In a darkening world, Nyalda realizes that the survival of her people depends on her finding the best husband. Although Elmal thinks he is winning her, she and her retinue ensure that Nyalda is winning him.
When the sun dropped down into hell his wife appeared to the earth goddesses to say she was going away too. Her absence, she said, would make Nyalda the most desired of all the fertility deities. "Use your wisdom to win the best husband-not only the strongest, though he must be strong, but also the wisest. He will think it is he who chooses you. Husbands are like that. It is easiest if you let them persist in certain beliefs."
And Nyalda's mother allowed the ice to cover her, taking her down to the underworld, where she remains to this day. If she survives at all.
With Yelm dead, his sons and vassals leapt enthusiastically to war. After fighting each other for a while they remembered that soldiers have to eat. Each commander came to Nyalda to make an offer. Nyalda knew this would happen and sent Ekarna to gain the Negotiation Rune. Ekarna spoke for her, and Busenari gave practical counsel.
First came Little Yelm, who said "You were my father's concubine, but I will make you the replacement Empress. I will give you gold and a palace to protect you from the cold."
Nyalda looked at Little Yelm's palace but would not go in. On the other side of the threshold she spotted the invisible chains he had fashioned for her, to keep her from ever leaving. "A wife is not a slave," she said, and avoided the trap. Little Yelm chased her, so she led him to a distant hill. She called upon the hill for aid, and it wrapped arms of stone and soil around the Pretender Sun, entrapping him. It pulled him inside its depths, where lurked a towering troll, who would keep him busy for a good long time.
Next came Shargash the Demon Sun, who said "You will be the Green Wife, and nurture my warriors." Nyalda looked at the Demon Sun's green palace and saw its locked doors, behind which he maintained shrines to his previous wives. "Did you say the same to Rice when you wooed her? To River, when you cast Rice aside?" Smelling betrayal all around, Nyalda saw that Shargash had also broken with and attacked his second wife. So by setting a trembling in motion along her banks, she summoned the River Wife, who rose up to wash the demon suitor away.
Third came the Golden Man, who said "Enough of gods. Some day there will be only men. Become a woman, and be with me. For the joys of life are all the sweeter when they are finite and always at risk."
Ekarna did not even bother to take this offer to Nyalda. Later they all laughed and made a song about it. If someone was wise, they knew, he would hear this song and find the truths buried in its gives.
Finally Elmal rode to the earth camp on Gamari, a horse wreathed in flame.
The words Ekarna spoke were really Nyalda's. "Why did you wait so long to petition us?"
Gamari negotiated for Elmal. "Until he became the sun, he lacked standing to ask."
"What enemies did you overcome?"
"He has been waiting to show you," Gamari said. And the enemies who had been trailing Elmal showed their faces.
Elmal thumped Little Yelm, drove a spear into the Demon Sun, and sent the Golden Man scurrying with a kick to the backside.
Nyalda was ready to step forward and tell him right away that she found him pleasing. At the last moment she saw the temptation this represented, and retained her composure. Instead she established the tradition we now follow-that it was proper for her kin to conduct negotiations on her behalf.
Ekarna spoke for her first. She praised him but asked if he had any other gift.
"I call my gift Freedom," said Elmal. "You will not be hidden under a dome, or discarded by a fickle mate, or reduced to wretched mortality."
Buseanari Cow Mother spoke for her next. "There is one more thing."
And Elmal produced a herd of Busenari's daughters, who had been lost in the darkness. Gamari spoke for him. "It goes without saying that we would bring cows, a requirement for any wedding."
Nyalda smiled. Finally one had come who was not only strong, but wise enough to hear her songs.
"Yes," her kindred goddesses said, and commenced the ceremony.