Here follows the tale of how Balad was made, and the birth of sapienkind, and the wrath of the gods, and how the world became round, as it has been told by the Feacthengead since words first formed upon their tongues.
Before the beginning of time, before the birth of the first star, before any light had shone in the vastness beyond the ether, and countless epochs before any eye opened to behold it, there was the Light Everlasting. Before the beginning of time, before the first song had been sung, before any sound had rung in the vastness within the worlds, and countless epochs before any ear awoke to behold it, there was the Song Immutable.
Eons passed in the luminous emptiness, in the sonorous silence of the heavens, and eons more still, until the lifetimes of ten thousand men would seem but a fragment of a second. Then, when the Light and the Song were young as a fawn and old as a mountain, they wove together as two waters in converging streams, and Light morphed into pictures, Song into stories. And from their union, Knowledge flowered in the void as the fruits of a tree: five fruits there first were, the High Gods, and all around them, from Light and Song was made a tapestry of beauty beyond measure, and for a long while, they were content. Of their number Salion was the first forged, and he clad himself in the guise of an old man, all in white, with wings like those of a swan stretching from his back. Second to awaken, but no less puissant, was Eryda, she of the fiery spirit, whose hair was as rivers of molten stone and whose eyes shone like rubies catching a sudden flame. Greathain awakened in the amorphous seas, and he wore a raiment of iridescent scales and a beard of grey foam. He was together with Vilenya, she of the verdant visage, antlered helm, gown of moss and lichen, and crown of amaranth. The last of them was Erd, who wandered alone, and wore a hundred guises, for his Light was nonpareil, his Song without equal, and the tapestry around him grew brighter and more bombastic wherever he passed.
Time passed without measure, and the Five were glad still, and from their Light and Song more like them were awakened, and more still from those offspring, and these were the Fae. Some danced through the space above the tapestry, others skipped across the surface fleet of stride, and others still gathered beneath the surface, floating and frolicking. But as eons more trudged by, the Five became discontent. The tapestry had grown stale in their minds. In that moment, they changed the notes of the Song that had been sung from time immemorial, altered the Light that had existed before existence began. From this change emerged something new: less luminous than Light, and less splendid, but harder; less resonant than Song, and less beautiful, but louder. Something that could not merely be seen or heard but tasted, smelled, touched. Something that could be not merely perceived but experienced. This new wonder they dubbed “Matter.”
From Matter they formed Fialath Meadhe in the image of their abode in the Otherworld. Salion gave his breath to the imperceptible space above the surface, and this he named arwan. Greathain’s saliva rolled into ripples and splashes, and he called the blue expanses ciascheal. Vilenya shed some of her luminous skin upon the hard surfaces, and this she called curinhé. Lastly, Eryda secreted her blood into the veins beneath the surface, and it became tánga. From their world of Light and Song, they looked upon this new realm of Matter and smiled.
Alas, though permanent their new world appeared, it seemed empty. And so the Five fashioned shapes out of Matter, shapes that bore the likenesses of the beings of Light and Song that shared their Otherworld with them. From Salion’s thoughts came those he called birds and bats and butterflies; Vilenya drew the forms of the beasts of wood and mountain and meadow; Greathain made fishes and sea stars, urchins and leviathans. But the most fantastic of all were the creations of Eryda: beings of blood and fire, might and majesty, unlike aught that lived in the World-Beyond; and these she named dragons.
But when Salion set his creations above the mountains, they fell to the ground and shattered. Greathain’s masterworks sank to the depths, and Vilenya’s beasts stood still as the clay from which they were made, and the fire within Eryda’s stillborn dragons grew cold and hardened into obsidian. No Light could awaken them; no Song stirred in their hearts of clay.
Thus did the gods seek out Erd, the Fifth, who had hitherto taken no part in the forging of Fialath Meadhe for his heart was burdened with a great warning, a profound distrust and even fear of this hard, cold, noisy world. Eryda went before Erd, kneeling before her brother, and she made her voice heard: “O Erd! Mighty Thou art! Bequeath upon my creations Thy Light, that they may live as Thou live, that they may protect this fragile realm!”
