The River

                       

The River

Nacklon drew his head up from his bed. The morning was sneaking in under the nights blanket. Through the gray light of early dawn he could see his wife's pretty, round face sleeping next to him. On the other side of the room his two sons slept deeply in their mat beds. A peaceful beauty was settled in their sleeping faces. He was a contented man, his life was good and the days turned with an ease of the heart.


He lifted himself quietly out of his bed and walked across the round room to the blanket that covered the doorway. Pulling aside the blanket he saw the mountain that stood above the village, the mountain that held them in the safety of it's valley. The mountain that had always protected them from harsh weather. The mountain that fought with the dark clouds and pushed them back away from the village. Nacklon stood there with the morning sun hinting at it's coming arrival and took in a deep breath of the sweet fresh morning air.

 

Nacklon's hut was made of bamboo, roped together with vines and raised up off the ground by bamboo legs to protect the hut from the spring rises of the river that ran though the village. It was a simple round hut that gave them all the comfort and shelter they needed in night. Nacklon's hut was a lot like the other huts in the small village with their roofs of mus-mus leaves and their bamboo legs that kept them up and away from the moisture of the ground. The village was made up of just over twenty huts like Nacklon's, housing twenty families also a lot like Nacklon's for they were a people, a way. They were a life that was theirs to live and the village lived as one.

 

The river had risen again, each day it was seeming to get higher and higher. Each day as he rose he noticed the water line creeping up the bamboo legs that held his family. The house was built by Nacklon years before, when he was a lot younger, when he was without a wife and without his sons. He built it knowing that Vesler would be his wife and that she would give him two sons. So it was in his family.

 

He built the house knowing that the river would rise, as it had each spring time since he was a boy. The river would rise and then the river would retreat from the fields. By mid summer the river would stop, it would dry right out marking the dry season. During the dry season the villagers would have to climb the mountain up to the leveled shelf, a plateau where the next village of farmers were. The other village was called Tirstin, which meant fertile, for up on the leveled shelf there were pools, dents in the mountain rock, that collected water during the spring and held it through the dry season. The villagers of Tirstin knew of the value of the water and would make the people of Nacklon's village trade grain and meat for the water during the dry season. Nacklon's village had each year told the people of Tirstin that they thought the trading for water was against the wishes of the Gods and that the water should be free for all as long as there was some to share. The people of Tirstin didn't agree and said that the Gods had given them the water pools and made the river overflow into the pools for their village only and that Nacklon's people should be grateful that they are allowed to have any of the water. So it was.

 

The people of Nacklon's village might disagree with the people of the village of Tirstin. They might have heated words of disagreement over the amount of meat or grain the people of the village of Tirstin. would ask for the water. But they would never raise a hand against another in anger. To do so was outside the ways of the village, to do so was outside the ways of all villages as to do so was outside the will of the Gods. To strike another person in anger was to go directly against the will of the Gods. No one would do it, no one ever had done it and no one would ever think of doing it. It just wasn't the way.

 

Each year Nacklon's village would have to save a large portion of it grains and meats to trade for water in the dry season. This way had been going on for longer than Nacklon had lived, for longer than his father had lived and longer than his father's father had lived. Over the years the people of Tirstin. had grown wealthy in their food stores, they were able build stone houses, stone store buildings. Some of the people of Nacklon's village had moved up to live with the people of Tirstin. But they were seen as valley people and only allowed to live in the huts nearest the fields and were not allowed to start their own fields but worked for others on fields already owned. Nacklon knew of this and thought it was no way for an honorable man to live. He also thought that the people of Tirstin. were not honorable by how they would profit from the water pools. He saw it as a burden on their souls, a debt to the Gods that they would have to work off in another life. Nacklon was happy that he was not growing debts to the Gods, he grew his grain and hunted his meat and put his share into the village store for water in the dry season.

 

His sons worked with him event hough the youngest one, Gampo, was still too small to be able to do the real work but he would be there with Nacklon and his elder son, Hirpon, each day working the fields. And when it was time for hunting, Nacklon and his two sons would venture down the valley, into the marsh lands, and Nacklon would teach Gampo and Hirpon the ancient ways of hunting. Of knowing which animals were best to eat, which animals were ready to be taken as food for the village.

 

But this morning Nacklon was not thinking of the fields or of hunting or the dishonorable ways of the people of Tirstin, no he was thinking of the rising river. It was late for the spring rise, it was time for the river to start retreating from the fields. But each morning it was still higher then the last. Nacklon's brother, Hignalt, had discussed the problem of the river with Nacklon the night before, they had walked along the river edge and saw how it was taking the fields away. How it was invading into some of their neighbor’s huts.

 

The night before, Nacklon and Hignalt had squatted along the river side under the light of a half moon and discussed what might be done to save the village from being washed down the river. Others in the village thought the river would retreat as it had done each year but some agreed with Nacklon that it was well past the time for the river to retreat. And so Nacklon and Hignalt sat and discussed what the village should do, they discussed it as their father and his brother had discussed and as their father's father and his brother had discussed. So it was in the village. Nacklon's family had always decided what was best for the village. It had always been by way of the oldest living pair of Brothers. And when Nacklon or his brother died, which ever died first, Nacklon's sons would have to discuss and decide what was best for the village. It was Nacklon's sons and not Hignalt's because Nacklon was the youngest and could learn from his elder brother's mistakes and pass on the accumulated knowledge on to his sons. So it was.

 

Nacklon and Hignalt squatted there at the river side, watching it's currents and swells. The river that gave them life was now threatening to take it all away. They discussed how it might be time to move the village to another river in the west, near the village of Bukoni. But they agreed that this would be the last thing they would do if all else failed. They talked of moving the huts back from the river, up the mountain side a bit. But this still left the river taking the fields away. They had heard of this happening to another village. They had heard that the river can rise and rise and take the fields as part of the river and never let it go back to being fields.

