A legend of Zarmina
As told by Posaredes the Storyteller, this account was discovered by the great archaeological expedition of 1217, among other famously well-preserved artifacts on display in the National Museum of Geshan.
When Tareidos and the expedition of the Ganeshite Clan reached the Edge of the World by the grace of Ospdeinus Sea-Spirit, the crews of the escort ships grew fearful of the Ice. The Ice rings the Boundary at the Edge of the World’s disc. The crews complained of the unnatural angle of the Sun and shied from touching the Ice.
But the expedition of the Ganeshite Clan trembled not! Among the expedition crew, Young Montrai best demonstrated their adventurous spirit. He marveled at the Ice: there was nothing like it on all of Geshan. Its range of hues was as the sky above, from a clear white to a pale blue-like color. It floated on the sea as a barrel part-filled with liquid. As the expedition sailed along the Boundary of the World, sometimes the sailors saw the Ice mixed with the sea as a thick soup, and sometimes as a vast wall towering above. Each time, it froze their fingers at a touch. Hoplite Halfedab had the misfortune of falling overboard into the soup-like sea covered with small pieces of ice; he did not drown, but he contracted an unfamiliar sickness which caused his limbs to mottle and whiten and his body to shiver. Tareidos pledged to honor his memory when he returned to Geshan.
Ahmuste Spirit of the Animals presented a strange menagerie of creatures to Tareidos and his crew. They found a queer animal, no longer than a swordblade, that swam in the cold sea as a fish but climbed onto the Ice and waddled as a fat rodent. These animals gathered in great hordes to huddle together on the ice. The crew took great heart from their rollicking antics, and killed and ate several.
Tareidos’ sailors discovered a revelation: a rocky island straddling the very Boundary. The Boundary did not merely split Sea from Ice! The island was a low, hump-backed mountain of gray rock rising from the Sea, as the isles of Geshan, with steam and vapor emitting from its pinnacle. The Ice climbed up the north and south flanks of the mountain but did not reach the summit. On the east flank was sea, and on the west flank was Ice. Unlike Geshan, there were no verdant grasses and trees, but only bare rock.
‘Let us unload our ice-boats on the shore of the island,’ said Tareidos to his crew, ‘as the escorts take comfort in its more familiar environs.’
The expedition carried the boats on their shoulders to the Boundary on the west flank of the mountain, and set them up on their specially crafted blade-feet. The Ice was rough at the edge of the mountain, but Tareidos could see from its faraway shiny surface that it became smooth as metal. Fisivus Wind-Spirit was strong there – he looked kindly on the expedition and blew towards the Ice.
In a prayer to Davrouduse, patron of the Ganeshite, Tareidos offered thanks to Philospher Siratoclesa, for his idea of ice-boats with their bronze blade-feet and sails. The escorts departed and the ice-boats took Tareidos and his expedition beyond the Edge of the World, for the glory of the Ganeshite Clan!
The ice-boats Argeno, Tiburon, and Riguses raced each other across the open ice, traveling at tremendous speed. Sailor Adarius and Sailor Felator took it in turns to steer the Argeno by the ice-blade tiller, whilst the rest of the expedition lay down and grasped hold of any solid part of the boat. The solid ice below sped past. For two chronas, the expedition sailed west. At the end of each chrona, when the tiller-operators needed rest, Tareidos instructed his crew to take down all the sails, but they still had to wait for the sand in the chronaglass to fall nearly an eighth of a decichrona before the Argeno and her sister ships finally slid to a stop.
Said Viridos, ‘Fisivus Wind-Spirit is a fickle ally. He may turn on us at a moment if we fail to please him. And look, here beyond the Edge of the World he is even stronger than Allopes Sun-Spirit! In Geshan, that is not so!’
And so it was true! The heavenly orb of light that is the gift of Allopes Sun-Spirit held itself not in the center of the sky. The Sun hung low, above the eastern horizon. Tareidos’ sailors, who had been watching the ice and holding themselves down on the deck of their ice-boats against the tremendous strength of Fisivus Wind-Spirit, had not seen the Sun move, and yet his force had pushed Allopes Sun-Spirit into decline. Where Allopes had lost his ground, the sky above had a strange orange hue. The air had become cold.
