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Her name is the Lady, the Bringer of Light. Some call her Loki, the Maker of Fire, others Eva, the Promise of life.

She was born a mortal in the cold dark time when the Gods still ruled, the Old Gods who made us and who loved us, in their way. In those days Fire was in the hands of the Gods, but she was born with the Fire in her heart, and that was their gift and their undoing.

On the day she became a woman she watched as the forest burned. “Look, mother,” she said, “how the animals run. If only the fire could be our friend, the wild beasts would leave us alone.”

The people laughed to hear her speak. How could she hope to be friends with the fire? She might as well wish to catch the wind in her net, or shoot lightning like an arrow from her bow. The Elders warned her:

“The wind and the rain, the thunder and lightning, the fire and the sun all belong to the Gods. Do not speak of such things again or the Gods may hear you and punish your pride.”

She did not speak, but she watched the fire. She saw how it only went where it found food, how it ran through the forests and stopped at the rocks, and how it died in the rivers and the rain. She gathered some wood, which she kept in a cave, and waited until the fire returned. She took a burning branch from where it had passed and fed her wood to its flame. It burned without moving and warmed her without burning. She turned to fetch her family, to show them what she had done, but the mouth of the cave was blocked. There stood a man, in appearance not young but not yet old, with the wisdom of ages in his single eye.

Do not tell others of what you have done, nor even remember it yourself. Have you forgotten the words of the Wise? The wind and the rain, the thunder and lightning, the fire and the sun all belong to the Gods. Do not try to steal them, or we will punish your pride.”

The fire was out and he was gone, and she knew him for the Father of the Gods.

She went to the Elders and spoke with them:

“The wind and the rain, the thunder and lightning, love and the sun are all of the Gods. But the fire is different. See how it only runs through places where it may feed. The fire does not run over the rocks, or swim across the river, although the Gods may run where they please. The fire dies when its food is gone, or when the rain comes, although the Gods never die and the rain is theirs. The Gods have given us eyes to see: we can see that fire is closer to us than to them. If we hold it with rocks it will not run, if we feed it with wood we can keep it alive, if we no longer want it we can kill it with water. It can warm us in the night and keep the wolves from our homes. I shall say no more, it is for you to decide.”

Soon every family had its fire.

The Gods took her away to a far distant place and chained her to the side of a mountain, high enough to look out and see all the world. Each evening the Raven came and ate out her eyes, and each night they grew again, better than before. By day she saw careless children burned by the flames. By night she did not see the children sleeping warm by the embers. After a year the Gods brought her to their Council.

“Now you see why we kept fire for ourselves. Now will you return it?”

“I see my people grow stronger. I see fewer of our children die.”

They took her back and chained her again. Each evening the Raven came and ate out her eyes, each night they grew again, better than before. By day she saw houses burn when a spark jumped too far. By night she did not see the lovers in the glow. After ten years the Gods brought her back to their Council.

“Now you see why we kept fire for ourselves. Now will you return it?”

“I see my people grow stronger. I see fewer of them eaten by wolves.”

They took her back and chained her again. They made her immortal so her torment would last, and called her again after a hundred years, a thousand, ten thousand and an age. Each evening the Raven ate the eyes from her face, each night they grew back, even better than before. By day she saw how people used fire to bring suffering and death, but she could not see how fear left the night, nor the blessing of the family hearth. One last time the Gods brought her back to their Council:

“For an age you have seen what has come of what you stole. Now you must return it. If you do not, we will take it back, and leave you in chains for ever. Each day the Raven will pluck out your eyes and there will be no end to your torment.”

“You speak,” she said, “of my friend, the Raven. For a long time he has only come because I call him. I call him now, and he will come.”

The Raven flew down and broke her chains with his beak, the chains that had been forged to last for all ages by the first and the greatest of smiths.

What is it, do you think, that makes a God be a God?”, she asked. “You are immortal, as I am immortal. you see everything, as I see everything.”

The God of Thunder threw a lightning bolt at her. It flicked off her fingers and burned out his eyes.

“And I have watched you well, and have learned.”

The God of the Sea sent a great wave towards her. The Sun God threw a fireball. She doused the one with the other and the Gods were all hidden in a great cloud of steam, which rose and sent rain upon them all. The Goddess of Love slipped off her wet robes and danced towards her, naked and lovely, a song on her lips and a promise lying in her eyes.

You had eternity to learn about love, but all you cared about was power. Now you will lose even the power you claimed over love.”

The Goddess squealed as a link from the chain clamped her shut.

Our Lady turned to the Father of the Gods, who still had not spoken or moved:

“You who claim to be the Father of All: do you not understand that your children must grow?”

“What my children must do is for me to decide.”

He raised his spear to pierce her heart. She snapped it in two. The remains of her chains rose up from the floor and bound the Gods all together. Only Death stood aside, silent, unbound. The Father spoke:

“You may not do this! What is mankind without Gods to guide it? The wind and the rain, the thunder and lightning, love and the sun will all strike blindly, with no thought for mercy or justice.”

“We will make our own justice. And we will need no mercy when you are dead.”

“Dead? How can we die when Death is beside us, a Brother Immortal?”

“Death was here before you came and Death will remain when you are gone. Death is not your brother or mine.”

The chain wound closer on the screaming Gods, its coils turning around them until they were hidden in a ball of steel. The chain slid further in on itself until the ball was smaller than a grain of sand. Death picked it up and put it away.

She freed the Wind and she freed the Rain, she freed the Thunder and the Lightning and Love. In the light of the Sun she lay with the Raven, and in the warmth of the Fire she gave birth to her daughters.

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