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The Three Brothers' Tale

The Three Brothers' Tale is the third of a series of traditional tales that form part of my mesolithic novel The Drowning Land.

"In the days before First Man and before First Woman, before even the Summer Lands, there lived three giant brothers. In those days there was no Great Wood, no mountains, no rivers and no plains. The land was covered in ice, as the eye could see.

"The three brothers lived on the ice. Their names were Gok, and Mag, and Bal, and they were the only things that lived. They hunted the seals and the whales that lived under the ice. Now, Gok and Mag were fair to see. Their hair was long and dark, their skin as smooth as slate and ruddy as clay, their arms strong and their eyes bright. Bal was none of these things. His skin was rough as roots, his limbs were twisted, his one eye was white as milk and blind and his other red as blood.

"The heart of Bal was as ugly as his body, and he hated his brothers' fairness from the depths of it. He longed to destroy them but knew that he could not overcome their strength. The only talent in which he excelled was in holding his breath.

"Now one day Gok and Mag set out to hunt upon the ice, where the sea was under it. Bal knew of this plan of theirs and saw his chance. Taking a deep breath, he swam far beneath the water, and with his knife of bone cut deep into the ice above. When his brothers stepped on the weakened ice it cracked in two, dropping them into the freezing sea and his waiting arms.

"Great was the slaughter that day. Bal cut his brothers into pieces and flung their remains to the horizon. Gok he threw to the west, where his bones became mountains, and his flesh became forests, and his hair became the storms over The Great Wood. Mag he threw the other way, so that his flesh became the brown mountains of the east. The hot blood of the brothers ran freely, melting the ice and pooling between them, so that land came where there had been ocean, and these were the Summer Lands."