In a time of ancient Goddes, Witches, and Quings, there was a people who lived in joy and plenty. They worshiped the Godde of water, Upanasiel, who brought forth almost more fruit and vegetables than they could eat. They hardly had to tend their crops because their Godde cleared the sky to allow the plants bright sun every morning and then drenched the plants with rain every afternoon in the summer. If ever someone's seeds faltered or their plants were devoured by insects, it was easy for the others to share their extra to ensure that everyone had enough.
The people would shout in celebration when the rain began, as it washed away their sweat and cooled their skin. They would chant low with the gusts of the wind and dance with thumping feet. The adults would make jokes to each other about the resplendently fertile hills where Upanasiel shook out their hair every day, and the children would think they understood and laugh too. They would marvel to each other at the generosity of Upanasiel and always save some water for drinking the next hot morning before the rains came again.
In winter, they imagined that Upanasiel went into the mountain and danced there, causing the heart of the mountain to overflow. During the winter it never rained yet the streams were always more full than in the summer, and the water was always cold like it was in the caves on the mountain. Even though they never saw Upanasiel while the trees slept, the people felt the cold flow was a mark of their distant favor and care.
One winter while Upanasiel was away, another Godde and his priests came to visit the valley. They told the people that their joy was foolish and their trust naive: that life is not meant to be joy, but instead toil. Their Godde, who they said was stronger and cleverer than Upanasiel, demanded the sacrifice of sweat without respite and demanded worship without cause. Whenever the people would mention Upanasiel, the priests loudly chanted their Godde's name, Caparkhes, over and over until the people stopped. This was so annoying that the people stopped mentioning Upanasiel in any public gathering.
One day the people asked the priests, if Caparkhes was nearby at all times why couldn't anyone see him? The priests hurriedly shushed the people and said that Caparkhes became furious whenever someone doubted his presence, and would punish them. The people thought this was ridiculous -- what Godde wasn't pleased by curiosity? -- but they stopped asking. Everything they learned about this Godde made him seem like the most desperately posturing creature they could imagine. They didn't want to hurt his delicate feelings, silly though they may be.
But the next morning, they found a dairy animal dead by the river, and the morning after that a companion animal, and the morning after that a human child, without a mark on them or any sign as to how they died. The priests pointed and said "this is the wrath of Caparkhes." The people feared more death, and asked the priests what they could do to appease Caparkhes. The priests said they should cover their shamefully naked bodies with cloth. This seemed like a very silly waste of blankets and wall hangings but an easy enough task. They fashioned clothing for everyone and no one went naked any more, except deep in the forest where the priests would not go because of the tree-demons. They took Caparkhes' priests seriously now, because when they did not, more creatures would die in the same way.
Spring was coming, and some of the people quietly hoped that Upanasiel would return and cast out Caparkhes and his priests, who had begun to demand the finest and most of everything "for Caparkhes lest his wrath return." The winter stores had run out much sooner than usual with the priests demanding some sacrifices in flame, and some in their own bowls. The people had resorted to eating some of their saved seeds and roots. They thought surely Upanasiel will have a solution for this mess, and at least there would be new fruits again soon.
Upanasiel did come back, and joyously shook their hair across the sky and filled the wind with rain. The people were relieved, but afraid to praise too loud for fear that Caparkhes would punish them. They did not shout, or chant, or dance, but quietly planted and hoped. Upanasiel wondered at their silence, but faithfully blessed them each day as they had for generations. After months went by with still not a song or shout or thump, Upanasiel curiously sent part of themself the form of a companion animal and went to be among the people, to see if they could understand this new silence.
