To Bear Witness

They chained them all to the earth, in barrows, under mountains, in underwater caves. Wherever they could. Anywhere that would hold them. The gods cleansed the world of heroes. They wiped it clean of champions. They made a fresh start.

But the great ones did not go easily. As chains began encircling they fell heavily. If the gods would so abuse their children, well, the children would abuse the grandchildren. So the earth witnessed. Molten stone rained from the sky. New craters became new valleys. In turn new valleys became new oceans. Continents cracked apart and continents merged. Mountain ranges rose and fell.

When the chaining was at its end, when the ritual was over, the gods looked out at a world in birth pangs. A world of fresh fire and fresh ice, where perhaps all that once stood was levelled. Perhaps.

Then the gods turned, as one. They turned and left the world, and took with them all their gifts and curses. The awesome and vile power wielded by the talented ebbed away. Whatever priests remained alive felt a chill steep into their souls. The gifts, the curses, all gone.

The few that could feel, felt, and knew the terror of rebirth. The blindness of change, of newness.

They would get over it. Eventually.

The gods retreated to do what gods do. Some slept. Others pushed the borders of their realms further into the Unmade, became explorers. Others simply fell to dust.

Only one god did what none of the other would. He returned to the mortal world. Oh, it was cheating. They had agreed not to return. Not to step onto the mortal plane again.

But he knew what he was doing. Krastas, god of the harvest, knew what he was doing. He scattered himself on the current of the winds. He made of himself a million seeds.

Where he touched down, a tree sprung forth. Roots sunk down, deep down, seeking. One more link to bind the chains. Should they ever find away. Should they ever seek to escape.

A million strange trees, each bearing nine faces. Nine faces, eight turned to the side, one facing forward. To stare for ever at the world. To bear witness.