 

They squatted there under the half moon for hours into the night. Discussing what they could do until Hignalt said, "Brother Nacklon, for all our discussing of what we might do against the threat of the river tuning on us we do not know why the river is turning on us, what makes it swell so, what makes it want to take our village away."

 

So they decided that they should explore up river to try and find the reason for the river swelling. They would leave at the first light of morning and walk up river until the sun was at it's highest point and then return to the village before the night would hide the village from their eyes. They would find the river's great source and ask it why it was taking their village, they would ask it to retreat and let the fields be farmed again.

 

So Nacklon stood on the bamboo deck that fronted his hut, waiting for his brother to come so they could hike up the river and find it's source. He stood there in the early morning light watching the river trying to take his village. "Why river do you want to take our village, is it to make us move and not have to live under the first plateau village of Tirstin.? Is there a better place for us to live that we should find?" Nacklon was thinking these questions when Hignalt came around the hut and greeted his younger brother. They greeted each other with an embrace and a touching of the cheeks. They were both ready to leave on a days hike up the river. Nacklon stood back and looked into his brother's eyes and saw his strength and Nacklon showed his brother with his eyes that he too had the strength to do what was needed. They both smiled and turned in silence to start their journey.

 

They walked, following the river, out of their village, past the fields that were slowly being taken by the river. They followed the river bank up through forests and over rocks and through cuts in the mountain side. They followed the river through the village of Tirstin. with it's stone buildings. The river was trying to take Tirstin. too, the brothers saw, the stone buildings were sinking in the soaked ground. Their fields were not as flooded as the one's in Nacklon's village but the river was still rising. The damp ground gave a musky, old smell to the village air. Nacklon thought it smelled of rotten souls.

 

They didn't stop to discuss the river with the people of Tirstin., Nacklon didn't think they would want to help Nacklon's village and besides one should never ask the advice of an dishonorable man. They followed the river out past the village of Tirstin and round it's curves up and up the mountain. Past Tirstin the river turned and twisted like a snake and with each turn they hoped the source would be around the next bend. But on and on they went, higher and higher. The river was becoming smaller and smaller as they followed. This was very strange they thought, how can so little water grow to be the river that is taking their village away. They climbed higher and higher, the river grew smaller and smaller until it was a little stream. But they still followed thinking that when they find the source it would surely be masterful and wise as to be able to feed the valley from such a small stream. The stream shrunk to a brook and this brook shrunk to a trickle but still the brothers followed the line of water until they came to a little pool, barely the size of Nacklon's cupped hand. The little pool was spilling a tiny trickle of water over it's edge but what was feeding it they couldn't see. They went a little higher to see if the trickle come from another stream higher up. But there was no streams or brooks higher up, just rock and mountain and the bare land that can grow nothing but cold air and white cold stone.

 

So the brothers squatted down next to the tiny pool and looked deep into it's reflective surface. They called to the river source to show itself, but the river didn't answer. The sun was approaching it's highest point in the sky, it was time to head back down the river. They squatted there not knowing what this meant, not knowing what could be done to make the river retreat. Hignalt said that they should try stopping the trickle of water from the tiny basin. It wouldn't take much of a wall to stop it and then they could see if this stopped the river.

 

They dug with their hands and sticks a large basin below the smaller one. They built a wall around the lip of the large basin and saw that it would take many days for the little trickle to fill the large basin and to flow over the wall around it's lip. It was time to walk down and see if they had stopped the river. But lower down they found that the river was still flowing, that not far from the first basin was another tiny basin with a little trickle of water that was feeding the river. They searched and found many little basins. They found hundreds of basins down the mountain side and saw how the trickle became the brook and how the brook became the stream and how the stream became the river. They saw how the river was from the mountain. They saw that it was the mountain that was the river's source. They saw that the mountain was filled with water, water that must of come from holding back all the storms.

 

"We can not dig large basins and walls for so many little basins, the mountain will feed the river and we can not hold it back this way." Hignalt told his brother, " We must think of another way to save the village from the rising river."

 

They agreed and started back down the mountain to their village in the valley. They followed the river as it grew, round it's bends and curves. They followed the river back down to the village of Tirstin., past it's stone buildings. They once again didn't stop to talk with the villagers of Tirstin. and the villagers of Tirstin. pretended not to notice Nacklon and Hignalt as they passed. They followed the river to the edge of the plateau, to the stone line that marked the boundary, the line of ownership of the village of Tirstin. This line was marked many years before by the people of Tirstin. stating that anything below this line was for Nacklon's village and all above was under the law and ownership of the village of Tirstin. This was a way of thinking that Nacklon's village didn't agree with, that ownership of the land was not an honorable concept. They believed that all was alive and all should live together in harmony and with respect of all's desires.

 

Nacklon and Hignalt stood there on the stone line marking the boundary between the two villages. They looked down on their village below, at the tiny huts with the mus-mus leafed roofs and where the fields should be but were now mostly river. Then they saw that halfway down from them was another plateau, a much smaller one, just a few huts in width but which followed the curved shelf of the higher plateau. along the edge of it was a stone lip that the river had broken through on it's way down the mountain. They saw that it would be possible to use the smaller plateau as a large basin for the river to flow into. If they could put large stones in the way of the river, where it had broken through the stone lip of the plateau, they could build a holding basin. This would slow the river down and let it retreat from the fields. They both agreed this was a good way to save the village from the river taking it away and thanked the Gods and the mountain for showing them the ways of the basins.

