The Marriage of Sharess
Sharess, goddess of love, lust and beauty, enjoyed the company of men and took many lovers. Though she was not without feelings, Sharess never allowed herself to care too deeply for any of them, for she still grieved her mortal elven husband who had perished.
Siwili, god of mischief and trickery, enjoyed playing pranks on the other gods, but by far his favorite target was Sharess. Their father Torodin favored Siwili above all his children, while he had despised Sharess ever since she had betrayed him and caused the death of his beloved, Sylvana. Siwili was amused by his sister´s jealousy, and he enjoyed provoking her anger.
One day, Siwili came up with a particularly devious plan. He went to Remiére, whose wedding to Raaba had been ruined by Sharess, and persuaded the god to help. Remiére agreed, and at Siwili´s urging he stole a magical needle that Sharess herself had created. The needle would cause anyone pricked by it to fall in love with the next person they saw.
Siwili watched Sharess and waited for his opportunity. One day, when Sharess was bathing alone in a pool, Siwili went to Briseis and conned the goddess into taking a message to Ankti, the god of metalwork. A mortal smith to whom Soltana had granted divinity, Ankti was by far the ugliest of the gods. As a mortal he had been hunchbacked and missing one eye. When he became a god, Ankti had refused Soltana´s offer to change his repulsive form, for he wanted others to respect him for his abilities and not his appearance.
Siwili, who believed in taking any advantage offered, had always thought that Ankti was a fool. But now he would find a use for the god´s ugliness. Just after Briseis had delivered the message, Siwili sneaked up to Sharess in the form of a weasel and pricked her with the magic needle. Then he scurried into the shadows to observe.
The god of mischief cursed when a chariot arrived, carrying not Ankti, but Dagon, the handsome god of war. Unbeknownst to Siwili, Dagon and Sharess had arranged this rendezvous, for they had often been lovers. When Ankti showed up, he discovered the two passionately entwined. Disappointed, for he had always cherished a secret love for Sharess, Ankti departed unseen by the lovers.
Dagon was surprised when Sharess declared her love for him and asked him to marry her. Dagon did not, in fact, love Sharess. But the god of war was very proud. He believed that having Sharess for a wife would be a great prize, and would make the other gods jealous. He told Sharess he loved her and agreed to her proposal. The two sped off to ask permission from Estereal to be wed.
Estereal was forced to refuse their request, for Torodin had forbidden that his children marry. Sharess was devastated, and at first Siwili took great satisfaction in her tears. But then he saw an opportunity for further mischief. He went to Tritherion, and explained why Sharess could not justly be bound by Torodin´s edict.
The god of justice immediately went to Estereal. "Father, wait," he said. "Do not dismiss Sharess´ plea."
Estereal looked at Tritherion in surprise. His son had always seemed to disapprove of Sharess and her promiscuous ways. If he defended her now, then it was justice alone that motivated him.
"Explain, my son," Estereal commanded.
"Torodin once told my mother that he disowned Sharess as his daughter."
"I recall that," said Estereal. "Soltana was very upset."
"If Sharess is not recognized by Torodin as his child, then she is not bound by his edicts. She is free to marry if she desires."
Estereal nodded in approval at his son´s reasoning. "You are correct, my son. Well done. Sharess, Dagon - you shall wait the traditional three days, and then you shall be married."
The next day, Siwili approached Ankti. He found the god hard at work for Dagon, unaware of Ankti´s feelings for Sharess, had asked the god of metalwork to create their wedding bands. Though it pained him to make the rings that would seal Sharess´ vows to another, Ankti could not refuse so simple a request. Out of love for Sharess, he poured his heart and soul into his work,creating the two most beautiful bands of gold and platinum that had ever been made. Ankti sealed these magnificent rings with the powers of his divine forge, making them immune to all harm, so that they would be as eternal as the two who wore them. Inside each ring Ankti inscribed Soltana´s traditional blessing: "Two souls forever joined in love and loyalty."
Siwili peered over Ankti´s shoulder as he held up the finished rings. "Those are pretty nice," he said. "Too bad Dagon won´t appreciate them. The god of war finds little use for things of beauty. Except Sharess, of course. He seems to have plenty of uses for her."
Ankti glowered at Siwili with his one eye. "What do you want, trickster?"
"I´m only trying to help. Sharess is my sister, after all. While it´s true we haven´t always gotten along, that doesn´t mean I want to see her get hurt."
"Oh, yes. You see, I happen to know that Dagon doesn´t love her at all."
"What? This is an outrage! You must tell Sharess at once."
"I tried," Siwili lied with a dramatic sigh. "But Sharess did not believe me. I am afraid nothing can convince her that Dagon does not share her love."
"Then there is nothing we can do?" Ankti asked sadly.
"We?" Siwili raised an eyebrow. "Does that mean you´d be willing to help?"
"Yes, of course. I..." Ankti stopped. He did not dare to admit his feelings.
"You love Sharess," Siwili finished for him.
"Yes. How did you know?"
"You stare at her every time she walks into a room," Siwili said.
"Is it that obvious?"
"Only to an observant god such as myself. I don´t think anyone else noticed." This was, of course, a blatant lie, for Siwili, Remiére and Jvelto had shared many jokes at Ankti´s expense.
Siwili put an arm around Ankti´s deformed back. "Sharess deserves someone like you - someone who loves her. I have a plan..."
Two days later, all the gods (except Torodin, who refused to endure his daughter´s presence) gathered for the wedding of Dagon and Sharess. Soltana led the ceremony, and all the gods applauded after the vows had been said and the couple kissed.
But then Dagon´s form began to shimmer. Everyone gasped when the groom was revealed as the misshapen Ankti. The god of metalwork looked hopefully at Sharess.
