The Tale of the Locust People

It began in the North, the tales of the Locust People begin, the home of Death. In those days Death ruled much of the earth, encasing it in a cold so deep that the water turned hard, like glass. The People of the Long Night lived in the shadows of the great walls of ice, subjected to long ages of bitter cold, until finally all the tribes of the People of the Long Night came together, and their wizards consulted with one another and decided on a perilous course. They set out to climb the wall of ice, to cross the great snow field, and to reach Death's lair to challenge him for the fate of the world. After an arduous journey they reached Death and gambled for the world. Death lost that gamble, and the ice began to recede, but the wizards paid a terrible price. When they returned, their skin had become as pale as death, and as he withdrew his power, Death laughed at them. “You thought you could force me to withdraw from the world,” he said. “You won, so I shall withdraw. The ice will melt. But I have touched you, and so you shall become my heralds.” The wizards tried to shrug off the chill of that prophecy, as they returned to their people and found the world already warming as Death's power withdrew.

The melting ice caused floods across the whole world. Far to the south another people found their lands flooded by those changes. As it always does, grass sprang up after the floods, and those people became the first of the Locust People. They ate only grasses, becoming small and noisy. They proliferated as if without limit and consumed their whole land. Where they came from, there once stood a mighty forest, but the Locust People recited an epic poem about their god-king who defied the gods and tore it all down to lay the foundation of their way of life. Once that great forest had turned completely to desert, they moved away, moving on to the next land, and after they had consumed that as well, the next.

And so the Locust People began to swarm across the surface of the earth, destroying every land they came to and then moving on to the next, like a swarm of locusts. They spread upon the face of the earth like a terrible infestation. The wizards say that tumors grow when one part of the body forgets that it belongs to a whole, and decides to grow without limit. So, too, did the Locust People forget that they belonged to the land.

As they moved closer to the People of the Long Night, the wizards recognized Death's latest form. Some of them suggested opposing their advance, cutting them out like the tumor they mimicked, while others became mesmerized by the power of it. They persuaded the others, saying, ”Why should we not take this power for ourselves? We defeated Death before, and if we need to, we can defeat him again. In the meantime, why can we not take this power he has created, and use it for ourselves?" Touched by death, only a handful of them asked, “To what end? Don't we already have everything we want?" For the icy touch of death still lingered on them, and it left a terrible infection festering in their heart, creating a hole that they could never fill.

The Locust People swarmed into the lands of the People of the Long Night, and slaughtered the people, but their wizards survived and took power among the conquerors. They became leaders and god-kings who harnessed the terrible power of the Locust People for their own personal glory. Touched by death and marked by overweening hubris, the zeal of these wizards frightened even the Locust People. They became witches, warlocks, sorcerers — a coven that ruled the whole world.

But they could not change the nature of the locust. They still swarmed and spread, leaving desolation in their wake. They crossed the waters and discovered a whole new world to devour. Wherever they went, they wiped out every living thing. Before long the wizards could see that the Locust People were approaching the only end their way of life could lead to. For what end can a tumor have? Either you cut it out and it will die, or it will kill you and die with you.

The wizards reached deep inside of Death's domain, and pulled up from it Death's own blood, black and oozing, the ichor pressed from the bodies of the dead. They dug beneath the earth, and pulled out his bones: black rocks, as black as his oozing blood. They burned these for fuel, and transmuted them into all manner of wonder, using them to power the terrible machines whose ruins we can still find strewn about the earth. With the power of those machines, the Locust People could go on. They belched forth flame and dark plumes of smoke. They blotted out the sun and burned the sky.

When the spirits of the dead, freed from Death's blood and bones by burning, mingled in the air, they grew hot with rage at the indignity of their treatment and the terrible sins of the Locust People. The sky burned, the waters boiled, and terrible storms wracked their vast iron villages and laid waste to their machines. In their nightmares, the wizards heard Death's laugh as he taunted them, and pointed out to them that in the end, they had lost. “I will not lock you in ice," Death taunted. “I will leave you to burn in your own hubris. In the end, you still fall to my dominion."

The Locust People had become many millions, and more, but they all died in those days, wiped out by their own evil. The world has still not cooled its anger entirely. We cannot undo what others have done, but it falls to us to try to set things right.

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