Then Salion came before Erd, bowing before his brother, and he made his voice heard: “O Erd! Noble Thou art! Sing for my creations Thy Song, that they may live as Thou live, that they may take wing and bless this lifeless realm!”
Then Greathain came before Erd, in supplication before his brother, and he made his voice heard: “O Erd! Wise Thou art! Lend Thy Song to my creations, that they may live as Thou live, that they may nourish this empty realm!”
Lastly, Vilenya came before Erd, taking the hands of her brother, and she made her voice heard: “O Erd! Generous Thou art! Giveth Thy Light to my creations, that they may live as Thou live, that they may cultivate this callow realm!”
Erd pondered their pleas for a while. Centuries passed, and the heights were whittled into spires, the seas rose and sunk, the forests grew and wild grasses spread, and the clay forms were drowned beneath the waves, and they were swallowed up by mosses and toadstools, and the dust and fragments they left behind were swept away whither the winds would carry them. The gods grew impatient with Erd, but did not disturb his thoughts for they knew that Erd was not one to make any decision in haste.
At long last, Erd stood and made his voice heard, and it was like thunder: “O Salion, my brother, breather of winds; O Eryda, my sister, mother of fire; O Greathain, my brother, lord of waters; O Vilenya, my sister, matron of earth! Thy cries I have heard and considered, and I say to Thee: yea, I shall give Light and Song to these things of Matter. But warn Thee I must: for Matter is the adversary of Light, and the antithesis of Song; in time, all things made from the mating of the Three shall know what it means to suffer.”
But the gods did not understand, for they had never known suffering, for suffering is the price of Matter, born of it, unique to it. Thus they nodded, and they were glad, and Erd knelt upon the surface of the world, at the Hill of Fate which the Northmen call Fallenorn, and kissed it, and the beings of Fialath Meadhe were filled with Light and Song, and henceforth they lived, and for a long time, the gods were content. Birdsong filled the air, and the deer’s cry and the bear’s roar rung out through the forests; Greathain’s creations danced in the depths, and Eryda’s beasts of fire soared above the mountains in splendor. The children of the Five loved these creatures. Some cherished the birds, and flew with them, and these were the Elves; others frolicked in the forest with deer and fox and squirrel, and they were the Gnomes; others still sought the creatures of the caverns and mountain passes, and these were the Dwarves; yet more took to the seas to swim with the fishes in their great schools, and thus became the Seasprites.
Alas, Erd was not content. Doubt, even fear, weighed upon his heart. But more than this, a dark thought gnawed at his mind, a thing he had hitherto not understood: a device of Matter, a stain on Light and blemish on Song. In that moment, he felt envious of his siblings, and he desired to create a creature of his own. And so, as the others slept, Erd gathered four vials and went to his brothers and sisters. The first vial he held up to the nostrils of Salion, and filled the vial with his brother’s breath. The second he placed beneath the mouth of Greathain, and he filled the vial with his brother’s saliva. The third he placed beneath the ear of Vilenya, and he filled the vial with flakes of skin scraped from his sister’s earlobe. The fourth he placed beneath the hand of Eryda, and he pricked his sister’s finger, and he filled the vial with her blood.
Then Erd took the vials back to his hide deep in the mountains, and he poured the contents into a bowl and mixed them together with mud and grain, and as the mixture hardened, he sculpted it into a shape unlike aught that his brothers and sisters had created. His heart still heavy with doubt, Erd knelt before his hardened work, placing his mouth upon its, kissing its lips, and into that kiss he poured his Light and his Song such that his Light had nearly darkened altogether, his Song had nearly fell silent forever. Deep slumber overcame Erd.
When Erd awoke, his creation stirred, stumbling to its two feet, shivering. Erd stood in awe of this creature; in its frailty he foresaw strength, in its vulnerability he foresaw valiance.
Sensing the creature’s fear, Erd took its hands—his hands—and the god made his voice heard: “Be not afraid, my child! For thou art the vessel of my Light, my Song. Thou art Light and Song wed to Matter, and because of this, thou shalt be mighty. Thy name shall be Anathead. Come!”
