglewood was angry with him, because she felt that everyone was her enemy and that no one should enter her lands. She demanded that the rain god leave, saying that everything that came there belonged to her. But Heler showed the Queen that he was no enemy but rather promised to always be a friend to her and her people if she would allow him to reclaim Soggy Fleece. The Queen of Tanglewood agreed and allowed him to rescue Soggy Fleece, and since then Heler has always been welcomed among her people. 

            Finally, Tolartora led the rain god to Thunder Hooves, the most warlike of his flock, who is as loud as the booming lightning of Orlanth’s storm. Thunder Hooves was being stalked by one of the Hell Hounds, Bargrau, who had three tails and six ears and teeth like spears. Bargrau was too strong for Thunder Hooves, who fled him but was unable to escape him. Tolartora swooped in to help rescue the thunder ram, but Bargrau caught the swift cloudhawk’s wing in his teeth and broke it and threw her down. When the fierce rain-bringer saw this, he struck Bargrau a blow so hard that it broke most of his teeth, sheared off four of his ears, and sent him fleeing with all of his tails between his legs. 

            Having gathered his flock to him, the staunch Heler returned to offer comfort to Esrola. First Fog Ewe crept in, and made it impossible for Elmal to see anything about him. Then Thunder Hooves raced after, making so much noise that Elmal’s thanes could not hear him when he called for them. Then Soggy Fleece came in, bringing with him a gentle rain that cooled Elmal’s oppressive heat and revived Esrola’s withered children. Confounded, Elmal retired in defeat. Esrola rejoiced at this gift that Heler had given to her, and she allowed him to court her, which he gladly did. The Life-goddess called him her Year-Husband and took him to bed and her children flourished and grew well, thanks to his cooling rains. 

Edited by Bohemond
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And here's the Elmal side of the myth

 

The Contest between Heler and Elmal (Elmali Version)

            Once, Elmal looked out from his watch post and saw the loveliest of all goddesses, Esrola, walking the land. She was stunning to him, with her golden hair in the Maiden Braids, with a jeweled comb to hold it in place, and wearing her dress of Life. He desired to court her, but he knew that it is better to offer a woman a gift of service than a simple compliment. 

            He saw that Heler was trying to court Esrola, but was doing so poorly. The dreary rain god was flooding the land with rain, drowning all of Esrola’s children and making her shiver with cold. Esrola asked Heler to stop, but he ignored her. The bright sky god went to Heler and told him that he should be more gentle and give her rain only when she wanted it. But Heler scorned him derisively, saying that he had once been a woman and thus knew everything about what women want. But Elmal had watched men and women courting from his vantage point and knew there was more to it than that. 

            He sought Esrola out and found her sitting forlorn in the rain, drenched to the skin. “Fair maiden,” he said, “can I be of service to you in any way?”

            She turned him and said, “Your warmth is welcome, for this rain is chilling me and all my children. But if you would aid me, send Heler away, for my children need the sunlight and the heat to prosper and grow.”

            “If it can be done, I will do it for you,” said the steadfast sun-thane. 

            Elmal went forth and blazed brightly, and dried away the rain, forcing Heler to retreat. Esrola smiled at Elmal and all her children rejoiced. 

            But the dreary rain god was not happy at what Elmal had done. He gathered his warband from their cloudy bed and returned. He brought with him a torrential downpour greater than before, and a mist so heavy that no one could see Elmal, and so much thunder than Elmal’s thanes could not hear him when he called to them. And so the problem was made much worse, and many of Esrola’s children were swept away and drowned, and the radiant goddess was made miserable. 

            But the brilliant sun god was undaunted. He swore that he would solve the problem for Esrola, and so he went to Gustbran and asked his fiery kinsman to make a shield that everyone could see. So Gustbran heated up his forge and took bronze and hammered it into the brightest shield that was ever made, Reflart the Shining Blinder. On that shield he shaped the image of whole world, with all its mountains and valleys and lakes and oceans, each in their proper place, and Elmal riding his horse high across the Sky for all to see.  

            Once Elmal had received Shining Blinder, he knew that he had to find a war horn with which to summon his loyal thanes. And so he went in search of Croch Crogach, the Bull of Black Slaughter. Croch Crogach had hooves of flint that crushed everything they trampled into dust and a hide so thick no weapon could pierce it. Everyone was in fear of him, and so he went where he pleased and did what he wanted. 

