The Cresta and the Imp (KREH-stah)
How the Cresta became so Grand... Without a doubt the oldest, most popular, and widely-recognized tale shared among the Thangien people. As close to a creation myth as can be found among the aboriginal Humans displaced from Earth via Transgalactic Rifts, The Cresta and the Imp has been interpreted many ways but is remarkably consistent in its retellings with very little variations in the core story. Much of Thangien mythogy centers around the Four Queens, Roth, Witheren, Eyurodin, and Ritho, but this tale seems to pre-date the arrival of the Goddesses with ancient artwork depicting this tale found decorating the ancient caves found in the Northern Ring, where Freelanders sought refuge from the Dread Winter eons ago.
The tale in its entirety seems straightforward enough for an animal fable: A stranger from afar issues a seemingly impossible challenge with those addressed passing the buck until they reluctantly petition another party for aid. The nameless Conqueror appears from the heavens, threatening the beasts of the world with eternal slavery unless they defeat his minion, the demonic Imp. The animals bicker amongst themselves, critiquing their strengths and weaknesses. There is one animal they have not yet asked for fear of him refusing: Cresta. Cresta says nothing, neither declining nor accepting, but walks forward to face the Imp. The Imp-full of confidence from never having lost a fight- instigates combat, striking Cresta's body and limbs with fiendish speed. The Imp is stated to have used its opponents strengths against it in the past, but Cresta has not yet retaliated. Seemingly triumphant, the Imp leaps high and dives down, aiming to slay Cresta. Cresta simply tilts his horn forward, catching the Imp in its descent and impaling it through its twisted heart. With his prize minion slain, the cowardly Conqueror flees the world entirely, never to return. Cresta shrugs the Imp's corpse from his horn and bellows triumphantly. The animals flock to him, praising his victory and prostrating themselves before him, viewing him as their King. Cresta refuses the title lest he become a tyrant like the Conqueror. He turns to depart and return to his home in Kundain. The animals respect his decision and decide if he does not wish to rule, then they will call him Grand Cresta, so he is known far and wide as the Lord of Might.
The Cresta and The Imp is widely held to be among the first, if not the first tale recorded among the burgeoning population of aboriginal Men on Thanged. The precise origins remain unknown with many theories bandied about such as the Conqueror being a primordial emissary of the Totalitary, though certainly if an agent of the dread Enemy had appeared on such a pristine verdant world, they would have set about converting it for their nefarious cause. The dour Reptilloids know precious little of their history before their conversion, only that they had a simple existence knowing or caring nothing about the Vault of Stars. The lack of sapience would not deter the Enemy from their mission of reshaping all life in their mechanical vision, so this theory is very suspect.
Two Suns to light the sky
The One Above All in the Vault of Stars
Deres' InsightDuring his great trek abroad, Deres wrote of observing a Cresta stallion in the midst of foraging suddenly pause, raise its head, then turn to one side and tilt its horn forward. Deres yelped like a panicked child upon seeing a gherfen-one of the Helmed Hawks that prowled the skies-suddenly impale itself upon the extended horn. He had witnessed before how gherfen would dive with such speed to plow through the neck of a idle kirya cow, leaving the poor thing bleeding out horrendously before it realized what had happened. Here it seemed as if the Cresta remained alert of the danger and reacted quickly enough to catch the overambitious hunter unawares. Perhaps-Deres thought-a sight such as this had inspired that ancient author as to the stoic skill of the Grand Cresta. However the gherfen is described as one of the imperiled beasts, standing alongside mortal enemies such as Pei monkeys and kirya cattle, so it could not have possibly inspired the Imp's design. This theory presents another puzzle in itself as to the nature of the Imp and the Conqueror. When Deres ventured inside the caves of the Northern Ring, he came across scrawls of pigment upon rough rock spread throughout the dripping interior. The tale had been in common circulation long before the foundation of Bainshaebo, but in these scrawls he found what he believed to be the first depiction of the actors in this primordial tale: A mysterious humanoid figure shrouded in a cloak, the sturdy four-legged hulk of a Grand Cresta rampant, and the leaping lithe figure of the Imp, hooked horns curling from its head and a long thin tail curling from its backside, its tail tipped like an arrow. Deres wondered if perhaps the ancient artist had mistaken the mischevious Pei monkey for a demonic creature, and the tale had been inspired by the sight of one of the gold-furred primates attempting to pilfer food from a Cresta stallion who took umbrage to its brazen theft and retaliated by skewering it. Given primates on the Oldworld are known to be extremely covetous and vicious regarding food, seizing or extorting morsels from passersby, this would seem a plausible origin. However, this presents its own contradiction as in much artwork regarding the tale, the Pei monkey is portrayed alongside other animals such as the gherfen, vitreelas, kirya, and tree bear. The Pei monkey-with its long wispy fur like fine thread spun from sunlight-looks nothing at all like the scheming, capering Imp which resembles a classical devil or demon with its hook-like nose, curled horns, arrow-tipped tail and clawed hands and feet.
