Guide Myths on Polished Skull
I wrote this as part of my work for a video game that is still in production. I have posted it here with their permission.
Translated by Brother Lanfranc, who ate himself.
Pray for his soul, ye who readest this history and guard thine own hereafter.
Veni sancti Hostia. Da robur, fer auxilium,
Brother Lanfranc, the year 1132, Ebnon Priory
A fisherwoman pulled up in her net a bundle of polished human skulls which were inscribed with a crude and curious script. She carried them to her shire reeve, who had them sent to Ebnon priory to be appraised. The task was assigned to me, Lanfranc of Ebnon. The scrawl upon the skulls bares a resemblance to the runic script of the ancient Lew people, who make up now the people of Yann. After conducting an exhaustive study of every Lew stone and cave still known I was able to order and translate the skulls. They record a sinister myth of an antique people who called themselves the Sish-Rua-Limpang, which is “they who perform the sign of spoil.” Below I include the myth in two parts without gloss.
Prima Pars - On the Origins of Mung
Mung was once mortal we think, though no one lives who can remember that time. How Mung was birthed, none knoweth, whether the winds portended Mung’s power that day, or whether Mung was born at all, none knoweth. Neither dost any know if Mung is man or woman, so we say that Mung is Mung and that is all.
The priests of Mung have said that Mung was once a youth who paddled far from the island with two others to trawl an untouched reef. But the Depths cursed them so that, though they set their strokes to return home, a dream of ignorance came unto them, and they would wake and behold that they had not moved, yet their shoulders ached as if they had paddled for the length of the sun. And Mung says: “the Depths laughed to themselves saying ‘they will devour each other!’”
And knowing that they were cursed by the depths - that they would starve - Mung slew the others as they slept and ate of them in portions each day. So the Depths sent flies to spoil the meat, but Mung ate of it still in Mung’s manner, and sick laid hold of Mung’s guts and twisted at them, and thus did Mung spew forth. The Depths howled with delight to see Mung’s agony, says Mung.
However, rain poured unto Mung, and Mung collected it in skulls, and Mung used the rotted flesh to lure fish to catch and thereby did Mung replenish what had been spewed out in the sick. This enraged the Depths, who called to the Clouds to cease their raining. The Clouds called back, saying “Who art ye to command the Clouds whose waters sustain ye?” But the Depths answered, “is it not our fish that feed the birds which ye love above all? If ye couldst answer that it is not so we wouldst reproach ye no more and wouldst release the trawler to return home. But lo, it is so, and we bidst ye cease thy raining!” In fear did the Clouds cease, but they hid the heat of the sun from Mung in the midday and sent warm winds at night.
The Depths watched eagerly for Mung to dry up and die, but a month passed without rain and Mung yet lived. Then did Mung curse the Depths to their face. On what was said in the curse, accounts vary. The high-priest Yonath reports that Mung cursed the Depths and insulted them with such wit as to make the Depths laugh. However, an earlier tradition reports that it was Mung’s wrath which impressed the Depths. Regardless, there was one among the Depths who was imprisoned in the reef that Mung had dared to trespass who came to respect Mung after Mung cursed them. And the one came up and gifted unto Mung a sail and instructed Mung on how to fasten it (for in those days none of the Sish-Rua-Limpang could sail,they could only paddle). The one from the reef said unto Mung “I give you your freedom in trade. For me thou must carry a portion of my soul, so that I may wrought my works beyond this reef which is my prison.” So Mung acquired the soul, and sailed away, and though the Depths sent a dream of ignorance anew, the winds carried Mung soundly until Mung awoke.
And so it is that, to this day, we fish not upon the one reef and offer it our bones in ceremony.
Secundae Pars - On the War with the Kib
Traders from the Sish sailed across many seas to the shores of strange peoples and brought back with them many wondrous things for the Sish. And one boat sailed very far towards where the sun falls and where few islands float. They returned with finely wrought clay pots and sculptures, glimmering shells, and coral carvings. The Sish asked “tell us of this island from whence comes such finely wrought works of art.”
