The old man stepped out of his tent, surveying the other tents in the community. His tent was upon a hill, high above the others, that way he was closer to the gods Thrae and Verthicha, the deities of the sky and mountains respectively. He used to watch the descent of Thurkear, the god of night, alone from his hill and his wife would join him for the rise of Kear, the god of day. Those days had ended long ago, a mamoth had trampled her nearly fifteen years ago. He had told the people that Loex, the god of death, had asked for her specifically as an offering, and thus no one needed to worry. When asked why he never remarried, he would always say that Munthrek, the god of his people, had not told him whom to marry, and so he would wait until he was advised. Sometimes he wished that both of those lies had been the truth, though it would have been preferable if Loex had asked for him.
The community would soon awake and expect a detailed report of the gods tidings. They would want to know if winter was coming early, or if there would be rains, and other things that would affect whether they hunted today, or if they tended their crops. He would pretend to speak with the gods and find their plans, but he knew that was a lie, he had never had a god talk to him, despite how close he was supposed to be with them. Instead he would watch the clouds and smell the air and watch the animals. Clouds, air, and animals were always accurate in their predictions, and if you knew enough about them, they would tell you all that you needed to know. Why did he need gods if there were such constant and tangible things in his land?
There was a harshness to the wind that froze his spine in place. Winter will be here soon, and it will be nearly impossible for the crops to be gathered in time, the people will not approve of this. He could always tell the people this information, say that the gods had come to an agreement and this year winter would last longer, then he would receive the hatred of the entire community, but then they would be prepared. He could also refrain from saying anything, and then claim that the gods had thrown them a surprise to see if they were worthy of being protected. Many of the people would probably die, but no one would be angered with him.
A man who had seen over thirty-five years delicately strode up the hill, keeping somewhat bowed in case the shaman was in conversation with a god. The shaman saw the man approaching, but knew that it was better to maintain his "ceremony" until the other man had been waiting for quite a while. He knew that was what the people expected, the youth must show respect to their elders, and all must show respect to the shaman, even if said youth was the second oldest in the community, he was still the oldest and the shaman. Once he thought that the man had waited long enough, the shaman closed the ceremony, and looked down upon the man.
"And what is it that you seek Old Father?" The shaman said using his most commanding tone. It was his official tone, and had convinced people of the truth many a time when logic did not seem to apply.
"The people seek guidance. As their ruler, I am supposed to know what to tell them, but I fear that my knowledge is not sufficient. The season of the fatal crystals approaches sometime, and we wonder how long do we have before they attack. The animals can be tended throughout the year, and the hunters can always provide for us, but we are not certain how much time we have to bring in the crops. I seek your advise, have the gods told you how long they are holding off the dreaded season?"
"I have spoken with the gods. They have told me that Verthicha seeks his rest early, and Thrae is willing to honor this request. The crystals will fall early this year, it is imperative that you gather all of the crops as quickly as possible." He was terrified of this prospect, not that he would starve for the village always did well to take care of him, but he did not want to see any of the people starve. Still, his voice showed no sign of fear.
"I thank you lord shaman." The man knelt deeply, then stood and took his leave.
He descended into the community, and watched as everyone knelt to him. He would bow slightly in acknowledgement to some of the more powerful ones, including his own great-grandchildren, and then glancing casually at the others. He walked until he saw a young man, approximately twelve summers old. The young man was dressed in well-sewn clothes made of sheep's wool, and was kneeling beside his pregnant wife, who was holding their oldest child.
"Boy, I intend upon being out for the next few days. Be sure guard my flock." The young man nodded. Then, quietly so that no one else could hear, the man added "There will be an extra sack of wool for you after the cold season if you do this. I am sure that will come in handy when your son is born." The shaman dismissed the young man, whom sped away to the pasture to make sure that both herds were perfectly safe. The shaman smiled, he really did like that boy, he was an excellent worker and seemed to care about the people of the community more than anything else.
After making the rounds throughout the community to make sure that the gods had not sent another sign, he returned to his tent and began to pack. He hoped that with a pilgrimage to Athear, the tallest mountain near to their lands, he would be close enough to the gods, and maybe would be able to plead with them to spare his community. Even if the gods did not listen to him, at least he could return home proudly saying that he had done everything within his power. He gathered his things, namely his grass cape, his copper ax, his quiver filled with several arrows that needed to be finished, his bow, his knife, and enough food to last him for several days. He left his tent in the early afternoon, passing his neighbors who were frantically working the fields to get every last crop in before the crystals fell.
As he continued towards Athear, he heared the sound of dozens of footsteps, he knew it was the hunters returning, they had been due back for quite a long while. He stood where he was and waited for them, planning on telling them that the cold season was coming and that they would need to help the others gathering the crops. He did not recognize the men cresting the hill, but they recognized him as a shaman. One of the men charged him, knife extended, and attempted to stab him. He blocked with his hand, which received a complimentary gash that struck at the bones. He hit the man hard enough to knock him over, and then attempted to flee. He felt the arrow crash into his shoulder, but he did not pay attention to it, for if he did mind the arrow he knew there would be several others coming to join it.
He escaped high into Athear, noting that the army had chased for a good ways but had ceased to follow him. He hoped that they had only though him a straggler, and they did not intend on attacking his home. He sat down upon a rock, and worked at pulling the arrow out. Under better circumstances, he could have had it surgically removed, but he was losing too much blood and he did not have time to get back down to his home. After nearly ten minutes, he was able to pull the arrow out, he inspected the arrow to make sure everything was gone, only to find that the arrowhead was still lodged in his shoulder. He would have to go into the community and get them to remove it, there was nothing he could do except for bind up the wound, and continue on his journey.
He traveled further up the mountain, until he arrived at the spot where Munthrek had told him that he would become shaman. He knelt down upon the spot and began to pray that any of the gods would spare his community, maybe even give him guidance to help the community prosper once more. All was silent, until a voice echoed from out of the mountain.
"Stay here for two more days. At the end of these two days, if you and kin once more meet, then for the rest of your families' days, good fortune will be bestowed upon your people." The voice seemed to rumble out from every rock, and yet have no origin.
He thanked Verthicha for replying, and then set about to find someplace to stay for the next two nights. He walked along the mountain, finding no nook that would shelter him from the winds. Eventually, he was forced to settle with sleeping upon the hillside, with his cape draped over him to block out the wind. He spent the next day praying and working on completing the arrows. Surveying the land, he could not tell whether or not his people had been attacked, and thus he worried, but he knew that Verthicha would keep his promise, and make sure that so long as all stayed faithful, they would all meet once more at the end of the two days. Once more he was forced to sleep upon the cold earth. In the middle of the night, it began to snow, gently showering the fatal crystals upon any hapless victim. The old man knew that he should escape, go back to his home where he would be safe and warm, but he could not abide by the idea of letting Verthicha down.
The second day dawned grey and with near blizzard conditions. The wind whipped him about, and his body was weak from the cold. He prayed once more, but this time with more desperation.
"Why have you asked me to endure this, when you know that certainly I will die?" There was deep silence then once more the voice came from the stones.
"Do you not remember what Munthrek told you? So long as you stay with your people, they will prosper, but the moment you leave, they will die."
"I do not understand. We were sent an early winter, how were we supposed to survive, o kind Verthicha?"
"You would have made it, Munthrek and Verthicha would have seen to that."
"Then you are not…" He could feel death creeping into his body just as the cold had done several hours before.
"No child, I am Loex. I will claim you as a sacrifice. You may now join your wife and your people." And there was silence for over 5,000 years.