The Shepherds

Long before there were any gods or goddesses, before mortal beings and the idea of life first came to me, all was small, and I built everything by myself, alone. I am the Goddess of Time, the First Mover and Mother of All Gods.

But please, just call me Te’zia. You mortals love to sing the gods long flowery titles, like you do to your inbred, hereditary rulers. Call us whatever you like, we’ll still screw with you just the same. Yes, this is how the Goddess of Time speaks—you’ll understand me better this way. Think of me as a long-lost friend, coming to you in a vivid dream. How often do you get the chance to be a prophet, just like that? Pretty unexpected, huh?

Listen, there’s something you need to know about the First Gods. Actually, scratch the whole prophet thing. Your people will probably just burn you alive or hang you for whatever blasphemy, heresy, or however they’ll interpret your (my) word as. But this is a tale worth knowing, even if you keep it to yourself for the rest of your days. Here’s the thing, before they were the First Gods, they were the First Most Annoying Brats In The Universe. Yeah, I created them with free will in their souls, and they turned out to be more stupid than I could ever have imagined. Even the gods were young at one point, as are all creatures with free will.

Sorry, I can’t help but feel that I am shattering your perspective of the Mother of All Gods. Again, think of me as Te’zia, without the flowers. Maybe you thought I’d be more “formal” or speak like your old sages, in riddles and always hinting at some grand, hidden wisdom? I tried that. It might work for you, but it didn’t work for me. Totally boring. So I’ll keep talking like a friend.

Let’s get to the point. The four First Brats never worked together when they were young, or learned much from my teachings. Frankly, when I unleashed free will into existence, I wanted something to challenge the movement of the universe, that calculated, clockwork, determined rhythm that I’ve created. Do you know what I mean? I wanted someone to challenge me. It gets lonely and mundane once you’re the “First Mover”, and then there’s nothing else “moving” anything except you. Just thinking about that time again makes me shudder.

So, these inexperienced children that you now call gods looked over my shoulder, like little idiots, every time I created a planet or star, and were always in a permanent state of admiration. What’s worse, they’d sing praises for all of my work, even if it looked as if I spent too much time in an alcohol nebula before wielding the brush of creation. Don’t tell anyone I said that, or they’ll burn me alive at the stake for blasphemy. Hah! Kidding, of course. It feels good to be a goddess.

The First Brats started to bore me terribly. However, I had a plan to whip these young gods into shape—figuratively speaking, of course, as they had no actual shape. Nor did they have genders, although explaining how gods work will just make you question your brief existence, in a bad way. It won’t make any sense to you mortals anyway—so let me call them gods and goddesses, for your sanity’s sake. Plus, this whole dream thing is time limiting stuff, unless you want to be in a coma while I blabber on and explain everything to you. I can make that happen if you want. Oh, you don’t want to be in a coma? What a surprise. Let’s continue, my impromptu prophet.

I knew of an unused space in the universe, and made a barren planet there. You’re living on it today, but it looked much different back then, being barren and all. I demoted all of the First Brats to demigods, meaning their power was now severely restricted, and summoned them all to the surface of the planet. I said unto them (I was in my “commanding voice” phase. I promise I don’t do this anymore):

“You are young, foolish, and do not behave as true gods. As demigods, you shall have these names: Toh, the demigod of the land, people and animals; Roa, demigoddess of the sea and fish; Aho, demigoddess of nature, trees and plants; Oll, demigod of the sky and birds. You four shall now compete for ascension to godhood, and your test shall lie on this planet, to transform it and produce the most favorable outcome for your affinity. Prove to me that you are ready to be equals by my side. The fate of the planet and all living things depend on you. I will be watching.”

This is how it began, for all of you. This is the story of The Shepherds, the struggles of the First Gods on planet Mezion.

***

If you ever become a deity (who knows, it could happen) know this: You let four kids have powers to transform a planet, and you get chaos for a few million years. It’s a mathematical fact.

Mountains scraped the sky, oceans carved the planet, people and other animals sprung from the most unlikely places. Time works a bit differently for deities, so to them, only a few hours had past.

The deal was that the demigods, or Shepherds, needed to promote life under their stewardship as much as possible. After that initial chaos, planet Mezion had oceans with plenty of fish, trees, birds, and primitive peoples in each corner that a demigod claimed. Roa, the Shepherd of the sea and fish, was restless and her vast oceans were beginning to become cramped and swollen with an abundance of life. If that isn’t a metaphor for a future goddess of fertility, I don’t know what is.

She moved and swayed the oceans under her command, called upon for more water from the ice in the north and south, and swallowed some empty land that had no life on it. She wasn’t doing this out of malice; think of it this way: her goldfish lived in a small bowl, and now she simply needed a bigger one. Perfectly in line with what I asked them to do.

