Running Waters

The drought across the Vast Plains had lasted far longer than any before.  The months rolled into years never spilling a single drop of rain.  The grass dried, and the deep green of the plains faded.  The wandering tribes fought and stole from one another, claiming any remaining food and water as their own, but even that could not last.  The tribes grew hungry and sickness spread.

It was the young King Suu who took action.  With all the magic in the world there had to be a way to bring back the rains.  To restore the plains.  He set off alone under the darkness of night to find the answer.  

For weeks the King pushed his trusted horse hard, when it grew tired the King pressed small bone talismans onto the horse’s skin.  The talismans, etched with symbols and runes, grew warm and melted into the horse’s skin.  It’s breathing steadied, sweat dried, and as the wave passed through the horse its pace was once again renewed.  Despite this he knew the horse must rest.  A true night’s rest.  The King found a surviving grass patch and decided that was where they would both rest.  The King let the horse eat the grass and offered him all the water that remained in the water skin.  

The King awoke to the cold touch of dew drops upon his skin.  He licked the back of his hand.  Fresh water.  Clean cool water.  Worth far more than diamonds as they sparkled in the morning glow.  He grabbed at the grass, pulling water from the leaves and licking it from his hands.  The King laughed as he quenched his parched lips and shouted his thanks to the plains for their gift.

“You need not shout thanks to the horizons,” a voice, as soft as summer’s breeze, said behind him, “you both deserve a small relief this morning.”  The King turned to see a woman tending to his horse.  Brushing him with a bundle of dried grass tied tight with golden twine.  Patterns adorned her hands and stretched up her arms, deep earthen red lines, before disappearing under an exquisite silk robe. 

Now the next part of the story is up for debate.  Ever tribe tells their own tale of how King Suu got his answer.  One story tells how the King begged the woman on hands and knees, offering her horses and land, swearing to drink nothing but water till he was thrown from life’s horse.  Another tells how the King seduced the woman and they lay together in the soft green grass.  Overcome with love and delight the woman gave up the answer to him and wished to marry the King.  That one’s a tale from the King’s own tribe.  And yet another tells how the King tricked the woman to return to his tribe, before locking her away deep beneath the soil and building the city of Suu Gerri over her prison.

Those are all great stories in their own right, however, the outcome remains similar between them all.  The King returned to his tribe with a ritual to bring water back to the plains.  Preparations began without hesitation.  Materials gathered and the horses brought together.  They carved the ritual pattern, stretching nine horses wide into the dry ground.  They adorned the soil with symbols and spiralling lines like those that decorated the woman’s arms.  Willing blood first filled the carved lines, then garnet powder, and all the other materials as the ritual described.  Everything was prepared, every detail the woman described.

The ritual started.  The piles of herbs set alight, their smoke filled the air along with a chorus of chanting.  The riders guided the rest of the horses in circles around the ritual site.  North to East, to South, to West.  The horses ran.  The pattern sputtered to life and glowed, charged with the energy around it.  The chanting, the rumbling of hooves, and the hope.  Glowing red like a spark clinging to life.

It wasn’t enough.

The last words of the woman rang in the King’s ears ‘The thundering will bring the water we seek’.  They needed more, and the King saw this, they needed far more than his tribe alone.  Messengers rode on their fastest horses as the King summoned all the tribes from every corner of the plains.  Unlike these days, the Vast Plains were not a place of peace, and many of the tribes thought his summons was a trick to steal the last they had.  Despite the risk many tribes arrived in the coming weeks bringing their horse herds.  They trusted family ties and the words of old friends.  Together the tribes attempted the ritual again, this time charging 100 times the horses in a huge circle of blood and garnet as the herbs burned.  Again the pattern lit, brighter than before.  It glowed like a camp fire, throwing out red light, and the ground on which is was drawn turned dark with rising water.

But again it wasn’t enough.

This time messengers rode from every tribe that saw the ritual raise water and darken the dry ground.  All the tribes raced across the plains with the story of the ritual.  Married daughters summoned their fathers and brothers.  Rivals spoke of peace, of water, of survival.  They spoke of something larger than the bad blood between tribes.  Over the following weeks, tribes arrived and the number of horses grew a thousand fold.

For the third time the ritual was started, just as they had before, and this time the ground shook with the pounding hooves of horses.  North to East, to South, to West, over and over.  The runes flared bright, and lit the sky even with the Sun overhead.  The rider’s chanting was drowned out by the thunder of hooves and the ground beneath the horses turned dark with water.  The charge continued.  A huge circle of horses around the red pattern, now running through water soaked soil.

For the first time every tribe rode together as one.  Rode as a single family does.  Chanting the same song. Then without warning a tower of water erupted from the ground, reaching high into the sky and cascading down as rain.  The water muffled the heavy impact of hooves as it pooled on the dry surface.  Yet the horses still ran, pulling the water with them.  Dragging the water in spirals as they ran.  The water grew deeper around the ritual site, forcing the horses to stay in the swallows.  The charging circle widened further still, pushed by the ever growing waters, but the charge continued.  For days the riders and their horses circled the growing lake.  They ran until they lost sight of the glowing runes, and then until they could not see the opposite side of the lake.  They rode till every horse ran single file around the water, till the circle could reach no further.

In triumph the tribes gathered to celebrate as family.  In honour of King Suu they founded the city of Suu Gerri on the grounds of their celebrations.  As the tribes returned to their homelands, the waters of the new lake travelled with them.  Reaching out across the plains with spiralling rivers, bringing water and life back to the plains.

Even to this day the waters of Mori Ursgal spiral, just as it had done as the horses thundered through it.  To this day the tribes tell of the ritual still feeding the lake from the deepest depths.

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