08 October 2007

Tales of the Wyrm - The Wood Maidens

Well, it’s Myransdag again, and a holiday Myransdag at that. Which is kind of ironic, seeing as how we last left the Party just as they entered the town of Bymill on 16 Lastreap – and the next day, 17 Lastreap, was both a Myransdag AND a holiday. The Harvest Festival, in fact, which is more or less what we here on Earth just enjoyed. I don’t know about you, but I’m stuffed to the gills with shiraz, pork roast and a totally ass-kicking pumpkin cheesecake that my 10-year-old niece threw together. Anyway, since fate seems to be heaping the co-inky-dinks on us with both hands, I thought it a meet opportunity to hit you with another entry from the Varata Lohikäärmeta – the Book of the Wyrm, aka the Book of Tales.

This time we have the Seventh Rune – an ancient piece entitled “The Wood Maidens”, which takes up the tale of Eldukaris after his coming ashore following his birth in the waters of the world. That tale is told in the First Rune of the Book of Tales, which I haven’t published on this blog for one simple reason: it’s copied, almost work for word, from the Volsunga Sagas. Yeah, I’m a plagiarist, but in my defence, so was Tolkein. Michael Crichton, too; anyone who thinks “Eaters of the Dead” was original has forgotten about reading “Beowulf” in Grade 10 English lit. Where do you think he got the hero’s name, “Buliwyf”, from anyway?

"Hey, meet my new PC! He's a Rogue 6 / Dread Pirate 5, named San Holo. Never tell him the odds!"

(BTW, those guys in "13th Warrior" are speaking Swedish, not Danish. And badly. Just thought you ought to know. Not surprising, of course, since the guy playing Buliwyf is a Russkie. But why the hell not, seeing as how there’s a Latino playing the Arab and the only fellow named "Sharif" has about 4 minutes of screen time? But, I digress...)

Anyway, Eldukaris. In short, he was one of the forerunners of Men, a great hero, allegedly sired upon one of the Udrmær, the Wave-Maidens, by Bræa herself, in the shape of an albatross. Freaky, maybe, but not as mind-bendingly gross as doing the nasty with bulls, swans, and showers of golden light, to say nothing of goddesses popping spontaneously out of dad's forehead. Maybe someday I’ll rewrite the First Rune and put it up, but for now, we’ll just let it go.

This piece, incidentally, is entirely original; still has that new-poem smell. I'm sure the Eng-Lit profs will still be teaching it 1000 years from now. Heh.

Oh, and in case you missed it, the Wood Maidens, called the Skogrfljodr in the ancient tongue, are servants of Csæleyan, the Avatar of Nature, who serves as Queen of the Wood Maidens. She has a part to play in this piece, and in some of those that follow. There's something about green chicks...must've watched too much Trek as a kid.

Once again, this tale seems to end suddenly. Be of good cheer and stout heart, gentle listener; the tale continues, and we will come anon to the next stage in the journeys of Eldukaris.

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Boy, any day you can use the word “anon” is a good day, isn't it? Tomorrow's word is "forsooth".

I wonder if there’s any more shiraz down there?

* * * * *

Rune the Seventh:
The Wood Maidens
(from the Tarinas Valtakirjas)

Once ashore, fair Eldukaris,
Coming freshly from the waters
Dried his hair and dried his raiment
Under Bræa’s warming sunbeams.
Then he gathered up his courage
And he tied his sandals tighter,
And bethought him of the mountains
He had seen from ocean’s bosom.

He bethought him of the treetops
Waving softly in the sunlight
And of dancing birds above them
And of prowling beasts below them,
Ever ready for a victim;
So he stooped unto the water,
From its bosom drew a grey stone
Clenched it tightly in his fingers,
And with purpose set before him,
Strode he forward to the beaches.

Thus did Eldukaris sally
From the bosom of the waters,
To the heartwood of the forest,
Seeking shelter ‘neath the hardwoods.
He traversed the shining grasslands,
And he trod the shifting sand-dunes
As the sun-face hurtled over.
And the moonless sky above him
Held him tight unto its bosom
As if reverently recalling
Who had sired this doughty wanderer
On his mother, the Wave-Maiden.

Full eight days and nights he travelled,
With the mountains drawing nearer;
As the land rose ever higher,
And the autumn air grew cooler,
Eldukaris gazed in wonder
At the snowflakes gently falling
And on his clean limbs alighting
And around his feet a-gath’ring.

