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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

[Milieu][Fiction] The Story of Maesha-

The Story of Maesha-
© 2006 Kyrinn S. Eis All Rights Reserved

DURING The reign of the Ten Powers of Bereme Oykh, trade with the Turilli tribes to the equatorial south grew to great proportion, and all the wonders of the region were brought back to the North-most mountains of glory.
To win the hearts of the trader princes of the Turilli, gifts of daughters were given. These were women of great refinement and beauty, full of all the graces and charms. Many of these were Khemesh, or half-blood Yirinn, both great exotics.
Maesha of the Nulnehya, the silver-haired forest-folk and cousins to the Khemesh, was given to the prince of the Ihyri tribe. Prince Ealleh was old and jaded. His celebrations’ refuse could serve as kings’ banquets, and his hunger for women was said to be unrivalled. He was cruel to all the girls he owned.
Maesha was beside herself in sorrow at her lot, and after angry shouting to the heavens, she knelt and prayed:

“Wind-breather and stone-founder; father of creation, hear me now, I pray. This one is small, too small to bother with, I know. But, please, consider now her lot, and if moved, grant me Svvervva –(that is to say, ‘escape from all harm’)– and return me to my home. By blood, a child of the First Parents, your children.”

The next morning, as Maesha lay still in deep slumber, a merchant’s caravan met the guards of the prince’s camp. They were Durnsmen, come to buy wares from the princedom. Ealleh received the chief merchant as his guest for a banquet.
When Maoluk, chief of the caravan and a wealthy merchant in the holy Durnish lands, looked upon Maesha as she was paraded with her sisters before the guests, he prayed to Shr.d that she become his bride.
“Now that you see what I have; my herds and wealth; what is it that you seek?” Ealleh said with great confidence.
Taking time to answer, Maoluk replied, “The least of your girls.”
The prince was taken aback by the request. He wondered after its meaning, and he called upon his counsellors to divine the meaning and his best course.

Maesha realised that the matter involved her, and she prayed silently as the counsellors debated among themselves.
Finally, Ealleh demanded an answer of them, and the chief of his wisest men told him that there was only gain in the request, and furthermore, to gift the woman to the merchant, leaving his purse intact to buy goods as well.
“Chose your girl and save your money, my friend. I am not so greedy as to turn a profit on one of them. Look how many more I have.” Ealleh boasted, curious to see which Maoluk chose.

Maoluk took his time and met with each and praised their graces while condemning their faults, the whole while his gaze found Maesha’s over and over again.
After some time, the merchant came finally to Maesha and asked after her in the prince’s account.
“Ill-tempered and melancholy. Possesses an evil eye and mutters curses. I reckon her the least of the lot, and would gladly be rid of her, the witch.”
“Is this true?” Maoluk asked of Maesha.

“If the prince says it so, it is not my place to disagree, sir.” Maesha replied as she looked squarely into the man’s eyes.

Maoluk laughed.
“Then let me please take her away from you, as I find her delightful. My purse is heavy for goods, of which I ask a little of everything you own.”

Ealleh again sought the wisdom of his diviners, and they told him to consent, though it seemed to him a great insult.

In the morning, Maesha was thrust to Maoluk’s feet, along with all her dowry, and coins beside.
“Here, here is her worth, my merchant friend. Take this icy one from me and laden your train with my excess. Tell your brethren I have more where that came from.” Ealleh spat.

Maoluk held his tongue as he lifted the girl to her feet.
The caravan departed, heavy with all the goods of the princedom.

After days of travel, the train entered a gate set into a vast wall that stretched from East to West.
The gate led into a military camp of white linen-enshrouded warriors, sealed off from contamination with the outside world.
“Where do I find myself, sir?” Maesha asked.
“This is the outermost border of the kingdom of Shr.d, the Only Wise.” Maoluk replied.
“My people give him no name. We dare not.” Maesha replied.
They rode on, “He has given us the gift of His name. It is our prayer, and our recourse. It behoves us to call upon Him, as He will suffer no other in His stead.”
Maesha silently wondered after that.

