This is the Sable creation myth. Of course, the Ors have no such myth. They deal in memory.
1. THE END OF THE DREAM AGE
The Dark Light, Solanum, slept in a timeless, blissful night. As he slumbered, he dreamed, and his dreams flowered into lights of many colors. Most brought him pleasure, but one so disgusted him he vomited it from his body. Thus, the Purple Light, Amaranth, entered the void beyond the night. Enraged by his expulsion, only cowardice prevented Amaranth from attempting to strangle his sleeping creator.
The disappearance of one light piqued another’s curiosity. Desiring to learn Amaranth’s fate, the Blue Light, Zaffre, peered through Solanum’s nose at the emptiness beyond. Frustrated by his restricted view, he melted and flowed into a nostril. His presence irritated the Dark Light’s nose, causing it to convulse in a great sneeze that propelled him into the void. Terrified, Amaranth cowered before him. Seeing Solanum insensate and the Purple Light whimpering pathetically before him, Zaffre could not contain his mirth. His laughter goaded Amaranth into a rage. Forgetting his fear, he attacked the newcomer. Long did they wrestle, but neither could the better of the other.
The White Light, Dhalion, also wondered about the Purple Light’s fate. He slipped inside one of Solanum’s eyes, hoping to peek outside. He lacked the strength to lift Solanum’s heavy eyelid and trapped himself inside the pupil. Panic quickly turned to frustration and anger. He transformed himself into an icy flame that seared the Dark Light’s eye, causing it to shed a single tear. Entering the teardrop, Dhalion rolled down Solanum’s cheek. He landed on top of Amaranth and Zaffre. Furious, they set upon him, embroiling the hapless Dhalion in their melee.
The Golden Light within Solanum, Aurelian, heard their commotion. He followed the sound to the Dark Light’s ear but found the passage blocked with wax. Undeterred, he turned into a brilliant fire and burned his way through to the void. The three fighting Lights paused their combat to behold the golden figure blazing above them. Aurelian, seeing the others looking haggard and grim below, grew proud. He demanded they bow to him, but they pulled him down and set upon him.
And so, four Lights now battled, while Solanum slumbered. The combatants stumbled over the Black Light and collapsed on top of him. Waking, Solanum found himself buried under a pile of writhing lights and fought to free himself.
Thus, the first day began. The five warring Lights filled it with chaos, clashing and crashing and thrashing each other, destroying as they created, creating as they destroyed.
The battle continued through immeasurable time until the exhausted Lights agreed to a truce and the second night covered the world.
While he rested, Solanum pondered their stalemate. If no Light could win their conflict through brute force, there must be some other means to establish who was the greatest and bring order to the world. He suggested a competition to the other Lights. His proposal intrigued them, though they questioned the exact nature of the contest. Aurelius said it must prove their courage. Dhalion said it should assess their creative powers. Zaffre said it should measure their wisdom. Amaranth said it must test their guile.
Having pondered the matter, Solanum suggested that each should forge a mighty race of Myrmidons to fight for him in battle. Each Light should command his own army, train them in the arts of warfare as best he could, and lead them in combat. The victorious general would prove himself the greatest among the Lights, in courage, in creativity, in wisdom, and in guile.
The other Lights approved, but they wondered where this contest could take place and who would adjudicate it. Solanum bid the other Lights spit in his hand. Then, biting his lip, he let a few drops of his blood trickle onto the spittle, and he blended them together. The mixture became the Red Light, Gules. He agreed to let the opposing armies fight on his torso, and to adjudicate the contest. This arrangement pleased Solanum’s rivals, for, though he sprang from his blood, the contribution of the other Lights to his creation bound him to absolute fairness.
The Lights then settled the rules of the contest itself. Each army should comprise no more Myrmidons than the sixth power of six. Each Light would provide his people with a standard. An army had to possess all five standards to claim victory. The Warring Lights agreed to partake in the contest only through a mortal incarnation. The death of this avatar restricted its Light’s communication with his Myrmidons through dreams. The Lights made solemn vows not to interfere otherwise. They charged Gules with ensuring that they kept their word and arbitrating any unforeseen issues that might arise. They also tasked him with partitioning time into day and night. During the day, the armies would fight, while night allowed them to rest, tend to the injured and confer with their Light. Day would begin when he shed a tear of blood-red flame, and end when it dropped from his cheek.
