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 Post subject: Myths and Legends
PostPosted: Wed Dec 04, 2013 6:10 am 
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This section is for Nezumi folklore. While potentially informative about the culture of the Mirelands, the primary intent of the stories written here is to entertain, and as such, they are by no means "required reading" for anyone wishing to create a character from this kingdom. Furthermore, Nezumi myths and legends other than the ones written here do exist, and there is nothing inherently special about these ones beyond the fact that they have been described in detail from start to finish here in this thread. If you wish to create your own, even if it's merely a vague and incomplete retelling to be used in-character, please speak with me and I'll have the idea approved as part of the setting and recorded here to keep things consistent in the future.

I make no promises about how frequently this thread will be updated with my own content. Writing legends such as these is a significant distraction from participating in the ongoing world itself, and it is far from the only one competing for my spare time.

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 Post subject: Re: Myths and Legends
PostPosted: Wed Dec 04, 2013 6:13 am 
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Razor-Eye, the Dragon Hunter

When the merchant Flat-Ears finally stepped back into the outside world, the sun was hanging low in the sky and most activity on the streets of Hirang Erage was slowly grinding to a halt. He had just finished conducting the usual tedious business with a family of tigers, and a longing for the peace and solitude of home had overtaken him hours before they had bid him farewell. Home was, of course, more than a week away from his present location, and if he couldn't return there with his ship stocked full of freshly imported goods, the entire trip would feel like an unacceptable waste of both time and resources.

For all its supposed splendor, Flat-Ears found the kingdom of magic to be an unpleasant locale that was not suitable for extended visits. The outer islands where he commonly did business were cramped places where things like money, talent, and trust could not be found in any great supply, yet the wealthier inner regions somehow always had even less to offer him and his kind. He could hardly care less about what foreigners thought of the Nezumi, but when they stubbornly refused to acknowledge that it was his ship which delivered bread to their tables, reaching profitable agreements became a chore which he did not feel solely responsible for doing. At such times, and on such evenings, he would retire early to one of the temporary districts created to house visitors to the island and either spend time in the company of his kin or simply relax alone in his tent. After his latest ordeal, the latter option seemed infinitely more preferable.

The current Nezumi district of Hirang Erage was little more than a vast expanse of flat terrain located close to its largest shipyard, devoid of buildings but never truly empty. It reminded Flat-Ears of an endless festival, with tents and stalls crammed into every last inch of free space until only crowded pathways and the occasional perfectly shaped void of a recent departure remained. He walked down these narrow paths, paying little mind to the other still-active merchants whose days had not been quite as draining as his own, until he came upon his modest residence within the maze of other ephemeral constructions. It was undisturbed, as he expected from the efforts of the well-armed guards who patrolled the area, but the brief flash of a small white tail retreating from the edges of his vision implied a breach in security of another kind, and one only slightly more welcome.

"Come on out, girl," he grumbled in spite of himself, pausing not five feet from a night of silent privacy that he had justly earned.

Hesitantly, a child emerged from the gap between his neighbor's tent and his own. Her fur, hair, and even dress were all colored pure white in a way which caused their seams to blend together, giving her the appearance of a silhouette that defiantly stood out stronger in darkness rather than light. She was also small, nearly a third the size of a fully grown adult of her species, but Flat-Ears was not familiar enough with the foreign races to guess at her age, and simply assumed that she was already mature enough to be left to her own devices.

"I'm sorry, sir," she said, fidgeting and attempting to avoid eye contact. "My father said you had returned."

"So he sent you to steal from me?" Flat-Ears snapped back angrily, though he knew this was not the case. "I remember your father. When I told him to swallow his pride, it was not an invitation to help himself to my belongings."

"N-no!" the girl stammered, shocked at the accusation. "I merely thought that you... might have wished to talk again."

She shot him a quick glance to try and confirm his reaction to the idea, and found him glaring back. It wasn't purposeful, but the damage was done all the same.

"But..." she continued, once again looking away, "you seemed to be in a foul mood. I thought it best to hide and return another day. I'm sorry," she repeated. "It was foolish for me to have come here."

"More than you realize," Flat-Ears answered with a long, weary sigh. "Come inside before someone sees you."

The child looked up in surprise, once again staring at him with those dreadful pink eyes of hers. Her fur could at least be ignored with some willful effort; certain species existed for which it naturally grew white, and as she was not a Nezumi, it was easy enough to imagine her as one of them. The eyes, however, were an unmistakable aberration. They promised to bring misfortune to everything that they beheld, and every stray glimpse was a reminder to the merchant that he was inviting such ill luck into his life by choice. He cringed at the thought, but did not retract his offer.