 

They returned to their village and talked with the others. The villagers gathered around the night fire which was always lit in the same place just a little up the hill from the village. The night fire was a place for sharing stories of hunting and other things of interest to the villagers. The flames of the night fire would shine down on the huts of the village lighting the land of the village. From the night fire one could see the whole village and see anytime if any animals came into the village looking for food. The animals sometimes thought of the villagers as food and so it was important to keep the night fire burning and for someone to keep watch over the village though the night. The night fire was also the place for any and all village meetings. Anytime there was something the whole village needed to know or decide on it was around the night fire that they would meet.

 

Nacklon spoke. "Hignalt and I have been to the river's source and found that it is the mountain that feeds the river. Over the years of protecting us from the great storms it has held back a lot of rain and now it can hold it no longer. We have seen how it tries to hold it back but the rain escapes through many cracks in the mountain. We have also seen that above us, up the hill towards Tirstin. is a way to help the mountain hold the river back. A way to build a basin to slow the river down and this basin will hold water for us, water we can use in the dry season just by feeding it back into the river as we need it. We must work together and gather large stones to hold the river back with, to build a wall that only lets through enough water for us to keep our fields moist and our crops from drying in the sun."

 

The villagers nodded and agreed that this was a good way to slow the river and save the village. Then Hignalt stood and spoke. "Tomorrow before the sun lifts the night all who are able shall gather here and start building this wall to slow the river." They all agreed and so it was.

 

The next morning all who were able to do such work gathered, they brought with them tools of the fields and of wood cutting for helping with the building. And so it was that the river was slowed. The river explored the basin and the river began to retreat from the fields below.

 

Nacklon and Hignalt squatted down along the edge of the basin and saw that the river was exploring the basin quite quickly and would soon find other ways down the mountain to the village. There were parts in the basin's lip that were not as holding as others. They decided that the villagers should continue working and build up the basin's lip so the river would be held securely in the basin. So it was that the wall of the basin was built. It held the river through to the dry season.

 

The dry season came but not for Nacklon's village for they had the great basin to hold the river and they could control the amount of water they let through to feed the river through the village. Nacklon and Hignalt squatted by the stream that flowed through the village, a stream that the year before had been a dry belt of earth and rock. They knew now that their plan had worked and that they were now free from depending on the village of Tirstin. for their water during the dry season. They discussed what they should do with the grain and meat that the village still held in it's storage hut, the grain and meat that was to trade with the village of Tirstin. for water. They decided to have a celebration, to have a feast in thanks to the mountain for again holding the river and for showing them the ways of basins. They also decided to invite the villagers of Tirstin. to join in their celebration, to share in the abundance that the Great Basin had given them. But the village of Tirstin. sent word that they did not desire to join in the valley's celebration, that they did not see the Great Basin as a good thing, that it would only bring great destruction as it was going against the will of the mountain and the will of the Gods.

 

Some members of the village were frightened by the message from Tirstin., they questioned if the Great Basin could bring great destruction. They discussed if the mountain stopped holding the river, how the village could be washed away and all the people could drown. They were nervous, they gathered around the night fire and Nacklon spoke. "The Great Basin is the will of the mountain, the Great Basin is the will of the Gods. For the mountain showed us the way of the basins and the Gods showed us how to build the wall. If it was not the will of the mountain and the will of the Gods the Great Basin wouldn't hold the river. We would not be able to go against the will of the Gods or the will of the mountain and hold the river. We must not head the words of the village of Tirstin. for they only want us to be dependant on their water. For it is with us depending on their water that they have grown rich and live in stone houses. They are only trying to scare us into becoming dependant on their water again so they can stay rich and live off our farming and hunting."

 

The villagers saw the wisdom and truth in Nacklon's words. "But we should think about next year and how the basin will have to hold even more water and we should make sure the wall of the Great Basin is secure and tall enough to hold the river through the next spring rise," Nacklon concluded.

 

Hignalt looked at his brother, his face lit up by the fire. This building of the wall, building it higher was something the two hadn't discussed. He was surprised by Nacklon talking about something the two of us hadn't discussed before.

 

"But how can we work so much on the Great Basin and still farm our fields and hunt for our meat?" one of the villagers asked, "My wife has given me a new son and I have to make sure he doesn't go hungry during the winter."

 

Hignalt said that he and Nacklon needed to discuss this and at the next nights fire they would let the villagers know what was to be.

 

The two brothers went up on to the ridge of the Great Basin. They squatted there under the moonlight watching the slow movement of the water in the Great Basin. Hignalt started. "Nacklon, my brother, we must be careful. We must not make this pool of water too important for our village. For I fear it will change our way of life. Our way of life has been a good way for our father and for his father. We must be careful not to upset the balance of things."

 

"But Hignalt, my brother, don't you see that our way has been to make the village of Tirstin. rich. They have more time to enjoy their children, they have more time to enjoy their wives because we work our fields and hunt for them. Because we give them our food they can trade that food for workers to build their stone houses. Don't you see, my brother Hignalt, that this Great Basin is a gift from the Gods to help us not have to depend on the village of Tirstin. for water during the dry season. This Great Basin is our freedom to have time to enjoy our children and our wives."

 

Hignalt picked up a small flat stone and skipped it across the smooth surface of the water. It skipped three times, leaving three sets of ripples reaching out to the edge of the basin. The ripples grew, crossing each other, until they spread as one ring reaching till it could reach no more and was extinguished by the walls of the basin. "The rings race out in freedom, thinking they are free and can keep reaching out for all eternity." Hignalt spoke softly to his brother, "They do not slow their race for growing larger until it is too late, until they are thrown out of the pool and exiled to where they can not exist. We must not be like the rings. We must see that we are free inside the boundaries of the pool and that inside the pool is where our life is best."

 

"You are very wise my brother." Nacklon too spoke softly, "But I am wise from both our lives, I have seen your steps and also taken my own. I have seen our father saddened by how we need to trade with the village of Tirstin. for water. I have seen our mother stumble down the mountain with hides of water on her back. This basin is the way to lessen our burden. We will stay inside the pool of our life but we will understand how to live inside the pool with a lighter burden. All we need is to build the wall so that we can assure that the Great Basin will hold the water we need for the dry season."

