Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Tale of Nazhoro

If you think this is cold, try jumping out of scalding-hot smithy into a snowbank high on a mountaintop!

That'll cool you off.

Happy Holy Day of Nazhoro!


When Nuvíní, High Goddess of Earth, gave birth to twins, One of Them was blond, fair-skinned, beautiful, and perfect; while the other was dark, ugly, crippled, and blind. The beautiful child-goddess was Rézhíní, Goddess of Plants. The hideous, lame child-god was Nazhoro, Who Nuvíní tossed out of Her castle in disgust.

The infant Nazhoro lay helpless on the dirt until Kérasa, High Goddess of Water, rescued Him. She took Him back to Her home, high on Mount Farasa, and raised Him Herself. Kérasa taught Nazhoro many crafts and skills. She taught Him to be even-tempered and proud of His capabilities, despite His blindness and gnarled leg.

With Kérasa’s hearty meals, Nazhoro grew muscular and tall. He worked hard and honed His skill in the smithy. Even though He could not see the metal He pounded, He formed wondrous and strong chains, swords, and shields by touch, sound, and smell alone. Nazhoro became the greatest blacksmith of all time. The mortals who lived around Mount Farasa trekked high up the slopes to obtain His services.

So high up the mountain, a freezing wind continuously blew across the landscape. At night, when the mortals would go away, Nazhoro would leave His smithy and wander the mountainside. He took great pleasure in the cold, biting wind. Because He could not see, Nazhoro enjoyed the sensation of touch most of all. To exit His scalding-hot smithy out onto the frigid, snow-encrusted mountain was among the most exhilarating experiences in His life.

The solitude of nighttime comforted Him. When the wind blew strong, it removed all sounds, leaving Nazhoro blessedly alone. He knew that the mortals always looked down upon Him because of His deformities, even though He was a god, so He was quite happy to be away from them. Nazhoro was glad His mother Nuvíní and the other gods had shunned Him. Kérasa had done so much for Him, but even being around Her for too long grew wearying.

Eventually, though, all good things must end. The other gods heard about Nazhoro’s marvelous skills as a blacksmith and began pestering Him for work. Vítí, Goddess of Ice, requested He make Her a new sword, which He gladly did. Tarénara, Goddess of Hunting, asked Him for a set of arrow tips, which Nazhoro forged for Her. Sozho, High God of Air and Nazhoro’s father, told Nazhoro to fashion a stronger magic shield for Him. Reluctantly, Nazhoro agreed to create the new shield. Zhoro, God of Heat, demanded that Nazhoro make Him a new breastplate. Nazhoro refused.

Zhoro, a perennial hot-head if there ever was one, whipped His sword out of its sheath and pointed it at Nazhoro’s face. Even though the blacksmith god could not see, He heard the sword and felt the wind on His face, thus determining the location of the blade. Zhoro insisted that Nazhoro make the breastplate, or He would kill Him.

Nazhoro refused, telling the God of Heat to leave His smithy. Zhoro laughed in reply, asking how Nazhoro intended to back up His words, since He was lame and blind. Furthermore, Zhoro snidely asked if Nazhoro expected His babysitter, Kérasa, to help Him by transforming into Her dragon shape, calling upon Her evil hordes of demons, and trying to challenge Zhoro in a duel She had lost once before.

Upon hearing this affront to the honor of the solitary person Who had ever helped Him, Nazhoro snatched up His mighty axe and swung it at Zhoro’s sword. The God of Heat did not react quickly enough. His blade shattered as Nazhoro’s axe sliced clean through it. Zhoro gasped in disbelief.

Nazhoro informed Zhoro that if He ever again insulted Kérasa, Nazhoro would not stop at destroying just His sword. Zhoro glanced down at His broken blade, gulped, and sprinted from the smithy. The blacksmith god quietly set down His axe and resumed work on Sozho’s new magic shield.

When He had the shield complete, He took it to Sozho’s castle. Many gods and goddesses were in the great hall, deeply engrossed in a raucous party. Nazhoro gritted His teeth at the considerable din and entered the room, searching for Sozho.

Unbeknownst to Nazhoro, earlier that fourday, His twin sister Rézhíní had had a dream about Her own death. She told of this dream to Her mother, Nuvíní, High Goddess of Earth, Who promptly made every object in the world swear an oath to never hurt Rézhíní. At the party, the gods were having fun with this new distraction, hurling random and sundry objects and weapons at Rézhíní and watching them deflect, leaving Her beautiful form unharmed completely.

Somehow, whether by mistake or by intent, Nuvíní had not extracted a promise from mistletoe. Zhíanoso, High God of Fire, noticed this oversight and, just for a laugh, created an arrow made solely from mistletoe wood and leaves.