The inside of Flat-Ears's tent was modest, containing no more furniture than a bedroll, table, and cooking pot, but his guest treated it like a palace all the same. She was respectful enough to keep her hands to herself, if only just barely, but her attention still flitted from one corner of the room to the next until it finally settled upon a stack of old books and writing materials. In truth, the pile contained only ledgers and financial accounts, but the girl's imagination was already running wild with the possibility of what might have been written on several thousand pages of foreign texts, and her tail began to playfully wag back and forth in response.

"Leave those alone," Flat-Ears chided, seating himself at his table in such a way to face away from his guest. "They're for my work; nothing in there to interest you."

"But your work is interesting," the girl retorted, obediently returning all attention to her host.

"Not that part of it," came his answer. "Those books would bore even an old man like myself."

The child went silent, only to return strong a moment later. "Where do you keep your stories?" she asked with hope in her voice.

"What makes you think I have stories?" the Nezumi spat back. "I'm a merchant, not an entertainer."

"Everyone has stories!" she insisted, scampering up to sit on the chair opposite him. "Tell me a story about what you did today."

The fur on Flat-Ears's back bristled at her suggestion, and she was perceptive enough not to press the issue further.

"Never mind what I did today."

"Then tell me about something else," she continued, unwilling to abandon the idea completely. "If it was interesting to you, I'm sure I'll enjoy it."

The merchant sat in quiet contemplation for a long time before answering, as if he were taking part in an especially difficult bargain.

"...Fine. One story, and you leave me in peace afterwards."

The girl's face brightened up immediately and she did not hesitate to respond, standing upright in her chair and leaning on the table to bring herself closer to her reluctant benefactor. Her tail was once again fully animate, flailing about with no conscious effort from its owner.

"Yes! Yes, of course!"

"Then be quiet, and I will tell you a story about Razor-Eye, one of the heroes who once led our great clan of Sky-Piercers."

Flat-Ears paused briefly to allow for an interruption, but whether out of respect, trust, or an unlikely lack of curiosity, his guest remained silent.

"Today, the Sky-Piercers are almost an army; thousands of archers and marksmen strong, each one worth a hundred men on his own... but long ago, well before our people's glorious revolution, the clan belonged to one Nezumi and a number of his companions so few that you could probably count them on your fingers," he began, chuckling to himself. "Of course, that isn't to say he wasn't famous. Everyone in the Mirelands from the poorest child to the emperor himself knew the name Razor-Eye, but for him to call you 'brother'? Oh, you had to be... exceptional. Tell me, girl, how much do you know of Akamu, the kingdom to the north?"

"Not much," the child pouted. "Everyone I ask says that the people there don't like us."

"Hah!" Flat-Ears scoffed. "They may hate you magic folk now, but in those days, it was the Nezumi who kept them awake at night. They used to think we were vermin; savage and uncivilized. The whole lot of 'em are hypocrites," he added with certainty. "Though, they were right about one thing... we were an absolute menace to their poor dragons."

"Dragons!?" the girl cried out incredulously. Flat-Ears simply grinned in response.

"Aye. Don't worry, girl, those oversized salamanders are nothing to be scared of, least of all if you're a Sky-Piercer. Razor-Eye used to travel north with his close friends and hunt the things for sport. He'd shoot them right through the eyes, where they had no scales to keep the arrows out, and then take those scales home to sell. No harder than shooting hawks in flight," he said with a dismissive wave of the hand, as though either practice was a simple or easy matter. "Still, while dragon hunting was good money, that wasn't why he did it. Razor-Eye was the sort who believed that nothing was ever worth doing if it was easy, and if wild dragons were too easy for him, what do you suppose he was really looking for up there, hm?"

The merchant gave his guest some time to ponder the question, but she understandably could not recall a real creature more dangerous than a dragon. When she had finally given up, he answered.

"Dragon riders. You see, the mountain folk tamed those beasts and put saddles on them so they could fly around and spit fire at whoever made them angriest, and they were damn proud of it. Proud enough, in fact, that their bragging reached all the way to Razor-Eye's home in Sky-Slab, and it made him curious. If Nezumi respected the power of these dragon riders enough to speak so highly of them in his presence, they must have been fearsome indeed, he figured; perhaps even enough to be a threat to the kingdom. He had an obligation to prove that his clan was stronger, if not for the sake of his own reputation then for the people's peace of mind. After all," he chuckled, "the emperor was too busy kissing foreigners' boots to do anything about it himself."

