Sai is the God of Luck. Also known as Lucky, he was born with the power to spread luck to those around him, though never to himself. He became a soldier and was killed in his first battle, though all his fellow soldiers lived and won the battle. Ebonarm appeared to him and commended his talent. He then offered Lucky immortality in exchange that he agreed to spread his luck around. Lucky did not want to die, so he agreed.
Long, long ago, when people were fewer and wolves more numerous than now, a young widow named Josea lived smack in the middle of what is now the province of Skyrim. She was an ordinary sort of woman, neither plain nor pretty. She had smooth brown hair, warm brown eyes, a short nose, a full round face, and body to match. She'd been born the only child of peasant farmers. Her parents had been carried off by typhoid when she was seventeen. Shortly afterwards she had married Tom, a strong young woodcutter with a cheerful disposition and a roving eye. He'd gotten her pregnant quickly, then turned his attentions elsewhere. Shortly before the babe was due he'd been killed by the local goldsmith who'd come home unexpectedly, found the handsome woodcutter in bed with his wife, and stuck a knife in his back.
Tom's death had occurred on Heart's Day. The babe, a boy, was born four months later during Mid Year. Two neighbor women came to help her birth him and one stayed a few days. After that she was left to cope with caring for child and smallholding as best she could.
One evening in the next Morningstar, Josea went out to the small barn to do the evening chores, leaving the babe asleep in his crib. The wind was howling. She had to clutch her cloak tightly around her. She milked and fed the cow, fed the pigs and chickens. When she left the barn she walked out into a fierce blizzard. The wind had risen so that the barn door was wrenched from her hand and slammed back against the side of the barn. She couldn't even see the house, which was near the road, and some little distance from the barn, but she set off toward it with confidence.
She'd lived here all her life and knew every inch of ground, although she'd never seen a storm quite this fierce and sudden. Already there were two inches of snow beneath her feet. She struggled against the wind for some time, until at last she realized that she must somehow have gone past the house. She turned back and tried to follow her own footprints, reasoning that at least she'd warm herself in the barn before setting out again. But the snow was falling so thickly that her footprints vanished before her eyes, and she was quite lost, and cold.
Josea struggled on, hoping to come across something recognizable, a boulder or a tree or the road if not house or barn. Her hands and feet were wet and numb. She hadn't dressed heavily and was now chilled to the bone, with ice forming on her eyebrows and lashes.
"Timmy! Tiimmmeee!" She cried her child's name, hoping against hope that the babe would wake and cry and that she might follow the sound to him. She stood and listened, gasping the cold air into her lungs, but there was only the howling of the wind. The wind, or something more? A grey shape took form in front of her, staring at her with slitted yellow eyes. A great grey wolf.
Her heart seemed to stop. Her eyes filled with tears as she thought of her child lying helpless in the house alone, and his mother dead outside. How unlucky, to die so close to shelter! Unlucky. But she had always been unlucky, the unluckiest woman she knew. It might be days before any thought to visit her. She sank down to her knees, exhausted. The wolf sat before her, threw back its head and voiced its dreadful howl.
Her frozen hands scrabbled in the snow, looking for stone or stick, anything with which to defend herself against the pack. Another dark shadow appeared from the whirling white snow. She scrambled backwards in a panic. This one was also gray, but tall and two-legged, gray cloaked and hooded. Its gloved hand reached for the wolf's head and patted it. Her scream died in her throat.
"No need to fear, lass. We'll not bring you harm, nay quite otherwise. Be you the mother of yon child?"
She nodded dumbly. His voice was deep and kind, clear in the high whistling of the wind,
but her eyes went to his dread companion.
"No need to fear," he repeated. "My friend Grellan here will lead us back to safety. Unless you indeed do wish to spend the night here." His hands reached for hers and pulled her up, and she leaned on his arm and hobbled alongside him.
When at last they reached her door, he said, "I stopped here hoping for shelter from the storm. I hope you don't mind?"
How could she refuse? Men too could be wolves, but if he were it wasn't likely he'd take no for an answer anyway. "P-p-please come in. I l-left the k-kettle on the boil but I expect it's empty by now," she said inanely.
