The People were doing penance. Cloud Chariot had appeared in the ruddy sky. The last days were upon them.
Soulmother’s distress could be felt throughout the village. The people hurried to the sanctuary, where she stood, the Book in her hands. For a long time no one spoke.
Soulmother looked out at the people, her long, silver tresses brushing the Book’s pages, and read: “After a time of lives upon lives, the Methira shall return, and Rue shall tremble at her imminent destruction. If the people have mended the rent in their soulcloth, Cloud Chariot shall ferry them back to blue Motherworld. But if they remain unwhole, the One-soul shall be left drowning in Rue’s red waters.”
Soulmother left her perch and walked down the aisle with palpable purpose. The People followed her. She led them through the village and up a great, craggy hillside. She halted, the People encircling her. “What did the first Soulmother do when the People got lost on Rue’s blighted landscape?”
“She built a tower to the sky,” said a child with skin stained red from bathing in ruewater.
“Why did she build it?”
A hunched elder squared his shoulders and recited: “The Methira entrusted me to lead the banished People to the place where we will await judgement. For ten days we wandered Rue’s desolation. Food was running out. We drank ruewater and fell ill. We erected a tower of communion. At its top we placed a rod, and at the bottom, the silver case of wisdom. We spent a long Rue night in earnest entreaty. Bigmoon fell. I opened the case. A map showed where we were to go. In fifteen days we came to a valley where the winds did not burn so badly and where deep springs of good, clear water bubbled from the ground. Give thanks!”
Soulmother lifted her eyes to the heavens. The dark Cloud Chariot hovered unresponsively.
“We will build a tower of communion. Then we will pray until the Methira send a sign.”
The People set to work, felling trees from the riverbank and hauling them up the hillside to be fashioned into girders and beams. As the day wore on, the tower grew taller. Bigmoon rose and fell, crossing the arc of Smallmoon’s ascent.
When the undertaking was complete, the tower stood tall and strong. A ruecopper rod was fixed at its pinnacle. Soulmother walked solemnly up the mountain path, bearing the silver case. It was small, slim, and it shone like starlight.
“The sacred case has remained unopened since the first tower was built. Tonight, we entreat the stargods for a sign. We know that Cloud Chariot brings judgement. We beseech the Methira to answer us!” She placed the box at the tower’s base and stepped back reverently.
The People prayed through the long night. The broken soul pleaded for restoration.
In the sanguine light of daybreak, Soulmother tiptoed to the silver box. On its lid a glowing pinprick pulsed whitely. Soulmother carefully lifted the lid. The box opened and a sound emerged, a voice of many voices entwined.
“The Methira have judged the people. The soulcloth is mended,” spoke the voice in its myriad tones and timbres. “The People are forgiven for the trespasses of the ancestors, but Rue’s destruction is imminent. The One-soul may now return to the Motherworld. Are the people prepared?”
Soulmother knelt on the ground, genuflecting to the voice. “The people have long awaited this day. We are ready.”
The People fell to their knees, all heads bowed, all eyes shut tight in collective beatitude as Rue trembled beneath them.