The Eshu are born of the dreams of the Middle East and Africa; they are wanderers and storytellers, and have no peers as navigators in the Dreaming. They are also incorrigible risk-takers, unable to resist a dare or wager if they feel they might succeed, no matter the danger. These things all give them a reputation for being unreliable, but few kithain would refuse them a place at the table to hear their stories of far off lands.
The Eshu were the First and they will be the Last... and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
Mythic Age Edit
The Sidhe would like everyone to believe they were there in the beginning but it's not true. How do the Eshu know? Because They were there, looking over the whole world, and didn't see a single one. It was many years before they had any company at all.
In the beginning was Olorun, the Owner of the Sky, and he looked down from his palace and saw the emptiness of the world which was only sky, and void, and water. So he sent his younger son, Obatala, the maker, to fashion the world and fill it with all manner of creatures. He had his older son, Orunmila, the diviner, fashion it so that it ran smoothly and that those who practiced the magic of the future could glimpse its functioning. When all that was done, Olorun sent Eshu, his linguist and messenger, to go down and start collecting sacrifices for him in return for having made everything possible.Eshu, who had authority over roads and gateways, was only too glad to do so and he loved to cause mischief for those who didn't give him the proper respect. He was neither good nor evil but only himself; playing tricks because it was his way. The good learned, the wicked suffered, but even that didn't matter to Eshu because he was just a servant of Olorun and he was happy with that.
As Eshu travelled he sired children (that's his way too) and while they were only partly divine, they shared their father's laughter and view of the world as well as some of his power. Restless souls they, too, took to the roads to find their father; bringing chance and adventure as the went. Some wanted to be like Eshu and so they taught and punished and explored. They were the first of the Ojo: The followers of life, daylight, and destiny. One might consider them Seelie. Others were mad at their father for leaving them and so they stole, told lies, and played mean tricks on people. They became the Iku: The followers of death, darkness, and randomness. One might consider them Unseelie. There were so many of these children that people began to think of them as Eshu himself and started worshipping them instead of Eshu himself.
Of course Eshu heard of all this and was full of anger that his name had been stolen and so came to the world to investigate. When he saw what his children were doing, though, he laughed and forgot his wrath. His children had learned their lessons well and if the humans had tricked themselves, well, that was their problem. But he had to punish his children some way because they still had stolen his name, wickedly or not. If he didn't, why, then all the names of creation could be stolen and everything would be returned to emptiness.He thought for days and nights until he had the punishment just right then called all his children to him. One group of them, though, fearing punishment, fled into hiding and preying upon the weak to keep themselves alive. These cowards became the first Aithu. They didn't hear the words of Eshu. And what did Eshu tell his children? A great and powerful secret, the first hidden lore the Tribe was entrusted to keep. From that day forward they became the Elegbara, the chosen children of Elegba Eshu the Powerful Knife, keepers of his sacred places and his messengers to the world. He solemnly commended them to follow his footsteps well; wandering the roads, learning secrets, and testing those they came across. And with that he blessed them and kissed each one to seal his magic in them, then flew into the sky laughing.
While a few of the Elegbara stayed together to speak of the matters that concerned them all, most scattered again. There was too much to see and do to rest and think of such things. They sought the edge of the world. Fantastic tales began following them because they feared nothing and took any risk offered them, and the tales of Eshu and his deeds are bigger and wilder. The dew who stayed became rulers of their lands, bonding with them, learning their secrets, and tending the sacred places. These guardians still remain, watching over the Tribe, keeping the hearth fires burning. They alone remain true to the pure bloodline of Eshu and sacrificed their freedom on the trails to preserve the heritage of the Eshu. These are the Oba.
So what, you may be asking, was their punishment? Eshu got his children to do his job for him and to enjoy it. Isn't he clever?
The Sundering Edit
Unfortunately nothing stays perfect forever. The Elegbara travelled far and saw much but the humans were learning too, especially to fear the Elegbara, envy their gifts, and desire their power. They developed ever greater weapons and clever tools as they turned the world against the Eshu. Cities grew more marvelous, customs more intricate, works more impressive, but the motives were tainted. The Eshu were busy teaching and forgot to learn and when the Dreaming started separating from the world of flesh, what is known as the Sundering, it caught them completely off guard. Some of the trails the Eshu used, the trods, became harder to travel. The distance between worlds frightened them which was new since travel had always been a gift. They hadn't trusted their on Ifa (Divinations) or seen the signs. They were too distracted.
It can't all be blamed on Elegbara nearsightedness, however. During their travels, they wondered while they wandered if they were the only ones or if other keisha, like Eshu, had sired children. And then they met the other fae. It was good to meet others who understood something of there life plus some even seemed to understand life the same way. Others couldn't shake the prejudices of their mortal kin and instantly dislike them. It would be wrong to say the Eshu didn't at times return that prejudice but they had seen a lot by this time to usually get wrapped up in such pettiness. They tried to stay above it and some of the Kithain thought them arrogant and aloof because of it. The Eshu didn't care and just kept telling their stories and teaching their ways so the others would understand them.