3. THE BIRTH OF THE MYRMIDONS
The Lights dispersed to create their Myrmidons. Dhalion and Zaffre both rushed to make their peoples before the others. Their notions of what their intended creations were sloppy, and they clumsily mixed their lights, creating a chaotic jumble of creatures of different shapes and sizes who spoke in confused tongues. Embarrassed by their creations, the two Lights hurriedly divided them in half. Dhalion placed his army, the Argents, on Gules’s left leg, while Zaffre named his army the Azures and camped them on Gules’s right leg. Both races, unsure of their parentage, felt little reverence for their masters. Despite their Lights’ efforts to train them, they couldn’t instill any discipline in either army. Each warrior chose whatever weapon he fancied whether it was a bow, a spear, a sword, an axe or a sling, trained himself as he wished, associated with whomsoever he wanted, and otherwise behaved as he fancied, oblivious of the protestations of his creator.
Aurelian fashioned his Myrmidons next, golden and beautiful as himself, whom he named the Ors. He wanted to make them strong, nimble and acrobatic. He began by creating their hands. Both left and right hands were equally strong, and each hand had two symmetrical thumbs. However, Aurelian wasted so much time admiring his work that he had to rush the rest of their design. As a result, he made an error and made them of slighter build than he had wished. He scooped his children up and carried them to Gules’s right armpit to hide them from the other Lights while he prepared them for war. Aurelian armed the Ors with armor and weapons of gold, which, though beautiful, were cumbersome to wield. The Or females Aurelius kept as his personal guard and enamored by their beauty, they obsessed him to the detriment of the rest of his army.
Amaranth knew nothing of beauty, but he understood all about fear and the arts of evil, and he used all his knowledge in fashioning the monstrous Purpures. Their savage strength, their fearsome war cry and their callous nature made them awesome enemies. Even their hideous scent inspired fear. Amaranth had stolen a drop of light earlier from Dhalion by scratching him while they were fighting and hiding it under his fingernail. Amaranth fashioned terrible eyes for his children that shone white fire. The Purpures proved to be so fierce they struck terror in Amaranth’s own heart and he abandoned them in Gules’s left armpit, where they taught themselves how to fight and kill with bone knives and simple staffs of wood. Amaranth still craved supremacy among his peers, yet he feared to take part himself in the contest, so when he had recovered his nerve, he returned to his monstrous children and begged for one of them to serve as his proxy. The five fiercest volunteered. Afraid to choose one lest he incur the others’ wrath, Amaranth ordered them to fight to the death to decide the matter. Thus, the first Myrmidon blood to be shed on Gules was Purpure blood shed by Purpure hands. Amaranth named the victor Amaranthine and gave him full authority over his race. As a symbol of this power, the Light gave Amaranthine his own armor. This marked him out from other Purpures who preferred to fight naked.
Solanum did not hide his Sables away, but placed them on the nape of Gules’s neck. They were dark of hair and eye like their father, but had fiery complexions because they emerged from his eyes as tears of blood. This gave them tremendous endurance and strength. He not taught them not only the craft of war but the virtue of peace. He equipped his children with the spear and the axe, but the Sables most prized the swords he gave them, for these could slash through wood and stone and pierce the thickest armor. To aid him in marshaling his troops, he appointed seven Captains: Fabulous, Paragon, Resplendent, Vermilion, Gallant, Belligerent and Exemplar.
Solanum decided the Sables needed beasts to help them in their toil and to carry them to and from battle, so he created the first horses, the Cavals, from hairs he plucked from his head. He told the Sables that these beasts were their kin and to treat them accordingly. He taught the Sables to build chariots and carts and to harness the Cavals to them, for it was wrong for one brother ride atop of the other.
The other Lights were upset when they discovered this and complained bitterly to Gules that Solanum was cheating. Solanum retorted that the Cavals were the Sables’ siblings and part of his army, and their combined number did not exceed the seventh power of seven. As for the chariots and carts, their construction did not break any rule of the contest. Gules pondered the matter and then decreed that, while Solanum had indeed broken no rule, the competing armies should divide the Cavals equally. Solanum obeyed and gave each of his rivals a fifth of the horses. Still, the other Lights grumbled. They lacked the secret of the wheel, and the Cavals worked against them at every opportunity. The Purpures grew so infuriated with their animals that they killed and ate them. The other Myrmidons tortured their Cavals until they broke the horses’ spirits and they became dumb animals.