"I did go in, when there was no response to my knock, and found the babe asleep and alone, and the kettle boiling away. I took the kettle from the fire, but left the babe be. I knew his mother would not be far, and sent Grellan to find you. Lucky for you, but then I have always brought luck to those around me."
He threw back his hood and she saw that he was tall and pale, with silver hair and eyes, but a young face. His countenance was grim, but the silver eyes were kind and his mouth gentle. "My horse too will want shelter on this night. Have you a shed to offer him?"
While he stabled his horse she changed out of her wet clothing and fixed a bit of supper for them: soup and bread and cheese, and elmroot tea. As she dished it up she apologized meekly for the meager fare.
"Why, 'tis a feast compared to my efforts!" He smiled, and fell to, hungrily. Grellan lay by the fire, his eyes fixed on his master, who occasionally flung him a morsel. "He ate well yesterday, luckily for your chickens, else I'd have to buy one from you."
"Nay, nay," she protested. "I'm deep in your debt and glad to share anything I have with you." The babe stirred and cried then, and she picked him up, changed his wet diaper, and put him to her breast.
"Where's your husband, lady?"
She hesitated a moment - the thought flashed that she should not tell this stranger how alone and unprotected she was - then told him the truth.
"A sad tale, truly," he said, "but he's left you a handsome child, and you seem quite comfortable here." His eyes went round the humble one room cottage, crib and feather bed at one end, covered with a quilt of her mother's making, and stone hearth at the other, table and chairs made by her father in the middle. A ladder led to the loft where she'd slept as a child. Suddenly the simple room seemed a palace to her. They were warm and dry and well fed, and indeed what could be better?
"Why, you're right, stranger. I am lucky after all. Now, will you tell me something of yourself?"
"I am less fortunate than you in some ways. I am a wanderer, and born to wanderers, a tinker by trade, though I can turn my hand to most things. I have never been married and have no children, nor have I ever had a home other than the wagon my horse pulls. I've never stayed long in one place. My parents named me Sai, but most folks call me Lucky."
"Lucky is what I will call you then, for you have indeed been lucky for me."
He stood and stretched, and began clearing the remnants of their meal from the table. He poured water from the copper kettle into the basin and washed and dried the dishes, something she had never seen a man do before. After the babe was fed they played with him on the hearthrug while he told her of some of the odd and wonderful places and peoples he had met with on his journeys, and once again her life seemed very narrow and dull. After an hour or two the babe grew tired and cranky, and she took him on her lap and sang to him until he fell asleep. She laid him in his crib and wrapped him warmly in a rabbit fur bunting.
When she went back to the fire, Lucky reached for her hand and held it for a moment, without a word, then they were in one another's arms and kissing hungrily. They shed their clothing and lay together shamelessly, enjoying each others bodies in the flickering rosy firelight. He loved the roundness of her breasts and thighs, belly and buttocks, and said she was as juicy as an apple. His bleached lean muscular body and silken hair fascinated her as much. She had loved Tom and known pleasant moments with him, but nothing like she felt with this stranger.
She woke in bed in the morning, to the baby's crying as usual. Lucky wasn't there and she thought he must have been a vivid dream. Then the door opened and shut, and he was striding toward her, fully dressed, and motioning her to stay where she was. He kissed her lips, then brought the babe to her and stood watching as he suckled. "What a pity that we remember not the pleasure we once knew."
"Yet we have pleasures still that we will remember," she said, and felt her cheeks redden at her boldness. What a wanton he must think her!
"Indeed," he said, and laid his cold hand against her hot cheek.
The storm had stopped during the night, but the snow was deep on the road, and it was clear that it would be days before the horse could pull Lucky's small wagon along the road. That wagon was brightly painted with leaves and vines and flowers in red and blue and green and yellow. The wheels were red with yellow spokes. It had a canvas top, also painted, blue with white fleecy clouds. Josea loved the wagon but it sorted oddly with Lucky's quiet greyness.
Lucky did small jobs for her, mending tools, hinges, and utensils. He cut more wood for her, saying that if she did not need it this year, there would be another. He stayed a week and a thaw came and then a freeze, and the road was rutted but fit for travel. They looked at one another in the morning light, and he said that it couldn't hurt to stay another day, or maybe two, if she was not yet tired of him. She wasn't.
