Excerpt – Finval and the Magic Game (2009)

From the The Book of Heortling Mythology (2009)

Durev and Orane were the finest people that ever lived. They were kind to everyone, sagacious in their decisions and always as generous as any god or goddess has ever been. They lived on the first stead that was ever set up and organized. Nearby were the first field that Orlanth ever plowed, and also the first one where Barntar ever plowed, and also the first valley where Esra grew, and four more with her most bountiful sisters. Uralda and Entra lived in his animal pens. Amidst such abundance no one was surprised to know that they were the holders of many of the Ten Vingkotling Treasures.

Durev and Orane had lots of children who went all over the world to settle it. They were called the Durevings, or the People of Durev. They did all kinds of important things as well as settling everywhere, like making better storage bins, making better yokes and wheels and so on. But the Twins, Finval and Garwen, are the more notable than the rest, participants in several important tales. This is one story about the loss of one of the ten great Treasures.

Finval was the brother and was the ugliest person among all the Vingkotling men and gods. He was so ugly that nuts would crack and eggs would hard boil themselves when held in his hands. He was so ugly that even wild boars that looked upon him were frozen with fright. He was so ugly that he was mistaken for a monster. He was so ugly that women normally panicked or passed dead out when they saw him. A lot of the time he just wore a head to toe cloak that entirely covered him from sight, and hence he was often called just Cloaky.

Finval was also the smartest person among all gods or men. He was so smart that he invented the game called God’s Eyes and Fingers. He was so smart that Lhankor Mhy used to come to him to ask for help on problems. He was so smart that one day the Deep God, who lives at the bottom of the bottomless pool, came to ask him for some advice. He was so smart that Orlanth asked for his help.

Garwen was his sister, born not earlier or later than he since both emerged from their mother’s womb belly to belly, though each had their feet in the others’ face. Garwen was the most beautiful woman ever known among women or goddesses. She was so beautiful that every man, upon seeing her for the first time, lost his breath entirely. She was so beautiful that every man wanted to marry her, and every prince who met her father’s challenge tried to, though none did. She was so beautiful that gods took form as mortal flesh to make love to her. She was so beautiful that her brother usually just covered her, head to toe, with a shawl, for which she was often called simply Shawly.

Garwen was also one of the most stupid people that ever lived. She was not mindless, just not smart at all. She was always polite to everyone because her mother taught her well. She was always generous and charitable, perhaps even being over kind such as when she fed her pets to death, or when she took a lover who always thought that he alone this time was the One who would stay with her. She was certainly overly trusting.

Garwen lived in the Storm Age in a time when foreigners, ignorant of virtue and the rightful breath of Orlanth, took instead of shared. When they learned of Garwen they tried many plots and plans to seize her, kidnap her or otherwise impose themselves upon her good beauty. She would have been doubtlessly ravished, abused and taken advantage of if not for the watchful eye of her good intentioned brother and her shawl.

Durev and Orane were always careful to make sure their children were well taken care of. Thus they had given the Rich Swan to Garwen, and the Full Dish and Spoon to Finval.

One day a stranger came to the farm where Finval and his sister lived. He was tall and handsome, with a pointed beard and moustache, and a blue cloak upon his shoulders and a fur collar on that cloak. When the stranger was brought before him Finval saw two things immediately. First, the stranger was not either horrified or delighted to look on the ugliest man in the world, although even demigods often recoiled despite themselves. Second, he saw that the fur on the collar was from a creature that he had never seen before in his life, nor heard about in his listening, nor thought about in his imagining. He offered salt and blankets.

Finval was polite, of course. Only after dinner did he ask. They had a great feast, as was typical for all of Durev’s family, with boar and beef, beer and bread, mutton and fowl, each broiled and boiled and cooked in exotic spices seven different ways from Kero Fin. So after a considerable time Finval finally asked Gendward where the fur had come from, but the visitor said only, “I can not tell you that today.” A short time later Gendward revealed another odd thing. He had a ring with a stone that sang in a language Finval didn’t know. After a polite wait Finval asked about it. Gendward said “Oh this? It is from a place I can not tell you today.” And later on similar occurred too, like when he showed a snake that had legs or when he shared a flask of water that was not liquid.

