Telling Tales 23
The View from the Sky
“It is not,” said the Silver Queen, “that my husband and I had a traumatic courtship. Unlike my younger brother, the King Fisher, whose pursuit of his wife was tenacious and passionate and, for her in particular, quite dangerous, Imiq and I had an arranged marriage. The Sky People, where I am from, did not have relations one way or the other with the Ocean People, who are my husband’s. That changed when Turtle grew the Land.
“You see, it was once that there was no land whatsoever, not here, not in the place from where you travel, with your witches and wizards, Baba Yaga and Koschey the Deathless. Raven, who is a troublemaker, asked Turtle to find the bottom of the Ocean. He said that he had been watching Turtle’s eggs for her, but that he had dropped one, when in fact he had eaten it. He hoped that Turtle would die at the bottom of the ocean and that he would not get in trouble. But he is Raven, and he is always in trouble, although sometimes, because he is Raven, the it all turns out for the best.
“Turtle did not know that Raven was lying, so she swam and swam and swam until she reached the bottom. It took her many days, but even when she was there, she found no egg, and how could she, since Raven had never lost it? She returned to the surface, where Raven had eaten a second. ‘What is the bottom like?’ asked Raven. ‘It is soft,’ Turtle answered him. ‘That explains it,’ said Raven. ‘The egg is in the soft bottom. You will probably have to dig.’
“So Turtle dove again, but this time she asked Gull to keep an eye on Raven, because she no longer trusted him. When she got to the bottom, she dug and dug, but there was no sign of her eggs. She gathered up the substance she found there to prove to Raven that there was nothing there, covering her shell and saving more in the cracks between her feet. When she got to the surface, Gull was screaming at Raven and Raven was screaming at Gull and Turtle could barely tell one from another, for in those days, Raven was as white as Gull, his feathers gleaming under the sun. Gull had stopped Raven from eating a third egg and Raven was saying that it was nothing but a misunderstanding, but Turtle would not listen to him. ‘You found something, didn’t you?’ said Raven. ‘You know I am innocent.’ ‘I know you are guilty,’ said Turtle, and she threw the mud from the bottom of the ocean all over Raven, which is why he is so dark today. She took her eggs back from Gull and thanked her for her friendship, and determined to settle her affairs herself.
‘She stayed in one place on the water until the mud on her back flowed connected back to the bottom of the ocean, and that was the first dry land. The ocean people and the sky people, we were all curious. The fish that were caught on Turtle’s back above the surface became animals of the land, and of course none of us had seen bear or caribou or deer or boar. Soon they became sick. Even as the land spread and grew and produced trees and life of all kinds, it became more and more ill. As quickly as it had all grown, it was all dying.”