But Tareidos told Viridos, ‘Yes, Fisivus Wind-Spirit is strong here. Then we shall follow his whim, so that we do not displease him.’ And at the beginning of the next chrona, the sailors ate of their preserved meats and set out again.
All the Ganeshite know that Fisivus Wind-Spirit, Gamlenuos Earth-Spirit, and Ospdeinus Sea-Spirit often argue with one another, and that their arguments can harm the people if they are not careful to appease the right spirits. Ospdeinus Sea-Spirit became jealous, as Tareidos and his sailors had found a way to sail boats upon the ice rather than upon the sea routes he had prepared for them within the disc of the World. Before Tareidos left his ocean domain, Ospdeinus Sea-Spirit decided to remind them that he, too, could determine the fates of boats.
In front of the Riguses, the ice suddenly cracked and parted in a wide gulf, filled with bubbling water. The ice dropped away in chunks that floated on the sea’s intruding surface, tumbling and bobbing in the waves.
Riguses skidded and jerked. Its bronze blade-feet sank into the soft ice. The sailors were thrown out of the ice-boat as it tumbled into the steaming, churning water. The strong wooden mast fell. Only the blade-feet at the stern held the ice-boat from falling below to Ospdeinus Sea-Spirit’s deeper domains.
The ice-boats Argeno and Tiburon were spared the fate of Riguses. They saw Ospdeinus Sea-Spirit’s water open up before them and nearly swallow Riguses, and their tiller-operators quickly yawed the boats away from danger. Tiburon, though, fell over onto its side and skidded over the bodies of Hoplite Arcoton and Sailor Nesimes, crushing them to death.
‘Fisivus Wind-Spirit has abandoned us!’ cried Viridos.
Tareidos and his other sailors and hoplites hurried to the circle of open sea, and were surprised to find that the sailors who fell from the Riguses‘ deck were able to climb out and did not contract the strange shivering-sickness that had claimed Hoplite Halfedab.
‘Let us remain here for a time, and take stock of our ice-boats,’ said Tareidos. And so it was.
Whilst the sailors struggled to pull the ruin of Riguses from the steaming sea-pit, they heard a strange cry. From the distant north came a caravan of strange white-furred beasts pulling sledges covered in animal hides. They stopped at the edge of the sea-pit, and out came people dressed in thick fur and hide coats.
Tareidos spoke to the leader of the ice-people, whose name was Ognamnon. ‘We travel the ice and come to these sea-pits when the water-spirits visit the ice surface,’ he said. ‘We will spend a time here fishing to replenish our stores. You may join us.’
Ognamnon and his people helped pull the wreckage of the Riguses from the sea-pit. They showed the Ganeshite new ways to fish. They also shared some of their bounty: more strange creatures that none of the Ganeshite Clan had seen before. At the end of the chrona, there was a feast. The ice-people cooked their fish and meat over the heat of oil fires. The ice-people had spent the day erecting domed houses out of ice and snow blocks; some of them were in their female cycle and invited various members of the Ganeshite expedition into their dwellings. Tareidos refused an invitation and rested under blankets in the Argeno‘s shelter as was the proper custom of a boat-captain.
Tareidos stayed with Ognamnon and his ice-people for a dekachron. He tried to repair the Riguses, but there was no way to fix the mast upright and the bronze blade-feet had been mangled beyond Hoplite Kiligos’ ability to repair.
Tareidos approached Ognamnon and asked how long the ice-people would remain at the sea-pit.
‘There is no way of telling,’ answered Ognamnon. ‘We will fish and hunt as much as the spirits allow. The steam of the sea-pit attracts many creatures, and we need fresh meats, bones, and hides. But the sea-pit will not remain open forever, and at that time we must move onto the ice and seek another. At times, that is a dangerous path, but for now, the sea-pit provides us all we can ask for.’
Tareidos told his sailors and hoplites what he had learned.
‘Let us stay with the ice-people, Tareidos!’ pleaded Young Montrai.
‘No, Montrai,’ said Tareidos.’We are traveling beyond the Edge of the World for the glory of the Ganeshite Clan. What glory is achieved by remaining here?’
