Lawgiver’s Blade: Interlude – Benari Origin Myth

June 26th, 2019  |  Published in Lawgiver's Blade

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A/N: This week’s installment is an interlude. This is the Benari’s story about how they came to live in the Alait Archipelago. If you are curious it’s as told by Lilat to the children of Shael.

When humanity first arose from among the animals they did not yet have the Lawgiver’s wisdom to guide them for the Eight were still engaged in shaping the world. So they wandered many false paths seeking something they didn’t understand. Some fell in with the great spirits of earth, sky and nature who though born of this world are almost as powerful as the Eight themselves. Others began worshipping the ghosts of their dead ancestors – offering them gifts and sacrifice that allowed their material soul to stay in this realm instead of fading into the light.

Our ancestors were of the latter sought and at this the time they lived on the mainland and herded reindeer in the snowy forests that lie to the south of what is now the Harsin Empire. They honoured their dead, allowing them to possess their bodies and feed on their children in return for protecting them from other tribes and aiding with their hunts. But while the celestial soul is immortal and passes on to halls of Gentle Karalin, fourth of the eight and mother of the dead, the material soul is not supposed to linger after the body has died, so as the years passed our dead became crueller in their demands and less forthcoming in their blessings, but so great was their terror and the vengeance they enacted when our ancestors tried to stop that they continued with the horror.

Eventually those demands brought us into conflict with our northern neighbours – who were not at that point yet the Harsin and who worshipped a pantheon of powerful spirits. We tried to take their children to feed to our ancestors and they, naturally, fought us. They had weapons far superior to ours but we would have carried the day since our warriors rose again to fight them for you cannot kill what is already dead, but they had something else, something that made our defeat inevitable. For against all reason Magic is not the gift of the Eight alone. The most powerful great spirits can grant magic to humans just as easily as the gods do.

The magic of those who would one day become the Harsini was powerful and terrible, especially against the dead. With it they burned our dead warriors and purged our ancestors from us with light and fire but, because they had not yet then burned all mercy from themselves, they left us alive. We found ourselves free from the tyranny of the dead but undefended against our enemies. And given what we had been doing we had many enemies.

The stories say we were ready to die as well so deep was our grief but in the depth of our despair the Lawgiver came to us and offered us his patronage. It is said our people refused him the first time for we were fearful of giving our worship to anyone lest we be driven to such cruelty again. But after he protected us from our enemies without harming any of them a handful of us agreed to hear him out.

It was to these few that Rindalam revealed the Law, teaching them the art of reading and writing that they might record it, and hearing its gentle firmness soothed their fears and they agreed to follow him. They were the first five mages and the oldest of the Mage houses take their names from them. Imbalin, Serit, Kasid, Darit, Tanin and Arana – who became the first High Mage.

They returned to our people with the Law, with magic and writing, and with kindness and wisdom coaxed them back into harmony with the law and all was well.

At least for several grand octades it was well but even as we were being coaxed away from evil something terrible was taking root among the Harsini and we did not see it until it was almost too late.

Even though we now traded with them for jewellery and metal tools in return for amber and furs we didn’t pay their religion much heed nor the fact that they were paying less attention to the spirits of land and craft than they once had and more to the spirits of war and defence. If we had we would not have thought it too strange, our ancestors were not the only people to attack them nor the most recent. The focus was understandable. What neither we nor they knew was that one of the martial spirits they worshipped was not the simple spirit of defensive war that he claimed but instead embodied conquest and unbridled expansion.

He was one of the Natari as we call them now, the ungods, spirits that should never be worshipped for they embody purely negative concepts. For even when they mean well, and we do think he meant only to protect the Harsini, the Natari cannot help but push their worshippers towards acts that strengthen them.

Paranoia infected them first, the fear that anyone who didn’t share their culture might attack them, but that was not so odd since many, including us, had. But that was long ago and our peoples were friends now. We knew that and believed they knew it too. We were wrong as we found out to our cost when they attacked us, demanding we change our religion and culture and become their vassals.

We fought them off with our magic and the Lawgiver’s help but High Mage Arana, who was over five hundred years at that point, died in the doing as did many other mages and even as they fled the Harsini swore to return. We knew then that we would have to flee or eventually be overwhelmed but we knew not where we could go.

It was then that Rindalam spoke to Madrin, the second High Mage, and under his guidance our ancestors kitted out every boat they could find from the smallest river boat to the largest sea going vessel and we fled across the sea to what was at the time called the Forbidden Islands but are now called Holy.

The journey was not extremely long but it was dangerous. Harsini ships patrolled the waters and the spirits they summoned sent storms and great waves against us. The stories say that even with the Lawgiver’s blessing we lost over half our ships but eventually we reached the islands to find that we were not alone there. The rest of the Eight had sent their children there to seek sanctuary as well.

At the heart of the largest island, where the Laglini city of Andil now stands, we met together in a parley mediated by the Chosen of Ilinat and divided the then uninhabited islands between ourselves peacefully. In acknowledgement of that we still meet every eight years, in Andil – the city of temples – for the Arosia. The holy festival of deliverance. Or if we cannot travel there we dance and sing in our own towns and villages and long we lived here, not always peacefully, but without fear of the Harsini until the invasion taught us that not even this sanctuary is entirely safe.

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