Archive for category Rain’s Truth
Roob enters the Barrow, holding his father’s hand. They have come to survey the most recent mine, to ensure that the Barrow is still safe. Roob is almost 11 cycles, and will soon be conducting surveys on his own; he is thankful to have his Father with him for this. The Barrow is on the far side of their Tribe’s territory, too far for the tunnels. The two of them walk towards the Temple, the Rain Keepers should be expecting them. Roob looks around as they are walking, taking in the huge domed ceiling. The light from the torches along the floor of the cavern does not reach far, up the walls or even out to them in some places. Much of the light is absorbed by the maroon-brown stone that makes up the permanent structures: the shape of the dome, the important living quarters, the Temple. This is what they are here to Survey. Roob’s father stops, and Roob takes a step before realizing it. They’ve arrived outside the Temple where a group of children is taking a lecture from a Rain Keeper.
“Tell me children, why do we live in these Barrows?”
“Because the Rain is angry at us,” the kids respond mostly together.
“And how do we know the Rain is angry?”
“Because it melts our flesh and sears our bones!”
“Why is the Rain angry?”
Roob joins in with the kids, “Because we left the water long ago!”
The Rain Keeper looks up at the new arrivals and smiles. He continues with the end of the lecture, “And what do we ask of the Rain?”
The Rain Keeper smiles at the kids and raises his arms, the kids, Roob and his Father follow suit. They all begin praying. “We thank the Rain for its punishments and acknowledge its anger. We brave the Rain because we must, because we cannot return to the water. We offer thanks to the Rain for the material it gives us and the waters we find. We beg the Rain for its forgiveness, in the name of our children. Blessed is the anger of the Rain.” Everyone’s hands lower as they repeat, “Blessed is the anger of the Rain.” The kids turn to each other, some leaving, others talking and playing with each other before they must return home.
Roob and his father approach the Rain Keeper.
“You must be the Surveyor from the Panther Flame Barrow. Is this your son?”
“Yes. My name is Kin, and this is Roob. He’s almost to his Rite of Passage, so I brought him with me to teach him the last of our family’s task.”
“Well done. I am Gen.”
Roob responds before his father can, “It is an honor to meet you, Gen. Thank you for the prayer.”
Gen chuckles and turns to Roob, “Thank you for participating. Most children your age would be more concerned about the Rite of Passage and learning your families task. Its a shame that so many forget to offer their prayers or attend lectures.” Gen continues talking to Roob’s father, “You’ve done well raising him, and I expect you’ll do well at your job. Come inside and I’ll furnish you with the maps for the Survey.”
He would forget all of this. He would return to his Tribe and report that he had found a Barrow, that he was triumphant. His family’s status would be restored… In privacy he would tell the Rain-Keepers of the dead hermit, of the unholy blasphemies that were waiting inside the new-found Barrow. He would say that the man spouted off unspeakable things, that he was turning feral from time in the Forest, and that Roob had killed him in the name of the Rain when he had begged for his life. He would say that he found the canyon when he followed the… Beast, from the Forest, watched it walk down the canyon and into this crevice. Yes, he would say all these things, and any other lies that would return the world to what it was.
He could see light: first the walls glowed faintly from the sigils, then true light from the outside. It would seem that he had not wedged the screen tightly enough in his haste. He processed this only faintly, continuing towards the exit; never mind his things, never mind his goggles. Roob needed one thing right now, and that was to step out into the light and look.
When he did, he was blinded briefly. The canyon was still present, although more rubble lined the floor of it from overhangs that had slid down. The light was diffuse through the clouds, as it always way, seemingly coming from all angles. The floor of the canyon had taken on the rust-colored tinge that indicated the critical material was close to being finished, and some places within the walls, new and recently revealed, seemed to indicate that they too were close to being finished. For the first time, Roob had a chance to take stock of this place, and he realized just how rich, how fertile in critical material this place had the potential to be. With its proximity to the Forest… yes, it would be perfect.
Roob would return, and telling them of the abundance of critical material, of the rubble of the canyon, of what he thought could have been a Barrow-mound, of the area itself, his family would be returned to more than their previous status. He would be eligible to marry anyone, and he would take for his first spouse someone from the military families. He would gather with his friends who were Scouts, with those who were Raiders of other Barrows; he would request the Magi who knew the Words. He would build a family of his friends and allies, with his spouse hopefully; a new family with status and respect, and they would come and live in this Barrow. They would come and do what the Rain-Keepers had always said should be done: they would fight the blasphemous Forest.
