And so the mystery of the muddle little village began to unravel. The place where they put their children by night into houses floating on lily pads to save them from the god of the river. Where the Truth has not come to save them from the Hidden Mouth , but seems to have greedily gobbled up their able-bodied persons into the ranks of the Uxphonese.
The creature came by night. It was never seen. It was seldom heard. It was low and heavy and must have been long. It had jaws and spines. It had a smell… “like frogs being boiled“. It liked tender flesh. It came every few weeks. If only Koshi had been with them… (and Hasver could not help imagining the old man’s eyes smiling inside the boy’s face as he rode away on the strange furred creatures into the forest of the calliope). It had eaten all the pigs. It ignored the chickens, or took few enough of them that it was not noticed.
The various members of the party hid from Sulucu’s matchmaking behind their holy orders.
Rhotia’s brother Karam had a soft blue crab business that boomed, and quickly went away after he “brokered a peace with the river god” that lasted some six months. The crabs were no longer seen in this part of the river.
Simon suggested stealing one of the floating houses. This was rejected.
They set about setting up an offering for the river god. It would be Simon, in a circle of torches, ready with his miracles and his potent thoughts.
In place of a boning knife, Roz showed Ariadoca the heft of one of her lovely gilded knives and the housekeeper exclaimed, “It’s almost like it … hungers to kill,” awed. Roz grew quite a smile then.
In the dark, Simon’s manly smell wafted out, Hasver imagined, like an oily steak toward the nostrils of some monster in the dark. He dreamt of monsters in the dark, but not ones that lived in a river, but in the emptiness around and inside everything.
When it came, it was sudden. There was the startled “oof!” of air being forced out of the body, and a sound like a synth platter smacking into flesh. Then… there was a loud splash in the river meters out beyond the hut. One of the torches went out.
This is the way gods respond when invoked: quickly and without room for misinterpretation.