Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Theft of Mihr

   Now the time drew near for the Children of Denu’s annual pilgrimage into the depths of Oramon to pay tribute to their grandmother, Nomra. Denu requested to accompany the caravan. Ner was justly suspicious but, with his mother present, did not dare to forbid his father anything.
   Onera asked Nu to help her create a gift for her mother. Nu used a shell and lined it with hairs from Onera’s head and called it the Omra, the first stringed instrument.    Onera gave it to Denu and told him to give it to Nomra with certain words.
   So Denu set off with his Children to the cleft that led into Nomra’s domain. Ner was beginning at last to grow old after the centuries and sent his son Teris in his stead to visit Nomra, warning him before he left, “Beware of your grandfather, Denu, for he is a cunning one.”
   The procession wound through the forests and hills to the cleft where darkness slept. And then down into the heart of Oramon, along the sparkling paths where silver grass grew, down the golden steps into the caverns of glimmering phosphorus and shimmering flame, along the road of chiseled onyx into the crystal caverns where jeweled birds swooped and gemstone flowers bloomed. The pilgrims came to the carven palaces made by Syn and the stone man himself opened the silver doors for them and they passed into the halls of glittering gold, jewel, and crystal. These stones and metals had been formed expertly by Syn, depicting animals and plants and vistas of unimagined beauty.
   In the center of the palace hung Mihr, the Night Light, glowing over Nomra’s throne of jade and the pearlescent tomb of Onys.            Nomra was waiting, with bats swooping around her head, to greet her visitors. Sylo was at her side but Phiron was in the world above, teaching the new race that he and Nomra had crafted together, the Pyrites, small salamander-men that would become great craftsmen.
   Deru greeted Nomra and introduced Denu. Nomra’s eyes sparkled and she turned her scorching gaze upon Denu.
   “I have not always smiled upon Neron’s new beings,” she said, “But your Children have behaved well. They came slimily at first, with flattery and groveling, but long has been our covenant and true respect and friendship has arisen between us. Upon hearing of Nemrus’ curse, I even granted them room in my palaces after their mortal existences were through. After all, it is what Onera’s shadow told me of long ago when these spaces were terrible and dark. But what merit have you, Denu, of the starry eyes?”
   “I have brought a gift from your daughter,” Denu said, laying the Omra at her feet.
   “And she did not come herself?”
   “She did not wish to impose upon the palaces of thy refuge without first sending an emissary,” Denu said, bowing low. “She wishes to reiterate that she bears you only thoughts of warmth and affection.”
   “Thoughts,” said Nomra darkly. “The thoughts of the mind are manifold and much afflicted with duplicity. But the feelings of the heart are true, no matter how frequently thrust through with shafts of contrary emotions. How does her heart read? How does thine, Denu?”
   “Mine is open to you, Lady of the Center,” said Denu. “Read it as you will.”
   “I do not like what I see.”
   “’Tis the many broken shafts,” said Denu, “the darts of fate and the cold loveless eye of a father.”
   “Your children have told me some of your history,” said Nomra. “And that was fed to them by a bitter mother. Neron has always loved his creations. If he does not love one, I trust he has reason.”
   “A reason that pales beneath sound judgement,” said Denu. “That of jealousy, a sin that has touched even you, Lady of the Center.”
   Nomra’s eyes flashed but she did not move.
   “Tell Onera that if she truly wishes it, she may come and see me, but unaccompanied,” Nomra said at last.
Teris and his uncles and aunts all paid their tribute and the pilgrims made their respectful exit.
   “Father,” said Deru to Denu, “it was not good that you said those things to Nomra.”
Denu, seeing that Deru was not flexible, turned his lips secretly to Teris’s ear. “The craft of your father’s city is great and powerful,” he said. “The power of creation is in all thine eyes. Beheld you, the great shining sphere that glows in serenity above Nomra’s throne?”
   “Mihr,” replied Teris. “It is a sentinel, they say, and Nomra uses it to form things in the dark.”
   “And think to what heights it could take your artifice,” said Denu. “If you had this light in your city, you would be powerful beyond Neron and beyond Nomra. All of Oramon would be yours.”
   Teris did not at first like his grandfather’s suggestion, but by the time they had nearly reached Nemraltus, Denu had convinced him that naught could go wrong, and so, secretly, the two turned back and slipped into the darkness once more.
   They crept into the underworld palace and Denu disguised them that they might blend into the shadows. Thus, they peered into Nomra’s throne room and beheld her communing with the bats of her own creation. Syn was gone, but Sylo waited beside his mistress.
   Denu changed into a bat and, flitting into the light of Mihr, stole the Omra from the steps of the throne.
   He gave it to Teris and told him to go far off into the hallways and play it loudly, luring Nomra off in investigation. “Whilst she is gone, I will change into a dragon and wrench Mihr from its fixtures, flying it free from these chambers,” he said.
   “And I?” asked Teris.
   “You will have to slip away before she finds you,” said Denu. “Don’t be afraid, I do not doubt that these myriad bats and birds all watch for Nomra and will alert her to the theft. She will pursue me and you will be free to slip out at your leisure.”
   Teris was reluctant but at last crept off into the shadows. Denu waited. Nomra rose from her throne and whispered to her jeweled birds. She was about to mount Sylo when quiet bell-like sounds echoed from the distance. Nomra narrowed her eyes and quickly mounted her metal steed and rode off into the palace.
   Denu quickly morphed into his dragon form and flew to Mihr. With his claws he gashed the silver fixture that fused it to the ceiling. At first, it would not budge, but Denu shot fire from his eyes and melted it.      Looping his claws through the intricate cage of the light, he flapped his ungainly way towards the exit. As he had suspected, the jeweled birds flew to Nomra, but the bats pursued him angrily.
   Nomra rushed back to her throne room, to find it in darkness, and the cocoon of Onys oozing at it began to breathe freely in the gloom. Nomra spurred her metal steed on and called for Syn.
   “We must retrieve Mihr immediately, or the Dark One will escape!”
   Nomra pursued Denu to the cleft, but he escaped into the night air. The bats pursued him and Syn raced after him across the ground, but Nomra saw that there would be no catching him without flight. She turned her steed instead and went to find Phiron.
   Denu flew high and higher, trying to shake the bats that gained steadily upon him. Still higher he flew, towards the very stars. The bats were too swift and soon they fell upon him, biting and clawing ferociously. Denu swooped and arced, trying to shake them, but they stayed with him, no matter how many loops and dives he performed. He knew he could not make it back down to lose them in the trees, and he saw gleaming Syn waiting for him on the earth, so he flew higher still, until the stars were about him.

