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Fact or Fiction

ArachneArachne

Who would think, watching the humble spider, that one such creature lived as Arachne, a proud and beautiful maiden? Now few people admire Arachne - she scuttles on spindly legs, fangs swivel in greedy mouth, and she sees the world through four pairs of beady eyes.

As a girl, Arachne could weave better than anyone. She thought her work so wonderful that she challenged Athene, the goddess of the homely arts, to best her in a contest. Thinking that she would teach Arachne a lesson, the goddess accepted.

Arachne The girl and the goddess sat at their looms. Athene's work was soon finished - perfect in design and execution. Meanwhile, the finest cloth in the world as Arachne wove. Pale with fury, Athene realized that it depicted the failings of the gods.

Athene tore the fragile cloth and cried, "Since you have such a talent for weaving, let it be your task for evermore." As soon as the words were spoken, Arachne felt her skillful hands shrink and curve into tiny spinning organs. She saw her skin turn hard and shiny. Her entire body shrivelled up. She had become a spider. To this day, the curse of the goddess follows her - Arachne still spins and weaves her perfect webs.


CyclopsCyclops

On his long wanderings across the seas, the great Odysseus came to an island where the Cyclops, a race of terrible giants, lived. Each Cycop stood as tall as a pine tree, and in the middle of his forehead shone just one eye. The eye was always on the lookout for prey, for the giants loved to feast on human flesh.

Odysseus and his men came ashore and decided to go to sleep in a cave. When they awoke, they were not alone. A Cyclop had spotted them as he sheltered some goats in a cave. Now he wanted them for a meal and would not let them out.

Cyclops

Odysseus thought of a ruse. He offered the giant some wine and soon the drunken Cyclop was asleep. Odysseus rammed a sharp wooden stake into the giant's eyeand blinded him. With a scream, the giant woke up. He flung himslef across the cave opening and blocking it, so the men could not get out.

At length it was time for the flock to be let out. As the animals filed past, the Cyclop checked that no-one was trying to crawl out between them, but did not touch the beasts themselves. This was a mistake wily Odysseus had expectec. Thus hanging upside down from the shaggy underbelly of the goats, the hero and his men escaped to freedom.

It is believed that Cyclops having two eyes preyed to an evil god for the ability to see the future. The evil god tricked Cyclops and took away one eye and in return the only future that they see, is their death.


DragonDragons

Famed is the dragon of legend, both in the West and in the East. The Eastern dragon is possessed of immense grace and power. It's long, lithe body is covered in brightly coloured scales and a wild mane frames its camel-like face. Large antlers sprout like graceful coral branches from its head.

Such a wondrous creature takes a long time to grow. It takes a thousand years for a dragon's egg to hatch. The infant dragon resembles a small snake a little betrays its great destiny. After a thousand years more, it acquires strong clawed feet and another thousand years later, the later is fully fledged.

Dragon

Dragons live wild and free, and are masters of wind and water. They sleep in palaces of jade and rock crystal deep under rivers and seas and, when they wake, ethey fly high in the sky, looping and dancing on the wind. They can summon up storms and rain, and also bring great bounties.

A dragon's tooth can cure madness, and the pearl a treasure-guarding dragon possesses is a great boon. It guarantees health and riches. Indeed, so mighty is the the dragon that it has become the symbol of the most powerful man in the land.


SkeletonDragons Teeth

He who would confront a magic army needs some magic of his own. How else would one, however bold, fight against living skeletons? Their bones creak and crackle, and their faces are stripped of all flesh, but no mortal can overcome them unaided.

Long ago, a king versed black arts up such a deathly force prevent the great hero Jason from winning a fleece made of gold. The skeletons were born of dragon's teeth that the king tricked Jason into sowing.

As soon as it touched the ground, each tooth turned into a menacing skeleton, brandishing a sword. Soon the skeletal warriors were winning. Luckily, the kings own daughter, the sorceress Medea, had taught Jason how to defeat her father's magic. Jason threw a small, smooth stone into the midst of the surging army.

SkeletonInstantly, the skeletons started to fight among themselves. Bleached skulls flew through the air, arm and leg bones piles on the ground. The skeletons destroyed each other, and Jason went on to claim the precious fleece. Bracery helped him succeed, but not without the help of sorcery.


DukuDuku

Long ago, when the world was young, people discovered the secret of fire. Duku, the Monitor Lizard, had had the brightest hearth. People admired Duku. He had long curved claws for digging out crocodile eggs, and a tough, scaly skin covered his body. His strength was immense and few would have dared tussle with him.

One day, there came a terrible storm. The heavens opened, enormous waves lashed the shore, and soon a flood destroyed the houses and put out nearly all the fires.

Duku's fire was drenched, but he managed to save one log. It still red and hot. The lizard carried it to a tall tree, and started climbing. He put the log in his jaws, but the log burned his lips. In the anguish. Duku called to his wife, a clever, agile civet cat. She grabbed the log with her claws and sped to the tallest branches. There, she and Duke kept the embers aglow, under a large leaf for protection against the rain.

DukuAt last, the storm abated and the flood ebbed away. Duke and his wife came down, and showed the people the still-burning log. The people were overwhelmed with gratitude, for who can do withour fire? The Monitor Lizard has been held in respect ever since.


IsisIsis

Strange companions sometimes attend gods and goddesses. When the god Osiris was murdered, his sorrowful wife searched for his body, escorted by seven scorpions. The creatures scuttled about her wherever she went, their tails arched in menace.

At length Isis found Osiris's coffin, built into the central pillar of a great queen's palace. To be near Osiris, Isis became a nurse to the monarchs son. As time went by, Isis grew fond of the child. One night, however, the queen took a peep into the nursery, and screamed in horror at what she saw. The little prince had been thrown into a great fire, and Isis's scorpions were surrounding the blaze.