Nazhoro finally discerned Sozho’s voice through the noisy crowd and handed the high god His new shield. Sozho thanked Him and then invited Nazhoro to join in the festivities, telling Him of Rézhíní’s new invulnerability. Nazhoro protested, saying that He could not throw anything at Her because He couldn’t see Her. In fact, He could locate Her precisely just by the slight sounds She made, but Nazhoro wanted an excuse to escape the overwhelming multitude.

At that moment, Zhíanoso stepped forward and offered to aim for Nazhoro, and, oh look, He had a bow and arrow ready to go. Nazhoro agreed, if only to speed His departure. The blind god accepted the bow and arrow and took aim at His sister, allowing Zhíanoso to assist.

The assembled gods and goddesses held Their breaths, waiting to laugh and exclaim when the arrow would bounce off the golden-haired goddess. But when Nazhoro released the arrow, it flew straight and true, piercing Her heart.

Everyone gasped. Rézhíní fell to the floor, the arrow protruding from Her chest. Zhíanoso exclaimed that Nazhoro had killed Her, somehow over-riding Nuvíní’s oaths. Goddesses shrieked. The other gods began advancing on Nazhoro, muttering darkly.

Knowing that He had somehow been tricked by Zhíanoso, Nazhoro fled the castle. The other gods chased Him, but Nazhoro was faster and more stealthy than They expected from a blind and lame god, so He quickly lost Them. Píríuso, God of the Sun and half-brother of the twins, vowed revenge for Rézhíní’s death. While the other gods returned to mourn the dead goddess, Píríuso charged across the land with blood boiling in His eyes, searching for Nazhoro.

The blind god returned to His home on Mount Farasa. He sat outside in the snow, letting the cold wind ease His grief the best it could. He had killed His sister. Nazhoro cried and the tears froze to His face. This was just another reason to avoid the other gods. They’re mean and evil and will trick you into doing evil things, just for Their amusement. Nazhoro did not want to see anyone ever again, even the magnificent goddess, Kérasa. For years and years, Nazhoro sat in the cold and wept.

During this time, Píríuso continued His search for Nazhoro. Since the sun god could see everything under the sun and had infinite time at His disposal, He eventually was able to spot Nazhoro sitting on the slopes of Mount Farasa, just outside His home. Píríuso swooped down toward Nazhoro and challenged the blind god to a duel to avenge Their sister’s death.

Nazhoro stood to face His challenger. The blind god’s face was grotesquely covered with frozen tears. He told the sun god that He was overcome with grief for killing Rézhíní and that Zhíanoso had tricked Him into doing it.

Naturally, Píríuso would not believe anything bad about His ally, the fire god. He ordered Nazhoro to stop talking and pick up His weapon. Nazhoro refused, saying He had no right to defend Himself after what He had done. Píríuso yelled at Him again to pick up His axe, or He would kill Him where He stood. Nazhoro refused once more, commanding Píríuso to follow through with His threat.

Píríuso did. He stabbed Nazhoro through the heart. The blind god collapsed, the soft snow engulfing His body. Satisfied, Píríuso wiped the blood from His sword and left.

Nazhoro’s spirit departed, as well. It headed for the great hall of Pétíso, God of the Dead, where all souls must go eventually. Once there, Nazhoro asked to forget everything when He would be reincarnated. Sívorí, Goddess of the Stars and Keeper of the Book of the Dead, told Pétíso to refuse. She told Pétíso that Nazhoro had lived a good and honest life. She told Him that Nazhoro was feeling guilty for killing Rézhíní, when in fact He had been tricked by Zhíanoso.

Upon His throne, Pétíso leaned forward and contemplated. Like the sun god, He too was an ally of Zhíanoso and did not believe ill of the fire god. Instead, He saw a chance to punish the blind god. Pétíso told Nazhoro that He would return to the world of the living and remember everything. And so it was.

Nazhoro awoke on the slopes of Mount Farasa, exactly where Píríuso had killed Him. Kérasa ran across the snowfield and grasped Him in Her arms, welcoming Him back to the living. Despite His giant size, Kérasa picked up the lame god and carried Him back to His smithy. Once there, Nazhoro thanked Her and announced that He wished to return to work.

And so He did. With every heft of His mighty hammer, Nazhoro feels the bow and arrow in His hands. With every clang of metal on metal, He hears His arrow slamming into Rézhíní’s chest. With every whiff of hot iron, He smells Her blood.

Eventually, Nazhoro will eradicate the memory of murdering His sister, but that time has yet to come. Until then, He continues to work in solitude, enjoying the company of no one.

Nazhoro knows what is right. Nazhoro knows what is honorable. Nazhoro knows what it means to take responsibility for His own actions.

Do you?

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