Tales as told by Sarv of Victra
The Marsh Witch
Long ago, before you or I, there was a young Tamaa, tall and more beautiful than any other. Xe lived in a great southern city, warm and moist, where life flourished, and all was good. This Tamaa bore the wealth of a great knowledge of plants and their properties, of healing and harming those that consumed them. Xe made a healthy profit with xer herbal remedies, and was quite a desirable partner, though xe had no interest in any others. For many years, the Tamaa lived in peace and was content with life.
One day, a wind blew into town the most handsome of all Mankind, a robust warrior with dark eyes and hair blacker than the wings of a raven. His skin was such an interesting light color, not like the skin of the southern Men, which was kissed to browns by the heat and light of the sun. His neck was ringed in a silvery grey fur, something long and luxurious that seemed to float about him with the slightest of breezes. Captivated, the chemist could not help but follow, all the way to where the Man decided he would lodge.
As the weeks passed, the Tamaa swooned and followed the Man, much to the disappointment of xer customers, left staring at a closed shopfront day after day. Finally, the creature worked up courage, and came to meet the wonderful vision that had haunted every sleepless night since his arrival. A bond was formed, and the two became inseparable. The Tamaa left behind the chemist’s shop, and all the medicines within, and joined the Man in his adventures. He had been asked to rid the southern swamp of a particularly troublesome Gluthor, and xe was glad to be by his side, happily picking whatever herbs suited their needs along the way.
Deep in the swamp, as the group they traveled with stopped to prepare for the hunt, the Tamaa sat on the step of a carriage, grinding dried leaves, when a foul stench wafted in on the breeze. Knowing this smell, xe tried to warn xer lover, but he was overtaken as he was relieving himself, dying screaming with his breeches about his ankles. An easy target, slurped up before he could draw his blade. The party broke into a frenzy, and immediately skilled soldiers and veteran adventurers began setting themselves upon it, the Tamaa quickly mixing poisons to empty the beast of its ill gotten meal.
It seemed like forever, but, finally, the great beast lay at their feet, gurgling its last, before one of the men slit the creature’s belly open, everyone stepping aside to avoid the deluge of sludge. Xer lover sloshed out, and xe ran to him, but his lips were blue, and his eyes glassy. He lay dead, and those he called friends took no moment to remember him, but rather stripped him of valuables, and split them amongst themselves. Some eyed the Tamaa, claiming xer as a spoil, and set upon the poor thing to claim their prize.
In the waning light of the setting sun, xe lay in the mud of the swamp when xe woke, beaten, bruised, and with no herbs which to heal xer own wounds… And xe was furious. The Tamaa’s piercing cry could be heard far away, and the wilderness all about xer seemed to still in fear of the sound. Xe cared nothing of the state of the clothing xe had left as xe trudged through the sludge of the swamp, sometimes dipping so deep into the water as to disappear, steadily moving toward the one safe place xe knew to set up a camp so deep in the swamp. The Men never saw the Tamaa, only heard a screech before their swift and brutal deaths, each throat torn to shreds and each life snuffed out before their eyes could open. Only one would survive, a young man who had refused to take part in the devious activities, even actively tried to stop the bigger ones, only to be pushed into the mud.
He survived, and when the terrifying vision left, found himself quite rich, as the spoils were his. The muddy, many-appendaged creature had told him so. When the boy reached civilization, he told his tale, and was met with laughter. A slivery, muddy swamp spirit? Screaming and eating all but he? When he finally got men to come and see, they found only a small hut made of the roots of a tree he couldn’t remember, vines he did not recognize, and a tall but weathered old woman tending a fire. It was growing dark, and the elderly one offered them a safe place to stay, inviting each into the hut, which seemed much more sizable inside than it seemed without. A few were gracious, and kept good company with the old woman, listening to tales and eating heartily the hidden fruit of nature.
The next morning, they awoke on the dirt, finding their less savory compatriots were missing. They assumed the others had gone on early, and packed up to leave, unable to find the woman or her odd hut to thank her. As they walked the packed peat road, the young man caught sight out of the corner of his eye something odd. He moved closer to inspect the oddity in the swamp waters, and was met by the bloated corpse of one of those missing, eyes bulging in fear and throat slit to the bone, barely keeping his head on. The men, terrified, ran out of the swamp, and some could swear they heard a high, keening laugh, chilling all of them to their very bones.