4. THE FIRST DAY OF THE WAR
Gules shed a tear of fire, and the Lights readied for combat. Solanum clad himself in armor woven from his own breath, as light as a breeze yet as stout as a citadel. He called for his sword, and it rose out of the palm of his right hand. It was so sharp and light its glance could slice through a warrior, armor, flesh and bone, and not a single drop of blood would sully it. He called his spear out of the palm of his left hand. It could strike with the force of a hundred blows and fly back to the hand that cast it. He then leapt on board his chariot, pulled by the finest team of horses ever to live, GallopingNight and ShadowHoof. They were the fastest, bravest, and most intelligent of all the Cavals but were too proud and headstrong for anyone other than Solanum or his charioteer could control them. Having inspected his army and heard its prayers, the Dark Light led them forth.
Meanwhile, the Argents and Azures also left their camps and met by Gules’s navel. Dhalion and Zaffre intended to parley before the battle as a matter of courtesy, but on sighting the enemy, many warriors on both sides recklessly charged at their foes. Seized by fear and mistrust of their Lights, others turned and fled. Confusion rooted the largest portion where they stood. Realising their armies had now committed to battle, the Lights urged this latter group to attack, but it took much hectoring to impel them forward. Upon engaging, the two armies disintegrated and scattered widely. Desperate to establish some order over their forces, the Lights headed to the heart of the fighting as columns of fire but ended up locked in combat with each other while their armies fell apart. When the Sables suddenly arrived in good order, the two Lights discarded their standards and fled in embarrassment. The remnants of their armies, finding themselves forsaken before the Sables, threw themselves on the Dark Light’s mercy. The jubilant Sables headed back to their camp with these prisoners and their Lights’ battle standards. Thus, the Sables defeated two armies without shedding a single drop of blood.
The fiery tear dropped from Gules’s cheek, bringing the first day of the war to an end. Solanum cast his protective shadow over his people, but they enjoyed little rest because of the laments of their hungry captives. Solanum had not enough rations to feed such a multitude, so he entreated Gules to provide for them. The Red Light agreed, gathered the cattle of the Azures and the Argents and brought them to the Sable camp.
However, the milk of the cattle, which had been red, turned white. Though Azures and Argents could drink it without ill-effect, but it made the Sables sick. They blamed the Argents for poisoning the drink and demanded that Solanum should punish them, but the Dark Light demurred and asked Gules to investigate the matter. The Red Light taught the Sables how to ferment the milk to remove the poison. He also gave them the first wine to drink to improve their humour. Then he set out to hunt down the culprits. He quickly discovered that Purpures, under the orders of Amaranthine, had crept into the Sables’ corral and dipped their cows’ udders in the blood of Argents they had slaughtered. They had poisoned the other Myrmidons’ herds in the same fashion.
Gules demanded that the Purpures surrender their cattle as punishment, but they butchered their herd and feasted on their carcasses until only shattered bones remained. The Red Light declared he would give them no more food, but they mocked him and swore that they would feast on the corpses of their fallen enemies by the following evening.
5. THE SECOND DAY OF THE WAR
Gules shed a second tear of fire and Aurelian led the Ors forth from their camp. He was excessively proud of his people and convinced of their superiority. When his scouts reported Purpures nearby, he did not hesitate to order an attack. Aurelian left behind his escort and joined the van and boasted that the Ors, being better disciplined and armed, would easily defeat the famished Purpure rabble arrayed before them in the distance.
A dread screech pierced even the heart of Aurelian with terror. The Purpures charged. Despite their lack of discipline, their bloodlust made each of them the strength of seven Ors. Neither a hail of bolts nor a forest of spears nor a wall of shields nor the Ors’ dread batonaxes halted them. They overwhelmed the van and smashed the lines of troops behind them with ferocious ease. Aurelian suffered a grievous and fled Gules with his harem, while his warriors scattered in terror before the Purpures’ onslaught. After securing their standard, Amaranthine let the Purpures disperse into small bands to hunt down the survivors for sport. Those Ors who escaped these hunting parties fled to the Sable camp where Solanum granted them sanctuary.
