The Count of Years : 5    [ Commentary ] [1] [2] [3] [4] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10]

The elcari

The creation of the elcari

Now Eīledan, along with the iliū, following the dream of Iáinos, made the elcari, the mountain people, the delvers and shapers. The elcari are shorter than men, but strong as bears.

In the first month, spring blossoming,
the elcari were born. Eīledan made them.
There were four brothers. Ganmes the bold,
oldest, strongest, black of beard;
he never hesitated before joining battle.
Cesōpas the wise, friend of the iliū,
great in the lore of the created world,
brown of beard, smith and teacher.
Gāxre the cunning, clever with new things;
his beard was red, pleasing to women;
delighting in speech, subtle in craft,
he loved nothing better than solving puzzles.
Meircrenas the mighty, the greatest warrior,
though shorter than men, strong as an oak tree.
Blond of beard, stocky and fat,
the loyallest of friends, but fearsome to his enemies.

There were four sisters; Eīledan also made them.
Scûreme the mother of kings: her face was noble,
respect was always hers, even in other Houses;
she had gray hair, and her eyes plumbed the soul.
Zunsōpe the slight, slim, tan-haired,
she was a healer, wise with herbs;
both body and soul benefitted from her counsel.
Salniele, playful, joyous as a kitten,
her words tumbled out, she danced rather than walked;
her hair was fiery, her temper as well.
Larnīze the fair, most beautiful of elcari;
with golden hair, with lips of rose:
whoever saw her could hardly help loving.
With cunning fingers, beauty was also in her craft.

Ganmes married Scûreme: the royal couple.
Cesōpas was with Zunsōpe: the wise family.
Gāxre's bride was fiery Salniele.
Larnīze the fair was wife of Meircrenas.
These four families founded the clans
which we still see among the mountain people,
four in number, the ancient nations.

The iliū were with them, and taught them their first language-- not their own language, which none but iliū can master, but an adaptation to the nature of the elcari. In those days there was no bad feeling between the Thinking Kinds who bowed to Iáinos; the iliū were like older brothers, gladly teaching and protecting, and the younger gladly accepted their greater wisdom.

The elcari search for a home

The elcari considered where they should live, how to feed themselves, and what they could make with their hands.

Ganmes said to them, "Our elders the iliū
live in the sea, herders of fish,
with seaweed as salad. Should we not live
in that watery world?" The elcari agreed.

They built houses under the waves,
the walls of coral, pink and blue;
pillars of marble, roofs of mother-of-pearl.
Fish of many colors were living decorations.
As for food, no need to hunt or farm:
fish came swimming almost into the pot!

But soon there were heard nothing but complaints.

--It's cold and damp, said Scûreme.

--I can't sleep at night; the water carries me right out of my bed! said Ganmes.

--Everything we eat is wet, said Gāxre. And fish every day! Who can eat that?

--They're slimy and smelly, agreed Meircrenas. And if that weren't enough, we eat them raw, like animals!

Their wives retorted, --No doubt you expect a well-cooked meal! Look around you! We live in the water; how can we make fire?

--How can we make anything? complained Gāxre. We can't carve the water, or make anything beautiful out of it!

Larnīze, the fair one, broke into tears. --I'm sure I look ugly! My clothes are all soggy, and hang off me like sodden rags!

All of them decided, then, to leave the sea. But where could they live?

Meircrenas told them, --A bird came to me
from the green forests, and told me how they are.
Dry and warm, full of game,pleasant to look on; why not live there?

The other elcari were easy to convince.
They built houses in the tree branches,
high off the ground, fine airy mansions
of maple and oak. There were rich carvings
and great platforms overlooking the trees.
Birds were trapped, pigs slaughtered:
much better fare than wet seaweed!

But before a year had passed, the elcari were unhappy.

--The wind at night doesn't let me sleep, said mother Scûreme.

--The house sways! said Salniele.

--The rain leaks in, said Meircrenas. And pigs are too fatty; they upset my stomach.

--Herbs are abundant, said Zunsōpe, the healer. But it's dark and dangerous in the woods, and one day I'm sure I'll fall down from these ladders.

--I'm tired of wearing clothes made of leaves! said Larnīze. They're horrible, and everything is green!

--Trying to start a fire, I burned down my house, said Ganmes. Things can be made of wood, it's true; but it's almost as perishable as water.

None of them wanted to keep living in the trees. But what could be better? Gāxre trapped a rabbit, who told them about the plains:

On solid ground, with long vistas,
soft and ample, nothing up in the air.
The grassy hills were pleasant to the eye;
fields of grain produced bread to eat.

They built houses then on the plains,
of clay fired by the sun, painted with plaster;
roofs of tile enclosing the many rooms.
Fowl and beef, pork and goat,
and produce from the garden filled their tables.
Warm and dry, sheltered from the wind,
no one missed their previous homes!

Five years passed, and with them all happiness.

--Farming is work without end, said Ganmes. It takes all our effort simply to feed ourselves.

