To Bury the Earth
There once were four major temples in Kerani: the temples of Sun and Moon, the Temple of Celestial Song, and the temple of Green Earth.
Now it is law in Kerani that any person may go to any of the major temples and ask for intercession for himself or his family. One of the temple priests is assigned to investigate the situation by visiting the home, and the temple provides food, clothing, even work if it is needful.
It is also law that only so many fish may be caught each day, and only so many crocodiles hunted each season, both grown and in the egg. In this way, Bhanu protects the river that gives Kerani life.
It happened that one year the floods did not come, and the river ran lower than ever it had in history. The orchards and fields suffered, producing little food. Many of the livestock were butchered to save them from dying of hunger and thirst. The fish and crocodiles, too, suffered, and their numbers dwindled. Bhanu banned fishing and hunting all along the river. The only meat the city had was snake from the desert.
They saved only as much livestock as could be sustained by what grain and water they had. But the fish and crocodiles continued to dwindle. When Bhanu’s agents investigated they found that many fishers were still taking from the river. As the law dictated, these thieves were killed, and fed back to the river. But Bhanu wanted to know why these people would risk death, and not ask for help at the temples, who were also bound by law to provide.
His agents discovered that the priests of the Green Earth were not suffering as the rest of the city suffered. They had food, and plenty of water for their gardens, and many young servants to tend to all their needs. They also had more copper, and even silver, than was seemly for the temple, and many fine things.
The temple priests had been charging fees for their services, even to the taking of family members as servants. Those who could not pay the fees were resorting to stealing from the river.
Bhanu himself came down from his palace to see the temple, his anger like a blazing corona around him. He freed all the slaves (for that is what they were), and bid them take all the food, water, and useful things with them out of the temple. He had his agents take all the works of art and distribute them among the other temples. Then he burned the priests of the Green Earth, and had their ashes sown among the fields. Then he tore down the temple, and had every stone added to the protective walls of the orchards. In this way, he said, the priests of the Green Earth were finally fulfilling the duties to which they had sworn.
This work by Jean Headley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.