The Forest Of Eternals

 

“During the day of Liberation, Mater the leader of my people said that three must die, that all may live. He sent out Paladin, Protag and Patron with the armor and they disappeared into the Rubicon. Now I say, you also must enter the Rubicon. This time one must die, that all may live.” – The Old Lady

The small world of Eternal is experiencing strange events. Is it the fulfillment of ancient prophecies? Upal, Preet and Lashra, stand at the entrance of the dreaded Rubicon Forest, questioning whether they should enter the place, form where no one ever returns.

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Prologue:

Part I The Prophet Of Peace

The fables of the Rubicon Forest were considered old and wise; the stories were known to everyone and the fear of entering it or being forced to enter it, was a most terrifying dreadful thing.

There was not a soul alive who knew of even one person who had entered and returned to tell about it; at least not in the last thousand years. No, not even The Old Lady knew of anyone, and she was said to be over eight hundred years old.

The legends chronicled in the Scrolls of Tralatitious tell of a time when the Rubicon was known as the Forest of Eternals and this place had the power to feed everyone on Eternal. It was an endless harvest of edible flowers, mushrooms, fruits and vegetables. Food was abundant and plentiful. The Forest of Eternals was a magical place. However that name had not been spoken since The Absconding.

The Old Lady was in possession of The Scrolls of Tralatitious. Manuscripts written thousands of years before her birth by her ancestors, The Longevite Tribe. She was the last known member of her tribe and she alone was in constant possession of the Scrolls.

The ancient documents told the stories of five tribes who were led by the Patriot of Peace who wore magical garments known as The Armor. It was written that the mystical Armor gave the possessor unimaginable wisdom and a prolonged almost endless existence. For six thousand years the Patriot of Peace or “Pop” as the tribes people affectionately remembered him, kept the peace in the city of Eternal.

Throughout Pop’s reign there were no wars, no famines, no disease. Peace, joy and unity thrived. One night Pop had a prophetic dream, he would soon be crossing the great divide. He left the city and traveled deep into the forest where he spent forty days and forty nights meditating and searching for insight on what he should do.

Rumours quickly spread that Pop had gone to the forest to die and everyone wondered what would become of their city without his guidance.

Upon returning, he gathered five people, one from each tribe. “I have chosen to divide the armour among four of the five tribes.”

He foretold of a day, when the armor would be reunited by The One who could bear its weight.

Pop chose leaders for the five tribes, he gathered them together and in a somber and magisterial inauguration he presented them with the Armor.

“From this day forth, you will be a representative of the armor and its distinctive hallmark and attributes. Verily I say that only through a genuine manifestation of humility and modesty can the possessor be endowed with its full potential.”

He removed his helmet and called forward the first leader. “Bravo, I bestow upon you this Helmet and the leadership of the Casque Tribe. Surrender your mind and thoughts to all that is good, virtuous and honorable. Teach your people to be noble, send them throughout the city that they may be mentors of wisdom and forgiveness.”

Pop placed the helmet into Bravo’s hands and left him with this warning. “When the shadows of the day become long and wisdom is clouded, stand firm as the advocate and judge of all the tribes. Be prudent. Deliver your decisions with exceptional discernment.” 

He removed his arm from the straps used to hold the shield. He held it out to Beria; he would now lead the citizens of the Eastern part of the city. “Beria be a wise and gentle leader to the children who have been bestowed to you. Just as a shield is used for protection and safeguarding, you also must be a refuge and shelter to all of Eternal.”

With gentleness he admonished Beria. “When you see the arrows of iniquity descending upon Eternal, lift your armor and gather her people under your shield. Let your conduct and service be a guide to all. Let all of your decisions and statutes be made using soundness of mind.”

Pop then made his way to a woman named Purdah. She instinctively raised her arms in the air that he might lower the breastplate onto her. “Wear this Breastplate and honor it. Be upright, honest and virtuous.”

“When the nights become long and arduous and temptations arise to darken the spirit of the people, remember the power of this breastplate. Let it protect your heart so it may not be damaged. Utter words of peace, unite the children of the city. Even the smallest amount of light will shine in the darkness. Let it be your guide.”

