Donnerstag, 9. August 2018

The legend of Hátislár the thrice-cursed

 This is a local legend of the Ennepetal, and the locals tell it for ages... traded it is from grandfather to grandson and in the long time it is told it has underwent a lot of change... but the elvenfolk of the Ennepe valley, the mighty kin of Iamparái tell it differently, and as far as I am told by their masters of song, more honestly.

For it was them who first started to tell the story as a warning to all humans. A story it is of the sorry shortcomings of man and the evil one man can summon upon each and every member of his entire world. A tale it is of the elven war against man, and it is this war that brought the dwarves and elves of the dale into hiding.

Now people say that Evil is a being older than the world, and it is told of in the scrolls of the dreamweavers of Feorh - Seonn - Ys, the AI - uigeann.fearh how the grey snake first assaulted the dreams that be and the world that is, and this is not the place to talk on end about these events, which took place in a place when place was not, in a time, when time was not.

It must - for now - suffice to say that the Grey came into the world from outside, a shadow that was no shadow. It devours all colours, it devours all dreams and spites peace and bravery alike. It poisons love to greedy lust, honest strife to greed, honesty to lie and wrath to hate. It is the death of all things light and all things of gay countenance; no song survives in its claws, nor tale, nor poetry. It corrupts the hearts of all its followers. Certainly one can tell, but seldom art first glance: Because the disciples of Grey are cunning in their wake.
 This is the story of Hátislár, the thrice-cursed. This is the story of a man who fell under the spell of the Primeval Evil. This is the story of a lesser dark lord of the grey hosts.

And was it once upon a time, when time was not, or but a day ago, that there was born a child into a family of relative wealth in the valley of the Ennepe? The child was a boy, and grew up almost like every other child. His father was a smith and merchant, and he was to become the heir of a modest estate. His father took pride into the small manufacture, and he was master to two excellent bladesmiths who themselves took pride and joy into making a very fine quality of steel and forged swords and knives and daggers and excellent tools thereof, for which the dale was famed throughout the known world. It is said by the dreamweavers that they were close friends to the dawrf kingdom of Klauti - Rad nearby and the Iámparái Cynn and learned a lot from elf and dwarf alike. The Redemester himself knew that he profited well from this friendship, but he was one of the disciples of the new belief of Christianity and dared not talk openly about the knowledge gained by the bond that had been formed between the races in the dawn of time. But he left his smiths alone with their afflictions, and did not fare badly by this.

Now the Ennepe valley was never suited well for farming, and the landlord of the nearby manor demanded a heavy fee, and so there was a lot of work to be done. Seldom if ever had he time to tend to his little boy, and when he had, he gave whatever gift he could get to his little son, who grew up somewhat wuild without the firm hand of his father. His mother loved him overly and taught to him not the old ways but the new word, and even if she taught him not to disdain the fair folk, he came to hold the dwarves and elves in low esteem, even to ostracize them for their difference and their ancient beliefs which he learned to sneer at despicably.

And he grew up a man with little obligations, and hard work he never had to do, for even if his father told him to crush the coal or bring water for the quench, the smiths were eager to help him out to protect him from any hardship in fear of his mother. For she had the repute of talking behind the backs of her adversaries and schemes and plots unfortunately were among the things he started to see as a key for a successful life, and success was what he had. But this success in his endeavours came at a prize, and he came to be reputed as cold-hearted, and other children shunned him. He started to smile at the mishap of others, and came to develop a greed for shining things. But all this would not have made him an evil boy, nor did anyone think of him other than a boy slightly misled. For in his heart he still was able to feel a warm love for his parents.

