Petty Gods: The Fireside Visitor, A Tale of the Jale God

The Fireside Visitor: A Tale of the Jale God

Once, a young man and his son were on their way to the market square to sell their cart of vegetables. They did not reach the village before night fall and were forced to spend the night in the forest in a small clearing beside the path.

The man built a fire and after a dinner of roasted squash they curled up in their thin blankets beneath the cart and fell asleep.

In the middle of the night, the young man woke up with the urgent need to void. As he stood, he noticed a large, monkey-like creature with wings sitting by the dying coals of the fire, rubbing its hands and occasionally turning a potato in the ashes.

"Who are you?" the man demanded, his bowels now quivering in fear.

"I am no one worth remembering come morning," the creature replied. "I only want to roast this potato; it has been a long time since I ate a warm meal. Allow me this small favor and I will leave you alone."

"Oh creature," said the man, "do not harm me! Please, warm yourself by this fire and leave your potato to its business. But why eat only a potato? I can offer you more than a potato! See, here in this cart I have beets, yams, onions, carrots, cabbage, and more."

The creature looked contemptuously at the cart. "Where do you think I got this potato?" he asked.

The man's fear turned to anger at mention of this theft. He was about to give voice to his displeasure when the rumbling in his bowels became unavoidable. "Oh great creature," he said, "I am pleased that my meager harvest has found your favor. Please, help yourself of what you may. I must attend myself over there in those bushes. Will you still be here when I return?"

The creature smiled, nodded its consent and pointed past the bushes. "You will find a small, clear-running stream a little way beyond the bushes; be sure to wash your hands before you come back."

The man went and attended to his toilet but in his haste did not visit the stream as the creature instructed. When he arrived back at the clearing he noticed the creature had put a few sticks on the coals and the fire was flaring higher. The creature looked at him and said, "You did not visit the stream! Go, wash your filthy hands so that we may share this potato!"

The man dutifully returned to the bushes and found the stream exactly where the creature had said. He dipped his hands in the moonlit water and rubbed them together once, twice, three times as custom dictated before standing and returning to the clearing. As he grew closer, he noticed the creature had thrown a few logs on the fire, and the flames now danced at a respectable height.

The creature reached into the fire and pulled out the potato. He motioned the man to sit near the fire, broke the potato in half, and handed part to the man. "Eat of the work of your hands," said the creature.

"And of the work of this fire," said the man, completing the ancient mealtime prayer.

The creature and the man ate in silence. When they were done, the creature stood and began to clap its hands and stomp its feet. The man watched, terrified. The creature began to chant "Iä! Jaash im raa! Iä! Jaash im raa! Iä! Jaash im raa!" in a rough, weird tune, dancing awkwardly around the flames.

At this sight, the man's blood ran cold, for long ago when he was a boy he had heard the chant of the Jale God seeping through the night. He stood and ran to where his son lay sleeping the beneath the cart, but found only an empty blanket.

"My son! My son! What have you done with my son!?!" the man wailed, dashing to the fire and brandishing a firebrand at the creature.

The creature immediately stopped its ministrations and shook its head. "I asked you where you thought I got that potato," he said. Then he flapped his wings and was gone.