The Man who Walks Backwards

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Summary

A Ziannan Myth

Genre:
Fantasy
Author:
Julie Côté
Status:
Complete
Chapters:
1
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
13+

Chapter 1

Many years ago, in the time when gods and goddesses still walked among us, there lived a man. He was a young man, full of curiosity about the world around him. He spent his days studying and exploring. When he knew everything there was to know about his home village, he moved on to the next village, and then the next, and so on.

After years of exploring, he came to realise that he knew everything the world could tell him. He began to look to the gods to give him answers, so he could learn even more. He first spoke to Mysma and Jute, who were happy to share all they knew about art and language. He found Finiss in a field of wheat, and asked her all about growing crops and harvesting. He learned about craftsmanship from Catul. He ran into Acal in the forest, and learned about hunting. One by one, he managed to find the gods and speak to them. Most were happy to share their knowledge.

One day, the man came across a small village that had recently been attacked. The buildings were on fire, the plants were torn from the ground, and bodies lay about on the street. The man was horrified, but then, ahead of him, he saw a black chariot. He knew instantly that it belonged to Siour.

The man approached it carefully. Harnessed to the chariot were two skeletal horses, which slowly turned their heads to watch him. The man did not let fear chase him away. He kept walking, determined to learn all there was to know about the chariot, and the god who drove it. There were souls standing in the chariot, but they seemed confused and did not notice him. So the man crouched beside the wheel, waiting for Siour to return.

Soon, Siour appeared. He walked from a burning house, leading a few souls behind him. The souls climbed onto the chariot to join the others. Just as Siour stepped into the chariot, the man threw himself onto the back.

The horses began to run. The souls seemed unbothered by their speed, but the man had to hold the side tightly or be bumped off.

He almost lost his grip when Siour turned to him. “My chariot is not for the living.”

The man tried to hide his fear and stand up bravely. “The gods have been teaching me all they know about the world. I would like to learn from you, too,” he said as firmly as he could.

Siour seemed amused. “Very well. Work for me and I will teach you about death.”

The man nodded, and he felt the pressure of the wind and speed lessen. Although the land was still rushing by the sides of the chariot, he was unaffected, just as Siour and the souls were.

They made a few more stops to collect souls. Siour said nothing to him, and the man stayed quiet. Suddenly, the skeletal horses dove into the ground. The man flinched, expecting the chariot to shatter, but instead it sank into the earth as if it was a lake.

They immerged in an enormous dark space. Fire danced above them, casting a faint light. Fireflies greeted the chariot and fluttered around the souls. In front of them, a huge castle stood on a mountain. Siour drove the chariot to the front gate.

“Do not step off of the chariot,” Siour told the man.

The man nodded and stepped aside, to allow the souls to follow Siour. The man watched as Siour led the souls up to an open black gate. A woman was standing there, wearing a dark cloak with orange embroidery on the hems that seemed to flicker like flames. She greeted the souls kindly, welcoming them to the underworld, and the man knew she was Volava.

The souls wandered off after a moment, and the two gods walked into the castle. The man was left alone. He gazed around the underworld, wishing he could leave the chariot and explore, but he knew he had to do as Siour had said. No living person had ever entered the underworld, but luckily the chariot offered him some protection. The man knew that if he stepped off, he would die. So he remained on the chariot, admiring the underworld and Volava’s castle from a distance.

The man was unsure how much time passed before Siour returned to the chariot. “You did not leave?” the god asked.

“Of course not, Lord Siour,” the man said.

“Good.” Siour flicked the reins, and the skeletal horses took off.


Many years passed. Slowly, Siour taught the man everything he knew. In exchange, the man helped Siour find souls and guide them to the chariot. The man took many trips to the underworld, each time remaining in the chariot. Occasionally, he would speak to the more talkative souls. A few times, Volava walked up to the chariot and spoke to him. The man learned more than he ever thought he could.

The man lost count of how many souls he had met, of how many years had passed. One day, he helped Siour gather souls from a battlefield, but before he could take his usual spot on the chariot, Siour held out his hand.

“I have taught you all I know. You can no longer come with me.”

The man was dismayed. He had believed that the god valued his help; even saw him as a friend. “I want to continue working for you.”

“I know,” Siour said. “But there are rules I cannot break, and you must go. We will meet again, when it is your turn to take a final ride in my chariot.”

The man nodded solemnly, but then thought of something. “Lord Siour, what if you cannot find me?”

“I find everyone,” the god said.

“Yes. But I know all there is to know about death,” the man said. “What if I evade you?”

Siour turned away, and the man could see the slightest smile upon the god’s face. “Then I will enjoy the chase.” He called to his horses, and they leapt into action. Suddenly, Siour and his chariot full of souls were gone.

The man stayed still for a long time, thinking. He remembered everything Siour had told him. He grinned widely as an idea came to him. He walked off of the battlefield, quite pleased with himself, for he was walking backwards.

He had learned many things about death, but he had also learned many things about Siour. One thing he had noticed over the years was that Siour always approached a soul from behind. The man knew that if he walked backwards, he would always see Siour coming.

To this day, the man walks backwards. He still roams the land, learning all he can. People will sometimes see him in the distance. If you are able to speak with him, he will answer any question you ask. However, no one has ever been able to catch up.

He disappears when he sees you coming.


NOTE: The Man who Walks Backwards is a myth from my novel, Without a King. To learn more about the series, please visit

juliecotewriter.com/greatest-thief-series

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