He turned and faced the fourth leader. He held out his sword to Demorg. One hand held the grip, the other the point. Demorg reached out and grabbed hold of it. The Prophet of Peace held it, as he uttered the following words.

“Demorg, I have chosen you as leader of the Sword Tribe. The sword has two edges, one can be used to defend and the other to subdue; it has the power to bring forth light or darkness. Therefore, let your desire and zeal always lean toward sympathy and understanding. Silence the siren song, overcome temptation. Lead my children at all times toward the light of peace forever into all eternity.”

When he finished presenting the armor to the four, he made his way to Mater, a giant of a man. “Mater, with my life, I give you life. You and your tribe have been bestowed with the gift of longevity. The gift of a thousand year existence if it is possible.”

He placed his hand on the man’s shoulder. “Write the stories and history of the people. Never let them be forgotten, pass on your knowledge from generation to generation. Serve and be served. Protect and be protected.”

He concluded with these final words.

“Those who have gifts and powers should always protect and serve those who don’t. I say to all of you standing here that without meekness and humility all hope is lost; listen to my words when I say that the true power of the armor lies in those two things. May peace continue to reign until the armor is once again reunited.”

After a long and somber silence, the five stood watching as Pop made his way to his final resting place, somewhere in the Forest of Eternals.

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Part II The Rubicon

For a period of time everything went well and the people lived in peace. They all worked for the betterment of the other. That is until, one day Demorg was spotted returning from the forest with a large number of his tribe’s people. There was an electrifying and somewhat disconcerted buzz felt with the sound of his return.

He led his people home, arms filled with large objects. Their cheering grew louder and became more aggressive as they approached the city. Eternals from the west gathered to see what all the commotion was about. When Demorg came into plain view, the people saw clearly the item he held above his head.

The people were shocked and dismayed. He had returned with dead animals to feed them. The other leaders who were there to share in the harvest were appalled.

“What is this thing you are doing?” they asked Demorg.

“I have found a way to use the sword to bring more food!” He exclaimed boldly, so that all the city could hear him.

“We can work less and have more to eat.”

“Flesh does not eat flesh,” said Purdah.

“The Patriot of Peace said that we would surely die if we ate flesh,” added Bravo.

“Look at me you fools.” He raised his arm up and turned around, smiling and nodding in agreement with himself, making sure everyone gathered could see him. “Not one of us has died from eating this animal.”

Filled with rage, Demorg furiously spat out, “The Patriot lied to us when he told us we would die the day we ate flesh. I am here to show you that this is not so.”

He shoved his way through, pushing and thrusting people side to side. He stopped abruptly and yelled from the center of the people. “Are these ghosts that surround me? Did I pass through them or did I have to make my way through with force? As you can see we are alive and well!”

He grabbed his belly and laughed. “Full and satiated bellies, that’s what we’ll die of.” he spoke with a mirth that made him sound mad and his words derisory. His tribe joined in the laughter and began to clap and cheer in unison.

The others did not approve. “Flesh does not eat flesh.” repeated Bravo.

The tribes discussed the issue among themselves and quickly came to a unanimous decision.

“Demorg, we can not in good conscience accept or tolerate this action. You must cease this madness.” Beria continued. “We live in peace and are well fed by the Forest of Eternals. Let us remain at peace. If we begin breaking our traditions where will it end?”

Demorg was incensed. “Do you dismiss me so easily?”

He shouted at them. “We must develop and change these old and rotting traditions! All of you can see with your own eyes that we are alive. The lies of death did not come upon any of my people.”

“The opposite is true, eating flesh has opened our eyes and made us stronger and wiser.”

He made his way through the crowd halting in front of the leaders. “Are you all fools?” He shouted in their faces.

He turned to face the crowds. More and more people gathered. “Do you wish to remain entrapped and blinded by your old and dying ways?” He cried out to the crowd.

He paused for a long moment. In frustration, he pointed at the leaders and howled, “If you make this declaration, I swear with my life and the lives of those who follow me,”  he raised his weapon, “my sword will not stand idly by and watch this world decay because of your fear!”

“Flesh shall not eat flesh!” cried out Beria.

“Flesh shall not eat flesh!” Purdah shouted. She could see the crowd was becoming feverish and agitated.