Roob thought this, knew all of this with certainty, as he stood in the floor of the canyon. The Rain, plop-HSSSSSSSSS, onto his armor, onto his neck as he stood tall; he felt the agony on his skin, burning with the mistakes of our ancestors, as he turned back into the crevice. He stripped his chest armor off, gritting his teeth, refusing to scream, refusing to give in. The Rain was a blessing, and though he would let it be nothing else, the words still made him afraid.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the story. For now that’s everything. If I come back to this it will be because people asked me to, and it will probably occur before the narrative’s current-time; I feel the society I have presented is rich enough to deserve its own explorations.
The old man watched him go. He had misjudged the youth’s tenacity for the lie, and that was unfortunate. He got up and moved quickly between the youth and the door. To let him go would mean losing this store-house of knowledge, and that the old man could not bear.
“Wait please, young-one. You cannot leave; there are many things, precious things here: recipes for our weapons that can help us win against our enemies!”
“There is no ‘we’, Heretic,” the words fell out of Roob’s mouth as though dripping from a serpent’s fang. The old man recoiled, moving back towards the door. He fell to his knees before Roob.
“Please then! I beg of you! Tell no one of this place! They will rape its knowledge, forbid it from the public. There are others who would use it for the betterment of all! Please young one!”
The weight of the knife felt heavy in Roob’s hands, and he was preoccupied with its presence, more so than with what the old man was saying. No suitable Rain-Keeper would beg. They would be taken outside, chained to the ground, and left for the Rain; and they would suffer it all with dignity. Hatred filled him, hatred without reason, hatred without boundaries. How dare this being beg. How dare he promise him absolution and deliver him only heresy. How dare he promise truth and deliver only lies. The force of Roob’s heritage dictated the only thing that could be done in this situation. In a flash of movement driven by reflexes that were honed by years of avoiding the Rain, Roob’s arm drove forward, knife coruscating in the lame light of the fire. The old man’s eye popped quietly, blood drooling down his face as the knife slid quickly into his skull. The former Rain-Keeper died instantly.
Roob stepped back. It was not murder that weighed on his soul. All his life, Roob had been familiar with murder. But something weighed on his soul, and it was something Roob could not identify. It was an emptiness of the self, and once again Roob felt disoriented. He stumbled towards the door, sheathing his knife without cleaning it, and opened it. He stepped out into the larger Barrow, forgetting the door, seeing only the passageway ahead of him. He forced himself to walk, to take step after step, to climb up towards the roof of this place; towards the exit to the cavern. He realized when he got to the lightning passage that he had forgotten his lantern. It was of no matter. The path did not branch, it did not deviate. Roob crawled into the narrow, crimson passage. He navigated the corners, felt along the uncut, glassy walls. Always pushing forward, struggling through the narrowed sections, pressing himself against the wall as though he could draw strength from it, draw in comfort. But the wall remained cold, congealed remnants of a lost age… the words came without prompting into his mind and he struggled forward harder. Drowning out his thoughts by focusing on the passage, burying what he had learned under the toils of the flesh and the scraping of the rock.
At this Roob looked up at the old man, looking for signs of deceit or trickery. Surely the old man knew what that entailed; he was a Rain-Keeper. Would he think that Roob had not considered that possibility? Carefully Roob spoke, “I have considered the Ritual of Attonement, Ex-… sir. But there are other ways than giving myself to the Rain. Our family is small, and given our place only by our profession, as is the way. We cannot spare our patriarch or the eldest son to the ritual.”
“What if there was another way? What if the way was truth, or knowledge.”
Roob was well beyond confusion by this point. He felt the desire to know what this Rain-Keeper meant, the desire to be exonerated of his guilt. It was a strong desire, but Roob knew that it could be heresy. If it was a Rain-Keeper telling him though… perhaps this old man knew something that his Rain-Keepers couldn’t tell him? Certainly there was more written in this dome than in all his Tribe’s Barrows combined. Roob’s desire won out.
“And what is this way, this knowledge that is true?”
