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There’s an old story about the god of the forest and the god of the sea, they say.

The god of the forest came about it proper— Melora, the breath of Exandria, she had a son, and she named him Caduceus. A god of Exandria’s forest can never really own it, because Melora is the forest— every tree a finger, a strand of hair. The wind her breath— it gets a little muddied when you think too hard about the orientation of it all in terms of divine anatomy, the breeze, as the mother of the world breathing on herself, but that’s never the point of myths, not really.

Melora had a son. Not the first, not even the second, or the third, and a son of the world comes about maybe not so auspicious— but he grew up in the shade of her biggest and strangest and wildest woods, the Savalir, and he loved its branches and flowers and the things that grew where they fell. A forest beneath the forest, unafraid of the dark.

They say he’s not the god of the forest. They say he’s the god of death. But it’s funny, how those things aren’t too different, in the end.

The snake beneath the world had a son, too, they say. Stole him from the surface and dragged him below, so young the only cord left to sever him from the world was the name he’d been given. Fjord. A carving of the world by ice.

The snake, he makes fjords of his own, in a funny way. Carves out what lies under the world to fit his body through the darkness.

They say he’s not even the deepest, or the darkest, not by a long way. But they also say he’s big the way you can never really understand. They say he’s all body, that even with all the eyes there’s no head. No beginning, no end.

(All things end , Caduceus says to him, while Fjord cries and he holds him in the dark. Even if it’s not in the usual way. Take comfort. )

The funny thing is that he is not the god of the sea, the snake. The god of anything becomes so because the Mother gives part of herself to someone, and Melora had not given him the sea.

The snake, he gave his son a job to do when he returned him to the world.

He was to steal the sea.

 

It is said that Fjord washed ashore spitting blood and seafoam in equal measure. That he searched the great expanse of the ocean for the buried eyes of his guardian, and Melora, seeing his suffering, sent her son across the ocean to greet him, to change his mind.

Some retell it this way: there was a fight.

On a night in early spring, trees bloomed on the ocean from the incredible power Exandria’s breath gifted her son.

Some retell it this way: the god of the forest was always a calm one. 

On a night in early spring, Caduceus showed the stolen child the beauty Exandria’s breath gifted her son, and trees bloomed on the ocean.

By force or with open hand, the god of the forest removed the snake’s eye he found in Fjord’s chest, and beneath it he found a heart.

(I knew it, he says, and smiles. Behind him, the sun crests the sea, spilling light between the branches of new trees, and before him, into his arms, Fjord crumples like a doll, cut from strings. I knew there was something in you.)

There’s a peninsula where trees grow to meet the sea, and then into it, unafraid.

On it, it’s said, the son of the snake beneath the world stood and asked for forgiveness from the land his feet touched.

Melora fills books as a violent god, and others as a matron, others still as somewhere in between, both and neither.

On that day, the god of world-collapsing storms and blessed rains alike met the child stolen from her shores, and she freely gave him what he had come to steal.

There is a peninsula where the trees grow to meet the sea, and it is said to be a grove where two gods live, in a little stone house.

Trees that grow in the sea, these are understood in ages to come. Tenacity, perhaps, where divinity had been assumed.

But once a year, on a morning in early spring, fishermen on the peninsula find the sides of their boats clung with pale pink petals. The day when the god of the forest pulled the darkness from the god of the sea, and the day they were married, quietly, in the shallows beneath tenacious trees, flowers open on the sea in enormous patches, and the folks there call the day breath’s gift.

It’s said you can see them weaving between the trunks of that grove. Someone’s father swears he sees two figures, dancing in the shade, but when the members of his family run from the property to see it for themselves, there’s only a swirl of leaves and flowers, spiraling loosely in the air.