The second tear of fire dropped from Gules’s cheek, and the second night began. The Purpures devoured the corpses of fallen Ors as they had promised. They swore that on the following evening they would feast on Sable meat.
6. THE THIRD DAY OF THE WAR
Gules shed a third tear of fire. The Sable and Purpure armies sallied forth and met on Gules’s chest. Solanum, having listened to the warnings of the surviving Ors, had his chariots harry the enemy while he stationed his foot soldiers on Gules’s left breast. The naked Purpures had no protection against the charioteers’ arrows and spears. They furiously chased after the chariots but were not fast enough to catch them. The chariots led the Purpures to Gules’s left breast where the Sable infantry waited. Shrieking violently, the Purpures charged at them, but the Sables, with the advantage of fighting from higher ground, inflicted such dreadful casualties on their attackers that Amaranthine eventually ordered his people to withdraw. The survivors retreated to Gules’s right breast in disorder. They waited there, eager to attack the Sables once they abandoned their position. However, Solanum wisely bid his men wait where they were until nightfall.
The tear of fire dropped from Gules’s cheek, bringing the third day to an end. The Sables set off for their camp, weary but relieved that the day’s fighting had gone so well. Suddenly, myriad pairs of white lights speckled the darkness around them. A chorus of shrieks rose. The Purpures attacked, brazenly flouting the rules of the contest. Amaranthine cast the spear of Amaranth at Solanum. Though it shattered against the Dark Light’s armour, it struck with such force that the splinters of the spearhead still pierced it, gravely wounding him. Dismayed to see their master fallen, the Sables would have been routed had not Solanum’s charioteer grabbed his master’s helmet and spear and rallied them till Gules arrived. The Purpures, under the threat of dire retribution, fled back into the darkness. Gules again denied the Purpures any victuals that night so they feasted on their own dead. The Sables gathered their dead and injured and continued to their camp, greatly shaken by this perfidious assault.
Solanum’s wounds were too severe for him to continue to cling to his mortal form. When they reached the camp Solanum summoned his charioteer to him and charged him to lead the Sables in his stead. The Light named this warrior Champion. The Dark Light gave Champion his weapons and armor and a torc of shadow that he may wield them. His last order was that the dead should be burned at night, so that their light could be one with him. Then, Solanum departed Gules.
7. THE END OF THE WAR
Gules shed a fourth tear of bloody fire. As the previous day, the Sable chariots sought out and harried the Purpures on the Gules’s chest. However, the Purpures drew several chariots onto rocky ground on Gules’s right breast where they destroyed the vehicles and slaughtered most of their crews. The Purpures inflicted slow and agonizing deaths on the few they captured hoping to provoke the Sables to come to their aid.
Champion, refusing to fall of this trap, ordered his infantry to retreat to Gules’s left breast, while he waited with his remaining chariots on the flat of Gules’s chest, goading the Purpures. The Purpures, as cowardly as they were vicious, refused until the tear of fire dropped from Gules’s cheek and combat ended for that day.
A fifth and sixth tear rolled down Gules’s cheek, and the stalemate continued. On the sixth night, under the protection of Gules, Champion parleyed with Amaranthine and challenged him to a duel to decide the victor and so end the war. Amaranthine agreed to fight only if they wielded weapons forged by mortal hands because he was sure that no Sable could match a Purpure in single combat under such circumstances.
The two armies met just before dawn on the flat between the two breasts of Gules. They arranged the five standards in a great circle which Champion and Amaranthine entered. Then, Gules shed a seventh tear of fire and the combat began. Champion cast his spear, but Amaranthine swiped it away and laugh. Amaranthine cast his spear, but it only glanced off Champion’s shield. Amaranthine drew his sword and rushed at Champion, but Champion dodged him and drove his blade deep into the Purpure’s shoulder. Amaranthine grabbed the sword and twisted it from Champion’s grasp. Champion tried to grab his spear from where it lay, but Amaranthine seized him by the hair on his helmet and dragged him backward along the ground. As the helmet strap choked Champion, the Purpures’ howls of joy struck fear into the heart of every Sable. The strap snapped and Champion rolled free. Amaranthine rushed after him, but Champion proved quicker and, grabbing a spear, drove it into the Purpure’s chest. Amaranthine slumped to the ground, dead. Seeing their leader felled, the Purpures lost heart and fled, and the Sables seized the five standards. They presented them to Gules, who wiped the tear from his cheek to signal the end of the contest. He declared Solanum victor and the other Lights paid him grudging homage.
