Dawn of a Race
I once met a traveler, who told me of a story long lost over the millennia. He told me of the dawn of a unique race called the Phoenix. There is only one phoenix, but it is said to hold the memories of thousands of people. This is its tale in which the destruction of a village led to new beginnings…
It was about a hundred years after man first roamed the Earth, and all was new across the land. The continents were yet to split apart, and the entire planet was covered in a luscious jungle with an abundance of food and water for everyone. Hidden at the southwestern end of Pangaea, a grand mountain whose majestic peak reached high above the columnous clouds to the heavens stood watch over a peaceful village called Arowen, named after the spirit of fire and renewal its people worshipped. It was a serene place where animals and humans lived in harmony together and no one suffered from want. Arowen was considered sacred by the nomads in the surrounding jungle, a place to come together for celebrating the good will of their deity. This particular part of the jungle surrounding the village was too thick for any outsiders to visit, isolating its people from outsiders' violent practices.
For many years, the people in Arowen prospered and grew in numbers. One day, at the turn of the year, something very strange happened – a complete stranger ran into their tiny community. Everyone was shocked at the audacity of an outsider to break into their utopia, dragging the carcass of a mankrala, no less! The mankrala were as sacred to the people of Arowen as the goddess was to the villagers. The mankrala was a symbol of peace and prosperity, a creature who could walk upright like a man or on all six legs like a deer.
To kill such a creature was the only crime punishable by death, yet the chief's daughter, Aria, stood up for the stranger, explaining that he did not know her people's customs and beliefs. Together, Aria and the stranger were able to convince the rest of the village to spare his life.
"What is your name, stranger?" Arbrok, the chief demanded.
"Chandru, sir," the man replied, extending a hand. Arbrok just stared at it, wondering what on earth this "Chandru" wanted. Eventually, the villagers offered Chandru a meal and lodging for the night and a guide to take him out of the area the next morning. Chandru agreed and stayed the night. The next morning, however, the villagers were filled with questions about the outsiders' ways and why they would kill an innocent animal, especially one as sacred as the mankrala. Chandru explained that his people usually ate the beasts after roasting them over a fire. This made them much stronger than just eating fruit, vegetables, and grains. Curious, the chief's daughter asked the man to cook the mankrala to see what it would taste like.
Chandru stayed many moons after that fateful day, teaching the people of Arowen the ways of his people, the warrior tribe called Alans. Gradually, the Arowen culture declined into brute instincts and extreme violence. Only Arbrok, the old chief still clung to the old ways, but once he died, his efforts were only commemorated through traditional feasts. The Aerons, as they now called themselves, hunted the mankrala until only five of the once-sacred creatures remained. The Aerons continued to commit terrible acts of desecration, angering their long-forgotten goddess, Arowen.
On a day of great feasting six years after Chandru arrived, the villagers felt a strange power shifting the ground beneath them. There was a noise even greater than thunder permeating through their very beings, and the ground opened its great maw to swallow many homes and crops. Frightened, the villagers turned back to Arowen for guidance. No answer came to their pleading cries, and they were left bewildered as to why the goddess would be angry with them. In their eyes, Arowen had sent Chandru to them so that they could become stronger, more powerful. He had given them more strength, increased their population tenfold, and decreased the amount of stillborn children.
For the next few weeks, ground-shakings kept coming and threatened to swallow the entire village whole. The terrified villagers continued to seek guidance, but no help came. The ground continues to shift and break, and the animals began to flee the area to find a place where the ground was more trustworthy. After all but a few injured and diseased animals were gone, the splitting finally stopped. That became a traditional day of feasting to give thanks to Arowen for finally answering their desperate prayers.
Several generations came and went, and the reason for the feasting was eventually forgotten. That is, until the ground broke open once more. This time, black snow filled the sky and rained down on the third and fourth days of ground-shaking. Curious, the people of Arowen picked up some of the strange, soft powder. It crumbled in their hands and did not weigh more than a feather. Their curiosity was soon replaced with fear as the black snow continued to fall, coating everyone and everything with such a thick layer of black dust that they could have easily been mistaken for the people of the desert far to the south. In some places, the blackness fell so fast and so thick that it buried people alive.
The next day, those who survived the cryptic burial heard a rumbling louder even louder than the thunderous peals that came before the first ground-shaking. The people looked north only to watch in horror as the top of the grand mountain suddenly shot off the base, tearing through the sky as if a bird of rock had the speed of the winds. Red-and-orange liquid poured down from the ragged mountain as the villagers rushed to avoid the cascading debris from the once-majestic tower of might. It was not long before the entire village was destroyed... Men, women, and children were broken into pieces by the enormous mountain top and were then frozen in time after the molten fire had cooled.
As everything began to cool, the goddess Arowen came down from her home in the sky to see the destruction she had wrought. As she walked through the ashes, Arowen saw one of the bones of a tiny baby and realized that she had killed innocent children who had no part in the sins of their parents. Saddened by this total devastation, the deity decided to make a new life out of the innocents she had killed.
Taking the tiny finger bone no longer than a spider's leg, Arowen gathered up the ashes of other children and formed a small body. Realizing that another human would be mortal and likely perish without any kind of remembrance, Arowen changed the shape to form a beak and wings. She made the new life a little larger than an eagle with the power of a leviathan, the compassion of a new mother, and the ability to regenerate after death. Arowen breathed life into the new creature, giving it the name of Phoenix. The unique bird was made entirely of fire and would turn to ashes every thousand years so that it could be born again in fire, just as the children of the village Arowen were born again.