Where the suns were two, the islands drifted, and the soil fell away like waterfalls, the gods of our land were born. Mother, father, and daughter they were: Shaika, Kharazi, and Raharni.
They tended the great beast, Gara-Dul, and they did so alone, The tribes kept away, many islands back, remembering the songs of the elders: of Gara-Dul razing villages, breaking mountains and throwing boulders. But Gara-Dul had not left its cave for centuries, There were none alive who knew the songs to be anything but words.
One cycle of the suns, the tribes became restless. A plague was passing from village to village, taking the strong and leaving the weak to bury them. In times past, the tribes welcomed death, built idols to the gods who ushered it, but the plague had moved their faith to faltering ground. There were so few to perform the rituals, so few to work the fields.
Blame was quick to fall on the vermin who nibbled on the dead, then on those tribes who had not fallen sick, before it finally fell on Gara-Dul. The god-beast's breath was pure plague, the elders said.
The elders commanded that all warriors who could hold a jalleh should cross the last bridge to Gara-Dul, and burn it after them. They would never come back; this was to be the passage of their spirits into death. As their death-act, they were to hunt Gara-Dul, to cut off the head that spewed the plague.
So, they came to the bridge. They crossed and burned it, great plumes of smoke rising from the vines. Then they pushed into the treeline.
Shaika was a Hunter. It was her traps that fed Gara-Dul, that kept it alive with meat. And it was her traps that tethered the tribespeople to the floor, crushed ankles and lifted them high above the ground. She moved from cover only to deal death-blows.
Those that broke through the traps and the jungle were greeted by wildcats, and Raharni at their centre. Roots and plants covered her body, as if she was risen from the ground. She clicked and mewled in the language of the cats, and they pounced. The tribespeople screamed.
Through the traps, the jungle and the wildcats, one tribeswoman remained., She stepped into the cave of Gara-Dul, her nerves as strong as her jalleh. But Kharazi waited for her.
At first, she mistook the drums for the echoes of her steps. Boom, boom, boom, beating faster, accelerating down the halls The beats were ahead of her, behind her, around. She feared it was Gara-Dul, but she was mistaken again: it was Kharazi, drumming on the walls, wailing and rattling.
The woman felt her heart matching the beat. She could not stop the dance that her heart shared with the rhythm. Kharazi quickened the drumming, but her heart could not match it. Her body fell to the floor, her heart torn.
Shaika, Kharazi, and Raharni buried the bodies, and pushed a raft of the wounded back to the shore. Let their elders find them and judge them, they thought.
But the disease of the tribespeople had judged Shaika, Kharazi, and Raharni. It had passed from the bodies and into their blood.
Raharni passed first and then Kharazi, weak from spitting blood. Shaika buried them in the cave, in graves dug by Gara-Dul itself. But Shaika followed soon after, proud of her family and embracing the honour that comes with death.
Gara-Dul woke for long enough to prepare a grave for her, between her husband and her daughter. It covered the grave and sighed.
Centuries passed. Without the last bridge, Gara-Dul's island drifted. The god-beast's thoughts wandered and its health faltered. On the other islands, generations lived and died. Gara-Dul was forgotten by the tribespeople, the songs were sung no longer.
As a twin sunset played shapes across the cave walls, Gara-Dul chose the moment to pass. It had felt, at the centre of the power that gave it eternal life, a means of ending it. It lay down and closed its eyes, letting the cold creep over. It died, and through the cracks of stone, its mana poured.
The mana coursed into the ground, and seeped into the graves. In the spirit world, the mana lit the torches on the way to Hangazha, and the spirits of Shaika, Kharazi, and Raharni could find their way back to their bodies. They were reborn, flesh on bone, returning to the bodies that shared the strength of Gara-Dul.With dirt in their fingernails, they crawled up and into the cave. They each kissed the face of Gara-Dul, and broke rocks from the body. In the setting of the suns, they carved Gara-Dul's likeness. With the idols ranged around them, they embraced, determined to find themselves another home.