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The Seven Sisters' Tale

The Tale of the Unexpected Visitor</i>

<i>One day, as Maresuki was walking along along the dusty road, he came across a small farmhouse. It had been quite a while since the Golden Tongue of the Dawn had stopped to rest, so he made off towards the house in the hopes that its owner would offer hospitality to a weary traveller.

Alas, no one answered the Lookshy swordsman's knock, and Maresuki prepared to set off into the deepening sunset. As he hefted his duffel bag, however, he caught sight of the small garden plot around the corner of the house. An old man was hoeing the soil, from which were sprouting the most extraordinary vegetables. Maresuki stepped off the porch and into the garden, being careful not to step on any of the remarkable plants, and bowed politely to the old farmer.

"May the sun always smile upon your crops, Grandfather," he greeted the old man warmly, "and ten thousand pardons for disturbing your gardening. I am but a humble traveller, looking for a place to sleep the night."

The skeptical way in which the farmer regarded the two swords in Maresuki's sash, and the daiklave upon his back, left little doubt that he was rather less than convinced by the Solar's claim to humility, but he merely leaned on his hoe and said nothing.

"I do not have any money with which to compensate you," Maresuki continued, "but I will offer you a bargain. In my travels across the world, I have heard a great many stories, one of which I shall relate to you. If you find that the tale is not to your liking, I will depart and not trouble you again. If, on the other hand, you find it as enchanting as I did when it was first told to me, I most humbly request that you give me a rice-ball and allow me to rest my head in your barn. Are we agreed?"

The farmer offered a noncommital grunt and returned to hoeing his astonishing garden.

"Excellent," said Maresuki, beaming as if the old man had burst into tears and embraced him as a son. Removing his weapons, he carefully placed them upon a nearby stone before sitting himself down beside them and beginning his story.

"My tale is a tale of days long past," he said. "In those days, the Five Elemental Dragons had barely left their mother's breast, and Gods and Men alike walked in the shadow of titans."

As the swordsman's words left his lips, shining motes of Essence swirled in the air and formed themselves into the images of that of which he spoke.

The Tale of the Sky King's Daughters</i>

<i>Long ago, when the world was new, the heavens were ruled by Ouranos, the Sky King. When he breathed in and out, his breath was the Five Winds coursing about Creation; when he spoke, his voice was that of the crashing thunder, and lightning scribed his words upon the celestial dome.

Every night, Ouranos would open his ten million eyes and look down upon the ten million creatures of the world. Each eye looked upon a single living thing, and each living thing was watched by a single eye. Whenever a creature's life ended, Ouranos' eye would fall upon a female creature, and the dead soul would be reborn as her child. In this way, the Sky King maintained the unbroken cycle of life and death, just as his sister Gaia maintained the ever-turning wheel of the seasons.

For uncountable eons it was so, but a time came when Ouranos' siblings, the Primordials, came to him, desiring to talk.

"I have little time to speak with you, brothers and sisters," said the Sky King, "for if I take my eyes off of Creation, all souls in it will be cast out of their bodies and all living things will die. Such a thing would sadden my sister Gaia, whose love for the living things of the earth is as great as my love for her."

Cytherea, who was the mother of Ouranos and Gaia as well as their daughter, replied, "Father, we have discovered a most wonderful diversion. Come with us, my son, and play the Games of Divinity."

"I cannot do this thing," said Ouranos, "for as I said, if I take my eyes off of Creation, all lives will come to an end, and I certainly cannot play this marvelous game of yours if I cannot see it."

"Surely," said Cytherea, "you can look away from Creation with only a few of your eyes."

"Surely I cannot," said Ouranos, "for the fates of all living things are woven together, and if even one of them were to leave the unbroken cycle of life and death, it would cause untold harm to all others, just as removing one element from the ever-turning wheel of the seasons would make the world unbalanced and inhospitable."

