Under the spell of the Epic of Gilgamesh and with some memory of Homer in the back of my mind, I set out to write an epic in 1999. It was probably my most ambitious poetic endeavor, and, sadly, my efforts at revision were cut short by being laid off from my job at the time and needing to seek new work. However, the work that follows is a complete, if admittedly rough, first draft, and I can no longer bear the thought of withholding this from my site. Some day I may return to this and revise it. (I really damn-well ought to.) But life is too busy right now, and who knows when the opportunity will arise to properly finish this grand labor of love I began so many years ago?
This is a long work: 60 pages of unrhymed hexameter in MS Word. It is a creation myth of the fictitious Sumerian-style city-state of Rakshish and a story of their god of Names, Noumenos. Its four scrolls tell a myth of how the power of naming was lost when Noumenos was captured by Ikthu, the god of Winter, and how the hero Mishnikar delivered him from captivity and world regained the gift of Names. It is also a tale of the young hero's awakening into manhood by his father, the war-god Klaxos, and by the priestess of Alya who was to become his bride, the dark beauty Radasafi.
Enjoy, patient readers!
G.L.C., March 3, 2005
Heed, lord and slave; my tale is sacred, ancient lore!
My father spoke it thus to me, and his to him,
Of how the wisest son of sky and earth was lost,
Ensnared, borne off by Ikthu, Spirit of the Night
And held in darkness by that icy winter god
Until the hero Mishnikar delivered him.
In days before the race of Raksharak was born,
Great Mother, Mata, brought a strange and babbling son
To Shishah, Blue-Faced Emperor, who gathers storms
Like desert flowers for his silent, earthen bride.
The child cried "Mata" when it took its mother's breast,
And "Shishah" when it heard the cool winds of its father.
And so the strange and babbling son did name his kin:
His brother Zaal, the sun; the moon, his sister, Ula,
And other things he named: the trees, the birds and beasts.
And then, one day, he gave himself, as well, a name:
"Noumenos!" he shouted, and he laughed with pride.
"Noumenos! The Name-Giver!" the great gods cried.
And now the gods could speak and there was much rejoicing.
Noumenos the Name-Giver was young and fair.
The sounds he made, these words, were strange and wonderful.
Inside the budding bosom of his fairest sister
A secret yearning kindled and with time it grew
Like flames, the children of Agazi, gnaw the woods
And grow immense and wild in their frenzied feast.
And then, one day she stole upon him as he bathed
Within the sacred waters of the river Fluh,
And on the shore put off her robe and beckoned him.
That day, he named her Alya for the sounds she made.
And so the Queen of Love and Noumenos were wed.
Their children, as you know, became the first of men.
Alya taught her children how to gather food
And how to love. The gods smiled on this little race.
With fatherly affection, Noumenos then taught
His children how to name things, how to speak and tell.
It was a boon; the race of man rejoiced in words:
A man could tell another where the sweetest fruits
Lay in the gardens and the forests of the valley,
And lovers could call on each other, sight unseen.
But then, one day, a son of Noumenos and Alya,
Spurned by his lover, sat down by the river Fluh
Unhappy and he asked the sacred river: "Why?"
He longed to know the meaning of his wounded feeling.
In words he formed the first, the father of all doubts:
"Am I in pain because the gods would have it so?"
This was the seed of wrath that doomed the fate of men.
The wounded lover spoke this question to his kin,
And when the valley fruits were less sweet than was hoped,
Or when a lover strayed within another's arms,
They spoke the question and they muttered angry curses.
The elder gods heard and were furious at these children.
Shishah loosed a host of mighty thunder-clouds.
Uthulos, the Sea, rose up and with a mighty roar,
Unleashed a thousand lions on the river valley.
The Fluh swelled with the tempest from its fertile banks,
And all the fruits which gave life in the valley rotted.
The starving men then fled into the dark-lit forests
Or out onto the steppes. The awful host of lions
Bore down upon them and devoured a third their number.
A third of them then starved, for food was scarce. The rest
Cried out. "Great ones, forgive us! We have been unfaithful!"
The Queen of Love awoke from her tormented dreams,
And Noumenos in horror heard his children's cries.
They rushed to the survivors starving in the forest,
And brought with them bold Klaxos, Bearer of the Spear,
And also the Fire-Giver, Agazi, Red-Faced Lord.
They made a plan to save the stricken race of men.
Klaxos taught the men to hunt for deer and fowl.
The Fire-Giver taught the secret of the flame.
The race of man learned well and so survived these woes.
In time the river Fluh took pity and withdrew
Into its banks. The sea receded and grew calm.
The men returned into the fertile, sacred valley
To multiply and flourish and rejoice in life.
But some among the men now cursed the elder gods
Who called these terrors down upon their helpless heads.
Rebellion grew within their hardened, sullen hearts,
And many ceased to make their sacred offerings.
And so, the gods sent Morta, pale and silent crone
Who came before the proud, rebellious race of men
And made a secret sign. A chill grew in their hearts.
The once immortal race of men now learned the grief
Of age and sickness. Morta bound all men to death.
Yet even in the shadow of icy-fingered death,
The race of man was fertile, bold, and prosperous.
The lesser gods, oppressed by their storm-hearted elders,
Were moved and joined their strength and spirit to this race.
Their friendship won the mortal race the gifts of song
And dancing; skill at forging things of bronze and iron;
And Elza, goddess of the harvest, taught the art
Of growing maize and wheat within the river valley.
The time of a hundred lives had passed as fathers died
To leave their wisdom with their sons who sired new sons.
The Ring of Morta was traversed a hundred times
Before the hunter Iskadu sought love's fair goddess.
Iskadu the Hunter was a proud, strong lad.
Three summers before a tuft of down adorned his chin
He slew three lions on the plains with bow and spear.
Made like an ox, but wise in Tisha's light-winged arts,
He played the lyre and sang with calm and bending voice.
It's said a hundred women were his fawning lovers,
But he grew weary of them and their earth-bound charms,
And in his dreams he saw a woman bold and fair
With hunting spear in hand and dressed in lion-skins
Who told him how he might become the godlike chieftain
Of all the clans and how he'd gather them together
To live in dwellings made of fine-hewn wood and stone,
And till the fertile soil of the sacred valley,
And they would call him Godlike Father Hunter-Chief.
So Iskadu sought out the wise-man of his clan
To ask him of the meaning of his nightly visions.
The wise-man made an offering to the Mother Goddess,
And made himself the vessel of her words and deeds.
The goddess said through him, "Bold, manly Iskadu!
Stand in the place where, like an adder's branching tongue,
The river parts in twain, and face the rising sun.
Raise up your right arm to your side and gaze beyond.
There is a forest there of dark and godlike beauty.
There is a glade that's nestled deep within this forest,
And there a dwelling made of ivory-colored stone
Arises like a hut, but strange to mortal eyes.
The woman who appears to you in nightly visions
Who wears a lion's skin and bears a huntsman's spear,
Awaits you there among a host of magic beasts:
Lions and wolves and other stranger, deadly things.
Your iron-tipped arrows and spear will never pierce their hides.
Your hunter's craft and sinew will avail you not.
Only the man who knows the spirit-arts of Tisha
May make this passage, enter on her shining lair."
So Iskadu bid farewell to his hundred lovers,
And set out on his journey clad in lion's skins.
He brought his quiver and bow, his iron-tipped hunting spear.
He brought his lyre also which he strung anew
With hair his many lovers in their fondness gave him.
He prayed to all the gods and offered sacrifices,
Stood at the Adder's Tongue and raised his strong right arm,
And gazed beyond into the dark face of the forest.
He saw an old man hobbling on a walking stick
Towards the sea. He stopped when he saw Iskadu.
"Young man, where are you going with your spear and bow
And arrows tipped with sharp and gleaming iron heads?"
"To yonder forest, old man, to seek out a glade
Where strange beasts roam and where an ivory-colored dwelling
Arises like a hut, but strange to mortal eye."
"I know this place," the old man said. "It would be best
To keep your distance, for the creatures in the forest
Would tear young men apart and leave their broken bones
To be picked clean by birds. Your arrows cannot pierce
Their skins for they're enchanted by the forest-witch
Who dwells within the glade you seek out in your haste."
"Ha! Point the way, old man! I want to know the way!"
The hunter said as fire crept into his limbs.
"It's her you seek out, isn't it?" the old man said.
"Iskadu the Hunter! Yes, it must be you!
Iskadu, the wild boy who boasts of his courage;
Your courage here will send you surely to your death!
The woman is as savage as she's beautiful;
At her command is magic which no wise-man knows.
You overstep your place, my young and foolish friend.
The one you seek is not to be approached by mortals."
"Who are you to speak thus to me?" the hunter roared.
The old man looked him in the eye and with a voice
Of iron, low and steady, thus he made reply:
"I am the father of all words and of all men!"
The hunter looked upon him, stricken dumb with fear.
"The Name-Giver?" he whispered finally, and the man
Turned eyes of glowing stars upon bold Iskadu.
"Stay clear of her! I warn you now and now alone!"
A flush of anger rose within his aged cheeks.
He thumped his staff upon the ground with thunderous boom.
The old man disappeared; his staff became a serpent,
And Iskadu, in shuddering horror, fled this place.
Five moons, five comings of Ula, passed while Iskadu
Lingered, shamed and hidden in his house of straw.
He did not seek out any of his hundred lovers.
The dreams of the forest-witch tormented him at night.
He hid from his companions for he did not wish
For them to know that he had lost his fabled courage.
He'd venture out into the plains when night had fallen,
And play his lyre for the beasts and for the woman
Who dwelled within the glade within the haunted forest.
The old man's words. The old man's voice and star-fire gaze
Would hound him when he longed to make the perilous journey.
But on the sixth moon, as despairing Iskadu
Was roaming on the plains at night with lyre in hand,
He heard a lion's roar quite near and saw dark motion.
A shadow crept toward him and it crouched to spring.
The hunter saw a pale crone off in the distance.
His boyhood he relived and he remembered all.
But then, he grasped his spear and set it in the ground;
The lion sprang and landed on its iron point.
As it expired, its sharp claws wounded Iskadu.
The greenish fire in its eyes looked on his own,
And Iskadu at once knew he must make the journey.
He rested long and finally his wounds had healed.
He strung his lyre anew with sinews from the lion,
Took up his spear, but left his bow and iron-tipped arrows.
At midnight he set out and went into the forest.
In waking dreams, he heard the words the clan's wise-man
Had spoken, and he swept his lyre and sang aloud
A lover's song, resounding with fierce-tender joy.
His voice was calm and strong and sang with bending grace.
The night wore on and morning broke upon the forest
When Iskadu at last beheld the shining glade.
A hundred beasts were crouching in the shady trees
Around the clearing or within the underbrush:
Lions, bears, and wolves, and beasts with horns and hooves.
Three mighty dragons glittered green upon the lawn
Whereon a structure made of white and polished stone
Rose up in shining splendor like a snow-capped mountain,
But smaller and its shape was strange to Iskadu.
You've seen the temple standing in the Priest-King's square:
The house of Alya, sacred-goddess of our city,
Its marble columns and its gleaming portico
Which seem to shed a snow-white luster on the hill
Which looks out on the crowded, noisy market-place.
This temple is the likeness of that very dwelling
Which Iskadu beheld with wide and wondering eyes.
The sight of all the deadly creatures frightened him,
But still he played his lyre and plied his lover's tune.
A trembling crept into his voice as he approached
The marble palace guarded by the three great dragons.
The creatures looked upon him but they did not strike,
Nor did they growl or threaten him by drawing near.
They seemed at peace as though great Nim had sealed their eyes
And ears in slumber, wise-men lost in deepest dreams.
So Iskadu drew near the polished marble steps,
Ascended them, and entered the gleaming portico.
Its golden doors gave way to his strong arm and shoulder,
Then closed behind him with a low metallic clang.
Unlike the temple standing in the Priest-King's square,
The dwelling which bold Iskadu had entered on
Was open to the bright blue of the summer sky.
A fountain rose up from a round and tranquil pool.
A woman sat upon its steps and gazed at him.
The hunter looked upon her and his heart felt faint.
His singing ceased. His lyre fled his trembling grasp.
The garb she wore was not a garb of lion's skins.
It was a tunic made of wondrous pure-white cloth
Which somehow shimmered in the gathering morning light.
Her golden hair spilled down beside her lovely hips.
Her eyes were like two sapphires which held all the sky.
"Alya!" he gasped. "It's you! It must be... Oh!"
"Iskadu." she spoke. "Come to me, Iskadu!
Within this place, this quiet, cool, and lonely place
I've watched you long and waited, and I dreamt of you.
Bold Iskadu! Oh youth of radiant strength and beauty!
You slew three lions with bow and spear upon the steppes
Before you were a bearded man, before you knew
The arts of love, and when you swept the soft-tongued lyre,
A hundred women coveted your strong embrace.
I watched you as you grew from boyhood, heard your singing;
I saw you stalking deer alone within the forest.
I watched you sporting with your friends at archery
And round a campfire drinking wine and trading songs:
The songs of hunt, the river-airs, the sacred ballads.
I trembled as your manly laughter rent the air.
I heard and felt your anguish when your mother died.
I watched you build your humble nest within the village
And blessed each stick and straw to keep you from the rain.
I heard the clansmen speaking low to one another.
They said your were the swiftest hunter of the clan.
I heard the wise-man praise your skill at Tisha's arts.
I heard a hundred women cry in ecstasy
For you, oh godlike lover, strong and fair and gentle!
I've watched you long and waited, lovely Iskadu!
Now tell me, what has kept you hence, these many moons?"
He could not speak. On legs of sand, he went to her,
Fell at her bare feet on the fountain's shallow steps.
"Oh Iskadu," she said, as she caressed his hair.
She spoke his name again and he looked up at her,
And saw her smile and saw the flush within her cheeks,
And how her eyes engulfed him like a hunter's net.
A fire crept into his limbs. He touched her hair,
Her face. His lips he pressed to hers and how they burned!
He felt a she-lion's supple strength beneath her silk.
He touched her thigh. She made a low and savage sound.
The heat of Zaal rose from the palace of her flesh.
They seized each other and the mortal Iskadu
And she, the mother of all men and Queen of Love,
Met with the blinding ecstasy of summer storms.
As shining Zaal made his descent beyond the forest,
The Queen of Love bathed Iskadu and brought him robes
Of white silk, and he burned his odorous lion skins.
She called him lord and husband and she spoke to him
Of how they'd gather all the race of man together
To live in dwelling places made of wood and stone,
And how a race of slaves would till the fertile soil
Within the valley of the sacred river Fluh,
And they would live within their great and holy city
And rule its people who would prosper and be fruitful.
Two moons they lingered in her palace, lost in rapture:
The rapture of the flesh, the pleasure of fond words,
And dreaming together of the realm they would create,
They came to know each other like two mortal lovers
Who've travelled far along the road of married union.
They knew each others' hearts like hunters know the forests,
Like singers of the sacred-songs who keep the words
Within their spirits, knowing them like their own hands.
They spoke at times like wife and husband, and at times
Like brothers setting out to ply a trade together.
It was not long before they yearned to start their venture.
They went to seek the place to build their noble realm.
But as they set out from her palace in the forest
And travelled, hand in hand, upon the grassy steppes,
The sky grew dark, and Iskadu beheld the face
Of the man, the old man he had met, among the clouds
And was afraid and tried to hide his face from him.
The Queen of Love grew pale and cried, "No! Noumenos!
No Shishah, Father! Let me keep this mortal man!"
But glowering Noumenos was silent. Not a word
The Father of Words could speak, so mighty was his rage,
And Shishah, Blue-Faced Lord, her father, spoke in thunder.
A blast of storm-winds tore the hunter from the goddess,
And lightning struck down fair and bold, young Iskadu.
For seven moons, the Queen of Love shed bitter tears,
But the seed of Iskadu was in her sacred garden.
As Zhiva touched the forest with her flower-wand,
A child came to Alya, and she named him sadly
Raksharak, the child of thunder, and she reared him
With all the hopes and plans she'd shared with Iskadu.
The Name-Giver took pity on the Thunder-Child,
And knew remorse for having doomed his mortal father,
And so great Raksharak grew strong and bold and manly,
And wise for all the wisdom that his mother taught him.
The hero with his mother Alya at his side
Gathered the clans together to live in dwellings of stone
And wood, and he chose men to till the earth of Fluh.
He founded and he ruled our great and noble city:
Rakshish, the Dwelling of Thunder, home of Raksharak.