Then Erd led Anathead out of the mountain, and he made his voice heard, calling all the gods and all the Fae to himself. They gathered, and their eyes grew wide with wonder at the sight of this new creature, alike to the forms they had taken in the World-Beyond, but hardened into the stuff of the mortal world.
Erd made his voice heard, crying: “Behold! This I have made, that he may inherit the world of Matter. Anathead I have named him, and his kind shall be called human. Praise be to Anathead!”
The Fae broke into song, praising the name of Anathead; the chants of Elves and Gnomes wove together with the droning hums of Dwarves and the gentle chorus of the Sprites, and the Song was as splendid as the Song Immutable as first it was heard in the primal emptiness.
But a great wind interrupted the song, a tempestuous gust that shook the mountains to their roots, and Anathead was afraid. Then Salion stood before Erd and made his voice heard: “Brother most cursed! This thing Thou call ‘human’ is of my breath, but this I did not give freely. Thus I shall not love him, and I shall not command my birds to yield before him, and my winds I shall set against him lest he bow before me and serve me!”
Then the mountain erupted in fire, and rivers of flame snaked between the peaks, and Anathead was afraid. Then Eryda rose in a pillar of smoke and tongues of swirling flame, and she made her voice heard: “Brother most foul! This thing Thou call ‘human’ is of my blood, but this I did not give freely. Thus I shall not love him, and I shall not command my dragons to yield before him, and my fire shall consume his flesh lest he bow before me and serve me!”
Then a great wave rose over the mountain, crashing down upon the rock, shattering its summit, covering all the world beneath in a great flood, and Anathead was afraid. Then Greathain rose from the swells in terrible splendor and made his voice heard: “Brother most treacherous! This thing Thou call ‘human’ is of my saliva, but this I did not give freely. Thus I shall not love him, and I shall not command my fishes to yield before him, and my waves shall sweep him astray lest he bow before me and serve me!”
Then a thunderous roar came from the forest, and the earth trembled beneath the feet of the Fae, and the ground parted, and a great bear, bigger than the mountain itself, rose from the chasm, and Anathead was afraid. Then Vilenya, perched upon the bear’s shoulder, made her voice heard: “Brother most wicked! This thing Thou call ‘human’ is of my flesh, but this I did not give freely. Thus I shall not love him, and I shall not command my beasts to yield before him, and they shall be his nemesis lest he bow before me and serve me!”
The Fae fell silent, trembling at their parents’ wrath. Anathead fell to his knees, weeping. But the rage grew within Erd, rage greater than the maelstrom of Salion, the inferno of Eryda, the sea-squall of Greathain, the stampede of Vilenya. Then Erd rose, towering above his brothers and sisters such that even they seemed to fear him, and he made his voice heard: “O Ye pitiful gods! Have I not given my Light and Song to these things of Thine? Did I not answer Thy pleas? This is the recompense I demand from Ye: that Ye shall make Thy creations to love and serve mine, and he will maketh for them a place suitable to live. He shall be not their master but their steward. Thy children, the Fae, shall help him, guide him, and giveth their wisdom to him and his kin, for this world of Matter shall belong to his kind. And if Ye refuse, if Ye smite my creation or bring him to harm, then my vengeance Ye shall know! Test me not, I pray Ye, for my power is as great as any of Thine; nay, greater! Ye knew this, else Ye would not have besought me to give Thy creations my kiss. I wish not conflict between us, my brothers and my sisters. But this is my command, and Ye must abide! For I have given Thy creatures life, and life I can take back from them!”
Even as he spoke, the warning grew in Erd’s heart. The others pondered his words, and with heavy hearts, they agreed, and for a long time, Anathead’s people spread, and the Fae taught them, and the birds and beasts and fishes gathered around them, and the dragons protected them.