 

"I know you understand a great many things, my brother, that you have been fortunate to see my path and it's misgivings and benefited from my lessons" Hignalt responded with the moon high above drawing long shadows over his face. "But the Great Basin is able to hold enough water to feed our needs through the dry season, we have seen this. We can let it be and next year let it over flow. The wet season is good for the fields, it is a season needed by the circle of time. Now that we have the Great Basin, I say, my brother, that our work is done and now we can return to our way of farming and hunting."

 

"But what of next spring?" Nacklon asked. "What of when the river pushes with it's might down the mountain and finds the wall of the Great Basin a small nuisance, a small obstacle in it's way and pushes it out of it's path and down on our fields? We must make sure the wall of the basin will hold through the spring rise of the river."

 

"I hear your wisdom, my brother," Hignalt searched his brother's eyes to meet his and when Hignalt could look deep into his brother's eyes he continued, "For this I will agree. Let us not have a celebration with the foods in the food storage then, let us use the food storage to feed the ones who will build up the wall. But let us do this only once, let us then leave the wall so the river can flow over it with it's spring rise, so the basin only holds enough water to feed our needs through the dry season. Promise me this my brother, that we do not build the wall of the basin any higher, that we just make it strong enough to hold the spring rise of the river so it will not be washed down onto our fields."

 

Nacklon agreed but felt in his heart a strangeness, a feeling he had never felt before. A voice in head told him that his brother wasn't seeing the possibilities that the Great Basin offered. He shook off this feeling, dismissed it as a weakness of his mind being tired after such a long day. The brothers were agreed and this was the way for them to be.

 

The following evening, at the night fire, the villagers gathered and Nacklon spoke. "My brother Hignalt and I have discussed the situation and have decided that the stock pile of food will be used not for a celebration but to feed the families of those who work on strengthening the wall of the Great Basin. This work will be done before the next spring rise of the river to make sure that the river's spring rise can not push the walls of the Great Basin down into our fields."

 

The villagers agreed and so it was.

 

And so it was that the wall of the Great Basin was built. It was built to Nacklon's specifications. It was built twice the height of a man. It was built with stones packed with the hard mud of the river bank. It was built to hold the river's spring rise without any threat of the river pushing the wall down on the village and it's fields.

 

The spring rise came and the wall of the Great Basin held the river leaving only a small channel of water to flow down through the village. But this was not good for the fields for without the wet season the earth grew dry and would be hard to farm.

 

The villagers were worried about this and discussed it around the night fire. A few of the men went to Hignalt's hut where he was bedding down his children, his daughter Palanti and his son Autano. Hignalt was telling them a story of their Great Grandfather. He was telling them of how their family first came to live in the valley. Of how the first years were hard but soon the fields were repaying their hard work with an abundance of grains and vegetables. He told them of the joy of living from their own hands and how the Gods always took care of those who worked hard. The few men waited outside Hignalt's hut while he bedded his children, they waited there in the night quietly discussing the problems that will come if the fields are not softened by the spring rise.

 

When Hignalt came out through the doorway of his hut he saw their worried faces, he heard their worried words. He told them he would discuss it with his brother and at the next evenings fire they would let it be known what the village would do.

 

Hignalt went to Nacklon's hut and the two brother's sat at the small fire in the middle of the hut. Vesler, Nacklon's wife prepared some tea for them. The two brother's didn't discuss anything until after Vesler had prepared the tea and left them alone. Nacklon started. "I know of the concern of the villagers. I know of the problem with the fields not being softened by the spring rise. But let me tell you my brother of a dream I had last night, a strange dream. It was more of a vision. I dreamt of a way to keep the fields moist in the wet season and also through the dry season. I dreamt of using bamboo and making channels for the water to flow down from the Great Basin. Channels of bamboo that would bring the water to the fields. I saw in my vision how to control the amount of water that was fed into the fields. I saw in my vision how the fields would grow great crops and make the village rich with a great food supply. Hignalt was disturbed by his brother's dream. He had hoped that his brother would see that the changes brought on by the Great Basin had only brought more problems to the village. "I fear these changes my brother," Hignalt softly spoke, "I fear that the life of the village will change and not for the better. That more changes will make our village soft and lazy. For the soul to be strong the body must be strong. I fear that these changes will make the body weak and the mind seek other changes to make the work of the village easy. I say we open up the wall of the Great Basin and let the river flood the fields as it has always done. We have freed our village from being dependant on the village of Tirstin. for water during the dry season. We have made the wall of the basin strong enough to hold the river during the spring rise. This is enough and it is time to let the river flow over the fields and soften the earth."

 

Nacklon and Hignalt talked through the night. Nacklon talked of his vision being the will of the Gods. He talked of the tools the village had developed over the years to ease the work in the fields. The tools they had developed to help in the cutting of trees and bamboo. He said all these were the will of the Gods and that the way of the village was to find new ways to make life in the village more enjoyable. "We will no longer have to carry water from the river or from the Great Basin to feed the fields." Nacklon continued, "If we build the bamboo channels then the work on the great basin will be finished. Then we can carry on as before and farm and hunt, we will continue to feed our families but we will also have more time to enjoy our children, to enjoy our wives and to enjoy the company of our friends in the village. We have worked hard for many years and now the Gods have shown us a way to reap a greater benefit from our hard work."

 

" I see your wisdom my brother," Hignalt concluded, "I must say that I don't feel that these changes are for the better, but maybe I am just stuck in the habits of the past. I will agree with you on the building of the bamboo channels as you saw in your dream only if you promise that this will be the last of the work on the Great Basin and that if my fears are brought to being true that we will take down the channels and take down the wall of the Great Basin and return to the ways of life in the village before the Great Basin."

