War of the Red Moon
Tane the King
Once long ago, Ramtha the king of the gods embarked upon a long journey over the mountains. While he was gone, his great stone throne sat empty, and the gates to his mighty hall stood closed. Many who sought the king's judgment and guidance waited outside the gates, with no one to settle their disputes. Tane watched them from afar and saw an opportunity for mischeif. He dressed himself in regal robes, and made a great beard for himself from the wool of a shaggy ram, which he hung around his neck. He made a crown for himself out of tin polished to look like silver. Then, he crept into Ramtha's great hall and opened the gates, seating himself upon the throne.
The first to come before him were some farmers embroiled in dispute over who owned some fields between their lands. "Great and mighty Ramtha," said one, "my family has farmed these barley fields for generations, but now my neighbor seeks to take them for himself. Tell him the fields belong to us."
The other stepped forward and said, "Wise and beneficent Ramtha, his family has ignored those fields for years, but now that my family and I worked to plant them with barley, he seeks to steal our harvest!"
Tane smiled and threw wide his hands. "Silence!" He said, in a booming voice, "The great Ramtha has heard your pleas, and will now deliver judgment." He took two butter knives from the table and handed one to each man. "You are both dullards, so whomever can shave his beard off first with a dull knife shall have the fields!" He cackled as he watched the farmers hack and struggle at their beards. When they were almost done, he cried out again "Enough! Neither of you is worthy of the fields, and so I shall grant them to your better. Elpis the temple prostitute shall have the fields, for she is far more delightful to the mighty Ramtha than you. Now away!" And he sent the farmers away, rolling with laughter on his great stone throne.
The next to approach him was a man dragged before the great stone throne by his furious wife. She stepped before the throne and pointed at her husband. "Glorious and ascendant Ramtha," she said, "My husband became sotted with wine at the harvest festival and wandered off into the fields. I found him the next morning, asleep on a pile of hay next to the maiden Thekla. He has shamed me with his adultery, and I ask your justice upon him."
Tane stroked his shaggy beard and looked to the husband, "What do you have to say for yourself?" he thundered.
The husband shuffled his feet, "I did not touch the maid," he said, "We happened to fall asleep upon the same hay pile. That is all."
Tane turned to the wife, "Woman, are you not satisfied with his explanation?" he asked.
"Venerable and munificent Ramtha, it is a bald-faced lie!" The wife sputtered.
"That may be," said Tane, "But a man cannot be responsible for that which he does while drunk on wine, or else the whole world be judged guilty. Return to your home, and be at peace." Tane winked at the husband as he sent them away.
The last to approach the throne was the rebel god Orlanth, dressed in fine furs and bearing a great sword of iron. "So you are Ramtha," growled Orlanth. "Tales of your deeds have spread far and wide. They say you are powerful and wise, and that none can best you in combat. I have come to see for myself the truth of these words."
Tane shifted on the great stone thone. "I am the exalted and judicious Ramtha," he began, "and in power none is my equal. If you are wise, you will not even try to test me."
Orlanth took his great sword in two hands, striding forward. "Puny god, I am Orlanth! None is my better, so-called king. Defend yourself!" He charged at Tane, raising his sword to strike him down.
Tane threw up his hands and cried out, "Wait! Wait! I am not Ramtha, I am Tane! It was all a jape, see?" He pulled off his shaggy beard and threw down his crown of tin.
Orlanth lowered his sword and looked down upon Tane in disgust. "A weakling such as you is no worthy of my sword," he said, grabbing Tane from the great stone throne and hauling him before the people. He threw the beard and the crown of tin at their feet. "You have served a false king. See, he is naught but a fool. I will take my leave of you and your jester-king."
Incensed, Tane put up his hand. "You think you are so strong," he said, "But soon the real Ramtha will return. You'd not be so bold if he were here. His light covers the whole earth, and before him you are but a scrawny whelp."
As he left, Orlanth turned and Tane saw fierce intent in his eyes. "Someday I will find your Ramtha, and I will kill him." And one day Orlanth did, causing the great darkness that almost destroyed the world.
Tane ran into the woods to lick his wounds, but then he heard the people crying out. A great horde of trolls had come down from the mountains and had begun to plunder the fields and burn the houses. "Without Ramtha, who will save us from the trolls?" The people cried.
Tane emerged from the forest and called the people to his side with a ram's horn. "I will lead you, and together we will drive out the trolls." He said.
But the people looked at him in despair. "But even the greatest among us is a stripling compared to the might of a troll," they said.
"That may be, said Tane, "but we are many, and even the mightiest can be overcome if you are clever enough." He organized the people and helped them to hide among the trees of the forest. Then, Tane turned into a great white fox and crept up to the troll chieftain. Quickly, he jumped out of the fields and stole the chieftain's great bone headdress, running towards the forest with it in his mouth. The trolls gave chase, and were lured into the forest, where the people attacked them. Arrows flew out of the bushes and men with swords and torches charged from seemingly all sides, and the trolls were filled with terror. The survivors fled into the mountains and did not return for many years.
The people cheered Tane and threw a great feast in his honor. They learned the power of cleverness, and Tane learned responsibility. When Ramtha returned home, he found his great stone throne just as he had left it.