Many lifetimes ago, in the city of Tiari, there lived the beautiful Zésri, the daughter of the Magistrate of that city. This slender and elegant vixen was well-known to the people, for she often went among them, doing good works among the poor and needy. Some whispered that she was a reincarnation of Krilárah herself, returned from the Edge of Heaven to dry her children’s tears.
At that time Tiari suffered greatly from the depredations of corsairs, who raided the city almost daily in their airships, killing many in their lust for riches. Their leader was an ugly brute, the rhinoceros Harisalábik. Many knew only as the dreaded Bloodhorn, as he dyed his horn an evil red. His face was slashed with scars, and his heart was as cold as a demon’s eyes.
On one of his raids, Bloodhorn spied Zésri in the streets. His icy heart took flame, and he gave chase, but the Devah guided her steps and she escaped his grasp. He took several prisoners that day, and he asked the same question of each one: Who is the lovely fox maiden with the emerald eyes? And each answered the same: she is Zésri, daughter of the Magistrate. For the first time in his bloodthirsty career, Bloodhorn set his prisoners free.
The next day, Bloodhorn’s airship dropped anchor at the Magistrate’s palace. He demanded an audience with the Magistrate, who nervously complied. Bluntly, the brutish rhino asked him to hand over Zésri, whom he would make his concubine. The Magistrate, shocked beyond fear, immediately refused. Bloodhorn paced up and down, and in a low, threatening voice, described to the Magistrate how the streets of Tiari would run with blood if Zésri was not given to him. The Magistrate, pale but resolute, continued to refuse. But Zésri, who had been listening from behind a tapestry, stepped into the room.
“If I come to you, will you leave this city in peace?” she asked. Bloodhorn, momentarily struck dumb by her beauty, simply nodded. “Then I will go with you,” she answered. “But you must give me three days to prepare. I must say farewell to my family and make offerings at the temple.” Bloodhorn, finally able to speak, answered gruffly, “I agree. I will return in three days time.” Zésri answered him, saying, “Do not come here, it will only distress my father further,” and indeed her father was weeping, his face in his hands. “Come to my sister’s house. It is in such-and-such a district, and it has a blue roof that can easily be seen from the sky.” Bloodhorn bowed, saying “This I will do.”
Bloodhorn returned to his airship, and his fleet withdrew from the city completely, leaving the inhabitants at peace for the first time in many months. Word of Zésri’s bravery and sacrifice spread like wildfire, and the people whispered together in the marketplace. Zésri herself seemed unaffected, as she calmly made preparations for her departure. She said her farewells to her family, and visited the temple of Krilárah on the evening of the second day, praying that the Devah would watch over her people. That night the city was in an uproar. Strange noises were heard, and lights were seen in every quarter. But Zésri slept soundly, unafraid for herself, and content to know that her people would be safe.
As the third day dawned, Bloodhorn’s fleet of airships returned to Tiari. Bloodhorn stood on the deck of his ship, surveying the city at first with surprise and then with growing anger. Overnight, every roof in every district had been painted blue. Unable to find Zésri, he landed again at the Magistrate’s palace, its roof alone a gleaming white. He charged into the Magistrate’s audience chamber, roaring that he had been tricked, and vowing to exact a terrible vengeance on all of Tiari. The Magistrate quailed before him, pleading for mercy for his people, but Bloodhorn was not to be appeased. He struck the Magistrate once across the face, and returned to his airship, shouting orders to his crew as he went.
As the corsairs prepared to rain destruction on the city, they heard a strange noise. Looking up, the terrified crews saw a huge Vürtach, easily ten times the size of their largest ship, bearing down on the fleet. Its huge mandibles closed on the first ship, tearing it in two as easily as if it were tearing paper, sending its crew to their deaths far below. The other airships tried to flee, but one by one the shrieking creature seized and destroyed them, until the sky was filled with falling bits of debris. Lastly it came to Bloodhorn’s ship, where Bloodhorn himself, armed with a sabre, stood his ground, slashing at the thing as it came. The Vürtach grasped him in its mandibles, and flew upwards with him for several hundred feet before dropping him. His wild curses ended abruptly as his body hit the roof of the Magistrate’s palace. Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, the Vürtach was gone.
The people of the city, who had cowered in fear during the attack, came out into the streets, celebrating the destruction of their enemies. Zésri herself, wide-eyed and astonished, looked out on the City of Blue Roofs, and gave thanks to Krilárah for her salvation.
And some say that the Vürtach was a wild beast, driven from its usual haunts by hunger. Others say that it was sent by Krilárah herself, to keep her most devout worshiper from harm. And still others say that it was called by Laksha, the Magistrate’s ancient sir’hibas summoner, who was found dead in her rooms later that day. But all agreed that Bloodhorn had gotten no more and no less than he deserved.
In later years Zésri went on to rule Tiari with a wise and gentle hand. And from that time forward, citizens of Tiari paint their roofs blue in memory of Zésri and the city’s deliverance from Bloodhorn and his Corsairs.