The River stole the gods.” He continued sliding the blade down the length of wood. His mind wasn’t on his work, however. His companion next to him sat dying the material to be woven. He was a young lad just learning the trade. There wasn’t much to this work, but the carpet weaver felt he needed to take the lad on as an apprentice. Everyone else had given up on him. They all said he was too quiet, or always wandering off by himself. The lad was caught lying in trees or sitting on the fence. He thought they were being too harsh with the boy.
“How did a River steal gods? I thought gods were supposed to be the most powerful.” The lad glanced up at his teacher.
“Well, a long time ago before the time of Wars or Peace. There was a time of great turbulence. Man had not yet taken root in the land. Creatures great and far knew who their masters were. The days the gods still walked upon the earth. It was said to be the best era the world has ever known. Each god held great respect for the other and never took from the others. Though a few might in jest once in a while like the Raven. There was, however, a few who didn’t like the peace or didn’t get to be in Great Mother Sun’s light. Far outside of the realm of her reach, their hearts grew cold. They began to scheme and plan.”
“But you aren’t very old, how could you know any of this if it was so long ago?” His apprentice dunked a new batch in the next pot. He could see why the others would grow weary of him. The boy had so many questions. It wasn’t a big deal to him though. Without children of his own, he had long since wanted a child to talk to and teach.
“No. I wasn’t there for it, but the stories were passed down from chieftain to his people. My great great grandfathers way way back listened and passed the stories down.” He explained pulling another strip of wood from the branch. His eyes shifted to his apprentice expecting another question but when he remained silent, he continued.
“The Wretched, as what they had been come to be known as, went from god to god spying to see what their strengths were. They found a woman named River. Great and powerful was her magic. All the running waters, rivers, and streams of the world were hers to control. She could guide any moving water to where she wanted it to be. Now, River was a beautiful and kind spirit under the protection of the sea god Daigat. No one ever wished to anger the sea god as all life sprung from the seas. His strength was known across the worlds. So, River had never known fear. She had no reason to disbelieve anyone. The last one to try and lie to her had been swallowed up by the sea by a great tidal wave. It had caused such destruction. The gods forbade anyone to touch the sea god’s treasures.” He set aside the staff and reached for the next branch only to find his apprentice holding it out to him. The lad’s eyes were shining with wonder.
“The Sea-god was feared by the other gods?” He asked going back to mixing the fibers, but his attention was almost completely on his master.
“Oh, he was feared alright, but also well respected. He gave so much life. It was understood he would take life as well.” He ran the blade down the branch knocking off smaller branches and leaves. “The Wretched approached her under the guise of friends. They talked with her daily, flattering her and giving her gifts from other places. For while her gift of magic was great, once set in motion, she couldn’t leave and would be bound by the river she created until it was time to move again. So, they would visit her and make sure she got what she needed. That is until they began to change her perception. They wove magic around her so it seemed as if a great famine was taking place for lack of water. They spun tales of woe from those lands begging her to turn the rivers loose. At first, she resisted saying others should care for them, but the tales great worse and the illusion they weaved more despairing. Now, she didn’t know but the Wretched had invited the other gods to a party on the plains. Everyone was gathered to hear the wonderful news they had to offer, since they hadn’t heard from them in such a long time.”
“Finally, they brought news that River’s father, the sea god, wanted her to flood the plains. She didn’t want to upset her father as she loved him with all her heart. Pulling her feet from the riverbed, she turned to the plains gathering all her might. She pulled the threads of each river binding them.” He could tell he had his apprentice on the edge of his seat. The boy had stopped working and only listened. “She turned the River loose. So the river Eilog was born. A river of such might and power it washed away the gods. The torrent was so powerful no one knows where they went, and so they were lost. The Wretched didn’t realize how her magic worked. When the torrent came, it washed them away as well. Because the river flowed from her. When she got down to the plains, she realized her mistake. So great was her sorrow, the river has never stopped flowing. Her tears filling the banks. When the time of year comes around again, the time of when she had washed the gods away, her banks swell from her increased sorrow and tears. And since then, we had never had gods and life has been nothing but chaos for the world.”
“I’m going to find the gods.” His apprentice blurted out. “I’m going to find them and bring them back so they can bring back the sun, and life, and peace.”
