Semyon was a powerful but poor Tidemaker who "made his living traveling from town to town, diverting rivers when there were droughts, keeping rains at bay when the winter storms came too soon, or finding the right places to sink wells." However, he wanted a stable place to live, a wife, and nice things so that he would be respected. At one point, he made camp by the banks of the river in Velisyana.
When the Duke of Velisyana announced a contest for a marriage to his beautiful daughter Yeva, Semyon wanted to win. He complained to the river that he could not cut enough lumber to win the Duke's contest. In response, the river uprooted the forest and made a great pile of trees, and in the morning Semyon stood victorious.
However, the Duke did not want his daughter to marry a Grisha, and set a second task: obtain a mirror from the Fabrikator Baba Anezka. Again Semyon despaired to the river, since he had no money to trade. The river carried Semyon up the mountains of the Petrazoi to Baba Anezka's cave and in thanks, Semyon named the river Little Knife.
Before Baba Anezka could close the door on Semyon, the river entered her home and she greeted it. It led her and Semyon through a hidden path in the mountain to a shallow valley, where there was a round pool of water so perfect that it could be a mirror. Baba Anezka declared it a fair trade and handed Semyon one of her finest mirrors. She emphasized that the gift was for the river, but Semyon ignored her, asking what a river could want with a mirror.
Upon his return to Velisyana, Semyon dressed as nicely as he could and was welcomed into the Duke's palace as a special guest. The Duke set a final task: retrieve the ancient magic coin buried somewhere beneath Ravka, since Semyon was too poor to provide for Yeva. Semyon asked the river to find the coin for him, but the river was too weak to dig underground. He broke the dam with a Grisha steel axe, increasing the river's power.
The river soon returned with the coin, but expressed concern when Semyon tried to take it. He decided that it was too dangerous to go to the Duke with the coin and left it with the river while he went to the palace. Semyon told the Duke to bring a priest to the riverbank so he could marry Yeva. At the river, it showed them the coin, but as they reached for it, the river became a giant column that terrified the people. It rejected the way Semyon had treated it as a tool and exploited it and revealed that it was a spirit who had been trapped by the dam. It told Yeva that it, not Semyon, had completed the Duke's tasks. and asked Yeva to become its bride. The river destroyed Velisyana's flour mill and carried Yeva away from the men.
Semyon was driven out of town, blamed for the destruction of the town's livelihood. He refused to drink water, certain it would betray him, and soon withered and died.
Personality and traits
Around people, Semyon was tongue-tied and sullen, but he spoke freely to water. He told jokes and stories and confided his aspirations to the river. Semyon wanted a nicer life, to be looked upon with respect, and was greedy for nice things. He was clever but often whiny, complaining to the river about his inability to complete the Duke's tasks. Semyon considered himself the master of water and neglected the feelings of the river, instead taking credit for its actions.
Semyon could only afford threadbare tunics and wore rags and old boots. He had a sullen face, inky eyes, and a narrow back. He thought himself to be handsome, but Baba Anezka's mirror showed otherwise.