In her new quarters in the Holy City, she was attended by native daughters of Durn, beautiful and delightful in their own right. Maesha was bathed and oiled. Massaged and perfumed, then dressed in the attire of a noblewoman, white linen gilt with spun gold and decorated with amber, garnet, tourmaline, and jet. Maesha’s hair was braided as the other women, and a veil draped over the crown of her head but not covering more.
Now dressed, she was presented to Maoluk.

“Truly Shr.d has blessed me this day. I have found a Northern diamond of great beauty and rarity.” The merchant praised.
Maesha curtsied and replied, “I too have had my prayers answered. I want to know more of your people’s ways, and your faith in particular. I shall share my people’s traditions and then I will ask of you to fulfil the rest of my plea to the Creator.”
“What is that?” Maoluk asked, surprised.
“It is to return me to my home. The heat withers me, and I long for the shelter of the mountain kingdom that I love more than I can express.” She said.
Maoluk agreed, but secretly prayed she would, in time, find his home and his people to be her home and family.

Maesha quickly mastered the rigid lines and perfect arcs of Durnish script, beyond adopting the tongue with all fluency. Their discussions lasted for hours upon hours, day after day. In time, she mastered the music of the Kaleh and would sing psalms to the delight of the court and the people.
Maolulk learnt of the marvels of the North; heard the tales of the Sojourn through the black ice valleys that encircle the North-most peaks that crown the world. He shivered at the tale of P’Jol, the siren of the polestar that hexed travellers who dared to move beneath her gaze without the protection of the Raven charm. He laughed at the account of First Thaw with its ice slides and fatty-roast feast.
They grew fond of each other, but remained chaste.

After one year, Maoluk asked Maesha to marry him.
Maesha declined, longing still for her native Bereme Oykh.
Maoluk resigned for the time, and continued his loving discourse.

After five, then ten years, Maesha relented, and became Maoluk’s bride.

In the eleventh year, Maoluk was killed while on caravan.
L’lshar, his brother, arrived to take control of the family’s holding, and keep the land within the bloodline. He did not find Maesha to his liking, and was pressured beside by his seven wives and three concubines.
Maesha, set free from the realm, made all haste to journey home, and with her granted wealth, took along with her one tenth of all that Maoluk owned, including men and women servants and of his herds and stores.

Through much perilous and tormentious travel, Maesha’s party suffered greatly from predation and loss, until she was left with but one armsman and her own handmaiden, both Durnish.
At a village known to the locals as ‘White Bear Tree’, she learnt that she had entered the lands of the Vrun, North of the equator. There the travellers gained armsmen and scouts to guide her to the Storm Sea, and from there, passage to the Western Isles.

Having set out from the Western Isles nearly a month earlier; lean and hardened; Maesha arrived at last in the frigid lands of her birth and heritage.
Falling to her knees, she wept in thanks to the God who had answered her many prayers and brought her safely home again. She built a packed snow and stone altar to the Creator there, and named it ‘Glory to the Soul-scout’. It stands there to this day.

Still preserved in youth and ability, Maesha lived many years serving her people in court and counsel, as well as honouring the people with better cities and conditions.
During this time, she gained many enemies in the guilds and in counsel, her kinfolk among them. Attempts upon her life were made, but foiled each time through happy circumstance, or providence, as she always reckoned it.

After fleeing into the ruins of the first colonies, heavy with child, Maesha camped out under the sky, atop a fortress tower.
P’Jol tormented her dreams for a week, until one morning, a raven landed and dropped a tail feather before flapping off again.
Maesha bound the feather into her silver-washed chestnut hair, and the torments which P’Jol’s visited upon her were ended.
But, P’Jol did not stop there. She came down to Maesha and challenged her to three tasks, with a magick ring, a flying switch, and a magick cloak, as treasure.
Maesha politely declined.
This infuriated P’Jol, who then schemed to win a challenge with Maesha, and win her as booty.
“If treasures hold no interest or desire for you, then what is it you would have of me?” P’Jol half cackled.
“My lady, I have not asked one thing of you from my youth through tonight.” Maesha replied.
“Surely you desire something beyond your grasp?” The horrible crone leered forward.
Maesha thought a moment, and answered, “One thing, but…”
“What?!” P’Jol demanded
“You can’t possibly grant it, so it isn’t worth the effort…” Maesha lured.
“Anything within my means I will grant you, if you but tell me!” The monstrous woman pledged in view of her immortal kindred amid the heavens.
“I seek power over my enemy. I desire to rule over them, and gain their power. This you cannot do.” Maesha prodded further.
“I swear it! Give but the name of your foe, and by my spirit, you will have them in your grasp!” The thing spit ice as she coughed out frost and stardust.
Maesha shouted out in triumph, “P’Jol, Mistress of the North Star!”
The demon howled in torment as the power turned back upon her, and she enslaved herself to Maesha. P’Jol disappeared and the ring, the switch, and the cloak were left behind.

