The Marring of the World
This, the second part of the Human myth of the world's beginning, concerns the marring of the world, as they think of it, though perhaps the older races would think of Men as that selfsame marring.
After it had happened that the four races came forward, the last of the Mighty looked on the world out of the darkness of the upper sky. Venag Danir it was who looked then on the world. Venag Danir the Jealous, he is called, or Danir the Solitary, for he has no consort. Danir the Thief he also is, and the Destroyer. He looked upon the world, hating it and desiring it all at once. His desire for it was the desire of the hawk for the forest mouse. His hatred was beyond description or comparison.
He veiled himself to all sight and reckoning, then stepped down into the world. For many days he travelled the winds, seeking all the things which his peers had made. As he went, he also sought ways to bend, twist, and defile the wonders and beauty which the rest had brought into being. For a year, he stalked in silence and secrecy, considering all that he could do to make their efforts vain, but at last he was stymied, for he could not make new things, nor extinguish the magic of the Mighty. Even as he knew that he could not make a new world which would please him, he knew that he could seek to bring his pain to all the rest.
He rose out of the world and called forth his power. He had a part of the powers of each of the others and now he called forth great storms of ice to freeze the mountains and chill the seas and utterly destroy the forests of the world. Thinking that the others of the Mighty would not come to aid their creations, he put forth his full power at once. The world was nearly frozen to death, but the lesser spirits which served the Mighty fought to keep the world warm and call down the aid of their masters
The Knights of the Fire King went swiftly to the Daughters of the Green Lady and the warrior spirits who served the Axe-Bearer. From the Axe-bearer's retainers they got permission to make fountains of fire on the mountains, so that burning rock would flow down the slopes and defeat the ice. The Daughters of the Lady were less ready to agree, for the Knights asked to set some parts of the forests ablaze, for surely fire and ice could not long co-exist. The messengers of the Storm King rose up into the sky and pushed aside the clouds so that the sun would shine down at all times, so long as it was day, but none could stop the rising and setting of the sun, nor fix it in the sky so that it would melt the ice.
Then the prayers of the spirits, the people, and the living things came to the ears of the Mighty. In wrath, they descended. The Queen of Ice and King of Fire took control of their elements, both from their servants and from Venag Danir. The Axe-bearer and his warrior spirits also went forth to war, but did not fight their battle upon the face of the world. Each one of the Mighty in some way fought the menace of the ice, whether by stirring up the sea, the winds, or the rain. The Queen of Ice reined in the snows and creeping frost. The King of Fire descended into the world so that the ground became warm and would not freeze. The Storm king called forth rain to water the lands destroyed by fire.
Thus Venag Danir's first assault upon the world was repulsed. His hatred of the others grew following his defeat. He was turned out of the world, but his malice and cunning he bent toward it. The Mighty sought then to renew the world. The Storm King and the Green Lady took counsel and renewed the lands, so that it was spring. The Queen of Ice saw that the creeping frost could do much good in the world, if it came and went in proper time. Many of the birds and beasts of the world had fled, or buried themselves in the earth to wait out the ices. The land also was more fertile for the time in which things had died but not grown anew. These things she brought to the minds of the others, and petitioned that for a certain time every year, snow and ice should rein in the world. Thus could all things rest and be renewed by that rest. To this all agreed. Then Storm King and the Green Lady stood forth also and set their time of rain and renewal after the time of snow and ice. Summer and the chill before winter the Mighty also inaugurated, so that the world would have rest and renewal, a time of prosperity, and a time also to prepare for rest. Thus, setting all things in order, they again left the world to their spirits and the people.
This Venag Danir saw from afar and planned how he might mar it. He was angry that the Mighty had turned to good his deathly cold, but saw that they would not unmake completely that which he marred. Then the Mighty he counted as fools, and too kind to all things to set all things right. If he marred a thing, they would seek to mend it rather than unmake it. It seemed then, that he could set his mark on all things.
He knew that he could not go openly against the rest, so in secret he forged anew his weapons of war. He determined that in winter he would begin his work, just as with winter he had begun it before. His first attempt had taught him well. He would move by cunning this time and seek to ensnare with fear and deceit what he could not slay with power. He descended into the world at midwinter, taking the shape of a great cloud of storm until he reached a mountain peek. Then he took the shape of a great, hungry wolf, and descended out of the mountains into a place where he would work his malice. He reached that place in a day's time, for he ran with the speed of the wind. There he put off the wolf shape and called his serving spirits down into the world.
Telling them his plan, he sent his spirits forth, to bring to him such creatures and people as he desired, whether by fear or greed or mastery of will. Dwarves he called, and also Men, Elves, and Half-Elves, besides all manner of beast and precious stone. He wooed all of these that he could, or else conquered them with fear. To Elves he promised great magicks and lore from beyond the world. He had yet the power to assume a pleasing shape, and this he took to daunt the eye of Elf, Half-Elf, and Man. The Dwarves, however, would not serve him, though he promised great wealth and gift of skill. Their pride indeed it was that forbade them to bow, for they would not accept skill which they had not laboured to gain, nor gold not mined or smelted by their own kind.
Then, because they would not bow to his will, he gave the captive Dwarves to his servants, to be twisted into another shape. Their minds were broken and their bodies changed until they were tall as trees and hard as mountains, knowing only the icy impulse of hatred and the hot lust for destruction. Thus came the mountain trolls into the world.