--How dull this country is! cried Salniele, the fiery one. I suffer to live in unadorned brick; who can make anything of such a substance, colorless and pasty as dough?

--That's true! said Cesōpas. And for adornment, what? There's nothing in the earth here but grasses and rabbits' bones!

--There's too many insects, and they bite me, said fair Larnīze.

--Beef is too rich, said Scûreme. And it's too warm here.

--I feel stupider the longer we live here, said Gāxre. My hands are calloused from the hoe, and my mind sleeps for lack of diversion.

Not one of them wanted to live there any longer.

--Our mistake, wise Cesōpas said, was to listen to these foolish animals. We should have asked Iáinos.

They then prayed and sacrificed to Iáinos, and Ulōne granted them understanding. As dusk fell, they saw the three moons bright in the west, Xlainari, Têllênari, and Sistenari. And below the moons they saw the mountains, still bright as the rest of the land became dark; for an hour the light remained shining on the peaks, even as night fell on the rest of the land. In this way, Ulōne showed them the land Iáinos intended for them.

They moved there then, to the highest mountains,
the crowns of the earth, the teeth of giants.
They made homes there, building mansions
in solid stone, palaces on the hills,
extending deep inside the mountain caves,
built of marble, adorned with jewels.
Towers grew like trees, challenging heaven.
Their roofs were copper, their doors were gold;
fine windows were made of silver and glass.
There were rooms made of nothing but crystal,
others danced with light from colored jewels,
or laughed with the water of underground rivers.
For food, goats nourished on the hills,
berries and fruits from mountain forests,
wines from vines heavy with grapes,
hidden mushrooms, fat swift rabbits,
pheasants hunted, fish from the streams.
Their glasses were crystal, their plates of gold.
They adorned their bodies with perfect jade,
with rubies and emeralds, with shimmering diamond,
rings and bracelets of unchanging gold,
and silver beat so fine it was soft as linen.

In this way and no other, the elcari found their homes; for they are miners and shepherds, at home in the mountains. They came together and bore children, becoming a numerous people.

The stone cûmeyi

At first the elcari only worked with stone. They had none of the cûmeyi, the five noble substances.

The first of the noble substances was marble, which was discovered in the elcari's own diggings. Even raw on the wall of the mine, it was pleasant to look at; and once polished it was of marvellous beauty. The elcari tiled their floors with it; heaven itself could not be any grander.

The second cûmegos to be known was quartz. Meircrenas was searching for marble, and his pickaxe came upon a large purple stone. Because it was not what he needed, he was angry and dashed it against the wall. It broke, and inside were transparent crystals of amethyst, as fine as a jeweller's life work.

Now they looked carefully for quartz and the other jewels, and polished them into adornments of great beauty. But the elcari still did not know how to make metals. When they encountered metal ore, they simply threw it away on their garbage heap.

The third cûmegos: gold

One day an iliu girl came into the mountains, fulfiling a pilgrimage; and she was received with grace by the elcari. Her name was Oxiole. They gave a feast to welcome her.

Because it was a time of peace, and because iliu skin is strong, she was travelling naked, without clothes; the elcari looked with wonder on her blue breasts tipped with purple. But they marvelled even more at the adornments she wore: a necklace and earrings of gold.

--What a beautiful substance! said Salniele. What is it?

--It is gold, said Oxiole, laughing. Haven't you seen it before?

--No, said Ganmes. How do you make it?

--It's made by Eīledan; we only find it and fashion it, she replied.

--It is truly a noble substance, the stone of the sun, said Meircrenas.

--You may have these, said Oxiole. She unfastened her earrings and gave one to Salniele and one to Larnīze.

--We thank you for your beautiful gift, said Cesōpas. But if it is not a secret of the iliū, can you tell us where you find this cûmegos of Eīledan?

The iliu girl shrugged. --We find it in the beds of fast-moving streams, but only as Iáinos wills; we don't look for it.

The elcari, however, were happy to go searching for gold. They looked in every stream that flowed in the mountains, and followed them into the plains. They found an occasional tiny piece of gold, but it was slow work. The four brothers split up so that they could explore more land.

One day Cesōpas came back with a handful of gold, when the others didn't have enough to cover the tip of a finger. They asked how he had found so much, and he explained that he took a dish and scraped up dirt and gravel from the streambed, and shook it around till the loose pieces fell out; because the noble substance is heavy, it stayed in the dish. This process is called shaking the dish.

Gāxre asked to see the method, and when he had watched Cesōpas shaking the dish, he sat for awhile and thought. Then he built a machine of wood, with long troughs running with water, and a wheel which agitated them. The machine could test debris from the river bed faster yet. The elcari still use this machine to sift for gold.

Some time later, Zunsōpe was making an amphora in her kiln, and not having other stones to hand, she used a piece of ore from the garbage heap to stand the amphora on. But when it was fired, the ore melted, and a shiny orange substance was fused to the bottom of the amphora. Disgusted, she threw it away.