Years passed, and the world that Anathead inherited grew darker. Anathead grew weary, his hair grown hoary and unkempt, his flesh papery and thin. So it was that Erd’s warning was realized, and the Light fled the first of Vilenya’s creatures, and the Song went silent in those of Greathain. The gods wept tears of sorrow and anger for they did not understand what it was that befell their creatures. More years passed, and more creatures of the world expired, more rapidly it seemed now, but Anathead, though shriveled, lived still, the Light shining faintly within him, the Song lingering on its final notes. The gods’ wrath grew fierce, so fierce that it turned into hate. Salion, fearing that his beloved eagle was about to perish, commanded it to take to the seas, to snare one of Greathain’s fishes, hoping that, by consuming the fish’s Light and Song, the eagle’s Light would shine longer and its Song would go on. And so the eagle ate the fish, and it lived. But Greathain was wroth, and he set his river-lizard against Salion’s egret, and the lizard swallowed the bird whole, and the lizard lived.
The creatures of earth and sea and sky saw what was happening, and began turning on each other, and the gods could not stop them, for the beasts and birds and fishes hungered, and the gods did not understand hunger, and they did not yet understand death. They went before Erd, pleading with him to bequeath again his kiss of life. But to them Erd made his voice heard: “Alas! This I cannot do, for I have warned Ye of the toll demanded by Matter, for I had foreseen it, and it cannot be altered.”
Then Eryda made her voice heard: “And what of Thy own creation of Matter? What of Thy ‘human’ creature? Why does he shine on while my dragons are extinguished? Is this death by his command?”
And Salion too made his voice heard: “Yea, what of Thy own creation of Matter? Why does Thy ‘human’ sing while my birds crow their last cries in anguish? Is this death by his will?”
To this Erd made his voice heard: “Nay, Ye fools! Such power is Ours alone. Before long Anathead, too, shall wither, for thus I have cursed him, though not by my own desire. For this I shall withdraw to the void for ever, for I have sinned, as have Ye. Farewell my brothers, my sisters! I shall weep alone, for this hideous Death was of my making.”
Thus did Erd depart from the Mortal World and from the World-Beyond, seeking solitude in the emptiness of Fialath Draiche, ever to weep for the world he had made to suffer and die, never again to meddle in its dealings but twice.
Though they hated him for giving death to their creations, the gods mourned their brother’s departure. They mourned the chaos and suffering that had befallen their beloved creations.
Now in this time Anathead and his kin had fled, fearing what the gods would do without Erd’s hand to stay them. Anathead had hidden his family away in the mountains where he was first awoken, eating rocks and clay, drinking rainwater. Theirs was a hard, cold life, and many of his people had taken ill and died. Hope was fading from Anathead’s heart, and as he lay upon a bed of stone, he made ready to give up his Light, to end his Song.
It was then that Vilenya found the home of Anathead, who trembled in fear at the Lady of the Greenwood’s coming, but Vilenya took pity upon him, making her voice heard in a gentle whisper: “O human, son of Erd! Good nephew of clay! Wilt thou harken to my cries? For my heart bleeds with mourning. Wilt thou take mastery of my creations, and kindle peace within their hearts, and shield them from hostile hands?”
To this Anathead made his voice heard, saying weakly: “O great Goddess Vilenya! Thou honor me with Thy coming! Would that I could do what Thou asketh. Alas, I am but an old man, and Death calls my name. But this I promise Thee, Lady of the Greenwood: that my command to my children and all who come after them will be to shepherd Thy creations, to cherish and protect them, with the help of Thy children the Fae, and all beings of Matter shall know peace.”
Vilenya was glad, and she bid Anathead farewell, and kissed his forehead, and Anathead gave himself to death. And for a long time, his children carried out their father’s command, and they learned from the Elves how to speak to the birds, and they learned from the Gnomes how to herd the beasts of the forest, and they learned from the Dwarves how to summon the creatures of the caves and vales, and they learned from the Mermaids how to read the language of the sea. Anathead’s folk learned to grow plants to nourish and clothe themselves, with the aid of Elves and Gnomes and Mound-Dwarves, and the beasts of the field gathered to help them. Ages passed in peace.
But as Erd’s creations grew in number, they had forsaken the mandate of Anathead. They had made slaves of the beasts, setting atop them, putting them to whip and cart, assaulting them with tools of iron and wood. They slaughtered them for food, even for sport, and they rejoiced in the bloodshed. The gods watched this with despair and wrath, and they vowed to put an end to the race of Anathead.