When at last he reached the mountains;
Reached the mighty oaks upon them,
Eldukaris saw a wonder;
For within a shining clearing,
Were the Forest-Maidens dancing;
Bright and radiant; Bræa’s daughters,
The kin-sisters of his mother.
Long their hair curled out behind them,
Falling like a shining curtain,
Coloured brown like unto oak-bark,
And their eyes were brown alike it.
As they danced within their circle,
Saw he then their skin emblazoned
With the emerald of the greenwood
And the verdant hue of forests;
Danced they hand in hand together,
And it seemed the trees danced with them.
Shifting, shimmering, trading places
In their endless rondel danced they,
Treading out their woodland passion
On the soft loam of Anuru;
Then the Forest-Maidens saw him,
And they fled in terror, wailing.

All save one – one maiden stayed she,
And he gazed in wonder on her,
For it seemed she was a wood-sprite,
A fey creature of the forest,
Then his mouth grew dry with passion,
And he felt his heart beat louder.
Eldukris hesitated,
As he ne’er did before then,
Nor would ever do thereafter;
Then he stepped towards the maiden,
Where, all apprehensive, stood she,
And he stretched his hand out to her,
And with halting tongue, bespoke her:

“Fairest maid of verdant woodland,”
Said the son of ocean-maiden,
“Wherefore danced ye in the forest?
Wherefore fled thy comrades comely?
Did, in coming, I alarm them?
If I did, I beg thy pardon,
And on bended knee, implore thee,
Wherefore didst thou not fly with them?”

Hesitant, the maiden answered:
“Sir, thy words are spoken kindly,
Thus to thee I give this answer,
Speaking for my fleeing sisters:
We are children of the forest;
Daughters of the woodland spirit;
Giving praise to Bright-Eyed Hara,
And unto his mighty servants.
Here we dance in honour of them,
From the dawning to the gloaming,
And at each new dawn, renewing
This, our measure of devotion.
My fair sisters fled before you,
Not because you sought to harm them,
Or alarm them; rather that you
Seemed fair strange, unknown to us,
Who have ne’er before beheld one
Formed as you, or suchlike speaking,
Come encroaching on our clearing
Where the wood-maids worship, dancing.”

“But fair sir,” the maid continued,
“There is yet another reason
Why my sisters fled before thee;
For our hearts are filled with sorrow.
Yester-eve, as we came dancing,
Our fair queen, Csaeleyan
Danced her joyous dance among us,
And we all rejoiced to see her.
For though fair Csaeleyan
Seems to be but one among us,
Yet her spirit is beyond us;
Mighty as the peaks of mountains,
For she is the first among us,
Eldest sister of the Wood-Maids,
And is much beloved of Hara,
And adored by Bright Larethian,
So our hearts were fairly shattered, sir,
When she was taken from us.”

With voice of consternation,
Eldukaris faced the maiden,
“How, fair forest-maid of wonder,
Was they sister taken from thee?
What fell power could affront thee?
What fell purpose thus disturb thee?
In thy marvellous devotions,
What fell heart would interrupt thee?”
Bravely then the maiden answered,
“As we danced upon the greensward,
A fell storm-cloud broke upon us;
And harsh ice-rain followed after,
And the forest fairly shuddered,
As the squall howled through the treetops,
And the branches bent and shattered
‘Neath the weight of snow-fall sudden.
Swift our glade became a wasteland,
And in place our feet were frozen;
So the Ice-King came upon us,
Crowned with frost and clad in winter;
With his glance he stopped our dancing;
With his hand, he took our sister,
Reft us of fair Csaeleyan,
Whom he long had lusted after.”

“Then he mounted on his storm-cloud,
And he set our sister ‘fore him,
And on trails of ice departed,
With the Wood-Maids crying after.
In a twinkling he had left us,
And we wept upon the greensward,
E’en our tears froze on our faces,
At our sister’s ravished parting.
But at length the snow departed,
Following the Ice-King after,
And again our feet were nimble,
And the greensward free of hoarfrost.
Thus this evening finds us dancing,
But in sorrow, not in gladness,
And our hearts are sore and hollow,
For Csaeleyan longing.”

Torn with sorrow, Eldukaris
Stepped unto the stricken maiden,
And he put his arms around her,
Took her head unto his shoulder.
At her scent, of fair spring flowers,
Eldukaris fell enraptured;
And his heart leapt up within him,
Snared by sorrow and by beauty.
“Fair Wood-Maiden,” quoth the Sea-Son,
“By this hand, I swear unto thee,
Neither rest nor satiation
Shall I seek, until before thee
Once more stand I with thy sister;
With thy fair Csaeleyan,
And my foot upon the shoulder
Of the heartless one that took her.”

Saying so, he left the maiden
Standing lorn and lone behind him,
And with naught but raiment ‘pon him,
And the grey sea-stone inholden,
Eldukaris left the clearing,
And the fair Wood-Maid behind him;
Turned his face into the snow-fall,
And began the task before him.

* * * * *