For half a hundred times, the season-circle turned:
The Ring of Shishah, Blue-Faced Lord who calls bright Zhiva
With flower-wand into the grassy steppes and forests;
Then three moons hence who sends Agazi with a torch
To add fresh flame-life to the golden robes of Zaal;
Then summons Mudah with his sickle three moons hence
To drive the leaves out from the maple and the oak
And lead the tillers of the fertile valley soil
Into the ripened fields with sickle, scythe, and flail;
Who three months hence lies down among the rolling clouds,
And sleeps while Ikthu prowls the lands, an icy dragon
Whose breath is snow upon the mountains, chilling winds;
Then three months hence, who rises and with lightning arrows
Drives back the demon Ikthu to his frigid realm
Beyond the sea, beyond the place where ships are swallowed
And men are drowned in ice-cold waters or devoured
By demons raging in the stormy blood of Uthulos.
The Ring of Shishah half a hundred times was run
Before the Thunder-Child, the hero Raksharak,
Who wore his long beard braided like a wise-man's beard,
Sank down upon his lordly bed to hear the summons
Of Morta, icy-fingered crone whom men must follow
Into the rotting entry chambers of the earth
Where they become the seeds within the fertile garden
Of the Mother Goddess and their spirits spring anew
Within the golden grains, within the trees and grasses.
There was a wailing all throughout the stricken city,
And Alya, the Queen of Love, shed bitter tears.
"My son has died, the son of Iskadu the Hunter!
The pride of Alya, Godlike Father-Chief is dead!"
There was a wailing of women in the city streets.
A thousand drums boomed out as Alya's chariot,
A golden chariot drawn by two enchanted lions,
Bore off the cloth-wrapped mortal husk of Raksharak,
And a great procession followed to Field of Bones
Where Raksharak was buried beneath an obelisk
Of whitened marble. At the foot of the sacred stone
There was a statue of the hero Raksharak
Whose left arm pointed towards the sky, whose right hand held
A hammer, and he stood upon a grassy knoll,
And at his feet were planted smallish marble blocks
To show he was the father of our noble city,
And though our enemies have broken the obelisk,
And borne the statue off, each moon a lamb is slaughtered
And burnt upon this sacred site as offering.
Thus Alya bid us honor our departed father.
The goddess spoke to the people from the highest hill:
"Upon this hill, I bid you raise a marble temple
Where I may dwell among you, where my priests may dwell.
The chief among the priests will carry out the laws:
Successors to my son, the godlike Raksharak.
The people kneeled before the mighty goddess, afraid,
And offered gold and gem-stones to her and her priests.
They built the temple on the highest hill of Rakshish,
And round the temple, half-way down the hill's steep slopes
A square was enclosed in rows of pointed wooden stakes
To mark the high land where the Priest-King would preside
Over the people of Rakshish, as their Father-Chief,
As high-priest to the sacred-goddess of the city.
Kimbah, son of Raksharak, succeeded him.
As Priest-King, he dwelled in a palace on the square
Erected not far from the temple on the hill
Where Alya, Queen of Love, and Mother of All Men,
Dwells to this day, unseen by any, save her priests
And of the priests, none save the Priest-King, are allowed
To leave the columned marble house of Alya.
The Priest-King Kimbah ruled with wisdom and far-sight.
The city grew and prospered and its people flourished.
The Priest-Kings led the people to make offerings
To all the elder gods: to Shishah and to Mata;
To Noumenos the Wise, the Father of All Men;
To Fluh, the great god of the river; to Uthulos,
God of the stormy-blooded sea; to Zaal and Ula,
To Nim, the god of Night; to Morta, Queen of Death;
To Zhiva and the Fire-Giver and to Mudah,
The reaper god; and Elza, bright-haired goddess of grain;
And so the city flourished. There was much rejoicing.
But great rebellion stirred among the immortal gods.
The savage sons of Uthulos rose against the laws
Ordained by Shishah, father of the elder gods.
The rebels sought for chiefdom over the clans of men,
And over the wild-men roaming through the steppes and forests,
And wicked cities sprang up in the sacred valley:
Warlike Ashnur ruled by foul Akhnu the Dragon--
The chariot hordes of Ashnur are the hosts of Hell--
And Otokal, the Harlot of the River Valley,
Where women sleep with women, and the men with men,
And men dress up in women's garb and chase young boys;
And Mira, near the highlands and the rolling foothills
Which enter on the savage passes of the mountains
Men call the Dragon's Teeth, where fearsome giants and monsters
Prowl on the jagged cliffs and in deep-running caverns.
In Mira, men are burned or maimed for sacrifice
To the tiger sun-god, Grogar: false, demonic god
Who lies that it is he, not Zaal, who wears the sun-robes,
And claims he is the father of the elder gods!
These cities sprang up round the sacred river Fluh
Like weeds among the bounty of life-giving Elza,
And men made raids into the city of Rakshish,
To rob us of our sheep and grain, to take our women,
Our wives and daughters, to become their wives and slaves.
The people cried out: "Woe! Oh terrible woe to us!
Our Mother and our Father-Chief, see how we suffer!
An enemy has risen in the sacred valley
Who robs us of our sheep and grain so that we hunger,
Who steals our wives and daughters for their brutal pleasure,
So that we never see or hear from them again."
The Queen of Love awoke from her tormented dreams.
The Priest-King sought the wisdom of the Father of Men,
And Noumenos appeared within the house of Alya,
And shouted: "Foolish wife and sister! Hear our children,
How they are weeping at the coming storm of darkness!
Whilst you have walled yourself behind your veils of marble,
And taken mortal lovers to your lustful bosom,
I've roamed the river valley and the hills and forests,
A wise-man, staff in hand, among the many clans,
To guide them as a father would his erring sons,
But they are wanting of the Mother of All Men.
They are deserted by the well-spring of all love,
And therefore, all my words and wisdom are in vain.
Their hearts have allied with the wicked rebel gods!"
And Alya, Queen of Love, the Mother of All Men
Replied--her voice was shaking with a lion's rage--
"Noumenos! My husband! How you scorch the air
With loud, hot rantings. Was it you who made this city
Which shines in jeweled splendor in the sacred valley?
Was it you who gathered the clans of men together
To live in dwellings hewn of wood and polished stone,
And set a race of slaves to till the fertile soil
So that all mortal men might multiply and prosper?
You false-proud windbag! Give me words that I might use
To drive the enemy from the city of our children,
The wisdom of the Name-Giver, not empty curses!"
Then Noumenos, within the house of Alya,
Did glower, but he spoke and gave his wisdom to her:
"Your Son, Bold Klaxos, Bearer of the Spear, call forth!
Tell him to show the people how to hunt for men,
The men who raid Rakshish to steal its grain and women.
Create a race of men who hunt for evil men
To slay them if they break the city's sacred laws
Or if they steal or harm the lives of the Rakshishi.
These men will guard the city like the magic beasts
That guarded you within your hidden forest glade."
And then the Queen of Love looked at the Name-Giver
In silence as she saw his plan in waking-dreams.
No longer angry, Alya kissed the Father of Words
Upon the cheek, and said that he was welcome to stay
Within her house, and Noumenos released the demons
Of anger to cool like embers in the evening air.
And so, for hundreds of turnings of the Ring of Shishah,
The Father and the Mother of All Men were joined
As lovers and companions and they saved the city.
Bold Klaxos came and showed the people how to hunt
For men: how to surround them, where to strike their bodies.
A hundred hunters gathered round the Father of War
Upon the hill, within the Priest-King's palace grounds,
And fought each other with wooden staves and wooden stakes
As they might one day fight the foe with spears and knives.
With wax-tipped, blunted arrows, they assailed each other
As they would one day rain death on a running foe.
The men came during the harvest, men of the city of Ashnur.
With horse-drawn wagons they rode into the fields of Rakshish
To steal our sheep and they approached the granary
To rob us of our maize and wheat, and take it home
Where they might drink and gorge themselves in winter feast
While the sons and daughters of Rakshish cried out in hunger.
They rode into the streets and crept into our houses
To steal what they wished, to take Rakshishi women,
So that they might make sport with them and plant their weeds
Within the gardens of our women, fouling them.
Five men or six would thrash the husbands and the sons,
Then load their plunder into their wagons and ride away,
But the alarm was raised. Watch drums sounded out a warning.
The people lit smoke-fires to show the hunters where
The foe had come among them. People shouted, pointed.
The hunters came and loosed their arrows on the horses
That drew the wagons of the raiding men of Ashnur.
The men of Ashnur left their wagons and chased the hunters
To thrash them but the hunters pierced them with their spears.
Some of the foe-men witnessed this and were afraid.
They fled on foot or on what wagons yet had horses.
The hunters gave chase raining arrows on the enemy.
The horse-drawn wagons that remained escaped the hunters,
But the men on foot were caught and killed with spear and knife.
Fair Alya and Noumenos stood on the hill,
And watched the battle, saw the fleeing men of Ashnur.
The Queen of Love let out a cry of victory.
"The enemy is beaten! Ha! The wicked cities
Will hear about our hunters and will cower like dogs!"
She said to Noumenos. "No longer will they dare
To enter on our city and steal our grain and women."
But Noumenos was silent as he gazed afar.
A troubled look was on his face. He turned to her,
And looked upon her beauty, flushed with victory-pride,
And said "The enemy is driven from our city.
Their blood is flowing where the hunters brought them down.
I feel a dark foreboding in my stormy heart.
I hear the sounds of wailing, angry demon-spirits.
I know not what shall come to pass, but troubled dreams
Are hovering around me as I watch this scene."
He took his leave of her and went into the temple.
She summoned the Priest-King to her side to hear her will.
The Priest-King called the people into the market and spoke.
He greeted them as a father might his favorite son.
He hailed them as victors and he said to them
That the enemy was cowering like a beaten dog,
And that they would not dare to set foot in Rakshish.
He bid them feast, and sing their praises to the hunters,
And sounds of celebration rang out in the city.
The rebel gods were thwarted, and Rakshish rejoiced.
The hunters of men, the warriors, had driven out
The wicked and the wild men who had troubled the city.
And men who broke the city's sacred laws were slain
Or flogged before the people in the market-place.
The warriors kept the laws within our noble city.
But the art of hunting men soon spread to other men.
The cities of the rebel gods soon taught their hunters
To kill, and there were battles in the river valley
And on the plains, and even in the shadowed forests.
New weapons were forged, and men wore skins of hardened leather
And some wore plates of bronze upon their chests and backs.
Some fought with scimitar in right hand, shield in left.
And chariots were made to carry men with bows.
The Priest-Kings soon took up the scimitar and bow,
And fastened blades upon the wheels of their chariots,
And led their people upon the field to victory.
The warriors of Rakshish held their foes at bay.
For many, many turnings of the Ring of Morta,
Noumenos, the Name-Giver, was at the side
Of Alya, the Queen of Love and War, and gave
His counsel to her and to the priests who ruled the city,
And was her lover and her lord and faithful husband.
But then, alas, the Father and the Mother of Men
Began to quarrel, and soon the Father of Words departed
The house of Alya and wandered through the valley
With staff in hand to give his wisdom to the people
Entrapped within the darkness of the wicked cities.
He was the Wandering Guiding-Light of the river valley.
The Star-Faced One he was. His eyes were the light of stars.
The rebel gods assembled on a fire-mountain
Within the jagged, fierce peaks of the Dragon's Teeth.
"The Star-Faced One oppresses us," they murmured together.
"He leads our peoples to rise up against our rule.
He guides them to obey the hated laws of Shishah,
To cease their offerings to us, to smash our altars,
Destroy our temples, put to death our sacred priests.
How can we be victorious against his teachings?
He is the Father of All Words, the Name-Giver.
He is the son of Shishah and the Mother Goddess!
How can we be victorious against his might?"
Then Ikthu, Spirit of the Night, the god of winter
Spoke and his breath brought snow and ice into the mountains.
"When Shishah sleeps, then I will come into the valley
And seize the Star-Faced One and seal the god in ice,
And bear him off into my realm beyond the sea
Before the father of the gods, the Blue-Faced Lord,
Can waken to save his son and loose his lightning arrows."
There was a mighty clamor and a dark rejoicing
Upon the fire-mountain as the demon-gods
Prepared their plans to seize the Father of All Men.
The winter came, and Shishah, Emperor of the Sky,
Lay down upon the rolling clouds and fell asleep,
And Ikthu, as before, came with his icy breath
And chilly winds blew on the sacred river valley.
The fell-gods summoned all their minions to the valley:
The demon-crows to watch the lands for Noumenos,
Storm-tigers to pursue and tire the Star-Faced One,
And packs of jackals led by foul, wolf-headed men
Whose hunting horns spread terror through the valley cities
To track and hound the Father of Words wherever he camped.
The Father of All Men struck with his mighty staff,
And demon-minions fell dead in their wicked hundreds,
But still they came as if some unseen fount of Hell
Was bursting far beneath the earth with flowing fires
Which poured in rivers down to meet the hapless god.
When Alya heard the fate of her husband, Noumenos,
She sent a thousand of the finest warriors
Rakshish could muster, armed with iron scimitars,
And chariots of bow- and spear-men drawn by horses
To rescue Noumenos and rout the fell-gods' forces.
But Ikthu, in a fury, summoned storms of snow,
A sight till then unseen within the river valley.
The snow fell on the roads and on the open ground
So that a man sank down with snow about his knees
When trying to pass, and chariots could not be drawn
Across the plains. The river Fluh was locked in ice,
And white winds brought calamity and fearsome cold.
The demon-minions were not hindered by the winter,
But the brave Rakshishi warriors were held at bay.
In vain the Queen of Love called on her sleeping father
As Noumenos fought on with tiring, flagging strength.
Then Alya took up spear and scimitar and fastened
A heavy breastplate wrought of iron upon her chest,
And with an iron shield, she set out in the blizzard
To find her brother and husband, to ward off the demons.
But as the strength of the Father of All Men expired,
The dragon Ikthu swooped upon him and a he breathed
A blast of cold which locked the Star-Faced One in ice,
And then he bore off Noumenos into his kingdom
And buried him beneath a mountain made of ice.
The Mother of All Men was wandering nearly blind
Through shifting white winds, plodding through a mire of snow.
She fell and fainted at the moment of his capture.
When she awoke, the snows were melting and the spring
Came early and the demon-minions had departed.
She went into the city and beheld with horror
The terrible confusion that had seized her people.
She tried to speak, but found she had forgotten how.
She went into her temple on the Priest-King's square
And shut herself within and raged and stormed and wept.
A terrible confusion swept the river valley
As men forgot the gift of speaking, using words.
They groaned and grunted, making useless savage sounds,
And pointed, waved their hands and arms like wild men.
The grain-works fell into disrepair. The market-place
Was thrown into confusion, as no-one could count.
No-one could carry out the sacred laws of Rakshish
Because no man could tell the city's warriors
What men had broken the law, and the warriors could not tell
What their commanders, what the Priest-King bid of them.
The sacred songs no longer could be heard by men,
So men forgot the rites and legends of the gods.
No longer could a man reveal unto another
Where he might hunt and forage in the wilderness.
Wives could not learn if husbands had a second lover;
And husbands could not learn if wives had been unfaithful.
The city fell, a host of grunting, wild men.
Men chased whatever women pleased them at the moment.
And rogues and bandits stole and murdered helpless men
Because no one could tell the others of their deeds.
The slaves who tilled the soil left their plows behind;
Canals which fed the fields were left to fill with silt.
The men fled to the wilderness with spears and foraged
Within the darksome forests for wild fruit and game.
The city lay deserted, and the Priest-King wandered,
In raving madness through the lonely city streets.
Upon the hill which stands above the market-place,
The palisades had lost their mighty garrison,
And weeds had sprouted in the Priest-King's handsome palace.
The temple stood alone, a tower in the ruins.
There, women, children, and a few armed warriors
Made squalid camp within the house of Alya
And brought her food and drink as she lay in her chambers
Weaving, spinning, singing wordless songs, and weeping.
For ten and seven turnings of the season-cycle,
There was no hope within the sacred river valley,
For Mishnikar the Deliverer was not yet born.
The winters were colder, and when the father of the gods
Awoke, he grieved and Mata, Great Earth-Mother, grieved.
Their wisest son was gone, the Father of All Men.
The race of man lay ruined in an age of darkness.
A warrior came upon a quiet, darksome forest.
He wore upon his head an iron helm whose face
Was open to the air. A scarlet plume of feathers
Rose from it in a band much like a cock's red comb.
His armored body trailed a cloak of bloody scarlet.
His right hand clutched a spear, his left a rounded shield.
He strode into the forest where the river Fluh
Had hidden itself among a canopy of green.
His limbs were tired. He went to seek the river's waters,
To wash the blood and dust off from his arms and armor,
To cleanse his body in the river's cool embrace.
Thus Klaxos, Bearer of the Spear, sought refuge there
From demons and from wild men of the hills and plains.