The girl's head tilted quizzically to the side. "A threat to the kingdom? Were you at war?"

"Not quite," said Flat-Ears, briefly looking back at her over his shoulder. "But we would have been, if we had let those northerners grow too confident. They would've marched against us in a heartbeat if they thought they could get past the Supreme Wall, and it wasn't built to keep out winged lizards. We needed good archers for that, and even though nobody ever asked him to do it, Razor-Eye and his companions traveled into the mountains to set an example that neither kingdom would ever forget. They shot down over a dozen dragons every week - only being held back by the fact that the damn things were so hard to find - until they finally got some attention for it. At first it was just the occasional mercenary hired to stop them by someone who couldn't be bothered to fix the problem himself, but when that didn't scare them off, the mountain dwellers got serious."

"...And Razor-Eye got what he wanted," the merchant continued. "Too much of it. He couldn't be taken by surprise, so when the royal family of Akamu decided to get involved, it struck his little band of archers with excessive force instead. Twenty dragon riders came down upon them all at once, led by a prince who had lost one of his pets to their arrows a few days back. Razor-Eye was quick to respond, shouting out a warning to his companions as he drew his bow and loosed the first shot, which struck one of the riders right through his neck and sent him tumbling into the mountain pass below. Although their targets were only dots on the horizon, the Sky-Piercers followed his example with a devastating hail of arrows, and watched as dragons and wolves alike dropped out of the sky as if they were leaves falling from a dying tree. Not a single shot missed on that day, and Razor-Eye killed nearly half of the enemy by himself before they reached his group; a mere four dragons, only two of which still held soldiers and a third carrying the prince in his shining blue armor, remained."

"Their performance was perfect, but it was not enough. Once the dragons landed, the Sky-Piercers were almost powerless to stop them. Some were burned to ashes, others wound up impaled on spears or torn to shreds by those beasts, but they all died one way or another. All of them, except for Razor-Eye himself. Cornering him at the edge of a cliff, the prince broke his bow into pieces and ordered the remains of his comrades to be thrown into the valley beneath. He explained to Razor-Eye that sparing his life was no act of mercy; he hated the Nezumi, and to see them beaten and humiliated by his people brought him a satisfaction that their mere death could not match. As the archers had killed his pet and left him to bear the loss, he had killed them, and now their leader would live to feel loss in the prince's stead. He then left Razor-Eye there on that cliff, expecting him to bring word of his defeat home and never again return to Akamu."

A quiet sniffle drew Flat-Ears's attention towards his guest, who seemed much more distressed by his story than he had expected. She looked to be holding back tears, which he wrongly assumed were purely for Razor-Eye and his clan, but looked up once she realized that he had stopped speaking.


"Tragic? Yes," he interrupted, pondering for the first time whether his tale was appropriate for someone of her age, particularly one raised outside of the culture which had created it. "...But it is not the end. Shall I continue?"

"Yes," she stated with conviction. "I'll be fine."

"That's a good answer, girl," the merchant said, legitimately impressed for once. "Now, where was I?"

"Razor-Eye did leave the mountains, but not because he was defeated, and not before traveling to the bottom of that valley to bury his friends. He swore to them that he would not speak a word to his people until it was to tell the tale of their clan's victory, and when he returned to the Mirelands, he did so carrying a gigantic cloth bundle in his hands. Crowds gathered at Sky-Slab to receive him, bringing with them both questions and praise in equal measure. He responded to neither, and showed them none of his grief, knowing that it was exactly what the prince wanted from him. Instead, he took an axe and wordlessly destroyed the grand table in the middle of his own clan hall, harvesting the dense wood which it had been made from, and then secluded himself completely for three whole months."

"The Nezumi grew worried quickly; the other Sky-Piercers were nowhere to be found, and their leader refused to answer any doubts about what may have happened to them. While it was never confirmed, the rumor that they were dead came to be accepted as fact, and those who truly lacked faith began to whisper that their deaths had driven Razor-Eye insane. He had become unconcerned with the outside world, and the gods only knew what he was doing behind the closed doors of his home. Whatever it was, it consumed every spare minute of his time, and he hardly ate or slept until it was done. When he finally re-emerged from the workshop that had once been his house, the people were in awe."