The traders said “it is an island so large that no one has ever sailed around it, and on it live many peoples. But on a golden shore by a mountain which juts from the sea like a tooth there are a people who are called the Kib. They are tall and strong, and smile more often than they furrow their brows, and their language is like the singing of our birds. The ground on their hillsides is dark like ash and trees and vegetables rush from it so that of two men, only one toils in the garden, and he only from sunrise till midday to feed them both. Thus it is that they fashion such fine works, for they spend all of the time they have left in the day fashioning beautiful things that have no purpose besides beauty.”
And the Sish-Rua-Limpang asked “Do they not fashion weapons?”
The traders said “The Kib number many more than our people, but in all of their land they have only nine fighting men. These nine train for combat all day without ceasing. Each wears a red shell necklace to mark him, and wields a different weapon fashioned from the teeth of a serpent from the Depths.”
The Sish were amazed at the tale, saying amongst themselves “Even if each of their fighting men was worth a hundred of ours we could conquer these Kib easily and take the hills of ashen ground for ourselves!”
But the traders rebuked them, saying “did you not think that this would have occurred to us? The Kib are very far across seas with few islands. A ship with soldiers would be wagering too much to the Depths. They would swallow us surely.”
The high-priestess Meub over heard the bickering and said “we will present this matter to Mung.”
And Mung said “I desire the weapons fashioned from the teeth of the serpent.”
But the traders said “O great Mung, they say that the weapons have powerful magic in them, and each can only be wielded by the man for whom it was fashioned.”
And Mung said “I will enter a deep slumber, and the seas will become calm, and as you travel, fish from the Depths will leap into your ships and the birds will carry fruits to you for food. This will be a sign that you are blessed by Mung and by the Depths. For the nine fighting men of the Kib are an abomination to the Depths! Slay them and all of their people, man, women, and child, and bring unto me the weapons they wielded together with the red shell necklaces, each matched with the weapon of the man who wore it. And wake me not until this has been accomplished as I have said.”
Then did Mung take from among the captives whom the Sish had conquered in war a sacrifice; uttering in the tongue of the Depths, Mung slew her. The skull of the victim was washed and polished and Mung scratched an edict onto it. Giving the skull unto the war-party, Mung secured their passage across the Depths and fell into a deep slumber. The war-party dispatched with great haste, for their spirits thirsted for blood and victory, and they chanted songs and beat their kundu’s (a drum played only in times of war - Lanfranc) as they sailed. In the war-party there was more than three hundred and seventy boats, and each boat carried more than twenty men.
Now in those days the Sish-Rua-Limpang knew little of the nine fighting-men of the Kib. Their names were:
Yoharneth-Lahai, who wielded the spear Tyranny and was the leader of the nine.
Hobith, who wielded the blade Envy;
Zumbiboo, who wielded the axe Wrath;
Ingozi, who wielded the knives Treachery;
Araxes, who wielded the club Cruelty;
Segostrian, brother of Hyroglian who wielded the bow Lust;
Hyroglian, brother of Segostrian, who wielded the shield Conceit;
Pitsu, who wielded the staff Apathy;
And Mosahn, who wielded the scythe Despair.
The songs of the Kib say that the Depths despised the Kib, and that one from the Depths came in the form of a mighty serpent to slaughter them. Twelve took up blades that were used for clearing vines and bows that were used to shoot fish and stood against the serpent. How it was that they were able to slay one from the Depths none knoweth, but they slayed it and nine warriors survived, though many of the Kib were slaughtered in the battle.
The elder and great craftsmen Gribaun harvested teeth from the serpent and toiled for decades to fashion weapons from them to give to the nine.
The spear he fashioned from a compound of tooth and pale wood, tipped with the point of the serpent’s fang. Bequeathing it unto Yoharneth-Lahai he said “I give thee this spear called Tyranny. Thou wilt lead the Nine, but thou must train to master Tyranny as one among them. If thou master Tyranny thou will lead as one among them. Woe unto the Kib if thou dost not master Tyranny!”
The sword he fashioned from a single fang into the shape of the crooked blade which the Kib used to harvest. Bequeathing it unto Hobith he said “I give thee this blade called Envy. You must train to master Envy and find contentment within thyself. Woe unto the Kib if you do not master Envy!”