After another week, Lucky asked her if she would come with him. Her heart leaped at the question, but she looked around the little house where she'd spent all her life, thought of her land and village and her babe, and said, "I can't go. I've no desire to travel, and I don't want to bring my babe up as a homeless waif."
Pain flashed across Lucky's pale face, but he only nodded, harnessed up his horse, and kissed her goodbye. Tears clouded her eyes and blurred the gay wagon colors.
Sun's Dawn passed very slowly, with rain and sleet and snow, but nothing like the storm that had brought Lucky to her. Occasionally there was a knock at her door, which started her heart pounding, but always it was just a villager, come to buy the dried herbs she sold. Then, on the first night of First Seed, she heard the creak of a wagon and knew. She flew to the door, her face alight and flung herself into his arms.
"I can't stay," he said. "I'm just passing through..." and that was all the talking they did for quite awhile.
Spring came and crocuses poked their noses up through the snow. Lucky spaded up her garden. Curious neighbors came to call, but found out no more about him than she knew. She sold them eggs - her chickens were laying very well - and dried herbs and an elixir she made from her grandmother's recipe, which was sovereign for headache and rheumatism. They hired Lucky for odd jobs, despite their suspicion of him.
Lucky continued to come and go, never saying where or when he'd be back, but he seldom stayed away more than a few days. He spoke no words of love, but loved her fiercely all the same. Josea's round belly grew rounder, and she weaned Timmy to cow's milk. Lucky's trips became shorter and less frequent. All around the land prospered. Even the oldest could not recall a better harvest. In Hearthfire Josea birthed a beautiful baby girl with silver hair, but eyes of cornflower blue. Lucky held his child and joy radiated from him, so that he seemed to burn with a white fire.
The years passed, twenty of them. More children came. Timmy took a bride. The land continued to prosper. Few died, so there were many people now, and much of the forest was cleared for farms. Others became soldiers or sailors. Their voyages and battles all prospered, and they returned home laden with booty. The gods were with them, people said, for they were virtuous and deserving folk. Skyrim was united now under King Vrage the Gifted, second and noblest son of the legendary Harald of Ysgramoor, thus Josea's king was high king of all Skyrim. The Nords under Vrage's leadership spread into Morrowind and High Rock, conquering some of the sly and thievish dark elves and the weak and superstitious Bretons.
Josea and Lucky had opened a store and built a fine big house for their family. One night Josea awoke alone, and heard voices in the hall. She left her bed and crept to see. The voices sounded angry!
Lucky was standing there in his nightshirt; the passing years had changed him little. He looked no older, but he had grown leaner and paler, and somehow less substantial. Standing with him were a tall matronly woman, dark haired, and clad in a fine blue robe, a knight in black armor, carrying a black sword and a handsome blond man, greenclad, with a bow. Two elves were there as well, one fair and one with golden skin; one had a harp, the other a lute. Elves had not been seen in Skyrim in years! How did quiet simple Lucky come to know such grand people?
"Is this how you keep your pact with us? Did we not make the rules clear to you?"
The woman was shouting at Lucky, who only muttered, "Lady Mara, I didn't realize it had been so long. It was only for a few days, and then a few days more. And then there were the children and Josea needed me. I thought no harm. Things seemed to go well for everyone. It hasn't been so long. Tamriel did well enough without me before." Lucky spoke softly, yet his face was set and Josea knew how stubborn he could be.
"Everyone! What of the Bretons? What of the dark elves? And the wood elves. Of the ice elves I say nothing. They are gone, gone altogether and forever."
"Such shy folk...I tried," Lucky faltered. "I did try. The ice elves were very hard to find, and not that friendly when I did find them."
"Are all the elves to follow them, and the Bretons, and then the other races?"
"I'll go; I will go. But High Rock and Morrowind are so far from here. And how can I leave my children? Surely, I am entitled to children? And my woman..."
"You could have arranged matters as I did," said the green clad ranger. "Now it's too late for that. Matters have gone too far. We trusted you. It was a simple assignment. Yet we should have watched him." This last sentence was addressed to the black knight.
