These [were the days] of Anna Kuhlsdotter, who once led her cloud-sisters into victorious war against the Skald of Broken Books....
And of the Giants we speak little, even less to strangers, for their history is hidden in long loud power-shouts. At home, it is a pain in the ass to tell their stories and then clean all the things knocked down in the telling... and in a foreign hearth it is [just plain rude]. So we speak of them (for we must-- who does not honor their parents?) under the rim of the sky or, here, written on sheafs of pelt, for such is the mettle of their threat. This is [a song (or dirge, manuscript unclear)], then, of the threat of Giants and, like most, it involves painted cows.
[First, though] let us put two Powers in place, the Dragon and the Dagon, for this is also and foremost a Fight of Theirs Story [so such is proper]... [text lost]... the only one to have occurred on the Demon King's birthday. (No, that inglorious day-month will not be revealed here for it is dangerous and, yes, once, a very long time ago-- ONCE-- we were all tricked into celebrating it in a very big sissy-fuss where we were made to wear special hats.)
Dagon [it can be surmised] found some indefatigable lady-man wizard from the west to love him from [topside(?)] and thus-by work very, very hard in his witch-craft... [the demon lord] making warlock promises and whispering rewards of the unspeakable and mighty... appearing through shade or familiar in guises too small for the Dragon to notice that he was not in his entirety in [the oblivion] where he had been banished beforetimes... and perhaps happy (because birthdays ARE happy) and infectious with it enough to engender great industry, yet profane still in aspect to retain his stature among the eyes of the wicked from whence his followers always come (when they do not come from fools instead).
[And the warlock-in-love]... [text lost]... made a mad dance of it all as in the manner of the magic arts of the west [and] summoned his infernal master on this very auspicious day through crazed and love-wrought wizardry [that went beyond the mandate] of right summonings... whereupon the Dagon popped out of a blueberry pie.
"I didn't think that would work AT ALL!" he said, that old Lord of Misrule, and he began to praise the baker's craft in such great cackle and length that [the warlock he had taken as paramour] became jealous in the way of wolf-headed women (you know the ones).
"Pssh," Dagon said, "I, the Lord of Razors and Red-drink, King of Terrible Intent, Mehrunes the Prince of Four Dooms and One Paradise, I Who Commandeth 88 Legions Daedric... I just came out of a PIE, you swooning harpy! That is totally bat-*** insane!"
Whereafter he bit out the neck of the spurned warlock and played in the blood.
(This is why all bakeries in our village make "Shake the Dagon Out" part of their flour-whistling.)
Now the Dragon's role here is more subtle, and existed really only in the fear of a little farm girl in the highlands of Newkreath. For who does not fear Alduin the World Eater, and especially children, who always think they are the last to come for they are the newest to be? (And children, BEING special, perhaps are right and maybe it is only through their fears that [this kalpa] still survives, so we will not question it.)
Anyhow, her name was Aless (her father was fond of the South, and Ald Cyrod, and knew the stories of their famous and ancient Queen), and she had such a fear that any day now the Dragon would awake to eat up everything she ever knew that she became determined to do all she could [to protect it]. Naturally, she began to paint many, many cows.
Here is why: the Giants came from Old Atmora, up there across the Northern Ice back in the gone-to-twilight-now age of myth... and settled here in the Skyrim, and all along the mountain ranges of our coasts. (Yes, they are our true ancestors-- do not believe your aunt from the university-- and, yes, we were once as big as them-- as tall as THIS-- but that is another story)... [text lost]... and after [the Great Calamity] happened [the clan-things (peoples? tribes? Text seems to indicate mankind as a whole, though that is debateable)]... we were of a kind disrupted... and we Nords fell into fighting and drove our Giant-kin up unto the mountaintops [and we were a wicked-folk for many years]... [until all] things had changed forever. Once the Moot resumed [(unspecified) years later] things got back to a new semblance of normalcy and borders were redrawn and agreed with in beer-talk, and raidings of the merethlands took everyone's mind off old feuds, and pretty soon (well, not pretty soon but whatever) the Giants began to come down from the mountains again. And they were a bit different than we Nords remembered, or perhaps we had forgotten much, but they would not speak to us anymore-- they would only smile in their lazy way, stomp over, and take our stuff.
