*** Special Guest Blogger Anonymous ***
Harsh winds blew across the mountain’s base as cold crept down from their snow capped peaks. Only smoke from a homely cottage warmed this desolate patch of earth. With its cobbled stone walls and thatch roof, it was not the type of abode you would expect of the one who lived there. The inside of the cottage was no grander than the exterior. Stepping through the door, one was greeted by a simply woven flax doormat; to the left a table, chair, and the fireplace, the only source of warmth for the homely house. On the other side of the cottage was another table with a much larger chair and a bookcase full of well used, older looking books. A candle on this table provided the only source of light for the cabin besides the fireplace. Next to the bookcase was the bed, which while simple was the nicest thing that the cottage boasted. It was soft to the touch and its sheets and blankets were of a higher quality that seemed out of place with the rest of the cottage’s interior. In the center of the cabin lay a large rug with a complex pattern. It was woven with a pattern of runes and sigils of very complex design. All was quiet in this cottage that was tucked away under the foot of the mountain, but it did experience some life in it every now and then. Today was one of those days.
As winds howled outside the cottage this day, the sigils and runes that were sewn into the center rug began to glow. They crackled and sparked as an unknown energy emanated from them. As the crackling grew louder a blinding spark lit up the cottage with light. As the light dissipated, two figures stood on the rug now. One was that of a man who wore a large brown cloak that covered him entirely. The other person could have been easily mistaken to be a woman at first, but upon closer inspection one would find that only her upper body resembled that of a human. From her waist down she had the form of a serpent which being twenty feet long formed the majority of her body. Nothing covered most of this lower half, but on her upper body she wore an intricate white tunic under an elaborate, silken red shawl. Her head was covered by no hood or hat, but by her long, thick black hair which highlighted her yellow eyes. As the light faded from the rug, the man removed his hood revealing a brown haired, clean shaven face.
“Miira, why is the fire still going?” he asked stepping over to make sure nothing that could catch fire was near the heat.
“To keep the place warm, of course,” Miira replied. “These stones hold heat, so if a small fire is kept it helps to warm the whole cottage.”
“Maybe,” the man replied, “but if a spark finds its way up to the roof, or onto the doormat, you could find yourself with only the walls left.”
“Do you think I hadn’t thought of that, Nathan?” joked Miira. “There are warding runes at the base of the fireplace to keep sparks from escaping.”
“Clever,” Nathan said looking down at the runes that Miira had carved into the fireplace’s hearth. “I still feel you should probably put it out when you are not here though. We can’t have a homeless goddess on our hands. Just imagine what the villagers would think.”
“We would have to say I had rid myself of this worldly abode to take my home among the stars,” laughed Miira.
“Yes,” Nathan said as he opened the door to the cottage, “but think about how the poor children would feel knowing you were without your lovely cottage.”
“You’re right,” Miira said clutching her shawl tight as she slithered out into the cold, “we could not disappoint the children.
Nathan stepped out after Miira and closed the door behind him. Miira bent down and waved her hand over some sigils at the foot of the door. Sound of wood tightening came from the door as Miira then checked to see if the door would open. Upon finding the door to be stuck fast, Miira turned to Nathan and looked up at him smiling.
“There,” Miira said, “with that we should be ready to head to the village.”
“Did you remember your package?” Nathan asked.
“Of course,” Miira said revealing a wicker basket covered with a white cloth. “That’s the whole reason we’re heading in to—” The wind picked up and blew under her shawl at the basket almost ripping it out from under her. Miira quickly brought it close to her chest and made a funny face. “We had better get off of this mountain before we lose everything to this wind.”
“Indeed,” Nathan said throwing his arm and cloak around Miira’s shoulder.
The two made their way down the winding path from the cottage to the valley below. The descent was steep, but not treacherously so. The foot of the mountain rolled directly down into a thick forest at its base. The small cloves of flowers at the mountain’s base gave way to more vibrant flowers, bushes, and trees as they made their way further from the cottage. The barely worn path that made its way from the cottage turned into a fully cleared and worn path as they reached the forest proper. The sound of birds and other animals could be heard from the path as they made their way down.
As Nathan and Miira proceeded down the forest path, they began to hear a group of Timmith[i] nearby singing songs as they harvested berries from various bushes. As they passed one of the nearby berry bushes, a Timmith jumped out with a cloth full of berries on his back.
“Oh, excuse me, goddess,” the Timmith said realizing he was not alone anymore. “I did not hear you or your guardian on the trail. My siblings and I were too busy singing to the forest as we gathered some food for our clan.”
