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"Today's legend, " announced Kiirar, bringing the first year students to order with only his soft voice, " is a cautionary tale, one that we do well to remember. It is important that we tell it well and tell it often, so that it may never happen again. "
The bladesinger students leaned forward attentively. In their first year of training, the physical training was geared to building strength and flexibility before any weaponwork could begin, so it was hard and wearying, and, frankly, dull. The mental training was therefore lapped up as a balm to tired bodies and bored minds.
"Hear with your ears, listen with your mind. What you learn today you must carry a lifetime, and bring to the ears and minds of others, " Kiirar intoned the ritual start of the lesson, "We Sylvari have long enjoyed the land and its fruits, and have seen it as our honour and duty to safeguard it. There was a time when some of us grew in hubris over our mastery of the land, and began to see the land as something from which to squeeze all juice, instead of savouring each drop as it falls.
"It began simply, with a Sylvari woman who gathered eggs each morn from a few hens that roosted near her home. She realized that if she built a safe place for the hens to roost, she would know where most of the eggs would be, as the hens would lay them where they slept. Pleased by the ease with which she diminished the time for such a chore, she decided that if she built an enclosure around the roosting house, the hens wouldn't be able to hide a few eggs elsewhere. She even added a few more hens, then a few more. Soon, the enclosure was full of hens, and the woman traded eggs with a neighbour for extra feed for the hens, as the enclosure was not spacious enough for that many hens to forage. When she noted that hens fought amongst themselves when kept so close together, she built individual cages, so that no hen could harm another, and risk her egg production.
"The neighbour saw the success with the hens, and began to wonder why he spent his days hunting rabbits for food and fur, when he, too, could raise them in an enclosure, to slay and skin when he choose. Another villager realized he could do the same with deer, another stocked the lake with fish, and so on.
"And so this idea spread like wildfire through the village, with the people trading the excess from their efforts. To feed the animals that could no longer roam free in the forest, the forest itself was cleared so that more grain could be grown. Those creatures of no "use" to the villagers were left homeless, and many died as the Sylvari drove them away from the new fields of wheat and barley.
"Kith-Jora is Lord of all of Nature, and while the Sylvari are his children, so too are the beasts of land and water. These younger siblings cried out to Kith-Jora in their misery, and Kith-Jora grew wroth at what he saw.
"He walked the streets of the village, swollen into a town, a city almost, and saw the people filling their bellies past hunger, while penned animals bawled and mewled and lowed in misery. He scowled fearsomely at what he beheld, and pondered whether cleansing fire or rushing water would best destroy the filth before him.
"An idea came to him, one that seemed fitting and just. He gathered his power to himself and dissolved himself into sparkling motes of light, as pollen from the sun itself. He drifted on the air through the village, and left a dusting of godhood in the ears of each of those who penned the animals, cleared forests to feed the beasts, or simply ate of the flesh of the imprisoned wretches.
"As he did so, each villager realized they could hear voices in their heads. Wordless voices pleading for mercy, pleading for release, pleading for the return of parents and children and loved ones. With dawning horror, the Sylvari realized they were hearing the voices of those that they had enslaved in thoughtless greed.
"Many could not bear the burden of Kith-Jora's fury, and went mad. Others flung themselves among their prisoners and were torn to pieces by the cage-maddened beasts. The others destroyed the pens, let loose the animals and fell to their knees, begging forgiveness of Kith-Jora and his children.
"At last, Kith-Jora relented, and the voices faded from the minds of the repentant villagers. The freed animals had fled, seeking unspoiled verdancy, and Kith-Jora turned away, intending to follow when one of the villagers, a hunter of deer named Jarenthal, came to Kith-Jora and held out his hand in entreaty.
""Lord, All-Father, your anger was deserved, and your lesson, though harsh, was just. My eyes are open, now and I cannot bear the thought of what we had wrought here. I would gladly give my life in defending your bounty against any such abuse. Let mine ears again hear the voices of your children, that I may protect them.' Kith-Jora saw wisdom in this, but knew better than the hunter what burden such an unbounded gift would be. He held the hunter in his green-gold gaze and spoke:' You were a hunter of deer, when the life of the deer meant life to you. Remember that bond, and you will serve me well.'
"Jarenthal felt again the touch of Kith-Jora on his ears, and in his heart, and soon, distantly, he heard the voices of the deer, as they moved swiftly away from the village. Jarenthal bid a hasty thanks and farewell to Kith-Jora, and set out after the deer, taking only what he could carry, and his hornwood bow. He lived a long life amongst the deer, ensuring that deer and Sylvari could once again live in harmony and balance. Deer were still hunted, for it is the natural order of things for predator to feed on prey, but they lived free, as Kith-Jora had intended, and hunters on two legs made their kill swift and humane, or faced Jarenthal.
"Jarenthal was the first of the kelvar'heru, the animal lords, but Kith-Jora has chosen to grant the gift to a few others throughout our long history. Where the life of a species is intertwined with that of the Sylvari, a kelvar'heru may appear, to preserve the balance.
"That, my children" concluded Kiirar with a sly smile, "leads us to tomorrow's legend. Until tomorrow, then…" and he dismissed his young charges with a gentle shooing gesture.
Thanks to Vanadia for this contribution!