‘But the ice-people are friendly, their food is plenty, and their houses and beds are warm!’ Montrai had spent each chrona since the sea-pit opened in a domed ice-house.
Tareidos’ faithful friend Thilites commented, ‘Young Montrai, I fear the abundance of the sea-pit has blinded you such that you do not realize how temporary it may be.’
Viridos agreed with Montrai. ‘No, Thilites. Out there is only ice and the argument between Fisivus Wind-Spirit and Ospdeinus Sea-Spirit. Many of us have already given our lives for glory, and already we bear revelations to bring back to Geshan. Tareidos will lead us only to death. Let us stay here with Ognamnon for a time and then return to our home isles.’
Tareidos would have none of this talk. On the eleventh chrona since the expedition met Ognamnon and the ice-people, he collected those sailors and hoplites still devoted to the glory of the Ganeshite. They rigged the Argeno and Tiburon for sail and departed. They left Montrai, Viridos, and those other sailors who had been tempted to remain with the ice-people.
The Argeno and Tiburon sailed for three chronas across the ice. The expedition saw many strange landscapes on the ice: small, white ridges, mountains, and pits in the otherwise flat, open expanse. As they sailed west, the air Fisivus Wind-Spirit carried became colder and colder. The sailors and hoplites of Tareidos’ expedition began to wrap themselves in the fur hides they had obtained in trade form the ice-people, which kept them warm for a time. By the third chrona, Thilites was keeping a fire burning in his overturned bronze shield at all times.
In the fourth chrona, Fisivus Wind-Spirit finally grew strong enough to defeat Allopes Sun-Spirit, and the great orange orb of the Sun sank below the horizon. The crew watched Allopes Sun-Spirit’s departure with fear and apprehension. The ice-land about them grew dark and dim. Tareidos and his sailors began to have difficulties seeing the details of the landscape, and they clustered around the fire in Thilites’ shield. Under their fur-hide blankets, they all seemed to have the shivering-sickness.
‘Look!’ cried the sailor keeping watch. ‘Strange lights in the sky!’
And so it was! After the Sun disappeared behind them, taking its light from the sky, tiny points of light had appeared, fixed in the black sky before them.
Thilites came to Tareidos and said that he was afraid.
‘I know, my friend,’ said Tareidos. ‘Let us offer prayers and songs to Allopes Sun-Spirit, that he may remain with us even if we do not see his orb now, and that we may see him again.’
There came a time on the fourth chrona where one of the ice-ridges cast a terrible, deep shadow over the land. The shadow hid the pits in the ice landscape. A shadow could never hide the landscape of Geshan in that way.
The Tiburon struck a pit with its bronze blade-foot and overturned. Its sailors were cast out onto the ice, tumbling from underneath their fur-blankets. Without this protection or the warmth of a fire in a shield, they began to die of the shivering-sickness. The fire burning in a bronze shield on the Tiburon caught the ice-boat’s hull, rigging, and sails, and the ice-boat became engulfed in flames fueled by oils. As the ice-boat burned, it sank into the ice and became mired there.
Tareidos ordered a halt to their travels for the day. Sailor Depavos climbed down onto the ice to see if any from the Tiburon had survived. His feet touched the ice and he began to run towards the wreckage, but soon he slowed, and then he stopped. He sat down on the ice as if to rest, shivering. Tareidos saw him lie down, and it was not long before his shivering stopped.
How Tareidos and his crew cried for the loss of their companions by fire and ice! They wept until sleep claimed them in the terrifying darkness.
‘Tareidos,’ called Hoplite Halfedab. ‘Tareidos, Tareidos, how did I shiver and die?’
‘Tareidos,’ said Hoplite Arcoton and Sailor Nesimes. ‘Tareidos, Tareidos, how were we crushed under the weight of an ice-boat to die?’
‘Tareidos,’ chorused the crew of the Tiburon. ‘Tareidos, Tareidos, we burned on the ice! How did we die so?’
‘Tareidos,’ called Sailor Depavos. ‘Tareidos, the world is cold and dark and I am afraid. I can see the ancestors of the Ganeshite Clan, and they want me to join them where it is warm and light. Have we enough glory for me to go to them?’