“You are fine,” Miira said smiling. “I was quite enjoying your songs. It is not every day that I get to hear the songs of the forest.”
“We are blessed to sing songs favorable to you,” the Timmith said bowing. He reached back into his cloth and retrieved a handful of berries. “Please, take this portion of my harvest as a token.”
Miira reached down and patted the Timmith on his head.
“Your harvest is your own, Friend of the Forest,” she said. “The fact that you would offer it me is token enough of your kindness. Take these berries back along with my blessing to your clan, and remind them that Sotell[ii] seeks good for Timmith and Dirnen alike.”
“You are truly a goddess, Sotell,” the Timmith said standing. “May fate smile upon you as you have us.”
With that the Timmith scurried away back to his brothers who still were gathering berries. Miira turned back to Nathan as the Timmith left their sight.
“You’re getting better at interacting with your subjects, goddess,” Nathan said as the two began back down the path the valley center.
“It does take practice,” Miira said, “but the more I play this role, the more I think I begin to enjoy it.” Miira looked up through the trees. The cloudy mountain sky had begun to give way to beams of sunlight dripping through the treetops as they moved further south.
“I think it fits you,” Nathan said. “You have the demeanor for the job, and I can tell you honestly love the villagers and the Timmith as well.”
“How could you not love them, Nathan?” Miira moaned. “The Timmith are just adorable with their tiny frames and fluffy ears and tails. And the villagers are amazed at the simplest of things. Why, were you there the other day when I tried to explain to one of the village women the concept of boiling her corn and potatoes?”
“No, I must have been out on a job.”
“Oh, you missed quite the show then. She couldn’t understand why I thought she should waste time boiling water on food that was perfectly edible the way it was. Of course after we boiled some she was quick to change her mind.”
“Just wait until you’re able to teach them how to make butter,” Nathan chuckled.
“I know!” Miira said throwing her head up in dismay. “You think that we would have been able to have traded for some cattle by now with Nastur[iii], but I guess a village advancing so rapidly as ours has could cause a bit of caution among the neighboring villages.”
“They’ll warm up to us in good time,” Nathan reassured her.
Miira and her Guardian continued to make their way through the forest for another two hours without much incident. The land grew warmer as the sun rose in the sky, but the shade from the trees kept the two cool in the dense forest. As they drew near the village, Miira’s eared perked up.
“Do, you hear that?” she asked Nathan.
“No,” he answered, “what is it?”
“The village children are nearby,” Miira said closing her eyes to focus on where the noise was coming from. “It sounds as though they may be out gathering berries and fruit for their mothers.”
“Seems like it’s just a good day for foraging around.”
“Indeed,” Miira said smiling. It took them five minutes before Nathan was able to hear the laughing and shouting of children as they foraged through the forest. Soon Nathan and Miira came upon a group of village children that had climbed into a fruit tree searching for fruit that was ripe enough to take home.
“Goddess!” one of the girls shouted from the tree as she caught a glimpse of Miira and Nathan. All the children rushed from their foraging to Miira’s side as they heard others calling out to her. Miira giggled as the children surrounded her calling out to her. They bombarded her with questions about what had brought her down from her home to see them today.
“Can I not just come down to fellowship with my people?” Miira laughed as the children continued questioning her.
“What is in your basket?” one of the village boys asked moving his hand toward the basket.
“Nothing for you today,” Nathan said sticking his hand between the boy and the basket. “It is a gift for the village matron. You wouldn’t want anything that was meant for an old woman now would you?”
“Well if it’s fun I may, Guardian,” the boy answered.
“Well I wouldn’t say that it is fun,” Miira said which caused the children to groan in unison. “It is however something that will help the village be able to grow more food.” The children perked up at the mention of food. Food from the goddess was always something that the village children looked forward to.
“Guardian,” one of the other children piped up, “will you be doing any training with us today?” Nathan looked and stroked his chin.
“Our business today is with the village elders,” Nathan said which caused the children to look at each other sadly. “But,” he said as the children looked up at him in anticipation, “I think if we have the time after that we could probably fit in a little training.”
This caused the children to jump and cheer as training to them was something that only the Guardians usually did with them.
“Ah, ah, ah,” Nathan said bringing the children’s attention back to him, “that will only happen however if you complete the chores assigned to you by your parents. So make sure you have those done properly by the time we are finished. Remember, a task given should be completed with your best ability.”