However, as much as those things raised Finval’s curiosity, piqued his longing or stirred his desire, none actually distressed him. Until the fifth one came out one day. Finval was wandering in one of his gardens talking to his reeve when he saw his guest sitting alone in a field. Upon closer inspection he saw Gendward was actually playing a game of Gods Eyes and Fingers, but he was not playing against anyone, but alone. Finval went closer, and then he saw that Gendward was playing the Eyes, but that no one at all was playing the Fingers. Yet they seemed to move and countermove all on their own! It was beautifully crafted of gold and silver upon a ivory and blacktooth board.

Finval wanted it. He cold not be calm when he asked Gendward where he had gotten it, even though he was sure he knew the answer. The visitor said, “Oh this? It is from a place I can not tell you of now.”

“Indeed,” said Finval, “not yet? You have been our guest here without stint or stinginess, yet you will not share even a story with us, of how you obtained this or where it came from, or whose magnificent skill crafted those pieces, or especially indeed how it plays by itself.”

“Ah, yes of course,” said Gendward, “Those things I can tell you if you can win a game of Gods Eyes and fingers. I can make a wager to allow that, you know. I can tell you the story if you win a game with a fair wager.”

“Certainly,” said Finval, “I would love to play a game!” And of course he had invented it, and he was the best player in the whole world. No one had ever beaten him, though naturally draws were possible. But never when he was the Finger did he lose, and never when he was the Eyes did he do anything but draw. He had played against Lhankor Mhy, as smart a god as could ever be found, and Finval won. He had played against Orlanth, as clever a god as cold ever be found, and won. He had played even against the old go in the mountain and won. And so he sat right down opposite Gendward to play.

“And you wager?” asked Gendward politely.

“Ah yes, of course,” said Finval. “I will wager whatever unknown knowledge you want form me.

“Hmm… My good host, I can not accept such a thing as that. Because of the way I must tell this thing, and the enforced requirements upon me, I can only accept one thing for this, and that is your dish and spoon.”

“Spoon and bowl? Hmmm, indeed my guest. Those are true treasures, being a unique thing that will never be duplicated or replaced. I can not wager it just for the information of this board. But perhaps we can continue?”


“Surely I don’t know the conditions imposed on you, but I would think it does not restrict you from trading more than just that story? I would suggest this: I will wager the spoon and bowl, and you shall wager the story of this game, and also the game itself.”

Gendward thought it about it for a while and finally, with a slightly hesitant shrug of his shoulders, he agreed. Finval was pleased with himself now, of course. He was going to get that beautiful board.

“Eyes or fingers?” asked Finval, since he was the host.

“Eyes,” said Gendward. We’ll remind you that the game is played in sets of five, with the winner being whoever wins three games.

They set it up and Finval opened. Gendward never touched a piece, however, but instead they moved of themselves! Finval was a little surprised at that, because he had expected that Gendward would play. But his surprise turned to a pleasant challenge as he played. He was surprised when he lost the first game, for he’d never lost a game before. His pleasant challenge turned into a determined effort, but he still lost the second game. Through the third he was astonished. And when he saw the last finger close upon his last eye, he was utterly crushed with defeat.

Gendward had been watching patiently. Finval, his eyes tearful with his defeat, said “How did that happen?”

“There is always a power greater than the inventor,” said Finval. He smiled. And he took the dish and spoon then as his own, and with it in the same sack that carried the magical board Gendward took his leave of the stead.

Finval was so distressed that he went away into the forest for a long, long time. That’s when he invented the game of Swords and Shields, that we play today. And he never played that game against no one, but always some one. He never saw Gendward again, nor his dish and spoon, so after the farms had all burnt or blown away, and when the food no longer grew or could be caught, then Finval and his family all starved to death without the spoon and dish.

The End


Gendward also went to Garwen, who no longer had her brother to protect her. As with Finval she was beguiled. Gendward was the first person who did not want her, who was the most desirable woman in the world. This made her practically mad with desire and she was ready to do almost anything. She had no protection, since her brother was gone. At last, after much begging and trickery, Gendward agreed to have sex with her if she would cut open her swan and give him all its eggs. She was convinced, and killed her gold-laying swan to get all its golden eggs at once instead of waiting for its usual one per day. Foolish girl, the treasure was gone.

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