“It had always stood thus: that in this place they stood for the last time – those immortals of Yore – before they decided to relinquish their dominion over us and this fertile land and move on to things unknown to us. This hallowed spot has become barren of the rules that had once been our guiding pyre through the times of our intellectual darkness for the past three years. For the past two of them, we have collected ourselves and our stories to take the place they abandoned. It is out of recollection that we come here, that we stand as they once stood and gaze as they once gazed onto the coming froth and the sea in the bay beneath us. Their grace, knowledge and power had united us under one banner and kept us sated: content in our lordship over our private minds. We had never given it thought – never once questioned those undying ones, never doubted and never asked from whence they came – have they not stood between us and our abysmal urges, those that we always wander and drift into. Do we not lust for that which is forbidden, to be expressed by our unspoken agreement – which in itself is just the fear of being the first to verbalize the contents of our minds? Do we not turn our energy and frustration into solemn verses of dedication that change the subject once it loses its guiding torch? Do we not repress and thus oppress? Does our soul not shrink so it can crawl into that little nook in which it is told it will dwell forevermore?
You see before you the sparkling pink grass. You see beyond it to the north the gentle, sloping hills of Caspis and the altars upon which our candles burn in memory of them who left us. Those altars, – those dots across our land – which has birthed us and not them – are our harbors of recollection. Gaze upon this land that had become theirs by merit of their existence, and kept as theirs by that same merit. But those days are now three years gone. We have been abandoned, left to our own devices and rule so that we can, as far as we understand, rule ourselves for the future of our kind. We are not to be guided anymore – there would be no such thing as another benevolent deity. Caspis had been where they landed and lived while they guided our continent and brought us under one banner, as few as were our tribes. Now, holy Caspis is strength no more. It holds no more sway than the bird upon the wind.
The Holy is gone but its code, its benevolence remains. We have always hallowed these lands with our melting candles and we will make them the seat of our power: our vindication against those who want the rule of their collective to be absolute across this forsaken continent. We will rule ourselves and bring what the holy ones have taught us into the hearts and minds of those apostates who question the reality in which we all live.”
Atremis Peins spake thus and stood still so he could mindfully drown in the murmured prayers that rose from the crowd of two-hundred who had come to the newly built House to admire the finished work: a cube, fifty-five meters on each side with an east-facing door and twelve windows spread evenly across its sides. Atremis turned away from the crowd, which had begun to raise their bowed heads, and gazed at the darkening horizon, half covered by the continent that the Caspiseen peninsulas belonged to. They all stood in their spots till it was dark, then thirteen people from the crowd each carried a candle from the altar, which stood ten meters from the house and led the others eastward to the city they called Long Wey. In the town’s communal hall, a feast of Caspiseen hares and brown-striped deer was prepared, which marked the end of the festival of Ug that had been celebrated on the shortest night of the past three years.
Left alone in front of the House after the crowds had left, Atremis joined an older man and a young woman at a second altar nearer to the cliff where the house was built. The man wore a long black robe with a green wool shirt and pants while his companion had a black hood and cape draped over her blue robe.
“That was your speech?” asked the woman, looking up at Atremis.
“They don’t need to know more. All we need to do is move them away from their belief in the pantheon and more towards self-sufficiency. We no longer need something as outdated and ridiculous as living gods amongst us. If their intention was to have our people govern themselves, then we are carrying out their wishes, but if they were left to pursue their whims then they are not so reliable and infallible as to have their code rule over our existence and the people’s.”
“So, what? Do we just leave now?” replied the woman, turning to face him.
“No, of course not! This is our chance. They have gone. This society they left is already beginning to crumble. No one has noticed it yet,” the other man joined. “They haven’t realized that they would have to decide everything for themselves now.”
The woman turned to the old man.
“I was talking to Atremis, Ditri.”
“We’re going to stay,” Atremis said stolidly. “We have to. Imagine the commune we could build around this.” He motioned to the cube.
“As what? A temple for them?” asked the woman.
“No, as their house. We will grow a garden and care for livestock to help those who need it. We could carry out those gods’ teachings and become a haven and a recourse to those who would eventually become this civilization’s unfortunates.”
“And?” asked Ditri.
“And they won’t notice us.”
“You’re an idiot,” laughed the woman.
“Probably,” replied Atremis, “we will be the last thing on their mind. Nationalism should be an easy concept for them to embrace down the line.”
“You want to divide them,” said the woman matter-of-factly, “they will catch on eventually.”
“It’d be too late, we would be stories to them. Trust me, these people already share an ideal to support them. It’ll be easy to drive a wedge between them if we frame things right -“
“You have five more others to convince,” the woman interrupted.
“I wanted you two to agree first.”
“Ask me tomorrow morning, I’m tired,” said the woman, as she turned away from Atremis and Ditri, and headed towards Long Wey.
Atremis turned to Ditri. The old man was looking more and more tired over the past few months, a shadow starting to form under his dark brown beady eyes. His knitted brows were becoming more acute and growing pale in color as opposed to his still dark grey hair. He was one of three elders that made up the seven that they belonged to, but he was the one whose face was grooved and lined by the worries he carried as the enforcer of the seven.
“You should go to bed too. We’ll talk about this tomorrow, all of us,” Atremis told him.
“She’s the one you have to convince, just so you know,” Ditri sighed.
“She has always been stubborn.”
“She’ll come around,” said Ditri as he walked away from the altar.
Over the next few decades, the hordes that lived in Caspis multiplied and so did those that occupied the rest of the vast continent, where gods once lived. The descendants of those who helped with building and caring for the House flourished in the houses of the gods, which they built over the face of the continent. It was fifty years past the third festival of Ug that Caspis became aware of a sentiment rising within its children, fermenting superiority in the belief that they were once favored by the gods who had chosen their land as an abode. Caspis was the more temperate part of Rubineus, the continent to which it belonged; it was where the gods had dwelt and from whence they had departed, leaving their eternal capital of Long Wey to the will of mortals. To the minds of its people, Caspis was a favored land, hallowed by those entities that guided and ruled over Rubineus. To the Caspiseens, it became a sacred duty to rule over the surrounding areas, to become a sovereign entity that would care for the life surrounding their homeland. It would be centuries before the Kingdom of Saepance would rise, but for now, for the decades ensuing from the departure of the gods, the clergy of the latter would build communes stretching northward in an ever-expanding bubble from Long Wey to encompass the fertile lands surrounding it.
By Marwan Jaffal
Marwan is a contributor to the Writers Beirut blog and Odderood personal blog. He is interested in all things science and research, as he writes a lot of science fiction. He thinks satire is the way to make one question their surroundings.