He wandered till he heard the whispering of waters,
And saw a shimmer in the dark green underbrush,
Then walked down the ravine to the moist bank of the river,
And gazed across its broad and timeless flow of waters
As evening fell upon the dense and tranquil forest.
His eye beheld a vision on the other bank.
A girl with dark hair pouring down below her waist
Had stepped into the water to bathe her moon-white skin.
With slender fingers, she wrung and combed and washed her hair,
And rubbed her lithe and delicate body to wash it clean.
He was enchanted and he set aside his spear,
Lay down his shield, removed his helm, unfastened his cloak
Removed his armor, shed what under-clothes remained,
And stepping naked into the river's gentle flowing,
In stealth, he waded towards as she bathed in silence.
She saw him coming when he had made half the crossing.
His head alone above the water's shimmering surface.
He smiled at her. She gave a startled cry and fled
Into the bushes near the bank. He came across.
She watched in silence as his body came in view.
More sinewy than any other man she seen,
His body seemed to gleam in the fading evening light.
His face was hard and shaven, and his short hair golden.
She trembled for he was a being of godly beauty.
He gazed about the other bank, but could not see her.
He sighed and entered the water again to bathe himself.
She could not see him now, and so she raised her head,
And then he saw her and he stared upon her face.
She froze with terror and longing, shuddering, trembling.
He gazed upon her as he rose up on the bank.
His eyes lit up. His member rose up like a spear.
She gave a cry as he seized her naked, mortal flesh,
And entered her and broke her veil of Katakas.
She cried and shook. A thousand voices shouted in her.
Then he was still and looked into her frightened eyes.
He stroked her hair and washed the blood off from her loins.
His hard hands now caressed her and she cried again.
He stayed with her long after Zaal had left the sky,
Then waded softly back across the river Fluh.
She put her gown on and she walked back to her village.
For seven evenings, Klaxos met her where she bathed,
And was her lover and she longed to take him home,
And bind him with some spell or sacred rite of Alya
So that he would remain with her as lord and husband,
But on the eighth day, when she ventured to the river
He did not come. She waited till Zaal donned his robes.
Nor on the ninth, or the tenth day after the god had met her,
Nor on the eleventh or the twelfth did Klaxos come.
She cried a thousand bitter tears, for he had left her.
Then nine moons later, a child sprang from her anguished loins.
Her father and her mother and their brothers and sisters,
Her father's father and her father's mother and
Her mother's father and her mother's mother helped
Her raise the child. The boy was strong and beautiful
And glowed with health and vigor as he grew to youth.
But when the boy had lived for seven summers' time,
The rains grew hard, and the Fluh rose over his loamy banks.
The village was flooded and the family fled the forest
To settle on the plains where they might till the earth.
But there were terrible dangers on the open steppes:
Lions and jackals could eat a man who strayed too far
From the safety of the hearth-fires of the village.
And wicked men were there. They roamed like packs of wolves
With arms and some in armor. Some were mounted
On horse-back and they'd steal grain and goats and sheep.
The family kept a hidden chamber underground
Where they would store well over half their harvest-grain,
So that when bandits came to rob them of their harvest,
The family would have enough to eat and live.
The boy who one day would be known as Mishnikar,
Hated these wicked men with all his fierce, bold heart.
He saw them beat his mother's father's father to death.
He saw them carry off a girl that was his neighbor.
He watched as they stole grain from their field at harvest-time.
When he had reached the youthful age of ten and three
He made a bow of yew-wood from the nearby forest,
And hammered arrow-heads from sharp and jagged rocks,
And practiced every day his skills at archery.
And when he heard the watch-drums tap the bandit-rhythm,
He walked out to the edge of the village with bow and arrows,
And waited as the bandits closed upon the village.
He crouched unseen among the grasses of the steppes,
A cunning little lion, patient, fierce, and deadly.
If they were less than five in number, he fired at them
And pierced them in their chests or in their wicked throats.
He took their arms and armor and he kept them hidden.
One night, when he had reached the age of ten and four,
He had a dream, a great and wondrous omen-dream.
He saw a place where great stone huts rose from a tangle
Of weeds and grasses, and he roamed through stony gardens.
The river Fluh ran there, and there were four hills also,
And on the highest rose a giant white-stone dwelling
Like none he had encountered in his youthful life.
The place was strangely beautiful and beckoned him.
In summer when Agazi brought new fire to Zaal,
The village men took the fierce, bold youth on hunting treks.
They hunted for gazelle on the open grassy steppes,
And in the forests hunted deer and wild boar.
The lad could bring down geese and ducks with bow and arrows.
The villagers were amazed at how the fierce-eyed boy
Could wield a spear as if it were his teeth and talons.
Alone he could dispatch a strong and fierce-tusked boar.
The lions on the plain would not approach the boy
Or if they would approach, they would not strike at him,
For they could sense a lion's heart beat in his breast.
Young Mishnikar feared nothing that moved in the wilderness.
The men he saw with sword and shield, he did not fear.
But when the village girls approached him with their laughter
And hungry looks, he was afraid and fled from them,
For they were strange and magic seemed to flow from them.
Only the magic of his mother could guard his spirit
From the spells of these elven and mysterious creatures.
When Mudah led the tillers of the earth to harvest,
The bandits came and watch-drums beat the bandit-rhythm.
The fierce, bold lad slew nine of them that harvest season.
The harvest season after, he slew ten and two
The harvest season after this, fell ten and four.
And then one day, he heard the watch-drum's cry of bandits.
He walked out to the edge of the village with bow and arrows,
And waited for the bandits to close upon the village.
He crouched unseen among the grasses of the steppes,
A cunning little lion, patient, fierce, and deadly.
A warrior approached on foot. His iron helm
Was open to the air. A scarlet plume of feathers
Rose from it in a band much like a cock's red comb.
His armored body trailed a cloak of bloody scarlet.
His right hand clutched a spear, his left a rounded shield.
He strode towards the village, for his throat was dry
And his limbs were tired from fighting wild-men on the plains.
The fierce, bold boy let three stone-headed arrows fly.
The first two dashed to pieces on the stranger's armor.
The third had found his throat. The warrior pulled it out
And shouted in a thunderous rage for this was painful.
He rushed towards the grasses where the boy was crouching,
But the boy in stealth had found another place of hiding,
And two more arrows flew. One struck the stranger's shield.
Another arrow shattered upon his iron helm.
In fury, the warrior roared and charged to where the boy
Had hidden himself, but Mishnikar had crept away.
He dropped his bow and took his hunting spear in hand.
A cunning little lion, he crept behind the warrior,
But the stranger turned, and struck him with his shield,
So that he fell. The stranger wrenched his spear from him,
And placed the point of his own spear at the lad's young throat.
The warrior shouted wordless curses at the boy.
The boy looked up with hatred in his fierce, young eyes.
But soon the stranger eyes grew wide. He gave a gasp.
The face of the boy he saw was like his own hard face.
No, there was no mistaking it, this boy was kin!
Young Mishnikar looked at bold Klaxos in confusion,
And Klaxos, Bearer of the Spear, now understood.
This boy was his. One of his lovers had borne a son.
And so he released him, but the boy sprang to his feet.
And grasped the spear that Klaxos had snatched away from him,
And with a shout charged at him. Klaxos was astonished.
They battled on the plains. Some villagers had seen,
And watched in awe as Mishnikar faced down the god.
Klaxos laughed as he parried the thrusts of Mishnikar,
And jabbed the boy a couple times to honor his courage.
The fierce, bold lad began to tire. His limbs were heavy,
And Klaxos knocked his blows away with greater ease.
The boy's mother ran towards the combatants,
Then gave a cry for she recognized the armored man.
Then, Klaxos saw her and the boy impaled his arm.
In fearful pain, the god now kicked the boy away,
And pulled the spear out of his arm and broke it in half.
The mother of Mishnikar now ran towards her son,
And placed herself between the boy and the warrior.
She looked upon the god with hatred in her eyes,
And Klaxos looked down at his arm and nursed his wound.
He could not look at the hatred in the woman's eyes.
He could not tell the boy, their son, he was his father
Because the gifts of Noumenos were lost to him.
He gathered up his spear and shield as night was falling
And like wounded lion crept off into the steppes.
When winter fell, and Ikthu came into the valley.
Three demons came across the plain to find the boy.
They were like men with tiger's heads and had three arms.
With outer arms they wielded iron scimitars.
The inner arm held out a shield which bore a face
So terrible that all who saw it would go mad.
They came towards the village, and the watch-drums sounded.
The boy then saw them, and he sought the hidden weapons
He'd taken from the bandits, and he took a shield
And scimitar in hand, a bow and iron-tipped arrows
He slung over his shoulder and he went to meet them.
He hid among the grasses as they neared the village.
The demons seemed to know were he was hidden.
They turned toward him raising their iron scimitars,
But as the demons nearly came in arrow-shot.
The sound of a horn was heard. He saw the warrior
He'd fought at harvest-time riding out of the plains.
A battle-chariot with blades upon its wheels
And drawn by two black horses rode toward the demons.
The demons saw him and they turned to flee Bold Klaxos.
But the chariot out-ran them and he overtook them.
The Bearer of the Spear rained iron-tipped arrows upon them.
He rode them down and skewered them with iron-tipped spears.
He took their monstrous shields and deadly scimitars
And left their corpses for the buzzards of the plain.
The boy emerged from hiding and looked on the Helmed One.
Klaxos raised waved his spear on high to greet his son,
Then rode off into the plains leaving a plume of dust.
For days the boy sat watching the scene in waking dreams.
He went into the plains and saw the demon corpses.
He saw the ruts left by the war-god's chariot.
He wished that he could tell his mother of these things,
And of the dreams he had about the stone-hut place
And the white-stone dwelling on the hill surrounded by stakes.
But no, alas, he could not tell his mother these things
For the gifts of Noumenos were never known to him.
Young Mishnikar took up a warrior's spear and shield,
And brought with him a bow and quiver of iron-tipped arrows.
He kissed his mother on the night before he left.
He set off at the break of dawn to follow the ruts
Left by the war-god's chariot. He somehow knew
That he should find this warrior who slew the demons.
He walked for five days through the plains and river valley,
His sharp eyes followed the faint ruts of the chariot,
And hoof-prints left by the two great black war-horses.
He foraged and hunted in the plains and in the forests.
The jackals and hyenas that sought out his catches
He fought off or he lit a fire to hold at bay.
He slept under the Ulidae, the daughters of Nim
And Ula, stars that flickered in the dark of night.
When morning came on the sixth day of his lonely journey,
He crossed a hill and in amazement stared beyond.
It was the place! The stone-hut place he saw in dreams!
He ceased to follow the chariot tracks and wandered the city.
The empty streets he saw though he knew not what purpose
They served. He saw the many wood and stone-brick houses.
The weeds had overgrown them, and they were deserted.
He felt a sadness which he could not understand.
He walked a road into the empty market-place:
So strange to him, it was a plain made out of stones.
He entered buildings, marvelled at the furnishings
That still remained although the best that was was gone.
He came upon the skeletons of murdered men,
And here and there remains of children left behind.
He shuddered and he longed to flee the corpse of Rakshish.
But from the market-place he looked up at the hill.
He saw the palisade. He saw the white-stone dwelling!
He knew at once, this was the place where he must go.
It was the place that made him happy in his dreams.
With fire in his blood and pounding in his heart,
He walked the road that wound around the hill's steep slope.
He came upon the palisade, and saw a gate:
A double wooden gate, and he heard footfalls stir.
Two warriors with bows stood over the palisade,
And eyed the boy with as if he were a thief or foe-man.
He neared the closed gates, but the warriors gave a cry.
They nocked an arrow each, and trained their bows on him.
Young Mishnikar then froze, not knowing what to do.
A third man then appeared atop the palisade.
He blew a horn. He turned his back and made a signal.
The boy stood silent looking at the warriors.
He waited. After a time, the two gates opened inward,
And a warrior strode out whose face and dress he knew.
It was the stranger he had fought three moon ago,
The one who slew the demons on the open plains.
Klaxos smiled and nodded at his hardy son.
He turned and gave a signal to the warriors
Upon the palisade. They turned and left their stations.
Mishnikar decided, then, he liked the stranger
Who came to him and clapped his arm upon his own.
Then Klaxos led him through the gates into the square,
The Priest-King's square where the Priest-King's handsome palace lay,
Like the rest of the city overgrown with climbing weeds,
And the columned temple rose like the dawn from a dismal night.
He saw and heard three children playing hide-and-hunt,
Running in and out of the doorways of the palace.
Two women sat and watched them from a bench on the square
While sewing and sometimes humming wordless melodies.
Father and son ascended the steps to the house of Alya.
The worship hall was vast and brightly lit with lamps.
The air was warm and smoky from the coals that burned
From braziers sitting on the floor or up on stands,
And cloaks and skins were spread out on the floor around them,
On one of these a woman sat with two sick children,
A warrior lay on another sipping a jug of broth.
His spear lay at his side and his shield and hunting knife,
And also a half-skinned rabbit waiting to be roasted.
Two women were cutting vegetables and boiling them
In pots of water they held above the brazier coals.
In an aisle, five children huddled around a ring of chalk
Drawn on the floor and played Flick-Flack and Thump-the-Rogue.
The son of Klaxos watched them flick their little stones,
And they in turn looked up and stared at Mishnikar.
Four other children came in carrying pails of water.
In the far end of the chamber on a carpeted dais,
A marble statue of the goddess solemnly stood.
She held a spear in her right hand, in her left a myrtle.
A woman in white robes, much older than his mother,
A priestess of the goddess who maintained the temple,
Heard them and she entered from another door.
Klaxos waved to her, and so she greeted them.
Then Klaxos pointed to his mouth, then held his belly.
He pointed to the boy and the woman understood.
They followed her into a smaller corridor
Cooler than the worship hall and dimly lit.
They entered on a room with a giant dining table.
The woman left them and they sat and Mishnikar stared
At all the strange and fine things that were in the room.
Then, after a time, another woman came with food:
A plate of fruits, a loaf of white-flour bread, a jug
Of wine, a wholesome wheel of white, wax-coated cheese.
Mishnikar was hungry for he had not eaten
Since the morning of the day before. His belly called him,
But his eyes stared upon the woman who had served them.
She wore a white robe of a priestess of Alya,
Her hair was black and coarse and fell about her back.
Her face was fine of feature and her eyes dark brown.
Her bearing and her looks said she was older than him,
And older than the village girls that he remembered.
She was a woman, like his mother, only younger,
But what most drew the startled eyes of Mishnikar
Was how her skin was the color of fertile river earth.
She saw him stare at her and smiled a subtle smile.
She went into another room, but reappeared.
He gazed at her when she returned. He knew not why.
He watched her dark hands with their long and nimble fingers
As she laid down two goblets for the thirsting men,
And folded pieces of cloth to clean their hands and mouths.
He watched the way she walked, her veiled and quiet grace,
And Klaxos saw and smiled and when the woman left,
Let out a laugh and clapped the youth upon the shoulder.
They ate in silence, then the war-god led him out.
In waking dreams, he felt her dark eyes fall upon him.
He felt a fear, not like a fear of pain or death.
It was the fear we call the Omen of Alya,
Or the Wordless Song of Strange-Love-Fear sometimes,
But the bold, fierce youth believed it was dark sorcery,
And was afraid, for his mother could not protect him there.
Then Klaxos led young Mishnikar down corridors
Until they came upon a door that opened inward
Into a room whose splendor dazzled the youthful hero.
Afraid to enter, he waited as the war-god entered,
And Klaxos beckoned him to follow into the chamber.
It was a place of magic and of riches strange.
The rugs and hangings on the wall shone sapphire blue;
Their lace and patterns seized his eyes and made him wonder.
Three globes of magic white light lit the chamber brightly.
And tapestries and paintings hung in shallow alcoves,
And under or over these hung spears or swords or shields
Of finest polished iron bejeweled with emeralds and sapphires.
A wooden table carved with lion and serpent patterns
And covered with a rich and airy blue damask.
Stood in the center of the room, surrounded by chairs
Of black wood with high backs and arms and bright blue cushions.
There were couches of blue velvet, marble pedestals
Where vases perched containing flowers or greenery,
Or marble busts whose faces the hero didn't know.
A mirror as tall a man was set into one wall.
The youthful hero was like a traveller in distant lands
Who cannot name or understand the things he sees.
A woman sat at the table in a high-backed chair,
Robed in white. Her golden hair flowed over her shoulders.
Her eyes were sapphire blue and she wore a sapphire gem
Over her brow attached by a slender golden chain
She wore around her forehead. She was beautiful,
As beautiful as a goddess, for a goddess she was.
Her pale and slender hand put down a silver goblet.
Her lips were red with wine; she dabbed them with a cloth,
And turned her eyes to Klaxos and to Mishnikar.