            But Elmal found him and confronted him. Croch Crogach charged him but Shining Blinder kept Elmal from being wounded. And so the fiery god struggled with the Slaughter-Bull for three long days. Their fight was so fierce that they ground a mountain down into a valley, because neither could defeat the other. Finally, on the third day, Croch Crogach charged him once more and this time Elmal leapt upon his back. He grasped the Slaughter-Bull’s horns and twisted its head beneath it as it ran, so that its hooves trampled its own head and ground its skull to dust, all save one horn that Elmal held on to. And from that horn he fashioned a warhorn, Waking Blast, whose sound can be heard throughout the world and which no man can sleep through.

            Thus armed, Elmal went to confront the damp rain god. Although all was rain and mist and thunder, Elmal strode forth. He displayed Shining Blinder and its light blazed so fiercely that all of Heler’s mist was dispersed utterly. Then he blew on Waking Blast, which cut through all of Heler’s thunder and summoned the sun god's loyal war-thanes to fight beside him. Then he mounted his faithful stallion and led his thanes to do battle with Heler’s war band. And Heler’s forces could not stand against him but were scattered and the blue god was sent away reeling with defeat. 

            As the rainy warbard dispersed, Elmal’s warm and gentle heat dried up the ground and warmed the radiant Life-goddess. She was overjoyed to see her children thrive and grow and prosper. She called him her Year-Husband and took him to her bed and gave him a son, Minlister, who brings joy to man wherever he visits. Her children flourished and grew, rejoicing in Elmal’s shining warmth.

 

Edited by Bohemond
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13 minutes ago, Ian Cooper said:

Nicely done. I like the three sides of the same myth approach, especially including Esrola's side

Thank you. I've been running The Eleven Lights and one of the PCs is a Helerite, so I've been thinking about doing the Marriage Contest as annual tribal event (a la the Garhound Contest), but I before I could even think about building a scenario around it, I needed to figure out the myth first. Once I plot out a scenario around it, I might need to revise the myth, especially the Elmal half, since it feels a bit short in terms of stations.

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The only point I'd make is that from the Esrolan point of view it's really not three-sided, as she has multiple other suitors and potential year husbands apart from Heler and Elmal -- and even though from the more Sartarite POV there are fewer suitors than in an Esrolian one, Orlanth can be a year-husband too.

But Elmal and Heler do see each other as the principle rivals, and in a "normal" year, it will be one of the two.

Edited by Julian Lord

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To me, these myths feel a little bit too 'fairy tale' and not quite Gloranthan enough. Any thoughts about how to address that? 

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On 3/20/2019 at 11:19 PM, Bohemond said:

To me, these myths feel a little bit too 'fairy tale' and not quite Gloranthan enough. Any thoughts about how to address that? 

Fairy Tale is great for myths. They don't have to make sense and can follow an internal logic if they want to. I think the myths are fine.

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On 3/17/2019 at 7:23 PM, Bohemond said:

Esrola listened to her mother’s wisdom, and so she walked down into the earth, seeking to understand what could possibly threaten Life. She found the Labyrinth of Caves, where dark and terrible things lurked. She saw the Gnawer of Roots, which seeks to destroy from underneath. It sought to undermine her, but she showed it that her roots ran far deeper than it could ever understand. 

She saw the Pestilent Cold, which wraps itself around its foe like a blanket and drains it of warmth. It tried to smother her, but it could not chill her and fled from her instead. 

She saw the Withering Rot, which dries out that which lives and scorches it. It attempted to burn her vitality away, but her Life was inexhaustible and it could not overcome her.

This is a very nice tripartite section of trials - but I feel like the two last ones don't quite stand up to the quality of the first. In the first one, we get an impressions of how she resisted the threat (by showing how deep her roots go) - but in the second and third, this concrete, vivid example is replaced by more generic statements about life force or somesuch.

I think it would improve the flow to include a concrete example for each. It increases the "educational" value of the story, and helps get the powers of the Goddess across for the listeners.

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3 minutes ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

This is a very nice tripartite section of trials - but I feel like the two last ones don't quite stand up to the quality of the first. In the first one, we get an impressions of how she resisted the threat (by showing how deep her roots go) - but in the second and third, this concrete, vivid example is replaced by more generic statements about life force or somesuch.