The old man smiled, happy to finally be sharing this burden with another. “The truth is that the Rain is not a divine force. The truth is that all we know is a lie. The rain is nothing more than the death-throes of an older time, the last remnant of a civilization that we cling to. It burns with the mistakes of our ancestors, if it burns with anything more than acid, NOT to punish us for leaving the waters, NOT to push us deep within the Earth. It is a chemical, a substance. It creates the things we are dependent on, yes, but only because we choose to be dependent on them. If we are ever to be free of this barren existence, to rebuild the glories of the Lost Days, as the Rain-Keepers claim to want, it is not through the rain that we will do this, but through the Forest.”
Each sentence was as though the old man was reaching into a bag and pulling forth something new, something he longed to show another, to share. In Roob’s mind the worst part of all of it was that the old man was pleased to be sharing this; as though this was not high blasphemy. Heresy even, if you considered that the old man was a Rain-Keeper. The worst part of all of this was that Roob could not stop listening. The desire for release was too great to not consider these things. Finally though, the force of Roob’s belief, of what his family would say to this, was enough to win out. He stood up from where he sat and walked towards the door. He would leave this place of heresy. He would tell his Tribe of this Barrow-in-the-Canyon, he would tell the Rain-Keepers of this heretic and they would come in force and take what they needed. His job here was done.
Sensing his discomfort, the man walked over to the other side and threw a thin leather sheet over that side of the dome. While he was doing so, Roob was able to examine the many tables, blank pages, chisels, the few eating utensils present, the bed and the fire-pit, currently lit. Roob walked carefully over to one of the tables with a cup on it, assuming it was safe to sit there and waited while the Rain-Keeper walked back.
“As I was saying: You are then certainly far from home. I have a little water that I can spare, if you’d like, and many questions.”
Roob waited for the questions then realized that the Rain-Keeper had already asked one. “I will not deny the pure waters of a Rain-Keeper.” He looked humbly at the table as he said this.
The man sighed, taking the cup from in front of Roob he walked over and poured the water from a container and set the cup unceremoniously in front of Roob before sitting down. “Do not believe this is some holy shrine or sanctuary. While I am… was… a Rain-Keeper, I am not here from some penitential duty.”
Questions blossomed in Roob’s mind, but still he did not look up from the water. It was not his place to ask questions in this man’s home, Rain-Keeper or not. Under his breath he whispered the thanks he had known from childhood for the sacred liquid, before drinking it. The Rain-Keeper waited for Roob to finish before continuing, “What are you doing here, so far from your Barrow?”
Roob looked at the man, “I am a Surveyor. We have no choice in my Barrow but to search this land for suitable mounds.”
“We are not far from the forest though, I’m certain your Rain-Keepers are not happy about this. What prevents your Tribe from taking someone else’s mound, or pleading refuge through the Rain-Keepers?”
“Our allies will need to expand soon as well, so we cannot plead refuge through the Rain-Keepers. We have not the force after one of our Barrows collapsed.”
“Barrows do not collapse. How did this happen?”
“We do not know, Exalted…” Roob stopped himself, but the conversation had fallen into such a familiar place that he was hardly paying attention. It fell upon Roob and his family to make sure the Barrows were secure, that nothing done to them affected their protections. His family, he himself knew the Barrow had been secure, it should not have collapsed. They had all answered this question many times, and Roob had taken this task upon himself to restore some status to his family.
The man waited, sounding out the silence with his gaze. “The Barrow should not have collapsed, save it be the Rain’s will that all within perish.” Roob’s reply was quiet, non-accusatory, but heavy with shades of meaning. The man leaned back into his chair.
“Do you wish to be alleviated of your sorrow? Of your ‘responsibility’ for such matters?” the man asked. What little vision left was rooted onto Roob’s face.
He approached cautiously, looking first left and then right out into the main, utterly empty Barrow-mound. When he reached the door, he knocked politely and then stepped to the side, knife at the ready. It was whispered that merely being this close to the Forest would turn a man feral, and Roob felt it was better to be safe, since so far today it had kept him alive.
When the door opened it revealed an older gentleman, probably in his late-thirties. His eyes were wide, naturally bulbous, his face gaunt and thin, marked with a beard, full and almost down to the man’s chest. Since Roob didn’t hear or see the sounds of a pen he assumed the man did not eat much; since he had a beard, Roob assumed the man didn’t ever leave, or had not left in a very long time, since the Rain would spread faster along a beard. His skin had paled, and his eyes were beginning to develop the signs of filming over; too much time spent in the dark. Perhaps most shocking to Roob however, was the fact that this man was wearing the formal robes of a Rain-keeper (never mind they were soiled and dusty). It did not take very much time at all for the man to become aware of Roob, and he waited, looking his own person over and attempting to loosen some of the accumulated dust.
