I ordered I pint of Bitter, a shot of spirits, a half a loaf of bread and some cheese. The spirits filled my bosom with a welcome warmth as it went down.While I waited for the rest of my order I checked my purse. Slim pickings tonight, people around here worked hard for their coppers and where loath to part with them. Then I saw it at the bottom of the bag, a silver!
I pulled it out and looked at it in the light. Surely it was silver, but the stamp was strange. Since I was a little girl I have collected stories and longed to travel the wide world. Now here in my hands for the first time, a coin from a foreign land. I tucked it in a hidden pocket I've sewn into my bodice for little treasures.
I noted an empty booth across the room, so I picked up my pint and headed there. After singing I quite like some quiet time, some privacy, a moment to consider the set and think how I might do better. I sat down in the booth only to find I shared it with a woman, who wrapped in her black cloak, and sitting in the shadows I had simply missed in the dark. Before I could excuse myself her delicate hand covered mine. Her hand was pale and well manicured, obviously Murian. I thought you could write a song just about those two hands.
Then she began, her voice as soft and clear as a gentle rain. Not quite a whisper, but in the din surely only I could hear.
There was a time when I was the apple of my mothers eye, and felt the warmth of my sisters love. I was then the Narrar, Goddess of the Moon, daughter of Isis, sister of Innana, who is the evening star. Horus and Ra where my brothers. Osiris our father had fallen into shadow.
In those days Isis was first among us, the brightest and most beautiful of the Gods. Mistress of all magick. Upon her was no stain of shadow at all, and she was so brilliant as to be near impossible to behold. And if truth be told I envied her, that beauty.
Ra was a great warrior, and his spear struck terror in the hearts of all creatures of shadow. Innana was his shield Maiden, and her battle cry called forth a wind that tore the thatch from Murian houses. It is told elsewhere how Ra begged of Isis his Armor and fine Chariot for his coming of age gift, and used these to battle the Shadow Set, whom the Murian call Suetec. For a year and a day they fought. To the Ruin of the World. It is not always remembered that while they fought, Innana my sister, did battle the demons and giants in Sets train. It was she who kept Sets minions from swarming our brother, and when they lay broken at her feet, and Set saw that against Ra he was utterly alone, then Set lost heart and fled into the abyss. And I envied Ra's fierce purpose, and Innana's selfless courage.
My mothers grief was so great to behold the ruin of what was, that she sobbed for 40 days and nights, till she nearly drown herself in her tears, and washed away the world of old. The time now called the Golden Age.. was gone. Horus came of age a year later, and he asked of my mother that he might have the sacred blue apples of the garden. He borrowed her chariot, and her sacred staff and flail. He went out into mothers garden, called Mura and labored for a year and a day. He planted the seeds of a new world, protected them, and sang to them that they might grow quicker and stronger. Working under the nights sky so the hungry birds would not steal all he had sown. So the sages say the new world was born. And I envied him his stout heart, his simple purpose when all around him had fallen into despair.
By Horus's Labor a new world sprang up. It did not shine with the inner light of that which went before, for all things in this world had a touch of shadow. Yet for all that some counted it more beautiful. As though the shadows, by relief, gave greater depth to the light that remained. Thus began the world you know where birth begets death, and love must beget tears.
Many lives of Men would pass. The Chatti people came down from the north, and met my mothers people. As they discovered each other, we too discovered the House of Freydja and her family. We danced many a dance of joy and praised The Dragon singing. How wonderful to discover the world was far larger and filled with gifts greater and more subtle than we had hither too known. I came to love to visit Freydja and just slip out of the halls of the Vanir, and lay in the quiet of a new fallen snow.
Finally the day came when I came of age. I asked Mother only for a simple cape, and a small purse of gold, that I might travel unnoticed in her garden Mura, and seek my fortune, and my true self. ...
The serving girl found me, with the food I'ld ordered, and I realized I had not touched my pint.