The fact that the Eshu did consider the other fae mostly barbarians didn't help matters. They were, though, years if not decades ahead of them in some ways, especially in the thought and sciences of their homelands that hadn't yet reached Europe. Eventually, though, the eshu did come to appreciate the Ile-Titu, the pale folk, and even made them part of their family.
It was crossing the seas to the Sidhe homeland, however, that really changed things.
Meeting the Sidhe Edit
The first meeting with the Sidhe didn't go as well as it could have. The Eshu were allowed into their halls and they listened to their words of friendship and diplomacy, which the Elegbara respected, but it was obvious that the Sidhe did not consider them as equals but only as another tribe that would bow to them. Of course the Eshu has already heard tales of the Sidhe from the others who had been swayed by their majesty and beauty. The Eshu, however, were already used to the beauty and majesty of their own Oba and were not swayed. Their pretty words and slick tongues, also, were no use as the Eshu have those themselves. Their warriors didn't sway the Elegbara either as they went with their own greatest and bravest. The talks faltered as the Sidhe realized their usual tactics were failing and had to find new ways to control these strange fae. The Eshu had to get over their initial dislike and find diplomatic ways to get them to recognize their own titles and such. Maybe things would have been better if the sidhe hadn't tried to control and the eshu hadn't been prickly about their honor. Either way relationships today can happen between the two kith but it takes a lot of testing and questioning.
In the end, it turned bad. Demands were made, swords were drawn, and blood was shed. The Eshu left resolved never to submit to their authority.
Of course, word spread among the other kiths. The eshu had stood up to the sidhe and survived. Some looked on the Elegbara with suspicion, others applauded (behind closed doors). The balance of power shifted and the Shining Host didn't like it one bit and so they denied that all fae are children of the orishas with the power to grasp their own destinies. The sent messengers far and wide to spread slander against the Eshu: They were evil tricksters, honorees bandits, and shiftless aliens; outsiders who couldn't be trusted. In other words, instead of battle, they used the eshu's tricks against them and most of the other fae accepted the slander, either out of loyalty or fear. The Crusades isn't help either as the Eshu protected their kin. And all the Elegbara could do was continue to tell their own stories in retaliation. They even made some headway before the world turned again.
The Shattering Edit
The Eshu saw the Shattering coming before the rest because they had learned the lessons of the Sundering and trusted their Ifa more. Of course the rest of the tribes, because of the Sidhe smear campaign, refused to listen. The eshu were saddened by the whole thing and the fear in the mortals' hearts. There was, perhaps, a little satisfaction, though, when the Sidhe ran for Arcadia, but their callous destruction of the other tribes who stood in their way as they did it angered the eshu. They don't regret that the other tribes got to see the sidhe for what they were but the loss of life was terrible.
The Changeling Way Edit
At this point you may be saying to yourself "wait a minute, I thought the history said the eshu were already half human? I mean, Eshu had them with mortal women. Didn't they already have mortal disguise?" Well, yes Eshu did that and they could use that heritage to appear human when they wanted to do so. But they weren't human. They were basically demigods. Current Eshu call them Orishas and they were more than today's eshu the way a human is more than an ant. Just like the Tuatha De Danaan compared to the Sidhe.
Because they had looked like humans at times made it easier to do the Changeling Way ritual and their experiences among mortals made them good at figuring out how to do the human thing. That doesn't mean it wasn't a long and painful process to get used to it.
The Interregnum Edit
While Europe fell into panic and despair with the Black Death, the homelands of the Eshu actually saw a minor period of Enlightenment. At the same time the Oba could no longer rule over mortals directly but the could become myths and models for future leaders rather than actual leaders. The stories of the Elegbara became folktales and proverbs, teaching without bearing testimony to existence. Such is the price of disguise.
In time a few of the other tribes sought them out. Few apologies were made but the Eshu were ok with that because of how they had suffered under their former, treacherous leaders. There was enough ill-will around without stirring up more. The first motleys formed, providing support across tribal bounds. Freeholds, the few possible, created space for all to share and the wise agemo among the Elegbara gathered those who knew their ways and supported them. Faerie society remained and a little hope even returned.
Age of Exploration Edit
Maybe it was running away from their problems, but shortly after all the death and plague the mortals turned their sights to the horizon, seeking adventure, discovery, and wealth. While current historians may see the time as a mixed bag, and with cause, it was a thrilling time to be an Eshu. Reeling from the Shattering, it gave them a way to regain some of their former glory: tossing seas, mysterious shores, strange cultures, terrible odds. Best, most captains didn't care about your color or creed as long as you kept the boat afloat. This mixing freely was just what the dreaming tribes needed.
Some of the fae believed this distant land across the sea, this Tir-na-N'og, would be free of Banality. Others saw it as a place of peace far away from the feuds of Europa. Others just wanted adventure. Whatever was going on, it was in everyone's dreams and the Eshu basked in the Glamour of it all, nearly drunk on it.