Salniele saw the shiny substance and thought it was beautiful; she also tasted it and found that it was metal. She asked how Zunsōpe had created it. When it was explained, Salniele experimented with firing many different types of stones. Some of them produced the shiny orange metal; others simply remained ugly stones, or became a useless mixture of metal and stone. She refined enough of the metal to use it for utensils, tools, and decorations; this was the origin of copper among the elcari.

The women continued to perfect the making of copper; they discovered that the fire could be made hotter if the fire was built of charcoal, and hotter yet if they blew air at the fire. Women are the smelters among the elcari; they are not bothered by the immense heat of smelting.

The creation of the múrtani

Amnās saw that the elcari were peopling the mountains. --If I do nothing, he told himself, these people will occupy all the mountains, and in the next war it will go badly for us.

Without Soxāeco, he was not clever in his thinking, so all that occurred to him was to have elcari of his own. Therefore he stole some of the children of the elcari, and with the aid of the ktuvoks he raised them to hate their parents and love the ktuvoks. Because Amnās stole them away, these were called the stolen ones, the múrtani.

The múrtani resemble the elcari, except that they have horns and evil faces, and they are smaller and not as long lived. They know nothing of Iáinos, but worship Amnās and the ktuvok ancestors as their gods.

Amnās led them to a mountain range, where they built their own cities and raised their own crops and became a numerous people; but where they could, they stole animals and treasures from their fathers, the elcari.

--Who are these raiders, who are making our borders a dangerous place? asked Ganmes.

--We will find out, said the sons of the elcari.

They went out secretly to inspect the land of the múrtani, and when they returned they told Ganmes, --These are the descendants of our own children, the ones which we thought killed by a mountain lion many years ago. They were not killed, but stolen by Amnās. He made them into a people who despise their parents, as an enemy to us.

--If they are an enemy they will want to make war, said Meicrenas. We must be ready; we need weapons.

--When they are far, we can shoot arrows and hurl stones, said Gāxre. When they are closer, we have stone axes and maces, and stabbing swords of copper.

--All that is good, but our enemies will have these things as well, said Ganmes. We need stronger weapons.

Salniele went to her furnace with her daughters, because the smelting of metal was their responsibility. She looked for ways to improve the weapons of the elcari. After trying many things, she learned that adding tin to the molten copper made it stronger and harder, such that it could be used to make strong slashing swords. This was the origin of bronze.

Now when the múrtani came to steal sheep and goats, the sons of the elcari were waiting for them, with bows and bronze swords. They burst out of hiding places and overwhelmed them, killing many of them, but letting a handful escape to bring news to the others.

The múrtani were angry, but they were afraid of the swords of the elcari, and for the moment they stopped raiding the lands of the elcari.

War with the múrtani, and the discovery of iron

Two hundred years passed, and the múrtani learned to make bronze weapons of their own. They were not afraid of the elcari any longer, and came in great numbers into their land. When they found male elcari they killed them, and when they found females they raped them, then killed them as well.

The elcari fought back, led by Ganmes and Meircrenas, who though now old were still the mightiest of warriors. From a distance they shot arrows, and hurled great stones with catapults; when the enemy came closer they fought with sword and spear and great stone maces.

But the múrtani were more numerous, and no longer afraid, and the elcari were pushed back.

--If this continues, said Ganmes, all of us will be killed, because they are more than we are, though no stronger or bolder. We must make better weapons.

The elcari considered anything that might be used as a weapon. Gāxre came to Salniele's furnace and examined the bellows and the furnaces, and he examined every sort of material that went into the furnace and came out of it.

--What is this? he asked, holding up a blackened lump the color of charcoal.

--That's slag, replied Salniele. We add certain stones to the copper ore, along with sand; they don't produce anything except that stuff, but the copper separates out better.

Gāxre took the slag and tasted it; it was clearly metallic, though mixed with sand and other impurities. He experimented with it, and found that the impurities could be beated out by hammering it. This produced a pure metal, but it was no harder than bronze. He found, however, that cooling the metal with water and re-heating it made it very hard, and it could be used to make a strong weapon, stronger than bronze.

This was the origin of iron. Because it was hidden for so long and then revealed, the elcari call it the revealed metal; but we call it the black metal. It is the fourth of the noble substances.

Making swords of iron, the elcari prevailed against the múrtani, and the múrtani were driven out from the elcarin land.

The elcari now made tools out of iron, including pickaxes and drills which made mining go much faster. Because of this, they were able to find the fifth noble substance, silver. Silver is only just less rare and beautiful than gold; the elcari call it the metal of the moon.

The Four Brothers and the Four Sisters lived for more than five hundred years, and saw their descendants become a mighty people. When they died, their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren mourned greatly, because they were their elders and ancestors. The iliū also mourned, and sent representatives with gifts to their funerals, and to bless their tombs with strong magic, so that they could never be despoiled.

© 2002 by Mark Rosenfelder
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