The youthful hero met her blue eyes with his own.
Her beauty dazzled him as the room had dazzled him,
But it was cold and etched with sorrow like her gaze.
He feared her less than he feared the laughing village girls
Or the dark-skinned woman who had brought him food and drink.
There was something he recognized within her looks and gestures.
She looked at him like as though she were admiring a painting,
Then Alya smiled and rose for she had understood.
Then Klaxos and the youthful hero went to her.
The war-god kissed his mother on her pallid cheek,
And she returned his kiss in kind, then turned to the youth,
Looked on his face, then on her son's, and then again
On Mishnikar's and then she smiled and her eyes were bright.
She rang a silver bell and bid them sit with her.
A girl with solemn eyes and ragged tunic came,
And Alya pointed at the silver vessel of wine,
Then at her goblet, then her guests. The girl left
And brought two goblets for the men and filled them up.
They sat in silence looking at each others' faces,
And sorrow crept again into the eyes of the goddess.
She rose and beckoned Mishnikar to follow her.
She led him to an alcove which contained a painting,
And bid him to look on it with his sharp young eyes.
It was the face of a man with a grey and braided beard.
His eyes were like the Ulidae, like burning stars.
It was a fine, proud face and shone with boundless wisdom.
The boy looked at it quietly. Then Alya
Turned to him with tearful eyes, and pointed to it,
Then clutched her bosom with her hands, and cried aloud.
Then Mishnikar was frightened and he backed away.
He did not understand. The goddess looked at him,
Then shook her head, then pointed at her husband's painting,
Then at herself, then back again, then to herself,
And then she joined her hands together to show the union
Of Alya with Noumenos, but he seemed puzzled.
She kissed the painting, walked to one of the marble busts
Whose face was the same and kissed it, and she clasped her bosom.
She lifted the bust from the pedestal so that its gaze
Met hers. She looked at it. She held it at her side,
And walked with it awhile, then placed it on a chair
At the table and she made the motions of giving it drink.
She sat beside the bust and touched its stony hair
And whispered wordlessly into its cold, dead ear.
And Mishnikar looked on her as if she were mad.
Then Alya, rose and looked at Mishnikar, and saw
He looked on her as one looks on a crazy man.
Then Alya turned away, her features burning with anger.
The hero stood bewildered looking at the goddess,
Her back turned to him, head held in her trembling hands.
Then, Klaxos came and took him gently by the arm,
And led him out of Alya's splendid sitting room,
And shut the door behind them, and behind the door
The goddess gave a cry that was the cry of a woman
Whose husband was a simpleton and could not do
A thing she asked, and brought misfortune on the household.
Her hope were ashes, for the boy seemed bright as an ox.
Young Mishnikar was frightened and he felt like running
Away from the temple, away from the ruined city of Rakshish.
But Klaxos stood with him in silence and patted his shoulder.
They fetched some apples from the pantry of the temple,
And walked outside and roamed about the Priest-King's square.
They looked out over the palisades into the city.
Then evening came, and Zaal departed Shishah's realm.
A woman approached them wearing the white robe of a priestess,
And Klaxos nodded to her. Mishnikar was afraid.
It was the dark-skinned priestess. Now, her magic seized him
And made his heart pound, froze him like a startled fawn.
She beckoned him to follow her, and Klaxos nodded.
She saw the fear of Mishnikar and smiled on him
The way a mother smiles to reassure her son.
He took his hand and led him back into the temple.
Her hand was soft, but stern, the way his mother's was.
He struggled with his fear as she led him to a chamber
Across from the room where he met the sad and crazy woman.
It was a smaller room containing a marble basin.
A light steam rose from the water and fragrant oils within.
Two pails of water sat at the edge of the temple bath,
One full of hot, the other full of tepid water.
And then the priestess bid the fierce boy to undress,
But Mishnikar refused. She looked upon him sternly,
And then she took his tunic from his dirty body,
And he did not resist her. Then she placed his finger
Into the bath. He found the water was too hot.
She poured some of the cooler water into the bath,
And then he tested it and found it not too hot.
He stepped in gladly, for it hid his nakedness.
The water was warm and had a sweet and pleasant scent,
And Mishnikar was pleased for he had never bathed
In heated water. He had always bathed in streams.
And then the priestess bathed the wild and youthful hero.
His mother had bathed him when he was a younger boy,
But Mishnikar now felt his fear return to him.
Her hands were firm, but they were soft and dark and graceful,
And where they touched his body, the flames of Agazi crept
Over his skin, and when she bathed his thighs and groin,
His member rose up like a spear. He could not see
The way she blushed, embarrassed, to see his wand of Tabo
Arise for her, the one entrusted with his care.
The youthful Mishnikar was frightened and embarrassed.
Her magic stole upon him and transformed his body,
And yet he liked the way his skin felt where she touched him,
The scent of her hair, the scent of flowers on her body,
The way she walked, her solemn eyes, her soft, full lips,
And how the richness of the sacred river valley
Appeared to him in the warm earth color of her skin.
The dark-skinned priestess finished bathing Mishnikar.
One day, she'd have a name, the name of Radasafi.
From far across the desert, her mother and father had come,
To settle in our noble city and to prosper,
But when cruel Ikthu stole the Father of Words from us,
Her father and mother fled to the house of Alya.
And she was born there, though her father went to Morta
Five season-cycles ago, and her mother died last winter.
She had no name, as the youthful hero had no name,
For the Giver of Names was gone, imprisoned in the kingdom,
Of Ikthu, Spirit of the Night, entombed inside
A mountain of ice which neither god nor man could reach.
The goddess saw the girl was beautiful and wise,
And gave her the white robes of a priestess, taught her rites
Of service to the temple, and she taught the arts,
The secret arts of love and pleasure and of healing.
Yet she was quiet and solemn and not full of pride.
The hard years forced the priests to cook and clean and sew
And gather food, fetch water and coals, the tasks of servants,
And Radasafi faithfully performed these duties
Without a wounded pride, without rebellious heart,
But with calm grace and strength, like a tower which stands
Against a horde of chariots and armored foes.
Thus, Radasafi bid the youthful hero rise
Out of the bath, and she dried his wet and naked body
With a plush, thick cloth, and he blushed at his nakedness
And how his wand of Tabo rose up like a spear.
He met her gaze and saw her blush and lower her eyes,
But still she finished drying him and then she brought
A clean, new scarlet tunic and linen undergarments
Which Mishnikar put on. She led him to his room:
A tidy place with a bear-skin on the cool stone floor,
And a small, neat bed with wooden stands beside its head.
There were two stools which sat within the empty corners.
She lit a candle from a torch out in the hall,
Then lit another and placed both candles by his bed.
And then she left and quietly shut the door behind her.
So ended Mishnikar's first day within the temple.
At once he wanted and didn't want to flee the city.
He was like a giant with two heads that always argued.
He was helpless against the magic of the dark-skinned woman.
He trembled as he felt her touch in waking dreams.
He lay in bed, and did the thing he liked to do
When he was alone and no-one would look in on him.
Somehow his waking dreams of her aroused his urge
To do this thing far longer, and the pleasure he felt
From doing the thing was even greater than before.
When he was finished, he snuffed the candles and tried to sleep,
But waking dreams returned to haunt him, dreams of the others
He met that day, the warrior, the crazy woman.
He liked the red-plumed warrior, but was afraid
Of the crazy woman who kissed stone heads and carried them round,
And yet he felt a sadness for her in his heart,
And hoped she would not suffer or be full of anger.
He saw her sad blue eyes as sleep enfolded him.
Then in his dreams he saw the woman with the man
Whose beard was grey and braided and whose eyes were stars.
They walked together and kissed and held each others' hands.
They sat down at on a stone and looked upon each other
And made strange sounds to one another which Mishnikar,
Born after Ikthu's capture of the Giver of Names
Knew not as words. He could not know that they were speaking.
A boy with short and golden hair romped in the clearing,
Roaring like a little lion, with spear and bow,
And the woman looked upon him with a mother's smile,
But the man who sat beside her seemed annoyed with him.
She rose and, like a she-lion, chased the boy around.
The man sat watching and then he smiled and faintly laughed.
When morning came, the youth was shaken from light sleep.
He saw the face of the boy with short blonde hair, but older
Look down on him and smile at him. Thus, Klaxos smiled,
And Mishnikar then understood he was the son
Of the beautiful but crazy woman he had met
Within the dazzling blue-room where the pictures were,
And the bearded man! Ah, yes! The man with braided beard.
He was her mate, and father to the warrior,
But strangely, son did not resemble father much.
He wondered who his father was. He'd never met him.
He rose and Klaxos led him out to practice fighting.
Out in the Priest-King's square the Bearer of the Spear
And Mishinkar were battling with wooden staves
The length of scimitars and Klaxos showed the boy
How he let down his guard too much. He whacked the lad,
And when he fell, then Klaxos looked upon him sternly,
Then drew his scimitar, and touched the place he struck
With the flat of the blade, and then he took his wooden staff,
And struck it with the edge and cut the staff in two.
The boy looked at the blade and Klaxos nodded gravely,
Then sheathed it and they fetched another wooden staff,
And Klaxos taught the boy to guard the air around him.
Then father and son ate in the temple dining hall,
And Radasafi served them lamb with rice and curry
And red wine. Then they went to the bright blue room.
The goddess greeted them. She seemed less sorrow-haunted.
She led the youth around the room and to the alcoves.
She pointed to the tapestries and Mishnikar looked,
His eyes were full of wonder as he sought their meaning.
There was a dragon which a hunter slew with arrows.
There was a strange box and a man stood over it
With something in his hand. There was a little boat
Which stood on water, and serpents lay within the water.
Another had the same small boat, but near a cave.
There was a picture of a chamber with four tunnels
Leading out. There was an object like the object
The man held in another picture. It was woven
On black cloth like the moon that shone within the night.
There was a picture of a mountain and a man
Stood in the mountain with a staff. Another man
Stood facing the mountain and glowed with fire like the sun.
The strange box lay beside him, opened. Mishnikar
Looked on these things with questions in his youthful eyes,
And Alya watched his face to read his understanding.
She rang a bell and a girl came with milk and dainties:
Small morsels of baked bread filled with cream or filled with honey
And topped with berries Mishnikar had never seen.
She smiled as Mishnikar delighted in their sweetness.
Then off to battle the youthful hero went again
With Klaxos, and they fought with wooden staves again,
And Mishnikar defended the air around him better,
And Klaxos let him land a blow upon his chest,
Pretended to fall and die, and then he nodded
And smiled at the boy, for he was learning well.
They went into the dining hall and lightly ate,
Then Klaxos left his son to roam about the temple.
He went into the worship chamber and saw the women
And children as they huddled around the heated coals.
He saw the girl who brought the milk and tasty bread-foods
Into the blue-room where he sat with the god and goddess.
He noticed an older woman sitting by a fire
Whose skin was like the earthy skin of Radasafi.
And then he felt the magic of the dark-skinned priestess
Hammer his heart the way a watchman hammers a drum
But for a moment. Then he looked about the chamber
And gazed upon the statue of the goddess of love.
He saw the face of the woman from the bright blue room.
The boys looked at young Mishnikar and seemed afraid,
For he was tall and strong and wore a scarlet tunic.
They bowed to him as if he were the son of a lord.
They knew at first glance that he was the son of Klaxos.
Three of the warriors greeted him with solemn nods.
He left the worship chamber and he frowned to himself.
The halls were dim and lonely as he wandered there.
He saw a priest in white robes bearing a pail of water.
He had a fine brown beard and calm, proud features.
He greeted Mishnikar and smiled in passing him.
Then Mishnikar explored the temple, entered rooms,
Although he did not enter those whose doors were closed.
However, when he came upon the blue-room's door,
He paused to listen at the door for sounds within,
And hearing nothing, quietly slipped into the room.
The woman was sitting at the table quietly.
He gave a startled gasp, and backed away to leave.
But she raised her eyes and looked into his eyes and smiled.
Her hair was loose. She wore a simple blue silk gown.
She motioned him to sit and saw that there before her
Spread out upon the table was a piece of sheepskin,
And she was drawing on it with a quill and inks.
It was a picture of a sunrise over the sea.
She looked at him, then suddenly rose and fetched a fresh skin.
She looked at him intently and began to draw,
And when he moved she bade him gently to sit still.
She smiled as his face took shape upon the skin,
And then the dark-skinned priestess entered the sitting room,
So silently that Mishnikar's sharp ears heard nothing,
And Mishnikar saw nothing for his gaze was fixed
Where Alya directed it to catch the light.
And when the goddess finished drawing Mishnikar,
She beamed and showed the youth his face upon the sheepskin,
And then he rose and Mishnikar saw Radasafi
Looking at them quietly and then he blushed,
But Alya did not guess the reason for his blush.
She led him to the mirror and she bid him look,
And then she held his picture by the mirror's image.
Then Mishnikar let out a gasp, for she had made
A part of him the way a man might make a chair
Or a spear or build a house. She made him with her quill.
And thus it was that Mishnikar began to know
That the woman in the blue-room was a mighty goddess.
He stared in spirit-wonder at her image of him,
And then at her who made him with her quill and inks,
And then she laughed. Her laugh was cool and musical.
She kissed him lightly on the cheek and motioned him
To go with Radasafi and the youth obeyed.
The priestess led him to his room and lit a candle
From a torch out in the hall, and lit a second with it,
And then she placed the candles round the head of his bed.
The youth was lost in waking dreams. He saw his image,
The image Alya made of him inside the blue-room
With quill and inks, and then the eyes of Radasafi
Looked upon him like the calm eyes of a ewe,
And Mishnikar was shaken from his waking dreams,
But then she left and quietly shut the door behind her.
That night the hero Mishnikar dreamed magic dreams.
He saw a great skin in the darkness of the night.
And hands of gods drew grass and mountains on the skin,
And blue ink formed the waters and the gods drew birds
And beasts and men upon the sacred skin of the world.
He wanted to see the faces of the drawing gods,
To see if they were smiling or were frowning at him.
To see if they were kindly or were stormy-hearted.
But though he looked with sharp eyes on the skin of the world,
He could not see the faces of the drawing gods.
He woke before the Bearer of the Spear arrived
To lead him out to teach him in the fighting arts.
The dream had stirred him, but he had forgotten it.
He struggled in vain to bring it to his waking dreams.
Then Klaxos came and they went into the square outside.
For days the Bearer of the Spear trained Mishnikar
In fighting with a scimitar, and soon he gave
His son a shield and he taught the fierce, bold boy
To fight with scimitar in right hand, shield in left,
And Alya showed him drawings of the lay of lands
And of the city, and she played a game with him
Where she would point to a place upon a picture of walls
And chambers in the Priest-King's vacant, weed-strewn palace.
And he would find that place within the palace there,
And fetch an apple or a gold coin from that place
And bring it back to her and she would beam and kiss him
Upon the cheek for he was clever as a kitten.
On every seventh night, the ewe-eyed Radasafi
Would bathe him and she blushed for his wand of Tabo rose,
And Mishnikar would feel her hands in waking dreams
And when he did the thing he liked to do alone,
He saw her and he felt her touch him with her hands,
Her magic hands with fingers dark and soft and graceful,
And in the moments after, Mishnikar was afraid.
Her magic haunted him with visions and strange longings.
She looked at him with eyes as guileless as a ewe's,
But when he was alone within his little room
Or roaming during the evenings through the dim-lit halls
Or even in the shadows of the Priest-King's palace
Where he would go to fetch gold coins or ripe green apples
And bring them to the goddess who dwelled in the temple,
She came upon him like a spirit of the night
He closed his eyes and saw her silently approaching.
She took him by the hand and led him to a brook,
And then she told his clothes from him and touched his body.
His heart beat like a watch-drum and his loins cried out
And then he died and she would drink his spirit-breath.
But when he saw her standing or walking in the temple,
Or when she led him to his room and closed the door,
She did not lead him to the brook of pleasure-death,
Nor did she touch him except upon the seventh nights
When she would bathe him, and he felt a hurt inside,
And wanted her to take him to the brook and end
His pain forever, take him, drink his spirit-breath.
But when he fought with Klaxos or was in the chamber
Of she who drew him with her quill and magic inks,
He was protected from these frightening waking dreams.
When Zhiva came with flower-wand into the valley,
The Queen of Love seemed gladder and the temple dwellers
Seemed gayer, and the warriors went into the forests
And hunted stags, and women gathered fruits and herbs.
There was a spring-time feast in the temple dining hall.
The women and the children and the warriors
Who camped inside the worship chamber of the temple,
The elder priestess, and the dark-skinned Radasafi,
The priest with the fine brown beard, the Bearer of the Spear,
And Mishnikar dressed in a yellow linen tunic
Sat down and ate of venison in spicy sauces,
And wine and milk flowed into every person's cup,
And baked-bread dainties and honeyed bread were eaten aplenty.