And so Vilenya went before Eryda, making her voice heard: “O Eryda! Fearsome is Thy wrath! Set it upon these wretched beings, these usurpers of my flesh and Thy blood!”
But Eryda’s temper was as fiery as her creations, and she seized Vilenya’s throat, making her voice heard: “Treacherous sister! Didst Thou not beseech these miserable humans for Thine own purposes? Didst Thou not seek the help of our traitorous brother’s mockeries?”
Vilenya broke free of Eryda’s grasp, and in a pitiful whimper, she made her voice heard: “Yea, I was led astray by our wicked brother’s wretched lies. I beseech Thee, mighty sister, forgive me, and let us slay these filthy things together.”
Then Greathain came before Eryda, making his voice heard: “O Eryda! Dreadful is Thy wrath! Set it upon these wretched beings, these usurpers of my saliva and Thy blood!”
But Eryda’s discord had fallen too upon Greathain, and she slashed him with her fiery whip, and as he bled blood and seafoam, she made her voice heard: “Cowardly brother! Didst Thou challenge our traitorous brother before he slunk away from his corruption? Nay, Thou were silent whilst Thy own creations were slaughtered! Thou findeth Thy courage only when Erd is not here to challenge Thee!”
Greathain knelt before Eryda, and in a muddy croak, he made his voice heard: “Yea, wise sister, I remained silent before our brother, but only because I deemed that Thou had shamed him, that Thy words had defeated him, and no words I could have spoken could have surpassed Thine own. I beseech Thee, splendid sister, forgive me, and let us slay these filthy things together.”
Greathain’s words touched Eryda’s heart, and she was flattered. Then she turned to Salion and made her voice heard: “What sayeth Thee, brother?”
But Salion needed speak no words for his anger spoke for him. Nonetheless he turned to his sister and, raising his great staff above his head, made his voice heard: “My voice has been heard already, and my words ring true. These things of our traitorous brother’s creation I despise, and should any of Ye doubt my resolve, I shall break Thee with my staff!”
The other gods trembled at Salion’s words, even mighty Eryda. For alas! Though the gods were of Light and Song, the curse of Matter, the fear and the hate and the pain and the madness it brought with it, hung over their heads and wrought in their hearts. For a while they bickered amongst themselves, but their anger fell hardest upon Erd’s creations, and they plotted how best to destroy them.
On a day, Eryda called to herself one of her dragons. Then she gathered the other gods, demanding the seed of each one’s mightiest creation, that she might mix that seed together and impregnate the dragon. Salion called down his most puissant eagle; Greathain summoned his fiercest razor-toothed shark; and Vilenya besought her beloved bear, her steadfast protector. Eryda mixed the seed together with another drop of her blood, then set it in a bowl before the dragon. When the beast had swallowed the mixture, Eryda set her into the mountains to rest, to build her strength, and to bide her time until her womb had swollen.
A great shaking beneath the earth heralded the birth of Eryda’s vengeance: a serpent of immense size, whose head rose at the Northplace at the very top of the world and whose tail emerged from the End of the South. The earth cracked when the serpent arose, such that the land was sundered and a great sea filled the chasm between them, and that is how Cildana and Sordana were severed. The serpent stood before Eryda, who was as a grasshopper before a mountain in her creation’s sight. But Eryda had no fear, and to the serpent she made her voice heard: “O daughter of mine! Flame of my vengeance! Thy name shalt be Naiherah. Go forth and cleanse the lands! Restore the world as it was before the plague of humans made it to wither!”
And thus Naiherah, the Great World Serpent, set upon the world of sapienkind. Much destruction she wreaked upon the terrified people: villages, farms, and even cities swallowed in one gulp, entire armies crushed beneath her vast hooves, towers blown into the sea at the thrust of her wings. The gods watched in awe, though they lamented the suffering to their own creations as Naiherah laid waste to the lands. Vilenya made her voice heard, saying: “Woe to my poor beasts who must endure this brutal death, but when the last vestiges of our brother’s treachery are wiped clean from the earth, then they shall know happiness once more.”