Tareidos wept and crawled through the strange, cold, gray land with its tiny lights in the sky for all the dead. His tears turned to ice and fell from his eyes in crystal flakes. He could see nothing but the spectral forms before him. ‘What is this land of ghosts, beyond the edge of the World?’ he cried. He reached out a hand for Sailor Depavos. ‘Go!’ he cried. ‘Tell our ancestors what we did for glory, and tell them to implore Allopes Sun-Spirit for his light on our faces again!’
Tareidos put his hand back on the ground in front of him, and found that it was sticky and painful to pick it up again. He became rooted to the spot, and the spectral figures before him grew stronger. One by one, they turned and walked away from him into the darkness. He yearned to go with them! They were walking towards the many small points of light. Soon he could, too. The light grew stronger, and with it came warmth.
Tareidos turned towards the life-giving heat and saw, not the Gates to the land of Umaduos Death-Spirit and not the orb of Allopes Sun-Spirit, but a fire in a bronze shield, carried by faithful Thilites.
‘Come, my friend Tareidos,’ said Thilites. ‘Come back to the ice-boat! You have walked far, almost too far. But now it is time to come back.’
‘You are right, Thilites,’ replied Tareidos. ‘It is time to come back!’
Thilites held the fire in his shield near Tareidos and helped him up off the ice. The two of them climbed onto the Argeno together, and warmed themselves by the fire while the rest of the crew slept and shivered around them.
‘We cannot see Allopes Sun-Spirit again unless we look for him,’ said Thilites.
‘Old friend, you are right again,’ agreed Tareidos. He took hold of the tiller while Thilites climbed the mast and rigged the sails. The ice-boat began to move, and Tareidos began to tack against the wind, heading east.
Tareidos sailed for two chronas, with Thilites carefully keeping watch and tending the fire. On the second chrona, the crew began to wake. They helped Tareidos and Thilites guide the ice-boat Argeno east, and when they grew too cold and tired, they huddled under their fur-hide blankets. Fisivus Wind-Spirit was content to let the ice-boat travel against his whim. Perhaps it was Allopes Sun-Spirit’s growing influence, for Tareidos and his crew soon saw the great orange orb of the Sun again!
They emerged from the dark and the twilight, and they sailed east until they saw the ocean once more, at the Edge of the World. They could not find the ice-people and their sea-pit, and offered a prayer to Davrouduse, patron of the Ganeshite, to keep Viridos and Young Montrai safe and prosperous with their new people. Tareidos and his crew sailed their ice-boat up and down along the Boundary until they found the island with its steaming mountain, like the isles of Geshan but without its verdant blanket of trees and shrubs. Tareidos’ old ship lay upon the rocks, and his sailors spent several chronas repairing it with material from the trusty ice-boat Argeno. Then Tareidos, Thilites, and his crew sailed for Geshan with their strange hides, preserved meats, and artifacts from the ice-people.
That is the story of Tareidos of the Ganeshite, and how he crossed beyond the Edge of the World, beyond the sea, and beyond the light, and how he came back.
- This story takes place on the “Eyeball Earth” climate case for Gliese 581g (or a world like it).
- Because Gliese 581g is tidally locked, the words “day” and “night” make little sense for the characters in this story. I also assume a nearly circular orbit, so that “season” is also meaningless. I still assume that the creatures require rest after some period of time, though!
- I calculated that an iceboat under ideal conditions, for some reasonable assumptions, would cover 1/8 the circumference of a planet the size of Gliese 581g in about 72 hours. So, if a “chrona” is between 12 and 24 hours, it is reasonable that the iceboat could get from the edge of the open sea to the terminator in the number of chronas mentioned.
- The sea-pit is, of course, a violent melt-through in the ice shell from an undersea volcano. When the eruption stops, the ice there will become a chaos like on Jupiter’s moon Europa.
- Speaking of undersea volcanoes, I have in mind that most of Zarmina’s above-sea and above-ice surface features would be Hawaii-style basaltic shield volcanoes, like the isle Tareidos puts in at and the isles of Geshan. This is because the planet lacks substantial tidal forces to drive Io-style vulcanism and I assumed that Gliese 581g lacks plate tectonics – but it could still have the random mantle hot spots that give us Hawaii!