Roob recovered. “Exalted one, forgive my staring. May the Rain spare you.”
“There is nothing to forgive, I’m certain I look frightful.” the Rain-keeper paused, as though honestly debating returning the stock greeting. Roob blushed in embarrassment on the Rain-Keeper’s behalf as the other spoke: “Go always in faith that you will be spared. Please, come inside young one.”
Roob did so, still blushing.
“You are far from home, wherever that is…” the Rain-keeper paused expectantly.
“Panther Flame Barrow of the line of Smith, exalted one.”
“Please, enough formalities, they chafe under all that I now know,” as though to emphasize the point, the man redistributed the weight of the robe on his shoulders. While doing so, Roob was able to look around the interior Barrow and saw rows upon rows of metal shelves, lined with thin slices of metal arranged perpendicularly to the shelves. These books continued, the pages getting thinner and thinner until at the other end of the dome, wrapped in leather and forbidden paper, marking their age by their material, were true books. Roob looked down; even to look upon one was heresy. Only the most elevated of Rain-Keepers knew what was in them.
It was a fairly natural crevice, unworked by heat or hammer, and as such how wide it was tended to fluctuate greatly. Roob found himself sideways (shoulder first) on several occasions, squeezing himself between the sections of blood-red material that he could. His gear didn’t help the situation, and Roob blamed his foresight in the matter. Already deep within the scarlet walls of the crevice though, Roob decided it best to continue forward. For a split second, after looking back and forward, Roob disoriented himself, forgetting for the briefest of instances which shoulder had been leading. The confusion lasted only a second, and Roob continued, hopefully in the same direction he had been going. He distracted himself from the tedium by considering the value this vein would have to the Tribe. If it ended in a cavern, the opening could be widened out and used as a Barrow. Even if it didn’t, this was a sizeable vein of critical material, worthy of being mined.
Roob almost fell face first on his next step. It was a tricky squeeze: the two walls were only navigable in a lightning bolt shape for two steps, each perpendicular to the last. As if tight, blind corners weren’t enough, the walls opened up sideways and the floor down into a set of steps. Roob’s balance saved him, as he threw out the arm that wasn’t holding the lantern and grabbed a hold of a jut in the wall.
He stepped down a couple of steps and carefully turned to examine them close up. There… Roob had thought the light played strangely on them, and closer he could see the tell-tale signs of workmanship on the material. The hammer-and-chisel marks left by the white-hot tools were even, and still hard to notice. Roob turned back down the stairs, his face quizzical; the knife usually at his hips in his hand.
Roob knew there weren’t supposed to be any other Tribes in this area. He made a point to ask for the most recent territory maps his Tribe had before going out to look for Barrow sites. Roob by himself didn’t have the station to negotiate with another tribe for mound-access rights. He’d been sent to do so for other Tribes before, usually as a peace gesture, but stumbling into someone else’s turf and then nosing in their business usually made you seem confused at best and incompetent at worst. This place, so close to the trees, was not and had not been claimed by any Tribe. If there was material to be had here, it was believed it would only exist under the tree roots, and since the trees defied the Rain and forsook its gifts, no one was willing to bother.
The situation back at Roob’s Tribe had grown bad however. They were quickly outgrowing the Barrow and needed to find a new one soon or start casting people out. They didn’t have the man-power to force another Tribe to give them access to their mounds, not since a freak accident had wiped out one of the Tribe’s Barrow. Their few allies also didn’t have any mounds to spare, nor with the Wet season coming on, could they spare any men. So they’d sent Roob out to investigate the mounds in the no-man’s land.
The stairway continued into the depth, until the ceiling that had previously been omni-present, was now aloof. At the same time, the stairs ended into a naturally even floor, facing a small hallway that led to a dome. Roob had heard of pockets of critical material forming shapes with shapes, usually domes within domes. In regular practice, one mined the critical material out from the middle and used it for day to day necessities… one did not often encounter doors in them.
Up ahead, three overhangs and on the wrong side of the canyon from him, Roob spied the vein of black-amidst-the-green running vertically along the wall and pooling at the bottom of the canyon. The black stood out starkly because of the green tint of the goggles and Roob pressed himself harder. He abandoned keeping his breath even and let it come in shortened bursts. Dust was coming up from the non-critical sections of the walls and floors of the canyon: the Change was starting just as Roob dived into the chasm, his vision swimming. Despite a lack of breath, Roob quickly set to work.
