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The Origin of the Mudbird (Auld Lands)

​​[excerpt from Dobra Tales and Lore, collected by David Hooper]

Long ago in the days before glass, there lived a man named Anders, who wished to become a sanct and do the will of Sol. So Anders went to the nearest monastery where he prostrated himself and begged to join their number. And so they made him one of their own, teaching him to read and write.

There Anders spent all day copying the Biba Sacara, from the first word to the harvest itself. But the words never touched his heart and he never knew their meaning because he instead listened to the beautiful song of a beautiful bird outside his window. Then Anders fell behind, and his master moved him away from the window so as not to be influenced by the bird. But Anders longed to hear it again.

So when a new novice named Dugan joined them to take up the spot by the window, Anders wanted it instead. He feared disobeying his master, but to his surprise the beautiful bird landed on the window and sang. And in its beautiful song Anders heard the words, “take what is yours.”

So Anders lied to Dugan, telling him the spot by the window was his and ushering Dugan to his seat far in the corner. But when their master returned to see this switching of seats, Anders remembered the beautiful bird’s words and lied again, saying the idea was Dugan’s. And so Anders kept his spot at the cost of two lies and was able to again hear the beautiful bird sing its beautiful song at his leisure.

But Anders soon became too immersed in leisurely listening and quickly fell behind the other novices. Soon even Dugan surpassed him, finishing his copy of the Biba Sacara though Anders was still copying The Stoning of Ada.

Tired from all his hard work, Dugan retired to his cell while Anders worried his master would consider him a failure again. And as he worried he heard the beautiful bird’s song saying “take what is yours.”

So Anders took up Dugan’s manuscript and brought it to their master, presenting it as his own. And so Anders bought his master’s admiration at the cost of one theft.

But in the morning Dugan discovered Anders’ theft and confronted him, saying, “you have stolen my work and claimed it as your own. And as soon as our master hears of what you have done, you will be thrown out.”

Dugan’s words caused Anders to tremble with fear, but he soon heard a second voice, the beautiful bird saying, “take what is yours.” So Anders bashed Dugan in the head with his heavy tome and staved his skull in. And so Anders kept his secret at the cost of one life.

But then their master entered the room to find Anders with Dugan’s blood on his hands. And when his master demanded an answer, all Anders could say was that the beautiful bird had told him to. But his master only heard the beautiful bird’s song, and not the words underneath.

So Anders was punished for his sins, and since he still had not finished The Stoning of Ada, they tied him to a post and took up stones. And as Anders looked out, he saw the beautiful bird watching, and he heard its laughter beneath its beautiful song.

The first stone struck Anders in the crown, and as his blood flowed into his eyes he cursed the beautiful bird he could no longer see, saying, “from this day until Sol’s harvest may your plumage reflect the ugliness of your heart.”

As soon as he said this, the bird’s beautiful plumage dulled to the color of mud, its feathers splotched forever with darkness. Upon seeing this miracle, the master realized indeed Anders had been tempted by this evil bird, and untied him. But Anders was already dead.

So they chased the vile bird away with their stones, and though it retained its beautiful voice, all knew now not to trust what the mudbird had to say, from this day until Sol’s harvest.



Two brothers we are,

Great burdens we bear,

All day we are bitterly pressed.

Yet this I will say,

We are full all day,

And empty when we go rest.

Author Image.jpg

MD Presley is a screenwriter, blogger and occasional novelist… which basically means he’s a layabout.  He has written two books on fantasy worldbuilding, and teaches worldbuilding techniques, tricks, and tips at Forging Fantasy Realms once a week on YouTube. 

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