The Keeper of the Dark Mirror.
Pandora and Ara were Riding side by side along well worn paths of Anar. Pandora on her little Pony, Ara on her Great Mare, it was late Summer or so Ara thought. They rounded a small bend in the trail, and what sight should great her eyes, but a Flame tree, it's leaves all shining in deepest Crimson.
"Stay Close by me Child" Ara Said.
"Why Mother?" Asked Pandora.
"The Leave's of the Flame Tree are Red. They Herald the Season of the Wolf"
"The Leaves of the Blood Tree Are Red, Child." Answered a third voice; so very like mothers, and yet not, filled somehow with a wry and dark humor.
They turned there mounts towards the voice, and saw in the road a most Amazing woman to Pandora's young Eyes.
Tall she was, as Tall as Mother, and Murian - Bone White Skin with Raven hair. In her Eyes danced a "Delicious Mischief" as she would describe herself; and her Garb was Dark and Noble. Where Ara was as always dressed in Light Greens, with white trim and a yellow sash. This stranger was dressed in deepest purple like the night sky at the hour of New Moon, with Highlights of deepest crimson. Both favored buttons of Silver.
She was to Mundane Eyes in every way Ara's twin down to the smallest detail; but Pandora did not have Mundane Eyes; and While Mother's Aura was always Bright, Sometimes Painfully so when she made no effort to conceal it. This woman's Aura was like a shining shadow, a radiating dark. As if somehow a Star could stand like a piece of polished obsidian in the night so deeply black that it lent by contrast, a sort of light to the sky around it.
Mother's Sharp voice snapped Pandora back from her brief Reverie, "Only a Servant of Chaos would name it so." She answered the Dark Woman.
"Your voice drips with such contempt Sweet Sister. What would happen to your precious Anar if I withdrew my servants, what would happen to the Children of your dear, Jera how they would starve in the winter without my Children to cull the weak, the old and the Lame; and when age or starvation takes them, who would clean the carcasses off the floor of your tidy little forest if I called my Raven's and Crow's home to Kur."
"I know your part in the Dragon's Great Dream, I have seen it! What brings you here Sweet Sister, I don't recall granting you leave to walk in my realm."
"I don't recall ever asking leave to walk in any realm sweet sister. The Blood Tree is in bloom, I may come and go as I please! Unlike you I long to know the wider world, to see sites unseen, the hear songs unsung, the play music un-played."
"and to kill those who sing those songs, and play that Music."
"We all Dance the Dance of Predator and Prey Sweet Sister, is my Part in the Dance so much worse than any others, so much worse than your own."
"I know no life that does not taste death," answered Ara, "but you need not revel in it so Sweet Sister."
"Oh but I must! It is the way of the World! All Children of the Ki Revel in their role in the Great Dance; Does not the Fox Relish the Chase, Does not the Hare revel in the flight. Does not the digger Revel in the Digging, or the Dog in following a Scent. Why should I be different, why should I not Revel in my part; I should be insulting those I claim for my own if I did not Relish each drop of life's blood they give me like the priceless treasure that it is!"
"Your Speech, as always serves you, Wrecker of Homes, Mother of Orphan's, Singer of Dirges; but Chaos and Grief are ever in your train. Yours is the Fruit of a Poisonous tree."
"And you are being most Rude, you have never called me, never invited me, never introduced me to my niece, will you not introduce me now?"
"No I will not, I will not just give you her name, as though I were a fool, who knew not the power in it!"
"But Who are You?" Said Pandora, momentarily overwhelmed by her curiosity.
"I am all things in Nature Red of Tooth and Claw, I know no Modesty, no Restraint, Hunger is my Law." Answered the Dark woman rather Strangely.
"She is the Goddess Tsulsala." Said Ara, "Wolf Mother, Sister of the Crow, Daughter and Goddess of the Dark Moon, all things of Chaos in this world are her children, all Things of Chaos save Set bow in her Shadow. She is Death incarnate Child."
"I am the Daughter of Isis." corrected Tsulsala.
"Born while she Mourned Dear Osiris, and you Carry the shadow of her grief still."
"Do I, or Am I?" Tsulsala mused. "No I carry that shadow for her, Isis could not be so bright, nor so beautiful as she is if I did not carry this burden for her."
"You are so very Noble." Answered Ara Dryly.
"It has been such a pleasure trading words with you Sweet Sister, but the night is slipping by and I must Hunt." Unfurling Ravens wings she slipped into the sky amid the Gathering night. Pandora Blinked, she looked around Puzzling.
"It's getting dark Momma! How can it be Dusk? It was just past noon moments ago."
"My Sister is a creature of Chaos child, time behaves strangely in her presence; sometimes fleeting by, sometimes creeping un-naturally slowly, but always her presence is felt."
"Momma, do I know her Momma, I feel as though I have seen her before."
"You have seen her before, perhaps many times before, as all Mortals must."
"I don't understand Momma."
"I will tell you, but not on the Open Road, I will tell you tonight by the fireside after dinner."
And so at Dinner Pandora told Bevel, and the Mothers Captain, and the Other members of the Court about their meeting with the Strange Lady, and her audience seemed to hang on every word of her story, which delighted her very much.