He knew that the critical material was a thin vein in the rock on the canyon edge, so it would hold; but, he didn’t have a survey-map of the area, and wouldn’t know how much of the rest of the canyon would hold against the Rain, and how much would turn critical, until the rain stopped and he left the crevice. Then there was the matter of whether or not he could leave the crevice once the rain stopped. Quickly he pulled a folding-screen made of critical material, hammered thinly into shape, out of his bag. Pulling off his glasses with the other hand; the charcoal colored light coming in from outside painted the chasm in its natural blood-red color. The tempered-glass joints squealed slightly as they rubbed against each other, more as Roob wedged the folding-screen into the entrance. It billowed out slightly, both to prevent too much pressure on the screen, and to prevent build-up near a shelter entrance.
Once that was in place, Roob quickly pulled out a glass bubble filled with a sky-blue, gel-substance and shook it, making sure to cover the openings; he set down the now-glowing container in what he assumed to be the center of the crevice, and pulled-out a bio-pen. The pen was filled with a similar substance as the lamp, but was made of less sturdy construction than glass. With the entrance-screen to his right, he went to the wall and drew a symbol on it, the bio-pen reacting with the critical material. The sigil started glowing brightly in a cobalt color as the critical material… pulsed is really the best word for it. Not wasting time, he drew another glyph on the entrance screen, and another on the wall opposite the first. Roob went to draw a third on the wall opposing the entrance, but didn’t find the wall. Instead it seemed the crevice continued. Cursing softly, he instead drew half the sigil overhead, and the other half under the lamp. Now he could rest, safe that the material would hold, and he would be able to leave.
Roob took a moment to settle everything, placing the unnecessary things back in his bag. He started to undo the straps for the leather, now that he was indoors, but stopped himself. His eyes moved opposite the opening, down the crevice. There was no way to know if the critical material continued to line it, and if it didn’t, he would have to be careful. Without the continued lining there was a greater likelihood that Rain would start pooling on the ground, but hopefully the Rain wouldn’t last long enough for that to happen. Running his hand down the wall (careful not to disturb the glyph), Roob picked up the lantern, left his bag behind and started his journey into the crevice.
Serialized into several shorter segments, we start in media res.
Roob poked his head up over the edge of the rubble carefully. The current pile of broken down cement, glass and steel had melded together in the last Rain; but Roob had no way of knowing if any of the pile had melted into critical material, and thus would make a suitable Barrow. Regardless, here he was, pressed flat against the slag, distributing his body weight as much as possible. He looked over the ridge and onto a green-tinted and ruinous world. As he did so the first plop-HSSSSSSS of the impending Rain fell against the thick and hardened leather of his helmet.
Roob knew better than to look up, but he had to fight his instinct not to look into that static, slate-colored void. His other instinct was to run, so he did. Springing up and launching himself down the other side of the pile. As he practically threw himself down the hill, tuck, roll, spring forward as soon as your feet connect and repeat if necessary, he felt the pile shiver under the onslaught of pinpoint-pressures. Some part of Roob’s mind made a note to tell the village that the pile wouldn’t last.
To the left of the base of the pile was the concrete canyon, to the right, shapes were moving in the wind’s crescendo. Trees? Roob guessed briefly before springing left into the canyon at full run. The canyon could be dangerous because the overhangs could suddenly collapse thanks to the rain, or worse: the canyon could be critical and then the rain would gather and flash-flood. Even still, they were better chances than in the trees. In there, the green lenses of Roob’s goggles would hurt more than help, blinding him to the leaves, the grass, the moss, anything green really; not to mention the slim chance for finding a shelter.
Even at full run Roob couldn’t escape the “plop-HSSSSSS” of the Rain etching into his armor. He knew from painful experience that the hardened leather was thick enough, layered enough, to stand against several more minutes of the Rain… but minutes wouldn’t matter if there wasn’t a shelter in this canyon. Roob ran harder, fighting to keep his breath even through the thick mask over his nose and mouth, weaving close to the walls of the canyon to catch as many overhangs as possible. If he heard a “schhhhhhh” sound, the overhang was coming down and he’d have to pray that he didn’t get caught and buried in it.