In similar fashion, he enslaved all those who would not serve willingly, often making new and terrible creatures as he suborned their wills. By evil arts he would trap the spirits of beasts inside of men, or men inside of beasts, or force both bodies together until a horrible monster was made. Thus there are monsters with the bodies of men and the heads of bulls, now minotaurs, and things more fell which are half Man and half horse, called centaurs. His new creations he fed with carrion or the flesh of captives, till their appetites were befouled and sunk lower than the scavenger animals of the forest. These things he delighted in, for by them he bent good things together. Werewolves he made and werelions also. He trapped Elvish and Half-Elvish folk inside trees until they died, so that their spirits would haunt those trees for ever. Their minds and wills broke like dry twigs and they waited for command. Thus came the Dark Nymphs into the world
Terrible indeed were the fates of those who would not serve, but more horrible still were the fates of those who bowed to him. With promises of lore and power over life and death, he wooed Elves. To Half-Elves he promised the power to forever guard the woods and also the power to drive off all who might threaten it. To Men, he promised many things, but all his promises were like smoke which blinds the eyes and flies away on the wind.
His powers were great and with them he gave partial fulfillment of his words. Great lore some Elves did gain, but they were ensnared by it, for they had gained the power of life and death and forcing many things to live beyond their years. He warped the Half-Elvish captives into a hideous shape, which now we call Goblins. True to his word, and yet false, the sight of them caused all to flee in terror. Though once they had eaten game-flesh only at need, they now lusted after it continually. Their love of the beauty of the forest was turned to hate, for it fled from them and brought their ugliness to light. Then they cut the trees in their hatred, leaving them to rot where they fell, and parts of their once-beloved woods were brought under darkness.
The last of his curses he then set forth. He gave his mage thralls the powers of unlife and illusion, commanding them to set the curse of unlife on the great Goblin warriors, so that their slavery would continue after death. He commanded also that the mages he had snared take other forms and return to the four races. There they planted seeds of lies and fear, even as the other servants of Venag Danir brought horror to any they would find.
Driven by fear and lust for blood, the monsters of the Dark Prince marched on the world. Forests moved and swallowed many small villages. Ghosts haunted the night. The bullmen and half-horse men lead packs of werewolves and werelions down on the farmlands of the people, consuming man and beast, then setting all aflame.
Then the mages of the Dark Prince rose up, making war because of their own ambition. They attacked the free kingdoms, but often turned on each other. During the first year of the Dark Prince's war, many of the free lands fell to the evil mage-kings, but spring brought a reprieve. The dark ones began to fight each other, for they were jealous of one another's conquests. The free peoples gathered together where they could, and while the dark wizards gave no heed to them, they set to work.
They summoned the spirits which had helped them at first, and the spirits taught the people great feats of magick. The runes of the Dwarves became mighty indeed, for their great smiths were filled with the power of gods. They put their best tools in the hands of their best miners and warriors, and the Dwarves set to work, building up great fortresses in the mountains and cutting down all who dared assault the hills.
The Half-Elves also grew in power and learned songs that did wonders. They called up the spirits of all good trees and bid them cleanse the forest once more. They summoned great birds and beasts to fight beside them, and then, when the time was right, set upon the woods of the world. They fought with all they had, and all they could muster when what they had ran out. They wanted their woods back more than any other thing in the world. That is why we say "Do not get between a Half-Elf and his tree."
Of all races, the wrath of the Elves was greatest. Their learning had been littered with lies, their things of beauty defiled by the Evil One, for thus they named him. Full of anger, they rose up one and all, bringing together their powers of earth and water, wind and fire, and even over life and death. When all their strength was marshalled, they marched also. Armies of warrior mages and wizard rangers assaulted the kingdoms of evil. They threw mountains into the sea and thrust islands to the bottom of the ocean. The air was filled with fire, lightning, and hail. On the ground, the army moved forward, refusing to be stopped. The evil wizards wielded only death, but the Elvish armies wielded the power of healing. The Elvish warrior who fell was soon healed or raised from death so that their numbers would not be diminished.
Finally, the serving spirits of the Might rose in their own array of battle, to throw down Venag Danir. Beside the Elves they fought, lending power to those spells which rent the world and sunk dark fortresses into the sea.
The dark ones answered the challenge of the free peoples, meeting power and anger with power and anger. Their magicks also reshaped the face of the world. They blasted forest into desert. When a kingdom of shadow as lost beneath the waves, they turned their magick to drowning a kingdom of the free. Thus were both of the great inland seas made.
For another terrible year the battle raged. From among men, mighty warriors rose on both sides, but the men who served the dark mages were wiped out. Dwarf against Troll, Half-Elf against Goblin, Elf against fallen mage, Man against Beast, for another year the battle raged thus, until the forests were hacked and burned, the rivers ran often with blood, and many of the fallen mages were dead. All things were tired for death and blood, then, and for the winter, the fighting stopped.
The fallen mages who survived had grown in power and ambition until they were enamoured of unlife and by it enthralled. Armies of the undying they would have raised for a last defence, but could not. Instead, they set the curse of unlife on many a chieftain of the Goblins. The bodies of their slaves would rot, but the accursed ones would be trapped in hatred, unlife, and the world. But the undying chieftains would not save the darkened mages.Against the onslaught of the great spirits, the servants of Venag Danir did not stand. Then Venag Danir, hating his own creations as much as he hated anything, abandoned them to the wrath of the free. The dark mages were thrown down and killed or banished from the world.
The battle had been won, but the world was in ruin once more. The remaining peoples began to rebuild their cities. For many years, the Dwarves vanished from the face of the world, tunnelling into the mountains rather than going about on the face of the Earth. The Elves and Half-Elves also withdrew, though the adventurers of each race continued to hunt down monsters and their whelps. They killed many of these beasts and horrors, but not all could be found or destroyed. Some of these ancient spirits and horrors remain, wandering without rest or form in the wide world. Sometimes their screams are heard in the night, or their moans ride on the wind, expressing unfathomed pain and the desire for release.