Some ships that set off were entirely crewed by Kithain, sailing the Dreaming and the mortal seas. These became the basis of "ghost ship" legends. Some carried adventures. Others carried settlers. Most had an Eshu Captain or at least a majority crew. Of course, not all of the Eshu chose such reputable trades. Many also became pirates or privateers and it was their flair for the dramatic, as often as their victories, that bolstered their legends. Carousing with rowdy Satyrs while trading tales with Pooka in ale-houses (with a trusty Troll first mate on the ship), and crossing swords and trading quips with Redcaps and Nockers were de rigour. So was thumbing your nose at mortal navies. It was a great time to be an Eshu.
There are even today, in the Fiefs of Bright Paradise, pirates real and chimerical and many of them are Eshu. The self proclaimed Pirate Queen of the Region is Hanna "Dark Tide" Alawe, an Eshu of cutlass skill and strong Ifa that keeps her one step ahead of all trying to catch her.
The Triangle Trade Edit
This is obviously a painful part of Eshu history. Slavery is an old human invention and some wicked fae have practiced stealing mortals to use as slaves in their Ile-Igbo and then throwing them away when they were no longer useful. The experience of it, though, pales in comparison: brutal raids, humiliating auctions, terrifying voyages, surviving only to die in a foreign land. Many Eshu were lost with their kin. If the iron manacles favored by slavers didn't kill them outright, being cut off from their freedom left them as good as dead anyway, in mind if not body.
One thing the eshu are sure of, though, is that none of them were ever slavers. That may sound convenient and trite but such an act is absolutely antithetical to their nature. To trade in slaves, taking freedom from another, would have undone one of them in days from the Banality of it. It is perhaps the greatest violation of Uhuru (Freedom) there is.
So why did it continue in their lands when the Elegbara were so opposed to it? There were too many greedy people (fae and human alike) and too few of them. However, a worldwide group of Eshu was formed, known as the Freedom Swords, to try and end the practice. They fought, and still fight, in secrecy, and legends of their cunning ruses, daring rescues, and midnight raids are the Eshu equivalent of the Robin Hood of the Ile-Titu.
The Industrial Revolution Edit
The Eshu have little use for technology so they tended to avoid factories and assembly lines, focusing, instead, on continued exploration just beyond the fringes of mortal habitation. They tried to help the Nunnehi, who suffered much like their own kin, but the indigenous fae were deeply scarred and most asked them to leave without hearing the Eshu out.The westward expansion was very different from that which crossed the ocean. It made mortals grim and humorless and this puzzled the Elegbara.
The one industrial innovation that captured the Eshu was transportation: steam engines, locomotives, automobiles, and even early attempts at flight. These wonders divided the Tribe. The Ojo preferred to walk, or use a mount when pressed, as was custom, while the Iku loved the devices and mastered them, creating bonds with the Nockers that last to this day. The Glamour from the dreams of such things, though, was welcome to the Eshu as a whole.
The 20th Century Edit
The 20th Century was a confusing time. Ifa were muddled and confused as the future swirled uncertainly. Humanity was reaching a boiling point in technology and science and numbers and it was going to boil over. The Eshu soaked up the wildness of the 20s, battled evil in World War II, hit the road in the 50s with the beatniks and the hippies in the 60s, and celebrated democracy in the 80s. Humanity proved itself capable of great evil but great achievement as well. In 1969 they watched the Moon Landing with the same awe as the rest and thought maybe things would turn out alright after all. They didn't know their old rivals the Sidhe were coming back.
The Resurgence Edit
When the Shining Host flooded back through the gates of Ilesha, all fae stood transfixed: the other tribes with fear and wonder, the Eshu with anger and sadness for they feared what was to come. Over the last 600 years they had built ties with the other tribes and kept faerie society from destruction. The fae had formed bonds of family. Democracy had flourished with every generation more egalitarian than the last. They knew the sidhe would destroy all of that in a moment.
The Accordance War Edit
During the Accordance War, the Eshu did exactly what you would expect. They acted as ambassadors and diplomats: suing for peace in back rooms and audience chambers, trying to help them see that the world was different now and couldn't go back. When that failed, they were scouts, skirmishers, and assassins. Their impassioned speeches stirred the commoners to resistance and their flashing cutlasses assured them they were willing to back words with deeds. When the war grew darker they joined the now-legendary "suicide squads," like Oklahoma's Thirteenth Brigade, Jersey's Storm Crows, and the Wolfpack. The Elegbara fought with passion knowing that Dream Lord rule could only mean the oppression and distrust of the past.
True, some of them fought for the sidhe, mainly Ojo who believed it was the will of the orishas that the sidhe had returned to rule, but most fought them to their last breath, Ojo and Iku alike. While they understand why some of the loyalists of the other tribes supported the sidhe, they wish the other tribes had had the courage to see they didn't need the sidhe. The world would be much different now.
The High King Edit
Then High King David Ardry took the throne and most Eshu figured he' be just another sidhe with contempt for them and the rest of the tribes. And then he didn't do that. He made good his promises to create the Parliament of Dreams and to give amnesty to the commoners captured during the War and dozens of other promises. He even went against his fellow sidhe in this. He made the new Kingdom of Concordia indeed a place of concord. If anyone was untrustworthy is was the Eshu who studied every word for trickery on his part. While the Eshu may never trust the sidhe as a whole, David had their support.
The Lost King Edit
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