The Woman who Painted the Sky
A Ziannan Myth
The sky was created by Kitsa to cover and protect the earth below. It was dark at first, lit only by the stars. The first time the sun ever rose it became clear that the sky was a beautiful, light blue. For hundreds of years, these were the two colours of the sky. Black and dotted with stars at night, blue with white clouds during the day. Kitsa loved both versions of her sky.
The first humans lived their lives under the two different skies. For generations this went on until a young girl was born in a small, poor village. Her name was Mysma, and she loved to paint. As a child, she used plants to create different colours of paint. Any colour she could imagine, she made, and she painted everything. She painted on rocks, on leaves, on bark, on the small buildings of her village. With each project, she became more and more ambitious.
It was when she was a young woman that she gained fame outside of her village. Her paintings were so beautiful that people travelled from all over the land to visit her small village. Mysma was very kind to every visitor. She painted small rocks or shells and handed them out for free, even though her parents urged her to earn money.
“No,” she always said. “My art is meant for everyone.”
Kings and queens called her to their castles, where she painted huge murals for them. She would fill whole walls with scenes from the world around her, and when they tried to pay, she would politely refuse and go back to her little village, as poor as she was before.
“Mysma,” her parents would cry. “You must ask for money. We’re so poor, we can hardly eat.”
“Art is meant for everyone,” Mysma said, as she always did.
But as the years passed, her family became more and more annoyed with her. People became more demanding. Kings and queens tried to hoard her art in private collections. Mysma was devastated. One night, with only the stars to light her path, she climbed to the top of the highest hill near her village. She stared up at the sky.
“Please, if only one of you could help me,” she said. Above, the gods heard her and turned their attention to the young woman on the hill. “I only wish to share my paintings with the world. I want everyone to see them, young or old, rich or poor. I want nothing else in this world.”
The gods and goddesses looked to one another. They all wanted to help Mysma, but none of them knew how. Then, Kitsa had an idea. She turned herself into air and floated out of the clouds to land in front of Mysma. She appeared suddenly, and Mysma gasped.
Kitsa nodded. “I heard your plea, and I believe your wish to be a noble one. I know how to help you, but the task will take you many, many years.”
“I do not care about how long it will take.”
Kitsa smiled and gestured at the sky above them. “I would like you to paint the sky.”
Mysma looked up. The sun was just starting to rise, and the sky was changing, as it always had, from black to blue. “But how?” she asked.
“Look to the sun,” Kitsa said. “It is golden yellow. Could the sky around it be the same?”
Mysma turned to the sun, and in her mind she could imagine what Kitsa described, and much more. “It could be orange and red and yellow,” she said, slowly at first. “The clouds could glow pink. When the sun is high the sky can be blue, but it can change - light some days and dark some days. When the sun is setting the sky can be dark red and purple and dark blue until it becomes black again.”
Kista was delighted. “My sky will be beautiful.”
“And at night,” Mysma continued, distracted as she often was while painting. “Sometimes there can be streaks of colour. Green and purple and pink. And if it rains, an arc of colour can soar across the sky. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue and then purple. As if a giant bow were tied across the earth. A rainbow.”
“Yes, yes, a rainbow!” Kitsa agreed, but then something occurred to her and her spirits sank. “What you’re imagining will not only take many years. To change the colours of the sky every day will take until the end of time. And you do not have that much time.”
Mysma was not discouraged. “I will do it every day for as long as I live. Please, let me paint the sky.”
Kitsa took Mysma’s hand and they both became air. Mysma instantly got to work. All over the land, people woke up and looked out their windows, awed at the beauty of the sky. Those who had seen Mysma’s paintings recognized her work instantly.
And so for many years Mysma worked on the sky. Everyone, human and god alike, fell in love with her work. Every day people woke up wondering what the sky would look like, and Mysma never disappointed them.
Although Mysma lived in the sky, she continued to age. When she was a very old woman, Kitsa went to Zianesa, the eldest of all the gods.
“Sister,” she said. “I have an important request. I fear that Mysma is close to death, but I cannot bear the thought of losing her. She has become my greatest friend, and she makes the world so beautiful. There must be something we can do.”
Secretly, Zianesa had been having the same thought. “We can make her one of us. Bring her to me.”