The Conqueror's Ultimatum by Mardrena
Made with Inkscape Pictured left to right: The Conqueror, the Imp, Vitreelas, Gherfen, Kirya, Pei monkey, Tree bear
Signs of the Traghdoash?In recent years, the Thunthen have fielded their own theories as to the nature of the Conqueror and his demonic minion: That the "Conqueror" was in reality a Traghdoashin explorer, of the highly advanced race from Thuruk's distant neighboring system. So little is known of the haughty Traghdoash, not even what they looked like. They are presumed to have been humanoid given their technical proficiency-leagues beyond that of the then-spacefaring Thunthen-but they remained so aloof and distrustful of "lesser races", not a one survived Nexxus' Folly to correct the record, and even data scavenged from the ruined system gives no indication as to their appearance. The Conqueror is always depicted as a Man, like any other Human, but cloaked in billowing robes and most of the face concealed by a cowl. Perhaps the author of the original tale percieved the visitor as Human simply because he could not comprehend any other form. And the Imp? Likely a construct or drone designed to gather data on native wildlife. Grand Crestas-already notorious for quickly pancaking percieved threats-might have attacked and destroyed this automaton in alarm. The unnamed Traghdoashin explorer, appalled by such savagery, thus deemed ancient Thanged too primitive to interact with further and departed. Such an event might have given the Traghdoash such a poor opinion of lifeforms found on the planet, both Grand Crestas and Humans alike. But what would have drawn the Traghdoash to Thanged in the first place? Certainly not idle curiosity. Aside from the Totalitary, there is one other Guardian-class race known to have existed in the Milky Way Galaxy: the Peh'qu'tour. Perhaps this Traghdoashin explorer came in search of footprints of the enigmatic Guardians who once roamed the Vault of Stars. As the Traghdoash viewed themselves above Thangiens, Thunthen, and Humans, thus were the Peh'qu'tour far superior even to them. Since the tale is known to have pre-dated the Dread Winter and First Contact with the Four Queens, this seems a likely theory, but one that has yet to be verified.
Spoiler Warning: Unpublished Content!Spacequake Ch. 6
"You ever hear the story about how the Natives came to be?" Caroline asked from where she slouched in her chair with her palm braced against her jaw. "According to Azuro it involved a Freelander, a unicorn, and copious amounts of moukiri..." Dais replied and grimaced awkwardly. "Well that's one of the more bawdier versions..." Caroline shrugged and rapped her fingers against her cheek. "See, the way I heard it: There used to be two Guardian-class races in this neck of the woods. One-you of course know-is the Totalitary. The other was called the Peh'qu'tour, and the reason why all of Thuruk seems like one big Goldilocks Zone is because they treated it like their personal petri dish," Caroline began and made a circling motion with a fingertip.
Seven: The Sacred NumberThe number seven is more than just lucky to Thangiens. A Rank of mounted riders is comprised of seven members. Families that have seven children are considered extraordinarily blessed by the Queens. Metalsmiths strike their pieces seven times before pronouncing them complete. At the conclusion of The Cresta and The Imp, references are made to the "One Above All". This not only points to the story's pre-historic origin, but it indicates that Thangiens acknowledge the existence of a Power to which even the Four Queens are but suboordinate. The Law of Seven goes as such: Four Queens to guard the world
Two Suns to light the sky
The One Above All in the Vault of Stars
The Cresta and The Imp is known far and wide amongst both city-dwellers and Freelanders and remarkably consistent for having its origins in a purely oral form. Even the Thunthen have heard of this tale as far back as their first contact with Deres. The performing art of llaudaun can trace its beginnings to reenactments of the tale by ancient Freelanders using scaveged Cresta bones and hides dancing vigorously by the fireside.