Toh, the Shepherd of the land and people, was furious. He was battling an invasion of trees that Aho, the Shepherd of nature, had sent, and his land was quickly being overrun by life from another Shepherd. And now the oceans, too, seem to tear away at his shrinking dominion. His people began to adapt to the new environment, and began fishing in the seas, and forming tribes in the vast forests. Toh looked over his land, and fear struck at his heart. His creations were being taken by the other Shepherds and soon, he thought, he shall have nothing left. The fear inside him grew over time, and he became permanently hot and angry. Is it wrong for me to say that this is when I actually got interested in their struggle? I was excited to see idea of anger in action for the first time in forever. You have no idea how boring the universe was before life.

Toh struck a pact with Oll, the Shepherd of the sky and birds. This was not a pact of unity, but one of self-interest and greed. Oll would bring winds from the north and south poles and drastically change the weather and temperature patterns around the world. Large swaths of the ocean froze, and stopped Roa’s advance on Toh’s land. In exchange, Toh raised mountains so that his land would be closer to the sky, and benefit Oll’s birds where they could hunt and breed in safety. Still, Aho’s trees and plants kept expanding, and soon they would cover all of Toh’s land in a thick blanket of green and brown. Aho was determined, and thought that she would be the first to ascend and help everyone else’s dominion as well. People, animals, birds—they all loved trees and plants. Most of the fish in the seas relied on Aho’s creations for food too. All was well. The end. Kidding again, we’re dealing with kid demigods here, remember?

Toh snapped. He raised terrible mounds of earth from the land, and these hills and mountains had torn asunder the roots of Aho’s great forests. He commanded the fire hidden deep within the planet to rise, and the hills and mountains he raised cracked, and their tops violently burst open. Molten rock rained from their peaks, and ash spread over the skies and blocked the sun. All around, the planet was burning as hot death spilled from fissures and volcanoes, and great plumes of smoke rose and blocked the sun. Trees and plants burned throughout Toh’s dominion, and those not reached by the flame wilted in overwhelming numbers, and the vast forests that people and animals relied on and lived in were no more. The clouds became grey, and the entire world cooled, bringing an ice age to much of the planet. Aho was broken with despair, and her soul wept for the decimation of her creations, and she did not stir for a few hundred million years.

Oll became incredibly angry with the actions of Toh. His outburst killed plenty of birds that Oll was not particularly fond of seeing drop dead, and even more died later when they couldn’t adapt to the new cold world. Toh, on the other hand, still had his lands slowly eroded by the unfrozen oceans under Roa’s stewardship. Moving, salty water has a hard time freezing; Toh didn’t pay much attention to my planetary chemistry lessons. Oll begged Toh to stop his violence, for his birds were suffering and dying in great numbers. But Toh would not stop until his land was clear from all other Shepherds, and so Oll looked to Roa for aid with his creations.

The oceans crashed against the land, and tsunamis smashed through steep rock that acted as a bulwark along the coastal shores. From the snowy mountains, rivers sprinted and pierced the dry land below, and raced to reunite with the sea.

Aho ceased weeping, and a sudden rush came into her. She changed all of her trees so quickly that Toh couldn’t react in time. The trees migrated to the tips of the mountains, where the air was fresh and the sun would bathe them in its sweet light.

Toh’s rage shook the land with a violent fury. Devastating avalanches and rock slides swept across all mountains as the earthquakes grew stronger. Mudslides blocked Roa’s rivers, and countless men, women and other creatures died as a result. Although he succeeded in killing and uprooting many trees, and blocking many rivers, soon Roa and Aho rebelled against Toh even further.

Aho had her smaller plants proliferate, immune to the shocks of the earth, and the taller trees dug deeper with their roots. Roa had her rivers start to flow from all mountains with icy peaks, and they weaved and forked throughout the land. She struck a deal with Oll to provide his birds with fish, if he could feed her rivers with powerful rains, and he accepted, for he lost faith in partnering with Toh. The rivers became increasingly complex as they drove through forests, and cutting through dry land, bringing the hope of life where there was none. Toh’s people and animals flourished, as did Aho’s trees and plants.

Toh realized that his creatures were starting to prosper, but only by the actions of the other Shepherds. He decided to stop working against them, but still not to work with them, for his rage would not die. On the other hand, Roa, Aho, and Oll begin to work together and bring life to all corners of the world.

And that’s when I promoted those three to godhood, for working together and transforming the planet into a lush, thriving paradise for life. That is, until people started to significantly change the planet, but that’s much later—after your lifetime. People will consider you “primitive” later on. Hey, don’t blame me, people can be jerks, especially people from the future.

After the other Shepherds ascended to godhood, Toh was left behind.

His only domain became the desert, where he still reigns without any involvement of the other gods, but he still bursts with volcanic anger and earth-shaking tremors whenever his anger gets the better of him, especially when he thinks of his failure to become a god. Neither earthquakes nor volcanoes would exist without him, but then again, neither would you.


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