That night, when Mysma could take a break from painting, Kitsa brought her to Zianesa’s palace. As they landed, they became solid. Mysma was startled, as she had not noticed so much time passing. She moved stiffly, leaning on Kitsa for support as they walked through the palace. When they entered the throne room, Zianesa climbed down from her throne to greet them. She lay her hands on Mysma’s shoulders.
“I’m giving you a gift,” Zianesa said. Mysma felt her strength and her youth returning to her. In a moment, she had become the same young woman who had first spoken to Kitsa. And yet, something had changed.
“You are one of us now,” Zianesa said, smiling kindly. “Paint the skies forever. Teach humans how to create art as beautiful as yours. Show them how to paint, draw, sculpt, make music, sing, dance, and act. Decorate this world, Goddess of Art.”
And so Mysma did.
The Man who Walks Backwards
A Ziannan Myth
Many years ago, in the time when gods and goddesses still walked among us, there lived a man. He was a young man, full of curiosity about the world around him. He spent his days studying and exploring. When he knew everything there was to know about his home village, he moved on to the next village, and then the next, and so on.
After years of exploring, he came to realise that he knew everything the world could tell him. He began to look to the gods to give him answers, so he could learn even more. He first spoke to Mysma and Jute, who were happy to share all they knew about art and language. He found Finiss in a field of wheat, and asked her all about growing crops and harvesting. He learned about craftsmanship from Catul. He ran into Acal in the forest, and learned about hunting. One by one, he managed to find the gods and speak to them. Most were happy to share their knowledge.
One day, the man came across a small village that had recently been attacked. The buildings were on fire, the plants were torn from the ground, and bodies lay about on the street. The man was horrified, but then, ahead of him, he saw a black chariot. He knew instantly that it belonged to Siour.
The man approached it carefully. Harnessed to the chariot were two skeletal horses, which slowly turned their heads to watch him. The man did not let fear chase him away. He kept walking, determined to learn all there was to know about the chariot, and the god who drove it. There were souls standing in the chariot, but they seemed confused and did not notice him. So the man crouched beside the wheel, waiting for Siour to return.
Soon, Siour appeared. He walked from a burning house, leading a few souls behind him. The souls climbed onto the chariot to join the others. Just as Siour stepped into the chariot, the man threw himself onto the back.
The horses began to run. The souls seemed unbothered by their speed, but the man had to hold the side tightly or be bumped off.
He almost lost his grip when Siour turned to him. “My chariot is not for the living.”
The man tried to hide his fear and stand up bravely. “The gods have been teaching me all they know about the world. I would like to learn from you, too,” he said as firmly as he could.
Siour seemed amused. “Very well. Work for me and I will teach you about death.”
The man nodded, and he felt the pressure of the wind and speed lessen. Although the land was still rushing by the sides of the chariot, he was unaffected, just as Siour and the souls were.
They made a few more stops to collect souls. Siour said nothing to him, and the man stayed quiet. Suddenly, the skeletal horses dove into the ground. The man flinched, expecting the chariot to shatter, but instead it sank into the earth as if it was a lake.
They immerged in an enormous dark space. Fire danced above them, casting a faint light. Fireflies greeted the chariot and fluttered around the souls. In front of them, a huge castle stood on a mountain. Siour drove the chariot to the front gate.
“Do not step off of the chariot,” Siour told the man.
The man nodded and stepped aside, to allow the souls to follow Siour. The man watched as Siour led the souls up to an open black gate. A woman was standing there, wearing a dark cloak with orange embroidery on the hems that seemed to flicker like flames. She greeted the souls kindly, welcoming them to the underworld, and the man knew she was Volava.
The souls wandered off after a moment, and the two gods walked into the castle. The man was left alone. He gazed around the underworld, wishing he could leave the chariot and explore, but he knew he had to do as Siour had said. No living person had ever entered the underworld, but luckily the chariot offered him some protection. The man knew that if he stepped off, he would die. So he remained on the chariot, admiring the underworld and Volava’s castle from a distance.
The man was unsure how much time passed before Siour returned to the chariot. “You did not leave?” the god asked.
“Of course not, Lord Siour,” the man said.
“Good.” Siour flicked the reins, and the skeletal horses took off.