And thus he grew up to be a sturdy and robust youth, even if he had no hard work to do. For on the rare occasions he conversed with his father, he accompagnied him on the hunting sessions the manor´s lord commanded, and his father, being a wealthy man, even was allowed a gun and hound, and he was not an exception thereto. An avid hunter for his lord became he, and he roamed far and wide on sunny days in summer and in autumn he helped to drive the wildstock out of the thicket. Farther and ever deeper he ventured into the woods on his sauntering, and that made his countenance strong and able.
Alas for his sauntering roams. Alas for the health of his limbs and the prowess of his gait! Alas for the accuracy of his aim and the rifle in his hand! Alas for his hound that so well guided him! For the beast, that, unlike man, never betrays its own nature, led him to the crags of Haukrinnarstainns, which lay peacefully in the sun, and the gates were open. Unleashed he had the hound before, for he had thought he had a scent, and was greedy to bring home the meat and the spoils of the hunt, and the dog swiftly made into the mountain´s halls. Thereupon the doors did close, and left the youth outside, despairing for the loss of his father´s beloved hunting companion. And, fearing the wrath of his father, he started to yell at the grey stone. Now the doorkeeper heard of the wailing outside the crags, and beholding a young lad of pleasant countenance, opened the door without further ado. Alas for the times no gone forever, when there still was trust between the races and a local wanderer just could walk by to visit the wonders within the crags! Woe it was that this trusting worked for elves and dwarves alike, woe unlike any other, even if some dispute if the birth of Hátislár took place there and then. But argueably this was the beginning of many sorry events thereafter.

For into the mountain he was led, and his ostracity for the Iámparái Cynn somewhat dwindled. Now gold and gems and works of art have a different meaning in the halls beneath the mountain. being abundant in many forms, their material value is diminished in favor of their actual worth. The Cynn and the dwarves take pride and joy into the making of beauty and arts and objects of high craftsmen´s cunning. How long it was he wandered amongst the Cynn it is disputed, and he was told many a tale and many a trick of the trade of smithing and the making of beauty, but alas, his ears were even then deaf for advice, and he looked at all the gold and precious stones with a hot fire in his heart, and it was passion and greed in this fire. The dreamweavers, worried for the sanity of his soul and mind, told him the First Tale Of The AI-uuigeann.fearh and thus informed him how first the Grey took hold of the world and warned him of greed being a straight path to the Grey God´s altar; but alas, he would not listen. But hearing of there being an altar of Grey, he asked if the Grey God was worshipped and where.

Now indeed, long ago, before the venue of dwarves and elves into the dale, there lived another race, which is seldom talked of amongst the kin of Klauti - Rad and Iámparái, but still kept as a secret amongst the wise elders and tutors of their respective races. Deriving from the seed of the Oreamm and the seed of Men who propagated with the Grey Oreamm, they bear many different names. Troll -like, Goblin - like, with a fierce and strong countenance and claws like iron and fangs like steel, bearing evil arms and weapons of excellent but disturbing manufacture, contorted as their makers and masters, this race had been all but extinguished by the fair folk.

Rumour had it that there lived one last of these creatures the life of a hermit, stealing human babies and eating them in obscene rituals, so disgustingly aghast that few even dared to tell about them, a hunter even of his own kind, who had devoured his own offspring. Rumour had it this fell creature still dwelt in a cave keeping a maiden hostage whom he had kidnapped centuries ago and kept alive with evil magic. Still, this maiden spited him where she could, being yet forced to keep him company and doing his biddings under a ghastly spell. She was reputed to be of a wild but serene beauty and few could tell if she were man or elf.

And the youth listened to all these tales with jaundiced and twinkling eyes, but the masters of the tales still misunderstood what was driving him. And he was given back his hound, and he was given a plain but potent hunting knife of elven make as a gift of honour. Now it always had been customary to thank one´s host and provider with kind words and wishes of wellbeing, but the youth just took his leave, leaving his hosts speechless at such blunt behaviour.