"Do you require anything?" she asked Tsulsala, as one would properly ask a noble. Tsulsala, held her gaze for a long moment, then wordlessly took her hand and drew her into the booth. She Leaned over the girl and kissed her neck. The ecstasy of hot blood pouring into cold veins was so intense, I could feel it myself, feel myself shudder with the sensation. How could everyone else in the room be oblivious?
Tsulsala, leaned back for a long moment with eyes closed and just wallowed in the sensation, then told the girl. "I'll want the rest later." She acknowledged the Queen with a tiny bob of her chin. Then she shook herself like a person coming out of a daydream. She looked from Tsulsala, to me, to Tsulsala, very confused.
"You seemed about to faint child, so we asked you to sit down. Do you feel yourself now?"
"Uhm, yes your Ladyship."
"Then run along, I'll call when I need you."
"Yes your ladyship." and she left the booth, confused and perhaps a little afraid.
Oh yes, I was lying in the snow. Freydja had become like a 2nd mother to me. Isis loved me dearly, but did not always see me for myself. She saw the last seed Osiris had planted in her womb before falling into Shadow.
Freydja saw the restlessness in me that mother missed, and it was she who suggested I wander the wider world, and listen for The Dragon's whisper. Then I would find my true heart she said, as she had done in past times. We sat up late many a night as Freydja recounted her journey's, passing along places to explore. Special places where she felt the Whisper of The Dragon was the strongest. Some famous, some you know, but others small and secret. Like, A tiny bend in an overlooked brook as seen from a particular bridge. She helped me pick what clothes to take, and what to leave behind, as I would be traveling light.
So the Sun sank lower and lower as we made our preparations, and Freydja convinced me that it would be ill omened to start a new journey under a fading sun, so it was decided I should wait till after Mid Winters Eve.
Now as you know the Mid Winter Rites are the most sacred to the Chatti. Which begged the question, with who would I share the Rites. Of course many fine Hero's live in Lady Freydja's house. Yet for me, there was no choice at all, I only had eyes for one. Lord Balder is beautiful, but I always wondered if he was looking at me or his own reflection in my eyes? While Thor is brave and stout hearted, but I always found him a drunken oaf. True Hearted Tyr however I could find no flaw in him.
"So its was Tyr who I kissed under the Mistletoe, and with whom I shared the Midwinters Rites..."
"All of them child." And she favored me with a wry smile. Then she leaned back in the booth her eyes closed, her voice a touch softer as she continued. "Oh I still remember my finger tips tracing out his arms, the press of his sweet weight as he lay in my arms. Finally knowing for myself why it was when Lorith returned to my Mother each new moon, and the Murian say the Old Moon Lays in the Arms of the New, why the earth itself beneath my mothers house did seem to shudder and moan." After a long moment she continued.
"Nine days after the Rites where done I set forth from Freydja's house. Wearing the rich furs of a Chatti Noble woman. I carried a small purse, and a Lyre not unlike this one. May I?"
"Of course" Fumbling I handed her my Lyre, I felt awkward, perhaps unworthy that my little Lyre fashioned by my father should be in the hands of a Goddess, even a fallen one. Yet she plucked the strings without a word, then twice let her fingers flow over them, till she was sure just where each note lay on the strings. Then she began to play. The Lyre sang like it had never sang before. The pitch of each note just so perfect, as Tsulsala's fingers seemed to pet the Lyre. A bitter sweet music filled the air, and I could see her. In my minds eyes Tsulsala no, Narrar! Narrar and Tyr hand in hand in the snow. Running about like children, making snow angels. Rolling in each others arms atop the virgin show. Tears rolled unbidden down my cheeks.
The Chatti say that of all the creatures that ever came into Tsulsala's power only Tyr has she let go. The Sage's say that is because if the Queen of Lies had tasted the blood of the God of Truth it would have poisoned her, but I think they may have been too clever by half.