Many years passed. Slowly, Siour taught the man everything he knew. In exchange, the man helped Siour find souls and guide them to the chariot. The man took many trips to the underworld, each time remaining in the chariot. Occasionally, he would speak to the more talkative souls. A few times, Volava walked up to the chariot and spoke to him. The man learned more than he ever thought he could.
The man lost count of how many souls he had met, of how many years had passed. One day, he helped Siour gather souls from a battlefield, but before he could take his usual spot on the chariot, Siour held out his hand.
“I have taught you all I know. You can no longer come with me.”
The man was dismayed. He had believed that the god valued his help; even saw him as a friend. “I want to continue working for you.”
“I know,” Siour said. “But there are rules I cannot break, and you must go. We will meet again, when it is your turn to take a final ride in my chariot.”
The man nodded solemnly, but then thought of something. “Lord Siour, what if you cannot find me?”
“I find everyone,” the god said.
“Yes. But I know all there is to know about death,” the man said. “What if I evade you?”
Siour turned away, and the man could see the slightest smile upon the god’s face. “Then I will enjoy the chase.” He called to his horses, and they leapt into action. Suddenly, Siour and his chariot full of souls were gone.
The man stayed still for a long time, thinking. He remembered everything Siour had told him. He grinned widely as an idea came to him. He walked off of the battlefield, quite pleased with himself, for he was walking backwards.
He had learned many things about death, but he had also learned many things about Siour. One thing he had noticed over the years was that Siour always approached a soul from behind. The man knew that if he walked backwards, he would always see Siour coming.
To this day, the man walks backwards. He still roams the land, learning all he can. People will sometimes see him in the distance. If you are able to speak with him, he will answer any question you ask. However, no one has ever been able to catch up.
He disappears when he sees you coming.
The Girl who Keeps Fireflies
A Ziannan Myth
The underworld was a lonely place.
It was created by Volava, goddess of fire, and her husband Siour, god of death. It was meant to be a good place, a happy place free of fear and pain, and it was. People still feared it. Siour would find souls and deliver them to the gates, but then he would leave Volava to greet them. Try as she might, she could never make the souls happy to see her. They left her, searching the underworld for loved ones, finding happiness without Volava’s help.
She was lonely, and as the years passed her loneliness only grew. Though she left the doors to her castle open, none of the souls ever came to her. Siour was always busy. Volava desperately wanted to go out into the world, to visit her siblings, nieces and nephews who ruled the world above her. However, she knew she had to stay to look after the souls in her realm, even if they ignored her.
An idea came to her one day, while she was idly playing with her fire. Her fire was all that kept the underworld lit. She often tried to make the souls happy with beautiful displays of fire swirling into the air. The particular moment, the sparks flying from her fingers caught her interest.
Using a dark wooden chair she never sat in as firewood, she created a small, tame fire within her great hall. She coaxed the fire until it burned a bright, golden yellow. Taking a deep breath, she blew on the flames. Sparks drifted into the air, and then turned, flying in lazy circles. Volava put out her hand and a small, dark beetle landed on it. As Volava watched, delighted, the beetle lit up. Its glow was yellow, the same as the fire it had come from.
Volava watched her creations flitter about the great hall. She turned back to her fire, concentrating deeply until the flames had reddened. She blew on the flames again, and this time the beetles she created flashed red. She spent hours making beetles until the great hall flickered like the night sky. She flung open the windows, freeing the beetles to explore the underworld.
The changes started gradually. The fireflies, as she called them, spread throughout the underworld. The souls noticed them, and were reminded of Volava’s presence. They began to visit Volava to praise her creations. Volava was happy. She lit up the underworld’s sky with swirling fire while her fireflies brought joy to all the souls.
It seemed as if nothing could go wrong. As it often does, bad news came with death. Siour returned to the castle briefly and Volava went to meet him. After a quick embrace, Siour opened his hand to reveal a few dead beetles.
Volava gasped and gently scooped them from her husband’s palm. “What happened to them?” Her fireflies had no souls – they were not supposed to die.
“They were out in the world,” Siour explained. “The air and the light killed them.” He was usually unemotional about death, but sadness seeped into his voice. He knew how important the beetles were to Volava.
“You must help me.” Volava had an idea. She took Siour’s hand and led him to the grand hall, where the fire which created life still burned. They knelt beside the fire and she put the beetles into Siour’s hand. “Put them into the fire.”