"My darling, do not be dismayed. I love you as Dagon did not."
But Sharess screamed and fainted.
Soltana stood angrily. "What is the meaning of this? Ankti, what have you done? How could you deceive us so?"
Tritherion noticed Siwili trying to sneak away. He grabbed the trickster god and held him up by the scruff of the neck.
"I believe this one can explain."
Siwili, unimpressed by the glares of the assembled gods (Even Remiére and Jvelto were not amused.), burst into laughter.
"If you could see the looks on your faces," he said. "You know, it´s a shame we couldn´t be there to see the other wedding. Dagon is marrying a sow. That illusionist I found is just amazing."
Soltana gasped. "Siwili, how could you? How could you toy with love, the most noble of emotions?"
Siwili shrugged. "Oh, it was easy."
Estereal glared at the mischievous god. "This deception is beneath even you, Siwili. It was wrong of you to deceive three of your fellow gods so cruelly. Tritherion, take Siwili away and see to his punishment."
"No, wait!" Siwili pleaded, for Tritherion´s punishments tended to be very painful. But none of the gods intervened as the god of justice and vengeance dragged the trickster away, for they had all been wronged by Siwili at one time or another.
When Sharess awoke, she backed away in horror from the concerned Ankti. She turned to Soltana. "Mother, please. Release us from these vows."
"Ankti, what say you?" Soltana asked. "I can not do this unless both of you agree. Will you release Sharess from her vows?"
"No. I am sorry. I know you must think me selfish. But Sharess, I love you. I know that in time, you will come to love me, too."
"Never!" Enraged, Sharess snatched both wedding bands and threw them with all her might. The rings sailed to earth and sank to the bottom of the sea.
"This changes nothing, Sharess," Soltana said. "You are bound to love, honor and obey Ankti, as you have promised before us all."
"My love," Ankti said. "Come home with me. I will make you happy."
Sharess realized that she had no choice, and reluctantly went home with her new husband. Ankti was kind and attentive and made her a wonderful home, but Sharess resented being forced to share his life and his bed.
Realizing that Estereal and Soltana would punish her for breaking her marriage vows, Sharess pretended to be faithful and obedient to Ankti. But she secretly continued her affair with Dagon (who had killed and eaten the sow soon after his own wedding). Ankti knew nothing of the deception, until one night the lovers were careless and left the bedroom door open while they lay together at Dagon´s fortress. Siwili had long been alert for such an opportunity, and spied them at play. He immediately went to Ankti and informed him of this betrayal.
Ankti angrily retired to his forge. Siwili approached him there and explained that Ankti must punish Sharess himself; he would thereby earn her respect, and the goddess would finally come to love him in return.
Hopeful of this plan, Ankti hammered out a bronze hunting net, fine as gossamer but quite unbreakable, which he secretly attached to the posts and sides of his marriage bed. He told Sharess who returned from Dagon´s fortress all smiles, claiming that she had been bathing in the sea, that he was going to take a holiday on his favorite island in the North Sea. Sharess did not offer to accompany her husband. As soon as he was out of sight she sent for Dagon, and the two went merrily to bed.
At dawn, they found themselves entangled in the net, naked and unable to escape. Ankti, turning back from his journey, surprised them there, and summoned all the gods to witness his dishonor. The gods soon arrived, but Soltana persuaded the goddesses to stay behind, for she did not wish to cause her wayward daughter further embarrassment.
Jvelto nudging Remiére asked, "You would not mind being in Dagon´s position, would you, net and all?"
Remiére swore by his own luck that he would not, even if there were three times as many nets and all the goddesses were looking on with disapproval.
At this, Jvelto laughed uproariously.
"Enough!" said Estereal, quite disgusted with everyone involved in this scene. He ordered Ankti to remove the net, but Ankti refused.
"Why have you disgraced yourself and your wife like this?" Estereal demanded of Ankti. "Sharess has wronged you, but you have wronged her in turn by not handling this with more dignity."
"Dagon has wronged me as well,"Ankti protested. "I demand that he be punished. I demand that he be imprisoned for this crime. It is my right."
"It would be justice," said Tritherion.
But Natanael, god of redemption, intervened. "Ankti, I beg you to consider forgiveness over revenge. Release Dagon. In return, he will serve you in your smithy for one century. After that, you must in turn divorce Sharess and free her to marry him, for Dagon is the one she loves."
Ankti realized that Dagon would be humiliated by such service. "Very well, Natanael. But if he defaults, you will take his place under the net."
"In Sharess´ company?" Remiére asked, laughing.
"Certainly not!" said Natanael, who was faithful to his beloved wife, Briseis.
"I can not think that Dagon will default," said Jvelto nobly. "But if he should do so, I am prepared to pay his debt of service and marry Sharess myself."
"How self-sacrificing of you," Remiére said snidely.
Dagon, of course, defaulted on his debt, because he did not love Sharess and refused to be anyone´s slave on her behalf. In the end, nobody paid, because Ankti was still madly in love with Sharess and had no intention of divorcing her.
Siwili was very pleased with himself. His part in the plan was not revealed, Sharess and Dagon had both been humiliated, and Sharess was still bound in marriage to the repulsive Ankti.
But, much to Siwili´s surprise, some good came out of his prank. Seeing Dagon and Sharess together, Oghma, the god of knowledge, had perceived an enchantment surrounding them. He sought help from Namir, goddess of magic, who discovered that Sharess had been charmed to love Dagon, and immediately dispelled it. Freed from her obsession with Dagon, Sharess came to see her husband´s good qualities, and eventually she fell in love with him. Though her nature made it impossible for her to be faithful, Sharess and Ankti came to find much happiness together. Knowing that it would anger Siwili, the happy couple sent the trickster god a long letter thanking him for all that he had done.