As the multitude pressed closer to Demorg, he could sense that he was beginning to command the situation and that his dominion was fast approaching. He declared his hostilities toward the other leaders. “Flesh can eat flesh!” he shouted at the now frenzied throng.

“We did not die! You will not die! The time for change has come. Let the old traditions die with these muggins. Do not tolerate their lies any longer. Join me and my clan if you want to live forever. With me you shall be free of all their useless rules! Come with me, or stay and live in shackles and bondage!”

Many in the crowd started to chant his name… “De-morg, De-morg” soon thousands upon thousands were chanting in unity.

“Leave with me, embrace freedom; together we will make a new city where abundance will reign. No one will ever be hungry and all will taste the nectar of independence. Let us build a place where lies, deceit and plans made under the cover of darkness have no place.” Demorg’s voice rang out like thunder. “My sword will be used as a tool to feed you and as protection against those who would see you starve and keep you blind.” Many people from all tribes were persuaded and embraced a union with Demorg and his clan.

Word of Demorg’s promises traveled quickly. Talk of building a new nation and of newfound freedoms and liberties traveled throughout the land. Over the following weeks the procession out of the city was over a million strong.

There were but only a few handfuls of people from the Sword Tribe who chose to secede. Some chose to be absorbed by other tribes while others chose to remain leaderless in the west end, while others chose to live as gypsies.

Demorg gave the signal and led his new found kingdom into the Forest of Eternals. They were never seen again.

Soon after Demorg and his people had vanished deep into the forest, people began to notice that the Forest of Eternals was losing its ability to feed the masses. Food became scarce. Eventually there was so little to harvest that people stopped entering the forest. Then it was discovered that those who did enter it in search of food, were never seen from again.

It was then that the council of leaders decided that Purdah should proclaim that Demorg had brought death and destruction with his choices. They gathered the citizens and Purdah spoke.

“The Forest of Eternals is no longer safe for us. I decree from this day forth, the forest will be known as the Rubicon Forest; because Demorg and his people have cursed the land. A line has been drawn and it is forbidden by all to enter it. Those who cross it will be damned and salvation from its curse will be unattainable.”

The Armored tribes agreed to build a protective wall around the city to protect themselves from Demorg’s return.

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Part III Three Tribes Go To War

With all this unfolding, struggles and conflicts between the remaining three armored tribes began. Beria and Bravo began arguing over who should have rule over the western portion of the city now that Demorg was gone.

Soon Beria was going mad trying to gain power and Kingship over the whole of the city. He believed that he was The One, who could protect the people from the coming onslaught that would surely soon be ushered in by Demorg.

His words and actions began to worry and strain relationships with the others. His demands to be the sole possessor of the remaining pieces of armor were so worrying that one night on the way home from a briefing, he was assassinated. It was Bravo of the Casques, who believed it was his duty to resolve and administer judgment against Beria and the precarious situation he was creating.

When the Shield tribe discovered Bravo’s involvement in the murder of their leader, an insurrection ensued. Those who supported Beria, planned to assassinate Bravo in an act of retribution in an operation they called the Rebellion of Sagacity. Their success created a series of vendettas.

As these battles were occuring between the Casques and the Shields, there were also struggles for leadership within each of those tribes. Multiple splinter groups began to form. For three and a half years there were battles both within and between them. A time known as The Cabal. A period of murders, suicides, assassinations and massacres. As quickly as a faction was formed it would fall. Discord and distrust were rampant amongst all.

For all their fighting and disagreements, the leaderless Casques and Shields were united on one matter, the belief that Purdah of the Breast Plate Tribe could not be trusted. Her constant contact with both sides began to be worrisome. It was understood by both the Shields and the Casques that Purdah should be removed from her position lest she join forces with one side and give them the advantage.

Hearsay and rumours spread throughout the two rudderless tribes. Confabulation took hold of the masses. Every type of paranoia and hysteria was put on display, and it became natural for them to behave in these manners.

“She’s preparing to take control of us!” they cried out from the windows.

In the gin mill they would whisper “She’s plotting to hold all the pieces of the armor. She will be invincible if she’s not stopped.”

On the city streets they cried “Purdah will kill us all!”