 

It was agreed and so it was.

 

That following evening Nacklon told the village of his vision. He talked of it around the night fire. The villagers around the night fire grew excited with the news of Nacklon's vision of the bamboo channels. They called it a vision from the Gods. A vision to save the fields from drying too much. Hignalt sat by the fire with an empty feeling in his stomach. A feeling he had never felt before. He looked at his brother's face glowing from the light of the fire. He saw the flames reflected in his brother's eyes, dancing like demons in the depth of the black centers of brother's eyes. He saw a strangeness in his brother's eyes. He felt the empty feeling in his stomach and knew that all was changing and felt it wasn't a good thing.

 

Hignalt stood and for the first time voiced a reluctance to his brother's words. "Dear friends, I speak to you in hope that you will respect the wisdom our family has brought to the village over the years. And that you will think of how fast we are changing our ways. Our village has stood for many years. Our village has had a way of life that has been the same for many life times. A way of life that has been very good to us, that has given us many happy days and healthy children. Nacklon and I have decided that we will build the bamboo channels he saw in his dream and we will witness how these channels change our lives. Nacklon and I have also agreed that if the changes are not for the better of the village and our way of life that we will dismantle the bamboo channels and take down the wall of the Great Basin and return the village to the way of life we have known. The way of life that his given us all the health and happiness we desire. With such great changes I fear the coming of equally great sorrows. We must pay respect to the circle of time and how all things have a counter balance. We must watch to see that, if with these changes we are changing our way of life not for the better then we must recognize this and be willing to return to the old ways of the village."

 

Nacklon too looked at his brother, his face lit by the fire and saw through the dancing shadows the old man Hignalt will become, the old man he was already becoming, stuck in his old ways and closed to new ways. Nacklon again heard the voice in his head saying his brother didn't see the greatness of life that the Great Basin offered. The voice told him that Hignalt would try to keep the village as slaves to the village of Tirstin. This voice sent a shiver through Nacklon's body. It made him feel cold and tried to block out the voice. He shook it off and listened to his brothers wise words.

 

The villagers solemnly nodded their heads in agreement and so it was.

 

The bamboo channels were built, the water flowed freely from the Great Basin down into the fields and the water softened the fields for planting. The years harvest was the most abundant the village had ever known. The dry season came but the fields were fed by the bamboo channels and kept moist. The villagers didn't need to carry the water to the fields, they had more time to enjoy their children and their spouses. All agreed that life in the village was better then it had ever been.

 

The news of the Great Basin and the bamboo channels spread to other villages. People talked of the village where the water carried itself to the fields, where the crops would grow twice as high and bare twice the food. And so people started coming to the village to see how this worked and people started moving to the village to live and farm new fields.

 

Hignalt was not happy with this. He went to Nacklon and said they needed to discuss this. They squatted on top of the wall of the Great Basin and looked down on the growing village. They looked down on the bamboo channels, there were over twenty bamboo channels now. When they first built them they stopped at ten. "Nacklon my brother, this is not the way of the village," Hignalt firmly said. "The way of the village was like a family, now there are strangers living with us and more come with each new moon. We have to stop this or we will loose the way of the village."

 

"My brother Hignalt," Nacklon spoke just as firmly, "I understand your concern, but the land is not ours, the way of the water is not ours, we can not stop anyone who wishes to live in the valley from doing so and if they wish to live here with us then we must share the water with them. It is the honorable way to be."

 

"Yes what you say is true my brother," Hignalt quickly replied, "but if we remove the bamboo channels and take away the walls of the Great Basin and let the river flow as it always has then the way of life in the village will return to the great way it has always been."

 

"My wise brother Hignalt, the great way you speak of was not such a great way. We worked hard everyday, we had to trade our grain and meat with the village of Tirstin., we had to carry the water down over the mountain side during the dry season. This was not a great way, this was a very hard way. I say," Nacklon commanded, "that the way of the village now is a great way. We have new friends to help with our village's needs, we have time for our children, we have time for our wives, we are not too tired to laugh as the night settles upon us."

 

"But, my brother," Hignalt continued with an urgent tone, "you can surely see how the soul of the village has changed, how it feels colder. At the night fire people don't speak so openly of their hearts. They talk of how much grain they will grow, more grain then they will need, they brag about how rich their stock piles are becoming. It's the breeding of greed that is upon us."

 

"You should be careful my brother, for your words are sounding like those of a jealous tongue. For I know that you have not used the bamboo channels like others and you have not had your fields grow as abundantly as others. Be careful that you do not want to take away from others that which you do not have."

 

"How can you say that to me my brother? Hignalt stood up and looked down on his brother. "How can you think that the reason for my words is anything but for my concern of the village?"

 

Nacklon stood and faced his brother. "I say this because all you want is to keep our lives as hard as they have always been and for no other reason but that is the way it has been. I look on the village and see happy people, I see new babies being born without their parents fearing to have enough food to feed them, I see goodness coming from the changes and all you see is fear, all you see is danger, all you want is to keep us slaves to the hard work of the day."

 

"You know my brother, that I only care for the better of the village. If the village gets too large we will have troubles like the cities of the north, we will have thieves, we will have degenerates poisoning the soul of the village. You know this is true. Our village has been for many years without any trouble, without any harm coming to anyone who lived here. But just the other day I had to stop two men from beating each other. They were willing to fight over the water that came from the bamboo channels for one said the other was using too much. This is not good. It is against the will of the Gods for one man to harm another man but this is happening in our midst. We must stop this."

 

Nacklon looked away from Hignalt's eyes as Hignalt continued.

