Known among the mullogs as "Kotairitenga", this is the oldest and most central story in the rich oral culture of the race. It isn’t a creation myth, as the mullogs have little opinion of exactly where orcs and halflings came from; in a way they’re too distant to be worth thinking about. This tells the story of how their race came to be, and as such holds great historical as well as cultural worth. The myth centres on the first recorded leader of the mullogs, Naulé. His bones can still be found, mostly attached to very important Ehpi talismans or ancestral amulets. It also tells of the great Ehpi Galumbé, the spirit from which the entire marshland takes its mullog name.
Prevalence. This story is almost unknown outside of the mullogs’ home range of the Silvermarshes, or "Galumbé", as they call it. However, within that range it is ubiquitous; it is a myth for mullogs, addressed to mullogs, though lately, with the help of translators, it has started to travel through the very few non-mullogs allowed within their homeland, and thus out into the wider world. In this case, it has been translated and recorded by the mullog researcher Lumbe Bloggson, whose mixed hobbit-mullog ancestry allows him entry into the Galumbé and a good knowledge of the language.
The myth tells of the origin of the
as a race, and the first section especially details the history of their ignoble
beginnings. A brief summary of the known facts follows:
In the year 822 b.S., halflings fleeing a massacre by Epheronian soldiers arrived on an area of uninhabited marshland known as the Silvermarshes. Having nowhere else to go, they were forced to try to settle the harsh lands. Over the course of the following years they dwindled steadily in numbers, barely able to survive on the marshes. By 288 b.S., only a handful remained, some of whom are reputed to have begun to show strange physical changes as a result of the harsh terrain, and most likely also a degree of inbreeding.
In 288 b.S., the refugees were joined by a group of orcs, seeking refuge after the defeat of their leader, known as Hourelin. Exiled by their kind and hunted by humans, they too sought refuge in the Silvermarshes, and were reluctantly taken in by the halflings, not that it’s likely they had much choice in the matter.
Accounts of how halflings and orcs formed a united society are uncertain – some reports suggest that the orcs raped and subjugated their already weakened halfling neighbours, whilst others cite the orcs as being more co-operative and friendly, as those more aggressive members of their group had already been killed off before they came to the Silvermarshes. Either way, the alliance seems to have been uneasy at first, growing slowly over time as the increasing desperation of orcs and halflings was metered out by the birth of mixed race children whose unusual resilience and adaptability rendered them well suited for life in the marshes. The first mullog leader, named Naulé Proudrak, is reputed to have greatly aided in uniting the people by officially declaring the Silvermarshes, or "Galumbé", as it would thenceforth be known, the territory of his people. The mullogs eventually outlived their parents, who they remember by the names of “great ones” (orcs) and “tender ones” (halflings).
Importance. Incalculable. The sheer age and subject matter makes this story among the most treasured of any mullog story. It is memorised word for word by many, and parts of it are quoted as curses, blessings, or proverbs frequently. The performance of the myth, with several skilled storytellers reciting it in a strange musical mixture of harmony and gesture, is one of the greatest aspects of mullog culture. I can only apologise that the translated version loses so much of the vibrancy and beauty of the original language, unchanged for centuries.
Story. The myth of the Kotairitenga is split into several section, each one titled according to a specific theme:
Part one: in which the great and tender ones are gathered together in
the arms of the marsh
The tender ones found themselves lost and alone, and came into the arms of
the marshes. Here they struggled, as living creatures do, for survival,
forgetting as they did so their smiles and songs, which were left shining
in the footprints they planted on the wild, untouched mud of the marshes.
These were a gentle people, not hardened by mist and mire, and the
marshland to them was a terrible exile. They dwindled, picked off slowly,
by poison, drowning, starvation, or the thorny teeth of kaimuni.
They had a leader, and though still young he was the oldest of the mullog
children. His name was Naulé. He cared fiercely for his people, loving
them with the ferocity of the great ones and the compassion of the tender
ones. His eyes were green and lonely and faraway, like someone staring
into a deep pool and seeing their Eru stare back. [Eru is a term used by
the mullogs to refer to the spirit or soul that inhabits any object,
living or dead.] But his hope alone was no help, and things got worse.
People clustered together closer than ever, but their minds built high
dark walls. It was a silent time, as people had forgotten how to sing.
Naulé forced himself to hope and to feel keenly every pain that his people
bore. But he didn’t find himself hating the marsh as others did. Whenever
he looked at it he remembered how it had opened its silver arms to his
ancestors when other lands spurned them and cursed them.
Part three: in which Naulé seeks help and learns how to dream
One day he went away, seeking desperately for something that would help his people to find their way in the marshes, to feel that they belonged here. He walked for a long time, until he was painted with black mud, and too tired to move. Exhausted he collapsed, and a whistling beetle saw him. He murmured to the beetle “What should I do now?”
To his surprise, it replied, in a happy shrieking voice, “Be happy and calm! Make a bright light and a sweet fragrant smoke, to invite good spirits. Watch the flames and let them guide you to softer places. But please, wherever you go, my friend, you must keep your hands and face clean of mud. Keep them as pale as stone and you will find all you ask for.” Naulé was confused, and asked the beetle “why should I do such a thing?” but the beetle merely sang its “this is my home” song, and flew away. Naulé watched it go, wondering why it should give such advice, but following it nonetheless as it was the only advice he had. He set to lighting a fire, and gathered frent and squilla fungi, which he burned to help the flames and give a sweet, soft smelling smoke. Deeply tired by his travels, and calmed by the smell of the fire, Naulé fell asleep. He seemed to wake instantly, standing in a world which seemed similar to the marshlands, but somehow more ancient and altogether more alive. Of, course, my friends, Naulé the hopeful had travelled to the spirit world. With the help of clever whistling beetle he had discovered the method of Ohs-er-dan. He had learned how to dream, as only mullogs can.
Wondering at the strange and beautiful landscape, breathing the spirit of he marshlands (but somehow different from the marshes Naulé had lived in until then) he wandered in the spirit world. As he walked, he saw figures watching him from the other side of streams or the branches of trees, and they gazed at him with eyes like the movement of light on a fish’s flanks. These were the ancestor spirits, watching silently their child as he walked through this eerie land. Many reached out to him with hands like age-blackened roots. They called out to him in voices that, though they seemed painfully familiar to Naulé, had no meaning to him. In the spirit world, there is no language without understanding, and these first ancestors had not learnt to understand the marshlands. The advice they cried out to him, the love and apologies they showered on poor Naulé sounded to him like someone singing underwater. Scared and tearful at the sad cries of the ancestors, he turned away and hurried onwards, looking for some creature that might help him and his people.
He walked until he saw a forest lying on its side, as if it were asleep. The trees lay leafless on each other like snakes, winding together into a thick mat. A colossal man made of dark earth was stroking the sleeping trees, singing them a low slow song which makes them knit closer together, and shuddered like a thunderclap in the pit of Naulé’s stomach.
Part four: in which Naulé converses with the earth giant
It stood among the woven mats of gently breathing tree spirits like a
great leader. It was massive, the biggest living creature Naulé had ever
seen. It had great limbs more smooth and powerful than those of the great
ones, and its skin shone like bare earth after a rainstorm. Its head was
like a standing stone half buried in its colossal torso. Its flesh was the
colour and texture of peat. From where he stood Naulé could see it moving
the trees closer together, weaving them into a living river as they
dreamed leafy dreams.