It was not a silence, up close. The people complained every day when the rains came. It plastered their clothes and made them feel sticky and miserable, and it did not cool them because the cloth held the heat in. They were just hot and wet and unhappy. And itchy, because the clothes didn't fully dry and fungus grew on their skin in the continuous damp. The people never felt comfortable except in the late heat of the morning when their clothes finally dried -- shortly before the rains came again. The people fought with each other over the most petty of issues in order to take their minds off of their incessant discomfort, distract themselves from their grief, and most of all to feel a sense of control through winning, though they never won anything that mattered and they put cracks in all their relationships. They put up blocks against the rain and wind and hid inside like mice, which made them more dry but also more restless. Without dancing their bodies never felt satisfied. Without chanting they never felt unified. Without thumping they never felt resonance with the earth.
Upanasiel was horrified and heartbroken to see their people so crushed, and was tempted to immediately fry the priests like the gristle that they were. But the people had lost control of their own lives, and to intervene as a deity would doom them to a future of always looking outside themselves for the solution. Upanasiel knew the people had to uncover the lies that the priests had told, so Upanasiel looked for a truth-seeker, one who had not stopped questioning the validity of Caparkhes. The adults were all too fearful. In this small and closely connected valley, every adult had lost at least one child they loved to the tantrums of Caparkhes. No one could bear to lose another, and they did not realize they were gradually losing them all.
Upanasiel sat by the forest, and waited for a child to come. Someone who was not yet so afraid of the priests that they would forsake the trees. Days passed, and still none had come. Upanasiel wondered if it was too late. At last, on midsummer's eve, a child approached in a silent sprint -- but they were not alone. They paused at the edge of the forest and whispered loudly "hurry up!" and another child rushed up the side of the hill. And another, and another. When there were eleven, they ran into the forest and yanked their clothes off, throwing them in a pile near the edge. Free, they ran around giggling in a stage whisper, playing, climbing, swinging, and dancing. Upanasiel shifted into a larger form, the shape of a companion animal but twice as large, and glimmering like moon-shadow. They walked into the path of the children and sat down. It didn't take long before all of the children were gathered around exclaiming quietly over their size and beauty, petting their dark cloudy fur that sparked gently with each stroke, and gazing at their mossy green face. Upanasiel spoke, not aloud but in their minds, and told them,
"You are the witches and quings your people need. Your only path to freedom in the daylight again will be difficult and dangerous. Will you do it anyway?" The children in their innocent sense of immortality quickly agreed. Upanasiel told them that most of them must be very quiet and very cautious, and three of them must be raucous and wild. The three loudest children immediately knew their task, and Upanasiel sent a smile in their minds. The others were assigned silence, two to each of the priests. "You must watch them constantly. Take turns sleeping; do not let them go unguarded. When you find their lies, steal the proof, bring it to the center-house and shout it loudly and repeatedly." To all the children, Upanasiel said "Do not fear Caparkhes. He is the smallest and greediest Godde but he has no power over life, only over fear."
The next afternoon as soon as the rain began, two children stripped off their clothes and ran squealing with laughter through the whole town, shouting "Caparkhes is a toddler who poops on himself! Poops on himself!" when they started to run out of breath it became "Caparkhes is poops Caparkhes poops Caparkhes poooooops!!!" The adults threatened and begged and cried, but the children had smeared their skin with oil and without clothing to grab on to, the adults could not catch them or stop them. The priests pinched their lips in angry little pouts and shook their heads, then looked to the sky and piously intoned "Father, forgive them!" The adults begged to do penance for the children, who were now hiding where no one could find them. The priests shrugged and frowned as if they worried and said there was nothing they could do but pray. So the adults all knelt and begged Caparkhes to spare their children. Upanasiel raged and snarled in livid frustration but waited for the children to finish their work.
