Saturday, September 17, 2016

A River's Tale -- flash fiction

A River's Tale

Many lands feel the river's touch. In the land of the Noceri the river
sheds its load of post-apocalyptic debris and takes on a new name. Upstream the river is called Rougerin; after its passage through Nocerland it is the Ouestry.
The Noceri are fisherfolk. This has been their bane. They have a saying that what you eat you become, and certainly what they pull out of the river with their long-handled hooks and what they strain out with their fantastical nets, is stranger than any tale can tell. Once, struggling man shapes came floating down each spring. They could not have been men, for as the Noceri put it, a river produces fish, and fish is dinner. Nevertheless they were noisy fish, and their lamentations have become some of the best folk songs of the Noceri. The Noceri waste nothing. It is well known that the Noceri speak only truth. The man shapes are gone now, and from July through January the Noceri must live on salt fish, dried fish, pickled fish, hard fish cakes, slippery fish candy, and fish preserves.
It may be the cleansing action of the fisherfolk, or simply the distance from its source, but the river leaves Nocerland in a rarified state, fit for swimming, and those who live where the lazy river winds across the plains of rushes, reeds, horsetails, cattails, lizardtails, goattails, and mare's tails do just that on a daily basis. They do so, that is, until the river reaches the Plain of Ghoz.
Ghoz was a foolish God. Ghoz angered the river, or so the tale relates, and the river departed his homeland, never to return.
One spring the floods rose until they lapped at the very sill of the hut of Ghoz. On the plains, even a God dwells in a humble hut woven of the strong purple grasses. Ghoz surveyed the devastation wrought on the plain, as even a small god should, and when he returned home his hut was gone, and with it his wife and child. Ghoz was consumed with grief and fury. He tore out his hair, he stabbed himself repeatedly with the sharpened willow stick that was his token, and he cursed the river, forcing it to depart. Some claim that the purification of the river engendered by the fisherfolk of Nocer permits the Ouestry's spirit to leave its body, and they label the tale of Ghoz a falsity. Whatever the case, the river is sundered where it enters Ghozland. The false river remains in the plain, bereft of that life-giving property common to all rivers. Thus the Ghozlings have turned their back on the river, because it is soulless, providing no sustenance, and they graze their cattle far from its desolate banks.
The spirit river rises perilous into the air, and none have dared it, or if they have, they have not returned. Where the two rivers that should be one go after they pass the Land of Ghoz I cannot say. Perhaps one or both still reach the distant sea. Would that our story could tell of the spirit river, its nature, purpose, and destination. If this was a campfire tale of the Noceri, the spirit river's tale would be one of the most truthful. Alas, the Noceri do not know the spirit river. However, one thing is known: the separation between Ouestry above and Ouestry below moves steadily upstream. One day, perhaps, the unravelling of the two rivers will reach Nocerland, and when it does, the Noceri may make tales of its days, its nights, its beginning, and its end. Until then, we must make do with the lies we have.


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