Fishing for Friends
“Sir! It’s almost time.” The deckhand yelled up to the captain from the hold. The captain swore. Seven years since he had purchased that godforsaken golem, and now it was coming back to bite him. Years of attempting to sell the clay beast had only resulted in failure, and now the golem was but a few hours from going mad. An utter waste of time, money, and hold capacity.
In a last effort to sell the golem, the ship and her crew had voyaged to the far west, further than most Aiolians had ever seen, looking for any potential buyers. There were none. Frightened by the strange hulking beast, most of the folk they encountered wanted nothing to do with it, and those that did couldn’t afford the price. And so it had come to this, the execution of their cargo.
“Get it up here,” the captain growled, rubbing the bridge of his nose. The deckhand nodded and rushed below deck. In short order, the golem was brought above. The cold sea sprayed against the captain’s face as he turned the tiller over to his first mate. He grabbed the club he had kept on hand for the occasion, hoping to never have to smash the head of his cargo. He made his way over, standing before the golem, watching its blank face, its empty eyes looking at nothing.
This source of pain, misery, and poverty towered before him, its clay form standing stock still, awaiting orders.
“Golem,” the captain began, “kneel before me.”
The golem didn’t show any signs it had understood. It leaned down, its joints grinding as it obeyed the order. The captain watched it go, it’s slow movement slightly hypnotizing, then its movement halted. The golem shuddered, dropping to its knees. As the golem began to writhe on the boards of the ship, he spotted the eyes of the beast. Once empty, they now had shining lights. The captain panicked, shouting for all hands to shove the golem into the sea. They had waited too long, the golem was going mad. The ten men who manned the ship struggled to roll the flailing creation into the frothing waters, one being thrown back with a broken arm. Inch by inch, they moved the golem to the edge, finally feeding the offering to the hungry depths. The men collapsed, spent, panting as they watched the golem drift off into the distance.
It was a morning like any other on Kakaisda. Every healthy Kakaisdan of working age was diligently doing their jobs under Arawa’s blessed sunlight. As the sun reached its peak, the fishermen began to board their boats and venture into the ocean in search for food. They would visit each floating trap that was set up around the island to catch fish overnight and gathered those that were unlucky enough to be ensnared. After that, they would take turns either watching the fishing lines or, if they were skilled enough, diving into the depths and catching fish the way the forefathers used to: by tooth.
That day, the nets contained nothing unusual. The lines pulled up the same fish as always. Only when Nimuel, a younger Osyat, decided to chase a particularly tasty looking catfish did they find something different. An enormous, humanoid lump of clay with a pumpkin head, flailing helplessly in the water. He watched it for a moment, entranced by this new creature. He didn’t know what it was or what it was doing in the water, but he recognized the look in its eyes: fear. He swam over to the creature and tried to calm it. “Hey, hey, it’s gonna be okay! Just calm down, I’m here to help.” He called out to any other fishermen in the area for help while struggling to keep the creatures head above water.
It was a few minutes before Nimuel’s fishing group found them. He explained the situation, and after a little convincing, the two other Osyatao on board threw a net over the creature and began to haul it back to the island. The wind alone was hardly enough to push the boat now that it had the creature to pull. Each of the fishermen took turns either rowing the boat, keeping a hold of the net or swimming alongside it and keeping its head above water.
The sun had long since dropped into the horizon, and Nimuel and his crew were still far from reaching the shore. Tala, an older osyaba, demanded they stop the boat. She tied the net to the mast and massaged her red, raw hands. “Why are we stopping?” Nimuel asked from the water, holding up the creatures head.
“We should just throw it back into the ocean,” Tala said, “what use will it be to us anyways?”
“We can’t just leave it to die,” pleaded Nimuel, “whatever it is, it deserves to live just as much as we do!”
The third member, Alon, piped up. “I think she has a point. We’ve been out too long already, Nimuel. The fish will go bad.”
“Who cares about the fish?!”
“I care about the fish!!” Tala whipped out a small dagger, holding it up to the rope. “We all had a job to do and we stopped it all for this lump of clay!! Not using Arawa’s light to do our work is like spitting in her face!”
“It. Is. NOT. We’re saving a life!”
“Can you even call that thing ‘alive’?? I could use that clay for the temples, that will save us from Arawa’s wrath.”
Nimuel gasped and slapped his hands over the creature’s “ears”. “Don’t you say that while he’s listening!!”
As they argued back and forth, the clouds parted, revealing the full moon. It’s milky light shone down upon the fishing group, sending ripples of white light through the water.
“Look,” Nimuel pointed at the moon, “Buwen himself lights our mission, and you still call it sacrilege?? How can we deny this gift?”
Tala’s scathing retort caught in her throat as she looked up at the celestial body, hand flying to the blue beads hanging around her neck: the mark of a follower of the moon god. She was quiet for a moment, looking from the moon to the clay creature, who bobbed pitifully in the water.
“...I will take the thing to the shore. After that, it’s up to you to convince the Hepe to let it stay.”
With that, the group continued to move the boat to shore. Tala rowed like her afterlife depended on it, Alon wrapped the rope around his middle and held on tight, and Nimuel pushed the creature forward, whispering to it: “hang in there, big guy, we’re going home. The Gods have decreed it”
The moon was at its highest peak when the bow of the fishing boat cut into Kakaisda’s shore. Nimuel gave the creature one final shove, and it also rolled onto shore. The three Osyatao collapsed onto the wet sand: exhausted, hungry, cold. But proud. Nimuel was the first to sit back up, to check on the creature. It towered above him, hand outstretched: it wanted to help him up. Nimuel gladly took its hand, yelping as he was pulled off his feet by the sheer force of the creature.
“Come on now, big guy. I have to introduce you to the Hepe!”
Even at this hour, the streets were brimming with celebration. Another job well done, which meant a night full of revelry. All in the name of Buwen, of course. As they passed, everyone’s eyes were on the towering hunk of clay walking amongst them. There was confusion, surprise, even fear in their eyes. Nimuel walked in front of it, crying out to the people: “it’s okay! It’s a friend!”
The Hepe was in the gathering hut, drinking and telling stories to the children sat around the fire.
“Then, the beast emerged from the ground itself! Made of the earth, it stood taller than a tree! It had a hideous round face with hollow eyes, fists the size of boulders, the strength of 100 Osyatao!! It lifted its hand to strike our hero, and then-“
She stopped mid sentence, her widened eyes fixed on the doorway. The children followed her line of sight and shrieked when they saw what was at the door. Nimuel stood in front of the creature, a sheepish smile on his face. “Good evening, Hepe! I... have someone to introduce to you”
(Credits: First section done by Ioka)