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Fables of Tsai

Folktales from the world of Tsai.

When the stars were brighter and the stones were blacker than they are today, when fire was more hot and water was more wet, there lived a little girl named Kaadh who was the swiftest and cleverest of her tribe, just as Kaadh is the swiftest and cleverest of all the stars and you are swiftest and cleverest among the I-Many, O my darling. Her hair was the colour of amber, and her eyes were as red as jasper. Her teeth were straight and strong, and so were her limbs, above and below, but there would be nothing to tell you about her if she had not once suffered a misfortune, and begun to have adventures.

One day, the amulet of Kaadh’s grandmother was stolen by an old witch-woman. And the cruel thing of it was that this witch-woman could change herself into any shape she chose, and to steal this amulet she had chosen to change herself into the shape of Kaadh.

‘O my grandmother,’ said the witch-woman, in the amber hair and jasper eyes of Kaadh. ‘May I borrow your amulet of red stone and keruganth bone until the dawn, for one of the stars of the sky is looking greedily at me, and I wish it to look at someone else.’

‘What star is it that looks at you greedily?’ said Kaadh’s grandmother. ‘O my grandmother,’ said the witch woman, ‘it is the bright yellow one which sits near to Raaght, eldest daughter of the mother of all the stars. Then the wise old woman said, ‘O my child, that star is named Hadar, and it is good that you have come to me, for its ways are crooked. Take my amulet of red stone and keruganth bone, but be sure to bring it back by dawn, for it holds all the magic of our people, and if it is too long away from me the magic will fade away, like colours fade in the sun.’ Then Kaadh’s grandmother handed her amulet to the witch woman in the shape of Kaadh, her magic amulet of red stone and keruganth bone. Continue reading

Once the hradar were no different from the Soulless Ones or the beasts, and had no souls.  But the First-Souled One, who we call the father of the fathers of Rukhmar Hand, journeyed to the place of Tshuraq, keeper of the secrets of Tsai, and bargained with him the secret of making souls. And the tale of the First-Souled One is very long, but told briefly it is this:


The father of the fathers of Rukhmar Hand heard the wind blowing across the stones, and it seemed to him that he heard a voice, saying, ‘your life is as water pissed out onto the sand.’ And the father of the fathers of Rukhmar Hand was troubled, knowing then that each night lived was a lost forever, and that when the sum of nights had been counted there would be no more eating or drinking, loving or telling of tales; for the flesh goes back to Tsai, and the life goes where the flame goes when the fire is put out.

The father of the fathers of Rukhmar Hand went to the west, to the abode of Khashai amid the black mountains. He made sacrifices there, and told the goddess he sought a way to hold his life and the lives of his people, that they might not be as water pissed out on the sand. And Khashai smiled upon the father of the fathers of Rukhmar Hand with her great black eyes like dnari pearls, and when she spoke her voice was as ninehundred nines of rustling spears. ‘I will make this bargain with you, little hradar; bring to me a certain prince of the fish-men, who I will make known to you, and in return you may dwell in my palace forever, and busy yourself always in worship of me. I will make you imperishable, like the stone that is in the hearts of the mountains, so that you will never die.’   The father of the fathers of Rukhmar Hand thanked Khashai, and fled her presence, for he did not wish to be a flame held in a jar of glass, which may be broken at any moment by a wanton god.

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There was an Old Fisherman who plied his trade upon the sea, but never went out of sight of land. For he had been told when he was very young by his grandfather, who had been told when very young by his grandfather: beyond sight of land lie the waters of the fishmen. Their ways are not our ways. They do not come into our waters, so we should not go into their waters.

And one day the Old Fisherman told this tale to his own grand-daughter.

He said, when you are grown up and go out upon the sea, do not go out of sight of land, for beyond sight of land lie the waters of the fishmen.

And his grand-daughter said, what are the fishmen like?

And the Old Fisherman said, he did not know. He said, their ways are not like our ways.