Salion, too, made his voice heard: “Woe to my poor birds who are caught in Her tempests, but when the last vestiges of our brother’s treachery are but ill memories, their Song shalt fill the ether once more.”
Lastly, Greathain made his voice heard: “Woe to my poor fishes who perish in the boiling and churning of the seas, but when the last vestiges of our brother’s treachery drown beneath the waves, then they shall swim all the more freely in peace.”
But Eryda said nothing; instead, she listened, horrified at the cries of anguish and fear that rose up before Naiherah’s approach. As she leaned her ear to the wind northward, she heard the people crying out: “O Eryda! What have we done to anger Thee? Doth Thou not know that we love Thee and serve Thee? Wilt thou not have mercy upon us?”
In that moment, Eryda’s heart grew heavy with regret. Tears doused her fire as they flooded her face. And so she went alone into the mortal world, and she walked among the skeletons and the weeping children, and she pitied them. Then she went into the wilderness, and she made her voice heard, crying out: “O brother Erd! Come out of Thy hide! Forgive me, for I have sown great evil among Thy children! I have condemned them to a fate most ghastly.”
Then a great wind swirled about Eryda, but the trees stood still, and the snow was undisturbed. A dreadful roar filled her ears, but the landscape was silent. A Light nonpareil blinded her eyes, but the creatures of the forest slept under the blanket of night. That was when Erd came again into Fialath Meadhe. He seized his sister, wishing to hurt her, that she might know the pain she had inflicted on his beloved humans. But he felt only pity for Eryda, and he embraced her, and as he put his mouth to her ear, he made his voice heard: “O good sister, the sentence of death was not Thine to give but mine own. But I would not have them suffer as you have done. Will you make amends?”
And Eryda made her voice heard, saying: “I will, as Thou would have it.”
Then Erd made his voice heard and said: “Then Thou must suffer as they suffer. Thou must clad Thyself in Matter, that Thou might know the pain and the fear of death.”
And so it was that Eryda, the Fire-Mother, took the flesh and blood of a mortal, and she was cold, and she was weak, and she was afraid. But she did not protest. Then Erd took her to the Northplace and, with great chains of frostbitten iron, he bound her at her wrists, her ankles, and her neck, but still she did not protest. Then he set a large vial beneath her right hand and, drawing a knife, sliced open her wrist so that her blood would drip into the vial. Eryda howled to the pain, but she did not protest.
Erd then made his voice heard: “Nine years shalt Thou linger here, collecting Thy blood in this vial. For Thy blood is that of a Demiurge, but also that of a mortal, and only this blood may poison Naiherah. When Thy exile is at end, take this blood among the mortals, and douse their blades in it, and lead them against Thy abomination. Then shalt I deem Thy debt repaid.” Then Erd vanished, returning to his exile in the void.
Nine years and as many days did Eryda languish in the cold, weeping, bleeding, sustained by the godly fire that still burned within her. When she wept, the tears froze in her eyes. When she screamed, the breath froze in her throat. Then, when the ninth day after the ninth year had given way to a new dawn, a man came upon the Northplace, beholding the strange woman chained to its summit. The small man clambered up the rock face, hacking and hewing the chains with his axe. Eryda thought it all for naught for the chains were forged by a Demiurge, but to her surprise, they shattered almost instantly! The exhausted goddess collapsed in the snow.
The man knelt before Eryda, wrapping her wrist in his cloth, and he spoke, but Eryda could not comprehend his words. She made her voice heard: “I am Eryda.” But the words stumbled from her lips, and he could not understand them.
At last, the man said: “Éataín! Éataín!” and Eryda would henceforth be called Éataín amongst the traveler’s kin.
Éataín lived with the man and his family for a year, learning their speech, delighting at their songs, indulging in their drinking and dancing. Their kindness had touched her heart. She learned that her host was named Hamath, and that he was the king, and that he sought a new queen for Naiherah’s jaws had claimed his wife. Ere the autumn turned to winter Hamath sought Éataín’s hand in marriage, and though she loved him, she demanded to think long and hard on it. For how could a Demiurge give her love to a mortal? She did not understand the love of a man and his wife, and she especially did not understand how that love could flourish under the threat of death.
