Oliver D. Bernuetz's Stories
How Lhankor Mhy Got His Beard Back
"But what if you can't grow a beard?" asked young Lars. "Can you quest for one?"
This innocent question started a titter among the apprentices with the boys shoving each other. Especially since there were the two girls and young Quentin the Durulz present. The boys whispered and taunted them that there was still hope for them.
"Settle down young apprentices, settle down," replied the instructor Gunnar Torkelson, "It's a perfectly valid question. Now you all know that one of the symbols of our god and our cult is the beard", he said stroking his fine example unconsciously, "And you all know that we accept anyone into the cult who is not chaotic or otherwise tainted whether they can grow a beard or not. If they cannot grow a beard they normally wear a false one."
The boys shoved and teased the girls and Quentin.
Gunnar raised his voice and they settled down, "And there is nothing wrong with not having a beard. There is, however a tale of our god of a time when he was temporarily beardless and this tale does form the basis of a heroquest that can be performed if you want to get a real beard when you are incapable of growing one, whether through gender, species or accident."
Young Lars raised his hand and spoke when Gunnar acknowledged him, "Umm, how did our god lose his beard?"
Gunnar frowned and looked sour, "That's not a tale we care to recount as it involves that rascal Eurmal and some trickery on his part. There is of course a copy of that tale somewhere in the library and if you are interested I suggest you exercise your research skills and try and find it."
This statement of course started a buzz of whispering as all the apprentices vowed to track it down.
Gunnar cleared his throat, "Of course it is hidden since it was incorrectly catalogued as is the common practice with materials of a dangerous or scandalous nature."
This statement was greeted by an astonished murmur as this was the first the apprentices had heard of this practice.
"Settle down now and I will tell you the tale of how Lhankor Mhy got his beard back."
The apprentices settled down and awaited eagerly as Gunnar began...
Right after Lhankor Mhy lost his beard he realized that he could not return to Orlanth's stead without it. He would be mercilessly teased by all and sundry, both because he had been tricked by Eurmal and due to the fact that he had perhaps been a little too proud of his old beard. He could not bear the thought of this teasing. So he sat down under a tree and thought of what his options were. At first he thought that he could just stay away until he grew a new beard but he was not sure that he would be able to grow a new one after what happened to his old one, nor did he really think that Orlanth would appreciate being without his main advisor and lawspeaker for that long.
Second, he thought that he might do to someone else what Eurmal had done to him but he knew that no one really had a beard that matched his old one. Besides which he didn't really think that he had that sort of trickery in him. What then? And then he remembered Eurmal's trick of making a new animal from the parts of other animals and he thought that just maybe he would be able to find an animal that had fur or hair like his old beard and make himself a false beard to wear. This he decided is what he would do. It would probably take him quite a while to find the right animal but much less time than growing a new beard would take. He would have to take as supplies what he had on him since he could not return to the Storm Tula. He checked what he had in his satchel and this is what he found :
two pens made from gray goose quills,
Less usefully he had the remains of his lunch and a leather flagon of beer. That would have to do he thought and off he set. He knew of no animals with thick red hair in the lands belonging to the Storm Tribe so he decided to set off for foreign lands. He thought that animals with long red hair would most likely live to the north so that is the direction he headed off in. He knew that this was the direction Valind's people lived so he decided he would have to be careful. They would gladly slay him as a bondsman of Orlanth's. Of course the lack of his usual beard was the best disguise he could hope for.
He wandered long and far asking those he met if they knew of any beasts with long red hair. No one he met had seen any such beast. Most of those he met thought he was a woman due to his lack of beard, his robes and his slender build. Lhankor Mhy decided that this was as good a disguise as any and from that point on he pretended to be a woman. As he traveled ever northwards he met many strange peoples who didn't follow the ways of the Storm Tribe.
One night as he camped he fell into the hands of two of the brutish followers of Night. They fell upon him in the dark as he slept and laid their foul hands on him. They seemed to exult in their captive and he quaked and quavered as they dragged him off into a dank dark cave. The cave was faintly lit by the glow of some strange plant on the cave walls which the god would have gladly studied had he not been so terrified.
The pair which had looked identical to him in his terror were revealed to be quite different in this light. One was a huge monster with enormous fangs while the other was quite a bit smaller. They began to argue loudly and violently. He couldn't at first make head or heels of their animal grunts. Of course being the god of knowledge and no slouch at communicating, no matter what the followers of Issaries say, it didn't take the god long before he began to understood what they were saying.
What he understood did not make him feel any better though. They, big and small, were arguing about who was going to eat him! In fact the only reason why he was still alive was that they couldn't agree whose turn it was. The huge monster with the long tusks kept insisting that the smaller one had eaten the last human, in fact had eaten the most humans so far. That one insisted that the big one had eaten the last one. This went back and forth for quite a while until even the god was getting disgusted with them.