The children assured Nathan that they would definitely have all their chores done, and done properly, so that he would have time to train them. With something to look forward to today, the children happily went back to foraging for food for the village.
In almost no time, Nathan and Miira reached the edge of the forest which lead to the clearing before the village. From the forest edge, the two of them could see adults, and some of the older children, out tending to their crops in the clearing. Their reaction was similar to the children in the forest, although they stayed working the entire time they talked to Nathan and Miira. They asked what brought Miira to the village today, how their trip down the mountain was, and other small talk questions. They stopped and talked with as many of the villagers as time allowed as they made their way to the village walls. As they approached the village, they came upon the new gate that Argus had suggested they build. It had two guards posted at the top of the gate that greeted Nathan and Miira as they approached.
“Greetings, Sotell,” the guards said kneeling at their post. “One moment as we open the gate for you and your Guardian.” The guards called for two more men from the village to help them open the gate. The timbers creaked as the large wooden doors swung open digging through the freshly dug dirt they had been placed on. The four men came down and kneeled right inside the gate as Nathan and Miira entered. Miira motioned them to rise as the two entered.
“I have told you before, friends,” Miira said a little embarrassed, “you need not kneel to me. A bow is courtesy enough for my liking.”
“Our apologies,” the four men answered in unison.
“You are forgiven,” chuckled Miira.
“May we ask what blesses us with your presence today?” one of the guards asked.
“I have business with the Matron,” Miira answered. “Would you happen to know where she has been?”
“She was down by the river observing the men fishing,” another guard answered. “She said she wished to learn more about how we gathered the fish so that she could better understand what to expect from our fishers and their catch.”
“You are blessed with a wise Matron,” Miira said.
“Thank you, Sotell,” the guards said in unison.
“Sotell,” Nathan said to Miira, “I have some things to discuss with the village elder. Will you need me for anything for a while?”
“No, Guardian,” Miira replied. “I will call for you when I have need of you.”
Nathan placed his fist over his heart and bowed.
“By your will, goddess,” he said and then made his toward Town Center.
The guards bowed as Miira left and made her way to the river by the village. Miira made her way east to the old Water Shrine where the villagers would normally cast their nets to fish. She followed the road which Nathan and Argus had instructed the villagers to clear out and widen until they reached the Water Shrine. It was nothing extraordinary; just a simple, but wide, dirt road that led to the eastern most edge of the village. Nathan and Argus had instructed them to clear the road at Miira’s behest so that they could soon begin striving to increase their trade with the neighboring town of Nastur. Miira ran into some of the young men of the village who joined her as they made their way to the fishing spot. They eagerly talked with her about the things that Nathan had told them about how to make their family life happier based on how they were treating their wives and children. Miira always got a laugh out of the questions they would ask. Regularly they would ask her rather intimate questions concerning their personal lives which Miira had to try her best not to laugh at.
“I shall have to think on that one,” is how she would usually respond laughing.
Soon, however, Miira reached the Water Shrine where groups of men fished with nets out in the river. Some of their children sat with fishing poles on the bank trying to catch small fish as Rachel had once showed them. The young men walking with Miira bade her farewell as they grabbed their netting and took off into the river to find their catch for the day. Some of the children on the bank noticed Miira as she approached and dropped their poles to come and see her.
“Greetings, children,” she said. “How are the fish doing today?” The children began spouting about how their morning so far had been. “Excellent,” Miira said after hearing all the children’s answers. “I have been told that the Matron is here watching you today. Could you all show me to her? I have brought her a gift for the village.” The children perked up at a mention of a gift and quickly led Miira to the Water Shrine. At the Shrine Miira could see the Matron resting under a nearby tree. Upon seeing Miira approaching the Matron quickly stood up and came towards her, bowing as she neared.
“My,” the Matron exclaimed bowing, “I did not expect you to come this far from the village, Sotell.”
“Nor I you,” Miira smiled. “I have brought something which I believe you will find beneficial to the village crops.”
“Bless us,” the Matron said clasping her hands together. “Children, run back to your poles and catch us some fish that we may offer to the goddess.”
The children nodded with excitement as they rushed back to their fishing spots. The Matron smiled as she turned to Miira.
“Now that we have some peace,” the Matron said, “what gifts would you bestow upon your people today?”
“As I said,” answered Miira as she brought the basket out from under her shawl, “something that will benefit the crops of the Dirnen people. Let’s go sit under that tree you were at and I shall explain it to you.”
“Yes, Sotell,” the Matron said bowing.