They say the Tamaa still haunts that very marsh, a witch of immeasurable power, with great, strong tentillium, and a bite filled with poison and disease, but, for those good and true of heart and deed, there will be no death, but rather safe passage from all creatures of the swamp, and a full belly and healed wounds. Beware, little ones, for they say the Marsh Witch travels to find xer herbs, and knows when you have been naughty. Xe knows when you have evil in your hearts, and does not forgive so easily…
When the world was new, and the Ayr young, all creatures revered butterflies and moths as the most beautiful of all creatures, though even butterflies paled in comparison to the regal moths, with their full antennae of many colors, and the dust that seemed to brighten everything they landed on. Birds could not eat them, and tears were shed with each death that came so unfairly to such wondrous creatures.
The butterflies were very envious of their cousins, and plotted against them constantly. “If we were more colorful,” said they, “They would lose their place by the Ayr, and we would be revered as the most beautiful!” And so they set out to find a magister willing to give them more beauty and color than the moth. Many nights and days they flew, many magisters they visited, and many butterflies were lost to the cruel winds in search of their goal.
Finally, they found an old woman, a short and ugly little creature, renowned as a powerful magic user, a witch in the mountains living in a shabby little hut. “O, witch! O, powerful witch! We implore you! Beauty is all given to the moth, and we are so pale compared to they! Please give us the beauty of the moth!” The old witch thought for a moment, and went to her cabinet. She pulled out pots of the brightest paints she could find, and spent days painting the butterflies with intricate patterns and beautiful motifs, then sent them on their way.
When they arrived homes, many creatures admired their new colors, many were in awe. “They are as beautiful as the moths!” said they. “They are prettier! Look at those intricate designs!” said they. And the butterflies fluttered proudly around, showing the Ayr that they were more colorful, more beautiful than their cousins. However, the Divine Ten were not fooled, and simply splashed water upon the butterflies. “Shame to you, for trying to fool us! You have angered us with your trickery, and now all creatures shall try to eat and crush you for daring to plot!”
The butterflies were very angry, and scared, and deeply shamed. Many flew away, and hid, becoming a simple leafy green, still more tried to blend with the sky to hide their shame from others, and their wings became a sad blue. The rest, however, grew angrier, and went back to the witch. “You ugly, foul creature! You have turned the Ayr, and all the world, against us! You are a horrible creature, and we shall tell everyone how ugly and miserable you are, unless you do as we say!” said they. The witch tilted her head, and nodded. “And what is I should do?” She asked, crossing her wrinkled and gnarled old arms over her sagged chest.
The butterflies spent a moment in thoughtful silence, until the angriest of them cried out, “TURN THEM GREY! TAKE THE COLOR!” With the agreement of the others, the witch nodded again. “It shall be done. In three days, and three nights, all of the color shall be drained, and you will get what you rightfully deserve.” The butterflies were happy with this response, and left the ugly old woman to do her work. For three days, and three nights, they gloated about what was to come, and secretly mocked the coming fate of the moths.
On the dawn of the fourth day, the sun rose grayly onto the world, but no birds sang and no animals frolicked in the speckled meadows. All was grey, dull, and terribly sad. The butterflies saw what they had done, and looked to see that the moth, at least, had lost their color as well, but they had not. Now they shone brighter, and sparkled in the weak sunlight. The animals gathered around, and wept, for they could not be happy. They could not find which foods were good to eat, they could not see the colors of their mates, they could not even tell whether the sun had risen, or the moon. All was chaos, and even the Ayr could not find a smile upon their countenances.
The moths, seeing the world in such a disarray, became sad, and tried their best to land on things, to open their wings as wide as they could, spreading their colors over their spots… But there were not nearly enough, and they could not color the world, nor could they themselves figure out what color should land where. It was not long before the dull, grey, world became quiet, and all creatures simply lay down, ready to accept their fates. The butterflies tried to visit the witch, but she was gone, her hut vanished, as if never had such a woman existed. Even the people of the mountain could remember no such person. Deeply shamed now, the butterflies went to the moths, and threw themselves to the ground before them.
“We have made a mistake! This is our doing, cousins! We have killed the world, and the Ayr are sad and no longer care for it! We do not know how to fix this! Help us!” they cried. The moths were quiet, and turned their backs on their brethren, their antennae drooping slightly and wings folding tight. “You have betrayed the entirety of creation for vanity. You hated us so much, you poisoned all others, and took all happiness from the world.” The butterflies could not hide their shame, and their wings started to flutter open and closed, for they could not decide what to do. Finally, the moths gave a soft sigh, and turned back around.
“Cousins, you shall get what you wanted. The world will be right again, and you will be the most beautiful of all, but may you remember forever your pride and vanity, may you never forget that every creature shall know of what you have done.” With that, every moth rose at once, high into the gray sky, and came closer and closer together, their colorful wings fluttering, dusts of every hue shimmering from their bodies. Suddenly, there was a burst of color, and their dust floated gently down, the world suddenly awash in beautiful colors again. Creatures opened their eyes, and suddenly found that they could have happiness in their hearts again, and all celebrated. For many days, the world made merry, and the butterflies told them of the moths that made magic to fix what they had caused.