After dinner servants fetched Cider to the sitting room, a Yule log was set ablaze, a rare thing, and Ara pulled Pandora into her lap and spoke to Pandora and All Assembled.
"You asked why you felt like you had seen the Wolf Mother before child."
"I think you may be old enough to begin to know."
"Tsulsala is the Keeper of the Dark Mirror child. When at the end of your long life you die, as we all must, your spirit will fly to Kur to stand before the Dark Mirror. There the Annuna, the Judges, will hold up a Mirror for you; and it you will see yourself and the Measure of your life."
"If your Soul is cleansed of Shadow, and is 'Light as a Feather' you will rise into the Summer Lands; there to begin a new Journey towards your own perfection, that will lead you in time to Thebes, there to dwell with Isis till the Dragon Rises again from the Sea, and maybe Beyond Reckoning; this is unknown."
"If your Soul is not cleansed of Shadow, but the light shines brighter than the Dark, you will be brought to my Sweet Sister, who will Devour you; as she has I, and Bevel and each of us in this room who has been Reborn to Ki many times; but when Ki is with her, your spirit will become one with Ki, and be reborn through her into this world."
"There are some souls however, the souls of utterly selfish and evil men that become so rancid with Shadow that even Tsulsala is loath to taste of them; these are hurled into the Abyss, to become one more spear in Sets vast Legions. Theirs is a fate worse than Death child; for they will never again no Happiness, they will wait in the Darkness of a Ashen Land, without Food for their Hunger, nor Water for their Thirst. "Guarding Set" in his infinite fear till the Dragon rises again from the Sea, and when that day finally comes they will be hurled into the sea of Chaos and their spirits undone and it will be as if they had never been at all; which is all the mercy they will ever know."
Pandora Pondered all this a long moment, it was so much for so young a mind.
Finally she asked, " What are the Summer Lands?"
Bevel Spoke up, "If I may Lady?"
"Of Course." Nodded Ara, Leaning back she sipped her Cider.
"The Summer Lands are not so very different than Anar. They are a beautiful Land filled with wide lawns, and great trees. Milk flows readily from the Cows, and Honey from the Trees. Milk and Honey are important child, because no thing needs die for us to eat of them. Those who live in the Summer Lands sustain themselves on Milk, and Honey, Bread, Cheese and Fruit from the many flowering trees. Winter never touches the Summer Lands, it knows not the Season of the Wolf, nor of Ice, and crops may be planted and harvested through out the mild year. It is a place of Peace, because those with Souls bent on Malice, or Gain, or War cannot reach there so no shadow ever clouds the business of all who live there. In the Summer Lands each Man treats each Man like a brother, and each Woman, each Woman Like a Sister - and Grief and Death are not known there."
"Each lives a life that suits there nature and none Questions this " Picked up the Captain, "The Musician, the Artist, the Farmer, the Nu-Gig, each lives a life suited to their Passions and Talents; it is said there is a King over the Summer Lands, but it seems to me such a King would have precious little to do as there is no threat from Chaos, nor from Petty Kings bent on making mischief."
Ara Smiled, "I'm sure I would find things to do." The captain nodded, feeling gently chastised. "If in the Great East Lays the Summer Lands, in the Great West Lays Kur." She continued.
Bevel and the Captain looked a bit sheepish, but Ara pressed on.
"The Season of the Wolf has now begun. Far to the West Child, Far beyond the Harrow Moors Lay the Lands of Kur. The Lands of Set in this World, on the Borders Between this World, and the great Under Dark. There on the Iron Throne of Kur Sits Tsulsala the Queen. It is as blighted a land as the Summer Lands are rich; a land always in the Icy Grip of a snowless winter.
The Trees never seem to flower, the sky is always a deep grey, it is a land of Wolf, and Crow and Viper. It is a wasteland where rider can ride for 10 days with finding forage for a single day. Here Set marshals his legions for his assaults on the lands of the Fair Peoples. It is said in the deepest west, slaves toil night and day to coax from this barren earth grain to be milled into the bread for Sets Legions, and when they die of their ceaseless toil, they too are thrown into those mills; but this is not surely known for even I cannot see that far into the west, and I have not Seen this with my own eyes."
"Is this Dark Lady truly your Sister Momma, I thought Momma Celesta had just you?"
"Very Good Pandora."
"Yes I was Born of Mother Celesta, and she is my Birth Mother; but I was born first in the World to Mother Isis, and she is my Ilmater just as I am the Ilmater of the Murian."
"And Lady Freydga the Chatti?" added Pandora and Bevel smiled very proudly she remembered her lessons.
"Enough lessons for one night," said Ara, she rose passing Pandora to Bevel and taking her captain by the finger tips led him away towards her rooms, "I have spent too much of this day in the company of death; if you would celebrate life with me my Dearest champion."
Valtam kissed her Gently, and nodded his ascent.
When they had gone and Pandora was tucked in Bevel Whispered to his Wife, "It is not good the Wolf Mother should take an interest in this Child."
"She is the Sister of the Ara, their lives will be entwined whether we like it or not, her life and the lives of her children, and theirs for Seven Generations; you know this my husband."
"I know it, but I need not like it at all."
"Ara is Celebrating the Rites with her Captain, put these troubles aside and Celebrate with me." He rolled over and kissed her, and they did.
Ama tu ANKI.