If we fought them, they roared louder than the Tongues of High Hrothgar, and brave steads would be blasted whole into so much paste, [chickens and all (?)]... [and] eventually we learned that if we left stuff out for the Giants, and painted this stuff brightly and with swirls (they love swirls) and stuck big signs up pointing to it all, they would simply take THAT stuff and not anything else and no fighting would be have to be done (not that what I have described was really fighting-- no one fights the Giants is the point). And that explains the Painting The Cows tradition, for as lazily-smiled as they are, so much that they seem that they wouldn't hurt a soul (ha!), the Giants eat meat and lots of it. Aless (remember her still?) thought to herself, "I am so, so afraid the Dragon will awake and eat the world-- ANY DAY NOW-- that I will paint every cow I see so as to summon all the Giants I can to beat up old Scaly Face, and beat him up really, really hard-- hard enough to knock him out and back to sleep!" (Aless had heard, as you have now, that "no one fights the Giants" and took it a little bit too much to heart.)
She began with her stead's herd, some four-dozens strong [with] two bulls (the old one broken off in a separate cattle-gate to stomp out his last days in complaint-- and Aless made her father swear not to kill this old bull for she loved him in the way children love the things others see as useless or spent) ...and yet by the seventh cow Aless had run out of paint. "I shouldn't have done so many swirls," she said, sighing. And that is when he appeared, the Dagon, drawn up in the stolen Nordskin of a Clever Man, come from the west by side-stepping [through the real].
"No," he said through his impressive bead-knit beard, "You did well. If I were a giant, these would be mighty fine looking cows to take. But why paint so many? [One a season per stead] is the norm."
Aless frowned up at Dagon-turned-Clever, and with no suspicion, for she was a child and they are taught to respect our [magic-men]. "Because I hate the Dragon," she admitted, immediately fearing admonishment. (It is not very wise to talk ill of Alduin at any time, especially in the presence of the Very, Very Wise.) She corrected herself: "Well, more like I hate the fear of him. I'm sorry for saying the thing before."
"Hmm," Dagon said, "Your fear is well-founded. The Time Eater comes soon."
"WHAT I SO KNEW IT" Aless said, grabbing her paint buckets and brushes [in a scramble], intent on going back to her hearth to get her play-dolls and kid-shields to sell them for more supplies. "I gotta go, mister, I need to summon the Giants REAL FAST and A BUNCH."
"Child," Dagon laughed, "You will never paint so many as that, given your little power. But, aye, your plan is a good one. Many Giants, really fast. Yes. That's smart. Now come with me. Kyne--" and at this name of the Sacred, the demon almost choked, "--she lends me the winds and I can walk us from one to another. And Tsun--" and at this Name Dagon finally did choke, coughing harshly but hiding it as age, "--he grants my craft-wit with provisions from the aether. You will have all the paint you need, and be swift enough to swirl every cow from here to Windhelm."
"That is SO cool!" Aless said, jumping. But by speaking of so many Gods [and the Heavenly Halls in which they live], Dagon had brought a horrible scratch to his throat. He coughed again, and at length, finally doubling over. Aless frowned again, this time with what looked like pity, and put her hand on his back. "You okay, mister? I believe you about all your magic, but maybe you should just rest. I can sell my play-dolls and get paint and just, like, run fast--"
"I'm fine, dear," Dagon said, waving her off, too harshly, and then [realizing he was frightful] found a composure, "And I am sorry myself for scaring you just then. It is only because I can feel the Age turning, and so am sick with the impending death of the World."
"Um," Aless said. "You're still being scary."
"Then paint the rest of these and let us move. You are brave, and worthy, but cannot run so fast as we need. We have cows to swirl and Giants to bring down from the mountains. Through their might only can we make the Dragon retreat back into slumber and thereby save all that we know." And soon then did the Dagon and the girl step into a wind [and disappear].
[Now] it can be guessed that Dagon was a lying sack of ****-- the Dragon wasn't coming at all and would be asleep til...[text lost]...which is far from now. But the Lord of Razors has ever hated the North, for it was here that he was born (after a fashion), and it was here he was cursed, and so on this, his birthday, he had determined that he would destroy all of the Skyrim and all the Nords in it. He indeed needed his little cow-painter to draw down the Giants (or maybe it only amused him to use one of our own, we cannot say), and so he [played her fear] for a fouler purpose: he knew that so many Giants come down from the mountains would cause the High King to think it war, and muster. And any war with the Old Fathers would undo us.
