Breca the Bear and the Birth of the Glassmen


[excerpt from Myths of Old, collected by David Hooper]

Long ago in the time before glass, the king of the Vitska tribe died. But the king had two sons, Atl and Breca. And Atl was strong, wearing the skin of a bear he strangled with his own hands, while Breca was weak, with a turned foot. But Atl loved his younger brother and said, “Let us split the tribe, you taking the north, while I shall rule the south. This way we shall be equal and have no reason to quarrel.”

And though Breca knew the southern lands were far greater than the northern realms, he accepted his brother’s offer, for Alt was much stronger than he.

So Atl took his half of the tribe south and took many wives, who bore him many children. And Breca took his half of the tribe north and took but one wife, who bore him but one daughter. And Breca loved her all the more for it.

Soon Atl’s tribe spilled south, ravaging the lands that belonged to the city Sabac. So the Sabac soldiers made war against Atl, slaughtering his soldiers and family. And they drove Atl from his lands and chased him from his home until he took refuge in the hall of Breca.

But when Breca heard of his brother’s approach he was sorely afraid, for he knew Atl would lay claim to his kingdom after squandering his own. And Breca knew he would be unable to resist his brother, for Atl was strong, and Breca was very weak.

So that night, before Atl arrived, Breca called out to Sol for aid. But Sol did not answer his cry, so Breca’s heart turned sour and he called out to Waer. But Waer too did not come. Rather her husband Vradra came to Breca’s hall.

Upon hearing Breca’s plight, Vradra said, “I shall give you power, not only over your brother, but over the lands for eons and eons to come. But this gift I give you comes with the great cost of the life of one of your kin.”

Believing Vradra spoke of his brother Atl, a life he was surely willing to pay, Breca accepted his offer. Only then did Vradra reveal the required sacrifice would be that of Breca’s only daughter. And though the cost was dear, Breca paid it, for the fear of his brother outshone his love of his daughter.

And as her Breath left her body, Vradra caught it and placed it within Breca. Then Vradra turned Breca’s living heart to glass, containing his dead daughter’s Breath within. And as his heart turned to glass, Breca found himself as strong as twenty men, his skin hard as stone, and his mind alive as both a Listener and a Whisperer.

With Vradra’s gifts, Breca went out into the night to meet his brother Atl. And though Atl was strong and had strangled a bear with only his hands, Breca slew him easily, claiming his brother’s famed bearskin cloak. And as Atl’s Breath left him, Breca breathed it in, taking his brother’s strength within him. *

But as Breca’s power grew with each Breath he consumed, he hungered for more. And Breca went mad, slaughtering the rest of Atl’s army. His thirst for Breath still not slaked, Breca then turned his rage upon his own people, killing his wife and all his warriors as the tribe fled his wrath.

And as the day broke, Breca’s mind returned to him, his bearskin cloak bloody and his glass heart full to bursting with stolen Breath. Upon seeing himself such, Breca said, “Truly I am cursed by Sol.”

So Breca fled high unto the mountains to live out the rest of his days in solitude like a bear. But when the hunger took him, he would feed off the people of his tribe that he had once ruled. And so the people of his tribe avoided the cursed land whenever they could.

But one girl did not flee Breca, the ambitious Aria instead seeking him out, for she desired his powers. And when she found him, she prostrated herself before him, begging him for Vradra’s gift. But Breca refused her, saying he was cursed by Sol and because of that curse had slain his own kin.

But Aria brought her own sister with her the next day and slit her throat at his feet. In so doing Aria proved herself as cruel and bloody as Breca had become. So he caught her sister’s fleeing Breath and shared Vradra’s gift with her. And as he did her heart turned to glass and she became his new bride.

Both now cursed by Sol, Breca and Aria lived out their days feeding from their tribe. And as the eons rolled on they made more of their kind, spreading death and misery for many ages.

Footnotes from Editor David Hooper:

1. In many versions of this myth Breca wore his brother Atl’s hide as his cloak rather than a bearskin.

Riddle:

I am the red tongue of the Earth,

That buries cities.

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