Before Éataín could make her decision, word reached Hamath’s tribe that Naiherah approached. Éataín besought Hamath for the vial of blood that she had bled in her imprisonment, and she blessed the blades of Hamath’s warriors with that blood. Before the warriors left for battle, Éataín kissed Hamath, then laid with him, and then he set out for battle with his vanguard, commanding Éataín to stay behind to guard the women and children.
But Éataín would not stay behind for she knew that, even with her holy blood adorning their blades, Hamath’s men would be overwhelmed by the Great World Serpent. So she rode into the wilderness, and she called out to her brother Salion, making her voice heard: “O Salion! Gallant Thou art! Have pity on Thy sister in her raiment of death! Grant me Thy aid in this battle.”
For a while, there was no answer, but then a great hawk flew down from the mountaintop, perching above Éataín, and from its beak Salion made his voice heard: “O sister, Thou hast betrayed us, just as Erd Thy brother! Thou hast chosen His creations over those we cherish! Thou has forsaken Thy very name; for that, Thou art no longer amongst us. Thou art exiled forthwith! Go and die with Thy mortal friends!”
Fire raged within Éataín. Though weakened in her mortal guise, her fire burned no less fiercely, and she swore to herself that she no longer needed the gods’ help. This battle she could fight alone, as she knew in her heart that she must. Thus did she call down her dragons, and she chose the leader of their race and sat upon his back as a mortal man would mount a horse, and she flew into the battle, and she called upon the Fae her children, and the children of her brothers and sister, and those who still loved sapienkind, the Elves and Dwarves and Gnomes and Seasprites, gathered at her side.
And the coming of the Fae-host was not a moment too late! For Naiherah was devouring Hamath’s men, even as their magical spears wounded the serpent as she had never been wounded before. Éataín’s dragon was as a gnat before Naiherah, but his fangs were dressed in the hallowed blood, and as they tore through Naiherah’s neck, the great serpent began to flail. But she was not yet defeated; she slashed at Éataín’s dragon, but her mammoth claw could not catch the fleet beast. Éataín flew to the Northplace, then over the edge of the world and underneath it to the farthest south, and Naiherah followed, squeezing the plane of the world together. Then Éataín flew to the western end of the plane, then to the east, and Naiherah followed, squeezing the plane of the world together, and Naiherah’s body became tangled, and that is how the world became round.
At last, as the serpent writhed, Éataín landed and jumped down from her dragon. Her beloved Hamath lay wounded, his spear shattered just like his body. Weeping, Éataín knelt beside Hamath and kissed him, and he smiled, and proffered to her his spear, and one last time he spoke: “Farewell, mighty Goddess, Protector of Sapienkind! Farewell, sweet Éataín; nay, great Eryda! For I have known Thee all the while, and by Thy kiss, I die a happy man.” So passed Hamath, Beloved of the Fire-Mother.
Eryda’s wailing shook the newly made sphere of the world, so shrill and thunderous that Naiherah herself trembled. Eryda’s spirit-fire burned hotter than ever before, the flames pouring from her eyes as she beheld her accursed creation. To the serpent Eryda made her voice heard: “Behold Thy mother, Scourge of the World! For I am Eryda; I have given Thee life, and from Thee I thus reclaim it!” Then Eryda thrust Hamath’s broken spear into Naiherah’s mouth, and the wounded serpent collapsed into the snow, and all the Fae assailed the serpent, and all sapienkind gathered to stab at her body until blood burst from her scales and she sank beneath the surface. Some of her hardened into mountains; more still was drowned beneath the sea, where she shall sleep until her bonds are broken and all is unmade.
And so Eryda departed from the mortal world, casting aside her garment of flesh, and whither her spirit went no mortal knows; and the other gods went on playing their games, casting curses and blessings upon sapienkind according to their whims, as they shall until all is unmade.