Now Dagon-as-Clever did as he said, wind'ng Aless from stead to stead, watching over her as she painted the cows at each, summoning [snow-fogs to hide her quickened labors], from Newkreath to Gant and the Uttering Hills of Jarlmung County, filling her buckets [in fast conjurations] and even blessing each cow in Kyne's name alongside her, coughing each time. By the 400th cow, his beard was hack-stuck [with sickness]. By the 650th cow, he would speak no more names wrought by the Gods. And it was by the 700th cow that the Dagon noticed that Aless was painting the swirls [in a different fashion], to which she explained, "Each county has a different Lookit Me Stamp," and frowning at him she asked, "But you know that, right?"
"Oh, right, right, indeed," he said, "Blame my ailment and our hasty mission. It has left me with a perplextion of the brain. Stamp away!" to which Aless smiled, "No problem, I'm getting tired, too. There, seven hundred and fifty-two! How many do you think we'll need?"
"At least nine hundred and ten," Dagon said, "That is a lucky number." (This is true.) And then they vanished [into the wind] again, coming out into Windhelm, fortress-lands of the High King. "We'd better hurry here," Dagon advised.
"Why hurry here? You mean more than seven hundred and fifty-two cows in five hours hurry?"
"Um," Dagon said, feigning more sickness, "Because these are the king's cows and we have not the Special Royal Cow Painting Permits, nor the time to explain [the turning of the Age]. The Dragon is coming too soon for parley such as that."
And just as she started swirling these new cows (under cover of snow-curtains and in the shadow of the Thaneswall) Aless asked, "But why doesn't the High King know this already? Doesn't he have Clevermen advisors and Witching Wives to tell him? And the Queen, doesn't she have that six-pair of Scrying Eyestalks of Old Man Mora?"
"Who knows the way of kings and queens, little farm girl," Dagon countered, beginning to lose his temper and seeing now this always-questioning Aless as a turkey-leg in his stomach. But no, he thought, I can wait. [I can wait.]
Aless shrugged, painting the cows in what Dagon assumed was [the manner] of Windhelm now, and saying only, "I guess you're right, mister. But I'm named after a queen, a really pretty one, the books say." And [at this] Aless spoke of South Cyrod and its tales of mereth-kill by Men and heroes sent by the Gods, and Dagon's head began to swim with it, wind to wind and herd to herd in the Windhelmlands with the girl always talking and talking, for the demon hated the [lands of the Aleshut-tribes] nearly as much as our own but for different reasons, and just as he was about to let loose his rage (for that was his Base Nature), Aless spoke up, giggling with victory, "Nine hundred and ten with paint to spare!"
At which point, Dagon thought the deed to be done, and he began to grow fangs behind his beard.
"Holy crap!" Aless said, looking at her paint-covered dress. "We totally forgot the signs!"
"In all of this crazy fast painting, mister, we forgot to stick up the Look Over Here signs! The Giants won't know to come! We really screwed this up!"
Dagon slid his fangs back in, for what she spoke was [true]. He sighed, "Yes. The signs. Totally forgot them. Crap."
"Tell you what," Aless said, "Take me back home. We can grab the signs I've made there and you can Tsun-them-up and make more and zip everywhere we've been to everywhere ELSE we've been putting them all up. And meanwhile I'll paint ONE MORE COW to make it nine hundred and ELEVEN. That's gotta be luckier than lucky, right?"
Dagon-as-Clever now frowned, for he wanted war soon, and said, "I suppose so. Really, what's one more cow going to hurt?" And [they stepped back] through the wind to Aless' own stead, whereupon she ran to the sign-sheds and retrieved as many as she could carry, dumping them nearly on Dagon's foot. Oh by the sixteen hells I'm going to eat this dumb girl, he thought, with WASABI! But he picked up the Look Over Heres and multiplied them unto a bigger bundle, shouldering them all.
"Night is falling fast, mister, you better hurry!"
And Dagon faded into the winds, dizzy with his plannings and smirkings and thinkings, stamping sign after sign at each herd of cows from Newkreath to Windhelm and all the places between, wishing himself another warlock-bite for all this trouble, finally growing out his four arms to make the goings-on faster, wind-step to sign-post, dreaming of [a tide] of Giants come down from the peaks of Skyrim to blast the Northmen away for all time, and time it was he lost track of, until he finally arrived back at the stead of Aless the Dragon Hater.
