The Epic of the Ainu (part three)

The Epic of the Ainu (part three)

“Silence had fallen in the great hall, and she spoke.

“My brothers, listen to me. The gods came to assail us from the sea and I drove them back with my breath, to the very corners of the sea. But now the gods have come down from the mountain and I am unable to assuage them.

Battle is coming. I foretell by my witchcraft that none will be able to face this enemy that now comes; save the man who is named Shinutápka; our little brother and the heir of this castle. He alone will live. But even I cannot see whether this battle will go well; for on the sword our godlike brother Otópush wears the jewels do not shine. I do not know whether he will live or die.”

My brother Otópush stood up and drew his sword, holding it up to the light. He smote himself with the flat then said, almost to himself, “Is it such that the great warrior I am will be beaten?”

A sound came from the courtyard, of many armoured men (from who knows where) leaping at the battlements. Two great men rushed in and seized the pot-hook, shaking it until it rattled. I clothed myself in mist, lest I would be seen by them in human form.

The first of these strange enemies stood forth and he seemed covered in a zigzag of rock pools, between which were sharp points of rock, all prickles and spikes. I wondered how such a man could ever be killed! The second had a coat which gleamed with the light of quicksilver and the glint of wolfsbane. The barbs on his chest were coated in poison. How could he be beaten in battle either?

And the first of the two spoke.

He said, “I care not that you know the names of the villages we come from. Know then that I am the Man of the Rock River, and he that comes with me is the Man of the River of Gold. Here we stand, in your Shinutápka and ask of you, who among you is the most renowned? I see none here but slaves! Whatever battle is to come, I wish the first to be a bout of wrestling to try our valour. So! Whomever is the highest chieftain you have, let him stand now and spar with me!”

But no one stood up; each looked at the other and waited for him to stand. In the end it was my foster-brother who stood. His voice rang melodiously, “I am he who of any here can claim the name Shinutápka!”

They fought. My noble foster-brother was struck down; my brother Otópush leapt forward in his stead, but he was knocked down also. Then the duty fell squarely to me. Though fearing of the end, I struck the Man of the Rock River and the Man of the River of Gold. My sword came to life in my hands and the animals carved upon it became wholesome with life and aided me in the battle. With the aid of my weapons I was victorious and the two enemies, though strong, lay dead upon the ground.”

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