Taking a fragment from a tooth which had embedded in one slain by the serpent, Gribaun fashioned it into an axe with a handle of rosewood.Bequeathing it unto Zumbiboo he said “I give thee this axe called Wrath. Thou must train to master Wrath and find serenity within thyself. Woe unto the Kib if thou dost not master Wrath!”
From two narrow teeth Gribaun fashioned twin knives. Bequeathing it unto Ingozi he said “I give thee these knives called Treachery. Thou must train to master Treachery and walk faithfully with thy neighbour. Woe unto the Kib if thou dost not master Treachery!”
Taken from a mighty acari tree which had been felled in the battle,Gribaun fashioned a heavy club, and fixed in it sharpened fragments of teeth as razors. Bequeathing it unto Araxes he said “I give thee this club called Cruelty. Thou must train to master Cruelty and treat all with gentleness save thine enemies. Woe unto the Kib if thou dost not master Cruelty!”
With a compound of a flexible wood from the guava tree and fragments of the serpent’s teeth Gribaun fashioned a bow as tall as a man. Bequeathing it unto Segostrian he said “I give thee this bow called Lust. Thou must train to master Lust and direct thy passion towards the good of others. Woe unto the Kib if thou dost not master Lust!”
A shield also he fashioned from a single board of ebony; and it was tall enough to guard from the head to the shins. He stretched the hide of serpent over it, and at its center drove a spike from the teeth. Bequeathing it unto Hyroglian he said “I give thee this shield called Conceit. Thou must train to master Conceit and labor for the glory of others. Woe unto the Kib if thou dost not master Conceit!”
The staff he fashioned from pure bone from a tooth. Bequeathing it unto Pitsu he said “I give thee this staff called Apathy. Thou must train to master Apathy and foster charity within thyself. Woe unto the Kib if thou dost not master Apathy!”
And last he fastened a thick curved edge onto an ebony staff, making a scythe, which is a tool that was used by the Kib to clear away fields of kunai grass. Bequeathing it unto Mosahn he said “I give thee this scythe called Despair. Thou must train to master Despair and find courage within thyself. Woe unto the Kib if thou dost not master Despair!”
And unto all of the Kib he said “give honor to the nine who are marked by the red shell necklaces, for they carry our sins. If times of war fall upon us they will affect the wickedness which needs be done on our behalf. All of the Kib can live peacefully in pursuit of beauty and friendship because the nine stand ready to prosecute violence on our behalf.”
This is the story of the nine fighting men of the Kib.
Now the war-party of the Sish sailed for many days towards the falling sun, and fish did jump into their boats and birds carry fruits unto them as Mung said, till they came upon the land of the Kib on a morning, and beheld the forms of nine fighting-men standing still on the sandy shore. The warlord who lead the Sish - whose name we do not speak lest we invoke his failures upon ourselves - sailed ahead to speak to the nine. He called out to them while the boat was still a distance away, saying “we come to take your ashen earth for ourselves and to make slaves of your people. We know you have no armies. Surrender your weapons and your red shell necklaces to us and we will accept you as Sish and give you a portion of the spoils” (this was a lie, for Mung had commanded that all the Kib were to be killed, man, woman, and child). But not one of the nine stirred or spoke.
He-whose-name-we-do-not-speak said to himself “they must think themselves very skilled warriors.” Hoping to embarrass them, he called out “why do ye wait for us in plain sight on the open shore? We outnumber you greatly. At least retreat to a place where we cannot surround you and where our strength of numbers might be mitigated. You are like infants in war. Heed our advice, for there is no honor in conquering infants.”
To this Yoharneth-Lahai responded “We fight where the sand will soak up thy blood. Were we to fight anywhere else the earth would soon to become slick and we wouldst lose trust in our footing.” And still none of the nine stirred, but stared ahead as like statues, even as their leader spoke, such was their resolve.
So he-whose-name-we-do-not-speak sailed back to the war-party and relayed to them his exchange with the nine. The Sish warriors laughed from their bellies at the arrogance of the nine. Then their warlord said “Go! Slay the foolish warriors, but touch not their corpses, for Mung commands that the necklace of each shall be matched to the weapon of him who wears it.” And thus the Sish sailed to conquer the Kib.
