Monday, October 15, 2012


"Father, why must we give the gods water? Didn't they make everything?"
    "My son, the gods did not make everything, they simply shaped and formed what they found. Gods do not come from nothingness, after all."
    "But why can't they make water?"
    "It is not that they cannot, but that they do not. They gifted us with life, and so it is our duty to repay them with simple gifts of water. We are lucky to have such benevolent gods - they ask for only water, which is plentiful and easy to find. Imagine if they required stones like the one around your neck!"
    Theoul regarded the shiny black stone swinging on the string round his neck. His father had found it while hunting one day and brought it to him - saying it would bring him luck, and that the gods would shine on his actions. "But I still don't understand why they need it." Theoul said.
    "Theoul, do you not need water? Do you not need food, and warmth, and shelter? You need friends, family, teaching, safety. You have so many needs - would you begrudge their one? It is a mark of their power that they need only this and nothing else."
    "You don't need anything." Theoul said grumpily. "You're better than those stupid gods."
    "Son, I have as many needs as you - if not more. I provide for your needs, and the gods provide for mine. It is they that have allowed me to have you, your mother, and never want for food and drink. Our weather is always fair, and we are protected from all that would harm us."
    "Like the mist?" His father had taken him to the mists once, the border of their world. They were a strange yellow-reddish color, and were nearly opaque - he thought he could see shapes moving within, like the monsters the elders always told stories about, but when he'd told his father he'd simply laughed and patted him on the head.
    "The mists most of all. Once our world was all like this, but then the mists came and only the gods saved our land. Without them, even this land would be covered, and you and I would not be here."
    "Hmpf! We don't need them, you could protect us from the mist!"
    "My son, if the gods failed us and the mists approached, I could not stop them. Only the gods keep the mists at bay, and that is why I happily collect and bring them water. And so will you. Now pick up your pail."
    Theoul frowned and considered just crossing his arms and squatting down, refusing to move until his father agreed with him, but thought better of it. His father took the gods far more seriously than other things, and Theoul didn't feel like being spanked. He dutifully picked up his water pail and followed after.
    The village square was full of people - everyone came out on Godsday. His whole extended family was there, all his aunts, uncles, cousins and even his great-grandparents. Each and every one had a pail full of water. Each and every one stood encircling the black tower that reached into the sky. The village elder, her whole body painted in bright hues, the massive black amulet that signified her closeness with the gods taking up almost her entire chest, walked to the tower's hemispherical base and spread her arms wide. "Another season has passed, and once again the gods have kept us safe. We have suffered, yes, from hunting accidents to winter storms, but it has only been to give us character. Never forget that all that we have, we have been given by the gods. Now, let us pray and give thanks." She turned to the spire, pressing the amulet against it and chanting the strange words that had been passed down for generations. Theoul looked at her amulet, and his own necklace - If Theoul's brain could have, it would have clicked. The metal was the same.
"Oh-pehn Mayn-Tien-Ans Hach" The spire hummed and bright lines of blue light streaked in strange, angular patterns upwards from the base. With a puff of steam, a section of the base separated and slid outwards towards villagers. "Thank the gods and each give your water."
    Theoul stepped in line with his family as they slowly marched towards the open segment, dumping their pails into the spire's waiting mouth. Could I open it like that? he wondered. His father stood behind him, and when it was Theoul's turn he made sure he did not spill a single drop. "Thank you." He whispered.
    "Now, let's go have a feast, eh?" His father grinned and slapped him on the shoulder.
    The feast was a grand affair, the whole village dancing and singing - those of age were drinking spirits and smoking plants, causing them to drift into strange, talking sleeps. Theoul waited, fingering his necklace. He had to wait until they were all asleep - or at least drunk enough to not notice. Hours passed, but finally he had his chance. He walked to the spire and placed his necklace on the base. "Oh-pan Man-Ten-Anz Haks" A moment passed, and he spoke again, trying to remember the elder's strange pronunciation. This time, the spire hummed and lit as before. The segment opened in front of him, and he peered into it. As far as he could see, there was nothing, empty darkness. Wait - a small glimmer of light at what he thought was the bottom. Leaning forward to investigate, Theoul found himself sliding headfirst down the shaft. A blue light rose up to meet him. He found himself staring at dozen glowing green pillars, then everything went black.
"Jim, I'm seeing a malfunction in the Ilya unit, looks like one fell into the maintenance shaft."
"Ilya? Those little four armed guys?"
"Yeah, what do you want to do? We're not supposed to interfere anymore."
"Eh, send a maintenance bot."