He did as she asked. For a moment, the flames burned green. Volava blew. A single green spark flew from the flames. It buzzed around for a moment before coming to rest on Volava’s hand. There were tears in her eyes as she looked down at it.
“You must find me a soul,” she told the green firefly. “The purest, kindest soul you can find.”
The firefly flew away.
Far away, deep in the underworld, there was a soul of a young girl. She had died from a sickness centuries before, so long ago that her memories about life had faded away. All she knew was the underworld, where she stayed with a group of souls who had once been her family. She loved the fireflies, often catching them in her tiny hands and watching, fascinated, as they flashed.
She first noticed something odd when the firefly she caught flashed green. She showed it to the other souls, but as they had in life, they ignored her to go about their daily routine. The firefly only flashed when she was the only one who could see it. The little girl’s family did not notice when the firefly flew from her hands, and she followed it.
Souls do not get tired. The girl followed the firefly for nearly a year before the castle loomed in front of her. The firefly disappeared inside. The girl followed it without pause, through the open doors and down hallways until she walked into the great hall.
Volava was kneeling by the fire with her back to the hallway. When the green firefly flew in front of her, she noticed the little girl and turned around.
“Hello,” Volava said gently. She knew that she sometimes scared younger souls.
The little girl barely noticed her. She was staring up at the sparkling walls and ceiling. She had never seen so many fireflies.
Volava followed her gaze and smiled. “Do you like my fireflies?”
“Fireflies?” the girl asked. She had never given the beetles a name. “I love them.”
“Do you think you could help me with something?” Volava asked.
The girl looked confused. She knew who Volava was, but why would a goddess need her help?
“The fireflies are escaping out into the world,” Volava said. “Once out, they quickly die. They need someone who loves them to go out to protect them. They need a keeper. I would go myself, but I simply cannot leave the underworld.”
The little girl’s eyes widened. “I can protect them!”
Volava laughed lightly. “Yes, I think you will do perfectly. I have been making something to help you.” She held up her right hand, and a small golden cage appeared. She handed it to the girl. “The fireflies can live for a few days in the living world. The reason they keep dying is because, while they can find their way out easily enough, they cannot find their way back. This cage is a doorway for them. The fireflies will find you, or you will find them, and put them into the cage to send them home.”
The girl turned the cage in her hands, looking it over. “What about when there are no more escaped fireflies?”
“They love to explore. They will keep finding their way out, and you will be there to help them. The green firefly will always keep you company. Will you do this?”
The girl nodded eagerly. The green firefly landed on her shoulder.
“Thank you, Firefly Keeper,” Volava said. She waved a hand and the girl disappeared as her soul returned to the world above.
People often caught glimpses of the Firefly Keeper – a pale girl with a glowing cage. If they tried to approach her she would vanish. Children in the forest would sometimes hear her laughter as she played with the fireflies she loved. No one ever managed to speak to her, and eventually sightings became so uncommon that people began to dismiss her as simply a myth.
But people who care for the world and everything in it might still see her in the dark of night. All you have to do is believe and follow the fireflies.
The Girl who Found a God
A Ziannan Myth
Once, many years ago, a young girl was looking for food in the forest. She was sent to look for berries and mushrooms, but she soon got distracted following a flock of birds. As the sun got lower in the sky, she realized that she was lost. She did not recognize the trees around her, or the stream in front of her. She didn’t recognize the cave on the other side of the stream.
She sat down and almost started to cry, but before she could, she heard loud wailing from the cave. It sounded like a baby. The girl cautiously walked into the cave, peering around for the source of the noise. She walked until she saw a shaft of light ahead, and in the light was a bundle. The girl tiptoed closer. The bundle was moving, and the wailing was coming from it. The girl knelt and peeled away to top layer of the bundle.
It was a baby. He stopped crying when he saw the girl. Realizing that he, too, was lost, the girl picked him up and put him in her basket. He fell asleep instantly. The girl decided to spend the night in the cave, and built a small fire. She roasted some of her mushrooms, ate, and gradually fell asleep.
The next morning, the girl woke up and saw that the baby was staring at her. She gave him some berries, which he happily ate, and had some herself. Then she picked up the basket and walked out of the cave. She still didn’t recognize anything, but she picked a direction and started walking. She sang songs to the baby to keep him happy, and gave him more to eat when he seemed hungry. As the day passed and she still didn’t see anything she knew, she began to get worried. She had no idea how to get home, or where to take the baby.
