The Tale Of Mitager The Demon

The tale that I am about to tell is one older than the Kingdoms of both the East and the West. It is a legend from a time lost to the ages, when dwarves and elves were one, before those two most ancient of the gods children split. It is not a story for the the faint of heart or for the weak-minded who are over-curious or lust after power. If you be either of those, then by the tongue of Freki Bloodfist, I command you to leave and hear no more it. If you will not abide by the command and name of the first skald, then I will warn you only once, and never again. Do not relate this tale or any part thereof to any beast or spirit of the woods. Do not tell it to the rivers that flow, or to the birds of the sky. Share not any shred of this story with the spirits of the trees or those who lurk beyond. If you do, then the hex of all the vitkis of Fenrick is laid upon your head for now and all times to come. When the evil of this tale is named, you will understand the gravity of this warning. To speak the name of a thing gives it power and invites it to seek you out, and at the heart of this tale is such a thing of malice and reckless spite that none who still walk or breath should hope to see it and still live. Tonight I shall speak of it, but by all the skalds and tellers of tales that ever lived from myself back through time to the poets of ancient Tse Maigrindof it is forbidden to speak the name which I shall say only once and by the law of my clan not speak again for a year and a day. By staying to hear this tale, you have agreed not to speak the name of the beast, and to live with the fear that it shall someday come to pass that you are compelled by accident or by trick of those who dwell in the worlds beyond this serving Loki to lets its cursed name slip past your lips.

When I was a child in the north, my father, Tyr Kirinson, told me this legend as part of my education in the craft of our family. I swore to keep it and tell it only in times of need or as a warning to those who need it most desperately. Years later, in the keep where I was a slave with Valgard of Fenrick, priest of Tyr and Lord of his shining light, I heard this tale told again by a man who sang it in the most clear and haunting voice I have ever heard. His name was Olithan of Dunn and he kept his oath to the bards and would not repeat the name of the ghastly beast. But the son of the Baron was a an impetuous youth, and he mocked Olithan for his fear of a name. The Baron's son teased and laughed at all those who swore not speak the name. He went so far as to promise that, come the wytching hour, he would stand upon the tallest ramparts of his father's keep and scream the name to the sky above. Through the rest of the night, Olithan begged the youth not to say the name. He went so far as to swear service to the boy in his father's court for as many years as it took to elicit an oath of silence from him. The Baron's son would have none of it, and as sure as the sun rises over Berphaunt, at the wytching hour while all others slept, he went to the highest part of his father's wall and screamed the name of the wretch to the heavens.

In the morning, he was found wandering the woods a babbling fool, gone mad with terror. When the Baron sent his lords of war to bring forth Olithan to tell him what way his son could be saved from this malady of the mind, they searched the town to find where the bard had hidden from the terror he had named the night before. When these bold men found his hiding place — these great men of battle and valour, who had each spent hours and days at the slaughter in great shield walls and battles in service to their lord — let out a scream of terror such that it was heard by myself miles away at work in the Baron's fields and by Valgard in the depths below the keep. What they saw had once been a man, but was no longer. The beast had found Olithan and taken its price in his flesh.

This is a tale of a beast that waits for fools to call it forth. A demon whose body is smoke, and whose spirit is fire. The beast lives to destroy all things that are or once were made of light and glory. But it delights most in bringing ruin upon those who create beauty in any way. The greatest singers of songs from old Suvant, the sculptors of gems from the depths of Gerdain, the little folk who shape glass into the most impossible of images, the Avian bards of the old kingdom whose voices are like a choir of angels, and those masters from Felnir whose grace in moment would bring tears to your eyes—they all fear this beast above all things.

It keeps itself hidden in reflective surfaces: a lord's great and polished sword, the surface of still pond, or the sparkle of your mother's own wedding ring. All these may hold the beast. If you gaze for too long into any of these things, you may catch a glimpse of it, but worse still, it may catch a glimpse of you. It is said that it was once a beautiful being of light that loved to look at nothing more than its own image, and hear nothing more than the sound of its own voice, and in particular, its own name.

