The Tale of the Wise People
It began in the West, the tales of the Wise People begin, the home of the gods. They jealously guarded their power, and acted capriciously and cruelly towards the rest of the world, leaving humans to shiver in the cold, to go hungry, to face the dark night in terror. But one of the gods felt pity for the human creature, and hope for its potential to topple the gods and rule more benevolently than his divine kin ever had. And so, one day, as his cruel brother the Thunderer struck the earth with lightning, he alighted to earth and found the bravest and strongest of human kind. Like all other animals, humans then fled from the fire that the lightning brought, and this brave human acted no differently, but when the kind god grabbed her she stopped. The god said, “Seize this moment! When all others flee, you may walk bravely forward. Behold, fire, servant of the gods. Reach forth your hand, and the boldness of your action shall make it serve you as well." The brave human did as the god said and brought fire back to her people. She learned to control it, to feed it, and to use it. She created tools and cooked her food.
The gods saw what had happened and they became angry. The Thunderer cursed his brother for giving fire to the humans, and chained him to a mountain, there to suffer for his crimes. Then the gods rained torment upon the humans, for they secretly feared them and their power. The gods shook the heavens, and sent many of the stars raining down upon the earth.
The brave human led her people to find the stars that had fallen to earth and found them made of a shining rock. With the heat of the fire, they found they could work and reshape the stars that had fallen to the earth, forging armor and tools and weapons, so that when the gods shook the sky again, the brave human led her people to stand defiantly against them. When the gods saw the humans wielding fire and armored with the stars, they shook with fear. “The woman has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil," the gods cried. “We must not allow her to reach out her hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." And so a great war began as the gods attacked the humans, and the humans struggled against the gods.
For an age war raged, until finally, the brave human had a dream. She saw the kind god chained to the mountain. She set out to find him, and when she had found him, she cut his bonds and freed him. While their leader had left, the humans suffered terrible losses as the gods pressed on them; but when she returned with the kind god at her side, they rallied and destroyed the gods.
Thus began the golden age, with the kind god ruling over humanity, teaching them all the arts of civilization. Many other tribes of humans still lived upon the earth, cowering in darkness and fear, held captive by the superstitions the gods had taught them to control them like beasts. So the wise people set out on a benevolent mission to save them from their ignorance and teach them the proper way to live. Many resisted, their minds clouded by the superstitions of the gods and enslaved by their cruel ways, but with fire and blade the wise people overcame them, tamed them, and taught them how to live. They made use of their lands, and built great wonders, too beautiful and numerous to name.
The brave human thought often of what the gods had said: “We must not allow her to reach out her hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." For all that her people achieved, for all of their magic and medicine, for all the power they had stolen from the gods, still they died. She set out on a quest to steal the fruit from the tree of life, and so complete the apotheosis of her people.
Her successor proved less brave and less wise than her, and his successor less brave and less wise than him. The golden age gave way to silver, and silver gave way to bronze, and bronze gave way to iron. Like their leaders, the people became less brave and less wise. Petty jealousies and bitter feuds consumed them. Their leaders became tyrants. Their arguments became wars. Their ambitions became cruel. Their dreams became perverse. They no longer revered the kind god, and looking upon them, he repented of having helped them. One day he disappeared, though none of the people then noticed or cared.
They tore themselves apart. Their great cities became ruins. Their wonders fell into disrepair. The nations fell.
But I have heard it whispered that the brave human did not set out in vain. She discovered the tree of life, and ate from it, and still walks the earth. She goes among us to remind us of the glory and wisdom of our ancestors, that they defeated the gods themselves and built wonders upon this earth — and so we might do so once again.