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Jarig and the Wyrm

"Long, long ago, in the old days when our ancestors ruled the wide lands, there was a warchief called Jarig. Jarig was tall, and broad, and strong of arm, and full of flame. Many followed Jarig, but none were his equal. And Jarig's wife Helri was wise of heart, and keen of eye, and bore him many younglings and and taught them all the word and the axe. Jarig's tribe prospered, and they took great cuts of land, so many each youngling was asked to tend a whole field. And Jarig was the first to hear when the lands started to rot and the crops to burst and the animals to die. And in all the wide lands never had a blight like this been seen. The younglings hid in their homes and dared not tend their fields. The elders beat their hands and searched their minds for wisdom to give and found none. The warriors walked their lands and hunted for witches and woodworms and plaguebringers. And still the crops and the animals died. Still the ground grew foul with poison. Soon Jarig's people would have nothing left.   Then Helri took to the fields, and knelt in the poison, and smelled of it deep, for her will was the hardest and it could do her no harm. "This is no sickness," she said of it. "This is a beast's leavings, as the snail leaves slime and the dog leaves hair." "A beast I can hunt," said Jarig. "We will take the bravest warriors and go seek this thing, and the land will be pure again." But Helri said no. "Wait. Wait for six spans of six days, and I will shape for you a weapon that can slay anything," she told him. And Jarig did not want to wait while his people starved and his lands grew ill, but Helri would not change her mind.   She fashioned a great spear, that she took her own tusk for the head of. She walked the lands and found the bodies of all of the warriors who left to seek the beast, and added a token for each. She went home and spoke to the mothers of all of the unfed infants, and added a token for each. She saw to the younglings whose courage was wounded, and added a token for each. She looked to the poisoned land and remembered the names of all of the ancestors who had fought for it, and added a token for each. And she returned to her home and lay with her love, who would never again return to her, and in the morning she added a token for him, though she spoke nothing of it. And at last the spear was ready, and it could carry all of the power of her people.   Then Jarig took the spear and her blessings, and he led ten of his strongest and wisest warriors to follow the trail of the dead. For four days they followed the beast, growing weary and sick from its taint. Then they came to a place where not a single thing lived, and in the middle of this field lay a great wyrm, dark as a moonless night and tall as five strong men and longer than anyone could possibly reckon. It opened its many eyes and looked at Jarig with its poisoned hate and his courage faltered even as strong as it was.   Then his warriors saw he was held by its gaze, and they charged forth to strike at the wyrm. But their axes left not a scratch on its flesh, and their arrows melted away as they touched it, and their swords rusted and crumbled to dust. And as the wyrm devoured them Jarig broke free of his cowardice and charged.   He climbed up the body of the great wyrm, though it dripped with poison and burned his hands to the bone, and atop its head he drove the spear down into it, farther and farther. And the spear held fast, for it was made with the spirit of his people and all of their fury and all of their flame and all of their struggle for vengeance, and it pierced the wyrm's terrible skin, and its blood bubbled out with an angry hiss and spilled on the ground, and nothing in that spot where the wyrm died will ever grow again. The wyrm's body melted away from the foulness of its own poison, and Jarig shouted to the heavens in triumph as the poison ate away at him, and the spear fell to the ground, untouched, because the spirit of the orcish people can never be killed."   This is one telling of a folktale of Shanh Duleiel, one growing less known but still told among a few primarily half-orcen tribes. The location of the wyrm's death is sometimes named, and occasionally a barren place nearby is claimed to be it, but the weapon, which is often a spear but occasionally an axe or a dagger, has never been found at any of them. The role of Helri occasionally varies, such as her sometimes accompanying Jarig and dying in the battle against the wyrm, but she is always the one to infuse the weapon. Very few tellings have any survivors of the battle.

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