The two went over and sat under the tree next to the Shrine. Miira coiled her tail underneath her so as it sat out in the sun as she was in the shade of the tree with the Matron.
“Here you are, Matron,” Miira said handing her basket to the Matron and removing the cloth covering it.
“Oh my, what are these?” the Matron laughed as she picked one of the small items out of the basket. It was brown and the size of her thumbnail with a dark spot at the center on one side.
“This is a type of plant,” Miira explained. “It is called a bean.
“What a strange name,” the Matron said as she took a bite of one of them. “They do not taste bad.”
“Really?” the Matron said as her old eyes lit up in wonder. “Sotell, you truly are a blessing to your people. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
“Your thanks is accepted,” Miira said with a nod, “but its use as food is only part of the its use.”
“What?” The Matron was now visibly confused. What more use could food possibly have than sustaining the village? Truly this food was a gift from their goddess if it did more than just provide sustenance for them.
“I am sure you will not be as amazed once I explain it to you,” Miira chuckled. “Do you remember what I told you on the day I spoke of crop rotation[vi] to you?”
“Yes, Sotell,” the Matron answered, “I have since taught all of the women of the village about it and our crop has yielded double what we had the harvest before.”
“Wonderful,” smiled Miira. “But even with the village rotating its crop, your soil will begin to produce less and less each harvest.”
“What shall we do then?” the now troubled Matron asked.
“You will plant these,” Miira said picking up one of the beans from the basket. “By planting them you will help to bring the soil back to its normal state.”
“But our plots are currently full,” the Matron explained. “If we plant these in one of our plots, then which plant should we remove?”
“It does not matter for now,” Miira replied. “I still have one more piece to bring to you to complete the rotation of your plot. I shall have that before you replant after the coming harvest though, so do not fret for it. In the end you shall not only have to not worry about your soil, but I shall also increase your animals as well.”
“Oh, Sotell,” the Matron said clasping Miira’s hand in hers and placing her face on it. Miira could feel tears from the Matron running down her hand. “We can never repay these gifts you have given us.”
“My only request is that you use these gifts to bring prosperity to yourself and to your village,” Miira replied. “What is the goal of Sotell, your goddess, Matron?”
“That through her all may prosper and bring prosperity to others,” the Matron answered.
“I have done well to choose your people,” Miira answered.
As the two talked, some of the children began to come to them with small fish that they had captured. Miira examined each fish with care as the children waited with baited breathe as to what she would say.
“These fish are all small,” Miira said looking at the children, “but just like you they shall one day grow and be very useful to our village.” The children smiled at each other as each examined the other’s fish. “Quickly now though, take them back to the river and let them go so they can grow, and do not forget to give them the Guardian’s blessing.”
The children nodded and all ran back to the river. As they left a cool breeze blew in from the east. Miira and the Matron look in the direction it was coming from and could see rain clouds gathering on the horizon.
“It seems a storm is coming,” the Matron said standing. “Shall we discuss more back at the village? I am sure the Village Elders would love to hear of this new ‘bean’ crop.”
The two women laughed and made their way back to the village. Since a storm was on its way, they gathered the children to take back with them. With all the children in tow, it made the trip back feel much quicker than the trip to the Shrine. As they approached the village, Miira noticed something that was out of place at the Southern Gate.
“Children,” Miira said, “run along to your homes and see if your mother’s require anything of you before the storm hits.”
The children moaned at the thought of extra work, but ran off to their homes anyway. As soon as the last child had left, Miira turned her attention to the strange sight at the Southern Gate.
“Matron, how long has that wagon been here?” Miira asked.
“It arrived shortly before I left for the shrine,” the Matron answered. “The village elders went out to meet with the man driving it. Apparently he is a man from the East who says he has come to trade with us.” This sparked immediate interest for Miira.
“Then let us go see what he has to offer the Dirnen people,” Miira said as she hurried over to the wagon with the Matron in tow. As they neared the wagon Miira found it surrounded by some of the village elders, some of the strong men of the village, a couple of the women and children, and Nathan who was having an intense conversation with a well dressed man who appeared to be the owner of the wagon. Miira and the Matron began to eavesdrop from the outskirts of the group as Nathan and the man debated.
“Getting that much crop from that little land is preposterous,” the well dressed man said. “Nastur is a decent size town and barely rakes that much from their fields.
“Which is why the information on how create that many crops is entirely worth three heads of cattle,” Nathan replied. “Think of the debt Nastur would owe you after you double, maybe even quadrupled, their crops.”