"Hi," she said, seeing Dagon's true form, "You totally forgot we painted every cow here at the beginning of all of this, you big dummy. So I painted this old bull instead."
And it was true, Aless had taken from its cattle-gate the bull she had begged her father not to kill and to which her father had agreed, and instead of swirls, she had painted [wings on it]. Before the Dagon's eyes this bull [transformed itself as in the manner of god-guiser magic] into Mor, the Bull of the South, Son-of-Kyne, and demiprince of All Winds.
Mor snorted through the hoop of his nose-ring and greeted the [King of Razors]. "Hello, Dagon. The prayers of children very seldom go unnoticed."
Aless said, "That means me."
Mor continued: "You are trespassing outside your mandated day of summoning, Lord Daedroth. Heaven is not happy of it."
Aless smiled and lifted up one finger, "One, you're NEVER supposed to badmouth Alduin in front of a Clever Man. And YOU didn't berate me." She lifted up a second. "Two, you can't even speak the names of the Gods without choking, and every Clever Man has wind enough in his throat to revere them without censure, involuntary or not." Three fingers, now four; five, and six with a second hand. "Then of course the swirls, which we Nords paint the same no matter whichever clan we belong to, because the Giants speak only ONE language and it's in our best interest to talk straight with them. I could mention several others, but you've guessed them all: the spell you suffered at the mention of my ancient namesake, whose story I peppered with sayings that are supposed to be repeated by any that are near as in the hymnal halls, and the Eyestalks of Say What Huh? that don't even EXIST which you just nodded your fake Clever head to, and--"
"I think, little namesake," Mor bellowed, "That he gets the point."
Dagon was fuming now, snow melting around his new-wrought hooves, stretching up and out into demon-skin, red like terror, ebon-armed and frothing. Aless stood her ground. Mor stamped twice, an [approval and a threat].
"You would have made my beloved proud with your courage," the Bull said to Aless, and to Dagon: "Stand down, Demon King, and go down. You will not win this day, even though it is crowned with the power of your first coming."
"WHAT NOW," Dagon roared, sending them both back with a [bellows-fire], "YOU ARE NOTHING TO ME, MORIHAUS HALF-SPIRIT! THE DAGON FIGHTS NOT THE SONS OF HEAVEN'S CONCUBINES BUT HEAVEN'S KING ITSELF."
"Yeah, sure," Aless giggled, "And how does that work out for you? Every single fight you have with the Dragon ends up with you losing, King Chump. And it will always be like that. Here, there, then, now, or in the future: the Dragon wins over you, as he wins over us all. I'm not afraid of that anymore. More importantly, I'm not afraid of YOU."
Dagon stepped forward, crackling now [with flame and old woe]. Mor bent his horns to the ready. Aless stayed where she was.
"I wouldn't do that, mister" she said. "Those swirls that I started painting as soon as we went a-wind'ng? They weren't Giant-Come-Shiny Swirls but hearth-warnings... that YOU were here. In the language of each clan, on all the cows they're looking at RIGHT NOW since you put all those signs up. That you're here-- right here, right where I asked you to return. I think pretty soon you'll start to hear the horns. And even you can't take on all the Sons and Daughters of Kyne, you *******."
And that's when they did hear [the horns of all clans], and the closest was as like a stormsong of thundernachs, for Mor was near, and he [was the issue of the Greater Sky]. And Dagon knew that where the horn soundings landed, the Tongues of High Hrothgar could step, and, when together, the greybeards could breathe unto being the ghost of Shor, which lay all Powers low [even in half-death].
"A curse on the house of Alessia," Dagon muttered before summoning himself a Gate to [the oblivion], for he knew his works were all undone, "And eight more on the Men of the Dragon. There will be an hour when--"
Aless leaned against her bull.
"Hey, Coughy," she said, "Shut up and go already. It's way past my bedtime."
And he did, missing the arrival of the hosts of Hrothgar and Newkreath, and the runners of nearby [Hjaalmarch], and, of course, the thanes of Aless' own stead, which included her father, all of which saw the farm girl in her messy dress leaning against the [Bull of Heaven], glorified in story and song since the days of our first dawn, and all afit for battle and confused [that it would not be met] and more still overcome with the blessings of the Skyrim by the Gods we hold aloft.
To which Aless could only answer: "It's a really long story, guys."
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