"In his misery, Razor-Eye had created a bow the likes of which had never been seen before. It was massive, standing four heads taller than its creator at his full height, with limbs carved from dragon's horns and a body backed by their sinew; a composite greatbow. Its arrows," Flat-Ears explained proudly, "were as long as I am tall, two and a half fingers thick, and tipped with knife blades! Can you imagine it, girl? Nothing else was big enough!" he laughed, becoming visibly excited about his own story. "In the time it had taken for the bow's glue to dry, he must have made hundreds of them, and the people shared in his silence as he drew the first test shot and aimed it north. It was then that they knew; whatever his fight had been with Akamu, it wasn't over."

"So, Razor-Eye returned to the mountains, this time with a clear purpose. He knew where to find the dragon riders, but nothing of the prince who had shamed him except the gleam of that polished blue armor. Without a name or map to guide him, he simply traveled deep into the center of the continent, where he knew the northerners had built their largest city, RyDauge. Razor-Eye never entered RyDauge, instead preferring to set up camp on a tall mountain peak over a hundred leagues away; there he sat and watched the people go about their business... on clear days, at least."

"That can't be right!" the child protested.

"What, girl?" Flat-Ears teased. "Can you not see a hundred leagues away?"

"Nobody can!"

"How do you think Razor-Eye earned his name?" the rat responded slyly. "More importantly, how do you think he found the prince? Back in those days, the mountain folk would've run a Nezumi through for wandering their streets unattended."


"I wouldn't be telling you a story about just anyone," he interrupted. "Razor-Eye was a living legend. Not only could he see you from a hundred leagues away - with that mighty bow of his, he could hit you too. Every day, he'd wait for a dragon to pass over the city, mounted or not, and he'd shoot it down so that it landed right in the center of the streets. Scouts went looking for him almost immediately, but the thought that he could be so far away was preposterous; they never even came close to finding their culprit, and the dragon riders had to be sent out once again. This time, however, Razor-Eye was patient. He went into hiding, and his attacks slowed down to become just enough to serve as a reminder that he was still out there watching the city. That is, until about a week had passed without him being found, when the prince and his guards finally came looking."

"The glint of the sun shining off that wolf's plate mail carried far enough that even an ordinary Nezumi would have seen it, and Razor-Eye was anything but ordinary. As the prince began to set down for a landing, his dragon took an arrow right through the neck and sent him tumbling into the dirt. He survived, but his pet did not, and sticking out of its corpse along with the massive projectile was a small note meant for his eyes only - a declaration of challenge from the archer whose life he had spared those three months ago, and a warning that the attacks would not stop until their score was settled."

"Razor-Eye's arrow alone terrified the prince. It was almost a spear, and it had come from such a great distance and struck with such precision that he no longer felt safe traveling the skies. He wanted nothing more than to flee the area and never return, but he knew he'd been trapped, and he had an obligation to answer the challenge besides. His people, and his foolish concept of honor," the Nezumi chuckled, "demanded it. So, sending his guards away to fetch the best dragon in their roost, he went to visit the city's blacksmiths to have them prepare the thickest barding his money could buy. Meanwhile, Razor-Eye had made his own preparations already. The spot he had chosen wasn't simply tall - it overlooked both RyDauge city, and much further south, the very cliff where his clan had fallen to Akamu's dragon riders. The same cliff that he had told the prince he would be waiting at."

"The location was remote, and Razor-Eye was no fool. He expected the prince to resort to foul play while out of the people's sight, and so he watched the spot from atop his mountain patiently, wary of any movement he could see. His suspicions were well-placed; on the night before his 'duel', a gang of coyotes came searching the cliff's face with their weapons drawn, and he shot them dead to the last from his distant position. Hours later when the sun had risen, Razor-Eye was surprised to find his enemy arrive by dragon alone, though not nearly as surprised as the prince himself, who found nothing but the bodies of the eight killers he had hired to deal with a single rat. Before he could leave, an arrow landed in the dirt at his feet, pointing him directly towards the peak where his tormentor waited."

"For all his pride, the wolf knew he had been beaten, but he still couldn't see through Razor-Eye's tricks. The rat could've killed him easily from where he stood, but his life had been spared for one last chance. One final confrontation. Do you know why, girl?" Flat-Ears asked, trying to mask his own amusement at the question.

"To show that Razor-Eye had more honor than the prince?" the child guessed.