When the first boats neared the shore all but one of the nine rushed forward in unison to the spot where the peak of the crashing waves touched and then they held. The Sish poured from the boats to attack them, but the eight slew them as fast as they could pull back their arms. The one who stayed back was Segostrian, who fired from his bow without reaching to a quiver, and though the Sish rushed to surround the eight on the vanguard, Segostrian shot them down faster than they could march. Soon the Sish had to climb over the bodies of their dead comrades to reach the eight, and the eight would step back in unison to make space to slaughter more. So the battle went until all but a few of the Sish were dead, and the sand of the shore was soaked through with the blood of the fallen. To this day, the beach of the land of the Kib is stained red like bronze.
The remaining Sish sailed back to their island, defeated, and reported to the high priest Meub what had occured, saying “the nine cannot be slain by men. Wake Mung to slay them.”
But Meub said “Mung said to not be woke until the weapons fashioned from the teeth of the serpent are laid at Mung’s feet. If we disobey Mung we will surely perish. We must wait until the nine die, then we can conquer Kib and take their weapons.” Thus it was that for many generations the Sish-Rua-Limpang did wait for the nine to die, whether from disease or old age. And every time a Sish trader or warband sailed near to Kib they wouldst look out to see if the nine stood guard by the shore. Always it was that nine stoic forms could be seen at a distance and the Sish would sail away, for they dared not pass by to near while the nine yet lived.
But the Sish did not know at that time that the nine did perish, for the nine were mortals, not gods as some believed. As each one died the best of the Kib sculptors would fashion from clay a statue of him. And such was the skill of Kib craftsmen that the statues resembled so closely its subject that it could not be distinguished from him at a distance, and the Kib thus guarded against invasion from the Sish, though they never again produced warriors as mighty as the nine.
Many centuries past, and many generations of priests led the Sish without ever hearing a word from Mung, till the high priestess Eimes said “we are the Sish-Rua-Limpang, and Mung is our god. I will wake Mung, for Mung has slumbered long.” And she went forth to wake Mung saying “O great Mung, thou hast slept long.”
And Mung said “I have not slept long, for it has been only seven centuries since I sent forth my warriors to retrieve the weapons fashioned from the teeth of the serpent.” And the people cowered that Mung knew all that had happened.
And Mung said “gather every fresh coconut that can be found within two days journey and collect them outside the temple separated from their husks.” The Sish obeyed, then Mung spoke again, saying “O Sish warriors, sail again unto Kib as your forefathers did. This time there will be no fish or birds to feed you, and the Depths will take many of you in anger. But those who remain will surely conquer the Kib and earn the honor their fathers lost, for I will be with them, and they will bring to me the weapons fashioned from the teeth of the serpent. If ye do not go to fight, I will slay ye just as surely.” In silent fear the warriors of the Sish set out again to conquer the Kib. There were no drums on their boats.
As they sailed, Mung took buai nuts and chewed them together with dried coral that was crushed into a fine powder. As Mung chewed, the nut would turn to a pulpy liquid that was red as blood, and Mung spit the mixture into a ceremonial bowl. After dipping the stone into the bowl, Mung swung it against the coconuts, dashing them open one by one. And as it happened to a coconut, so it happened to the skull of a Kib, one by one, until the brains of every Kib was scattered upon their ashen ground.
The warriors who sailed were beset by fierce storms from the Depths, and half of the ships were sunk. The ones who remained soiled themselves with fear as they approached the shore of Kib, anticipating to fight the nine who they thought were gods. They landed on the beach, poured from their boats, and held, waiting for the nine to advance. When for a long period the nine did not stir, they warriors realized that it was statues they faced, and began to laugh amongst themselves. Into the villages of the Kib they stormed to find every Kib slain by the hand of Mung. But no red shell necklace was found, and neither a weapon fashioned from the teeth of a serpent. Where the artifacts were hid, none knoweth, not even Mung.
So it is that to this day that every Sish-Rua-Limpang is made to memorize the story of the nine fighting men of the Kib when they are still children. Mung desireth the weapons still. Bring them unto Mung ye Sish-Rua-Limpang and thou wilt be honored.
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