I think it would improve the flow to include a concrete example for each. It increases the "educational" value of the story, and helps get the powers of the Goddess across for the listeners.

Maybe allude to hibernation, vs. the Pestilent Cold?  "But Esrola dug a cave in the snow, and sat snug and safe within, where the Pestilent Cold could not find her."

Not seeing the complimentary one for Whithering Rot... 

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3 hours ago, g33k said:

...

Not seeing the complimentary one for Whithering Rot... 

Got it:  Denning.

"But Esrola dug a den deep into the cool Darkness of the earth, where the heat and burning could not reach her, and was safe from the Withering Rot.

(n.b. cool dark storage is also where long-term staple foodstuffs were kept).

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On 3/20/2019 at 4:19 PM, Bohemond said:

To me, these myths feel a little bit too 'fairy tale' and not quite Gloranthan enough. Any thoughts about how to address that? 

okay, pretty dark, but include a fourth myth, that of Thed, as a chaos incursion into the myths.  She tries to convince Elmal and Heler that Esrola is whoring herself out to them, turning her sex into a commodity.  They're being used and should just take with might what is rightfully theirs.  Rape Esrola.  If she succeeds then Elmal brings life killing drought unto the land and Heler brings devastating floods. To counter Thed, Esrola must realize that she can't treat her suitors as if they were nothing more than Johns, there to take what she pleases from in return for sex.  Which is literally what she is doing in her version of the myth.  She must bond a deeper relationship with each of them than that.  She may have to turn to Uleria for advice.  In each of the other threads, Elmal and Heler must come to see Esrola as more than a object of lust, gain respect for her and treat her with honor.

 

Upon thinking more about this, I'd take it even a step further.  Get rid of the princess needs a big strong man to save her entirely.  Well, not at first, keep it as it is at first.  Then have other chaos forces threaten Elmal and Heler.  Forces that Esrola can defeat.  Have the gods and goddesses come together because together they are stronger.  Their union brings strength and makes harmony in the universe.  So no one is whoring from anyone, each is an equal.

Edited by Pentallion
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1 hour ago, Pentallion said:

Get rid of the princess needs a big strong man to save her entirely. 

To me, this is the biggest problem I would like to avoid. It's very easy to fall into the idea of the Earth goddesses passively waiting for male assistance, which is a problem with a lot of the myths around Ernalda. I've tried to make it clear that from the Esrola side of things, Heler and Elmal are essentially agents that she is calling and choosing for her purposes. I'd like to make that a bit stronger if I could. 

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On 3/21/2019 at 12:19 AM, Bohemond said:

To me, these myths feel a little bit too 'fairy tale' and not quite Gloranthan enough. Any thoughts about how to address that? 

The principle technical difference between the two is that a fairy tale is written to be properly interpretable in one way only, rarely two -- whereas Myth is written with multiple potential interpretations including some that are completely outside the original intentions of the author (though typically it also remains grounded through some elements within the Myth that are more solid and not constantly re-interpretable).

Structurally though, the two are quite similar.

But writing a pseudo-myth isn't just an exercise in post-modernism either, but you need to stick quite strongly to all the most traditional methods of story-telling. The most difficult part of it is learning how to provide reinterpretable words whilst keeping enough control of the range of freedom possible so that you can keep a still valid focus on Meaning. One technique is to focus on a particular structure of Loci and Themes, rather than particulars and details, as typically the reader can be trusted to order them in his own mind as people usually do -- but some readers will still surprise you with the unexpected.

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13 hours ago, Pentallion said:

Get rid of the princess needs a big strong man to save her entirely.

Earth Goddesses have Husband-Protectors for that reason. It frees them up to do more interesting stuff.

Esrola had Argan Argar and Lodril, one above the ground and one below the ground. She may have had a lot more as well, I can't remember.

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So, here's what I think is a better version of the Elmal side of the myth. It feels more Gloranthan-mythic to me, and I think it captures what @Julian Lord describes as "reinterpretable words" better.

 

The Contest between Heler and Elmal (Elmali Version

            Once, Elmal looked out from his watch post and saw the loveliest of all goddesses, Esrola, walking the land. She was stunning to him, with her golden hair in the Maiden Braids, with a jeweled comb to hold it in place, and wearing her dress of Life. He desired to court her, but he knew that it is better to offer a woman a gift of service than a simple compliment. 