As he returned home late, his father gave him a beating and promised him a change of things and gave him work to do at the smithy and the new-built ironforge to end his sauntering and bimbling about on dubious hunting sessions that the landlord had not sanctioned in the first. And at first it looked as if his son altogether had changed; but within his heart there was fury and anger and hate even at his father´s authority. And he took to heart the tale of the maiden who was said to live in the monster´s cave near the town upon the hill and came to see himself as akin; a creature of nobility and wildness kept captured by an evil troll. And since his father had taken his rifle from him and forbid him to leash the hounds for hunting on his own, he snuck off all by himself, just carrying the hunting knife he had been given by the elves, and in the twilight of dusk he wandered the dale until he came to a fell place.

Alas, dark was this place, and many had regretted to let live the insane monster, and not many of them lived to tell the tale. A cave it was, naturally opened in a crevice and  a small ditch in a murky and distorted forest, eerie in its desolation. One must credit his bravery to even get there in the first, but insanity was what was driving him to call upon the creature that dwelt there, hunting and prowling for the living flesh of man and beast, of elf and dwarf. And thus it was he summoned a priest and advocate of the dark belief.

It is not told what happened there, what obscene rituals were performed that night, or what stories were traded. Even for the young lad the terror of these things was too strong, and he fled the place with all the prowess of his young life, clinging to the words of the new belief as if to a life-buoy on the storm-ravaged ocean. It is said that at least he had somehow made possible the escape of the hostage, and the monster set out to hunt for both; but yet both went on respective ways, and there is no tale told within this legend of the whereabouts and whenabouts of the maiden... even if she is suspected to play a role in another legend, but this has to be told on another occasion.

Again the young lad returned home; and still, the birth of Hátislár was not yet then. His parents did not even get notion about his nocturnal journey, nor did any of his friends and relatives. But something had been corrupted forever. He had nearly forgotten about the riches of the Haukrinnarstainn´s halls, and a long time he forgot about his adventure in the halls of the Iámparái. At first, all seemed all too well. He went to church as everyone did and tried his best to work at the smithy. But something fell had befallen his clever fingers, or so it seemed, and often he ruined a cunning work by a simple blow of the hammer. The things he made were strange and stranger to the eye, and the smiths at first mocked at them.

But then there came an evening when there was a full moon in the sky, and the smiths had set a table in the smithy. A company of elves had ventured from their halls to join in on a feast in the manufacture and to offer advice, a custom both man and elf around these parts had followed for ages, a joyous party on a warm summer´s night. And the elves (and some dwarves of Klauti-Rad) with joy and a song set out to show the human craftsmen new tricks of the trade, and together they counselled and forged with a song and quite a deal of wine. Near the morning the company wanted to take their leave. In the shadow, watching with awe and envy, the young man saw them. And he saw them passing the corner where lay the scraps of forging to be melted or forged anew, and there the mastersmith who had tried to teach him to no avail had put a knife blade he had tried to make. And one of the elves, passing by the scraps, saw it lying there. One of the ancient order of smiths was he, and while he had not lived in the times of the Gráw-Khwaor, he still stopped with terror. For the knife blade he had seen he had heard of countless times, in the tales of horror of the Gráw-Khwaor-wars. And he bid the smiths to lend him the scrap metal blade. The smiths, however confused by his request, permitted him to take it away anyway to seek council with the elders. Grave was the warning the elven craftsmen gave; to be ware of the one who had made the tool, and to be wary of any signs of strange behaviour.

The company strode away into the beginning dawn towards the crags... and not one of them saw the  stalking shadow behind them. Alas for the fell prowess the young man had gained, the goddess may know where. For it is not an easy feat to stalk an elf, and this is what he did. And, armed with an iron bar he had stolen, he slew the whole company and relished in gore and blood. And he hid the bodies under big stones at the trail´s side and sneaked home. There passed half of a month, and the moon was nowhere to be seen. Sleep had not come easy to the young man. And, as disturbing his crime might have been, still this was not the birth of Hátislár. But it was on this night that he tossed and turned in his blankets, until it shivered through him like a gust of wind, and upon that gust of wind he heard a voice. "Come.", it said.

