Under the maelstrom sky, a pond. Beneath that pond, a wellspring. Around that pond, the forest. The heads of the trees nodded over the small liquid hollow, needles a lattice as though the spring had reached into the air to form a shield against the violence of the atmosphere.
Into the peace it created, saint Gih arrived.
This was before his power; this was before his fame. Saint Gih came to the wood of Belameh while the goddess fought the first battles of the uprising, when doom lay on all their foreheads. A poacher, he entered the wood, seeking the white deer the hunters spoke of in reverent whispers, the white stag whose antlers shone like the moon. The antlers which, when ground to a powder, would keep a man from death.
Saint Gih arrived at the pool.
The spring lay beneath, unnoted, unseen. From it poured all the water of the air. Saint Gih had entered the clearing to escape the storm; Saint Gih had arrived to find the source of its chaos. Though he had found no deer in the wood, the lightning across the sky remained atop the water. The pool held it, branching to one side, branching to another.
And in the image held there, saint Gih found what he sought, though he did not know it.
A deer stood at the edge of the pond, a doe white as the moon. Saint Gih raised his bow. If he should not cheat death this night, at least he should eat. The arrow flew, shot truly, bent awry in the air that rose above the water. The doe fled into the darkening wood.
Though he did not know it, saint Gih’s death left him.
Before him, an arrow. Beneath it, a wellspring. The power that shielded the storm held half a weapon at eye level, and saint Gih stood transfixed. He turned to the sky, the dome above him, grown out of nature as though shaped by hands. He turned to the trees, arced when they should be straight. He turned downward, and saw the lightning in the water.
Saint Gih saw the storm in the water.
The words of those who were not yet saints came to him out of the spring. The words of those who fought the gods entered his mind and churned therein. He could not deny what he had once doubted, and though they saw only defeat, under the sky he saw their victory.
Under the sky he saw their peace.
Leaving the arrow, he entered. Leaving his bow, he drowned. Leaving himself, he submerged. And the wellspring rose to meet him. The wellspring poured through him to the clouds. The wellspring put the lightning into him. Saint Gih, who had hid from battle for fear, though that fear ate him until his shrinking heart sought the secret the trees hid, broke the surface converted to their cause.
He arose saint Gih, firstborn of the entombers of gods.
This story, first published on my Patreon, comes from my work in progress Hunter and Prey, which will be the third book in the White Changeling series. It may have differences in the final book, as this is taken from the first draft, but I anticipate it will remain mostly the same.
The other books in the series so far are Hidden in Sealskin and Like Mist Over the Eyes.