The goddess herself appeared in white, crowned with a wreath
Of laurels and she wore an emerald on her broach,
And emeralds dangled from her ears on small gold chains.
Then Radasafi raised a lyre and played upon it,
And Mishnikar stared spellbound as she plucked the strings
With soft and somehow patient grace her fingers drew
Sweet sounds such as the youthful hero never heard
Among the villagers who dwelled out on the plains,
And Alya sang, her voice like a clear, cool mountain spring,
In tune with Radasafi's lyre. The hero listened.
The sounds were bright and a fit for spring and feasting.
The goddess seemed to shed to burden of her sorrows.
The children played, and all were free to rest and revel,
And Klaxos drank his fill of wine and all the warriors
Drank their shares of wine and in the worship chamber,
They coupled with the women, both the young and old.
But Mishnikar sat in the dining hall and listened.
The goddess and the dark-skinned Radasafi stayed
And played and sang, for they saw him wonder at their music.
And when they paused the youth approached the priestess shyly
And bid her let him pluck the strings her hands had plucked.
She smiled at him and handed him her instrument.
Her smile made him flush and then the goddess saw
And then she watched the boy with sharp and stealthy eye
While seeming lost in waking dreams and in the taste
Of wine and venison. The hero plucked the strings
First timidly as if they were like snakes or scorpions.
He listened to the sound each time he plucked a string.
And then he ran his fingers across all of the strings
And heard a shimmering sound. He did this thrice times more,
And looked at Radasafi and she smiled at him.
Then with a finger she plucked three different strings in order,
And Mishnikar then plucked these same three strings in order,
And the same sounds came out from the strings. He heard and marveled.
He plucked some strings in sequence and he played the sequence
Of notes again and yet again and then the goddess
Broke her silence with a laugh and started clapping
In time with the rhythm of the hero's little tune,
And Radasafi smiled and she slightly blushed,
For the boy was clever as a kitten and made a tune
That was quite charming though he played it like a child
Would beat a toy drum. Mishnikar then saw her blush
And stopped. His heart rose in him like the blood of Uthulos,
And then she lowered her eyes and gently took her lyre
From Mishnikar, and looked at it as if to inspect it.
She put it to her ear and played each string and listened,
As if to listen to whether each string was still in tune.
The boy looked at her knowing not was she was doing,
But Alya saw her breaths were short and fell at long pauses.
The priestess quietly took her leave of hero and goddess,
And Alya looked at Mishnikar with a subtle smile
And read his passions like a wise man reads a scroll.
She saw the longing and the sorrows in his eyes,
And so she led him to the blue-room and she showed him
Another drawing that he had not seen before.
It was a picture of himself in armor and helm.
He looked like the warrior, and wore a scarlet cloak and plume.
He stood quite tall and proud, and the sun shone over his head.
He held a shield in his left hand and his right hand grasped
A spear with a dragon's head impaled upon its point.
He saw this and he gasped and he felt tall and proud,
And the goddess turned to him like mother to her son,
And smiled and nodded, and she hung her fine new drawing
Inside one of the alcoves, and she went to another
Where the tapestry of the dragon slain with arrows hung.
She pointed at this sharply and then she pointed at him,
And then she came to him and took him by the arm.
And bid him look again upon the tapestries.
And then she smiled and motioned him take his leave.
He left the sitting room and walked back to his quarters,
And sat up his bed and fell to waking dreams.
A spirit-wonder haunted him for she had made him
A mighty warrior and he slew a fearsome dragon
With arrows and had cut its wicked, monstrous head
Off from its body and mounted it atop a spear.
He hadn't done these things, but she had made him doing
These things. He felt a godly pride for she had made him
A warrior who rose above the deeds of men.
He knew he'd one day do this thing that she had shown him,
And he would walk with the sun high over his head and shining
Upon his helm and armor, and she would be proud,
And the warrior-teacher would look upon him and be proud.
Soon after, the war-god gave the boy a scimitar
Of iron with a ruby mounted on its hilt.
Its edge was sharp and cut his fingers easily.
He kept it sheathed within his room, and Klaxos gave
The boy a shield like the one he'd seen in Alya's drawing.
He kept this in his room. They fought with duller blades
And ugly wooden shields which split from their thunderous fighting.
The boy defended the air around him well and learned
To find the spaces warriors defended poorly.
The war-god fired blunted arrows at his son,
So that he'd learn to dodge them or block them with his shield,
Then close upon an archer and fight him with his blade.
And Alya with the son of her son would venture forth
Into the ruined city with a map in hand.
She pointed to places on the map, and then he led her
To where they were. She smiled at the youthful hero.
She tried to show him what the people had done there
Within the places where he led her, but the youth
Would rarely understand the meaning of her motions,
And she sadly wished that she could simply tell the boy
About the wonders of the city that once were there
Before the demon Ikthu took wise Noumenos.
But she had lost the speaking-gift as others had.
When seven nights had passed since the hero last was bathed
By Radasafi, by her soft and graceful hands,
She came to him in the evening as he practiced his skills
Of archery out in the Priest-King's square and hunted
For birds that fluttered in the fading of the light.
She led him to his room to put away his bow
And quiver of arrows, and she led him to the bath,
And he undressed and stepped into the fragrant water,
And then she bathed him, and his wand of Tabo rose.
When Radasafi finished bathing Mishnikar,
He rose and then she dried him with the thick, plush cloth,
And when she met his gaze, she blushed and lowered her eyes,
But then she raised her eyes again and looked at him,
And Mishnikar longed for the lips of Radasafi
To steal hs spirit-breath and end his fear he felt.
She brought a scarlet tunic and clean undergarments
Which Mishnikar put on. She led him to his room:
And lit a candle from a torch out in the hall,
Then lit another and placed both candles by his bed.
And then she closed the door and went to Mishnikar
And took his hand and then she bid him to sit down
Upon his bed, and then she took her jeweled broach,
Unfastened it, and laid it on one of the stands.
She slowly took the white robes off and let them fall
Upon the floor. Her dark eyes looked at Mishnikar.
The hero felt the wild flames of Agazi creep
Into his limbs. He felt a fire within his loins.
She showed him all her nakedness and gazed at him
The way a ewe might gaze upon her new-born lamb.
Her breasts were like dark melons from the table of gods.
Her hair was like the dark veils of the Ulidae.
Her body was a temple to the Mother Goddess.
The scent of flowers wafted from her dusky skin.
He looked at her and trembled and his trembling grew.
He looked at her the way a startled fawn would look
Upon the hunter. He trembled but he could not flee.
But then she gently took his hand into her hands
And a solemn, stern look came into her dark brown eyes.
She bid him to undress and he obeyed, still trembling.
She touched him on his shoulders, on his neck and hair.
Her look was calm although her breaths were short and seldom.
He trembled and looked on her as one afraid.
She sat with him and let him look upon her body,
And held his hand until he ceased to shake with fear,
And then she led his hands to touch her soft dark breasts.
She bid him touch her body where dared to touch her,
And where he dared not, there she led his hands to touch.
She lay upon his bed. The youth gazed at her body
And touched her, faintly trembling, and his breath was heavy.
And Radasafi seemed to him like sacred soil
Within the river valley, like the Mother Goddess
In spring-time when the Blue-Faced Lord caressed his mate
With gentle breezes and she blossomed with many flowers.
He touched her, trembling, and his eyes grew wet and bleary.
He touched her softly like a tiller of the soil
Would run his hands adoring through the fertile earth
Which gave him sustenance through seasons glad and rueful.
She looked at him with eyes that glistened with hidden storms,
And as he touched her flesh, he felt her press her body
Against his hands. He felt a hammering in her heart,
And heard her breath grow deep and heavy in her breast,
And then she took his member deep inside her body
And clasped him to her in a hungry, fierce embrace.
They pressed together as lovers press their bodies together
And then he felt her shudder and her loins clasped his
And then he heard a sound that would forever haunt him--
He heard it again and again in sleep and waking dreams.
The first sound that he heard from silent Radasafi:
A cry rose from her throat as though he'd wounded her,
And it was low and long and dark and shuddering,
She pressed his haunches tightly to her, quivering
And grinding her haunches into his own like the stormy sea
Grinds at the rocks upon the shore, and then his loins
Cried out inside her and he moaned the way she moaned,
And then he looked upon her lips, so dark and full,
And yearned to offer up his spirit-breath to them.
He put his mouth to hers, and then their spirits passed
Between the portals of their lips, and they united,
Then each left part of itself within the other's body.
They lay together trembling in each other's arms,
But Radasafi wept. Her eyes were full of despair.
The hero did not understand, and was afraid
He'd hurt her, and he touched her gently on her cheek.
But then she bid him to withdraw from her embrace.
She wept and wept and wound her robes in haste around her,
And left him and he cried to her as she departed.
He longed to follow her, but did not want to hurt her.
He lay there naked and he wept and could not sleep.
He felt as though he were a wicked, horrible monster,
For he had liked the sound she made and how she felt,
The way his member pierced into her velvet flesh,
The way her spirit tasted, and the way she trembled
As his body had trembled when her magic frightened him.
When morning came and Klaxos, Bearer of the Spear,
Arrived to lead them out to practice skills of arms,
He saw the boy was tired and miserable and frowned,
But still they went into the Priest-King's square and fought,
But Mishnikar was tired and fought were bleary eyes
And was less careful. Klaxos ended the training early,
And led him to his room to nap, which Mishnikar did.
That day in the blue-room, Alya beamed at the youthful hero
And seemed unusually gay until she saw that he
Seemed tired and sorrowing, and then he saw him frown
And cast his eyes down when he saw her drawing of him.
She did not smile again that day and felt a hurt.
She bid him study the tapestries. He was obedient,
But everything seemed meaningless, just bits of cloth.
He longed to see her face, the face of Radasafi,
To see if he could make her smile at him again,
To see if she fled as if he were an awful monster
Or if she stayed and took his hand into her hands.
That night the dark-skinned priestess came upon the boy
In evening as he sat atop the palisade
And looked into the ruins of the empty city.
She looked at him. Her eyes were full of dark despair.
And then she lowered her eyes, and bid the hero to follow.
She led him to his room and turned to take her leave.
But Mishnikar still had the broach that she had left
Within his room. He stopped her and he gave it to her.
And she looked at him with tears within her dark brown eyes.
She took his hand and pressed the broach into his palm
And closed his fingers about it and he heard a sob.
She dropped his hand and turned and slipped out of his room
And quietly closed the door. He heard her softly weeping,
And Mishnikar looked at the broach with gathering tears.
He placed the broach beneath his pillow and lay down
And cried for she had fled from him and did not like him.
He slept a little that night and had a terrible dream.
He was in a place so dark, he could not see his hands,
And cold winds chilled his body and he heard strange sounds.
Wherever he turned the darkness seemed to follow him.
He shouted and stamped and struck out at the night,
But nothing he did could lift the deadly veil of darkness.
When morning came and Klaxos entered his little room,
He saw the boy was tired and miserable and frowned,
But still they went into the Priest-King's square and fought
With scimitar and shield and this time they fought long
Because the war-god knew that he should learn to fight
Not only when well-rested and in lofty spirits
But when the shroud of misery and weariness
Fell over him. The war-god cut him on the arm,
So that he would remember life was dear. The boy
Fought better that day and guarded the air around him better.
They ate a meal of rice and beef and vegetables
In the temple dining hall and Klaxos saw the looks
Exchanged by Mishnikar and the dark-skinned priestess there,
And guessed that some grave discord had passed between the two.
He patted the boy upon the shoulder and looked at him.
He wanted to tell him other women would seek him out
For he was the son of a god and tall, strong warrior,
But the gifts of Noumenos were lost to the god of war.
That day in the blue-room, Alya saw in her son's son's eyes
His terrible grief, and she took the boy within her arms
And he cried and then she cried and she kissed him on his forehead.
She bid him go and rest and gave him fresh-baked dainties.
The youthful hero left and then the goddess sat
In waking dreams, and then a fire of savage anger
Rose in her, for she knew who'd done this to the boy.
She sought out Radasafi and she seized her arm,
And led her to the dark wine-cellars of the temple,
Where she would turn the wicked girl into a viper
For using her sacred arts to wound the youthful hero.
But Radasafi kneeled before the angry goddess
And wept and clasped her knees and sobbed so mournfully
That Alya took pity and she lessened her sentence.
Thus Radasafi was forced to wear a veil and robe
Of coarse black wool which hid her beauty from all men
And told all who beheld her that she stood disgraced.
And she would wear this garb until the following spring.
That night the other priestess led the youthful hero
Into his room and set the candles by his bed:
The elder priestess who was born before the time
Of the terrible confusion, and she had a name.
Her name was Adirmin. Her face was fine though aged,
And there was grey among her smooth and neat brown locks.
On the seventh days, the elder priestess bathed the boy.
The hero noticed Radasafi was clad in black
And veiled so that he could not see most of her face.
He saw her eyes however, and they were full of sorrow.
He wondered why she wore the black robe and the veil,
And why she would not bathe him and look after him.
He felt a terrible pang of sorrow when he saw her.
He wanted to go to her and take her hand is his,
But when he would approach her, then she slipped away
And would not look at him. These moments wounded him
And made him want to flee the city and the temple
And run across the plains until he found his village.
He saw his mother sometimes in his waking dreams
And she was full of sorrows for she missed the boy
And did not know if he still lived or if a lion
Had taken and devoured him on the open plains.
But something made him stay within the house of Alya.
The goddess and her son, the Bearer of the Spear,
Seemed to like him and they taught hiim many things
He could not learn by hunting with the villagers.
The goddess drew him as a mighty warrior,
And so he knew that he must be a mighty warrior.
But all the same, his heart was sick and full of sorrows.
One day, not long before the coming of Agazi
To add fresh flames to the sun-god's glowing golden robes,
The war-god and his son were fighting in the square,
When the boy let down his guard, and the Bearer of the Spear
Was caught off guard and slashed the boy across the belly.
It was a deep wound and the war-god gave a cry,
And carried Mishnikar into the temple bath,
And covered his wound with a cloth and ran out of the room,
And Mishnikar lay on the floor in terrible pain.
His father returned and with him came veiled Radasafi.
She gave a gasp when she saw the wound of Mishnikar.
She ran and fetched some herbs, a bowl and vials of ointments.
She salved his wound and touched the face of Mishnikar,
And held his hand. The hero heard her crying to him.
The goddess came and with the priestess performed the rites
Of healing on the boy. They stopped his blood from flowing,
And dulled his pain. He rested long and Radasafi
Came to tend his wound and give him food and drink,
She would not meet his gaze, but many times he felt
Her eyes upon him like the gentle eyes of a ewe
Upon her lamb, and when he looked he caught her staring.
He felt her hands in waking dream again and knew
She did not hate him and she cared about his well-ness
One night, when he was stronger, he awoke at night.
He'd dreamed the dream of darkness and he was afraid.
Although his pain was fading, he wondered if he were dying.
He slipped out of his room and wandered into the hall.
He found the door to the room where Radasafi slept,
And knocked four times upon it and the priestess answered.
She gave a soft gasp. Then she bid him to come in.
The moon was faint within her room. She was a shadow.
He heard her sob, and then took him in her arms,
And kissed him long upon the lips. He felt her naked
Against him and she trembled and she cried so softly.
And then she knew she'd face the anger of her goddess
Or death itself to have the joy of touching him
And being touched by him, though he was half a god,
And she was but a mortal. He had seemed a boy
When she first met him and when Alya asked of her
To give the boy a knowledge of the rites of pleasure.
She humbly did as asked. She did not know that he
Would touch her like a god and make her long for him
So that she could not look on him without desiring
To feel his strong young body press against her body
And lavish on him all the charms of Alya's arts.
She gently took his tunic off and undergarments,
And laid him on her bed, and then she touched his body.
In ways only a goddess or a priestess of Alya
Know how to touch a man to bring him ecstasy.
He could not see or face or the beauty of her body,
But he could feel the soft warmth of her flesh on his
And run his fingers through the shadows of her hair.
She could not do all of the things she longed to do
For his wound still hurt, but still she kept him in her chamber.
They did not sleep for they were lost within each other.
He lay together like a husband and his wife.
They made the sounds that bride and bridegroom make the night
They come together in the silent bridal chamber.
Their tears were not the tears of sorrow but of joy.
When dawn arose, they fell asleep in fond embrace.
When Klaxos came to see how Mishnikar was faring,
He did not find the boy within his little room.
In the afternoon, when Adirmin looked for the boy
She could not find him, nor did she see Radasafi.
She walked to her door and heard the sounds of bride and bridegroom
Behind it and she smiled upon the boy's good fortune.