And he came. Came to the ironforge´s pond. Murky its waters lay, covered with an eerie slime and green moss like a foul swamp. Something moved beneath the stinking waters, something huge and alien to sight. It might have been of human likeness once. Once it had been the offspring of man and grey Oreamm, but no more. Beneath the swamp´s surface it had hidden, lusting for the souls that had escaped his preying, silently waiting in a slumberlike demeanour; silently, patiently and full of greed, now it rose to the lightless night. No likeness did it have to troll or man nor to anything walking the warm earth. It was like an eel, but not like an eel; wings it had like a bat, but a bat it was not. And when it spoke, without a sound, there were tentacles moving about its disgusting maw, which bore likeness to snail and worm and yet looked disturbingly reminiscent of something all too familiar. It emanated feelings fell and a fear of doom primeval; it oozed a stench so awful and ghastly that madness followed in its wake. Its limbs were rotting but full of terrible strength, and the young man prostrated before its countenance in utter terror and stuttered the words of the Lord´s prayer over and over. And the creature bent over him and kissed his brow and ordered him to bring him the bodies of the dead as food. And the young man kneeled and obeyed, shaking with terror.

And thus Hátislár the cursed was born and the first curse was inflicted upon his soul. And this was the curse of hate.

No trace was found of the elven company, and the morning found him shaken and pale, but otherwise healthy, and after some time his mind took all these events for a dream. He shunned the pond, however, and was fearful always and endulged in foul moods and thoughts of darkness. As opposed to his former endeavours, he obeyed his master and his father and mother. But noone saw him smile. Never would a laugh touch his lips, and his parents were worried about this. The wealth of his family started to dimish, too, for no elf was seen in the vicinity of the ironforge anymore. Often one of the smiths was seen strolling away to a nearby hill and gazing into the mists that rose from the valley´s ground, and the people said that he was waiting to shun his rival or his father, depending on what rumour they wanted to spread. But the elves knew better and councelled with this smith and met in secret still, for this one human was faithful still. And he begged them to maintain the Redemester´s wealth and prosperity, and they did their best. The stubborn mind of Hátislárs father, however, did not provide them the best of possibilities. All they could do was to teach the one and faithful man in the smithy, and he in turn did his best, but als, it would not prevail. And so there came a day when the smithy´s fiefdom was passed to another Redemester. But since the old man had served the lord long and well, the manor´s warden permitted the family to live on the property and provided them with victualies and a payment of honour.

Hátislár was employed a scribe and clerk for the ironforge and did well in this job, for noone saw him smile and all that counted for him was profit, money and its profitable propagating. So he earned a modest wealth and build a family, but often he went out in the middle of the night, and the darkness found him standing beside the pond which he disdained and yet lusted for, muttering uncomprehensible words to himself, or so it seemed. His passion for hunting became deeper still, and he filled his parlour with the prepared carcasses of his prey aplenty and more.

Thence came an autumn night, when the sickle moon shone brightly and sharp, that he sat out on a nocturnal endeavour, and sitting watch on a stump in the woods, across the clearing he was watching, he saw a white hart passing. And as he shot his rifle, he missed, or so he thought, and a frenzy of hate came over him like a gust of volcanic wind, violent tremors rushed through him, and, brandishing the elven hunting knife, leapt over the clearing to chase down the hart. Panting hard, he started at a mad run and followed the drops of blood oozing from the wound he had inflicted upon the magical creature, followed the secnt of death ever deeper into the forest.

And the park, indeed being a magical creature of the forest, sought refuge within the confines of the elven territory. And Hátislár stalked the deer and followed her into a thicket of brambles in a rampage, not minding the thorns tearing at his flesh, and hacked at the fierce vines not minding his own safety, and pressed through a hedge of blackthorn. And even though it was protected by blessings of wood and thorns and vine, the park fell and lay amidst the thicket of thorns, by a well so crystal clear that sprang up and always renewed itself with the spell of everlasting youth; and the park, drinking deep, seemed to reconvalescence. But now Hátislár had reached his prey and violently hacked at the magnificíent beast and again relished in blood and gore, spilling the lifeblood and the heartblood and entrails alike alongside the white stone of the well, fouling its brightness with deeds of evil and besmirching the marvellous blade of elven make. And the park lay lifeless.