            He saw that Heler, the dismal wet god, was trying to court Esrola, but was doing so poorly. He was flooding the land with rain, drowning all of Esrola’s children and making her shiver with cold. The Life-giving goddess asked Heler to stop, but he ignored her. Elmal went to the blue god and told him that he should be more gentle and give her rain only when she wanted it. But Heler scorned him derisively, saying that he had once been a woman and thus knew everything about what women want. But Elmal had watched men and women courting from his vantage point and knew there was more to it than that. 

            He sought the Manifest Earth out and found her sitting forlorn in the rain, drenched to the skin. “Fair maiden,” he said, “can I be of service to you in any way?”

            She turned him and said, “Your warmth is welcome, for this rain is chilling me and all my children. But if you would aid me, send Heler away, for my children need the sunlight and the heat to prosper and grow.” Just knowing that there was a way he could serve her gladdened his heart.

            “If it can be done, I will do it for you,” said Elmal. 

            The warm sun god went forth and blazed brightly, and dried away the rain, forcing Heler to retreat. Esrola smiled at Elmal and all her children rejoiced. 

            But Heler was not happy at what Elmal had done. He gathered his warband from their cloudy beds and returned. He brought with him a torrential downpour greater than before, and a mist so heavy that no one could see Elmal, and so much thunder that Elmal’s thanes could not hear him when he called to them to stand with him. And so the problem was made much worse, and many of Esrola’s children were swept away and drowned, and the radiant goddess was made miserable. But the staunch war-sun was undismayed. He swore that he would solve the problem for Esrola.

             Then Lonely Joy appeared before him. She danced for him and called his name, urging him to spend time with her. She promised him that she would entertain him and make him forget his defeat. Her voice was sweet and her dance was beautiful. But Elmal saw that her beauty was hollow and she merely wanted a companion in her loneliness. He replied, “I have no time for you right now. I must keep the blue rain-god from drowning Esrola with his relentless waters.”

            But Lonely Joy said to him, “He has already defeated you once. This will be too great a struggle for you, and there is no reward in it for you. It is better not to try.”

            But the war-sun said to her, “I would not be a true warrior if I allowed a single defeat lead me to cease my struggles. I will fight and unless I am utterly destroyed I will not give up. There are rewards that you cannot understand and you cannot offer me.” And Lonely Joy departed and wept for her loneliness.  

            The shining god went to Gustbran and asked his fiery kinsman to make him a shield that everyone could see. “I will gladly make such a shield for you, but that will be no small undertaking. You must find me some of the bright fire-gold, that I may forge it for you.”

            Elmal did not know where such a thing might be found. And so he asked Asrelia, the grandmother of secrets, who knew many lost things. The ancient crone-goddess told him that he should look for the band which Aether had given her mother back before the Air was born. It was the first love-token that had ever been given, but when the unruly storm Umath separated them, that band was shattered, and she said it would be a fitting thing to use to make his shield. She told him that he could find what remained of it on the Field of Broken Vows.

            When Elmal came to the Field of Broken Vows, he saw the fragments of Aether’s gold band. But Broken Vows commanded him to stop, saying that he was the Lord of Words that Failed and everything on that field belonged to him. Yet Elmal was undeterred and showed that true deeds were stronger than failed words. Broken Vows fled before him, and he gathered up the glittering pieces of Aether’s pledge. 

            The steadfast god returned to Gustbran’s forge and presented him with the broken love-gift he had found. So the lord of the forge heated up his coals and pumped his bellows and took the sharp-edged bronze and hammered it into an impenetrable shield. Then he used the fierce craft-fire to melt the broken gold until it ran like glistening water. He poured it onto the war-bronze and shaped it with his mighty forge-hammer. He formed the brightest war-shield that was ever made, Reflart the Shining Blinder. On that shield he shaped the image of the whole world, with all its mountains and valleys and lakes and oceans, fixing each in their proper place, and with Elmal riding his horse high across the Sky for all to see. When he took it from his forge, the forge-heat did not fade, and so the great shield glittered like fire dancing and none could stand to look at it for long.