Variations & Mutation
The title remains universal among city-folk and Freelanders though some interpretations go into greater detail about the Imp preceding the fight with the Cresta. Occasionally it is referred to as "The Conqueror and His Imp". The Imp is stated as leaping to and fro, dancing and capering in such a way to stupefy its opponents. A kirya bull attempts to challenge it but is hypnotized and dispatched with ease. Likewise a mother tree bear-goaded to attack when the Imp threatens her cub-succumbs to the rhytmic bounding. The Imp is stated as having a power to either bewitch its opponents by incapacitating them or use their strengths against them, such as the kirya and tree bear's physical attacks. Some versions feature the Pei monkey among proposed challengers with the beasts praising his dexterity and speed, while others omit him from the roster even though he is featured in most artwork. Conversely, the sttanavoseni is not present in ANY version or artwork, likely because of its diminutive nature and tendency to scamper inside its burrow at the slightest rustle. In any other fable it might seem fitting for the smallest of the beasts to win the day, but because Thangiens prize strength and passion, the Grand Cresta is viewed as the embodiment of these virtues. The Conqueror is always portrayed as a humanoid, either a fair-skinned man with dark curling hair clothed in voluminous robes much the way a dark wizard or warlock would appear, or with a face completely obscured in shadow.
The tale has had many interpretations throughout the ages, chiefly in allegorical terms such as the Cresta representing Human perserverance on Thanged, or the ancient quarrel between the Celestial Brothers. Thuruk is viewed as the Grand Cresta while Thangor is seen as the scheming Imp. The fable has even been compared with the City Strife with the Conqueror and the Imp percieved as Yapign and his followers, the beasts of the world the many families of the city, and lone Cresta stepping forward representing the resistance formed from Deres' followers and backed by the Queens. In more recent years the tale is likened to the rise of Danaetanera III: the gathered animals represent the reluctant prominent families of Bainshaebo while Danaetanera's House of St'lur is symbolized by the Grand Cresta, despite their heraldic device not depicting a Cresta anywhere. Because Grand Crestas are viewed as a more primal version of the dainty unicorn, it is common for them to be portrayed with spiral horns sloping backwards over their shoulders, though they do not have any form of special powers aside from their immense strength and keen senses.
The Cresta and The Imp is mostly told in an oral form but can be found in a variety of versions such as picture books, illuminated script, and of course llaudauns. Freelanders and city-folk alike had known of the tale since quite literally the beginning of time, but only when Deres returned from his great tour did details get codified in written form.
As told by Ki Ki Crol, Rona
“Long ago, when the world was young…before Eyurodin forged the stars. Before Man ever dwelt in Bainshaebo…Before Thanged was even called Thanged, only the animals lived in the world. And at first, they lived alone and in peace. “Then one day, a being came from the sky and spoke to the animals, ‘Many distances have I traveled, many worlds have I visited, and all I have claimed as my own. I will claim your world, and you will serve me for all eternity unless you defeat my champion.’ “Now the Conqueror’s minion was a horrible creature; a demon imp of great cunning and agility, but a wicked soul: a mockery of all animals. ‘Choose your champion’, the Conqueror said, ‘and do battle with my minion.’ The animals were frightened, and they gathered together to choose who would save them. ‘The Kirya Bull! Great is his strength and size!’ ‘But he is impulsive, quick to anger and clouded by pride.’ ‘The Gherfen! Sharp are his talons and swift his blows!’ ‘But he is overconfident, and does not conserve his energy.’ ‘The Tree Bear! Thick is his hide and thicker his fur!’ ‘But he is fat and lazy, with little patience and endurance.’ ‘The Vitreelas! He is fast and cunning, wise in the hunt!’ ‘But he is a scavenger, with no loyalties to the world.’ “After much deliberation, the animals were left with only one choice; Cresta, but they were concerned for Cresta dwelt in solitude, seldom caring to mingle with the other animals. They came to Cresta and petitioned him to meet the Conqueror’s challenge. Cresta said nothing, and the animals feared he would refuse, but Cresta turned and traveled to meet the Imp. The Conqueror saw that Cresta had come forth, and he smiled, confident his Imp would win. Every champion the imp had battled had lost, for the imp was quick and cruel, and always found ways to turn the champions’ skills against them. “Cresta waited and the imp attacked. It hit Cresta’s neck and his side, but Cresta would not move. The imp struck his legs and his belly, and still Cresta would not move. The imp felt it had won and moved to strike Cresta’s head and destroy him. “Cresta bowed his head…but not in defeat, for he splayed the great curved horn atop his head! The imp squealed and flailed, but he could not escape, and it impaled itself upon Cresta’s horn! The imp was dead, and with it, the Conqueror’s dreams of claiming the world. He fled, never to be seen again in the world or any others. “Cresta flung off the imp’s corpse and roared in triumph. The animals rejoiced and cheered for Cresta. They bowed to him and wanted to make him their King. “Cresta gave a mighty stamp that shook the ground. He had not vanquished a tyrant merely to become one himself, and so he left, returning to his home. The animals saw the wisdom in this and understood, and decided to call him Grand Cresta, so they would always remember that he is the Lord of Might; Greatest of the One’s mortal creations!”
