Saturday, August 1, 2009

Common Words #7: The Tragic Myth

I've just come back from a forty-two kilometer bike ride, and my brain is still too fried for me to make the trenchant sort of posts I strive for every other day. I hope instead you may at least be halfway interested in another brief Common Words entry.

This story, if you could call it that, was written in 2001 for the same OAC2 Writer's Craft assignment as "The Worlds Machine," which I posted here back in June. The theme for this one was tragedy, and I settled on some vague, undefined post-apocalyptic world that was probably influenced by Rifts. I always envisioned it as some community elder introducing a fresh young man to the scope of history.

I can't for the life of me remember what kind of mark I got on it.

The Tragic Myth
by Andrew Barton

Long ago, before the world became the playground of demons and monsters that it is today, men like you and me held sway over all the lands that could be found beneath the sky. Their arcane arts were beyond the level of even the greatest masters, so was their experience with wielding such magicks which we have since forgotten. The magical talent of the Ancients was such that the tides of the world itself could be bent to their will. Even nature was conquered by their might, as control of the weather, lands and stars passed from spirits to wizards. They could make water appear where none should have flowed, and were possessed of so much food that no one, nowhere might feel the want of hunger. Their grey ribbons stretched across the land, and it is these that you are most likely familiar with. Even as they may appear today, remember that when they were first built, they were as glorious as anything else the Ancients had produced.

The Ancients definitely found their skills in the field of war, although they could not practice their martial techniques against any enemies of the like that we find ourselves at odds with. You have doubtless seen some of the relics of that time, the things they called "guns," and however much they may seem to be a work of a god, know that such contrivances were among the least powerful that they possessed. War in the time of the Ancients must have been a terrifying, horrible thing that split the sky and tore the very Earth asunder, letting loose the tortured screams of Hell. Great metal beasts bedecked in armor rolled across the land, a massive cannon pointing forth that could decimate even the greatest opponent. Craft that dipped through the wind as birds do, their bellies full of fire like dragons animated through metal and magic. And at the very top of this hierarchy of slaughter, there sat the family of devices they knew as "nukes." The fire in one such device was so compacted that when it was made free of its constraints, it devastated all that it found in its path. It is doubtlessly due to engines of war such as these that none were ever seen during the Ancients' rule.

From out of the ground rose hollow mountains, vast monoliths within which even a dozen of our villages could easily be lost. The villages of the Ancients could be called that only in the vaguest sense of the term, with vast ebon towers scraping the sky and family huts surrounding them for miles and miles upon end. Buzzing between these monstrous monoliths were wagons self-propelled, reaching speeds far greater than what even our greatest horses can attain. They had even managed to spin magics allowing them to break the bonds of the earth itself and sail through the air in great ships built like birds. When the Ancients ruled, the Earth as a whole was free and clear of the petty rivalries that tear it apart today. Tribes did not war against tribe, instead tribe was a friend of tribe. However, unfortunately for the Ancients, their dominion over existence would not last forever.

The sky turned black at midday, the color of charcoal before the flames are put to it. The temples were clogged by terrified peasants demanding to know what must be sacrificed in order to put an end to this godly show of force. The great villages began to empty as the great portion of their inhabitants sought an uncertain shelter in the countryside. What then, you ask? Well, no one is quite sure on that regard... except that the skies began to spit fire.

Great firestorms washed out from the moon and stars that had been tamed by magic and sought to return to the natural life again. Villages drowned in lakes of liquid fire that fell from above and rose from below. The boundaries that separated this world from hell became blurred and disappeared entirely, the spirits suffering eternal torment in this world as well as the next. Even the great war machines were hopeless to stem this onslaught. One by one, they fell. The great villages were reduced to melted, smoldering ruins. Most of the people were killed. A handful survived, those who had taken for shelter in the countryside and found it before the world cracked and split. They were those who endured, and they were those who gave rise to us.

Never forget our origins, then. Remember that every time you realize how fulfilling it is for you to be alive, know that uncountable souls had to perish in lakes of fire to make that thing so.


This story is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 license. That means you are free to Share - to copy, distribute and transmit the work - and to Remix - to adapt the work - under the following conditions:

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