Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wednesday Comics: The Lion, The Witch & Her Wardrobe

"The Lion, The Witch & Her Wardrobe"
Artesia #5 (May 1999) Story & Art by Mark Smylie

Synopsis: Artesia is weary. Her army has been pushing forward without rest. Her crow (really the war-spirit Demidice) returns to show her visions of what transpires in the wider world: She sees the Thessid forces breaching falls and destroying the watchtowers. The Empire's armies are triumphant thanks a a traitor.

Then she sees what will transpire in the future:

She "dreams of the death of the world" and her "heart sings with joy."

She awakens, unsure of what she has seen, though her lieutenant Ferris recognizes the mark of the lionheaded goddess Hathnalla upon her. Coincidentally (or not) her bannerman Hueylin has returned from treatment by the surgeon's of Hathnalla's cult. Artesia instructs Hueylin and a group of men to stay behind to speak for her army--and make sure the food, supplies, and coin keep flowing to keep them in the field, whether King Bran joins them or not.

Two captains approach with word from Pavel, the emissary. Bran will not parley. The citadel is sealed and none enter or leave. Artesia had a bad feeling. She sends the two captains to watch Dara Dess and she rides out to a shrine to Djara.

She's joined at the shrine by a pale woman, Urgrayne, Witch-Queen of the Harath-Eduins. She knew Artesia's mother and what she could have been--what she could have made Artesia, instead of the soldier she has become. Now she goes to fight for the Middle Kingdom that turned her king against her--and killed her loved ones:

They were all murdered because they laughed at the Agallite's defeat at Artesia's hands. The Agallites had killed Lysia the night before, even though Bran wished her spared as his seer. The priests cursed them as they died so the death guides couldn't find them. At the urging of Lysia's spirit, Urgrayne searched and found these others as the Wild Hunt rode the night. Some were lost though.

Artesia thanks Urgrayne for saving them, but she has not:

Artesia must bind them, but she only knows how to do minor charms or make war spirits her servant. The ghost of Lysia says there are other ways, and she will show her. Artesia strips her armor and draws sigils on her skin. She performs the ritual and binds them to her body, makes them part of her.

Things to Notice:
  • We see the goddess Hathnalla for the first time
  • And the Isklids--more on them in later issues.
The title is a bit jokey for the heaviness of the issue, but it's an accurate one.

Hathnalla, Ferris's leoncephalic goddess, was likely inspired by Sekhmet and equally leonine Egyptian goddess whose purview was also war and healing. Her name suggests both Anath (a Semitic war goddess) and Valhalla (the Hall of the Slain in Norse myth).

Djara as a goddess of crossroads, resembles the Greek goddess Hecate. Her idol is depicted as three faced, just like Hecate's. Urgrayne, who is (perhaps poetically, perhaps not) is a variant on Ygraine or Igraine, ultimately derived to Eigyr, the mother of King Arthur.


Timothy S. Brannan said...

Quite enjoying these!

Trey said...

Thanks. While it's more focused on the sword-swininging, there's probably enough witch stuff here to make it right up your alley.

garrisonjames said...

This is a great series, a perfect follow-up to Grell's Warlord. My only complaint is that you're making me want to spend money to go get these comics...