An agreement was reached by the two distrustful groups during a covert merger. “We agree that on the morning of her 75th Jubilee, she will be purged.” said the acting leaders.

True to their words, Purdah was ambushed on the way to her jubilee. All of her entourage was killed. Her body was found slashed in two. The tribes were so deep in their misgivings they believed (falsely of course), that by slicing her body in half, her followers would believe that Demorg was somehow responsible for her death. Of course Purdah’s tribe did not even consider this.

All three tribes were now without leaders. Panic was followed by hysteria, which soon led to lawlessness. Leaders rose and fell by the week and sometimes the hour. Eventually this led to chaos, disorder and anarchy. All three armored tribes were at war, and their efforts to build truces between one another to try and gain an advantage in their power and position fell apart before the ink dried.

The feuds turned to all out war. This brought with it famine and an immeasurable amount of gore. Blood flowing from the city at its most wicked period of combat was said to be waist high. After three and a half months of combat, and extinguishing thirty percent of the population, an armistice was created by the Longevity tribe. It was subscribed to by all.

A pestilence soon followed as a result of the interment. Four more years of slow, painful and feverish death followed. Another forty percent of the population was lost. The survivors had no other option but to help each other out. It wasn’t enough not to be at war. If they didn’t ban together soon, not one soul would be left alive.

During the war, the Longevity tribe had been a neutral party. However, neutrality was not an option during the time of the plague. They were hit the hardest. When the blight finally ended, only twelve could be accounted for.

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Part IV The Prophecy

The night of the last death from the plague, all twelve members of the Longevity tribe received the same prophetic dream.

The next morning the twelve gathered together and summoned the newly elected leaders of the three tribes. They instructed them to unite all the people from all tribes and bade them to go to the western portion of the city nearest to the Rubicon. It was mandated that all who were able, must attend.

On the first day of the week an ocean of people had gathered to hear from the Longevites. The people stood motionless and soundless; an unprecedented calm filled the air; it was a sea of tranquility.

The twelve stood on pedestals at great distances apart and surrounded the gathered masses.

“I was standing in the darkness. It was a lightless and dreaded night.” The twelve spoke in unison.

The people were astounded at the thundering sounds of their proclamations. The words spoken by the Longivites echoed over the crowd.

After describing their dream, they went on to explain their vision and how the armor must be removed from the city and concealed in the Rubicon forest.

“Our shame has been exposed and we have been shown that not one of us is worthy of the armor. But know this, there is a day and an hour when the Armor Of Peace will be reunited.

“Your children will be delivered to the forest and many calamities will come to fall upon them. But know this, that after a time they shall conquer and suppress the beast that tortures them. On that day the Armor of Peace will be once again reunited and true peace shall be restored.”

The crowd was silent. Their thoughts turned to themselves and they began to whisper,  “Who will go? Who will bear this tragedy that befalls the whole world? Who will give up another brother or sister?”

The Longevites knew what they were thinking and spoke up. “We understand your fears. We will not ask any of you to sacrifice a life. Three of us were anointed in our dream. They will die, so that we all may live.”

The three remained silent as their names were pronounced. “Paladin, Patron and Protag will make their way tonight.”

That evening everyone bade them farewell. Hands were laid on the chosen as they made their way out of the city gate. Not a word was spoken. Only the somber sound of tears and mourning could be heard as they made their way toward the Rubicon Forest. When they entered, each went in his predetermined direction. Paladin with the Shield, Patron carried the Helmet and Protag the Breastplate. They were never to be seen again.

After the three vanished into the Rubicon, the nine who were left called to everyone.

“Today we start a new chapter in our lives. Let us never forget all the tragedies that we have withstood in the recent past. The brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and children we have destroyed, because of our lawlessness. Our transgressions have doomed three blameless souls to the Rubicon. This day in our history should never be disregarded or overlooked. Every year at this time, we shall celebrate for three days the lives of those who died for us. Tonight and for the next two nights we shall unite in peace and friendship in the Celebration of Liberation.” These and hundreds of other stories that were penned by the Longevites are all held in The Scrolls of Tralatitious. They are constant reminders of all the events of the past, the joyous the dreaded and all the hopes for the future.

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