As the sun began to set, she noticed that the baby seemed to be getting heavier. Confused, she put him down and made a camp for the night. She cooked more mushrooms, fed the baby, and went to sleep. When she woke up in the morning, she was surprised to see her basket empty. The baby was nearby, but he was no longer a baby. Instead, a toddler was playing with some rocks. The girl realized that he must have been a god. She gathered her things, took the boy’s hand, and led him from the cave.
They walked and walked. That night, still lost, they made camp again. The girl was certain that the boy had been growing during the day, because he was looking taller and talking more. They went to sleep, the bow curled up in the girl’s arms. When they woke up the next morning, the boy was even bigger.
This continued for days, until the boy could speak clearly and was almost taller than the girl. She still didn’t know his name, but he seemed to be the same age as her, and they had become good friends. He helped make the fire that night, and cook dinner, and they went to sleep.
When the girl woke up the next morning, she could smell something delicious roasting. She sat up to see that the boy was cooking a grouse. When it was done, they ate together. The girl thought the boy looked even older. He was taller than her, and reminded her of her older brother, who was ten. When they were finished eating, the girl started to get ready to go, but the boy stopped her.
“It is time for me to reveal my name,” the boy said. “I am Eogan, son of Sunia and Catul. Every ten day I spend in your world, I grow up. Ten days ago I was exploring that cave. The next day, I was once again a newborn. You have taken care of me for ten days, and now it is my turn to take care of you. I now know the way to your home. Will you follow me?”
The girl nodded. She continued to pack, and Eogan helped her. Soon, they were on their way again. The girl followed Eogan as he led her in the opposite direction that they had been walking.
“Why couldn’t you help me before?” the girl asked.
“I didn’t remember who I was,” Eogan explained. “Being in your world confuses me. Normally, I can change age at will. But I got lost, and I was very lucky you came along.”
They walked in silence for a while after that. Although the girl had assumed he was a god, it was still strange to have her assumption confirmed. And now that she no longer felt she had to take care of him, she wasn’t sure what to do.
But as the day passed she relaxed and found that Eogan was still the boy she had befriended. That night, as they settled down, Eogan told her stories about his family, the other gods and goddesses. Then he stopped and grew serious.
“Tomorrow I will be a baby once again. But if you keep heading east, you will reach your village before I have grown back into myself.”
“I will take care of you until you remember,” the girl promised.
Eogan smiled. “There’s no need for that. When you reach your village, take me to the temple. Put me in front of my mother’s niche and she will find me.”
The girl agreed, and they went to sleep. The next morning Eogan was a baby again. Carefully, the girl put him in her basket and continued east.
She took breaks to eat and sleep, and sure enough, after four days had passed, she saw her village up ahead. Delighted, she started to head towards her house, but then she remembered what Eogan had asked her to do. She took his hand and led him to the temple in the middle of the village, being careful to avoid other people so that she would not be distracted from her goal.
In the temple, she brought Eogan to Sunia’s niche and had him sit down. As she turned to leave, he began to cry, and she stopped. “I’ll sit with you until your mother comes,” she decided, and she sat down with Eogan, who crawled onto her lap and fell asleep.
The girl didn’t want to disturb him, so she waited patiently. Through small windows she could see it getting darker outside. She wanted to go home to see her parents and her brother, to let them know that she was no longer lost. But instead she waited with Eogan.
She had started to fall asleep when a light glow woke her. It took her a moment to notice that Sunia’s statue was glowing. The girl watched in amazement as a glowing figure separated itself from the statue and became clearer, until a woman was standing in front of her. The girl knew it was Sunia. The woman turned to her and smiled.
“You have found him!” She knelt next to the girl and scooped Eogan into her arms. “My beautiful son.”
“He was in a cave,” the girl stammered. She was finding it very scary to talk to an adult goddess. “He was a baby when I found him, but then he grew up and he told me how to get home. Then he became a baby again.”
Sunia nodded. “He loses control over his powers when he comes to this world. I told him not to stay here too long, but he was curious.” She smiled fondly at her son.
“Would you mind if I said goodbye to him?” the girl asked, mustering all of her courage.
