A couple of weeks ago I talked about religion in the world of The Water Road. While it’s largely background for the story of The Water Road trilogy, there’s one character who brings the matter to the forefront and plays a key role.
Goshen, known at the time the story starts as Goshen the Holy, is, somewhat like Antrey, a person without a country. He has a clan heritage, but he was born and raised in one of the Islander cities, which gives him a completely different perspective on the world.
Primarily, Goshen has no clan. The Islander cities all have a small, permanent Neldathi population, some of whom stay with others of their own clan. But most of the urban Neldathi mix with those from other clans, at least occasionally. As a result, there are those, like Goshen, who are born and raised without any kind of loyalty to a clan and without the animosity that engenders to other clans.
In addition, because he wasn’t constantly on the move, he was able to learn to read and had access to books brought in by Islander traders. At an early age, he was drawn to the stories of the gods (and other mythological figures) that had been compiled by Altrerian anthropologists before the First Neldathi Uprising. What started as simple fascination turned into serious study and, eventually, a calling.
Goshen first realized that the gods worshipped by the Neldathi and those worshipped by the Altrerians before the Great Awakening were one and the same. The Neldathi interacted with them in a very different way, but their names and essences were the same. Going further, he discovered more and more similarities between how the various gods interacted with the world. This led him to a conclusion as bold and world shattering for a Neldathi as the Great Awakening had been for an Altrerian – the gods were all actually separate aspects of one, real, god.
Goshen’s digging brought him to the creation story of the Maker of Worlds, which solidified his beliefs. If one god made the world, why would She then leave it to be overseen by others? No, Goshen concluded, the Maker of Worlds is the only god and She interacts with her creation via the different gods of Neldathi mythology.
He realized that wasn’t going to be a popular opinion amongst the Neldathi, who valued their clan identities, of which their individual protector gods were a large part. Nonetheless, he went out among them without the colored stripes in his hair to signify his clan membership. Part of all the clans, but part of none, he wanted to bring them together.
Sooner than he’d thought possible, he’d have his chance.