The Curious Tale Home

Figures of Legend

Today I'm going to introduce you to several Relancii Figures of Legend.

Like our own Santa Claus, these characters appear in Relancii myths, songs, and folktales. Also like Santa, their legends are fixtures in holidays and other important cultural events—serving both as cultural touchstones and as scaffolding for people and communities to build up meaningfulness in their lives.

However, their greatest significance lies in their power to help ordinary people make sense of a difficult world, and in this respect they act as worldfetters, tying the people of Relance to their world around them, creating a sense of belonging and, in looking out at the world, of familiarity.

Throughout Relance you will find that particularly well-known and culturally relevant Figures of Legend are routinely elevated—though typically only in local custom—to the status of a minor deity.

Some of these curious characters are, or were once, real. Others, not so much. Others still fall somewhere in between, fantastic characters whose stories arose from a truth. Because it's Relance, a land of dwends and satae, it's a lot harder to discount a proverbial faerie as being a mere faerie tale.

Figures of Legend needn't necessarily be what we would ordinarily call persons (the question of what constitutes a "person" is trickier in Relance). They could also be, for instance, a ship—a ship that "comes in." Or they could be the western wind, or a cricket and its song. But for clarity I'll only be talking about "persons" today.

Also, I won't be going over Figures of Legend whom I have already mentioned at some point. The legends you're about to read will be entirely new to you.

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Pronounced: ta – luh – suh – KEE – uh / tal – uh – SEE – kee – uh / tal – SKEE – uh
Epithet: The Firemate (Fireman)
Relancii Name Meaning: Encircling Band
Real-World Name Meaning: None

The Legend of Talacekeea is widespread across the western half of the Middemesne, the southern parts of the Upperlands, and the westernmost region of the Keferst River Valley. This is quite a wide reach as far as folktales go, which is probably due to the legend's popularity in the port cities along the northern coasts of the Sea of Somara. These are some of the richest and most cosmopolitan cities in the world, because, if you exclude the Empire, they comprise the major economic connection between the western half and the eastern half of the peoples of Relance. Ideas that gain popularity here frequently travel outward to many other climes.

Talacekeea himself was said to have been a tondra, a kind of local ruler, in the Calefedon Mountains. His personal history varies heavily depending on where it is told, but the reason for his significance is common to nearly all versions of the legend:

Specifically, he is said to cause people to desire misfortune or disaster to fall upon themselves and their surroundings, hence his epithet "The Fireman." Indeed his name lends itself to the Talismetian word talace (and its adjectival form talsky), which refers to that very emotion, and is commonly held to derive from maladies of the mind ranging from depression to boredom—though in the time of After The Hero it is a somewhat popular sentiment among adolescents and young adults east of the Calefedons, especially who live in comfortable but cloistered circumstances.

The legend has it that he lives on to this day. In his viutari form Talacekeea is said to have red hair, a strong jaw, and heavy thighs, but he is said to prefer the form of a certain kind of large, aggressive wasp with orange colorings—and that he himself will never sting. His admirers sometimes seek him out at wasps' nests, braving the risk of injury in hopes of being noticed by him, whereupon (of course) he will fulfill their wish.

Chronus Ill Thanatos is well aware of this legend and drew inspiration from it in younger days.

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Full Name: Arteaga Garcen
Pronounced: ar – TEE – ay – guh :: GAR – sen
Relancii Name Meaning: Garsen meaning "Insignificant"; Arteaga (probably being an agnomen) meaning "Captain"
Real-World Name Meaning: None (though Arteaga is a real name, of Basque origin, and Garcen is close to the French word for "boy")

The Legend of Garcen is a simple one: Garcen was a ferrymate on the Sea of Somara long ago. He offered many a traveler passage to any port for free. The only problem was that whatever port a person wanted to reach would be the last one he visited, of all the ports on the sea.

Thus Garcen is remembered for Garcen's Toll, used to describe anything with an onerous cost of time and a large payoff at the end.

On Relance you'll frequently hear it employed in the popular vernacular, especially in songs. The scope of his legend is quite wide, being absent only in Davoranj, parts of Tanzibay, and the most remote regions of the Upperlands.