She told the goddess and the war-god with her gestures
That Mishnikar and Radasafi were as one.
The war-god grinned. His mother fell to waking dreams.
She let the boy remain in the place of Radasafi.
And so it came to be that the hero made his home
Within her room and in the morning, she led him out
Into the Priest-King's square to battle with his father.
Sometimes she watched them, sitting herself upon a bench.
Her black robes and her veil still marked her as disgraced,
But she was full of joy for when the evening came,
They'd go into her room and she would shed this garb,
And the lovely youth would touch her with his sacred flesh,
And she would give herself to him and touch his body
As if he were her lord and husband. Mishnikar
Felt joy like none he'd ever felt and when fair Ula
Illuminated the shapely form of Radasafi
Sometimes he'd look upon her and he'd sigh at her
For she was like a goddess in her nakedness,
Perhaps the Mother Goddess come to keep him safely
From demon-spirits that would haunt the night in dreams.
She took care of his little needs; she washed his clothing.
She brought him little treats to eat when he was hungry.
She bathed him every seventh day or when it pleased him,
And when he ached from fighting the war-god in the square,
She rubbed his body using the healing arts of Alya
So that his body was at peace and ached no more.
She taught him how to play the lyre, how to chord
And how to make the sequences of melody.
He was so happy that he could not dream of leaving
The temple to return into the lonely steppes.
The goddess saw the boy was happy as a piglet,
And now he did not fear to look on beautiful women.
He seemed to have more fire in his youthful breast.
And never had she seen such joy in Radasafi;
Her joy shone even through her bleak, obscuring garb.
She wished to bless a marriage when the next spring came,
But, alas, this could not be, for Noumenos was gone,
And the sacred words to bind a wife and husband together
Could not be spoken until the hero fulfilled his task,
Until he did in deed what she had done on cloth.
Then Noumenos, her husband, would restore the gifts
Of words, of speaking. The people would come out of the forests,
And out of the plains, return to the deserted city.
And then her son's son and her priestess would be wed,
And she would take her brother and beloved husband
Within her arms again and she would take him home,
For though he annoyed her often and she could not bear
His false-proudness at times, at least she might entice him
To stay with her when she was feeling less annoyed
And missed him as she missed him in his absence now,
For they were deathless and whatever quarrels they had
Were little moments in the greater span of seasons.
The time of Mudah came and then the demon Ikthu,
And it was cooler in the temple and the lovers,
The bold youth, Mishnikar and dark-skinned Radasafi
Sought and found each other's warmth on chilly nights.
One night she sat him down and looked upon his face,
And saw he was becoming a man, though he was still
A boy to her at times. And then she bid him watch.
He gasped as she took a knife and cut her long, dark hair
And held it in her hands like wool before the distaff.
She braided and she wove her hair into a garland,
The way her people do across the barren desert.
She fastened seven turquoise pendants to the garland;
These were her father's given by her mother to him,
And Mishnikar looked with spirit-wonder in his eyes.
She solemnly placed this garland round the hero's neck,
And though he did not fully understand, he wept,
And Radasafi kissed him and their spirits met
And when they parted, more of Radasafi's spirit
Was inside Mishnikar, and more of Mishnikar's
Inside the flesh of his beloved Radasafi.
The war-god taught the youth to battle groups of men.
He armed him with a wooden staff and set the warriors--
Two or three of them, sometimes he stood as fourth--
Against the youth with staves or firing blunted arrows,
And Mishnikar did well although he struggled at first.
Inside the blue-room Alya struggled with the youth
To teach him the meanings of her woven tapestries.
At times it seemed that they could talk in signs and gestures,
But Mishnikar could not remember all the gestures.
She told the youth that Klaxos, the warrior, was his father
And Mishnikar understood and pride was in his heart.
He wondered, though, why he had never seen his father
Until he was almost a man. He understood
That Alya was the mother of his father which meant
That he, the hero Mishnikar, had come from gods,
And now he knew why he would rise above the deeds
Of men and slay the dragon and mount its awful head
Upon his spear. He was the son of the warrior-god.
When Zhiva came again into the sacred valley,
And Radasafi shed her garb of punishment,
Then Klaxos took the youth into the open plains,
Where he would learn to drive a two-horse chariot.
He hunted gazelle with bow and spears while Klaxos watched.
The war-god showed the youth a map of the wilderness,
And bid him go to places which he pointed to,
And so the youth learned how to use a map to find
His way about the wilderness. He learned the skills
Of tending his horses and feeding them and leading them
To water and to shade where they could rest themselves.
Quite often on these days, the hero and his father
Would make their camp upon the plains and not return
For two or three days to the temple and Mishnikar
Would miss the sweet embraces of his Radasafi,
And Radasafi clasped him like a worried mother
And kissed him with a tearful passion when he returned.
But in the summer, Mishnikar went to the goddess
And brought a map of the wilderness into the blue-room,
And told her that he wanted to see his mother again,
Within the village and bring his Radasafi with him.
The goddess was loath to let her priestess go with him,
But when she saw how sad the youth became at this,
The goddess relented and Mishnikar and Radasafi
Rode with the war-god in his battle-chariot
Upon a three-day journey to the little village,
And on the journey, his father let him drive his horses.
When the villagers saw the chariot they were afraid,
But the youth then waved to them, and he was recognized.
They entered the village and tethered the horses and dismounted.
The mother of Mishnikar came running to her son,
Then saw the war-god at his side and frowned at him,
And Klaxos looked at her embarrassed, shame in his eyes,
Then looked away. Then, Mishnikar embraced his mother
Who cried and held him like a lover. Then she saw,
The dark-skinned woman, beautiful and finely-clad,
Although her hair was cut quite short and didn't fall
Below her shoulders, and she was nearly ten traversals
Of the Ring of Shishah older than her handsome son.
The way the woman looked at him and stood with him
Spoke of the joy and tenderness that passsed between them,
And so she knew, that she was the one her son had chosen.
There was a solemn grace in the way the woman moved,
But she seemed neither proud nor full of foolish vainness.
She smiled at her, and so she smiled at Radasafi.
So Mishnikar and Radasafi stayed with her.
The war-god took his leave and rode off to the temple.
The hero didn't understand the looks his mother
Gave to his father: looks of anger, looks of hatred,
Nor could he understand his father's look of shame,
Nor would he come to know the reason for their discord
When the gifts of Noumenos returned to men and gods.
The mother and beloved of the youthful hero
Became companions, and despite the difference of age,
His mother approved of the woman her fierce, bold son had chosen.
The youths who knew the hero gathered in spirit-wonder
About him and looked at his clothes and the arms he bore.
He taught them some of the things his father taught to him,
So that they might protect the village from the bandits.
When Mudah came to lead the tillers of the soil
Into the harvest fields with sickle, scythe, and flail,
The chariot of Klaxos returned into the village.
The Bearer of the Spear came to the house of the mother
And beckoned Mishnikar and Radasafi to come,
But Mishnikar then spoke in signs to his warrior father.
He said the bandits would come, and that he wanted to fight them,
And Klaxos grinned and made a sign that he approved.
In summer Mishnikar had armed them and he taught
Them archery and how to fight with sword and shield.
They were not skillful, though they could be frightening,
But Klaxos helped his son to train them how to fight.
So when the bandits came, the young men fell upon them
And routed them and drove them out into the steppes,
And Mishnikar with Klaxos mounted the war-god's chariot,
And chased them down and slew some of their number.
The bandits did not come the following season-cycle.
The hunters of the village stood ready with their arms.
When the first moon of the autumn vanished into darkness,
The war-god beckoned Mishnikar and Radasafi.
The hero and the dark-skinned Radasafi took
Their leave of the mother of Mishnikar, and went to Klaxos.
They rode for three days, then they reached the city streets.
The horses climbed the road around the highest hill,
And they entered the palisade to the hailing of the guards.
At the temple the goddess set a feast to greet their coming.
When he returned, the hero noticed an aged man
Was given living space in one of the priestly apartments.
His beard was grey and ragged, but his eyes were keen.
The man's name was Ultanonak. He kept to himself,
But the youth would know him better in the coming spring.
Soon after they returned, the war-god gave the hero
A helm with scarlet plume and armor for his body.
He kept these in the room which he and the dark-skinned priestess
Had made their nest. When Mishnikar did battle with Klaxos,
He wore less precious armor to keep his own undamaged.
They fought in the Priest-King's square and Klaxos set the warriors
Against him and he beat them, and his father smiled.
One day the goddess watched the youth in practice for battle,
And nodded and smiled and knew that he was learning well.
When Ikthu came that turning of the Ring of Shishah,
The wind was colder and the light snow fell that winter.
On the second moon a horde of wild-men entered the city,
Half-starving, spears in hand. A demon led them on:
A giant with a double-bladed battle-axe
And wild features, white beard and disheveled hair.
They came upon the hill where palace and temple stood,
And seeing the way the temple stood out of the ruins,
Like the dawn emerging from a dark and chilly night,
They climbed the hill and stood before the palisade.
The guards then shouted and blew their horns and trained their bows
Upon the men, upon the giant which led them on.
The giant gave a shout, and raised his battle-axe,
And arrows flew and wild men were slain or wounded,
But the giant and the starving men hacked through the gates,
And forced their way into the square. The guards came down
With scimitars in hand and fought the fierce invaders,
But they were four and fell before the advance of the foe-men.
Four figures in armor emerged from the house of Alya.
The first was Klaxos with his spear and shield; the second
Was Mishnikar armed with a scimitar and shield.
The third was the last and oldest of the warriors
Who made their camp inside the house of Alya.
The fourth was the goddess wearing a helm with golden-plume,
And carrying a scimitar which glowed with magic.
They slew the giant and drove the wild-men from the hill,
And Alya called upon the lions of the plains
To hunt them down, and they were brought down to the man.
There was a wailing of women and children in the temple.
Four of the men who lived within the worship chamber,
Four of the five who hunted and protected them
Were slain. They buried them within the ruined city,
And threw the corpses of the foes on a reeking pyre,
And rancid smoke rose from the square upon the hill.
The war-god and the hero hunted in the forests
To feed the sorrowing people in the house of Alya.
They taught the older boys to hunt with spear and bow.
And Adirmin and Radasafi measured the grain,
Dividing it in portions for the coming moons.
The people repaired the palisade and built new gates,
And Alya looked upon them like a worried mother.
In spring when Ikthu fled the sacred river valley
Pursued by Shishah and his rain of lightning arrows,
The war-god went with Mishnikar and the aged man,
Ultanonak through the city to the bank of the river.
A little boat was waiting there and they embarked.
The war-god showed the hero a map of the river and sea.
He pointed to an island near the mouth of the river.
The old man raised the anchor and untied the moorings.
They floated down the currents of the river Fluh:
The god, the hero, and the old man of the waters.
Mishnikar felt a wonder at traveling on the river.
He'd never seen a boat, and never knew that men
Could venture down the river and into the sea.
They spent three days in travel down the river Fluh,
And then they sped into the lands of wild Uthulos.
The water was rough as they traveled to the island,
And Mishnikar was ill and the old man laughed at him.
They made a camp upon the island and hunted there,
And then they went into the deeper ocean waters,
And Mishnikar was frightened, for he looked around
And saw no land, saw nothing but the blood of Uthulos.
For five days, they were on the open sea. The sea-man
Ultanonak caught fish and pointed at the stars
To show the youth the way he knew his place on the sea,
And then the three returned to the mouth of the sacred river.
Ultanonak set sail against the river's current.
In five days, they returned to the deserted city,
And Mishnikar was longing for his Radasafi,
And she for him. They met and kissed with tearful joy.
The goddess smiled but there was sadness in her smile.
In summer, the youth went with his father into the desert
That lay north of the river valley and the steppes,
The desert which the father and mother of Radasafi
Had crossed to come to settle in our noble city,
And both were hot and miserable within their armor.
The war-god showed the boy the places to forage, the places
Where water was hidden. They wandered for days within the desert.
Then, Klaxos showed the youth a place upon the map,
And told the hero in signs that he would face the dragon
Within that place, and that he must anoint his arrows
With his own blood to pierce the dragon's scaly body,
And Mishnikar now understood that he would soon
Begin the great-plan that his father's mother, the goddess
Has planned for him and wove into the tapestries.
But they returned to the city, to the house of the goddess.
As summer passed within the temple, Mishnikar
Had many dreams about the things that he would do,
But he could not remember them. Inside the blue-room,
He studied the tapestries and Alya spoke with him
In signs to tell him more of what lay in his future
And what he had to do. The youth felt strong and ready,
But was not sure of all that was required of him.
He knew the great-plan would demand that he be parted
From Radasafi and he would be lonely at night,
And she would weep and miss him and be full of despair.
Sometimes he looked at her at night when she was sleeping
And cried for her, and dreaded the time that lay ahead.
The hero and the war-god fought in the Priest-King's square.
The Bearer of the Spear fought hard to test the youth,
And marked him with his weapon when the youth was reckless.
The autumn came upon the temple like West-Wind,
And when the harvesting was done within the garden,
Then Alya and Klaxos bid the hero rest.
For seven days, he spent his days in rest and loveplay,
But Radasafi sensed the sorrows in his eyes.
She clung to him the way a vine clings to a tree.
He felt her sorrow in her kisses and her trembling.
There was a fever in her touches and embraces.
The hero felt her magic rise up from her body
To keep him and protect him from the cold and spirits
Of darkness, and to bind him with her spirit-love.
One day, she heard the knock upon their chamber,
The knock of Klaxos beckoning the hero to come,
And cried out and she drew the hero to her body.
She held him in the velvet palace of her flesh.
She pressed her lips to his and held him in her arms
So that the hero could not answer his father's calling.
He did not want to answer, for her magic bound him,
And she could not release him for she wanted him
To stay with her, and not to risk his life and limb.
The goddess and the war-god might be angry with her,
But she could never let her sweet, young hero go,
For she had sensed that he would be away not days,
But moons and she would wonder if he was alive,
And he would meet with dangers great and terrible.
She saw the way he shuddered in his nightly dreams.
The father of Mishnikar would not intrude on them,
Nor would the Queen of Love, for she was full of sorrows.
They clung to one another until they both were famished,
Their belly-hunger overwhelming the hunger of spirits.
They rose and dressed and went out in the dead of night
To fetch their sustenance from the pantry of the temple.
She watched and waited in the hall by the dining room.
He went in stealth to fetch some fruit and bread for them.
They stole into their room and ate and the hero slept,
But Radasafi stayed awake for she was afraid.
She felt a shame inside her, and she felt her weakness,
But still she could not let her youthful hero go.
The second morning, Klaxos came to seek his son,
The youth was sleeping and the priestess covered his ears,
And when he woke, she looked at him with tired eyes,
And they embraced and did the things that lovers do.
He could not think upon the great-plan or his journey
For when she sensed the waking dreams intrude on him,
She looked at him or touched him or she made him laugh.
She held him as a deep sleep holds a man who's slept
Not for three days or four, and he was hers completely.
When night fell, they again sought out the pantry,
And no-one stopped them or would come into their nest.
But on the third of mornings when the war-god knocked,
The watchful Radasafi had succumbed to sleep,
And Mishnikar was lost within his waking dreams,
And when he heard the knocking of his valiant father,
He wanted to go with him and train with him in arms.
He answered the door. His father motioned him out to fight.
The youth obeyed and then they went into the square,
And fought, and the father grinned upon his valiant son.
When Radasafi awoke, she saw that he was gone,
And shook, afraid, and cried, but when he came to her
At night, she felt herself a fool and full of weakness.
He had returned and not been taken away from her.
But Alya had gone to see the son of her son,
And told him with her gestures, that he must begin,
But he had shaken his head to say that he could not.
She seemed quite angry, but she let the hero do
What his heart felt. She pointed at her drawing of him,
Reminding him of what he would become: a hero
Whose deeds would rise above the deeds of mortal men,
And Mishnikar felt shame, but still he shook his head,
And Alya looked on him and she sighed and frowned.
The fourth of mornings and the fifth and then the sixth,
The war-god came, and Mishnikar went out to fight
Within the Priest-King's square. A sadness seemed to hover
Over the eyes of Klaxos as the sixth day fell,
And Alya was angry and she would not see him
Within the blue-room, and he felt a shame inside,
But when he was within the arms of his beloved,
His shame was driven out like a host of demon-spirits.
He felt a spirit-wonder at her gifts of magic.
But on the seventh day, bold Klaxos fought the youth
For longer than was usual, until the evening
Fell on the Priest-King's square and he was dreadfully hungry.
He went to eat within the temple dining hall.
On days like these, it was his sweet beloved one
Who made his meals, but Adirmin brought food to him.
Her face was grim and the faces that he met were grim.
