Having finished her evening prayers and apologies to Chaahk, Yora was about to go to bed when something tapped at her window. She rose from bed, opened the window, and found Tata Duende stooping on the ledge outside. On reflex she bowed to him and invited him in as he tipped his scarlet hat to her.
“No, señora,” he said. “Tata is here to fetch you. Venga, por favor.”
She frowned. “Fetch me, Don Tata? Fetch me to where?”
The Grandfather Imp smiled widely enough to reach his yellow cat-like eyes and shook his head.
“Es una sorpresa, señora.” He waved a green, thumbless hand, urging her on. “Vamos, por favor.”
All in Delacinco knew that Tata Duende served first as the guardian of the Cloud Forests and defender of the entire natural world. But he had a second purpose, too: to serve as the ambassador between the worlds of Los Mágicos and the Gods and humanity. So, to whom could he possibly want to bring Yora?
Nervous but curious, Yora agreed to go. Quietly, so as not to wake her two sons, she put on her boots, pulled on a shawl against the evening chill, and slipped out of the house.
“Please, Don Tata. At least tell me who we’re going to see.”
Tata Duende shook his head. “All will be clear soon, señora,” he said, leading her down the dirt road, leaning on his wooden staff. “Trust Tata.”
Yora glanced around through the darkness and finally recognized the direction in which they were heading. The route they were on led toward El Rio Flaco, named so because it was narrow and filled only with scrawny eels, which Yora fished to eat and barter for other things she needed for her family in town. Or at least it had been until that morning.
Tata Duende stopped. “Here we are.”
Yora knew the place: the little shrine, the one she built years ago along this road to give thanks to the God, Chaahk. Each morning on her way to the river, she would stop briefly and bow to the shrine, giving the God thanks for allowing her to fish in his streams. Then, at the end of each day’s fishing, she would stop again on her way home and thank him for whatever bounty she managed to catch in her fishing baskets. She would even leave him an offering of several eels, no matter how meager that day’s take was.
“Gracias, Don Tata,” said a voice. “Please, leave us.”
The words. The voice. Yora’s body trembled at the power they carried. Tata Duende bowed first to the voice, then to Yora. A gust of wind and a small cloud of mist blew and wrapped around him, and he was gone.
“Please, Yora,” the voice said. “Come closer.”
Curious as to whom the voice belonged, Yora cautiously approached the shrine. From behind it emerged a tall man, dressed in blue finery. The clothes glowed with a light of their own, as did the deep brown eyes of the figure wearing them. Before her stood the God, Chaahk.
Yora’s heart leapt and she dropped to her knees in veneration. “Mi Dios, lo siento. I didn’t mean to look upon your face. Lo siento, lo siento.”
“Please, Yora, don’t,” he said, “If anything, I should bow to you… in apology.”
Yora looked up. Why would a God need to apologize to a mortal? She rose, dusting off her dress. “Porque, Mi Dios? Why would you need to apologize to me?”
Chaahk looked away, grimacing slightly. “I should have done something to help you when those bandits attacked you today and stole all your belongings.” He closed his eyes and shook his head. “You’ve always been so faithful to me, yet when you needed me most, I failed you. Please.” He bowed to her. “Forgive me.”
Yora shook her head. Misfortunes like these were simply a part of life. Yes, it would take her time to recover from this setback, but she would rise above it nonetheless. She would weave new fishing baskets, catch more fish, and normal life would resume. It would be a struggle for a time, yes. But her sons were strong, as was she. She wasn’t dead, after all, and if one still lived, so too did hope for better things.
“Por favor, mi Dios.” Nervously, she approached him and placed a hand on his shoulder. “There is nothing to forgive.”
Chaahk straightened. “I can’t accept that. I must offer recompense for one so faithful. And I will. Please, wait here. I will send my gift shortly.” There was a flash of light and Chaahk was gone.
Yora remained by the shrine alone. To look upon the face of a God was gift enough for her, but it was always unwise to disobey a God’s request. She stood there in the night, pulling her shawl tighter around herself against the night breeze. She wasn’t entirely sure what to expect in terms of a gift. Gods each had such power over various domains of the world, so what constituted a gift to them was anyone’s guess.
A crackle of thunder roared overhead, making Yora flinch. A glance up showed deep grey clouds swirling above, blotting out the stars. Several drops of rain landed on her face. She scurried over to a patch of great-leaf plants, broke one off stem and all, and lifted it over her head.
A torrent fell, darkening the earth around her and soaking the hem of her dress.
Then something landed in Yora’s leaf. It flopped about until it fell to the ground before her: a fish. More followed, many that Yora had never laid eyes on before. Chaahk must have gathered fish from all the waters of the world that were under his domain as the God of rivers and streams.
Yora looked to the sky, and, smiling, gave thanks.
— Ian Martínez Cassmeyer