 

"You promised me that if the changes that came with the Great Basin were not good for the village that we would take it all down and return to the old ways of the village. I say that the changes are not good for the village. I say you have to honor your promise to me and agree to take down the wall of the Great Basin." Hignalt demanded. His eyes were wild, his heart was thumping through his chest, his soul was burning with the fear of loosing all he cared for. He needed his brother to hold true to his word. He needed his brother to see his wisdom. He needed Nacklon to be in agreement with him, as they had always been.

 

Nacklon turned his eyes back to meet his brother's. Nacklon's eyes had a coldness to them. He spoke in a cold, detached tone. "You are right that I promised you that if the changes that came with the Great Basin were not good for the village that we would take the wall down. But I don't see the changes as not being good. I see the changes as being very good. I see that the changes have brought the village to the best of times it has ever known."

 

"But Nacklon, surely you can see that if men are willing to fight over it and disobey the will of the Gods, that it can't be good."

 

"I see that there might be a few men who do not deserve the benefits of the Great Basin. I see that we have to be careful of who we let live among us. But this is the problem of man and not of the Great Basin."

 

"But surely you can not think that the way of the village is better then before the Great Basin."

 

"I think it and I know it, my brother Hignalt We have lived as slaves for all our lives, we have worked hard and given any abundance of our work to the village of Tirstin., now they come to us and ask to live with us. We are no longer living as slaves. We can enjoy the day like we have never enjoyed before. Who are you to say that our people should not enjoy their lives, their families and the fruit of their labor?"

 

"But Nacklon, I am your brother. You talk to me like I am a stranger. You look at me with anger in your eyes. You used to look at me his respect and love. Can't you see how this has changed even you."

 

"Hignalt I am your brother, and I will always respect and love you but I don't always have to agree with you. We are at a time in the history of the village that will be seen as the great beginning. I will make sure that this great beginning grows into a better way of life for all who live in this village. You have to trust my wisdom and know that I will do what is best for all. I hope you will come to the village in agreement with me."

 

"And my brother if I say that I am not in agreement with you?"

 

"Then we can not go on as we have before, for I see the way of the future and what is best for the village."

 

For the first time in their lives there seemed to be a giant, poisoned sea between the two brother's hearts.

 

"I am the one who the Gods chose to give the vision to, you shouldn't forget that," Nacklon continued with a softer tone, "but I agree with you that the will of the Gods must be respected and followed. We must say that the will of the Gods must be upheld in all who live in the village or they shouldn't be allowed to stay among us."

 

"On this I do agree my brother. But the will of the Gods has never needed to be enforced before."

 

"Yes but at times we have all needed to be reminded, to be shown the offence in our ways."

 

"Yes this is true." Hignalt was beaten but felt relieved that Nacklon had softened his tone and his eyes were showing a warmth again. He knew what Nacklon was saying was to be so. If he disagreed and held his line against his brother and the Great Basin then he would loose all. Deep inside he needed to keep an open connection with his brother. He was afraid that his brother would loose all site of what was best for the village. It was their destiny to watch over the village together.

 

"So sometimes we will have to remind others, newcomers to the village, of the will of the Gods. You see too much evil in the changes, my brother, you should try to see it as a great test for our following the will of the Gods. A test we can all pass together."

 

"I will agree with you on the newcomers to the village. I will say though, my brother," Hignalt looked Nacklon right in the eye and felt the return of the strength in his connection with Nacklon, "that I don't like it but I will agree with you so we can continue to watch over what is best for the village together and make sure that the will of the Gods is honored."

 

So it was that the village grew.

 

It soon came to be that with all the newcomers to the village farming new fields that the water in the Great Basin wasn't enough to get the village through the dry season. The Great Basin needed to be made to hold more water. The wall of the Great Basin needed to be made higher. And though Hignalt didn't agree with this he didn't oppose his brothers directions. They discussed it but he knew that the discussion was only for show, only to give the impression of the two deciding. For it was Nacklon who decided and it was Hignalt who simply agreed.

 

Over the years, during each dry season the wall was added to. They made it thicker and taller. The village needed many people to help with the Great Wall and so supported them with food for the fields. There was a village tax on farming and hunting, all had to give a part of their food to the village food storage to feed those who worked on the great wall. Some people never hunted or worked in the fields, they would get up with the sun and go work on the Great Wall. They would hunt for cracks in the wall or places or weakness. They would clean leaves and dirt from the bamboo channels that fed the fields and they built the wall higher and higher each year.

 

And each year the Great Basin would hold more and more of the river and each year the Great Wall was built higher and higher. The villagers of Tirstin. had complained and sent warnings to Nacklon's village. The main priests of Tirstin. would foretell of great destruction that would come to Nacklon's village. But Nacklon's village didn't listen. The heard the words as words from an envious and dishonorable voice. Then the village of Tirstin. demanded that the Great Wall not be made any higher as the Great Basin was starting to flood into their fields, seeping though the ground into their lower lands. They said that if Nacklon's village didn't stop building the great wall that the village of Tirstin. would be forced to send it's men to destroy the Great Wall.

 

By this time Nacklon was seen as a great leader, a man of visions from the Gods. He was seen as a man of great power. It was in his eyes for they had changed, his eyes that used to see beauty in all now saw the future. Nacklon's reply to the village of Tirstin. was one of numbers, as Nacklon had become accustomed to working with and thinking with numbers. Nacklon no longer worked in the fields or hunted for meat. Neither did he work on the Great Wall. No, Nacklon now spent his time with numbers, numbers to decide how to divide up new fields for new farmers joining the village, numbers to decide how many people should work on the Great Wall and numbers to decide how much food should be stored to feed the workers. Nacklon's family lived in a stone house now and he decided all main decisions regarding the village. Nacklon wanted to build a stone house for his brother Hignalt but Hignalt refused the offer. Hignalt remained working his fields and hunting for his food. Nacklon would still discuss all decisions regarding the village with Hignalt but it was mostly a one sided discussion

 

So Nacklon's reply of numbers to the villagers of Tirstin. was this, "We are a village of tens of thousands of people, you are a village of a few hundred. You are welcome to come join our village and live as you are accustomed but do not threaten us or the Great Basin for every one hand that you raise against us we will raise three hundred hands against you." So it was.