In the Empire the phrase is most commonly used to refer to one thing in particular: the repetitiveness and interchangeability of the introductory stages of getting to know a stranger before the distinctive flavors of that particular friendship can develop. It is a weariness that afflicts Galavar sometimes, who is aware of Garcen and his legend.

Sailors on the Somara Sea are especially fond of Garcen, believing themselves to have something fundamental in common with him. Many maritime tasks and toils are greatly laborious and at the same time long-lasting and profoundly dull. Garcen, they presume, would surely have understood their weariness. Thus it is on the water that Garcen himself, more so than his eponymous voyage, is the focus of his own legend.

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Pronounced: EE – vil – scyoot
Epithet: Aevalscute the Shining
Relancii Name Meaning: Beautiful Striking Shield
Real-World Name Meaning: Beautiful Shield

This legend is common throughout the Upperlands, but rare elsewhere.

Unlike the other Figures of Legend I'm featuring today, Aevalscute is said to be a dwend, not a member of the Kindred at all. Moreover, Aevalscute is understood to be not merely a dwend but an eishilon, an especially powerful form of dwend—to the Preterfolk what dragons are to the Kindred—and whose very existence is debated.

The Upperlands are said to be haunted, even the very land itself, leading many travelers and residents to madness, or death. Supposedly these evils are at their most treacherous in the daytime, during summer, under a clear and sunny sky when the air is still.

According to the Legend of Aevalscute, Aevalscute takes the form of a ferocious downdraft who blows the ill air away, dispersing the air's coalescing miseries back into an incoherent haze. These gales are extremely powerful, and can uproot trees and lift the roofs from houses, yet the people of the Upperlands largely welcome them. Aevalscute differs from thunderstorms. Its air is always hot and dry, and never produces clouds. It creates prodigious amounts of lightning, which nonetheless rarely contacts with the ground.

Aevalscute is also said to have a viutari form with hands of bright light who appears unbidden to heal the afflicted, though the remaining details of its description in this form vary locally. As a dwend Aevalscute is most commonly depicted as sexless, though also commonly as a female, and in a few places as male, while its viutari form has no clear consensus of sex, varying entirely according to local tradition.

Among polygnostics, Aevalscute is commonly associated with the Asash Keda, the "Flame of Illumination," a prehistoric name for the Swayfire, and is also commonly associated with Rhya Kimbrii, the sun. In some places it is considered, variously, the god of health, family, fermentable fruit harvests, the sun, and the wind.

Afiach Bard once encountered what she thought to be the mighty winds of Aevalscute.

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Pronounced: PRAM (rhymes with "pram")
Relancii Name Meaning: N/A
Real-World Name Meaning: None

As an example of a much more local Figure of Legend, consider the Legend of Pram, whose story is told only in the secluded upper part of the Keferst River Valley, called the Methow Valley, and only on the east bank of the river.

Pram is said to be a Davoranjan orphan boy not quite of adolescent age, with greasy, dirty blond hair, blue eyes, and freckles upon fair skin, who got lost and found a place literally called Her House (which in the relevant languages is analogous with "Heaven"—i.e., Nuajj, the Realm of Derishos), and was unknowingly granted eternal life there.

Now he wanders the Methow, and is said to have become a chaotic (sic) and a trickster, reputed quite infamously to be the one responsible for taking away things that are supposed to be there. When a wine bottle has gone empty, when a window seen from the road at evening is dark instead of lit, when a room is silent instead of filled with song, when the sun is rising and there are no clouds to glow in its radiance…that's Pram.

It is something of a custom in these towns and villages to swear by "Pram's [foot]prints," when expressing such sentiments, and sometimes the expression is applied to things being amiss more broadly. Silence and her Handsel Band encounter this saying several times when they voyage through the Methow.

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Pronounced: THAR - aanj
Relancii Name Meaning: Glowing Star
Real-World Name Meaning: A variant of an Indian name with a similar meaning

The Legend of Tharanj lives in Greater Davoranj, where he is said to be the "Unmet Mate."

