(Told by Eyrin of Haran, at the bathing pools of Haran, in Sundsele, on November 3rd YC125, as a gift from one Keeper of Tradition to another. Put into writing with her express permission, “if that is the done thing in high heavens, I do not mind, as long as I don’t catch anyone selling it in the city’s bookstores”.)

The Girl Who Swallowed The Night

Once upon a time in the Darkness, the local Lord’s most trusted housekeeper and majordomo was a maiden Marrha; she is said to be Tribesborn but no one this day knows her family or clan. She was crucial to the running of every bit of the Holding, and the Lords and Ladies of it could not manage without her for one day.

Through her position, she came to know of the many treasures owned by the ruling House, both the mundane and the magical. Among these were a chalice made out of gold and decorated with precious jewels, that was said to be able to hold anything its holder wished it to hold - in addition to liquids it could be used to gather things like love, or hate, or fire. But because an ancient prophecy said that it would one day be the vessel of loss of face to the House, the Holders kept it well hidden and never used it.

There lived in the region a great clan by the name Kyrill. When the Darkness fell, Kyrill pretended to submit, but they did not wait for long nor avoid great risks in working with the Resistance. As it happened they were also caught early, and every man, woman and child of the clan was put to death, until only the Young Chief remained under lock and key. Of him, the Holder intended to make a final example, in a public execution at the end of the Harvest End festival, at nightfall.

It was customary then at that festival for the Holder to provide a feast for both the True Amarrians living in the Holding and the slaves and laborers of it, and it was also customary then for the oppressed people to use the commotion of that feast to spirit away all sorts of things, edibles and fuel and items of clothing, to hold for a day of need. (Echoes of that feast still can be seen in our customs for the festival of the dead.)

So, that particular year, people meant to use the commotion of the preparation and celebration of the feast to spirit away something bigger: the young chief of Kyrill. The maiden Marrha, despite being the trusted and beloved of the Holding’s Lords, was well aware of these plans, and in full support of them. With her help, the extraction team made good and relatively safe progress, hidden as servants here, directed to empty routes there. (If you ever tell this story to young people, you might want to embellish these escapades.)

Close to nightfall, however, they were stymied by the lock on the Young Chief’s cell door, which they could not hack or break, no matter how their best tried. Time was running short. For a while, the maiden Marrha was well able to delay the execution by presenting yet another dish, or one more piece of entertainment. She also confused the Holder by arranging for a setting back of any clock he could see or be reported about. In the merriment of the feast and with plentiful wine to be served, no one realized it was close to nightfall, and the Young Chief was not sent for - fortunate, because all his guards were dead and the extraction team was right there at the cell door.

Yet time passed, and light started to diminish, and no setting back of the clocks or serving more fine wines could hide the fact that night was falling. Desperate, the maiden Marrha turned from the practical to the spiritual, and she took from the Lord’s treasury the cup that could hold anything. On the roof of the mansion she raised it to the sky, and she willed it to gather in the night. And to her surprise, the cup was filled with darkness, and the air was that much lighter! But soon, the cup was overflowing with the night, and it started to spill over, and darkness started to fall again. Not knowing what to do, the maiden Marrha raised the cup on her lips, and she drank up the night in it. And the cup kept on filling, and she kept on drinking, until sometime in the night the extraction team got through.

Eventually, the sun rose again without ever having set. The Holder realized something was amiss, the Young Chief was sent for, the dead guards found, and alarm sounded throughout the Holding.

The Enemy never found Kyrill, who escaped to save his bloodline. But they did find Marrha, unconscious, her formerly gray eyes like black pools of oil without neither white nor color in them, living tattoos of blackest shadow shifting and creeping all over her white skin that had previously borne no mark. She never came to, and inside a few days, she died, for no one dared to touch her to take her to a hospital or otherwise care for her. When she died, a black shadow in the shape of a woman rose from her body, and walked away. No one dared to follow, but many claim to have seen her since, even these days, walking the corridors and courtyards of the old mansion site.

And you could say, that is why we still have a Kyrill family in the Haran clan, despite their great sacrifice. Or you could say, that is why people of the area still pray “Marrha of the Night, make time” when they are running out of it or already late.

This works also as a teaching story. There are many questions you can ask from it, about the wisdom and honor of sacrifices.

(I have put notes about this story in a separate thread so as not to clutter up Storytime.)