There is a fair amount of artwork depicting the Cresta engaged in heated mortal combat with the demonic Imp, exchanging and deflecting blows, but in the actual story itself the Cresta remains perfectly still and tricks the Imp into impaling itself.
The story is depicted in all manner of banners, tapestries, patches, stained glass, bas-reliefs, paintings, and sculpture. Some pieces show the mysterious Conqueror delivering his ultimatum to the gathered animals. Others show the Cresta triumphant with the Imp's skewered corpse still hanging upon its horn. The eyes are always shown in the triangular fashion that so permeates Thangien artstyles.
"I am not as well versed in history as others. Rona, however, is a frequent visitor of the Archives of Raaezen, and an avid student of lore. She would be more qualified to enlighten you to our world’s traditions and history.” “Can you tell us a story?” Yulie asked from his little corner of the camp. Dais looked over his shoulder sharply and narrowed his single eye. “What are you, four?!” he demanded, intensely annoyed with the teen. Yulie flinched slightly but returned Dais’ harsh glare with one of equal intensity. “Hey, shaddup!” Rowen snapped, quickly coming to the teen’s defense. “You might learn something from this.” Everyone in camp quieted down and looked to Rona. “A story, hmm?” She drew out the retractable spear she used as a weapon and held it before her. One of the ends extended and she set the point in the dirt infront of her. “Then I will tell you one of our most ancient fables, and one of my personal favorites.” she proclaimed with a smile and smoothed down the dirt with the side of her spear and began drawing with the point. She tilted her head back and looked up at the sky.
Those seated around the campfire remained still and quiet as they listened. All through the narration Rona had drawn each scene in the dirt with deft movements, erasing it with the side of her spear after a few moments before starting on the next. She drew so quickly the ground almost seemed animated. As the tale concluded she let the final illustration remain: the great thick-limbed creature with the curved horn. “That was cool….kinda gory, but cool…” Cale whispered. “That was…amazing….” Mia complemented. Rona smiled and looked down.
Date of Setting
8000 B. C. (10000 years ago Earth-Time)
Jonathan frowned when he noticed something peculiar. For all the intricacy of the tapestries, the detail put in to each figure depicted, the eyes looked quite simplistic. Much like ancient cultures on Earth, Thangiens seemed to have a superstitious belief about depicting the eyes of a person; that it would divulge their true strength. Any artistic interpretation, be it the colossal equine statues close to the main gate or the banner depicting the folktale of the “Cresta and the Imp”, the figures always had narrow triangular eyes. He’d seen a few variations of the Cresta with a stylized spiral horn not unlike a unicorn, but whether hand-sewn, woven, or illuminated with gold, the eyes remained the same.
“What do you mean they don’t have a creation myth?!” Jamine O’Connor demanded from where she sat at her work table in her makeshift office. “They don’t!” Jonathan Proud Wolf sputtered and shrugged innocently. “Jonathan, every culture has a creation myth! There are North American cultures that believed the world was created by a beaver slapping mud on the back of a turtle!” “Well I’m telling you, they don’t! To them, the planet has simply always been there. Their civilization’s been cobbled together over the course of ten thousand years from a smattering of Greco-Roman, Nordic, and Meso-American influences. The closest thing I found was the ‘The Cresta and the Imp’, but it’s an animal fable! A cute little story about good triumphing over evil."
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