The Legend of Sioned

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The legend of Sioned was almost as old as the Realm of the Buffalo itself. Like grass, there are many versions of this tale. One version is this:

She had been a beautiful Samarian woman, courted by many worthy suitors, hunters of strength, agility, and passion, all of whom would have fought a Ghidorah for her, eat all the grass in the Realm of the Buffalo, sewn clouds together with spears. Sioned however was vain and refused every suitor. She would rather sit outside her father’s tipi, admiring her reflection in the waters of the stream, all the while combing her shining dark hair.

One day, her father grew tired of this. He said to her, “My daughter, we are starving. All the animals have deserted us. We do not even have a dog to slay. I am old and too weary to hunt. You must marry the next hunter who comes to our camp or we will be nothing but sacks of bones.”

But Sioned ignored him, selfishly, saying, “I am Sioned. I am beautiful. What more do I need?”

Her father despaired, and thought to take a knife to her and use her as bait to trap a passing bear. But the next day, while he sat by his tipi, sharpening his blade and his will to live, another hunter entered the camp. He was tall and elegantly dressed in hides, but his face was hidden by feathers around his hood.

The man said, “I am in need of a wife.” He struck the shaft of his spear into the ground, making the dry ground crack.

Sioned’s father was afraid, but he boldly said, “I have a daughter, a beautiful daughter. She can cook and sew hides to make shirts and tipis. What will you give in return for her, hunter?”

“I give buffalo,” said the man, from the darkness of his hood.

“Ai-yah.” Sioned’s father waved a hand, for he thought it a poor trade: buffalo-for a daughter! But buffalo was better than a hole in his stomach. And so he said this, Tomorrow, bring all of your horses, loaded with buffalo-the best pieces included. Lead them here, and I will exchange the buffalo for my daughter."

The hunter made a crackling sound in his throat, but his face did not appear from his hood. He withdrew his spear from the ground, pulling out with a swirling dust storm. From the eye of the storm he cried, “So be it.” And he was gone, as if the wind had claimed him like a feather.

The night, Sioned’s father made up a potion, a sleeping potion squeezed from the bloodshot eye of a sloth the laziest animal on the plains. This he stirred into a warming broth, made from the boiled skin of his esgidiau, his boots. “Come daughter,” he said, singing sweetly in her ear. “Come; eat with your aged father.” And he gave Sioned a bowl of his broth to drink. Within moments she had fallen asleep at his feet. Her father then wrapped her loosely in hides and in the morning brought her outside the tipi. Still she slept on as he tied her to it, unaware of the trade that awaited her. But there was little remorse in her father’s heart, for Sioned was idle, and buffalo was buffalo.

The hunter came with ten horses loaded with dried buffalo-including choice parts: tongue, organs, rump, ribs and eyes. The buffalo eyes watched a soulless father unload his daughter and roll her out at the hunter’s feet. The hunter made a chirring sound in his throat. He told the old man to unload the horses. The Samarian, driven by greed and stupidity, gathered too many pieces of buffalo in his arms, and slipped and skidded and fell upon his back. As his head struck the ground his gluttonous gaze softened. His dizzied brain recoiled in horror as he watched the hunter pick up his only child, grow a pair of wings, and fly away with her to a distant peak! “Come back!” he cried, and reached out a hand. A piece of buffalo slid into his mouth and got lodged there. It was completely rotten.

When Sioned awoke she found herself lying in a nest of hair and night-black feathers. She was on a high ledge, surrounded by ravens. Far below her, the sea was rushing at the rocks, dashing itself to foam and spray. “Oh, my father, help me! Help!” she cried. Then the hunter appeared by her side, he who had claimed him
“I am your husband now,” he said. And he threw off his furs to show himself to be a raven, the king of ravens, the darkest of birds.

Sioned screamed and screamed, until her voice broke to the cark of a bird. Her fear was so great that the east wind wrestled with her terror for weeks, finally carrying it howling to her father. It beat about his ears, his soul, and his heart. How could you do this? It whistled at him How could you marry your daughter to a bird? Do you want to be known as the grandfather of ravens?

The old man was wracked with sadness and guilt. He chattered to his heart and his heart chattered back. He must go out and rescue his daughter, it said.

So the very next morning he took his weapons-his bow, spear, tomahawk and atatl-and got one of the hunter’s horses ready and rode through the plains to the peak next to the sea until he reached the peak that was Sioned’s new home. He began to ride up along the path that went round and around the peak. Sioned, whose eyes had become as sharp as a bird, saw him coming and was waiting for him at the top of the path. “Oh, my father,” she said and hugged him tightly, smelling his hides, which still reeked of rotting buffalo.

“Quickly,” he said, “while the fog is about us.” And they climbed on the horse and rode away.

They had traveled for many hours and still were on the path around the peak when Sioned saw a black speck high in the sky. Fear welled up inside her, for she knew this was her husband coming to find her!

“Faster father!” she urged her father.

But the horse was slow because it sensed it master’s near. The raven was upon the horse as swiftly as a ray of sunlight. It swooped down and made the horse begin to tremble. “Give me back my wife!” it screamed.

