There was a place, a long way from here now, where everything was simpler, easier. That place we called home. It had been home to us, our village, for longer than anyone could remember. The old ones often said our village had been there for all time, ever since the gods themselves were born.
We, the shamans said, were the children of the gods. The gods had made our valley for us, made it a good place to live. If, one season the crops failed, or the hunting was poor, the shaman told us, then it was our fault for not being grateful to the gods.
Although, when the invaders came, the shaman died without any explanation of how we had failed the gods that time. His mouth spoke no more once a barbarian sword had taken his head from his body.
Now, our captors march us on, far into lands none of us ever knew existed. Many, of course, have died on this long march. The old, the sick, the young and those that try to escape, all left on the sides of this road where they fell.
Many say the gods have deserted us, fleeing in terror when the barbarians poured down the valley hillsides. Others say the gods will come one day to rescue us, but only when they think we have paid enough for what wrongs we did them. The believers also say the gods are behind us, picking up the ones that fall and taking them to sit beside the gods. All ready to welcome us home when the gods take their vengeance on the barbarians and rid their bodies and souls apart.
Me, though, I sit and wait. Some come talk to me because I was the last Shaman’s apprentice, and I’d learnt some of the secrets of the shamans and the gods. The others ask what I think. I say I am much like them and have not yet learnt enough to understand the ways of the gods.
Mainly, though I sit alone, remembering the time the old shaman sat me down and told me the big secret of being the shaman. He said. ‘There are no gods, but never let the people see that you know that. They need the gods and it is our job to give them those gods, even though we know it is all a lie.’
So I sit and await what will come, knowing I deserve whatever fate awaits me on this journey or at its end, because I let the people down and I let their gods desert them.