“It would definitely be quite a debt,” the man replied, “but you yourself have said that you have only had one harvest using this method, and that even then you have not implemented it completely. I simply cannot offer you even three cattle for such untested information.”
“This process was given to us by Sotell herself!” cried one of the village elders. “That fact alone should be more than enough to cause you to believe.”
“Well maybe if you can get the goddess herself here to explain the whole process to me, but unless you can do that I’m not going to bite on this gibberish.”
“Then perhaps I can shed some light on this process,” Miira said from the back of the crowd.
Everyone turned to face Miira, and when the villagers realized it was her they all stepped aside and bowed.
“Goddess, Sotell,” Nathan said as he bowed. “It would do you well to show her reverence, Mr. Folsom.”
Mr. Folsom, the man who owned the wagon, stood a bit taken aback at the strange turn of events that had come upon him. After realizing what a social faux pas he was in, Mr. Folsom quickly bowed.
“My apologies, ma’am,” Folsom said. “I have never had the privilege of meeting a goddess before. Please excuse my manners.”
“All is forgiven,” Miira said smiling at their new guest. “Although I am interested as to what brings you to our humble village.”
“A recommendation from a respected colleague,” Folsom answered, “although if I had known such a beautiful goddess resided here I would have plied my trade here sooner.”
“You truly are a man of business,” Miira chuckled, “although I would half expect you to be taken aback by my physical form.”
“While lesser men may see you as a monster, I see simply the exotic in you—I am sorry—we have not properly introduced ourselves. I am Thomas Folsom of the Lystian capital, Kingsdale.”
“And I am Murkensotell,” Miira answered, “Goddess of Fire and Fertility, Goddess of the land of Dirnen, and Goddess of all who seek Peace through Prosperity. You may simply call me Sotell, however, or goddess if you so choose.”
“Well, Goddess Sotell,” Folsom said, “if you truly know that this ‘crop rotation’ the villagers have spoken of will work, I could be persuaded to perhaps acquire the cattle your Guardian seems set on and perhaps a little extra to boot if I can find the right buyer.”
“I would stake the entirety of this village on its success,” Miira said without missing a beat.
“Well then,” Folsom said being caught a little off guard with the sureness of Miira’s statement, “if you are so sure then I must definitely take you up on this offer. In the end I’ll either be a very rich man, or have my very own town.”
This statement brought some sour looks from the villagers, but Miira could only manage a smile without breaking out in shouts of joy.
“So,” Folsom said extending his hand to Miira, “crop information in exchange for cattle. Do we have a deal?”
“Yes,” Miira said grabbing his hand and raising her eyebrow, “but what do you say to refining this deal next to a warm fire and a feast to celebrate this new partnership?”
“You are as shrewd a goddess as you are beautiful,” Folsom said shaking Miira’s hand. “Where shall we go to discuss our newfound business dealings?”
“You shall join me and the elders of the village at the Town Center. I prefer to have my people learn when they can about good business dealings. Allow me to have my Guardian take your wagon inside the village so it will safe for the night?”
“That sounds fine,” Folsom answered turning to Nathan and extending his hand. “Thank you, Guardian, for delaying me long enough to find this wonderful deal.”
“My pleasure,” Nathan said shaking Folsom’s hand before taking the reins of his wagon.
“Now, Mr. Folsom,” Miira said motioning toward the village center, “if you would follow me I will enlighten you as the how you have just stumbled upon the greatest opportunity of your lifetime.”
[i] Timmith are a small race of creatures that live peacefully in the woods. The main predators they hide from are gryphons, large cats, and chimeras. They live in clans inside caves and survive off of foraging fruit and roots. Their appearance is humanoid, but they have large fox like ears and a tail which helps them move swiftly through the woods to avoid predators.
[ii] Sotell is the shortened version of the name for the god of the villagers of Talath Dirnen. The full name is Murkensotell. He/she is the god of fire and fertility. A warring god that the villagers followed religiously, but when they were brought face to face with their god she was not as they had been told. Instead of war, Murkensotell sought peace. Instead of a roaming nomad life, she encouraged the villagers to settle down in their now village. She brought to them many advancements that both confused and benefitted the villagers.
[iii] A frontier village to the east of Talath Dirnen. A part of the Kingdom of Lystia.
[iv] A predatory fish found in fresh water rivers.
[v] Large canine creatures that thrive in heavily forested regions.
[vi] Why are you guys looking at a endnote for crop rotation!? They teach that in like 6th grade!