Hentun and the Storm Bear
This is a fragment of a long ballad of the Falo’i Rogon. In The Trail of the Sun, Azakai, the Rogon war leader, sings it to his people as part of their Yule celebration. But he is mortally ill from fighting against demonic possession, and partway through, his strength fails him.
In the land of Winter’s heroes,
where the great white Storm Bear wanders,
driving drakes with tooth and talon
from the place of endless snows,
Where the snow falls like the white hair
on the ruff of Khail, the ghost-wolf,
there the Storm Bear roars and hungers,
and he ravens as he goes.
But the Storm Bear ate the elk up,
and the deer both red and fallow,
fox and antelope and beaver,
and all things that creep and run,
And he still was fierce and famished,
and he slavered in his hunger,
till far off he saw the Red Lands,
and went forth to hunt the Sun.
Through the fields of endless Summer,
through the trackless desert furnace,
through the steaming warrior jungle
went the Storm Bear reaping gore,
till the people all were scattered,
and the creatures fled or slaughtered,
and the very stars went flying
from the rumour of his roar;
then, exhaling ice and blizzard,
slew the creeper and the blossom,
slew the many-pillared banyan,
slew the cedar, root and bole.
In the mountains of the Sunset,
at the cornerstone of heaven,
there he caught the Sun in slumber,
snapped his jaws, and ate it whole.
All but one had fled his coming,
fled the blizzard and the slaughter,
fled the Winter of the ages,
gone to hide beneath the stones:
all but one, bold Hentun Wormsbane,
he who ran the Elder Dragon,
he who slew the Worm of Chagur
and a helm made of its bones.
Rode he forth with six companions,
Jahl the strong and Hurn the hunter,
brave Kinzai and cunning Tukri,
Gorak-Wani and his son;
but the Winter’s breath outmatched them.
Hearts may quail when limbs are frozen,
and no shame is in surviving.
Hentun met the Bear alone.
Took he up his blade of iron,
and his spear tipped in obsidian,
and his bow of horn and sinew
that Kinzai had borne before;
put he on his shirt of worm’s hide,
and his dragonhelm of ruel,
and his shield of bronze and leather,
and arrayed him as for war.
Then he sought the mighty Storm Bear,
sought the slayer of the Summer,
sought the beast that ate the sun up,
lying in his icy cave;
and he took his carven ram’s horn
that shook down the walls of Lazan,
and a note blew clear and valiant,
and by that his challenge gave.
‘Who art thou,’ then cried the Storm Bear,
‘Who art thou, O mortal hunter,
who hast challenged me to battle,
who hast come to bait the storm?
I, who brought the world to Winter,
who devoured the fires of heaven,
I will turn my breath on thee now.
Will thy valour keep thee warm?’
‘I am Hentun the Avenger!
I, who ran the Elder Dragon,
I, who slew the Worm of Chagur,
twenty battles have I won.
By my spear-arm I will spare thee,
I will not increase my tally,
I will not count one-and-twenty,
if thou give me back the sun.’
Said the Storm Bear: ‘I will give thee
all the sun that thou desirest,
when thou liest in my belly
like a thousand foes before;
I will give thee fuel and fire,
I will give thee fame and glory:
thou wilt hunt among the Blessed. . . .
(Here Azakai collapsed, and the rest of the song is lost.)