Campaign of the Month: February 2017
The Bogovi goddess of dreams and magic
Whatever you do, Yosha, don’t let go.
Enigmatic Yesen is the embodiment of broken laws and of the places where order falls short; her very existence is due to the unraveling of Svarozhich’s decrees, as long ago she was unmade in punishment for her father’s crime. As such, she is the hidden face of the Bogovi: where Svarozhich keeps the orders and structures, Yesen is the one who exists outside, around, and through them. She is the goddess of subversion, of acceptable disobedience and oversight, and of the dreams which people hold that keep them alive in the face of uncaring law. Through her, the Bogovi get to express their other faces without fear of punishment.
Yesen and Svarozhich
Long ago, Stribog stole Radegast’s starry cloak in order to seduce Chors, which resulted in Chors’s pregnancy. As punishment for Stribog stealing Radegast’s starry cloak, Svarozhich decreed that the god would never see his daughter. Though Chors coaxed, begged, and pleaded, Svarozhich could not be swayed in his decision. The girl-goddess who would be known as Yesen was unmade from existence shortly after she was born; and Chors spent many an eon in her bereavement searching the world for any sign of her daughter. When Fate was unraveled, however, Svarozhich’s decrees were undone, and once more Yesen came to exist as a newborn babe.
Yesen and Tsar Afon
Somewhere within the thrice-nine lands, but not as far as the Thrice-Tenth Kingdom, lived the immortal Tsar Afon Pajari and his wife Svetlana Nikolova. They were both exceedingly beautiful people, and together made a very handsome couple. However, they were childless; and though Tsar Afon was immortal and thus needed no heirs, he felt the palace was a very lonely place. Imagine his surprise when one day he came upon a newborn baby in the middle of his garden, asleep beneath a sunray! This baby was also a great beauty, with perfect pink skin, rosy cheeks, and fair hair as soft as a mink’s coat. He called her Lena, naming her for the sunlight which revealed her.
Afon and his wife raised the baby as their own. As she grew, she turned out to be a spectacular child indeed: at night, her golden hair shone with the light of the full moon and during the day it caught the light of the sun, so they needed no chandelier in their ballroom; shortly after she learned to talk she was able to recite poetry, so they needed hire no minstrel to regale their guests; the winds themselves would retrieve anything that was out of reach, so they needed only but to ask for the choicest fruits on the treetops; and the wildest of beasts would turn docile if they caught sight of her, eager for her gentle touch, so that they were very easy to hunt. All the people of the kingdom agreed that she was the perfect compliment to such a beautiful royal couple.
However, it was not to last forever: Svetlana fell ill. No doctor nor healer nor magician nor alchemist could cure her, and she showed no signs of convalescence. When at last she was about to die, she called her husband to her side and made him swear not to remarry unless his new bride was at least as beautiful as she.
Lena was Tsar Afon’s only comfort during this lonely time. After mourning for a time, Tsar Afon immediately threw himself into Lena’s well-being and education, hiring tutors from far and wide to teach her all manner of things, from history to mathematics, music and dancing to handling accounts and managing land. Despite the fact that she was still very young, she was an apt pupil, eager to learn and to please her father. Very quickly she became more well-educated than even some of the grown noblewomen.
But, after a while, not even Lena could distract Tsar Afon from his loneliness, so he began to search throughout his kingdom for a new bride. None were as beautiful as his late wife. He extended his search to the kingdoms beyond his own. While there were certainly many beauties to be found, still none could match his dead wife’s loveliness. Desperate, he attempted to look to the Thrice-Tenth Kingdom; but the vicious creatures there quickly overcame his escort and he was forced to flee.
When Tsar Afon returned home, his grief and loneliness were so great that he grew listless, unable even to summon up a smile for his beautiful young daughter when she shared how much she’d learned. Each moment that dragged on grew ever more desolate, until finally Tsar Afon decided he could not live anymore. He climbed to the highest parapet in his castle and threw himself off. While any other man’s death would be assured, Tsar Afon was immortal — the next day he awoke in the courtyard, every last one of his bones shattered. When he was able to move again, he immediately attempted to hang himself; but again, he awoke the next day with a crushed throat and broken neck.
Distraught, Lena attempted to cheer her father. First she tried to delight him with her poetry, reciting volumes until she was hoarse. When that did not avail her, she attempted to soothe him with music, playing the gusli until her fingers bled. Still Tsar Afon would not be consoled. Finally, she resolved to seek out the Firebird, so that it would inspire her father with renewed hope.
Yesen and the Firebird
After a long journey filled with many trials, Lena encountered the Firebird, and it was so moved by her pleading that it agreed to live with her in the palace. When she returned, Tsar Afon, who had gone mad with solitude while she was gone, was moved to tears by her devotion. Indeed, he could think of no one more loyal, cleverer, more resourceful, or more beautiful than Lena, even his late wife. It was then he decided that there would be no bride better than her. None dared tell him that he had gone mad, and so arrangements were made for them to wed two days hence.
Lena tried to convince Tsar Afon to call off the wedding, but he would not hear her. Distressed, she sought counsel from the Firebird who had been so kind to her in the past. The Firebird told her to agree to wed him only if he could make her slippers made from the fabric of the sky: surely this impossible task would discourage Tsar Afon from wedding her. So eager was he that he employed all the cleverest weavers and seamstresses in all the kingdoms, and, within a fortnight, he had fashioned these slippers for her. Once more Lena sought the Firebird for help, and the Firebird told her to next demand a coat with fine lacing made of sunrays — and then, the Firebird added, while he was busy with the coat, bring her the skin of an olinosel, a creature that only the greatest hunter could track, so that she might sew a cloak from it. A mere season passed before Tsar Afon had completed the coat — meanwhile Lena had only just managed to bring the skin to the Firebird.
Suspecting that the Firebird was turning Lena’s mind against this marriage, Tsar Afon locked the Firebird away and forbade Lena from ever visiting her. Lena quickly made a request that she promised would be her last: a wedding dress sewn only of threads made by moonlight. Reluctantly, Tsar Afon agreed, since he could hardly deny Lena her last bridal request. It took an entire year, but the dress was completed. In that time, try as she might, Lena received no word from the Firebird about the cloak. Having exhausted her options, Lena lost heart, and submitted herself to being her father’s bride.
In the midst of the wedding, the Firebird at last freed itself from its prison and flew overhead, dropping the cloak upon Lena’s shoulders just before she was to take her vows, causing her to seem to disappear right before the eyes of all the wedding guests. It was then that Lena was able to escape, fleeing as far from the thrice-nine lands as she could.