Humakt and the Earth Tribe

As is well known, when Humakt set out to retrieve the Death that had been stolen from him, he gathered up the pieces he could find from those who had taken it for their own use. And he learnt more about it as he did so, seeing the effect it had had on them. For instance, when he took back Death from Aldrya, he saw then that her people did not have the power to separate from each other, but spoke as one mind. Even those plants that grew in the Darkness, like mushrooms, were one with the rest. And he learned from her that Life was harmed by Death.

But there were also those who had taken up Death not out of choice, but in order to defend themselves from those who would use it against them. So it was when he came to the lodge of the Earth Tribe. The harvest had been gathered into the store and guarded, Badger growled from his lair, Snake hissed from the rafters, even the smallest furry creatures came from their burrows to dance rituals against the enemies of the tribe.

And there was a great piece of Death, in the middle of the lodge, untouched. Few of the Earth tribe would go near it.

The Green Woman came to face him, unafraid, for already she knew Humakt would not attack without good reason.

"Lady", he said, "you do not want this thing. You may wish to defend yourselves, but only to return your enemies to the Great Cycle. The power to separate them from it completely is not for you."

"You are right", she said. "Little use to save ourselves from the harm enemies would do us, if the harm we do to ourselves is worse. We would not wish to keep this thing: take it."

Humakt went to take Death from where it stood, but Badger hung on to it grimly, determined to defend his mistress whether she wanted it or not. He could not win against the God, but refused to give in. It would have been easy for Humakt to crush the beast beneath his foot, but instead he simply pulled Death from between Badger's jaws. "I cannot let you keep this", he said. "But since you fight so valiantly to retain Separation, wear its sign on your face from now on." And ever since that day, Badger has had a black and white mask.

"How will you protect yourself now, Lady?" he asked. And wondered at himself, for it was none of his concern.

"I have my defenders", she replied. And a snake rose from the ground beneath her feet, and Humakt saw the tiny piece of Death in its fangs. He could take it, add it to the rest of the Death he had fought to win. But a toothless snake would be no defence against the PreDark. "I would not wish to take this thing", he said "keep it." As he spoke, he realised that it was True. And Humakt has never used poison from that day.

All the Death he had sensed in that lodge was now accounted for: yet as he turned to leave, he was faced by women bearing axes. "Will you take my Death, also?" asked the youngest.
The axe raised against him was not familiar. It was not one of the pieces of Death he was seeking, but something different and alien, something he had met before, but warped almost beyond recognition.
"What you hold there is not Death", he said. "Look at its Truth. It was your Life, once, before the Death you grasped injured it."
She did not believe him, but he recognized the injuries she had taken from his own enemy, Zorak Zoran, and the sickness that had afflicted Aldrya when Death came too close to her Life. But both he and Aldrya had chosen their paths. He turned back to the Green Woman. "I harmed her by bringing Death into the world, for she took it up only to defend her kin. I cannot undo that harm. But I can take responsibility for it, and for her. And I can give her a gift that may protect her."
And he gave her his battle rage. After that, Humakt fought without emotion. But Babeester Gor was feared as much for her anger as for her axe.

And Humakt learned from the Earth Tribe to take responsibility for his actions. Later, he passed that lesson on.