Wedding preparations started. It was going to be a grand affair with dignitaries from all the surrounding villages attending. At this time water was the most valuable commodity anyone could have. Villages measured their respective wealth in how much water was available to them. Being the show-off he was, Ledimo decided that the ceremony should involve elaborate water features; then everyone would realise how talented he was, increasing his power immensely.
Every day he was out finding water with the young men of the village. They filled up huge clay pots and sent them back. This did not please the elders as they felt it was excessive and might deplete the resources. Ledimo, however, was establishing his power base and they found that they were listened to less and less. It was on one of these water-finding expeditions that it happened.
Ledimo had gone out early on his own to a site where they had all been digging the day before. They had found nothing but that night he had had a dream. It was a dream of water; water beyond his wildest imagination, great streams flowing through the village, transforming everything. He awoke in a sweat, feeling a strong compulsion to return to the site on his own. When he got there he started digging with his hands as he always did. Suddenly he felt a strong pull and his hands and arms were forced down into the sand. Just as he was starting to panic, thinking he was going to be swallowed up by the sand, the pulling stopped and he felt something hard and cold at his fingertips. It felt like a stone. With a lot of wiggling he managed to get his fingers around it and slowly pulled it to the surface, freeing himself from the sand. He stared down at what lay in his hands. He had never seen anything quite like it before. It was a magnificent stone shaped like a top and as he stared it started to spin, throwing up great shafts of light that whirled into the sky. Ledimo dropped the stone and did a scramble backwards, not wanting to take his eyes off it but feeling the need to get away. Suddenly the sky darkened and an omnivorous black cloud came whirling across the sand towards him.
Ledimo had heard the ancient tales of the whirling black cloud that had destroyed everything. This must be it! It was going to scoop him up and dump him somewhere! He put his arms over his head and curled into a ball; all he could think of was Bontle and his newfound power and what he was going to miss. He felt a wail start to build up in his head as the cloud went over him and then suddenly there was an amazing calm all around him. He slowly uncurled himself and opened his eyes. He was still sitting on the ground, not whirling away somewhere in the sky. He seemed to be in the middle of the cloud, its dark shape moving around him. The stone lay in front of him, still throwing out flashes of light. There was an absolute silence and calm within this cloud, so much so that he could hear his heart beating and the breath moving in and out of his body.
Suddenly a voice boomed out. “So you have found it!” it said.
Ledimo jumped a full foot in the air, landing hard on his bottom and knocking the wind out of himself.
“I must say you wouldn’t have been my first choice, but so be it.”
Ledimo, having got his breath back, looked around frantically, trying to find a body to go with the voice.
“Well, now that you have found it I am compelled to give you two choices.”
“Choices?” cried Ledimo, still not understanding for a minute what was going on.
“Yes, the choice between eternal life or death.”
Ledimo, who was terrified of dying, blurted out, “Eternal life!” before the voice had a chance to continue.
“Well, I was actually going to explain the consequences of each choice before you decided, but it seems that that will not be necessary. You are now the keeper of the stone and as such have eternal life and the responsibilities of a semi-god.”
Semi god! That sounded all right—now Bontle would really fancy him. He had had the feeling that she hadn’t been too keen but was too afraid to go against her fathers’ wishes.
“Your responsibilities are as follows,” boomed the voice. “You will use the stone to bring water to this dry land. Rivers and lakes will reappear, fish and animals will return. You will endeavour to make humans live in harmony with their environment and the other creatures around them. You will try and stop them plundering their resources as they did before. The stone will help you in this. It can bring down storms or create drought and hardship if they misbehave and fair weather if things go well. This stone must not be used for any political motivation so you must protect it and ensure that it does not fall into the wrong hands. You will never marry or have knowledge of any human female…”
“Nooooooooooo…” wailed Ledimo. “Bontle and I are due to marry in two days!”
“You will not marry!” boomed the voice louder and more fiercely before.
“Then I would rather choose death,” said Ledimo in a rather small voice.
“It is too late, you have already chosen!”
“But…but you didn’t tell me the consequences,” mumbled Ledimo. “I do not wish to live forever on my own.”
“Maybe you will think before you make a hasty decision in the future, always quite a good policy for a semi-god. If you disobey this rule you will destroy everything that is close to you that you love and care for.”
Ledimo looked totally crestfallen and the voice continued a little less harshly.
“There will, however, come a time when people will stop believing in gods and then your powers will fade and you may even become mortal, but that, I am afraid, is many human lifetimes from now.”
Ledimo stared at the ground in silence.
“I must go,” declared the voice in a businesslike manner. “I have other responsibilities. See you in a few hundred years.”
With that the cloud moved and Ledimo saw it spinning off and vanishing over the horizon. He sat there stunned, the stone lying next to him. The spiraling flashing lights had stopped, but it still looked incredibly beautiful as the sun slanted off it, constantly changing its colour. He reached over and picked it up, holding it gently in both hands. Suddenly his whole body shook and then gradually a feeling of strength and power started to come over him. He stood up, and holding the stone in both hands he raised his arms to the sky.
“Rain!” he shouted, not really sure why he was behaving in this manner. Huge flashes of lightning escaped from his fingertips, making him pull back his hands in horror. A black cloud appeared over his head and rain began to pour down on him, filling up the hole he had just dug and creating small streams at his feet. He walked a little way away and it was dry, but not for long, as the cloud followed him. Ledimo was ecstatic. He could cause it to rain by just shouting at the sky. He would go back to the village and show them his new powers without letting on about the stone. They would be very impressed and he would be able to get whatever he wanted… Then he stopped, rain still pouring all around him…but not Bontle! The voice had said he could not marry! He sat down in a puddle, the dark cloud above him becoming one of depression, not elation, as it had been a few minutes before. What was the use of all this water if he could not have what he wanted most, Bontle? The rain was starting to irritate him now. “Enough!” he yelled up at the sky in a fit of peeve, not really thinking anything would happen. The rain stopped and the cloud disappeared. He sat there amazed, forgetting about Bontle for a moment. This really was powerful stuff. Putting the stone into the leather pouch around his waist he hurried towards the village, his brain racing as he went. If he was this powerful and he could get the rain to fall whenever he wanted, then why shouldn’t he marry Bontle? How was that stupid voice going to stop him? It was probably far away by now and wouldn’t even know anyway. What had it said?
“See you in a few hundred years.”
A few hundred years! Plenty of time for him to marry Bontle, have kids, and all the rest of it.
to be continued…………
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