   The bats did not let up and Denu’s blood sprinkled some of the nearest stars. At last Denu made a desperate dive, but the great orb of Mihr caught upon the stars and stuck, lodging in the stellar web that was as old as Oramon itself. Denu tried to yank it free but could not. At last, he let go and plunged down, down, down, his speed mounting as he free-fell towards the earth.     The bats dove after him, but could not catch him. He plummeted down, but his upward course had led him out over the sea and he plunged into the water, transforming into a fish and sinking away into the depths.
   Nomra found Phiron and they returned to the cleft, followed by a small army of Pyrites. They gazed up at the night sky, transfigured by the addition of a great light.
“We shall attempt to get it down later,” said Nomra. “Now we must stop Onys.”
   But Onys heard them coming with the crackle of fire and the tramp of numbers. He slid out of his melting prison and slipped away through the palaces, out into the dark passages beyond, to the very edge of darkness and crept over the edge into oblivion.
   Nomra and Phiron followed his slimy trail but they were too late; the fiend was gone. They did find poor Teris, though, lost in the winding halls, clutching the Omra in terrified fingers.
   Nomra kept him in her palace until Onera came and begged her to release him.
   “It was Denu,” said Onera. “None of his children knew of his intentions, and had they an inkling, they would not have brought him to you! His wish to visit seemed pure. If I had come with, perchance I might have stopped him. Teris was led astray, let him come home with me.”
   “You have not planned this thing, to wreak revenge upon me?”
   “No, mother, I never bore you ill will for killing me,” said Onera. “I see you have made a wondrous dwelling for those who will die.”
   “If I will let them come here after what has transpired,” said Nomra darkly. “Do you know what vile creature your lover has released? In that melted sphere of pearl and darkness I had locked away Onys, a being I found in the dark. A vile monster who would that all creation remain in darkness and unformed possibility. Where he has gone now, I know not, nor who he may try to harm next.”
   “Denu did not know that!” Onera pleaded.    “And his children are innocent of his sin!”
   At last, she was able to convince Nomra to let Teris go, but she forbade him to return, or any of his descendants. So Onera and Teris returned to Nemraltus, where still there was no sign of Denu, but Mihr shone bright in the night sky. And ever after, on nights when the Night Light shone its brightest, the children of Denu would work their most powerful sorceries.

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