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The Waterbreaker

"I'm not reading this to the kids." Alistair closed the book with an irritated gesture. "It always scared me when I was a kid. I'll read something else."   The woman across the table rolled her eyes. "It's just a fable. I think you're still scared."   "It's seriously a messed up story, Phanae. Some guy tries to make life better for his village and for future generations, and *bam*!" He clapped his hand over his fist. "Just like that, they're all dead. Kind of a bad lesson to be teaching kids, right?" The wizard leaned back in his chair. "It also loses a lot of its punch when now there are actual magic people running around who can actually do what's in the myth."   "Don't flood out the Capital City now, Alistair." Phanae gave him a droll look. "Just get over it and read the story tonight, they'll find out one way or the other. The orphanage doesn't care what you read as long as someone's there keeping the kids entertained."

Summary

Long ago, when the people of Creus were scattered and isolated, Calamity stalked the land, in the form of great fires that ravaged the forests, massive waves scouring the shores, or great downpours that turned rivers to death. In those days, prior to the rise of the great kingdoms of Saibh, well before Power and its ilk were but thoughts in the wind, it was nature that ruled with a tempestuous fist.   Without Progress and its technology, and without the more modern powers of magic and magecraft, there were many who were simply resigned to their fates. To their crops, starved in drought, or to their homes, burned in wildfire, or their children, swept away in flood. For what was there to be done? Cursing the gods of the time had never resulted in fruit.   One day, after another flood that had destroyed half of a village, its clan chief, in utter despair, stepped into the floodwaters and cried out.   "When will this end?"   To his shock, a response.   "When you will it."   A water sprite, a fae of the seascape, rose out of the water before him. With black eyes and soft words, it promised salvation, and presented the man with a rod of driftwood. With it, the sprite promised, the water would now do his bidding, and encouraged by the words, the man waved the wand aloft. To his shock, a pillar of water erupted at his call, and with a gesture the floodwaters were broken, forced back into the river from whence it came. Thus the artifact became known as the Waterbreaker.   For the next age, the village rebuilt and prospered, as the rod could command not only water's absence, but compel its coming. Drought and flood vanished. Wildfires were smote. Though many whispered about the chief's new powers, his village was the envy of all others. His passing was cause for a massive feast in his honor, as it was through him that the power of Water was finally broken.   Unfortunately, with his passing, nature immediately returned to reassert her rule, and within a fortnight, the largest flood ever seen in living memory descended from the mountains. The chief's son lost his life searching for the rod he knew his father had used, but it was for naught - the sprite had bound the Waterbreaker to the chief's will and his alone, and without it was lost.   And so the village came to an end, as after the total destruction of the village and its farms, a drought like no other baked the land into inhospitable desert, and the land entered the realm of dust and memory.

Historical Basis

This particular story is found in many books of mythologies and lore and is a common children's tale. Scholarly interest was limited to speculation; the most common theory is that this was not in fact a magical artifact, but an early form of agricultural irrigation control developed by an ingenious early engineer. This fits the common themes of supplying water when necessary, and diverting it in flood. The disaster alluded to at the end of the story is likely some sort of dam failure. No archaeological evidence has yet been uncovered to corroborate the myth as a real historical event.

Variations & Mutation

Though not a variation per se, the Askri Serpent Dance alludes to a flood that may be related to the flood described here. Proving such a relationship is likely impossible.

Cultural Reception

The tale of the Waterbreaker is well known across Saibh in most cultures, and is taken to be generally a children's lesson on inevitability - delaying the inevitable can only make things worse.

In Art

There is a four part mural of the end of the myth painted on the side of the Cultural Studies building at The Academy of Etoile, depicting the chief holding the Waterbreaker aloft, his funeral, the floodwaters, and the scoured land.

Date of First Recording
This myth predates written history, and was likely recorded prior to 500PH.
Date of Setting
Pre-history

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Comments

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6 Jul, 2020 18:05

This is great! I especially like the idea of irrigation developing into a myth about a mythical object, as well as the idea of multiple cultures having a flood story (similar to our own world.)

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