 

They started with some night raids on the Great Wall, just a few dozen from the village of Tirstin. doing slight damage to the workings on the Great Wall. They would come down in the middle of the night and dismantle supports and loosen newly placed stones, sometimes pushing them into the great depths of the Great Basin. This mad Nacklon very angry and he discussed the situation with Hignalt. Nacklon wanted to have men to guard the Great Wall, he wanted to set up posts along the Great Wall and protect it from such attacks.

 

But Hignalt didn't agree, "How should we protect the Great Wall? How should we stop these men? To bring harm to another man is against the will of the Gods. We have enough men working on the wall to rebuild any damage they can do. I say we ignore these minor attacks and they will slowly stop as they see that their efforts are not harming the Great Wall."

 

But Nacklon wouldn't hear it, he was filled with pride for the Great Wall and the Great Basin. He told his brother that the Great Wall has to be protected at all costs, for if it falls the village and all the people living in the valley would be lost. That the Great Basin held so much water that if the villagers of Tirstin. had their way a great river would come down from the Great Basin and destroy all in the valley.

 

They argued and discussed it through the night. But they still didn't agree. For this was an issue that Hignalt could not let go. For the village to stand in aggression against another was surely against the will of the Gods. Hignalt saw this as the one issue that the village would disagree with Nacklon on. For it was all their souls that would pay for such disregard for the will of the Gods.

 

Nacklon went home to his wife and now grown sons, to his stone house and closed the door on his brothers words. Hignalt knew that this was the end of the brothers discussions, it was the end of Nacklon sharing with Hignalt his views on what the future of the village would be. It had never happened that the brothers had not agreed. It had never happened to their father and his brother or to their father's father and his brother. Nacklon knew this but saw that these times were very different from times of the past and that with great changes in times came great changes in ways.

 

He went to his bed and slept through the morning. When he rose in the afternoon he knew what he would do to settle his and Hignalt's disagreement. He decided that the village people should decide. He told his brother that they should gather the villagers and both he and Hignalt would speak their side and then let the people decide who's was the wisest way of dealing with protecting the Great Wall. So it was.

 

They gathered all the people of the village to the base of the Great Wall and first Hignalt spoke and told of the small amount of damage that the people of Tirstin. were doing to the Great Wall at night and how it was nothing to worry about. He told them the Great Wall was so thick and strong that it would stand forever and no one could take it down. Hignalt's message brought new news to some of the people who didn't know that the Great Wall was being attract by the people of Tirstin. This made some nervous standing at the base of the Great Wall and looking up to it's height knowing that behind it was enough water to flood the whole valley. As Hignalt stepped down the villagers were restlessly speaking among themselves. Then Nacklon stepped up and spoke to the people. "We have built the Great Wall and made the Great Basin with the will of the Gods and the will of the Mountain. Before we had the Great Basin we were slaved to the village of Tirstin., we made them rich and their lives easy as they lived off our farming and hunting. Now that we can live without being dependant on their water. They want to destroy the Great Wall and bring the river down on us. They want to destroy the Great Basin and flood the valley. If they bring down the Great Wall and destroy the Great Basin they will kill us all. We can not let them do this, for they do this from their greed, their's is not the will of the Gods or the will of the Mountain. We must protect ourselves from their greed, we must protect our children from their greed, we must protect the Great Wall and the Great Basin!" The villagers roared out in agreement. They held up their children and called for Nacklon to protect them.

 

Nacklon spoke to them again. "My brother wants us not to raise our hand in defense to these attacks, he says that to harm another is against the will of the Gods. But is it against the will of the Gods for the Eagle to protect it's eggs from the attack of the snake? Is it against the will of the Gods for the Puma to protect it's cubs against the attack of the Eagle? I say it is not and I say it is the will of the Gods for us to protect the Great Wall and to protect the Great Basin and to protect our children against the attack of the people of Tirstin.!" The villagers roared again in agreement to Nacklon's words.

 

Hignalt stood up with great grievance in his face. "People of the valley, we have lived here for many generations, we have lived in peace for all our past. We must not spill the blood of another man, we all know this is against the will of the Gods. We must find another way to stop the people of Tirstin from trying to damage the Great Wall. I say that if we spill the blood of another man then the peace of the valley will be lost forever. I say that through ways of peace, love and understanding we can settle this dispute with the people of Tirstin. without going against the will of the Gods."

 

Nacklon stood next to his brother and called out, "People of the valley you must decide which of us shall you follow, my forgiving and understanding brother Hignalt, or me, Nacklon, who will protect you from the greed of Tirstin.?"

 

The crowd reacted with chants of Nacklon, Nacklon, Nacklon

 

Nacklon turned and looked at his brother, he saw fear in his brother's eyes and Hignalt saw a stranger in Nacklon's eyes. So it was. Nacklon now was the leader of the valley without his brother. Nacklon would decide what was best for the village without having to discuss it with Hignalt

 

So it was that guards with hunting tools were set up along the top and the base of the Great Wall. They were posted there day and night. At first there was some clashes with the people of Tirstin. as they came in the night to damage the Great Wall. No one was hurt, it was mainly warnings called in the night and a few times the guards chased the people of Tirstin. up over the wall and back to their village.