"I did watch him," the knight snapped, waving his sword, which Josea now saw was actually a part of his arm. "Yet alone I could do nothing! I'd few devotees in either High Rock or Morrowind. Once I realized I knew I had to find the rest of you; alone I could do little. What I could, I did. They're halted for now, yet the damage must be repaired, and he who caused it must do the fixing, Tinker! It won't be easy. You'll have to avoid the Skyrim folk altogether for a couple of hundred years, I think."
"No! My Lord Ebonarm, no!" The cry was wrenched from Lucky's heart. "I cannot. I implore you. Do not ask it of me...leave me something of my own! Why must I always give it all to others? I'm tired of it! You promised me a life, and what you gave me, that endless wandering, was not a life!" The black knight Ebonarm scowled back at Lucky.
"We are a gentle folk," the wood elf bard said in his musical voice, "yet Zenithar can no longer be restrained. And if he wars against you, the other elven gods stand with him! If the gods war, Tamriel itself may be destroyed. You may find daedra to stand with you; they love chaos. But I think you will find that not even Springseed, Ebonarm and Mara will fight for you if you defy them further."
"Jephre speaks truth, as ever. Let us not speak of war among ourselves, my friend. We wished your folk no ill. We deeply regret what has happened and will labor to repair our fault. I regret our long absence, yet it was necessary. Raen and I were needed...elsewhere." Mara said. "And not even a god, or a goddess, can be everywhere at once."
"As for you, Sai," she said, turning to Lucky, "One night a year with your woman and your children I will grant you. But not in the flesh. The temptations are too strong for you, I see. It was a mistake to let you hold the flesh so long. I apologize to the rest of you. Now, go and make your farewells. You are dismissed."
The knight and ranger vanished, but the elves remained. The golden skinned one spoke to Mara, "Watch these new folk of yours more carefully, Lady Mara. We are a patient people, and kindly disposed to other sentient races, yet there are limits to our patience. Take warning." Then the elves too were gone.
Lucky fell to his knees, clutching at Mara's robe, his face a mask of anguish, "Lady, wait! I implore you. Am I never to feel again? Never? It is more than I can bear. The rest of you can assume mortal form on occasion. Better I should have died naturally, and gone to rest," he added bitterly.
Mara considered, frowning. "Others have paid dearly for the life you have stolen. Their spirits are not at rest; they too will exact payment. And yet...very well. If you will labor to repair the damage you have done, then you may on occasion assume bodily form, but not as human. Wolf shape shall be yours, in return for the kindness you showed Grellan."
And she was gone, leaving Lucky standing alone, barefoot. Josea ran to him and clasped him...oh, how thin and cold he was!
"What is it, dearest? Who were they? What does it mean? Oh, don't leave us!"
"I must," he said, shivering. "I have stayed far too long. My dearest, I am Luck itself. I was born with the talent, though mortal as yourself. My lord took me for a soldier. I was killed in my first battle, even as the battle was won. I ever brought luck to others, never to myself, never. Ebonarm appeared to me, said I had an interesting talent and offered me immortality if I would agree to spread my luck about."
"He said the gods were overworked, seeing to events, and constantly quarreling over what should happen. He thought that I could balance things out naturally with my inborn talent. I was young. I'd barely lived. I didn't want to die, so I agreed, and Ebonarm said that I could keep my body for a time. I wouldn't age or die, but I would fade slowly, as you have seen. I am nearly eighty now. I did as he bade for many years. Then I met you, and found myself trapped by your need, I think. I was your Luck, you see, what you needed. And truth is, I needed you, too, my dear love.
"Yet while I've stayed here, my luck has spread like ripples, strongest in the center, weak along the edges until there's none at all in Morrowind and High Rock and the Wilderness to the south, and the folk are dead or chained in slavery. Also I've brought luck only to the Nords among whom I've lived, so that the wood elves have fled and the ice elves have died. Now I must go, and bring Luck back to them and redress the balance, as it should have been."
He went to the children's rooms and kissed them as they slept, while his tears fell on them. Then he said, "I'll be with you one night each year, though you will not see me. Yet you will feel my presence, dearest. Oh, and I could never speak of love or marriage...but know I love you, as no man or god loved woman." Then he kissed her one last time, and was gone.
- Sai's Affliction is a disease said to be given to those addicted to gambling. It is named after Sai.