That night, as the adults kept vigil, the children watched the priests. Three of them prayed with the adults, but one claimed exhaustion and went to his wind-rain block, to sleep. The two children assigned to watch him followed quietly just out of sight. He went into his shelter and soon the children heard snores. They looked at each other in disappointment and confusion, but waited anyway. After a little while the snores faded and the priest peeked out of his shelter. He skulked toward a nearby wind-rain block, a large vial clasped in one hand. The children instantly knew that the vial was the lie they were looking for -- why else would a priest who did every action at the top of his lungs be sneaking? They quickly whispered a plan. One of them ran up to the priest and hissed, "Caparkhes is made of vomit with shit for a tongue!" As the priest gasped in shock and fury, the other child snatched the vial from his hand and ran as fast as they could to the center-house, shrieking "I found the lie I found the lie I found the lie!"
When the child reached the center-house, still shrieking, everyone clamored to know what they were talking about. They held aloft the vial and said "we saw that priest taking this to where baby Efrina was sleeping!" Suddenly suspicious, one of the people's witches took the vial, opened and sniffed it, touched a finger to the cork and then to her tongue, then spat. "This is white-root!" she exclaimed. The people used white-root in a tea when someone was in a great deal of pain, because it slowed the blood and eased the senses. It grew far away and always alone, and it took a good amount for a small effect so it had never occurred to them that it could be used to kill. Seeing so much in the vial, it was suddenly very obvious what had happened to all their beloveds. They turned as one in unutterable fury towards the priests. One of the three who prayed said dismissively, "it can't possibly be what you think" as they all looked towards the elder priest. He stood frozen where the children had left him, but when the other priests looked at him he stiffened up and shouted "it was the will of Caparkhes! I am but a tool in the hand of the Almighty Godde!" The other priests looked at each other, stricken, as the adults snarled and surged towards the elder priest.
Upanasiel coalesced as a monstrous person, thrice as large as any human and glittering all over with dark stars. They clasped the elder priest in clawed hands and said in a thunderous voice with lightning flashing in their teeth, "Adults, hear me. Your punishment for your cowardice is to be denied your revenge. Your children suffered and died for your lack of resistance to these evil-mongers, and yet they who suffered rescued you. They will come with me and decide this one's fate, which you will not be permitted to know. Rather than vengeance, you must plan your vigilance, so that you will not fall prey to such lies again." Then children, elder priest, and Upanasiel vanished.
The adults looked at the remaining priests, all of whom lay prostrate and sobbing, two having soiled themselves, and they turned away in disgust. They ripped off their clothing and tore down their wind-rain blocks. They bathed in the rain and began to feel hope again. They gathered and began to plan against any future lies or attempts to control through fear.
When the remaining priests had gathered themselves and realized that their god was not one worthy of worship and that they had permitted atrocious acts in his name, they begged the adults to allow them to worship Upanasiel. The adults shook their heads in bafflement at the idea that it was their decision, and the priests took this as a rejection and left, whining and sniping at each other about whose fault it was. They were never heard from again.
Away in the forest, Upanasiel asked the children what the fate of the elder priest should be. They discussed it among themselves and after lively shouting, decided that the elder priest should be made into a sapling and planted in the center of the valley. Upanasiel was deeply pleased and asked for an explanation. The child who thought it up replied "because all life can be useful and trees give so much for so long. And being without the power to control anyone will be torture at first and then maybe transform his soul into a useful one too. So it's a punishment but also a cure." Upanasiel beamed and said that they would do this, but a little more sneakily to fool the adults. They turned the elder priest into a seed, handed him to the idea-child, and told all the children to speak truth to the lies when they returned to the center.
Back in the center of the valley, the idea-child held up a seed and said, "this is a symbol from Upanasiel of what we must all be! Rooted in earth, open to the wind, grateful for the rain, and as strong as a tree in resistance to any being who seeks to control others." The child bent and pressed the seed against the ground and Upanasiel grew it into a five-year sapling right before their eyes. The other children each took turns explaining what lies the people had accepted from the evil-mongers and what they must forever resist. Now the day after Summer Solstice is forever a day of planting, being grateful for rain, and dismantling lies.
Later, of course, when the curious adults begged to know what became of the murderer, Upanasiel took pity and told them. Because any decent Godde values curiosity.