“Of course not,” Sunia said kindly. She put Eogan, who was now awake, and waved her hand over him. He glowed the same soft light as his mother had, and grew into his oldest self.
Eogan smiled at the girl. “I knew you would make it home. Thank you.” He put his arms around her and she hugged him back.
“I’ll miss you,” she said.
“You’ll see me again,” Eogan promised. His mother tutted and he smiled at her. “I promise I’ll be careful mother, I’ll visit during the day.”
“Very well, then,” Sunia said. She took Eogan’s hand, and held it tightly even when he tried to pull away. She put her other hand on the girl’s head. “I bless you and your village. Any child born here will never get sick. Your family, wherever in the world they may spread, will have healthy babies. Thank you for taking care of my son.” Sunia faded away, and Eogan did so as well, only managing a quick wave to the girl.
The girl stayed in the temple long after they had left. Then, when the moon was high in sky, she made her way back to her family’s home. Her parents and brother cried and hugged her. She didn’t know how to explain to them what had happened, so she never did. But she saw Eogan often, and the children in her village prospered.
Years later, when she had lived a full life and Siour came to collect her, Eogan was there. He took her hand and helped her climb onto the chariot, and she felt younger than she had in years.
The Sailor King
A Crelan Fairytale
Once upon a time, in a lost land, there was a dying kingdom. In this kingdom was a man known only as the Sailor King. He had three loves: the ocean, his ship, and his beautiful wife. Together, the Sailor King and his queen explored the oceans around their dying kingdom, hoping to find a new homeland for their people.
One day, while sailing out further than they ever had before, a huge storm caught them. The waves were tall and angry. The ship was flipped by the sheer force of the water, and the waves were so strong that they pushed it completely upright once again. The Sailor King, who had been clinging to the helm, was unhurt. But once he shook the water from his eyes he came to a horrible realization – his beautiful wife was missing.
The ocean calmed, appeased by the offering of life. Below the ship, weighed down by her dress, the Queen sunk, down to the very bottom of the ocean. As she drifted down, the sea creatures paid their respects, lining up as if at a funeral.
The Sailor King, overcome by emotion, began to sob. As his tears met the ocean water, something odd began to happen. Summoned by the Sailor King’s sorrow, the old god of the sea began to rise. He stood on the crest of a wave, which pushed him up until he was level with the deck.
“What is the cause of your sorrow, Sailor King?” the old god of the sea asked.
The Sailor King looked up. “My queen is gone.”
“Ah, yes, but what of your other loves?” the old god of the sea asked. “Your ship and my ocean?”
“They were made all the more beautiful by my queen’s company,” the Sailor King said. “I fear I will never love the ocean again, not without her to love it with me.”
The old god of the sea was touched by the Sailor King’s sadness. He had always liked the Sailor King because of his dedication to the ocean. So he raised his arms and water flowed over the deck. It gather in front of the Sailor King and suddenly turned into the Queen. There was never a more joyful reunion, as the Sailor King and his queen embraced.
The old god of the sea, however, had more to say. “Ocean Queen, in order to bring you together once more, I had to combine your life with the ship you stand upon. You may never leave her deck, and every night, when the sun goes down, you must go to the prow and become the figurehead. When the sun rises each day you will return to life.”
The old god of the sea expected the happy couple to be dismayed. Instead, the Sailor King smiled. “Then, my love, I too will never leave the deck. We will sail and explore together, forever. For you are my beautiful Ocean Queen, and I will never leave you.”
In turn, the Queen smiled. “Brave, bold Sailor King. My life is tied to this ship, and I promise you now that she will never sink. No storm will ever break her, and no rocks will ever bruise her, for I will protect her and our love will sustain me.”
The old god of the sea gracefully returned to the water. He knew that his favourite people would remain safe, as long as they had each other.
And so the Sailor King and the Ocean Queen sailed the seas. After a few years they found a beautiful island far out into the ocean. They returned home and led their people to the island, where their kingdom could be reborn. They named it Crele.
Crele prospered, but the Sailor King and the Ocean Queen could never rest there. They continued exploring the oceans together, frequently visiting Crele until one year the visits stopped. Many people believed that they had been lost at sea.
But the old god of the ocean knew the truth. The Sailor King and the Ocean Queen were simply lost in their love for each other and the ocean, and they would sail forevermore.