An Arbrian Legend
|Five-thousand years before Nash Linkuts,1 the Nimry,2 clad in white robes and shining, opened the icy seas and lifted Inari from its depths. To protect it from the cold winds, Antania, the builder, encircled the island in a great ridge of stone. Within those walls, Halvan the planter laid trees, shrubs and grasses. Roberan, lord of animals, set wild game, fowl, and other creatures to dwell there. And Pingor, who knows, set a rhythm to all things. But Inari was not yet complete.
There in the midst of the forest, Sofia, mother of language, sang a song so beautiful the trees uprooted themselves to follow her. As they gathered, the magic flowed over her lips and deep into their hearts, where it sang through them as well. She gave them voices and named them Albrians.3
At the center of the island, the five Nimry built the cradle city of Polabria. Antania raised its great marble halls, Halvan lined the streets with trees and flowers and Pingor filled its libraries with all the knowledge of the world. There, the Nimry took human form and taught the Albrians all they know. For many hundreds of years they stayed and watched over their children, but with every solstice their mortal forms withered, until at last they departed, promising to return when they were needed most.
And so the Albrians lived and thrived on Inari for many generations, eating fruit, herb, fish, beast, and sun. But their numbers grew too many for the cradle island to bear. Word spread of others beyond the icy seas and hearts grew restless to explore. It was at this time the lovers Juvalla and Niona lived.
Now Niona was one of those of the house of Antania who lived on the ridge, passing over to fish and hunt seals in the warmer months of the year. Many times in her fishing boat she contemplated the horizon, wondering what lay beyond the place her eyes could see. Juvalla was of the house of Halvan and a lover of all things that grow. Never did she wish to leave the shores of Inari, but in Niona’s heart she knew there was restlessness.
One year, as the days grew longer, Niona felled a red cedar tree and fashioned a boat from it. Gathering berries, dried fish, and seal-pemmican, she prepared to travel across the sea. At the place where the ridge meets the forest, she bid her love goodbye, but promised to return by the eve of the solstice.
All through the planting season, Juvalla kept the thought of Niona close to her heart. And as the sprouts emerged and grew, so too did her anticipation. On the eve of the solstice, she returned to their meeting-place at the base of the ridge, but her lover was not there. She traveled to Niona’s kin, but they had not seen her since she passed below the horizon. And so Juvalla waited, through the growing, the harvest, the snows, and the planting once more, often returning to their meeting-place in hopes that Niona may find her there.
On the eve of the second solstice, a falcon descended and perched before her on a branch. It lingered, as if waiting, but fled as she approached it. She did not see Niona, and so she waited through the seasons once more.
On the third solstice, the falcon appeared again. This time she pursued it as it ascended the wall of the ridge, but soon it flew beyond her sight. Still Niona did not return, and so she continued to wait. Each year the falcon returned and each year she followed it a little farther, until on the fifth solstice she reached the top of the ridge to see the bird gliding Southward over the waves. And at last, Juvalla knew she must leave Inari.
So as the days grew shorter, she fashioned her own boat, and gathered berries, dried fish, and seal-pemmican for the journey. Pushing off the Southern shore, she paddled away from Inari until the sea took her in its arms and she could no longer see the thrashing breakers, the high ridge, or any discernible mark of her home. Only the misty horizon, one great ring wrapped around her, remained. She traveled in this way for many days, not knowing what lay ahead or behind, or how long it would take to reach land once more.
She pressed on with fervor, but at last she found herself sickly and tired. Her food was spent, and she thirsted for fresh water. Fearing her end may be near, she bared her body to the sun and lay down in aknamat sesma.4 For many days, she lay motionless, seeing nothing but dreams and feeling nothing but the rhythm of the tide. The cold air seized her as rain, snow, and tempest passed overhead. But she did not stir. Finally, on a peaceful afternoon in the fifth month of her travels, she felt land beneath her once more.
