The River's Coin

The river takes her dues, child. Pay the toll as you aught.
  The Manawa River is no easy beast to tame, unlike some of her sisters and children. Her waters flow rough-tumble from the Devil's Spears, cutting through the landscape and devouring the waters pouring down from Mochnant on high. Those who seek to cross prefer to do so via flight, or via high, secure bridges - the river's waters are treacherous, and low bridges are often consumed by the waves.   But not the bridge by the River's Coin, which has stayed intact - against all odds - for at least a century. It has defied countless flash floods and hurricane-force winds, even enduring the might of weather tormented by the Rage of the Sunari. Local legends suggest that this is thanks to the duties paid to the river at its altar.   This "altar" is relatively nondescript. It is, by appearance, a thick wooden post that may once have been a great tree. If it weren't for the bounty of tolls paid to it, it would be nothing more than part of the landscape. It is the travellers that pass it by that grant it some measure of meaning and life, as they pay their tolls and decorate the Coin with all kinds of fancies.
Alternative Names
the Riversoul
Type
Shrine
Parent Location
Owning Organization

Paying the Toll

Pay with what you find, with the bounty of your hands. Or pay with your blood, one way or another.
  To pay the toll is a simple matter, and one anyone of any age can do. During your travels, you must remember to collect something striking from the nearby landscape - something natural, and already offered to you as the earth's bounty, such as a seashell or flower petals. Carry that item as you travel, and hold it whilst you think. When you eventually reach the Coin, decorate it with the bounty you have collected. This is how the toll is paid, and this releases you of any ill luck incurred by the travel. Some travellers prefer to instead donate personal possessions or food to the Coin in thanks, whilst others make art of the bounty provided to them to then leave their creation behind with the Coin.  

If someone fails to pay the toll by this exceedingly simple method, however, legend states that the bounty will be paid another way. Usually, this is by fatal accidents and missteps in combat. A routine bridge crossing further down may turn into a fatal slip into rushing waters, or the simple act of preparing dinner may result in their knife breaking and drawing blood.   The amount of blood shed, and whether it is a fatal blow or not, varies; there have never been children lost to the Coin, but stubborn teenagers are not exempt. Those who treat the tradition with disrespect are far more likely to meet a grisly end than those who are simply ignorant of it, or those who mean well but forget.   It must be noted that paying the toll is not absolute protection: locals still die in the river's waters and suffer in other ways. Paying the toll, if the locals are believed, is simply protection against disaster.
 

Sacrificing to the Coin

Some travellers have sacrificed other lives, animal or sapient, to the Coin. This does appear to work to an extent, but sacrificing another who has previously (and respectfully) paid the toll has been shown to be fatal. Locals use this statistic as vital evidence in proving that the River's Coin has real magic woven into it, and that the toll must be paid to grant them some measure of protection.   No direct cause for this magic has been found as of yet; some suspect hags, a local haunt, or even the mythical avatars.   The recent events in Takawaoku have increased foot traffic down the Manawa River, creating a need for this information to be spread - Rhaead has already begun including knowledge of the Coin in guide pamphlets and travel information, as decreed by their Council.

Cover image: River by Nambasi

Comments

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1 Jan, 2022 20:31

A really simple, but nice little bit of worldbuilding here! I love this idea of a small shrine dedicated to making sure you don't drown in a river. Wonder if an alternative toll can also be something like losing something valuable or pure bad luck. Or is the altar really eager to shed blood only?   Though I'm curious: has anyone tried taking something from the River's Coin? And has that shown to have consequences as well?

2 Jan, 2022 07:29

Fun fact: this was inspired by a local community altar at a beach I visited over Christmas. It's just a wooden pole sticking out of the beach that everyone always leaves seaweed and such on, to the point where it's become a local tradition to decorate it after the tide washes the last lot of things away.   Paying the toll by giving something valuable wouldn't work, because then you're polluting the environment - though it may work by leaving a sign for the next person to take what you left, paying forward a fortune. The idea is the spirit behind it, after all.   As for alternative tolls being taken from someone: general bad luck/losing things precious to you would absolutely be folded into the umbrella of Bad Things, especially for those that forgot but are generally respectful. Don't need to jump straight to killing.   Yes, people have taken from the Coin, even tried to wreck it. Drunken idiots and *** teenagers exist everywhere, after all, lol. The consequences are generally worse for them, especially if nobody catches that the Coin has been damaged - the towns in the area can be threatened pretty badly by weather if it's broken, and that usually gets someone to check! The individual consequences are terrible even from just the Coin, let alone from the punishments the villagers place on the idiots in question...

26 Jan, 2022 21:01

Now I'm thinking of a village statistician maintaining a chart of people who've died as a result of sacrificing someone else to the post. :D   I like the way this approaches a traditionally mythical idea like something quantifiable.