The creature lived long before there were any kings or thanes, when Midgard was young, before there were wars, or men who would wage them. It spent its days with the gnomes and alfar who lived in the woods near the still lake beside its home, all of whom lusted after its beauty. There were none amongst those that ever set their eyes upon it the creature found more lovely than itself. None whose songs of praise in its own name pleased it more than the sound of its own voice. Until one day there came to the wood an Ajaunti whose youth and grace surpassed all those who had ever gazed upon its perfectly shaped body. The Aja wandered through the woods lost in a storm that had driven her from her clan. She came upon the home of the creature in the woods, lured there by its handsome voice. Upon finding the dwelling, she ran inside to seek shelter. As she rushed to the door, the creature heard her steps and the sound delighted it. Never before had it heard anything move with such grace and elegance. Never before had it been interested in seeing any face but its own. It opened the door to see the young Aja, driven to its door by the storm and the sibilant sound of its own voice. When the girl looked up to see the face of the house's master, she was awed by its alarming glory. Never before had she or any of her kind set their eyes on such a perfectly-formed being. Never before had any mortal seen such shining beauty, but there it stood before her in the flesh. She immediately fell deeply and truly in love with the creature, and tears of joy began to stream down from her face.

"What reason have you to let such precious tears as those fall to my floor?" asked the creature in its lovely and lingering tone.

"Only that I have been wandering those woods for days without number, and thought myself lost in the land of the dead. But now I know that cannot be, for standing before me I see the only thing that the gods could ever have made that any who can see would know as perfection, and no such creature whose immense flawlessness could exist in the land of the dead."

With those words the creature fell in love, profoundly so. In the days that came after their meeting, the creature found the Aja girl to be an artist whose excellence had never been seen in any craft. Old songs sung by her sounded sweeter; poems written by her were filled with more depth than the Agir deep bed which is now called the ocean; her paintings and sculpture held more life than the first blossoms of spring. The creature fell more in love with the girl each day that passed, and why shouldn't it? Each perfect work of art that she laboured to create was in its own image and sang only of its glory. The love that it held for her was a hollow and shallow love, for the creature only truly loved the images that the Aja made of it, and the songs that sang its own praises. In its greed to have its name praised and image glorified, it feigned true love, and eventually the Aja and the creature were to be wed.

The elves and spirits of the wood rejoiced and built a chapel in a grove woven of the great plants and vines which grew in the ancient forest. It was a great and wondrous place full of life, tranquility, and love: a place where no enemies could feel anything but love for one and other. At its centre was a calm and shallow pool which held water so clear, that those who looked long enough into it could see the gods in the heavens. On the day of their wedding, the creature went early to the grove to gaze upon his image in the pool and found a great many gifts intended for the couple. Though there were more gifts lain out than any man could hope to count in two life times, the creature only took notice of one. It was a tall sculpture, surely made by a true master, for it seemed to move of its own accord. The creature was taken by its great beauty and perfection, and so stared at this gift in awe and wondered how anything could possibly be more lovely than it. It stared for minutes that turned to hours, and soon the time for the ceremony was at hand.

Eventually, the Aja and the guests came to the chapel. They came upon it staring deeply at the gift, and the Aja asked what it was doing in the chapel so early. The creature shook its head as though it had been awoken from a deep sleep, and it said, "I found this gift, and was stunned to see that there was anything that could outshine my own beauty."

"Do you like it?" asked the Ajaunti. "I made it for you as a gift for our wedding." The creature turned away from the sculpture sharply to look at his bride to be, stunned.

"How could you? How could you make a thing that surpasses my own glory?" It grew furious and let out a keening shriek like the sound that a fine goblet makes when you trace your finger across the top of it in a circle. The sound of the cry made the gift shake and vibrate, and soon it shattered into a thousand and one pieces. "I have never truly loved you, only the images and songs of my name that you create for me," the beast wailed.

With this, the Aja felt as though stuck by a terrible blow. As though she had been smitten by Thor's hammer, she was struck dead from the shock of learning her only true love had never felt any love for her in return. As she died, she spat out in her dying breath:

"Never has anything been loved more than you have been by my shattered heart, save for your own hollow image and empty name by your own black heart. May I suffer this hurt for eternity if you are not beckoned forth from the shattered pieces of that mirror which I fashioned for you with more love than you could ever know. Every time that your cursed name is thrice spoken you are summoned to suffer your own vanity. Mitager, you are cursed by my people for eternity."

With that, the Aja died, and the demon, whose name is never to be spoken aloud, was trapped inside the pieces of the first mirror, shattered by its own vain hatred.

I do not know who it is that spoke the beast's foul name the third time on that dark and unholy night those years past in the Baron's keep. I do know that the kitchen girl whom the Baron's son teased as a boy and beat as as young man smiled for months after he went mad, until she was thrown from the tower by the Baron's son who followed her to his death on the rocks below. Never let the word pass your lips lest you share their twisted and ruined fate. For that beast is here in Jericho, hiding and waiting for you to look long and vain at your own image so that he may steal your thoughts and cause you to speak his name.

(as told by Grymskald Tyrson of Fenheim)

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