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Come one, come all, come old, come young
and listen as I tell the tale of Sirius of the Bourant Hurai.
It is a tale of sadness, a tale of woe,
it is a tale of happiness, a tale of joy.

When the world was younger and the people freer,
the seas were still old, the mountains wise.
Far to the south, across the desert
lay Rutan, kingdom of the Bourant Hurai.

The storyteller's voice was good, even if her poetry wasn't, mused Sukhdev as he listened idly. Before long, however, he was drawn into the storyteller's tale of Sirius, the last great prince of the Bourant Hurai...

Long ago and far away (as it always is in these tales), in the kingdom of Rutan there lived a race of people called the Bourant Hurai. For long, the Bourant Hurai had been regarded as a wise and kind people. At the time of this tale, they were led by the great prince Sirius. Sirius was a great warrior whose skills in battle were renowned yet he was also gentle and kind. He could tame any beast and he was a famed horseman. He treated his own people with great tenderness and showed much mercy to his enemies, but beyond even that, his fame lay as a scholar.

A search for knowledge and understanding was his great love - a search that would ultimately lead to his downfall. For Sirius travelled far and wide, not only seeking knowledge, but also sharing it. It was this that brought him to the attention of the gods themselves.

As they studied him, they became afraid, for they believed that knowledge was dangerous for mankind. As a precious vase is snatched away from a child, so they tried to snatch knowledge from humanity. They still saw us as we had been when the gods first came to this world and could not see that we had grown into adulthood and maturity. They saw Sirius as a second Prometheus, bringing knowledge - much more dangerous, in their closed minds, than fire - to humanity.

This man, Sirius, held another secret that frightened the gods. They saw it and could not understand it, for he had a soul that was at least as great as theirs. So in their fear, they followed him, wherever he went. But wherever he went, men would love him and hate the gods. They could not see that they would be the cause of their own downfall. All that they could see was that wherever Sirius went, men began to resist the will of the gods and so began the great war. For through the teachings of Sirius, men realised that they no longer needed the gods and that they could be their own masters, guided by their own lore and wisdom, not that of the ancient gods.

The gods could not see that their time was over and that they should pass gracefully from our world. It was inevitable that they should pass forever into memory and legend. But they had grown complacent in all their millennia of watchfulness and had forgotten this most important of wisdom, and so it was that it was left to humanity to free itself of a guardian turned prison warder.

The gods realised that they could not defeat Sirius through force alone, so they turned to a more subtle power. Not for naught is it said that those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad. So they plagued Sirius with nightmares throughout his days and nights. They sent him doppelgangers and beautiful women, visions of dwarves and giants. They sought to overthrow his mind.

Sirius' mind was strong, his soul was great, but over the years they wore him down and eventually a day came when none could wake him. They could only stand by and watch in pity as his mind lay, wrapped in its own torture and pain.

Yet though the gods thought that their work was complete and that Sirius would never be a threat to them again, they could not understand the workings of the human heart. Despite their millennia of existence and all the time that they spent watching humanity, they could not understand nor feel human love. And so it was that Vena, of the people of Katar, saw Sirius in his pain and misery and fell in love with him. She stayed by his side for forty days and forty nights weeping for him and taking his pain as her own. At dawn, on the forty-first day of his torment, Sirius' eyes opened to behold the most beautiful woman that he had ever seen. And he cried out, for he had seen her in his dreams. A guide beckoning him towards the light, a source of comfort during the pain, a beacon of hope amidst despair.

Sirius spent many weeks recovering from his illness, and Vena stayed with him, loving him more in life than she had in his living death. And he found that he also loved her and so they were married under the shadow of the mountain. On their wedding day, Sirius proclaimed that the time was come to overthrow the gods themselves!

So a mighty army was gathered, from all the lands of the world and hundreds of battleships were built for the final assault on Atla'musu - the fabled island home of the gods.

Whilst the gods could see what was happening, they could only look on in impotence, for with the sudden rise of Man, their power was waning fast. Once they could have laughed at such a fleet and brushed it off like lint from a coat, and yet now they trembled in fear. But even now, when they saw their end was near, they would not retreat. In their blinkered way, they still saw Sirius as their main threat. Once he is vanquished, they thought, the rest will crumble and fall. So they put forth their power one last time. It took all their strength but they gave Sirius what in their childish way they thought that all men desired - immortality.

They rooted him to the spot as he stood atop the White Cliff gazing towards Atla'musu. As he stood and gazed, Vena turned towards him and gave a strangled stream, for the gods had turned him to wood and even as she watched, he grew and changed and became a mighty oak, swaying in the wind. And so the gods thought that they were safe once more, for Sirius, trapped as an oak, living forever, yet living never, could never be a threat to them again.

Yet once again, they failed to understand the power of love. With her lover lost to her forever, Vena's wrath was great. She bound Sirius' armies to her will and led the attack on Atla'musu. The battle raged for days, for weeks and even months, for the gods had the impetus of desperation. Yet slowly but surely, they were driven further and further toward the centre of their isle until finally they were defeated. Nobody gained any pleasure from the defeat of those whom they had worshipped for centuries, but all knew that it had to be done.

Before they left, the gods issued one final declaration - that no power would release Sirius from his prison until the time was right; that not even the might of the gods at the peak of their strength could do that. So even to the last, they made no attempt to heal the division between man and god.

Her task done, Vena retired to her home. There she stayed for many years, studying and learning of the forces within. Finally, she made one last journey, to see Sirius one more time. There she bound herself to him with forces beyond the comprehension of gods, to sleep forever more until Sirius is released from his prison.

Yet even from the curse of the gods, Sirius eventually found a way to escape. He put his essence into his own seed and let it float in the wind until it came to ground and began to grow once more. Thus he gained a limited mobility and over time he learned more control, until he could pass in this way, from oak to chestnut, cherry to pine.

And what of the Bourant Hurai? Well, they were a wise people. They saw that their work in the world was done. And so over time, they stepped out of the world, watching it go past until the world forgot them and the debt that it owed to the Bourant Hurai and their valiant prince.

And finally, what of Sirius, the great leader and doom of the gods? Well, perhaps it is best to let the storyteller tell it in her own words:

Sirius watches the world that he knew change and die
watches and waits for the time that shall come.
For someday the curse shall be broken and knowledge renewed
Sirius and Vena shall walk, hand in hand, once more.

– March 2002