He felt a fear, and could not eat all he was served.
He went to her room, the room where he and Radasafi
Slept and lived together in their lovers' bliss,
And she was gone, and all of her possessions, too,
And Mishnikar was like a man who'd seen the dead
Rise from the grave, and then he shook and felt a terror.
He searched throughout the temple and he searched the palace.
He went into the city and he cried aloud.
But nothing in the darkness would reply to him.
When morning came, he crept back to the temple.
He burst into the blue-room, but the goddess was gone.
He entered another door and found her bed-chamber,
A palace of white lace and damask. The goddess lay
Upon her bed dressed in a gown of whitest silk,
Her hair disheveled, her eyes dark with a host of sorrows.
She saw him and she wept, and bade him leave her be.
He spoke to her in panicked signs to tell the goddess
That Radasafi was not there within the temple.
She saw his sorrows and wept and looked away from him.
He did not understand her and he was afraid.
The goddess begged the youth to leave, but as he left,
She gave a flower to him and then she kissed his cheek.
It was a flower with a scent he recognized:
The flower-scent of Radasafi's satin skin.
The hero fled her chambers and went to his room,
The room of his beloved where they were as one.
His father waited there with grim look in his eyes.
He put his arm around the youth and heard him weep.
He wanted to tell him what he knew, but he could not,
And so he sat there with his son till evening came,
And weary Mishnikar fell into troubled sleep.
When morning came, he felt the emptiness around.
Her magic presence was gone. Her warmth had fled the temple.
Why had she gone? What had he done to drive her away?
She did not seem the least to be in anger with him.
She clung to him as though she needed him forever,
As though his touch and kisses were like food and drink.
Why had she gone and taken her love away from him?
He did not understand. He wondered if she was stolen
By demon-spirits, but the day-light had still shone,
And what vile demon could withstand her secret magics?
He did not understand. He wondered if she had died
And then the Mother Goddess took her by the hand,
And led her as companion into the depths of the earth?
Or was his Radasafi herself the Mother Goddess,
And had she gone to heal the troubles of the earth?
He felt as though his spirit starved and felt a weakness.
A part of him was gone, the part that gave him joy.
The days drew on, and Klaxos trained his son in battle,
And Alya sometimes sat and watched the son of her son.
His spirits were dark, and he was careless in his fighting.
One day she told him with her signs that Radasafi
Was still alive, and that she would return to him
But it would be a long time hence. She begged the youth
To ready himself and pointed to the drawing of him,
And smiled. She wanted to tell the youth to rouse his spirits,
To tell him that the great-plan would distract his sorrows,
But these were subtle things to say which she could not,
For the gifts of Noumenos were yet to be reclaimed.
As the final moon of autumn came, young Mishnikar
Was ready for the great-plan, for the perilous journey.
The sorrow and the loneliness within his heart
Had hardened him like flames will harden the point of a spear
Or boiling oil will harden leather into a shell.
He put his armor on and put his helmet on.
He took his bow and arrows and his shield and spear.
He took his scimitar and a giant flask of water.
He yoked two horses to a battle-chariot.
The goddess gave the hero a map, and pointed northwards,
And Klaxos clapped his arm into the arm of his son,
And beamed. The youth then mounted the battle-chariot,
And rode out in the morning deep into the steppes.
By evening Mishnikar had reached the barren desert.
For four nights, Mishnikar rode through dry scrub and sands.
By day he set a camp and slept. He covered himself
And his horses with a thick white cloth to keep the sun
From burning them. He found too little water, though,
And so his horses perished from the thirst of the desert
On the fifth day, and Mishnikar continued on foot.
For two more days, he wandered, following his map
And using the moon and stars to help him find his way.
And then he came upon some steep, but rounded hills.
He climbed and descended a labyrinth of rocky canyons.
He shouted out his challenge to the dragon there,
And horrid little men assailed him in his passing,
Threw stones and spears at him from crags upon the heights.
He slew them with his arrows which he'd brought aplenty,
Or when he closed with them he cut the creatures down,
But the dragon did not come to face him in these canyons.
He wandered by day traversing through the maze of canyons,
And then he came upon a mountain in the evening,
And saw a mighty cavern cut high on a cliff.
He could not climb it, for it was too steep to climb.
He rested for the night, and when the morning came,
He cut his skin and filled his quiver with his blood.
He shouted out his challenge to the dragon there.
He heard a rumble from the dark depths of the mountain.
There was a roar of deafening thunder, and a shadow
Of wings came out of the cavern in the high cliff wall.
This dragon was the spawn of Akhnu, lord of Ashnur.
His name was Engka-rak-Akhnus. He was the foe
Of Zaal, the sun-god. He would sometimes strike at him
When he would pass the sky upon his daily flight,
In hopes that he might slay the god and take his robes.
His breath was flames. His claws were like sharp scimitars.
His teeth were deadly knives; his tail could knock a house down.
The hero hid himself among the rocks and shouted.
The dragon flew to where he heard the hero shouting,
And Mishnikar loosed two of his arrows at him.
The first one flew wide of the mark. The second
Struck Engka-rak-Akhnus within a leathery wing.
The hero ran. The dragon loosed a burst of flame
Which struck quite near the place where Mishnikar had fired.
He found another hiding place and gave a shout.
The dragon heard and swooped to try to find the hero.
Then Mishnikar unleashed another arrow and ran.
The arrow struck the dragon on a wing quite near
His body and the dragon gave a roar and fell
And struck the ground, and writhed within a bleary daze.
Then Mishnikar crept down and drew close to the dragon.
He fired three arrows into the dragon's scaly neck.
The dragon writhed and thrashed and looked around in panic,
But Mishnikar was like a cunning little lion,
He loosed more arrows and struck the dragon in the head,
Then fled far from the place where he had loosed his arrows.
So doing, he spent the arrows in his bloody quiver.
The head of Engka-rak-Akhnus lay pierced with arrows,
And bled black blood. The dragon rocked and thrashed its tail,
And Mishnikar then hid and waited for his foe
To cease his death-throes. Then he climbed the dragon's body,
And when he reached the head, he drew his scimitar,
And with ten blows, he severed it from the monster's neck.
He climbed down and with mighty spear, he skewered the head,
And hoisted it high like a banner and he gave a shout
And felt the fire of victory-pride. He knew his father
Would give a cry of joy to see him carry its head
Into the city, and the goddess would flush with pride
To see what she had made come to her in the flesh.
He carried the heavy head as if it were a feather
Through the maze of canyons. The little men would not approach him.
And through the desert he strode. He made his way at night.
For days he wandered following the tracks he left
And sleeping during the day and finding water and hunting
For desert beasts and fowl. But then he reached the steppes,
As evening came. A group of plainsmen saw him passing
And stood in awe to see him carrying the head.
They gave him water and fed him, and the elders blessed him.
He led them to the city. When the morning came,
The sun shone on his armor, and he led the people
Up the Priest-King's hill and to the palisade.
The guard saw them, and gave a whistle and opened the gates.
And when they entered into the square, the war-god came
And gave a joyous cry to see the dragon's head
Upon the spear of his valiant son. The war-god shouted
And waved his spear and laughed and then he clapped his arm
To Mishnikar's and shook him with father's glee.
Then Alya emerged and took the son of her son
Within her arms, and gave a cry of proud delight.
The plainsmen who had come she welcomed to the city.
They camped within the Priest-King's square and stripped the palace
Of weeds, and cleaned its rooms until it was a place
Where men might live again. But when the evening came
Upon the day of Mishnikar's return to the temple,
The goddess stood within the square and filled the air
With singing and she stood with Mishnikar and Klaxos.
The head stood near her, mounted atop the hero's spear.
The evening came, but the Priest-King's square grew very bright.
And then, great Zaal, the sun-god lit upon the square,
And Mishnikar felt spirit-wonder at his presence.
The sun-god put his flaming robes off from his body,
And folded them into a glowing cube of fire.
Then Mishnikar saw that god had brought a wondrous box.
It was a chest with seven locks and seven keys.
He gazed upon the dragon's head and smiled and nodded,
And, as the hero watched, he used the seven keys
To open the box with seven locks. He put his robes
Into the chest and locked the locks and placed six keys
Upon the box. The goddess and the war-god hailed him,
And he ascended with the seventh key in hand,
And the Long Night fell upon the sacred river valley.
The hero Mishnikar then rested in the temple,
And in the first dark morning, he and Ultanonak
Went with the box to the shore and placed it in the boat,
And they brought gold and jewels from the temple vaults.
In darkness they departed: hero and man of the sea.
They glided down the river and into the blood
Of wild Uthulos, and they offered up their gold
And jewels to please the sea-god so he'd let them pass.
For countless nights and darkened days the boat sailed on.
Only the face of Ula could tell the pair when night
Had fallen for the days were darker than the nights.
The sea was calm, but they could feel the winds of winter
Approaching. They were traveling further than men had gone.
The sea-man fished and fed them and they drank of water
They'd stowed aboard. The old man called Ultanonak
Set the sail and navigated by the stars.
The old man who was at his side was rough and somber,
But somehow strangely comforting to Mishnikar.
The starlit sea brought pleasant dreams to the youthful hero.
It was as if its vast, dark depths were stilled in sleep.
But then, the sea grew stormy and the waters pitched
The little boat, and Mishnikar clutched at the box
Which held the golden robes of Zaal inside its locks.
He strungs the six keys on a chain around his neck.
He felt these, and his hand caressed the garland of hair,
The hair of his beloved and he felt a stirring
Of warmth within his heart as the icy waters lapped
At the men. Ultanonak was like the harried mother
Of many children. He fought to keep the boat from turning
And spilling them into the icy waters below.
He fought to keep the boat on course, to read the winds
And stars. He was the greatest sea-man that had lived.
He kept the boat from sinking and the storm subsided.
In time, the hero and the sea-man saw a shadow
Of rock blot out the moon and stars and it was cold,
And both men smiled for this, they knew, was the land they sought.
Ultanonak steered the boat with care into an inlet,
A narrow channel pouring back into the sea.
He set the sail to climb the dark and frigid river.
The hero prayed to the Fire-Giver and lit a torch.
The sea-man steered the boat against the river's current,
After some time, they reached the entrance to a cave,
And Mishnikar let out a sigh. The boatman moored
The boat upon the rocky shore quite near the cave.
The hero slept, for he knew that he was near his goal.
In stealth, they'd come to Ikthu's frigid winter kingdom
While the icy god was ravaging the river valley.
Not Ikthu, nor his minions sensed the hero's coming,
For he was only half a god. The demon-spirits
That prowled the sky could not perceive the little boat.
When Mishnikar awoke, he climbed into the cave
With torch in hand. The boatman waited on the shore.
And when he entered he saw the passage split by four.
He saw the tapestry of caves in waking dreams,
The tapestry his father's mother had woven of it.
He knew one of the tunnels was the way, but which?
He entered the first. It narrowed and he heard wind-gusts
Ahead of him and turned back for he was afraid
The winds would put his torch out and he would be lost.
He went to the second tunnel and saw a light within
That seemed to stream in golden splendor in the distance.
When he approached the light, he looked in and he saw
A bright-lit cavern filled with glittering gold and jewels.
It was a treasure vaster than the wealth of cities.
It gleamed with the splendor of the palaces of gods,
But when the hero looked into the treasure-chamber,
He saw the entrance was high above the mass of wealth,
And with his eyes, he saw no other exit there.
He might descend, but how might he escape the chamber?
Or if he did escape, where would he take this treasure?
What use was treasure to him in this dreadful place?
He turned away and travelled to the third of tunnels.
He walked awhile, and then he heard the thrum of noises,
The kind of noises he could not understand but knew
Came from the mouths of men. He saw two iron doors
From which he heard the noises and he came to these,
And pushed them open and he looked into the chamber.
It was a great hall, and the din that lay within
Was from the sounds of many men and women too.
Many were richly dressed, like priests or ruling lords.
A number of them were dressed in armor and bore fine arms
That gleamed within the lamp-light that lit up the hall.
Some of the men and woman saw him and made sounds
And motioned him to enter, and the hero saw
A throne lay on a dais at the end of the hall,
And on a bright red cushion sitting on the throne
There lay a crown and sceptre, but the throne was vacant.
Two mighty warriors with spears and shields stood by.
They welcomed Mishnikar and smiled to him and bowed.
He entered into the chamber and they called to him,
And pointed at the throne. They beckoned him to sit.
The hero understood they wanted to make him king,
But Mishnikar's sharp eyes beheld no other exit,
And something in the way these people looked at him
Set him to waking dreams. He saw himself their king,
And saw himself enthroned and how his people looked
Upon him, and he saw the envy in their eyes,
And daggers of malice gleamed beneath their slavish smiles.
He knew at once, they'd murder him if he sat down,
And what good would it do to rule there as a king
When his father and his mother and his father's mother
Awaited his return with worry in their hearts?
And so he turned and left them, and despite their cries,
He shut the doors behind him and he walked away.
And so the hero ventured to the fourth of tunnels.
This tunnel was longer than the others and seemed much warmer.
He heard faint music coming from the distance there:
The sound of reeds and flutes, the beating of a tabor.
As he approached, he saw a soft white light ahead,
And as he neared it, he beheld a lovely chamber.
The chamber was like the bed-chamber of Alya
He saw within the temple, decked in white damask
And scents of sweetness filled the air. He saw a bed
Which filled the center of the room. A figure stirred.
The hero saw a woman wearing a gown of silk:
A blue silk that was thin and showed her shapely figure.
Her hair was golden and the hero gave a gasp.
Her face was like the face of Alya's, but her manner
Was warmer, more inviting, and she bid him enter.
She smiled at him. The hero gazed in spirit-wonder,
Upon the woman who moved with a serpent's flowing grace.
She rose and then she danced before his spellbound eyes.
Her dancing flowed the music and Mishnikar was held
Near-breathless, and she slowly put her blue silks off,
And he saw her body was strong and supple like a she-lion's,
And when she moved, he saw the strength within her legs,
But ah! Her breasts and hair were sweet and womanly.
He longed to feel the rippling of her goddess-flesh
Beneath his hands and feel the savage strength of her loins
Envelope him and take him as he conquered her.
The flames of Agazi rose within his limbs. His Wand
Of Tabo rose up like a spear and begged to enter her.
But something in him stirred. The garland that he wore,
The locks of Radasafi warmed about his neck.
He felt her spirit rising up within his breast.
He felt a pain. He closed his eyes and heard her weeping.
She came before him, and he saw her tearful face.
Her eyes gazed on him like a ewe who'd lost her lamb.
She wept and Mishnikar felt like a wicked man.
Her softness made him want to take her in his arms
And wipe the sorrows from her dark and sacred eyes.
He longed to touch her and be touched by her alone.
He knew that she would always love him and her magic
Would fill him with delight and keep him from dark spirits.
He opened his eyes, and saw the naked dancing woman.
She beckoned him to come to her and touch her body,
And then he saw and felt in waking dreams the doom
That she intended for him, and he felt the presence
Of many skeletons within the white-laced chamber.
These were the men the she-demon had led astray.
They were enticed to touch her and to enter her,
And when they entered her, and pressed against her body,
They could not stop, for she could please them like a goddess,
And they would stay in her embrace until they perished
For lack of food or water. Then, she ate their flesh,
And hid their bones behind the white veils in her chamber.
The hero looked with horror on the demon-woman,
Then drew his scimitar and with a single stroke
Cut off her head. Her body turned into a serpent's,
And black blood poured upon the white floor of her chamber.
The hero grew ill and fled the room in shuddering horror.
And so the hero returned to the passage that split into four.
He cried aloud, still filled with the awful sight he'd seen,
But then he felt the hair of Radasafi near,
And closed his eyes and saw her looking on his face.
The tears were there but they were not the tears of sorrow.
She looked on him so softly, and he felt her take
His hands in hers. He knew her spirit flowed in him,
And when he reached out with his spirit, he felt her flesh,
For part of his spirit had passed into her sacred body.
He knew she was alive and that she longed for him.
He sat down on the floor and cried for she was his.
He left the cave and went to where the boatman waited,
And ate and drank and then returned into the cave,
A new torch in his hand. He brought the heavy box
Containing the flaming golden robes of Zaal, the sun-god.
He entered the first of tunnels, the one that he had shunned,
The tunnel that moaned with winds, and Mishnikar pressed on.
He could not shield his torch from the gusts of wind that roared
Around him, for he carried the box in both his arms.
The howling winds put out the flaming of his torch,
And Mishnikar pressed forward into utter darkness.
It was so dark, he could not see his hands before him.
He fell through a hole and landed in a deeper chamber.
The winds were louder and they chilled his armored body.
He felt a panic rising up within his chest,
For he was lost within complete and total darkness.
