HRT : Peoni : Orsha the Giant and the Rescue of Peoni

The Coming of Winter

It happened that soon after Larani left Valon to dwell in Tirithor, news was brought to her that all was not well in her former home. Some evil, seemingly, had befallen the land. Everywhere crops had withered in the fields, plants were dying, streams were becoming stagnant and home to pestilential insects; indeed, the very weather was uncustomary - the sun seemed pale and unenthusiastic in giving its warmth, and the nights grew long.

Larani asked the messengers who told her of this news why they had not entreated her mother, Peoni, for aid, since Valon was her land. In reply the messengers replied that they had indeed tried to do just that, but had been unable to find their mistress anywhere, though they searched all the land. Finding this option closed to them, they were resolved to ask for the help of the one they loved equally well, who had so recently left them, Larani the white goddess.

Whereupon Larani grew grave, and determined to find her mother, for she feared some harm had come to her. Immediately she left her great castle, and travelled as quickly as she may to Valon. There she found all as the messengers had reported; it seemed as if even the land were dying, and snow which had previously been confined to the heights of the surrounding mountains was now encroaching upon the fields of the farmers.

While walking about the land, Larani saw giant tracks in the snow, imprints of massive, booted feet. Marvelling at the size of the tracks, and thinking that their cause may also be the cause of the misery of the land, she followed them. For many hours she journeyed beside the prints, heading always higher into the mountains. At last she came to a huge cottage, far up in the mountains where there were no trees, and snow was all about.

Seeing the tracks led to the door of the cottage, Larani quickly disguised herself as a mortal woman and knocked. For a long time she waited there, before at last the door was opened. A giant stood there, towering above the goddess, a deep frown upon his face.

"Who dares try to dent Orsha's door?" the giant growled, and his voice was like the rolling of thunder.

"I am a maidservant to the goddess Peoni. I cannot find her, and have searched all over. Do you know where she is?"

"Be off, maidservant! I have not set eyes upon Peoni, and do not care that she is missing from your little land."

And with that he closed the door. But as he did so, Larani saw behind the giant the cloak her mother wore, hanging upon a peg. She immediately banged on the door, and after a short while it was opened again by the giant Orsha.

"Still here, little woman? Why do you keep disturbing me?"

And Larani challenged him, saying, "Are you certain that you have not seen Peoni, giant?"

Whereupon Orsha lent forward, and stared long and hard at Larani. Then he straightened and spoke.

"A maidservant, you say? Not many gods would humble themselves in such a fashion, except to deceive. I have seen through your disguise, goddess, and still I say that I have not seen Peoni."

At this Larani threw off her disguise, revealing herself in the full glory of her divinity. The brightness of the White Goddess shone forth unbridled, lighting the heavens and earth, and blinding the giant Orsha with its radiance. While the monster stood sightless, Larani drew the great sword Avarkiel and with a single stroke struck his head from off his shoulders.

But the wily giant caught his head as it fell to the ground, and replaced it back on his shoulders, and it seemed as if there had been no wound at all.

"Blinded me you have, goddess, but I am not killed so easily."

With that he once again closed the door, leaving Larani outside in the snow. Now the giant made his way to the room in which Peoni was his prisoner. For he was the one who had taken her from her home in Valon, seizing her in his giant hands and taking her back to his cottage in the high mountains.

Now Orsha has a servant, a hideous old woman called Sislagh, who loves the giant, yet is spurned by him. When she saw that her master was blind, she hurried to Peoni's side, and struck a bargain with the gentle goddess. In exchange for freedom, Sislagh asks that Peoni lend her beautiful voice to her for a time. Peoni, wishing only to escape and return to her fields, agreed. Sislagh, speaking with Peoni's tongue, tricked Orsha, allowing Peoni to sneak past him.

And it was lucky for Orsha that Peoni escaped at that time, for just as she left the cottage, her daughter was assuming her most terrible aspect. Her armour shone brightly, her sword glinted keen edged in the sunlight, and the shield Hyvrik was sturdy upon her arm; and flames were in her eyes, and upon her head. But her sweet mother persuaded her not to take vengeance on Orsha, though her daughter was doubly incensed at the horribly cracked voice of her mother, that was the natural speech of Sislagh.

The two goddesses returned to their homes, and summer was restored. But every year Peoni's voice loses its sweetness, and winter comes upon the land. And at this time too Sislagh enjoys the attentions of the giant Orsha, who cannot see that it is his ancient servant and not the goddess that lies with him. And every year a monstrous brood is born to Sislagh, ghastly in their deformity, yet having, it is said, voices like honey.

HRT : Peoni : Orsha and Peoni

HRT : Peoni
Author: Jamie Norrish
Last updated: 27 February 2001 by Jamie 'Trotsky' Revell