"No," the merchant answered, a grin forming across his lips. "I've told you already; it was because the leader of the Sky-Piercers believed that nothing was ever worth doing if it was easy. He stood up tall and let the whole kingdom know where he was, and the prince, still bitter at being deceived, mounted his great beast and took flight. Even for one of its own kind, that dragon was a massive creature, and it had been covered from head to tail in armor plating so thick that it could hardly lift off. It stumbled awkwardly through the air, slow and invincible, but its armor meant nothing. Razor-Eye did not fire a single arrow."

"So the prince approached the archer, his confidence growing fast as the distance between them shrank. Even though his mount's armor was untested, he knew that it was infallible, and it was only when he could clearly see his adversary's face that his advance stopped. Where he had expected to see fear, anger, or even doubt, Razor-Eye appeared calm and focused instead. The look frightened him enough that he dared not approach with a blade, instead ordering his dragon to breathe fire upon the Nezumi so that they could at last be done with it. This proved to be a fatal mistake; as soon as the beast opened its mouth, it caught an arrow right between its teeth and died on the spot, crashing hard against the mountain's surface and tumbling down into the rocks below. The prince was more fortunate, able to leap off of the creature's hide and catch a proper foothold before he fell to his own demise, but when he saw Razor-Eye peering down at him with the sky at his back, he knew that it had only bought him a few more seconds. He could not bring himself to spend them in silence."

"'Monster!' The wolf snarled, brandishing both sword and shield at the rat who had bested him. 'Where is your hatred, after all that I've done? How is it that you mock me with such a peaceful expression?'"

"...And Razor-Eye, knowing that his burden was nearly lifted, saw fit to answer. 'I have brought my hatred with me.' He said, drawing one last arrow from his quiver. It was made entirely from bones, one from each of his companions, all carved to a point and bound tightly together with string and glue. Carefully made though it was, the thing was an ugly and crooked projectile; unsuitable for any kind of distance shooting. 'Look around you,' he told the prince, 'and see what else I have brought.'"

"The wolf stood up and turned his head out of simple, foolish curiosity. To his shock, he saw his own people watching from the mountains and valleys to the north; hundreds of citizens from RyDauge city who had traveled to watch his fight with the Nezumi. Razor-Eye had gathered them as witnesses to his death, and they had come believing that he would defy the rat and protect their city as he always had. Instead, they found him with his dragon dead, almost kneeling to the enemy he hated so much. It was more than he could accept; he screamed, in equal parts humiliation and defiance, and began to charge forwards with his shield raised."

"It was futile. Razor-Eye released his hatred and it would not be denied. The prince's shield was pierced like a sheet of paper, and the arrow split as it traveled through; each splinter found its own mark, and the wolf was brought low in an instant. He fell to the rocks, dying and unable to speak, and the last sight he saw was that of Razor-Eye raising his gargantuan bow over his head in a show of triumph for the people of Akamu. He was finally going home to enjoy a celebration that had been three months in the making."

Flat-Ears went silent for a time, thinking his story was finished, but the small mage at his table was not yet satisfied.

"What happened to Razor-Eye then?" she asked.

"He returned to Sky-Slab to tell this story," the merchant answered plainly. "This all took place during the reign of our old empire, so the emperor refused to show his approval of anyone - even lauded heroes - 'attacking' the other nations regardless of their reasons. He wasn't punished, but the people's gratitude was Razor-Eye's only reward for saving their kingdom, and he paid far more to do it than he ever expected to get back. We all owe him a great debt, even now."

"So you tell his story to remember him?"

"Among our own people, yes," he mused. "I don't know how much a foreigner like you can appreciate it, but you have to admit that it's an interesting tale, at least."

His guest nodded with enthusiasm, though it was notably less than she had when she first arrived. She had not expected so much violence.

"Well... you have your story, now I need my peace," the old rat said, rising wearily to his feet. "Run on home to your family, and if there's going to be a next time, bother me outside of this place or not at all."

The girl scurried to the exit of his tent without complaint, but she paused long enough to say farewell and thank Flat-Ears for keeping company with her. He, being too proud to thank her back, offered a simple dismissive grunt in return and moved to retrieve a fresh page from his stack of financial accounts. At first, he set them down to make a proper record of the day's transactions - those few which had been successfully negotiated, at least - but when he was done, he hesitated for a moment to write a small note down in the uppermost corner, meant only for his own eyes.

He would need a reminder if he was going to ask his colleagues back home for more stories worth sharing.

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