But nobody knew what happened to the beautiful creatures that saved them all. They could not find them, though they called for them day and night. One day, there was finally an answer, a small, weak voice hidden in the trees, saying ”We are here”.
The animals rejoiced! “Where are you, moths? We want to thank you! Show yourselves to us, so we may praise your beauty again!” Quietly, the fluttering of wings came, and the moths came into view, but lo! They were small, ugly, grey things, having shed their beauty to color the world again. “You are not moths!” cried the creatures. They turned their backs on the moths, and, saddened by the betrayal of all they just saved, they disappeared into the patterns of trees and dead things, never to show their faces again.
They say, however, that the butterflies will never forget. After every cleansing rain they celebrate the sacrifice of the moths. Their vanity brought about the downfall of the most beautiful creature of all, and they gather as much dust as they can find, to throw as confetti into the sky, creating a rainbow.
The Demon Konnishia
If ever there were something to fear, if ever there were a reason to bar your doors at night, it is the thing that lurks in the woods. The pale thing that bathes in the moonlight, the two-toned face that is unmistakable to his victims. He prowls the darkness, he tests the windows, he listens to every footstep in the night. While the moon is out, Konnishia is sure to be there.
Once, there was Konnishia the Night, pale and beautiful as the moon, and Davrie the Day, tanned and bright as the sun, and they were closer than any friends could be. Where one was, the other surely was not far. Konnishia loved Davrie dearly, and worshipped his brightness and light. Davrie loved Konnishia as well, and the two spent many centuries in each other’s arms. Those in Davrie’s court grew jealous of the two lovers, and when Konnishia was far enough, they whispered terrible things into Davrie’s ears about his love. At first, he brushed off the rumors as just such, and held Konnishia tightly to himself at every chance. Soon, however, the poisonous words began to infect Davrie’s thoughts, and he cast his lover from the kingdom of light.
Konnishia was heartbroken, and stalked the borders of the kingdom, in the land of twilight, crying out and calling to his light every waking moment, and soon began to neglect himself. His beautiful dark curly hair fell thin and lanky, slick with oils, his face grew gaunt, body sickly thin, and the circles under his dark eyes grew alarmingly. He grew hoarse, and eventually was silenced. He no longer slept, but prowled the borderlands and shed his tears quietly, wearing holes into his shoes and shredding his clothing on the thorns and brambles he no longer cared to avoid.
One day, Davrie and his court were in procession, and none of his guards or courtiers paid any attention to the raggedy creature that followed, wailing and throwing dirt upon itself at a distance as a mourner at a funeral. When the court had made camp, and fallen asleep, Konnishia snuck in, for these were his lands now, and quietly made his way into the royal tent to see his lover and apologize for whatever it was he had done. There, in the place he had once had the privilege to lay, next to his bright and beautiful king, was another! A woman with long hair the color of a fawn, and big, soft lashes that laid upon her rosy cheeks. He froze in the flap of the tent, and dropped to his knees. The guards found him there not long after, and the alarm was raised, the intruder taken from the camp. Just as he was being dragged away, Davrie appeared in the door of the tent, and looked directly into the eyes of his once lover. And he knew.
Konnishia was not allowed to follow the caravan. He was cast away when he drew too close, pelted by stones and cursed at by the sneering guards, left alone only when they had finished their travels, and returned to the Kingdom of Light. Many years passed before the caravan dared come again, and Konnishia followed again, but quietly, having learned the ways of this dark land. He used the black dirt of paint stripes upon his eyes, like a harlequin, and had found and pilfered strong, dark clothing. No longer did he mourn. No longer did he seek retribution for something he had never done, and never known about. He had only one reason to follow. He hated the woman at his king’s side.
The moment he’d seen her pretty little round face, he’d hated her. Her beauty haunted him, her peaceful sleeping features burned his heart until it was nothing but char and embers. He waited until they had turned back to strike. Waited until they thought him gone. But he’d been there, closer than they ever thought. He made his way into the camp, darkness slipping from shadow to shadow, and looked into the tent, looking for her. Once again, he was surprised, for there in the warm skins lay not only his king and the intruding woman, but two rosy cheeked young creatures, all curls and roundness and the most precious little lips drawn to a tight pucker by fat little cheeks in their sleep. That horrible woman lay nearby, swollen with yet another inside her, and Konnishia disappeared into the night, seething in rage. They say that night was pierced with the screams of a dying animal, tortuous and long before the poor thing knew the release of death.