And his grand-daughter said, what are the ways of the fishmen like?

And the Old Fisherman said, he did not know. He said, they do not come into our waters, so we should not go into their waters.

And his granddaughter said, why do the fishmen not come into our waters?

And the Old Fisherman said, he did not know. Then he said to himself, I would like to know. I am old now, and I do not care what people think. So he told his grand-daughter to go off and catch sand-crabs on the beach, and he told his two sons and his three daughters that he was leaving on a journey, and he might be back tomorrow, or he might be back in a year and a day, but they should not worry about him, for the Gods could see him, wherever he was, as clear as gull’s droppings on a black tablecloth, so no more harm could come to him in one place than another place. Continue reading

Within a day’s journey of the citadel Staameral established when he returned from his journey to the stars, there dwelt another Argandarr lord.  The name of this lord was Kollokh, and while the name of Staameral was already known and feared by all the nations and races of the world, Kollokh was unknown to the peasants who lived in the fields just out of sight of his castle.

Where Staameral had threescore wives or more, all of surpassing beauty, wit and valour, with skin like milk and voices like honey, Kollokh had only three. Compared with the wives of Kollokh, the sea was sweet, the shriek of the Palgar melodious, and the glance of the basilisk alluring; he spent most of his time hiding from them in the topmost tower of his castle.

For each hogshead of rubies in Staameral’s treasure hoard, Kollokh had a brass ring, or a stone with a hole in it. Continue reading

This is a tale of a time long ago, when the Gods did not meddle in the world as they do today, but left space for heroes to do mighty deeds. It begins far from any city of men or othermen, and far from any wilderness filled with peril, on a treeless hill in the highlands where nothing could be grown but eggfruit vines and pignuts. On that hill there lived three brothers. The brothers were poor, but of good character, and good sons to their aged father. Their father was healthy and strong, but one day he fell from the back of the one podigast they owned, and was killed. The brothers mourned him, and called together all their kin from the other hills near and far, so that they might drink and feast in their father’s memory. Their little house was filled for a little time with cousins, and wives or husbands and children of cousins, and nieces and nephews, and they drank more wine and ate more flesh than they could afford, and sent off their father into the long night in as grand a manner as any Duke.

When the three brothers had made farewell to the last of these visitors, they found that they were missing one thing. It was a clock that their grandmother had brought with her many years before, when she first came to the farm from a town of the lowlands, carrying their father in her belly. The clock had never worked, not since the old man had been a little boy, and its brass wheels lay beneath a dome of green glass like some treasure sunken beneath the sea. The brothers thought when last they had seen this clock, and none could recall for certain, but each was sure it had been at its place on the mantelpiece when the burial feast began. None of their kind would have stolen the clock, of that they were certain, but each recalled having seen a woman at the feast who they did not recognize. Continue reading

Staameral was the strongest Argandarr in all the lands – he stood at least ten feet tall, and it was commonly agreed that was at the shoulder.  He was also clever (for an Argandarr) and had as many wives as there are stars in the sky, for his virility was immense beyond question.  He was a blacksmith and beyond that he was a weaponsmith.   One day, a traveller from a distant and mysterious land brought Staameral a piece of metal.  It was strange and peculiar stuff, being not quite like silver and not quite like gold, and yet shiny and stronger than steel.  This piece of metal was only the size of Staameral’s little finger, yet he bought it off the traveller for a handful of rubies (Staameral was immensely rich too).  When questioned, the stranger was stubbornly mysterious, and would only admit that the metal had come from a strange land across the sea to the south.  He would say no more and left, never to be seen again.  Staameral took up his huge blacksmiths hammer, and powering up his forge, crafted a dagger from the piece of metal.  He made it perfect and unique and it took him and his five apprentices fifty days and fifty nights to craft it, and then Staameral went home, because his many wives were impatient at his absence.  He left his five apprentices to guard the dagger, because he had a gut-feeling that it was IMPORTANT in capital letters. Continue reading