            Once the staunch sun-god had received Shining Blinder, he knew that he had to find a war horn with which to summon his loyal thanes. And so he went in search of Croch Crogach, the Bull of Black Slaughter. Croch Crogach had hooves of flint that crushed everything they trampled into dust and a hide so thick no weapon could pierce it. Everyone was in fear of him, and so he went where he pleased and did what he wanted. Many had tried to make him stop, but the great black bull had killed them all and ground their bones so thoroughly even their names were destroyed.

            Elmal found the dread bull and confronted him, demanding that he stop troubling everyone. Croch Crogach charged him, but Shining Blinder kept Elmal from being wounded, despite the fierce war-horns of the black bull. And so the war-god struggled with the Slaughter-Bull for three long days. Their combat was so fierce that they ground a mountain down into a valley, because neither could defeat the other. Finally, on the third day, Croch Crogach charged him once more and this time Elmal leapt upon his back. He grasped the bull’s horns and twisted its head beneath it as it ran, so that the Slaughter-Bull’s hooves trampled its own head and ground its skull to dust, all save one horn that Elmal held on to. And from that horn he fashioned a war-horn, Waking Blast, whose sound can be heard throughout the world and which no man can sleep through. 

            Thus armed, Elmal went to confront the damp rain god. Although all was rain and mist and thunder, Elmal strode forth. He displayed Shining Blinder and its light blazed so fiercely that all of Heler’s mist was dispersed utterly. Then he blew on Waking Blast, which cut through all of Heler’s thunder and summoned Elmal’s loyal thanes to aid their brilliant lord. Then he mounted his faithful stallion and led his thanes to do battle with Heler’s war band. And Heler’s forces could not stand against him but were scattered and Heler was sent away reeling with defeat, unable to triumph over the staunch sun-god and his unbreakable shield. 

            As the rainy warband dispersed, Elmal’s warm and gentle heat dried up the ground and warmed the radiant Life-goddess. She was overjoyed to see her children thrive and grow and prosper. She called him her Year-Husband and took him to her bed and gave him a son, Minlister, who brings joy to man wherever he visits. Her children flourished and grew, rejoicing in Elmal’s shining warmth.

Edited by Bohemond
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On 3/24/2019 at 7:59 AM, Bohemond said:

“Fair maiden,” he said,

Esrola is neither fair, nor a maiden. This trope in particular is really only appropriate in it's original context of medieval romances, where you can accept as part of the source culture and genre that 'fair' describing her as being from a social class that doesn't need to work outside and "maiden" presuming her to be in a state of pre-marital abstinence are both complimentary and polite ways to address a woman you've just met.

Edited by JonL
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42 minutes ago, JonL said:

Esrola is neither fair, nor a maiden. This trope in particular is really only appropriate in it's original context of medieval romances, where you can accept as part of the source culture and genre that 'fair' describing her as being from a social class that doesn't need to work outside and "maiden" presuming her to be in a state of pre-marital abstinence are both complimentary and polite ways to address a woman you've just met.

I don't really know too much about it - but could this be true from an Elmali cultic outlook? It would definitely be wrong from an Earth Goddess view, and probably from a mainstream Theyalan view as well.

"Honored Mistress" or "Great Lady" or something along those lines wuld perhaps be more fitting. "O Bountiful One" might also be fitting, if you elevate the allegorical above the myth-as-gods-acting-like-people aspect of it.

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3 hours ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

I don't really know too much about it - but could this be true from an Elmali cultic outlook? It would definitely be wrong from an Earth Goddess view, and probably from a mainstream Theyalan view as well.

"Honored Mistress" or "Great Lady" or something along those lines wuld perhaps be more fitting. "O Bountiful One" might also be fitting, if you elevate the allegorical above the myth-as-gods-acting-like-people aspect of it.

Maybe mix those up a bit... "Bountiful Lady" or "Great and Bountiful Lady" or the like...

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So here's my revised version of the Esrola side of the myth. 

 

Esrola’s Search (with thanks to Edan Jones)

 

Long ago, in the Time before Time, in the time before Death, in the time before Orlanth had come, even before the time when the Bright Emperor ruled everything, there was the Earth, and it was great and fertile. Esrola the Bounteous covered the ground with Life, providing for all so that no one was ever hungry and nothing was ever wanting. 

But one day, things changed. Esrola’s fields were turning empty and Lifeless. Life became hard for everyone, and there was too much wanting and not enough of anything good. The radiant goddess did not understand, for she was young and beautiful and had never seen such a thing happen. So she set out for her mother’s hall, Great Ezel, because her mother Asrelia knew many things that she did not. There she asked her mother what she might do to fix this problem.