It was soon after that the children of the villages started to disappear, never to be seen, not more than a scrap of bloody clothing to be found snagged on a tree’s rough bark. Many villagers blamed wolves, and soon a handsome price was paid for every pelt brought in. Yet still, the children disappeared, until the village was left with none. A great sadness came over the people, and women hid their bellies in fear of the curse of the village taking their child even before they could ever breathe their first breaths.
So it came to be all over the lands, children disappeared, and the monster leaving only when it was sated, moving from place to place until all villages had children they mourned. Never a scrap was found after the first village, not a drop of blood nor even a single hair of the child’s head, and all started to whisper of the demon in the woods. Some children scared the younger ones with tales of the harlequin of the moon, and many even said they saw a terrible black and white face in their windows at night, though it was always gone whenever the parents looked in on their screaming children.
Davrie never heard of such tales, such superstitions and hardships of those that lived under his bright rule, and spent his everlasting days in joyful reverie, basking in the love of his children, family ever growing. With the birth of yet another imminent, he thought to tour the countryside again, and show off his lovely family and growing future addition. The joyous caravan left the kingdom’s grounds, and entered the land of the twilight, bringing light wherever it went. It was after he had visited the third village that he realized there were much fewer children than he had ever seen, and he thought perhaps the fears of the wolves was highly unfounded, for he nor his guards had seen a single wolf, nor sign, along the way.
Hoping to ease the fears of his people, he sent his beautiful wife and children to gather berries. “See how safe they shall be, there are no wolves, no demons in these forests!” Every village he visited, he did the very same, and the villagers rejoiced, for the demon had seemed to finally go away! One day, as the children and mother set out, nobody saw the shadow that tailed them, nobody saw the bushes rustle ever so slightly with a dark and deadly breeze that made all living things in the darkness shudder.
Everyone heard the screams. Terrible, and piercing, the screams of children rose from the darkness, followed by a wail of anguish from the mother that watched her children as they were brutally torn apart by some feral creature, eaten in large, greedy bites. Before any could reach the clearing, she was surrounded by the mangled remains of her own, and splattered with their lifeblood. Just as the guards and king arrived, she stood, and made to run, but the creature appeared before her, and grabbed her by the neck. The growling voice that issued forth from his smeared mouth was cracked with disuse, and sounded far from any ever heard, a keening, smoky gurgle. “She has taken from me the one I hold dear, and he has replaced me. He has cast me from his gaze, now let him know the pain I have felt for so long!”
The woman tried to cry out, reached for her husband, but he could not move. His mouth hung open uselessly as he watched his former lover snap the woman’s head at an unnatural angle, and give a bellowing, hoarse cackle as she dropped first to her knees, then crumpled to the ground lifelessly. The guards had tried to intervene, but could not seem to move into the clearing, suddenly ensnared in brambles and vines that cut into their exposed skin, scraped their armor with grating screeches. He hovered over her, hunched, and looked straight into Davrie’s unbelieving eyes. “The child can still be saved. I can save it. You will take me back into your arms, and he can be ours to love, ours to raise!” With tears in his eyes, Davrie reached forth, and tried to speak, but no words came out. His head started to shake back and forth, and lips moved soundlessly as he dropped to his knees, mourning his children and his queen. Konnishia moved toward his love, and when Davrie flinched back in fear, froze. Angered, he howled, and snatched the woman from the ground, tearing into her belly to pull out the child within, looking into Davrie’s eyes as he effectively ended the unborn child’s life once and for all. A sudden darkness fell, and he was gone, disappeared into the shadows he himself had summoned.
The king and his guards were suddenly alone, and freed from their snares, though they could no longer do anything for the terrible scene that lay before them. Darkness fell over the entire kingdom, and the king’s light diminished until it was a mere unhealthy glow. He returned to his golden palace, and nothing could bring him out of his chambers. For many years, the world grew cold and unforgiving, and nobody could find a reason to smile.
Finally, the king came forth, face hardened and years older, and made a declaration that he would hunt down Konnishia, and end him as he should have long ago. The kingdom rejoiced, and his brightness grew fiercer than ever before, scorching everything around him. He rose into the sky, and looked all over for the murderer Konnishia, travelling the world over and over again, constantly scanning. However, on the other side, always just ahead of him, Konnishia fled, always running from the approaching light of an angry king, resting only in the darkest of nights. Villagers still hid their children, and locked the doors, fearing the darkness beyond their windows.
They learned to fear the night, for it is told that Konnishia had changed, and now snatched children in the dead of night that stupidly ventured outside their safe homes merely to spite the light that followed at his heels, and to draw energy from their bones so he may last just a little longer.
Do not go out in the night. Do not let your children roam the darkness, and cover your swollen belly if you are with child, for with night comes the Demon Konnishia.