"What you say is true," Gaia told him, "but you need not be the one who maintains the unbroken cycle of life and death. Look down on the world with your ten million eyes, and see what we have done."

Ouranos looked upon Creation, and saw that his brothers and sisters had created beings to carry out their appointed tasks while they indulged other pursuits. They had made gods of roads and rice and cattle, gods of the sea and gods of the air and gods of all the other elements. They had even made gods who saw to the turning of the five seasons and the progression of day and night.

Seeing that Gaia spoke truly, the Sky King said, "Truly, this is a wonderful idea. I shall make gods to rule over the fates of living things and maintain the unbroken cycle of life and death, while I myself join you in playing your marvelous games." So speaking, Ouranos plucked out seven of his eyes and cast them down onto the earth, and where the eyes struck the ground, seven Maidens sprang up full-grown.

Ouranos' first eye fell in one of the great forests of the East, and from it sprang Venus, the Maiden of Serenity, whose heart was full of love for all living things, and who oversaw the proper reincarnation of souls.

His second eye fell on one of the burning deserts of the South, and from it sprang Mars, the Maiden of Battles, whose heart was full of fiery passion, and who presided over all the myriad ways living beings could contend with one another.

His third eye fell upon one of the roads that traversed Creation, and from it sprang Mercury, the Maiden of Journeys, who walked back and forth across the world and saw to it that no souls became lost.

His fourth eye fell upon the ground and rolled into a hidden cave, and from it sprang Jupiter, the Maiden of Secrets, who measured out the proper span of lives and was privy to all manner of hidden knowledge.

His fifth eye fell upon the Imperial Mountain, and from it sprang Saturn, the Maiden of Balance, who was the wisest of all the Maidens, and who saw to it that no one of them neglected her duties or tried to place herself above the others.

His sixth eye fell in the endless blue ocean of the West, and from it sprang Neptune, the Maiden of Dreams, whose form and manner were as mutable as the water, and who sent all creatures visions of their past and future lives so that they would not forget that they were only one part of a great cycle.

Ouranos' seventh and last eye fell upon the frozen glaciers of the North, and from it sprang Pluto, the Maiden of Endings, whose task was to take the souls from living things so that they might be born into a new form, and who was the most quiet and pensive of all the Maidens.

The Seven Sisters climbed to the top of the Imperial Mountain, and their father spoke to them, saying "I give unto you the care of all living things in Creation, so that I might turn my ten million eyes elsewhere and look upon the wondrous diversion of which my brothers and sisters have told me." With that, he lifted them into the sky and gave them each a gift with which to better carry out their tasks.

To Venus he gave a miraculous flute which soothed all who heard it; to Mars he gave a puissant shield which made her proof against all wounds and misfortune; to Mercury he gave a pair of incomparable boots which would carry her anywhere in heaven or earth in an instant. Jupiter received a measuring-rod which could tell the length of any being's life, while Neptune was given a paper mask which allowed her to take on the face and form of anything she could dream of. The youngest sister, Pluto, received a terrible sickle of flint and iron, with which to reap the Essence of all things.

Ouranos offered the greatest gift of all to Saturn, but she refused it.

After the Sky King had turned his ten million eyes away from Creation and toward the marvelous games his brethren had discovered, the Seven Sisters set off across the sky, speaking to one another and comparing their gifts.

After a short while, Mercury addressed Saturn, asking "Why did you refuse our father's gift? It was a thing of surpassing beauty and usefulness."

"Perhaps she thinks we are her lessers, and she does not need the gift to be our equal," said Neptune.

"Perhaps she did not want it because it would make her stronger than the rest of us," retorted Mars, "and such a thing would upset the Balance she is sworn to protect."

"Perhaps," said Venus, "she felt that it was inappropriate for her station."

"Perhaps she fears that she would come to rely on it too much," said Pluto.

"You are all mistaken," said Jupiter. "Our sister refused Ouranos' gift because she knows she will one day destroy him."

How would the Maiden of Balance slay the immortal Sky King?