When I was much younger I read the books of Robert Fulghum. He’s the guy who wrote All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. He wrote several other such books, all excellent, and in one of them (It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It) he told a story about the celebration of the Feast of St. John (associated with the Summer Solstice). That is the inspiration for the story I’m going to tell here… and an example of how my imagination was captured by a story I read years ago when I set out to define the myths of my fantasy cultures in the homebrew world I’ve run for many years…
It is a story of Brennan, it is a love story…
A tale of love is told among the Har Darig, a tale to warm the heart. This is the tale of the Love of Brennan for Rhiannon. It is a tale which explains our wedding rituals and why they mean so much. It goes something like this…
Brennan In deepest love with stern Rhiannon But she loves him not For all that he is the flame of youth She is Fire.
In the time when our Ancients were only ideas still to be realized, the Young Lord felt the grip of love when he met Rhiannon as she traveled. Brennan resolved with all the oaths of his honor that he would win her love, and so he sought Semele, that she might council him as to her sister’s heart.
Semele thought long on this question, for Rhiannon’s heart was a mystery even to the goddess of Love. Only one thing anywhere did Rhiannon seem to truly love; the creatures known as humanity. Rhiannon had given to them the gift of her fire that they might be warm and safe as the Seasons turned.
So Semele said to Brennan – Mankind is what she loves. Love them, and she will know you love her as well. Brennan took her advice to heart and set out to meet and mingle with the humans and prove his love to Rhiannon.
First, the Young Lord taught the humans to use their fire as a weapon, to be brave in facing the creatures of the night and together they fought the creatures of the night. Rhiannon was pleased to see her people safe, but saddened that they had learned to make war.
Knowing that he had failed, he gathered the tribes around their fires, raised his voice and taught the people how to sing, that they might compose hymns of praise to Rhiannon and tell her how they loved her. She was happy to hear the raised voices of her people, but she did not desire their praise, only their joy.
Still knowing that he must try harder, Brennan invented a game, that used the fire of Rhiannon to show the love he held for her. Great fires were lit by all the tribes, and they gathered around them and Brennan told them what they must do. To prove their love they must leap through the flames.
And so the young began the game, taking the hands of lovers they leapt across the flames, two by two. Some would shy away, one partner or another letting go at the last moment. Some would leap together but let go as they crossed, each fending for themselves and some would hold on, land together, still connected and Brennan would smile on them for they had passed the test.
As the night wore on, the older couples became involved in the game, leaping the flames as their age allowed, perhaps their love did not flame like that of the youths, but it burned longer, burned steadier, a fire that lasts.
Eventually, the festivities ran so long the fire had burned to nearly nothing. Only coals smoldered in the night and a lone girl stepped up to the flames with no partner. She looked at Brennan and he knew her to be Rhiannon.
His heart leaping within him he ran to her side and she spoke to him – You have taught these people to sing, to defend themselves in the night and to show their love by the light of my fires. I have never known them to show such wild joy as they have this night. You have taken the gift I gave them and multiplied it more than I had imagined you could. What say you?
And Brennan spoke – I had hoped, My Lady, to impress you – and tears and smiles warred behind his perfect eyes.
And Rhiannon spoke again – Quickly then, My Lord, for the fire dies and we have not yet crossed it.
She held out her hand to him, and taking it, they stepped across the last burning embers of the fire and sealed a love that has lasted ages uncounted in the lives of men.
I don’t often share my writing with the blogosphere (in any form) and I won’t do it often, but I’ve been thinking a lot about my home brew world and prepping it for use in potentially another campaign. I’ve been filing off the bits that have “D&D’ed” it over the years (it was created as a 3rd ed. campaign setting). I’ve run games in this world with D&D 3rd ed, 3.5, Pathfinder, 4th edition, Warhammer Fantasy 2nd edition, and wrote up notes for using it with the AGE system. And each of these systems has left its marks. As I try to strip these out I realized how much I’ve built the world to reflect the systems and how much that disappoints me… Oh well, enjoy the myth — inspired by the real world, system-neutral, and something that makes me smile.
Thanks for reading.