Everyone in Xessus grows up with the legends of the hero who founded the country.
Lebasi tells Barten’s children the legend of Xessus, Artay and Shasho in Chapter 30 of The Magistrate's Son.
When Xessus the hero came out of the west, out of the wild lands, he found the countryside in the grip of a war between two different goddesses. Shasho the goddess of flood and destruction ruled the land for half the year, and Artay the goddess of drought and hunger ruled the land for the other half of the year. Shasho’s hair was flowing water and her breath could make a man drown. Flies followed Artay, and dust hung about her, and she smelled of death. They fought with each other all the time, and the people of the countryside lived in fear of the anger of these goddesses. They made sacrifices of animals and even children to try to soothe the goddesses’ anger, but nothing worked. The battles went on.
Xessus saw that the people were suffering, and he felt pity for them. He knew that they could not fight the goddesses on their own, and even he, hero that he was, was not strong enough. So he made a plan. While Artay ruled the land, in Shasho’s time of weakness, he found the water-goddess in the mountains and told her that he would help her finish off Artay once and for all. Xessus said to her that he could lay a trap for Artay and lure her into it, but he would need Shasho’s help. Shasho was weak and tired and willing to listen to Xessus’ encouraging words. So she agreed.
The trap was to be a great wall in the mountains, behind which Shasho could gather her strength in order to surprise Artay with great force. Xessus needed Shasho to think that the wall was for her benefit, or she could have stopped him from building it; but she wanted to believe, and she allowed it. The wall was made strong and tall, and a great lake formed in the mountain valley behind it. Xessus told Shasho that she should rest there and prepare herself for battle.
Then Xessus went to find Artay, who was walking the countryside withering the crops and spreading diseases and death. Xessus told Artay that he had news of Shasho, and Artay would want to know it. Artay was scornful, in the height of her powers, and told Xessus that she had no need of his help. But he reminded her that Shasho would come again, as she always did, and would be stronger once more, and Artay was not so foolish in her pride and power that she would not listen to sense.
So Xessus told her that Shasho had built a great wall in the mountains to shelter behind and build her strength. If Artay delayed, Shasho would be too powerful for her; but if she struck now, while Shasho was still weak from the effort of building the wall, she could finish her off. Artay was persuaded that this was her chance to settle the war with Shasho for good and all, and she would rule the countryside for ever after.
So Xessus led Artay to the wall in the mountains, and she was amazed at the size and strength of it. She thought that Shasho would indeed be weak after building such a thing, when really it was Xessus who had made the wall. He showed her the way to climb to the top of it, and she saw Shasho resting on the far side of the great lake. Shasho laid eyes on Artay at the same moment, and believed herself ready to fight, and she screamed a challenge that rang from mountaintop to mountaintop, and even Xessus had to cover his ears against the fury of her voice.
Artay replied in the same tones, and the two of them flew together in a great rage, their wings beating the mountain air into a storm of wind. But when they fought with each other above the lake, they found that they could not fly. The water beneath drained the magic out of them. With their many arms locked together, their wings became entangled, and they plunged into the icy deeps. They fight there still, under the lake, but they cannot come out from behind the wall. So Xessus tamed Artay and Shasho, and brought peace and prosperity to the countryside.