Venturing to speak to them in their harsh speech he said, What, you dolts don't have any means of keeping track of who's eaten whom? Huh, the big one replied, our food speaks proper uz speech to us? What you mean? How us keep track when us runs out of toes and fingers. And he waved his hands and wriggled his toes and the god saw that each toe and finger had a hank of different coloured hair wrapped around them. We tried to wrap hair from meal around fingers and toes but we's not knows how to count once we has more than one hair on each toesie or finger so we's lost track. His partner showed that he had just as much hair wrapped around his toes and fingers as the big one.
The god shuddered at the profusion of hair wrapped around toes and fingers and said to them, If I show you how to keep track of who has eaten whom will you let me go? Well that started another big argument and resulted in much cuffing and shoving. Finally there was agreement and the trolls said, You show us how us get fair share of meals and we let youse go for sure. Promise on mom. The god knew this was an unbreakable oath for them so he agreed.
Taking one of his gray goose feather quills, his ink and his parchment he quickly jotted down the basics of counting above twenty and how to keep track of multiples of ten. The trolls watched interestedly and when he had finished and showed them they stared at it a bit and then immediately fell back to arguing who was going to eat him. The god was shocked, But I showed you how to keep track why are you going to eat me?
They looked over from where they'd gone to argue and said, What good that stupid thing for? Us uz can't see flat marks on flat snack. That no good to uz. Now we eat you. Since us so hungry we split you 60/40. Hey began the other you said 50/50. Hey whoever eat spleen first get 60 part okay? This met with unanimous agreement and they began to bear down on him. The god thought as fast as he ever thought before and yelled, Wait!
What now? We not getting any less hungry they said. The god quickly took his stylus and made marks in the dirt. Hey what you doing said the little one. Look said the god, each mark stands for one meal. You put nine marks this way and then at ten you put the next mark across the other nine. That way you keep track of ten meals. Once you have ten marks you put a bigger mark here to represent ten meals. Then you erase the marks over here and start again. That way you keep track of the tens and the ones.
You put your marks here and he puts his marks there. You each swear on your mother not to interfere with the marks and you can keep track of your meals. The pair looked in wonderment at the marks and roared their pleasure at the thought. Now you not hog all the Fire Tribe members the little one said. And you not hog all the Earth priestesses said the big one. They grinned, a terrible sight, and said to the god, Thanks now piss off before we change our minds.
Clutching the stylus in his hand and leaving the other writing tools where they lay the god ran out of the cave. As he ran he heard the big one say to the little one, Hey didin he call us dolts? Whats dolt anyway? He ran faster and then he heard loud roars of anger. This led wings to his heels and he hiked up his robes to free his skinny legs and didn't stop running until three days and nights had passed.
The god vowed to be more careful in the future but as he traveled ever northward he managed to stumble into the camp of a follower of Valind. This follower was a man twice as big and brutish as Urox and three times as smelly. The god tried to leave the campsite apologizing for his mistake but the brute grabbed his arm and made him sit down calling him a pretty little thing.
The god used his nimble wits and realized this could mean any one of three things. Firstly that the brute had terrible taste in women, secondly he was terribly desperate and lonely. Or thirdly he was blind as all get out. He grimaced and sat down. He quickly realized from the brute's conversation that he had missed the target with his mental darts and the brute just wasn't particularily choosy.
Lhankor Mhy looked with dread at this walking cliffside and knew he didn't have a chance against him in a fight and he certainly wasn't interested in playing Helering games with him. He even doubted that he could outrun him so he decided to use the only tool he had in his arsenal and trick him instead.
He pretended to like the man and played along long enough to lull the man into a completely accurate sense of security. Then the man tired of small talk and began to stretch and yawn. He began making cow's eyes at the god and Lhankor Mhy grimaced which the brute took for a smile of assent and thought fast of how he could prevent this. Sweet inspiration struck and he knew what to do. He asked the man how they should do it. The man stopped unfastening his garments in surprise, being a simple brute who thought there was only the one way and expressed his surprise at this. Oh yes said the god there are many, many ways.
And speaking in his most monotonous tone, the one his apprentices hated the most, he began to recount the many ways of coupling he knew of. The brute was fascinated by the variety but began to get frustrated by all this talk of coupling without the actual act. He began to finger his weapons and check the edges but Lhankor Mhy quickly assured him that the best forms of coupling were yet to come and to not be too hasty. This appeased the brute and he settled back down. His head began to droop as the god continued and finally he fell into a deep sleep.
Aha, thought the god and he crept over to the brute's sword to use it to decapitate him. Unfortunately the sword was made for a doughty warrior, not a sage and Lhankor Mhy couldn't even budge it. He then tried a shorter sword but to no greater effect. And so it went with all the brute's weapons down to the smallest dagger. The god began to panic as the brute stirred and looked around for a rock or something to brain him with. Unfortunately the biggest rock he could budge was no better than a pebble and when he had hoisted it, with some effort over his head, and brought it down on the brute's head it had no more effect than an acorn would have had.
