Ilohutep

In the land of Zechann lays a great bridge. Being made out of stone and steel; it spans a vast, outstretched valley, providing easy passage to the great cities in the desert beyond. A bridge now so old, that only the eldest remember the valley in the bridge's shadow, and its strange canal running through the silent woods. A waterway so ancient that no one can tell who dug it and constructed its off-looking, perfectly flat dykes made out of smooth grey stone. It was once a place of wonder; and yet, the few terribly old people who used to walk through the valley woods refuse to tell their tales of younger years. For they wish for no one to ever know of the deep lake right in the middle of the great bridge's shadow; where the canal's dykes widen into a perfect circle and its waters converge in a violent whirlpool. They do not want anyone to know why that great bridge was really built. They do not want anyone to know of the small, mossy stone bridge that crossed the once tranquil round lake in bygone days. And above all else, they do not want anyone to know of the event which started the construction of its successor. For the great bridge was not built for ease of travel, but out of fear. Fear of the swirling vortex of the round lake and fear of ever having to tell the tale of the rage that spawned it. Or so the old folk say. The old men and women are liars. They do not fear the vortex, but rather the tale of their own foolishness and ineptitude. For the tale of the round lake tells not of rage; but rather of the betrayal of that which made Zechann beautiful, and the grief of a fallen god.

In the days of old, when the only shadows on the round lake and its dykes were those of the trees and the mossy old bridge, the woods were not so silent. The air was filled with the song of birds; and whoever traversed the valley by its winding paths would listen in silence, relishing the forest's song. No man ever cast his fishing rod into the water, for no fish swam in the canal and its lake. The only thing that would make the waters stir from time to time was a thing as old as the lake itself. It was a giant, slender form resembling a sea serpent; but it was more suggestive of man. Its long body was covered in pronounced silver scales, but its shimmering skin was as smooth as could be. Its anthropoid fingers terminated in sharp claws, yet it gave no bestial impression. Its round humanoid head bore no visible eyes, nose, mouth or ears, yet its aspect was not ghastly in the slightest. It was, in fact, an old one of great beauty; and it relished the beauty in everything around it. It moved elegantly below the water's surface like a school of silvery fish. A gentle thing that would lavish its visitors in thoughts of great profundity; but alas, most crossed the bridge without even looking into the water.

It spent its lonely eons of existence creating. It drew images of all the things of beauty it knew—from things of Zechann to things from the furthest reaches of the cosmos—on the walls of its circular confinement. Of the things it considered most beautiful it created silver rings to adorn its fingers; and once it had a ring on every finger it would store newly made ones in the deep, to be used as gifts. It created stories describing its most profound dreams and carved them into the rocks at the bottom of the lake; but most importantly, it created beauty for those few who would still seek audience. Dreamers would sometimes come to the lake at night and whisper the thing's name: Ilohutep. They would stare into the water as the moon cast its dark silvery glow; and Ilohutep would stare back, fascinated by the beauty in their eyes and the thoughts that they provided a window to; and Ilohutep would eagerly show them the things it had created. It could spend an eternity talking speechlessly with its guests, but alas the sun would always come eventually. Before its abandonment Ilohutep would always fetch a ring from the deep and gently put it in its guest's hand, wordlessly saying farewell. After the guest's departure Ilohutep would not draw, but carve its newly beloved's likeness into the stone walls of the lake. To be remembered forever.

More and more people started to cross the old stone bridge; but less and less people came for an audience with Ilohutep. It was said a new god had come to Zechann, in the desert beyond the valley; and many crossed the valley, wanting to see it. It had no name, for it did not speak; and it did not create beauty, for people always created beauty for it. It was the Great Phoenix, and it did naught but glow a fair golden sheen. It was no sophisticated being, for it could not think about anything but itself; grooming its golden feathers and sharpening its long, curved talons. It would mesmerize all those who beheld its glow, and it gained more followers every day until eventually the people of Zechann built a great sandstone temple around its roost on a small rocky mountain. They heeded not the searing heat of the sandstone, nor the uncaring gaze of the god whose incandescence it was made to reflect. Even less did they come to care for the silvery glow on the round lake at night. The Great Phoenix's golden incandescence was powerful, and so the gentle beauty of Ilohutep and its creations was forgotten.

During the following years the people of Zechann forgot what beauty truly was—caring only about gold, splendor and bombast. They decorated the sandstone temple with all the gold Zechann's mines had to offer. Then, in a final act of unknowing betrayal, they gilded the rings they had once received from Ilohutep and offered them to the Great Phoenix. This drove the giant avian of gold mad with egomania; and for the first time since its arrival it spread its broad wings and left its roost, soaring straight towards the round lake in the valley. When its thousands of followers arrived there the Great Phoenix sat perched on the old mossy bridge, spreading its golden wings in such triumphant glory that all who beheld it bowed in humility. The Great Phoenix, gloating over its victory, shone more brightly than ever before; when suddenly a great tremor shook the Phoenix's new perch. Bursting out of the water and straight through the ancient stone bridge came Ilohutep, looming titanic over the great phoenix. Tidal waves emerged and battered the dykes, breaking into walls of foam. The masses looked on in terror as Ilohutep coiled itself around their god of gold, seized its neck with one hand, and raised the other high for a mortal blow. The Great Phoenix's glow looked so insignificant beneath Ilohutep's shadow. It clawed at its opponents skin, but the Phoenix's talons were too flamboyantly bent to be of any use against Ilohutep's silver scales. It tried to brace itself, but its gaudy golden feathers would be of no protection against Ilohutep's claws. Then, right before the fatal hour struck, Ilohutep speechlessly roared its lament.

Is this truly it? Are you the almighty god who stole away all that I loved, all that I created? I see before me naught but a golden façade. You dare let yourself be called a god but you have no more worth than the birds that sing in my forest. No, you are less than the birds, for you sing not. You are yourself beautiful, but you are unable to create beauty yourself! I AM ILOHUTEP, FATHER OF PROFUNDITY, CREATOR OF GENTLE BEAUTY! Now tell me, bird of glowing gold, what have you created but shallowness in the beautiful people of this land? TELL ME!

A glimmer of hope appeared on the horror-stricken faces of the people of Zechann as the Great Phoenix opened its beak; but hope quickly faded away as it spoke no words. The only sound that left its throat was a feral scream; and it struggled fruitlessly to be released like a frenzied beast as Ilohutep's claws dug into its golden plumage. A tsunami of violent death throes ensued right before the people of Zechann, as what they thought was their god was reduced to nothing but torn skin, mangled flesh, and broken bones.

Ilohutep looked on in relief as the Phoenix's blood and feathers washed away in the canal's waters, and its obnoxious incandescence faded; but a deafening silence broke Ilohutep's joy. The people had left, and not a single bird was singing anymore. The lake grew cold as it started to become covered in shadow. Ilohutep turned its gaze upward and looked on in anguish as the people of Zechann started the construction of a great bridge. A bridge that would span the entire valley, and leave Ilohutep alone forever. As the last rays of sunlight were starting to get blocked out by the hulking construction; Ilohutep silently wept as it looked one final time at the beautiful silver rings on its fingers, now warped… and stained gold.