This piece is a tie-in to one of my favorite posts. The Pillars. For those who have not read it, you can check it out first here.
Thanks for reading and I hope you all have a wonderful holiday!
I am Telli Telvaius. The last surviving son of the House of Telli. I put these words down as an account of the final Feast of Thoughtful Harvest. The day that the sands of our home scoured themselves of our presence.
It was the 114th year of the age of Balia Bet-Ral. The age of prosperity. The Four Houses were aligned in peace for the first time in nearly a millenia. Cooperation and free trade meant that our people could settle in the deserts for the first time. Until this age, we had been nomads. A necessity among desert peoples on many worlds. Peace with the other Houses allowed us to claim a more permanent home and open ourselves to trade.
We survived and flourished through their generosity.
In ages past, our people were few. We could not grow in numbers as constant travel to tap into scarce sources of food kept us at humble numbers. In these days, the careful harvest of the Stoneborn Fig sustained us. We knew the routes to travel between the thickets. The plants that bore this most wholesome of fruits were of small numbers. They grew in gnarled patches hidden among treacherous of cliffs. Our people would live in these places for a time, collecting the figs in a manner that would ensure their return for future harvests. We would travel from thicket to thicket harvesting, but also tending. They were the true fruit of life.
In the age of Balia Bet-Ral, we no longer had such a need for these figs, but our taste for them remained. The poorest among us could now survive without them, so they were maintained as a delicacy for those who could afford to send workers to tend these thickets. On the anniversary of the founding of our new home, the Feast of Thoughtful Harvest took place. We would remember those who tended the thickets and give our thanks for their sustaining power. For a time, all seemed well. In our new home our numbers grew and we became a mighty nation shining in the desert sands.
But as it tends to do, time took its toll. As prosperity grew, so too did the desire for the fruit of the Stoneborn. Wealth had been shared among all the people and most could afford their share of harvest. Many attempts were made to cultivate them in greater numbers. Every such attempt failed. One by one, the thickets were harvested into oblivion. We took and took and cared not for the health of future crops. My family took it upon themselves to claim these fruits in the name of royalty. We would be the sole consumers of their remaining numbers. This brought violence. The people had grown accustomed to having their share. The House of Telli sealed its doors while the young nation withered around them.
As the final years wore on, the desert turned its anger upon us all. The winds now carried the stinging sands through our home. Those buildings that were not pulverized by the relentless storms were buried and forgotten. As my family celebrated the final Feast, the sands devoured our home as well. I was an infant in that time and the desert saw fit to spare me. I can scarcely recall the men who opened what would be our tomb. They rescued me that day and I lived my childhood with a traveling scholar. I was not allowed to return to the desert. None were allowed to enter the place now known as the Angered Sands.
I petitioned the heads of the remaining Houses. And finally, in my fortieth year, I was allowed to return. I made it my life’s work to discover just what had happened to our people. For many years, I searched the featureless sands for my former home. I braved the terrifying winds and sought shelter where the old thickets once grew.
I have still not found the city, but in my travels I have discovered the truth about our end.
The Stoneborn Fig could only be seen above ground in the rockiest of places. We had never known that it was what was beneath the earth that was its most remarkable feature. The roots of each Stoneborn thicket were connected not only to each plant in the thicket, but they also traveled the scores of miles underground in a vast web that connected all thickets.
In our greed to harvest them, we killed each thicket one by one. The network of roots that had been protecting our home from the fury of the sands had dried and crumbled into dust.
I still take a moment to reflect when the day of the Feast comes. In my old age, I now search in hopes of finding some lost thicket of the Stoneborn. Perhaps one day they will tame this desert once again.