Solanum declared to the other Lights that he wished to create a new Light to be his wife and mother to his children. The six Lights combined part of their essence to create Elysion, the Green Light. The beauty of their creation besotted them all. They bedecked her in elegant finery of all hues, further enhancing her splendor. Elysion agreed to marry Solanum and provide a home for the Sables. Solanum, as a symbol of their joining, gave her rainbow bracelets wrought from the standards the Sables had won for him in battle.
Solanum journeyed to Gules to celebrate his victory with the Sables. Having healed the injured, he summoned Champion.
“You and your people have glorified me through your deeds,” Solanum said to him. “As you have led them in battle, you shall lead them in peace. This land is a land of war and death. It is not right that you should dwell here. I shall lead you to a land of life, my wife, Elysion. She will be the mother to your people as I am their father.
“I am moved by the plight of the offspring of my defeated foes. Treat them well. Send forth heralds to those hiding in the wastes promising good terms should they surrender. As I rule the other Lights, you shall rule the vanquished Myrmidons. Be always generous to them for their birth curses them.”
Champion did as Solanum had commanded. Then Solanum bid Elysion and Gules to hold hands, creating a bridge to the Sables’ new home. Solanum guided the Sables and the other Myrmidons to the Arm of Gules, ringed by fire and stretching into the sky. The fire retreated and Solanum led them along a great metal stairway coiled around the Red Light’s arm till they reached where the fingers of Elysion and Gules entwined to form a magnificent hall.
Solanum spoke to the Sables, “Discard your weapons and armor here, for they are the instruments of war and will only burden you in peace.” To Champion, he said, “Keep my shadow armor as a symbol of the authority that I have invested in you.”
The Dark Light flourished his hand towards low benches laden with platters of strange foods and pitchers of wine, and said, “Elysion has provided this sumptuous feast for you. Eat and drink your fill. Enjoy the delicacies of your new homeland.”
The Sables eagerly sampled the dishes. The other Myrmidons were wary at first, but with the Dark Light’s gentle coaxing, they too joined in the banquet. Some Sables asked the Dark Light for fermented milk, for they deemed it the most delicious of foods. Moved by this prayer, Gules pledged his herd of red cattle to the Sables.
As the revelers dined, they noticed a melodious, lilting sound resonating through the chamber. One sable was so enchanted by it he dared to ask the Dark Light as to its nature. Solanum instructed him on the essence of music, and that Sable became Hymnal, the first bard.
When the Myrmidons had sated their appetites, the Dark Light bid them leave the hall by the portal through which they had entered. He led them down the spiral staircase and outside. It surprised the Myrmidons to find that they were no longer on Gules but on a black rock surrounded by Zaffre above and below. Unbeknownst to them, they had traveled from the Arm of Gules to the Arm of Elysion. Before them was a great bridge to a large continent, lush and pleasant. After they crossed this bridge, Solanum spoke to his children, “You shall rule that portion of Elysion between Aurelian’s endless desert, the Dhalion’s endless ice waste, and the Zaffre’s endless sea. To travel the desert, the ice waste, or the sea is to invite death. Neither may you return across this bridge and scale the Arm of Elysion. Fire beasts shall wander the land next to the bridge to prevent such a trespass. Otherwise, you may go where you please.
“Time here shall be divided here into day and night. I have charged Aurelian with measuring the day, when you shall toil, and the other Lights shall toil for you. At night, I shall come to visit my wife and you shall rest. Gules shall divide the days into seasons. Summer belongs to Elysion, while I shall spend each winter with you.
“Remember, I see all. In the day, the ravens shall be my eyes. At night, the bats shall be my witnesses. Nothing shall escape me.”
Solanum then led them from the region patrolled by the fire beasts, ever after known as the Charred Land, across the mountains into a beautiful plain where he bid them settle. The Dark Light stayed there for a year, a month and a day teaching the Sables the arts of life as he once taught them the arts of war. He taught them how to plant and harvest, how to extract metal from the earth and fashion it into tools, how to weave cloth and make leather from hide, and how to shape wood and stone. Then, he bid farewell and, entrusting his people again to Champion, abandoned his mortal manifestation.
© Noel Coughlan