Sioned’s father struck at the thing with his spear. He missed and almost fell off the horse. “Trickster be gone!” he shouted in vain.

The bird caaracked in anger and swooped again. This time it came low to the horse beating one wing almost on Sioned’s father. A ferocious storm began to blow and the winds started to rage making the horse tremble even more. Sioned screamed, but not as loudly as her father. Once more, cowardice had rooted in his heart. With a mighty shove, he pushed his daughter of the horse. “Be gone! Leave me be! Here is your precious wife!” he cried. “Take her back and trouble me no more!”

Sioned cried out in disbelief. “Father, do not desert me!” she begged. She ran to the horse and reached up to the saddle. But fear hand made her arms weak and unsteady and she could not haul herself back onto the horse.

Still the raven plunged and swooped. The winds grew worse. In his madness, Sioned’s father saw the sea rising, if he fell he would drown. Addled by terror, he grabbed his tomahawk and began to cut Sioned’s fingers with it. She wailed in agony but he would not stop. “Take her! Take her!” he shouted crazily, believing the only way to save his life was to sacrifice his daughter’s life instead. Over and over again he struck, until one by one, her fingers were cut off. They dropped into the ocean where they turned into seals and small whales as they sank. And when he cut of her thumbs they became the dragon turtles, the rarest sea creature. With her fingers gone Sioned could no longer hold onto the saddle. Her mutilated body slipped under the water and slowly faded out of sight…

…Yet, she did not perish. Poisoned by the magic of a raven’s bile and further tormented by unresolved grief, she made her house at the bottom of the sea, where she became the goddess of the ocean, raging at men through violent storms….

-A Samarian Legend

Another version goes like this:

Eagles, hearty birds, live on the highest parts of the cliffs. From their proud perches they can swoop down on the birds that are not nearly as overweening, calling out songs of their magnificence which carry over the plains.

Once, there lived an eagle that was so arrogant he could not find a mate among his flock. He decided that he would marry a human, and conjured a spell to give him the form of a man. He sewed together the most beautiful hides to make a stunning outfit, and he preened until he was remarkably handsome. Of course, his eyes were still the eyes of an eagle, so he made dark glasses to finish his disguise, and looking like this; he got his horse ready and rode off to find a wife.

At the same time, a widower lived on a quiet shore with his daughter Sioned, a girl so beautiful that word of her form and features spread far beyond the tribe. Many men came to woo her, but Sioned would not marry. None of their pleas could break through her pride to reach her heart.

One day a handsome man arrived in a splendid deerskin outfit. He did not come close to Sioned’s tent, but hovered at the edge of the hill the tent was on and called to Sioned. He started to sing to her. “Come, love,” he chanted, “to the land of the birds, where you will never be hungry, where you will rest on soft bear skins, where you will have feathers to clothe you and ivory necklaces, where your jar will be full of the finest beads and your pot full of meat.”

The song wrapped itself around Sioned’s soul and drew her closer to the horse. She rode away with the stranger over the plains, away from her home and her father.

For a while she was happy. The eagle made their home on a rocky cliff overlooking the sea and caught buffalo for her weekly, and Sioned was so enchanted with her husband that she never thought to truly look around her. But one day the eagle’s glasses slipped off his nose and Sioned looked into his eyes. She glanced away and saw a home built not of hides, but of year old grass beginning to rot. She slept not on a bear skin, but on a piece of wood. She felt the cold blast of the wind and knew she had married a man who was not what she had thought he was.

Sioned cried with grief, and although the eagle loved her, he could not stop her tears.

A year passed, and Sioned’s father came to visit. When he reached the cliff where she lived the eagle was out hunting buffalo, and Sioned begged her father to take her back home. They ran back down to his horse and set out down the cliff.

They had not been riding long when the eagle came back to his nest. He shouted for Sioned, but his cry of pain was swallowed by the howl of the wind and the rustling of the grass. Other eagles found him and told him where Sioned was. He spread his arms, his wingspan blotting out the sun, and flew towards the horse that Sioned and her father were riding.

As he watched them ride faster, the eagle grew angry. He beat his wings into the wind, making the wind around the cliff faster. A storm raged up at his cries, and the horse became more skittish. Sioned’s father realized the bird was so powerful that ever the wind was furious at the loss of the eagle’s wife. He knew that to save himself, he had to sacrifice his daughter.

He threw Sioned off the horse. She managed to run back to the horse and grab onto the blanket tightly with her finger, but her father, terrified by the thunderous beating of the eagle’s wings above his head, hit her hands with his tomahawk. Sioned’s fingertips broke off and fell into the sea, where they turned into whales and dove away. Sioned grabbed the blanket again, but her father struck out a second time. The middle digits of her fingers broke off and fell into the water to become seals. One more time she managed to reach the saddle, but her father batted at her hands until the third joints broke off and became dragon turtles and Sioned sank heavy to the bottom of the sea.

Sioned became a mighty spirit who controls the sea creatures that were born of her fingers. Sometimes she whips together storms and sends them across the plains. Sometimes she causes famines by creating too much rain or too little to come from the sea. Never does she break the surface of the water, where she might again encounter the eagle.

-A Samarian Legend

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The Legend of Sioned

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