IsisWhen Isis heard the cries, she turned to the queen and said "Oh queen, the flames my scorpions are watching over would have bestowed eternal life upon your son, and now you have broken the spell. Woe be you! Now you will remain an ordinary mortal."

Then Isis left, taking her scorpion escort and the central pillar of the palace. With the help of other gods, Isis revived her husband, but the couple could not come back to our world. Isis and Osiris became the lords of the after-life.


RatRats of Hamelin

For as long as time itself, people have feared rats. Rats hide inside houses and slip unseen through walls and passages, spreading dirt and disease. Indeed, long ago, it was rats that carried the Black Death all over Europe.

The mountain town of Hamelin once became so infested with rats that the councillors offeres a reward to anyone who could get rid of the rodents. A stranger came to town, playing a merry tune on a thin silver pipe. He offered to do the job.

He started playing a fast tune, and rats appeared from every house. In their thousands, they followed the piper down to the river. As the tune got even faster, the rats jumped into the river and drowned.

RatWhen the piper claimed his claimed his reward, the councillors refused to pay him. What could a poor piper do to them? The stranger picked up his silver pipe and started to play a wonderful new tune.

As he made his way through town, children rushed out to hear him. They followed him as he climbed up the mountain, they were with him when the mountain opened, and they stayed with him inside after the mountain closed. The children were never seen again, and the people of Hamelin did rue the day when they failed to keep their promise.


ShadeRusalki

It is whispered that powerful spirits haunt many pools and streams. They are the ghosts of young girls who drowned and became one of the pitiless Rusalki, or water maidens. Such ghostly maidens appear in many guises: the loveliest are as sweet as spring, draped in dresses of mist. But some drowned girls are not so lucky - they turn into terrifying hags. Their skin rots and becomes grey,their eyes bulge in dreadful menace and their wet, tangled hair hangs sadly about their pale faces.

The mere sight of these spectres can strike fear into the stoutest heart. Danger from water maidens is greatest in the wintertime, when they spend long months dwelling in rivers and ponds. At a whim, they can bewitch man or child.

ShadeAs the Rusalki rise from the cold misty water, they call to their victims in imploring voices. Their prey cannot resist such pleas. They wade in after the sprite and barely feel the cold bite of the river. As they take the maiden's icy hand, she pulls them into the water. She takes them down further and further until they drown and join them in death. Some Rusalki even rejoice in inflicting drawn-out tortures upon their unhappy victim!

Thus do water maidens hold dangerous powers. Travellers should always carry the one know talisman against their witchery-a sprig of wormwood,the charmed herb used to ward off enchantments.


PsirenPsirens

The power of music is not always used for good, as the hero Odysseus discovered when he met the Psirens. Psirens have the body of a bird and the face of a woman and,with voices as sweet as their hearts are bitter, they lure sailors to their deaths.

When Odysseus came upon their small island, the Psirens were singing in a way that no man had ever resisted. Fortunately Odysseus had been forewarned . He asked his oarsmen to lash him to the mast as they rowed past the evil creatures. Thus he would hear the heavenly music that had led so many to their deaths, but not give in to it. To protect his men and render them deaf to his own pleadings, which he knew would come, he had blocked thier ears with wax.

PsirenAs the mariners approached the Psirens' island, Odysseus begged his men to free him. The men could not hear him and kept on pulling on the oars. In despair, the hero struggled and strained against the ropes that tied him, but he could not break free.

As the men rowed away, the Psirens threw themselves into the sea. The Fates had ruled that should anyone resist thier charms, the Psirens were to be turned into rocks. To this day, they remain a group of jagged outcrops rising out of the water.


WyrmTreasure Wyrm

Long ago, there ruled a great hero named King Beowulf. his last and perhaps greatest deed was to defeat an evil treasure wyrm. The wyrm had immense wings and a scaly body. Sharp fangs lined its jaws, jagged claws grew on its paws, and burning flames shot out from its body with every breath it took.

For centuries, the wyrm had been guarding a glittering treasure, buried deep within the earth. One day, one of Beowulf's men found the treasure and stole a golden cup from the hoard.

WyrmBack at Beowulf's court, he boasted of his find. Even as the man spoke, the furious wyrm was rising high into the sky. It shot long blasts of flames over every house in the kingdom. By morning, Beowulf ruled over a charred landscape.

The king set off in revenge and, with his companion Wiglaf, fought the monster. Thier hearts were brave and, after a long fight, the two slew the monster, but not before it had mortally wounded Beowulf.

Beowulf's knights buried the king under a great mound of earth. Around him lay the gold and jewels that had brought death to the king and the evil wyrm.


ZombieZombies

Some people walk the earth that are not dead, yet not alive. Powerful magic has brougth these unhappy creatures back from death, yet they do not belong to the world of the living. They are zombies, sad slaves to a heartless master.

Their lifelessness marks zombies out. They move, but their backs are bent and they shuffle along slowly. They speak-but their words mean nothing. They have no will of their own, so zombies can be set to labour at exhausting tasks, inharsh conditions.

It is said that zombie-masters rob their victims of their souls by swapping them with those of lizards or certain butterflies. Thay also use a magic power and a spell, or give their victims poison. The zombie-masters' secret recipes use noxious weeds known only by practitioners of the black arts.

ZombieThe great fear that preys upon zombie-masters is that their slaves might regain their freedom. This can be achieved if the zombies are given salt. As the zombies' soul return, the victims feel great despair and set out to exact terrible revenge on the sorcerer that was their master. Then they try to make their way back to their graves, there to find the rest of which they were so unjustly robbed.

 

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