Hátislár stood and laughed for the first time in years and smeared the gore upon his face, and he felt wild and powerful. And because he had seen what the water was capable of, he drank a drink so deep he could drink no more. But what was that? As he drank from the everlasting crystal well, his vision seemed to impair, and he beheld a slender figure standing by the well, dressed all in green and silver, and a voice like the rustling of leaves touched his mind with a feathery touch.

"Come.", it said. And Hátislár came, with a sneer and a frown and he raised the knife to kill. But as he tried to stab the figure, he missed, and was it on a stone in the ground by the well that the blade snapped? All that he beheld in his hand was the handle of exquisite stag antler which he had adored for so long.

And still there stood the figure, seemingly unmoved, and spoke.

"You drank a drink. You hunted. Now pay."

Thus spoke Hátislár: "I will not. How much should I pay you, scum?"

"You drank a drink of knowledge and vision. Fear the vision to agnize yourself."

And thus the second curse was inflicted upon Hátislár.

He came home and never spoke about his hunt and what he had encountered. Three wounds he brought home, three thorns of blackthorn had wounded him, and these wounds would not heal. He kept them secret for a long time, and noone knew about them. There just was a faint note of awful stench oozing about him, but he was rich enough to afford expensive perfumes. And deep in his heart he knew that he was changing. And he was afraid, and sleep did not come to him easily, and when it came, it was full of dreams of violence, hate, and greed and madness.

Then the old Redemester who had been set above him, died, and he was offered the fiefdom for his achievements as a clerk. But Hátislár did not care, for sleep did not come to him out of fear of the dark and hate and greed and envy.

And to him were born children, and they were beautiful, and their legend is told elsewhere, but all days were just like leaves borne on the storm. They passed like the winter´s snow, as happens so easily to the mortals under the Grey God´s curse, indifferent in their absence of colour. Sometimes, when he looked at his children, and at the grandchildren that were born, he could smile, and then his smile was reminiscent of a smile he had never smiled, but it quickly faded in the indifference that had ravaged his life. And madness struck his every night.

His wealth passed. Love and friendship he ruined.

And winter came upon the smithy.

The hammer of frost bore hard upon the corrupted ruin, and fell hard upon his endeavours and his every plan. Hátislár sat alone and cried. And his wounds oozed a stench so awful that more madness followed in its wake. Thus he sat and he knew he would be changed.

There was an oak standing beside the smithy, an oak the last faithful smith had planted, and a strange rustle was in its leaves, a song, and a call rose from Dale to hill and from treetop to root and root and along the road, and the road led over the countryside.

And it was thence in the summertime of late summer that the call of the oak was heard. By the call were summoned a host of singers and dreamers. To the site they came with a song and with music and laughter. They played music and shared a drink and wayward songs and toiled along with a smile and they lend a helping hand wherever they could.

And Hátislár sat in the chair he seldom left now, and he wore a friendly mask. And Hátislár let them toil for his prospering as he had done when he was a clerk and evaluated each and every one of them on the scales of his greed. And he listened to their music as he had listened to the death throes of the white park. And often Hátislár cried and he sat beside the pond seeking council with what lurked beneath.

There was one figure amongst the colourful host of strange countenance. Man he was, but man he was not, and he was clad in black and green and sometimes he told of strange tales and he forged works of strange appearance and sang songs of alien composition in langauges never heard of. he toiled, and he toiled with a smile and talked of alien dreams and dreams come true, and dreams came true.

And Hátislár watched him with envy and thusly he worked the third curse.

To be continued.

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