Wrapping herself in warm clothing, she kindled a fire to thaw the ice from her bones. That night, resting on the shore, she was found by Chakhlor and his clansfolk, who had followed the smoke of her fire.
Now Juvalla had landed in the Bay of Old Beacon, where in that time there resided two peoples. The magic of the forest flowed strongly through both, but between them a vicious war had raged for generations. On one side of the bay lived the Beaconites, a cunning folk who had spent the War of Dust in hiding and mastered the craft of burning magic. On the other side lived the clans of Jagor, descendants of tenacious survivors who had mastered the art of growing magic.
Chakhlor and his kin were of the latter, and claimed to descend from Jagor himself. They took in Juvalla as one of their own, and under Chakhlor she learned to channel the growing magic quickly. The spirit of the Nimry was with her, and in some years time, after Chaklor’s passing, she had become the most powerful sorcerer in all the clans of Jagor.
Now at this time the clans were planning an attack to capture the fortress of Beacon and vanquish their enemy once and for all. But rumor had spread of a great sorcerer among the Beaconites, more powerful than any who had come before. Some feared, saying, “How will we defeat this adversary?” while others trusted that Juvalla would lead them to victory. But Juvalla’s own heart had drifted. It had been many years now since she had seen the face of Niona, and though she doubted they would ever meet again, her heart had not let her abandon hope.
On the eve of battle she wandered deep into the forest. Climbing a great tree which stood above the rest, she looked out over the vastness of the land and despaired. But as she rested on a branch, Halvan appeared to her in the form of a mighty falcon.
“Juvalla, greatest of all my house, why are you troubled?”
“Halvan, my forebear, why am I here? What good can come of this battle?”
“Take comfort, my daughter; soon you will see. By the labor of your hands a great empire will grow, and from your line will come many great rulers in the ages to come. At dawn, lead the clans of Jagor into the land of the Beaconites, and all will be revealed.”
Then, the spirit of Halvan departed the falcon, and Juvalla named it Skandava. Climbing onto the falcon’s back, they returned to the gathering of the clans and prepared for battle. Communing one last time with the forest, they painted their faces and hid themselves under dark cloaks. Then, as Halvan had instructed, they passed into the land of the Beaconites at daybreak.
Passing unseen through the fields, they stormed the fortress of Beacon in the early morning light. The battle raged through the day, and though many of Beacon and the clans of Jagor fell, neither would relent to the other. Knowing their power was aided by the great sorcerer, Juvalla mounted Skandava and rose high above the fortress, crying out,
“Great sorcerer of the Beaconites, why do you conceal yourself?"
As she spoke, a fire was lit in the tower of the beacon, and from it the shadow of a figure appeared, clad in armor and adorned with many decorations of war. Descending into the light, Juvalla faced her adversary. At the highest level of the tower they fought for many hours, but the magic of each fed into the other and neither could gain the advantage. A strange feeling restrained Juvalla, and a weariness came over her that she had not known since her journey over the sea.
Finally, vision blurred and legs trembling, Juvalla saw her adversary collapse. But it was not by her hand. A stray arrow from the battle below, rising high above its mark, had slipped beneath the armor of the great sorcerer and pierced her heart.
The woman cried out, and Juvalla was overcome by unbearable grief, for at last she recognized her adversary. Removing the sorcerer’s helmet, Juvalla wept as she looked into the eyes of her dying lover. Wailing to the sky, she asked the Nimry why they would lead her into such suffering. She wept inconsolably, but she began to feel the magic of the forest swell within her. Drawing the arrow forth, life came back into Niona’s body.
At once, every weapon in the fortress was set on fire, and every wound healed. The dead rose from their resting places, and all stopped to behold the figures on the tower, the one who grows and the one who burns, entwined together in a wreath of light.
And so the war that had raged for many generations finally came to an end and there was peace in the Bay of Beacon. Juvalla and Niona returned to Inari, and seeing that they were blessed by the Nimry, their people followed them from the cradle island to the lands surrounding Nash Aky5 in the South, where the great empire of Albria would rise.