Maesha left the pole star untended, and soon, the world grew warm and spring thaw came a month too soon. Then summer was absent of snow except at the highest peaks, a first in the records. Autumn grew frost and hunting suffered loss. Winter was unusually harsh.
On the night of the worst storm in the world, the greenhouses collapsed under the wind and snow, ruining the bulb-harvest. Many workers were killed beside, both men and women.
Maesha’s cousin, D’Halan counselled her to fly to the North Star and take the throne of P’Jol.

Maesha considered this, then agreed, leaving her son, Kurian, in his care, then mounted the flying switch, and wrapped tightly against the cold in the magicked cloak while she held out her ringed hand into the wind.
The journey made the world shrink away as when one falls down a well; great and terrible the speed.

The throne of the pole star lay vacant and at sitting upon it, she could see the world’s wobble.
With her ringed hand, she reached down and straightened-out the world, making the seasons regular and fourfold-even.
Soon, the dreams of the world, and her people came up to her in the aether, and she began to direct the thoughts of humanity and beast alike. But, to her dismay, Maesha could only use nightmares and never pleasant dreams. Maesha decided to teach lessons to the sleeping, and only mildly press them with the understanding of failure.
Humanity grew wise in a generation, and many secrets of the Ancients were uncovered and deciphered. The stars themselves soon would lie within their grasp.

After generations were born and perished below, Maesha grew tired, and sought a helper to watch the world.
When none worthy was found throughout the whole world, Maesha took off her cloak, and tied it around the spindle of the world, keeping it upright, though it still wobbled slightly as it went about.
Cold beyond measure, Maesha flew upon the switch with all speed in the hopes of not freezing solid. But, even at that pace, the woman became ice through and through in the hard vacuum of space.
Her body shattered upon impact with the ground, but the ring remained intact, and saved her spirit.
Trapped in the ring with P’Jol, Maesha battled the witch for centuries, until a maiden found the ring and placed it on her finger. Maesha reconstituted herself from the girl’s body, and found that she was still cold, and breathed out frost and stardust.
“Oh, how I must have offended You in my conceit!” She cried out to heaven.
She received no reply.

Bereme Oykh was now a different place, with competitors for empire, and new wars afoot.
Maesha, the Cold Woman, dwelt among her folk, living in the shadows and the nightmares of humanity and beast alike. She found she needed to feed upon the living, lest the heat of weird life leave her again, and she freeze-solid. The wise among the folk gave her sacrifice from their pens, but when no tribute came, Maesha hunted.

Children then, as now, knew she was real, for they saw her in the darkness, watching them, ready to live in their dreams and punish the naughty with nightmares. Adults, however, had forgotten much wisdom in the learning of much knowledge, and their nightmares were easily forgotten amid the bustle of life.
It was then that Maesha began to send the same nightmares to the whole nation. Warnings and portents of disaster and terror in the hopes of rousing them to act before the day should come to pass. These warnings then began to take shape in popular images and artwork, design and philosophy. In this role, she protects Bereme Oykh to this day, by bringing to mind the things we do not yet know, but ought to fear.

A popular, but costly drink is named, Maesha’s Tear. It is cryogenically-cooled and forced out of the metal container by compressed air. The alcohol evaporates rapidly, so the imbiber must drink quickly. Many say they actually breathe the vapour, reminiscent of the Cold Woman's frosty breath of stardust.