Year of Illumination
The Sorrowful Tale of Patient Ehamet, One-Spirit of Fishing
Nlepo Relating the Story of Ehamet to Learned Ghibbus
“Ehamet sat beside the Walehdeh River, for that is what he did. Every day he saw the fishermen of his tribe casting their nets downstream, and he would wave, and beseech the fish to bless their catch. So passed many years, until one day the boats were not there, and the fish floated at the surface, and the river ran grey with ashes.
Troubled, Ehamet cast his line into the water. He pulled out Salmon. ‘Where are you going, Salmon?’ he asked. ‘Upstream to do battle with Waterfall, as my fathers have done,’ Salmon retorted proudly. Ehamet threw him back.
Again he cast his line, this time pulling out Catfish. ‘What are you doing, Catfish?’ he inquired. ‘Sleeping at the bottom of the river, where the ashes of the humans pass above my head as if a dream,’ she answered lazily. Ehamet threw her back.
Finally Ehamet cast his line far out, into the deepest part of the river. He caught Saponnek, the oldest and most cunning fish of the river. ‘Saponnek, do you know what has happened?’ Ehamet asked. ‘Henget the World-Shaker and his Children have woken, and shake the earth with their thrashing. The land swallows those who walk on it and the mountains spit fire into the air,’ said Saponneck, who saw much in the deep waters. ‘How shall he be stopped?’ Ehamet asked, despairing. ‘I do not know, I am but a fish. You are the one with me on the end of your line,’ replied Saponneck. Ehamet ate him, then set off to land Henget the World-Shaker.
First he carved a giant fishing spear from the Forest of Petrified Wood, and wove a line from the ironvines that grow at the bottom of the Chokewater Lake. He knew Henget would dwell in the inky blackness of the Sky Pool, so he bartered from the lizard-folk (who in those days dwelled in our forests) a lantern of never-ending light. Now all he needed was bait.
After long search he found giant old Snapping Turtle sleeping among the reeds, his worm-like tongue wiggling most convincingly. Quickly Ehamet lashed his lantern to Snapping Turtle’s tongue, causing him to wake in a rage. It is said Ehamet swam so fast that the water about him boiled and turned to steam, while Snapping Turtle gnashed at his heels. Down Ehamet swam to the inky darkness of the Sky Pool. His lungs burned and he knew he would surely drown.
Just then, he saw the terrible teeth of Henget emerging from the blackness and seize the wriggly tongue of Snapping Turtle, who was none too pleased. They began to battle, their struggles stirring up the silt of our long dead ancestors and shaking the foundations of the world. Ehamet lashed his line to Snapping Turtle’s tail and swam quickly to the surface to reel in his catch. With a final, great haul the warring giants broke the surface. Henget leapt into the air with a shriek of shattering metal and seemed to block out the very sun. Ehamet heaved his spear at the side of the monster, impaling him clean through, and the world grew still.
It took fifty strong men to haul Henget’s carcass to the nearest town and three grueling days to gut him. All the tribes of Tahawus, Scheyichbi, and Pasuhyunk feasted. It was without a doubt, Ehamet decided, the worst fish he had ever tasted.”