 


But then one night a man was seen up on the top of the Great Wall, the guard who spotted him raised his bow and shot an arrow at the man. It struck him in the chest and pieced his heart. The man fell into the Great Basin and soon was dead, floating in the water, his blood mixing with the water of the Great Basin spreading a red pool out from the man's body. Then a man from the Tirstin. side shot an arrow at the guard who had killed the man. The guard was struck in the heart and he too fell into the water of the Great Basin. This was the start of the Great War. Soon calls were heard and men from both sides came running to guard. Both sides shooting arrows across the width of the Great Basin. Many men were struck and fell into the water of the Great Basin. Both sides had lost many but the village of Tirstin had less to loose and soon all the men of Tirstin were dead and sharing their blood with the water of the Great Basin.

 

By morning time there was hundreds dead in the water, just as many men from the valley as from Tirstin. The only people left in Tirstin., the women and children sat and wept at the side of the Great Basin as the water turned a deeper and deeper red. The red water was feed down to the fields through the bamboo channels and through the town in the river. When the people of the village came to the river to gather their morning water they were shocked by the river of blood. They saw it as the anger of the Gods, a curse on the valley. They went to their fields and found them soaked in the same blood water. They were scared and many decided to run from it's curse, to leave the valley. Tens of thousands left the village and the valley. Over a few days the village was mostly empty. The water still ran red from the Great Basin and now the water was poisoned by all the dead bodies. No one dared to go into the red water to collect the bodies.

 

Hignalt went to Nacklon, his worst fears had come to life. His thoughts were racing, thoughts of the dead, thoughts of the village being doomed, thoughts of his brother, thoughts of how to re-build their future. He found Nacklon in his stone house, sitting in his stone chair in the center of the house's main room. Nacklon was holding his head in his hands. He didn't hear Hignalt enter. Hignalt stood there awhile watching his brother rocking back and forth. "Nacklon my brother." Hignalt softly called. Nacklon looked up, startled. His eyes were sunken deep into his eye sockets, sweat was beading on his forehead. He just looked over at Hignalt with a look of rage. "Nacklon my brother, all is lost here, we must leave."

 

"You, it was you who brought this curse on my village!" Nacklon growled at Hignalt. Vesler came into the room and looked at them both with the deepest of worried looks and then turned and left the room again. "You and your damned curse of great sorrow! Damn you to hell for you are not my brother!"

 

Hignalt took a step back, his heart was breaking for he could see his brother had become mad. "No Nacklon, I only wanted what was best for the village, please, come with me and my family we are going to Bukoni to start anew."

 

"You lie, you lie! You brought this curse on my village, you turned the Gods against me! Damn you!"

 

"No Nacklon, you are not seeing things clearly, you have been too burdened by your responsibilities, you need to have some time to rest, come with me. Your sons are coming with their families."

 

"Damn you, you have even turned my sons against me! I will not leave my village. The Gods will forget your curse, the water will run clear again, people will come back."

 

"No Nacklon, the water is forever poisoned, people will never come back to live in this village."

 

"Only because it is your will that they do not."

 

"No Nacklon, I love this village as much as you, you know this. Look into your heart and remember how fine things were before."

 

"How fine they were before your jealousy poisoned my dreams."

 

"No Nacklon, please, you are my brother and I am yours and my heart is crushed by your pain. Please let me help you. Please see that I am not your enemy, my heart feels nothing but love for you."

 

"Your heart feels nothing but the poison it spreads. Go from my village you, go and never come back. I never want to see your cursed face again."

 

"Please Nacklon, you can not mean this."

 

"I mean it as the Gods are my witness and if you do bring your cursed soul back into my village again I will rip your poisonous heart from your chest."

 

"Nacklon, my heart breaks."

 

Hignalt turned and left the room, never to return, and never to speak of his last meeting with his brother. He left and wept outside the stone house of Nacklon

 

Hignalt took his wife and family and headed for the village of Bukoni and continued his simple life of farming. Nacklon's sons, Gampo and Hirpon, both had families of their own and decided to leave the valley and it's cursed waters and joined their uncle in the village of Bukoni for a life of farming and hunting. Three days after the Great War only a few dozen people were left in Nacklon's village. The week before it had been tens of thousands. The work on the Great Wall had finally stopped, the village was seen as cursed and soon would be completely empty. Vesler, Nacklon's wife wanted to leave the village too but Nacklon wouldn't leave. He was disillusionary, he was ranting in his stone house about how the water would clear and the Great Basin would feed the fields again and people would come back. But Vesler knew this wasn't to be. But still they stayed. They had large stockpiles of food and grains. They had massive clay jugs filled with clear water. Nacklon spent his days talking to people who weren't there, giving orders on the building of the Great Wall. Vesler prayed to the Gods to still her husband's mind and return them to the peaceful way of life they knew years before. But the Gods didn't come to her aid.

 

As the story is told, Nacklon and Vesler lived in the deserted village for many months. Some travelers passing the village reported seeing Nacklon on top of the Great Wall cursing the Gods for forsaking him. The water in the Great Basin turned to a deadly acid, no one returned to live in the village. It was known far and wide as a place of death and a place no sane person would go.

 

Then the end came one day like the striking hand of the Gods. The thunder could be heard for hundreds of miles around. The Great Wall split open down it's center. With a ground shaking roar it let loose the sea of water in the Great Basin. The water's angry force drove the stones of the Great Wall down on the village, crushing everything in it's path. The water pushed the stones of the Great Wall to the edges of the valley blocking all pathways to the valley. The stones held the deadly waters of the Great Basin in the valley, stopping it from letting loose it's curse on the neighboring valleys. The acid waters swelled and raged inside the confines of the valley until all it's anger was spent. But the acid waters lay claim to the valley that had brought it to be, turning what was once a valley full of life into a sea of death.

 

It is said that on the darkest of nights, if you venture to the edge of what was once the village of Tirstin. and look down over the Sea Of Death, one can see Nacklon on the water, cursing the Gods for forsaking his village. It is said that he swore he would never leave the village and that to this day his soul is a prisoner of the sea's deadly black waters.