Year of Illumination
The Day the Glahms Stream Ran Red
Or, How the Warrior and the Bard Freed Glahms From the Kappa
Winters and winters ago, long before even our farthest fields bordered the white trees of the Southern Glades, before our fisherman saw the end of the long green Bitumen River, and not long after the Stone Post was erected to gaze over what was once the edge of the Wilds, a great calamity struck our town Glahms, and we suffered under blight until the fortuitous arrival of two heroes, jovial and good, who ran the evil from our town with little cause or promise of gain.
It was in the dry winter time, when the rice field was full of the umber husks of the autumn harvest and the snow fell light and powdery on the ground. Hardly a day passed without the cold northern wind chilling the bones of the elders, who sat around the fires in the tavern and swapped stories over tea laced with rice wine. The favorite story this season was the discussion of the numerous omens and portents the autumn had brought. The rabbit’s liver was clear, one said. The raven flew only twice past the bridge, another countered. The green snake went west, another asserted, and of course that settled their debates. An ill-intentioned spirit would visit soon.
Garlands of rosemary were thrown into baskets and buried in the far fields, to ward away the evil Yoomi, which feed upon the husks. In the low branches of trees were hung the pelts of stoats, to appease Rejikamasu, the feral huntress. The rivers were blessed with the rare saffron dust of the north. Even with all these gifts, however, the elders knew that it would do no good, for the green snake had been driven west by the cries of the approaching demons.
It was the last night of the thin moon of Kerris the Old Farmer when the first child was found. It was Alger, the youngest son of the cobbler Ryushi, and the body was found so badly defiled that it was not laid on the pyre but wrapped in clothe and buried, as an elder would be. The boy was found in the Stream, and so the elders immediately suspected the fish spirit Pisc was angered. They cast empty hooks into the rivers and brooks as deference, but to no avail. Four more children were found by the week’s end, each mercilessly slain by the mysterious creature. Pisc would not be cruel, the elders knew, but they knew not what fed on children.
It was the tenth day of the Pale Moon when the travelers came to death-weary Glahms. The great warrior was a giant in proportion, with a great straw-colored moustache and armor which shined even in the dull light of the winter sun. He smiled warmly and spoke with surprisingly gentile refinement. The skilled bard was quick in all manners; tongue, hand, foot, and wit. He carried with him a harp made from a sickle, and this reflected his homely but cunning mind. The bard introduced himself as Mikel, and the giant was known as Barren. Their demeanor was jolly but purposeful, and they made haste to the tavern for drink and warmth.
The elders invited them to sit at the place of honor near the fire, and while the travelers ate and listened attentively, the elders espoused the sad news of the children, and the danger of the Stream. Barren was moved by the story and promised to assist as soon as he could. The bard Mikel pondered the possible cause, and then took his harp and sang this song.
Knight Roland fought in the war of Pent
And when to the river his troops were sent
One by one they disappeared
And evil demons Roland feared
He set a watch and set some bait
A sack of meat and it was ate
But no one saw what did the eating
For it was dark, the beast was fleeting.
Roland roared and said he knew
What brave soldiers ought to do.
He rushed off in the water’s depths
And every soldier feared his death
Roland marched for days alone
In hopes the beast would become shown.
At night he slept with one eye open
In case the winter’s quiet was broken
One evening as he made his camp
He heard the sound of footsteps damp
He raised his blade and swung it true
And struck into the water blue.
A cry, a moan, a splash and then
The rising of a little man
His face was green, his hands were cold
And on his skull, a water bowl.
“What do you want, you evil beast?”
The green man answered quick at least
“I am the Kappa, who are you?”
And Roland knew what he could do.
“My name is Simion,” he lied
“A simple merc, and I have tried
In vain to find the bridge to Pent
I meant no harm, mean no offense.”
The Kappa smiled, it missed his trick
For clever Roland’s tongue was quick.
It said “Go there, you’ll find the way
I’ll forgive your sword today.”
And Roland smiled, said goodbye,
And bowed, and then the Kappa cried.
For he was fooled, and had to bow
And Roland won, I’ll tell you how.
The bowl upon the Kappa’s head
Emptied in the river bed
The Kappa couldn’t move therefore.
And still stands there, evermore.
The elders marveled at the wisdom of the bard’s words, for they had not considered the possibility of such a rare demon in so well-protected a river as the Stream. Barren, pleased by the bard’s skill, roared with delight and immediately insisted they go to seek the kappa. The bard wittily mentioned that Roland needed several days to find the kappa, and he was lucky to go the right way on the river the first time. Barren agreed, but offered to watch the river for the night.
Kikkimen and the Star Watcher must have transpired to save the town then, for the giant had not waited two hours when he spotted the kappa in the reeds on the other side of the Stream. He called for the bard, whose speed is still spoken of today by the older huntsmen. So quickly did he arrive at Barren’s side that he might have been hiding in the shrubs near the banks, and his harp was de-stringed in a flash. Barren drew a sword so long and heavy that he held it in his two spade-like hands for support. They rushed into the river, disturbing a heron which flew over the town, heading for the safety of the dark, quiet marshes.
When the morning came, the Stream was red with the blood of three kappas. Mikel and Barren were praised, and a rare winter feast was held for days. The elders are said to have presented them with the tile of Moare, the embodiment of the protector Moareston. The fathers of the lost children presented them with gifts and the mothers gave them food and drink for their journey. Barren and Mikel promised to return, but in the tradition of all great heroes, they were not seen again for many, many years. The tale of their return is great.
But that is a story for another night around this fire. The omens seem good tonight, and I believe I will turn in for the evening. More tea? No, thank you, this old man must rest for the night. Perhaps tomorrow. Perhaps tomorrow.