This caused the god to cast about in a real panic since the brute began stirring some more. Finally he checked his pouch and finding his stylus and sharpening knife he quickly sharpened the stylus and drove it into the brute's ear killing him. Lhankor Mhy thought of taking the man's hair for his own but his hair was white not red. Leaving the brute's weapons and equipment behind he resumed his wanderings.
He met a hunter with dogs who told him that he was hunting a beast with red hair. This beast was huge and terrifying and had slain many people, men, women and children alike. The hunter had a hair he'd found while trailing the beast and showed it to the god. When Lhankor Mhy saw this hairs he lusted after the beast since it was just like the one's from his old beard.
Lhankor Mhy offered his services but the hunter said that he could do his own cooking and cleaning and that he always stayed celibate on the trail. Lhankor Mhy bristled at this and revealed to the hunter that he was a man. The hunter looked him up and down critically assessing his abilities and shaking his head at his obvious unsuitability. What good are you for the hunter asked. Lhankor Mhy spoke of his great knowledge and managed to list off all sorts of beasts and plants and their properties and told him of all the other things he knew about
The hunter shook his head dubiously and said that he could at the very least use him as bait. The god bristled at this but seeing no other option agreed to this. The pair wandered far and wide looking for signs of the beast. At first spoor was sparse but as they wandered ever northward it became more plentiful until the reached the remains of a stead.
Who the people were that had lived there no one could say for none of them had survived the monster's attack and little enough remained of them to tell of their lives. But the spoor here was fresh and the hunter knew he was very, very close. The pair followed the now obvious trail of the beast to its new lair. This was a cave set high on a cliffside with a ledge before it.
Since it was a fairly large ledge the hunter's plan was for Lhankor Mhy to stand outside the cave as far aways as he could get and get the monster's attention. Then the hunter would push a huge bolder conveniently placed over the mouth of the cave down on it killing it. Since the god couldn't see any flaws in this plan he agreed.
Lhankor Mhy crept as quietly as he could to his station. He was nervous so he fingered the string of counting beads in his satchel as he moved to position himself. This normally served to soothe his nerves but in his intense state of nervousness he broke the string. Annoyed by this he pulled his hand out of the pouch dropping all of the beads onto the ledge. They scattered and he stopped still to listen if the rattle of the beads had awoken the monster. The hunter gesticulated rudely at him and started to free the boulder.
Still nervous he started fingering his chalk. His fingers ground the chalk into dust and he clenched it in his hands in his terror. He was beginning to have second thoughts about the whole exercise when he saw the hunter give the agreed upon signal. He was pushing mightily on the boulder to what looked like no effect to the god but what did he know about about boulder shoving? So he cleared his throat and tried to yell. Disappointed by the sad squeak that came out he tried again and bellowed, Yoo hoo.
There was an answering snort from the cave and something slowly emerged. It was huge and furry, like nothing the god had ever seen before. He saw that it had a profusion of talons and teeth and limbs and he quavered frozen in place by his terror. Even in his terror he did admire the beast's luxurious red pelt. The monster still covered with the blood and gobbets of flesh from its last meal snorted as it saw the god and began to run towards him, forelimbs outstretched. Seeing it run towards him the god flung out his arms in horror and filled the air with chalk dust. As the beast neared it slipped on the beads and began to roll towards him. It growled in anger and frustration as it neared him and tried to grab him.
But the clouds of chalk dust obscured him and the creature rolled right past him flailing its limbs and went rolling on over the cliff's edge. The god heard a mighty crash as the monster struck down below and finally with a mighty grunt and a heave the hunter freed the boulder from its perch above the cave mouth. It fell down right where the monster had been moments before. The god wisely decided that this was a good time for a rest and fainted.
When he awoke he discovered that the fall had killed the beast. The hunter was very apologetic and swore to do whatever the god wanted if he allowed him to tell the story his way. The god looked dubiously at him and with limbs still aquiver just asked for a portion of the beast's pelt. The hunter said he would strip the whole hide off and give it to Lhankor Mhy but he asked for only the longest, most luxurious portion. The hunter agreed and gave it to him. Fashioning a beard from it with the hunter's help the pair parted amicably and with only a few further adventures the god returned to the Storm Tula.
The god was evasive and not forthcoming with the facts of his adventures, especially after it took Orlanth several days to stop laughing when he told him where he'd been so this story is not known to many.
"And that's how Lhankor Mhy got his beard back," Gunnar finished.
"But what part of the beast was the fur from?" asked young Lars.
Gunnar grimaced again and looked down saying, "From the creature's behind of course." And with that comment class was dismissed as a lost cause amid howls of laughter.
This story begun June 21, 2001. Finished January 22, 2003
Last updated September 25, 2016
Glorantha is a trademark of Chaosium, Inc. Gloranthan material on this page is copyright ©1997-2016 by Oliver D. Bernuetz or by the author specifically mentioned on an individual page. Glorantha is the creation of Greg Stafford, and is used with his permission.
Email me at email@example.com