No stars, no moon, no glimmer of torches, just empty blackness.
He felt his way around the floor. The chamber was vast.
He felt he was an ant within the tombs of heroes.
He wondered if he'd perish by thirst or by starvation.
He shouted, hoping the boatman might come in and save him,
But no. The winds were much too loud for him to hear.
The boatman too might fall and perish in the cave.
He wandered lost within the cave. He could not know
How long he wandered for there was no day or night.
He thought of Radasafi and his father and mother.
He thought of the goddess who drew him as a mighty hero.
Was he to never see their faces again in life?
Was he to die forgotten in this windy tomb?
What would his efforts come to, for his death would mean
His failure, and he'd never find the seventh key,
And never look upon the mountain where the man
With staff in hand awaited, the husband of the goddess.
And never would he wear the golden robes of the sun,
The way her tapestry had shown him wearing them,
For he was lost within a deadly veil of darkness.
Wherever he turned the darkness was. The terrible panic
Rose and fell in waves. He shouted and he stamped.
He struck his sword against the stone floor and lashed out.
He vainly struck the box with the edge of his scimitar
In hopes that the golden robes of the sun might light his way,
And broke his blade in two, for the box with stronger than iron.
Had he the gifts of Noumenos, he would have prayed
To all the gods and uttered chants and all in vain.
For the darkness which the hero faced would never yield
To might or cunning or prayer or magic incantation,
Nor pleading, shouts, or weeping, or to deepest yearning.
The hero finally lay down and he wept alone.
His limbs were tired and he could travel on no further,
And it seemed futile when all the ways were one in darkness.
And then he sunk into deep sleep. The world of dreams
Received him and he saw that light had come again.
He stood upon a meadow near the city of Rakshish.
The air was fresh. He heard the birds and smelled the grass,
And children romped within the meadow and smiled at him.
An old man sat upon a chair, arms on his lap.
There was a peace within his eyes that struck the hero.
A girl was singing with strange sounds that he could hear
But could not understand. He felt her simple joy.
He looked into the face of Shishah and he sensed
That everything that passed was in its proper place,
And even the wicked men and even the direst woes
That came upon all men and on the birds and beasts,
And all the troubles that assailed the greatest gods,
And even Morta who came to touch all men with death.
These terrible things were part of a thing that lived and breathed,
A thing of beauty. Mishnikar recalled the image
Another dream had shown him of the great world-skin,
And how the gods drew on it and they made the world,
And how he wondered on the faces of these gods.
But now he wondered, if these gods had made the world,
Then what gods made their world, or was it made at all?
Or were they all just parts of one great living spirit?
Like brothers, gods and men and heroes, birds and beasts,
The rocks, the things men made, the herbs within the garden,
But yet connected like the spirits of tender lovers.
What was this spirit that seemed to be the source of love
And hatred and all passions that men could display?
The hero felt a spirit-wonder in his dreaming.
He saw an older woman go to meet the man.
Her hair was white, her features fine, though they were wrinkled.
There was no sorrow in the looks they gave each other.
And Mishnikar felt light within his heavy heart.
He looked up once again into the bright blue sky,
And then he saw it there. It glowed with golden light
And warmed the earth within its tender radiance.
It was a golden key that floated in the sky!
The sun-god flew unseen and held the key aloft,
And Mishnikar drew upwards like a winged being
And grasped the key within his hands and felt its warmth.
It's glow revived him and he woke and gave a gasp.
He held the shining seventh key within his hands!
There was a sweetness in his spirit. He saw the way.
The key shed golden light into the cavern of darkness.
He took the box and wandered through the giant cavern,
And found a passage leading out into a clearing
Which glowed with frosty moonlight. Mishnikar felt joy.
The clearing was like a glade within a forest, but mountains
Were at its edge. The hero had come into the Heart
Of Ice, the place where Ikthu made his frigid bed,
But Ikthu was departed, and his hosts were absent
For he was far away within Fluh's sacred valley.
Within the center of the Heart of Ice he saw
A frozen mountain, a mountain of frost and ice and snow.
The winds were cold. The moonlight bathed the icy clearing.
It seemed to Mishnikar the place was made of bones,
So bleak and white and cold. He looked up at the mountain.
He did not see the man inside, the goddess' husband,
But something stirred within his spirit, fear and wonder.
His heart now pounded like a watchman's drum. He knew
That he had nearly brought the great-plan to fruition.
He placed the box beside him, and took off the chain
That held the six keys, and he turned these in the locks,
And then he took the glowing seventh key and placed it
Into the seventh lock and turned, and then the lock
Sprang open, and the hero opened the lid of the box.
A golden light now shone inside the Heart of Ice.
He took the golden sun-robes and he put them on,
And brilliant, dazzling radiance shone from Mishnikar.
The clearing was flooded with light. The frigid Heart of Ice
Began to melt, and the frozen mountain melted away.
There was a sound of rumbling and a shrieking of winds.
A man rose up, a bearded man who held a staff
He looked straight into the burning sun of Mishnikar.
His eyes were like bright stars. His face was fine and solemn.
He looked upon the hero and he spoke to him,
And somehow Mishnikar knew what the man had spoken.
"Bold stranger! I am Noumenos, the Father of Men!
I am Noumenos, the father of the sounds
That made men wise, and shall bring wisdom once again.
I am Noumenos, the son of Mata, the Mother,
And Shishah the father of the highest of the gods!
I am Noumenos, the Star-Faced One, the prophet,
And now my gifts may be restored unto my children!
Let all the world rejoice for this, your godly deed!"
The rumbling grew like thunder and the hero looked
And saw a hundred wingéd demons in the sky,
And in their fore, a monstrous dragon with icy scales.
And Noumenos saw the demon foes approaching as well.
He came to Mishnikar and placed his strong left hand
Upon his shoulder. His right hand raised his staff aloft.
Great bolts of light now rained into the flock of demons,
And slew them or they turned and flew away from them.
The dragon Ikthu loosed three blasts of freezing frost,
But the light from the golden robes of the sun turned them to water.
Then Ikthu, Spirit of the Night, swooped down on them,
But the light and heat of Mishnikar held him at bay,
And Noumenos now shouted to the god of winter.
"Your cause is lost, oh wicked worm of cold and darkness!
Avaunt, foul monster! My children will be spared your talons!
And I will lead my people to crush the wicked rebellion
You and the gods of darkness have fomented here!
Your kingdom is destroyed. The stranger and I now end it.
Go now, and make your home within the scattered seas!"
The winter-god roared mightily, and Noumenos
Unleashed more bolts of light so that they struck the dragon,
And so he turned and fled, his wings a flurry of storms.
Then Mishnikar saw that the god and he now stood
Within a lake. He knew that spring would enter there
Into this desolate place. He looked on Noumenos.
And Noumenos cried: "Come, my brother Zaal! Your robes
Have foiled the enemy, and freed me from his icy prison.
Now take them forth into the world again! Return
The day so that all men may see the deeds of this stranger,
And bear us across the sky to our home in the river valley."
And then he turned to Mishnikar and bid him take
The golden sun-robes off and fold them in his hands,
And Mishnikar obeyed and put the seven keys
Together on the golden chain he'd carried them on.
They waited in silence, then the hero turned to the god,
So full of spirit-wonder and asked the Giver of Names,
The question that now cried out from his spirit's depths.
"Who am I, Father?" the hero asked the Father of Words.
And Noumenos looked on the stranger quietly.
His starry eyes examined him. He stroked his beard,
And then he said. "Ah. You have never had a name!
How long has this deep darkness fallen onto men?"
The hero shrugged for he had known it all his life.
"So be it then," the god said. "I will name you here.
Your name is Mishnikar; you are 'the courage of wisdom'!"
The hero felt a spirit-wonder and said his name.
It was a sound that flowed upon his trembling lips.
He liked the sound of it and liked the things it meant.
He thanked the god and smiled, and Noumenos smiled back.
"You are also the son of Klaxos, mighty god of war,
The Bearer of the Spear. Your mother is a mortal
Without a name, I see, for she was born in the darkness.
Your father's mother is Alya, the goddess of love,
My sister, and my glorious, if quarrelsome, wife.
I sense her mark upon you, and I long to bring her
My thanks and all the fond embraces of a husband
Whose wife would keep his welfare as she has kept mine.
No, I am not your father's father, though the honor,
It seems would be a goodly one, since you have come.
The Blue-Faced Lord, the Father of the Gods himself
Did sire your father, and it filled me with chagrin,
But I accept you as a father's father would.
You've set me free, and all men shall be saved from darkness.
I shall go to my father, I and Alya,
And we will seek the proper way to honor you."
Then Mishnikar put his hand onto the garland of hair
He wore about his neck and said to Noumenos.
"What I want most of all is what I feel inside.
The spirit of a priestess in the goddess' temple
Is in me and I want to see her in the flesh
And take her as my bride and live with her forever."
Then Noumenos let out a laugh and then he smiled.
"Ah Mishnikar! The mark of Alya is indeed
Upon you. May her priestess bring you endless joy,
Though endless joy too rarely falls among young couples.
I sense her presence at the house of my lovely wife.
Her hair, like the garland you wear around your neck, is long
And dark, and she dreams of you and longs to have you near.
We'll go to her, and you may name your lovely bride."
"How shall I name her?" Mishnikar asked Noumenos.
"Describe her spirit," he answered. "Let her name give light
To what and who she is. I leave the name to you."
They waited awhile, and then the sun-god came to them,
And took his robes from Mishnikar and put them on.
He took the box and the seven keys, and carried the god
And the hero Mishnikar. They flew across the island,
And then the hero saw grey-bearded Ultanonak,
The boatman who had brought the hero to these shores,
And bid the sun-god stop and carry him as well.
So Noumenos and Mishnikar and the man of the sea
Rode with the sun across the sky until they came
Into the sight of Rakshish and the house of Alya.
The sun-god left them in the Priest-King's square. The people
Were shouting with joy to see the day come to the valley.
And Alya made haste into the Priest-King's square,
With Klaxos and the dark-skinned priestess close behind.
The goddess wept and took her husband in her arms
And kissed him like they were alone, and Radasafi
Ran to the hero and melted in his waiting arms
And looked upon him like a god and sighed and wept.
The sounds of joyous shouts and weeping filled the square.
A feast was set, and music rang out in the temple,
And Alya sang a song of spring. The words she sang
Brought tears to the all the people and to Mishnikar,
For spring would come again into the sacred valley,
And early for the demon Ikthu fled away
To nurse his wounds and seek another place of darkness.
As evening fell upon the house of Alya,
The mighty hero went into the tidy room
Where he and the dark-skinned priestess had retired before
She'd left the temple. Mishnikar then asked her why
She fled. She said her goddess had sent her far away
Because she feared that Mishnikar would never leave
To carry out the great-plan, for he loved her so,
And she loved him and used her sacred arts to bind him,
So that he could not go. Then, Radasafi begged
Her hero to forgive her for detaining him,
And Mishnikar said there was nothing to forgive,
And that he loved her and he longed for her to be
His bride and his companion and his only lover.
She cried and said that she had seen him in a dream,
And that he shined the way the sun shines on the earth,
And she had wept for he was beautiful and bright
And godly while she was a dark and sickly mortal.
"You are the son of Klaxos!" the priestess said to him.
"I am the daughter of people who roam the barren desert."
And Mishnikar then touched her face, but she continued.
"You are the sun that burns within my summer sky.
You are so young and lovely that I melt away
When you look on me or when you touch me. I am yours,
Forever, but I am afraid. How may I keep you?
Oh, son of gods, how can I bind you here to me?"
Then Mishnikar replied to her. "Your hair is like
A velvet chain, your kiss a spell, your fond embrace
Is like the strongest snare devised by man or god
For even as it binds, it makes me love my bondage.
Oh keep me, lovely woman! You are all to me.
You are my mother when I thirst or when I hunger.
You are my guardian when the demon-spirits haunt me.
You are my teacher when I yearn to know of life.
You are my goddess when you touch me with your hands!
You are my joy! You are my joy upon this earth!"
And then the hero knew her name. He looked at her.
She could not speak. She looked at him as though she looked
Upon the sun. He said to her. "The Father of Words
Bid me to name you, and I did not know what name
To give you, but it comes to me as though the god
Revealed it to me. You are 'the joy of the earth',
'Radasafi!' Oh, my sweetest Radasafi!
If I am the sun, then be the one I look upon!
Your darkness is the darkness of the sacred soil
Which brings men sustenance through seasons glad and rueful.
All good things spring from you! I need you as my body
Needs food and drink. My spirit needs your spirit's touch.
When I was straying in the cave with the demon-woman,
Your spirit saved me, and I did not fall to her.
Oh Radasafi, be my bride, my wife and mistress!
Beloved, let me be your gentle lord and husband"
"Oh Mishnikar!" she cried. "My godly Mishnikar!
As I have placed my garland round your lovely neck
That I may touch you even as you wander afar,
Just so I give to you my spirit and my promise
That by the sacred arts my goddess vested in me,
I am yours and yours alone. My Mishnikar,
I want you and I take you as my lord and husband!
Let us be wed within this place, within the temple,
The temple of my goddess. The Queen of Love and War,
And also the mother of your father will bless our union!"
And so it was. The hero Mishnikar, the priestess,
The beautiful and solemn Radasafi were wed
Within the house of Alya. The people rejoiced.
The Father of Words stayed in the house of Alya,
And they were lovers and companions and they spoke
The way two people speak after a long, dark silence.
They sat alone together and spoke of days and dreams.
They made a plan together to save the race of man.
When Shishah woke, the god and goddess went to him--
And Klaxos came with them and added his voice to theirs--
And begged their father to keep the hero Mishnikar
From Morta, to preserve him from her fatal coming,
But Shishah, joyful as he was to see his son,
Could not allow the hero to be kept from Morta.
Though Noumenos shouted, and his sister wept and pleaded,
And Klaxos frowned and turned his back upon his father,
The Blue-Faced Lord would not exempt the hero from death,
But the god consented to let him live five-hundred turnings
Of the season-cycle, and then the Queen of Love cried out.
"Oh Father! As you will not keep the son of my son
From Morta's arms, but you would bring him longer life,
I beg you, let him keep his wife who is my priestess!
So long as he lives, let Radasafi live with him!"
The Blue-Faced Lord made rumbling, grumbling thunder-noises,
But he relented and granted his favorite daughter her wish.'
When the gods descended from their father's cloudy kingdom,
Then Noumenos and Klaxos and the mighty hero
Went into the wilderness and spoke unto the men
That lived there and they gathered them into the city.
They pulled and burned the weeds. They built and they rebuilt,
And other men beheld the city and they came
To live in it, and wild men and enemies
Were bound to the soil and their children and children's children.
They tilled the soil within the fertile river valley,
And Mishnikar was made the Priest-King of the city,
And he and Radasafi lived within the palace,
And she bore Mishnikar ten daughters and ten sons.
The eldest son was named Eadu which meant 'peace'.
The youngest son was called Mufadka, 'prosperous man'.
The Name-Giver stayed within the house of Alya,
But after a hundred turnings of the Ring of Shishah,
The god and goddess were quarreling and he departed
To wander in the wilderness and speak his wisdom
To people trapped within the other river cities,
The wicked cities whose gods yet plot against our city.
But Noumenos, before he left Rakshish to wander,
Was afraid the enemy gods might seize him once again.
The city would fall again, and men would be like beasts
And hunt within the wilderness and grunt and gesture.
The waking dreams he had of this filled him with horror.
How could he keep his children from this awful shame?
And then it came to him, and he was full of joy.
He kissed his wife, for she was clever as a kitten.
Her cleverness would soon be made the heart of wisdom.
In direst need and in the darkness without words,
The goddess had made pictures to enlighten men,
Pictures of things to show the hero how to save him.
So, now the wise god, Noumenos, made other pictures:
They were not pictures of things, put pictures of sounds,
The sounds a man must make to speak a word. These pictures
Could then be drawn together in a line. The line
Stood for the word. A man could look at it and make
The sounds from it. The sacred symbols let a man
Remember words, for he could see them with his eyes
And read them and the words would come in waking dreams.
Then Noumenos wrote the sacred symbols onto stone
And taught the people what the sacred symbols meant.
He bid them write the laws of the city on tablets of stone,
So men could read them and the laws would be remembered.
And the sacred-songs were written in stone and on the skins
Of animals and carved on wooden blocks or painted
On walls or woven into pieces of cloth. The god
Set down the tale I sing to you, oh lords and slaves,
So that my father's father gave to him the words
My father gave to me. Mark well, his sacred gifts!
"Revere the sacred symbols which keep men from darkness!"
Thus speaks the god of wisdom through from these hallowed scrolls.
I end my song, the sacred-song of Noumenos.
George Chadderdon © 1999