Heixueh’s Teachings

Also called The Parable of the Riverside Crag. This book can be found in the Drehua Temple in the [[2.2 Demo]].

When I was young, I was nothing but a cowardly bandit. Though not many dared to travel then, those who did would often need to ford a river which runs far to the south of this place at a certain shallows. It was there, in the shadow of a tall crag, that I concealed myself behind a bush. Then, to my delight, I saw a tempting target approach the river's edge. A solitary traveler, wearing sensible clothes and carrying a large traveling bag. Around her neck was fastened a large, luminous gem which glinted with hints of green and gold. I withdrew my bow and nocked an arrow. I would wait until she was halfway across, leap out from behind my bush, and confront her. Helpless, with nowhere to run, she would be forced to abandon her belongings. I steeled myself in anticipation and prepared to strike, but suddenly my knees failed me. The ground seemed to explode, and an overwhelming noise echoed all around. Suddenly, behind me, a massive form rose out of the crag. Long and sinuous, it wrapped itself around the rocky peak, and finally revealed itself to be the Great Serpent Themselves. Filled with awe, and briefly forgetting my mission, I sat on the settling dirt behind the bush. A flock of seabirds landed on Their huge horns as they held Their head impossibly high over the scene. I opened my mouth and closed it, but was unsure of what to do or say. Glancing behind me briefly, I was annoyed to see my quarry darting away like a frightened stepperabbit. Deeper than thunder and twice as loud, the Serpent's voice echoed through the vale, calm but stern:

"Small one, why did you seek harm upon my sibling's child?"

Shame rising up my face, I stared at a nearby clump of grass. "I... I just wanted that gemstone. It would fetch a good price at market. I would be able to eat well for weeks". My stomach gurgled in agreement.

The Serpent nodded slightly, and curled the tip of Their gargantuan tail around the end of a long vine which dangled from Their chin. "I see. You seek your own sustenance at the expense of another's."

At this point, the embarrassment became too much. I must confess that I lashed out at Them.

"Yes, I do. I am short, thin, and weak. My mother and father are deathly ill, and I am not going to be able to take care of them if I cannot eat. So therefore, yes, I seek my own sustenance. This world is unfair, and though a god like you might not empathize, perhaps you could consider showing a little mercy!"

The Serpent blinked, long and slow, and then spoke again: "Your rage is justified. But let me ask you to consider the other perspective. What if you carried a full bag of food and medicine for your kin from a faraway place, but were accosted and forced to leave it behind?"

Though I knew it was a losing argument, I nonetheless fired back once more: "That situation is impossible! I would easily beat any lowly ambusher, and return in time for dinner. You have ruined my chances today, and now I must return home. Hopefully, my family is still alive when I do.

The Serpent lingered, as I stormed away, still flustered and angry with myself for being caught. Their sonorous voice rang out as I left: "Drehmari, know that all of us must take our independent path. While mine may be longer, yours is just as important. When your road crosses with that of another traveler, see if they travel in the same direction, but do not force theirs to end or take an unnatural detour. Instead, weave your paths into a greater tapestry of creation, and you will be all the happier for it."

Finally, crossing behind a bluff, I left Their intense gaze, and took the quickest route back to the village.

When I arrived, I saw a crowd gathered in the common area. To my surprise, I learned that the traveler I had nearly robbed of all their possessions was a Virmari, dispatched from far away to heal the Maelific Plague.

That evening, after eating dinner with my much-recovered parents, I went to the standing stones and prayed to the Great Serpent for the very first time in my long life of service and devotion.

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