The wisdom-goddess gazed deeply at her daughter, and wept. Her daughter was young, and so could not yet understand what happening. She knew that Esrola could not solve this problem until she could see it clearly.

"Life is all important, but it is not enough," Asrelia said, and told Esrola that she would need to learn to see what threatened the land. The Life-bringing goddess must learn for herself what the problem was, because until she knew the problem, she could not knew the solution. Esrola listened to her mother’s wisdom, and resolved to go and learn what she did not know. 

When Esrola left her mother’s hall, Angdartha stood before her, because the Bright Emperor had sent his servant to bring her to his hall. He would have taken her away and left something much worse in her place. The always gentle goddess told him that she would do as he demanded, but she asked for a moment to prepare herself for the journey she was going to take, and he agreed to wait. The vibrant goddess took a knife and cut the ground and descended into the earth where Angdartha could not go. Afterwards, when she had returned, she gave that knife to her sister’s son Barntar, who was her favorite nephew, and he called that knife Plow and used it when he farmed. 

The Life-bringing goddess walked down into the earth, seeking to understand what could possibly threaten Life. She found the Labyrinth of Caves, where dark and terrible things lurked. She saw the Gnawer of Roots, which seeks to destroy from underneath. It sought to undermine her, but she showed it that her roots ran far deeper than it could ever understand. 

She met the Pestilent Cold, which wraps itself around its foe like a blanket and drains it of warmth. It tried to smother her, but she possessed the Warmth of Life and when it wrapped itself around her, it found that she was warming it instead, and so it fled from her in fear. 

She confronted the Withering Rot, which dries out that which lives and scorches it. It attempted to burn her vitality away, but her Life was inexhaustible, and the more it scorched her, the more vibrant she became. The more it burned, the less of her it had burned, and it exhausted itself like a candle that has run out of wick. It collapsed and flicked out and she continued on.

But then she saw the thing that was beyond her, the thing that had been placed deep underneath to keep it away from the living, the thing that was what Life was not and could not be. And at last she understood. She saw clearly and learned to see the things that could threaten her. And from that, she understood that she needed someone to combat these things for her. 

Having walked the deep places of the earth, she returned to the world above and prepared herself. Esrola put on her radiant dress. She put her golden hair into the Courting Braids, which a woman wears when she wishes to attract a suitor, and pinned the braids in place with a jeweled comb. She clasped her necklace Lust for Life about her throat, which makes all those who live desire her, and walked the land, allowing all to see her as the Life-goddess she was. When she did so, the entire world stopped to watch. Every god hoped to please her, but only two she deemed worthy to help her with her problem, the clouds who had turned to grant her their cool rain, and the sun who had shone out to offer his warmth to her.

Both gods were worthy, but they were opposed to each other. The sun sought to dry up the clouds, and the clouds sought to cover up the sun. At first, she could not decide which was more suitable. She thought she would have to choose only one, and so she decided to test them to help her make her choice.

The golden Life-goddess showed the gods her fields and asked each to show her who was most worthy. Each god was eager to win her favor. Elmal poured his radiance upon the frozen crops, warming them and ripening them with his light, so that her children woke and returned to life. Then Heler came and rained down on the withered crops, nourishing them and covering the field with his mist. Esrola’s parched children drink thirstily and sprung up tall. 

The Life-goddess was happy that each had proven able to solve her problem. But each had done what the other had not, and both seemed necessary to her needs. The contest had shown her that neither was better than the other, and so she still could not choose. So she returned to Great Ezel to seek her mother’s advice once more. 

The crone of secrets laughed at her daughter's quandry. "It is no problem at all to have many worthy protectors. Although the men will insist you must choose one of them, in truth there is always another way. You do not need to choose between them. Instead, each one may serve you in turn, as the rain follows the sun, as your needs declare."

Esrola thanked the wisdom-goddess for her insight. She returned to her fields, and told Elmal and Heler that she would not choose between them but take each as her year-husband in turn. This angered them, and each sought to defeat the other.  But the radiant goddess simply smiled, letting them understand that she was the source of Life, and they were merely her protectors. The two gods saw they had no choice, and so they accepted what she offered them, and loved Esrola in turn, glad for the opportunity to serve and love Life.

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