The air was still, she handed me back the Lyre. Her hand touched my cheek, a tear rested on her finger. She favored me with a smile and then continued.
The rest is well known, but I should complete the story. For a year and a day I wandered the Paths of Mura, posing as a Minstrel and singing for my supper. I traveled far and wide, and never heard the least whisper from The Dragon. Finally in a small pub, not unlike this one, another musician whispered a secret too me. A Magician lived far away up the coast of the Nammu, a full seasons traveling. It was said that he had a potion. A magick potion that allowed one to hear the voice of The Dragon.
I glared at him and said, "I've brewed many a tea with the Witches Root, its all been for naught."
He looked at me, and said, "No this is no simple witches root. This is made from the blood of The Dragon herself!" It was true in ancient days before her wounds fully healed, pools of The Dragon's blood where sometimes found. The blood was collected and held as a treasure by the wise. Its was the cornerstone of the greatest Magicks in all Mura. Mother was known to have a tiny vial of the blood, and a few others, but it was exceedingly rare even then child.
"Why would he share this gift with me?" I asked
"You've the finest voice in all Mura Lady, and other gifts. I doubt a man lives who could deny you anything." he said, and I smiled.
I made a few inquires of the local wise women. They had heard of the Magician, but warned against him. They said if one needed a Potion to hear The Dragon, one was not meant to hear her at all.
"but what of the Witches Root."
"That, allows you to hear her the more clearly, but does not lend hearing to the deaf."
I did learn in the end that if such a thing would be done, it should be done at the fall festival, on the night of the Feast of the Dead, when the veil is thinnest. So I set out on Midsummer's eve, and made my way up the coast. Looking for a Castle fashioned of the Star Stone. A stone black as pitch, but by moonlight seems to shine with the light of hundreds of inner stars. Well loved by the Elves and Murian. Three days before the Feast of the Dead, I found it. I played outside the gates till they opened and a servant let me in. For the next two nights I was allowed to entertain the Wizard after dinner. Then on the Third night, on the night of the Feast itself, with the Castle quite strangely quiet for the night of a great feast. I sat at the table with the Magician and he began to speak.
"I've seen bird and beast pause in awed silence as you walk by. Flowers seem to turn to you as you stroll through the gardens. I'm not one of those fools who looks right past you, while you sing. I know the signs, what brings a daughter of Isis to my house."
"I wish to hear The Whishper of The Dragon, to learn my intent and know my True Heart."
"Tell me more."
"What is there to tell. Isis has her Magicks, Ra his Wars, Innana has Ra, and Horus has the Garden. Each is content, each has what they want."
"And what do you want Tsulsala?" It was the first time anyone had called me this name.
"I WANT IT ALL!" I ROARED. The table splintering beneath my fist.
He smiled, "See you dont need a dragon to tell you your intent, you know exactly what you want. Your quest has not been wasted however, I can help you."
He motioned to a serving girl, who brought a fine chalice filled with a dark wine. "Drink this, and by it you will be empowered to pursue your dream."
"I dont understand."
"It not a thing words can say, drink of the cup and you will know. Or shall I send her away."
I had not traveled all this way to leave empty handed. I had not searched for my Intent for so many lives of men to throw away a chance to seize it now. With trembling hands I picked up the Chalice and Drank. The Wine flowed through me, washed over me, left me so amazingly empty. Oh I could cry. Then without thinking. I seized the serving girl, plunged fangs that had not been there a moment before into her and drank her. Her hopes, her fears, her whole life from the moment she was born to the terror of my embrace flooded into me. I had her she was mine now. She would live forever in my dreams, but she would always be part of me. Even as I swallowed the last drop of blood, the burning emptiness returned, it was agony.
"What have you done to me! I shrieked." Sobbing Pounding the floor.
"Just as I said, You want it all, now you can have it all! In fact you will know no rest till you have gathered every soul in all Mura into yourself!"
