This is a story to get you through the long, cold night when it comes for you, like it has this night for us.
Do you think we were the first to feel the cold? The first to see the ghosts wandering through the night?
No! This has been happening since my grandfather’s era. Since the time before that!
I’ll tell you about when it began. When Bearfirth, the first of us, saw the protector light go dim and realized she was not alone in the forests…
There was a time before this one, when the world was dark. There was nothing out there. No light. No trees. No birds and no music. What horror! A great miasma of nothingness. Can you imagine such a place? Through this emptiness a woman crawled. Alone. Starving. Lost. She only knew suffering. Only knew pain and grief. But she continued living, because she did not know of any other path.
One day she dreamt of great storms, trembling earth, turning wheels, and she woke to a new world. One of vibrance. Of light! Beautiful light! And beautiful green! Here now were the birds and beasts. The fruit and grains. The winding rivers and the great horn mountains. Where before there was nothing now there was wonder all around. She was the first to walk our world. Our home.
Thus she came to know joy. But when the sun left the sky and the night fell over the new land, she heard the whispers, the groans, the crunching footsteps of those abominable shades that haunt us still. She then came to know fear, and a dreadful fear it was! She fled into the dirt and the quiet places. Deeper down she went, hounded by the foul voices, until she came upon something hidden and strange. There in the dark she found herself in the presence of a god.
And so the First Trade was conducted. The god granted her a madness. The madness to keep struggling in the face of fear. In exchange, she swore fealty to it. She swore to never forget what the god taught her.
Then she climbed. She returned to the surface, and in her madness she fought the monsters that harrowed her.
For twelve years she fought! Every day she would rest and enjoy the bountiful wonders of this world, and every night she would rise and battle the creatures that came to hunt her.
She felled hundreds of them, yet they always returned. As time passed by, she grew wise.
Climbing to the high mountaintops, she called out- Called out! In a clear voice that rang through the dales, she called,
‘I am Bearfirth! I am mighty! If you hear my voice, come find me! Come look for me in the plains, in the forests, by the rivers! Find me, and you too will be mighty!’
And her voice was heard. Other men and women appeared. Those who had been hiding in the dirt and the roots. In the gray shadows. They heard her voice and were entranced. They followed it to the source and came together as a crowd before her. They were fearful and hungry.
Now comes the Second Trade. She offered them wisdom in exchange for strength. The people, desperate for guidance, agreed to the deal.
Working together, Bearfirth and her companions built the first home. These walls were made from only mud and stone, but the ghosts had not the power to overcome them when the sun left the sky. The people rejoiced when they saw this, but Bearfirth, upon realizing she would not have to battle anything that night, felt the years and years of exhaustion, once held back through willpower, now fall upon her as a flood. Collapsing to the ground, she knew that her life was at its end.
The people gathered around her, fearful and lost again at the thought of her leave-taking. They think they will have to return to the dirt and roots if she is gone. They think she pulls the morning into the sky.
Seeing this, she makes the Third Trade, the Final Trade!
She asks of them,
‘Survive this night. Stay watchful, do not give up yet. Do this for me and my strength will be yours.’
Her people are hesitant, but they bind themselves to the trade. They keep watch. The shades scream and roar at them - Can you hear them? They’re still out there, screaming at us now!
But her people do not run. They have an oath to fulfill. They build the walls stronger and trust that Bearfirth will hold up her end of the bargain. When the sun finally returns, it finds them proud and cheering. At last they know the madness that Bearfirth knew: They learned that by fighting in the face of hopelessness they could accomplish anything.
With their newfound strength, they worked together and made a grand village. They spread to distant lands, making villages and helping those in hiding there. And always, they remembered that long night and the sunrise that came afterwards.