The Flood Thieves Chapter 4.5: The Hwaca

Hwacas are the mindless entities that are worshiped and honored by individual ayllus. The Hwaca will often be named after the founder of the community itself. Hwacas are not living beings like spirits nor eternal ghosts like the gods. Rather, they are the sum of all the ayllu’s life, its hopes, its dreams, its fighting spirit, its love, its people. The Hwaca is honored during community ceremonies such as feasts and called upon in times of need. Each Hwaca has a unique method of communication with its ayllu. The Hwaca are found in the area of the village deemed most sacred by its founders, often a natural spring or hill. Hwacas embody the wisdom of the ayllu’s founders; it may urge the village to war or insist upon peace, depending on the ayllu’s founding principles. It is an effective way to maintain customs and oral history for generations upon generations.

Θ                                             Θ                                             Θ

The Hwaca, like most, lay separate from the town’s temple. The original founders of Raua had, of course, followed the state religion, but even they had known that a Hwaca was meant to be separate from the Capital’s place of prayer. It was meant to define the identity of the community, to maintain its pride and honor as long as the village was inhabited, to prevent its future generations from straying too far from the moral principles upon which the village was founded, too long ago for any living person to remember.

Uncertain of what to do next, this is where Patcha and Kooteeck went at sunset. The central road through the community branched off halfway up the hill from the Jungle. This road, paved with stones and well-maintained by the town’s people out of their own volition and respect, curved horizontally along the side of the hill until finally, out of sight of any house, it approached two tall fruit trees with a fine wooden door embedded in the hillside between them. The trees were in season. Though Patcha and Kooteeck’s hands were still raw from their fruit-picking, the sisters didn’t dare touch the blessings of these trees; these fruits were for crises only.

Kooteeck, nervous, hung back a ways from the door. Patcha knew that neither of them had ever entered. In fact, Patcha acutely recalled once, years ago, that the two twins had been dared to enter irreverently and without good cause. Luckily, an old woman had caught them at it, and scolded them thoroughly. The thought to enter had never crossed their minds again.

“How many heroes do you think have passed through there?” Kooteeck wondered in awe.

Not many, Patcha admitted internally. “Well, the founders. And then the warriors of the first Jungle Battle…” She recalled her village’s history well. Though Jungle Dwellers and Mountain Dwellers alike lived peacefully now — Patcha and Kooteeck were products of that friendship, after all — long ago, they had warred viciously.

“Is what we’re doing really of such proportions?” Kooteeck wondered.

Patcha almost laughed, but caught herself before she could; they were to be respectful and somber at the Hwaca. “No, it’s not of such proportions. Saving the Empire is of bigger proportions.”

With those words, Patcha reached out to the door’s finely-molded bronze handle, from the bottom of which dangled a long-unused key on a silver chain. More riches than our family will ever have, she realized, looking at the fine wood, bronze, and silver.

She opened the door and stepped back. Kooteeck seemed frozen in place, but followed when Patcha entered inside of the hill, the threshold nearly catching her ruwana.

The tiny, dirt-walled chamber was completely dark. Nothing stirred inside but the sandy floor beneath Patcha’s sandals. They could see nothing beyond the block of light that snuck inside from the open doorway, but they knew they would have to close the wooden door.

“Now?” Kooteeck wondered hesitantly, being the closest to the exit.

“Now,” Patcha confirmed, her lower lip trembling.

Kooteeck shut the two inside, leaving them in complete darkness. Patcha knelt to the dusty ground, and heard her sister do so, as well.

They waited only a few moments, but those moments seemed like an eternity.

Patcha Sapa Ango Char, boomed a hundred voices in Patcha’s head, causing her to wince. The voices of the bravest frontiersmen, Patcha greeted her ancestors.

Why do you ask our blessing? the voices demanded, their volume unrelenting. What honor do you seek to maintain?

We ask your guidance and blessing. The world, including Raua, is in danger, and a Chosen Child has asked us to aid him in his quest. He believes I can be of service.

The voices responded, Yet you leave your family and your kinsmen in this time. The Time of Chaos, no less. It is unheard of.

Nervous, Patcha explained, The Chosen Child claims that without us, the entire Empire may be doomed. We must abandon our family to go.

The voices responded immediately, You may save this world, but only for the honor and glory of Raua, and for no other. This Chosen Child serves our gods, but you serve the future living. Save this world, and let it know of the excellence of Raua.

Patcha could feel the trance leaving her, like an aching suction retreating through the back of her head. She blinked, bright, red spots dancing before her lenses, though there was no fire or red energy in the room.

Well, that was easy, she considered.

Θ                                             Θ                                             Θ

Kooteeck knelt in the dark, uncertain of her surroundings. Which way should she face? What would happen if the Hwaca did not call her?

And then, the essence of her ancestors appeared to her, not in sight but in mind. Her lenses grew hot with anxiousness, though for once the room was so unfathomably dark that the extra red magic did nothing to redden her vision.

Kooteeck Mapa Ango Char, the Hwaca greeted her, dripping with the ideals of her community.

Kooteeck remained silent, and awaited their next statement. Nothing came to her for long, stretched moments that confounded her mind’s ability to detect time.

Oh! she realized. Spirits of my ancestors, I greet you.

We are not your ancestors, the Hwaca reminded her. We are their valor, their philosophy, their wisdom, and their identity. Why do you ask our blessing?

I — we — that is, my sister and I. My twin, not any other siblings. I have no other siblings. We have to leave Raua, and ask your humble permission — or humbly ask your permission, to leave.

You dare leave your fellows during the Time of Chaos? the voices boomed. Though they did not grow louder, their tone grew harsher.

We have to. There’s a quest. My sister’s been summoned.

Yet you have not, Kooteeck Mapa Ango Char. Does your family not need comfort during this perilous time? Are you so impertinent to suggest you know what is best for them?

No, Kooteeck conceded, deciding to remain silent for some time. But the Hwaca still did not respond. Please, Hwaca of Raua, I humbly ask your permission to embark on this quest. My sister needs my help.

She travels alone? the Hwaca demanded.

No, we plan to travel with a Chosen Child who was given the quest —

Then she needs no more protection from a girl barely past First Puberty.

No, she — they need me. They said so. Patcha will need someone to remind her of the ideals of Raua, will she not? Kooteeck tried.

The Hwaca considered this. Will this quest bring honor and glory to Raua and its inhabitants?

Well, the inhabitants will all die if we don’t find the Guardian…

Frontiersmen need no help from the Guardian! Our spirit is strong enough to endure for eternity!

But saving the world would demand much respect, Kooteeck offered. And it is not the way of Raua to cower and let others steal glory from them.

Indeed it is not! the Hwaca roared. You will accompany your sister on this quest, but only for the glory of Raua! In the name of valor, we give you our blessing!

I can’t believe that worked, Kooteeck thought to herself.

What? the Hwaca demanded. A trick?

Of course not! Kooteeck objected. Frontiersmen do not resort to such a fool’s game!

Correct! boomed the Hwaca.


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