"I looked up, and finally saw through the disguise. The Magician was long dead, and the Spirit of Set was in him, filling his body, using him. And Set laughed loudly."
In my Fury I rose, and brought my hand across the Magicians face, beheading him. "One less puppet for you!" I spat, but of course I could not escape my fate and for the 6000 years since I have ruled the night. Queen of Hunger, Mistress to Shadow. Second only to Set himself in the Scales of Darkness.
The booth fell quiet and I realized she had finished her tale.
"Your really her, I mean Tsulsala the Queen."
She smiled a knowing slightly wicked smile, "Of course child."
"Do you mean too.." I could not bring myself to say it.
"No, well not now at any rate, not for quite sometime child."
"Then what do you want of me."
"Have nothing to fear, accept my gift, that silver coin, and so long as you have it you will never go hungry again. Where ever you go fortune will smile on you, and no matter how you seem to tumble you will always land a'right.
Live Fearlessly and know you are in my grace."
* * *
In the pure cleansing light of the morning sun, it all seemed so unreal, and I had half convinced myself it had been unreal. A dream brought on by too much witches root. Except it had been quite some time since I could afford any witches root.
But when I went down to the common room for breakfast there was quite a hub hub. The lady of the house was serving breakfast, and was not at all amused, and the serving girl was no where to be found. "Probably still sleeping with her head on the chest of some young man." The lady of the house muttered.
Yet, Her bed had been slept in, and then roughly made. At the foot of her bed where her clothes from the night before folded into a neat pile with an odd silver coin placed neatly on top at the center of her folded blouse.
Someone was suggesting looking for her in the stables, if she was with a young man they might be in the hay loft, and without thinking I said aloud. "You'll never find her."
Now everyone stopped and was looking at me. I could hardly tell them that the Queen of Hunger had spent the night under their roof, why burden them with that terror? So I just said, there are stories with these signs. And in all of them, the person lost is never found. As I was the village story keeper, they accepted what I said without further inquiry.
I left home for many years with-in the fortnight.
* * *
Tsulsala, was true to her word and I've lived a life I could have scarcely imagined.
And Tsulsala's Song. It became known as "The Narrar," I have never been able to remember more than the first few notes, but once I begin to play, it just flows out of me. Its bitter sweet melody became my signature, filling my hat with silver and gold. I traveled the roads for 50 years singing my songs, for Chatti, Murian, even the Elves! Overtime I became well known to many, and well loved by more than a few.
Many others have tried to play the Narrar, but not one ever got it right. When in frustration a fellow Bard asks me how to play the piece I can only answer. "I was taught by a Goddess and only she can teach it right." And each and everyone just nods and whispers, "I thought it must be like that."
At last I could travel no more. I'm past 80 now, ancient for a Chatti woman. For the last year my eyes have been so dim, I cannot even leave my cottage, and can scarcely tell night from day. My granddaughter looks after me now. She does look like the rouge who gave me her mother. She smiles and says "sure grans," when I tell her I was a counselor to kings and lover to princes at her age, but I was!
Days and Nights flow by so quickly. Then a night comes. I feel a cup, no a chalice pressed into my hand. I start to drink. I drink more deeply. Its hot, like blood fresh from the cut, and spirited like raw whiskey. My eyes focus, my bosom feels full again. My skin feels smooth again. I stand up and look in the Mirror, and see myself as I was in my thirties. I see a woman in the prime of her life. Over my shoulder I see Tsulsala.
Dont look for me, dont waste your time. I expect you will find my clothes neatly folded, with a silver coin in the center of them as a tort. Although I think I deserve gold!
Tsulsala's, hand rests gently on my shoulder as she waits for me to finish these last lines. I am not afraid. I have lived my life fearlessly too long to be afraid now. Soon I will play my Lyre in her dreams, while a loving couple rolls in the snow. It is my moment to return my gift to she who has given me so much. I go to her without hesitation. One last seduction to surrender too, One last ecstasy to embrace. Oh what a song it would make!