The man was taken back not realizing the effect his words would have. He wasn’t sure how to tell him it was a story. He had not believed in the story for a long time. Perhaps, it was best that he didn’t take this away but let him believe as his father had done for him. “If you do,” He leaned over. “Be sure to take this.” He handed him the staff he had just carved. “Ask each spirit you come across to give it a small portion of their magic. Then, when you do find the gods, you can show them the staff and they will believe because you have a piece of their family with you given freely.”
His apprentice took the staff with reverence. “Yes, Master.”
With that, they both went back to work, but he couldn’t help but feel he had done something that changed how the world would be.
That night, his apprentice lay in his bed staring up through the hole in his tent. He could see twinkling stars, but just barely. Going to find the gods had to be better than his life here. Everyone hated him. People made fun of him when they thought he couldn’t hear them. He moved from job to job, though his current one was his favorite. Master Hissp was the only one to treat him so well, like his father had. His parents were gone though. He had thought by adopting a trade he could change his life, but maybe. Maybe if he found the gods, life would be better for all of them.
Reaching out his hand, he lifted the staff his master had given him. He had believed in him. The staff felt…different somehow. Like it urged him to go.
Crawling out of his tent, he grabbed a piece of paper and wrote. ‘I’m sorry I had to leave so soon. I know there’s lots of work to be done, but I had to go. The gods need me.’ With that, he left the note in his master’s tent and left the campsite out into the plains. He wasn’t certain where he would go or how he would even find them, but the river Eilog seemed a good place to start. If they were washed downstream, maybe if he followed the river, he would find them?
Tristum trudged for what felt like hours. It was late at night, and he was tired, but he couldn’t let the gods down. Or his master. His master had told him to take the staff and bring peace back to the world. Or that’s what it had felt like.
When he heard the great rushing of water, he looked up blinking hard seeing the sky lightening. While the sky brightened for the day, the sun was never there. Master Hissp has said it was because she was washed away too, but he didn’t know what the sun was supposed to be. He walked a few more minutes before he got to the great chasm holding the river Eilog. The river was fast and strong enough, he could see boulders being bashed and thrown further downstream. It was loud enough he would have to shout for anyone to hear him. He scanned the chasm then across the river where no one had been for as long as he had lived. There wasn’t anything besides the plains. He had half expected to find a woman sitting on the banks, but there wasn’t anyone. Had his master tricked him? A frown slowly formed.
Sitting on the edge of the chasm, he stared down at his staff. Or…had his master been making fun of him and he hadn’t realized it? His frown deepened. He had trusted Hissp. It was why he had left. No, he was just a gullible boy no one wanted. Tears fell down his cheeks falling into the river below.
“Dad.” He croaked holding the staff to his chest. “I miss you.” Lifting an arm, he sobbed into the crook of his arm. “I can’t seem to do anything right.”
For a moment, he thought he heard. Something. His breath hitched and he looked up. Across the chasm, a woman sat singing. Singing to him. Her brilliant blue eyes shined enough he could see them from where he was. She held something to her chest too. The more he watched her the more he swore he could see. Her skin was pale and tinted blue. He could see the marks on her cheeks from countless years spent crying. In one moment, he understood.
“You are still crying.” He looked down at his chest them at her, feeling the tears fill his eyes once again. “Because your dad is gone too?” He asked. He wasn’t sure how or why he thought she would hear him, but when she nodded. He took a sharp gasp.
“I-I’m looking for the gods.” He stammered holding up the staff. The woman stood but he couldn’t see her feet. Her hands stretched out to him. He had almost thought she wanted him to go to her. Luckily, he realized he was holding up the staff and she was asking for it. He held it out to her. “Master Hissp says you can put your power or a small bit of it into the staff. That you could gift it to me freely so…so the gods would recognize me as …some sort of representative or something.” Just saying it now felt weird, before he could really think on what he had said. The staff floated from his hand, across the chasm, and to her hand. She put her cheek to the wood. For a moment, the staff glistened with her tears running down the staff. He blinked and she was no longer holding the staff. Looking down, he lifted the staff now in his hands. Tristum lifted his gaze back to the woman who smiled sadly.
Standing there, he felt like he could hear her say. ‘Go. Please If you can find them, bring them home. Bring my father back to me.’
He felt even more resolute than he had before. Now his mission wasn’t just about making his master proud or some sort of abstract dream of peace or a better life. Now he felt he could bring her father back. If he thought someone could bring his dad back, he would want it too. So, he turned facing the endless chasm flowing on and on. He glanced back at the woman but she was gone. Licking his lips, he turned, took a deep breath and began his journey downstream.