He's the stranger you see one day. You don't introduce yourself to him; he doesn't notice you; and you never meet him again. The implication is that you have missed out on a fulfilling friendship.

Owing to Davoranj's patriarchal bent, the legend is presumably always told from a male point of view, and sometimes Tharanj is cast as a female, with the similar connotation of an unmet lover. This form frequently occurs in the context of a young male's frustration with an unwanted arranged marriage.

Tharanj by all accounts was a real person (albeit with a different, unknown name) who lived a little over 150 years before the beginnings of After The Hero. There was another Davoranjan, Marzal, a merchant's son in the capital city. One day he was at the fish market on the lakeside when he saw a mate his age in a beautiful, luminescent blue coat. This unknown figure carried himself with a fascinating manner, spoke with a fascinating voice—everything about him captivated the young and headstrong Marzal. He wanted to introduce himself, but he hesitated from embarrassment, and ultimately didn't.

As the story goes, Marzal fretted about his decision all night, and the next day returned to the market in hopes of seeing the stranger again. But the stranger in the blue coat never came.

So that night Marzal asked his uncle, the head of a Great House, where to look. His uncle looked up at the night sky and said, "You will find him by his name: Tharanj."

In other words, "Good luck, kid."

In keeping with the legend, a marzal is what you become when you squander such an opportunity. Iyus Out Mekane is well-acquainted with this legend, and in younger days frequently acted the part of Marzal.

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Pronounced: SPRAY – zhuh (rhymes with "Asia") / SPREE - zhuh
Epithet: The Last Mate; the All-Seeing
Relancii Name Meaning: Cloud Lit from Within
Real-World Name Meaning: None

The Legend of Spreygia is a curious one, and spans most of the world. She is said to stand in a timeless place called the Column of History (or something similar), and from there see everything that will have ever happened on Relance.

By seeing history, she is seen in history likewise. Spreygia is said to appear at momentous and mundane occasions alike, a passive observer standing on the fringes, bearing witness to history.

As the myth goes, she has yet to be born. She cannot, therefore, be meddled with or impeded in her grave power.

She is usually invoked for moralistic reasons. "Be good or Spreygia will know you're a bad child," a mother might scold her young child. "Fight like honorable men or die like weaklings; either way all will come to pass under the glare of Spreygia," a colonel might tell his troops at the onset of battle. In many countries her name is an outright shorthand for that meddlesome authority figure who always knows what you're up to.

Spreygia is also invoked as a confidant, and even sometimes as a de facto notary. For instance, in Tanzibay there are specific public officials called spreygianates who are authorized to act in Spreygia's name, validating formal legal agreements by bearing witness to them.

Not surprisingly, she is worshipped in some places as the god of truth, law, bearing witness, and honor. She is also sometimes worshipped as a god of war, politics, and death.

In a different capacity, Spreygia is often attributed for the strange nostalgia that people sometimes have for eras outside their own lifetimes. This feeling is said to be the result of her touch at the moment of one's birth, forever exposing that child to a taste of some other moment in history. In many countries, people who feel that they live in the wrong era call themselves Spreygia's bastards, and in some countries the "bastards" part has become redundant and it is understood in context that the term spreygian by itself refers to this, while preserving other uses of Spreygia's name in other contexts.

In some traditions her example is held up as one to follow. The idea is to bear witness to history as a knowing and noble observer, acting one's part in the unfolding of events but passively accepting their outcome no matter what, all for the sake of uncovering and immortalizing the truth. This mentality led to a rather intimate revelation from one of DeLatia's generals:

…[A]nd I would shake a person back in forth in my mind, like I were panning for gold, till all the common, rough stuff fell away, leaving only the glittering goodness among me…until one day I looked far away and saw Spreygia watching me, me, up to my thighs in the river like a fool. And I realized that it wasn't gold shining back at me. That what I had seen as goodness in others isn't goodness at all. That the shiny stuff in my pan is just the glint from my own spark, the qualities that I happen to personally admire, reflecting back at me. That the only bits that can catch in my pan, do so because they are already mine.

And it occurred to me, that day, that there's no goodness there. That if there is goodness in me, and in others…it isn't there.

O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!