On a remote island lived a village of people. These people were as ancient as the earth, and their sense of kinship ran deeper than the oceans. They were a hard-working society that worked alongside each other and lived off the land – the forests, the fields, and the coasts. Although they worked with many animals, they did not needlessly deprive them of life, as they had immense respect for nature. They took only what they needed and gave back when they could.

Although the name of the people remains unknown, as their language has long been forgotten, they were called stargazers by travelers they came across because of their unique devotion to the stars. This devotion was so strong, in fact, that every evening they would immediately stop working, gather in an open field, and look skyward.

Though they worked hard each day, it was at night in the open fields that they felt truly alive. They would gaze for hours in wonder, observing, imagining, creating star games and singing star songs. They even made predictions about how the stars would move, and on special occasions, would celebrate the stars they deemed most special to them. They even went so far as to name each other after the stars they had seen.

With the passage of many years, the stargazers held fast to their ways, living off the land, respecting nature, and continuing to gaze with wonder at the night sky. Then one strange day, a mischievous elder among them proclaimed that some stars were better than others. He said that the other villagers were wasting their time by staring at every star, and that what they should do was look at the right kinds of stars – the brightest and most beautiful stars. This elder, being of notable strength and intelligence, was hardly questioned by the others, and threatened the few who dared question him.

Soon enough the community of stargazers had changed. They worked hard every day, but every night, more and more people gazed on the same stars – the brightest stars – until there were only a few left who bothered gazing at the others. Soon even those who bothered to gaze at the other stars were seen not just as different, but wrong. In fact, this belief became so ingrained over time that the villagers that stared only at the brightest stars began to mock and look down on the others, convinced that their own way of stargazing was best.

As this tradition of gazing at the brightest stars continued, people began to wonder less and less about other stars. The star games and star songs of the past were replaced by serious star rituals and blessings that could only be performed and given by the village elders. People no longer cared about how others stars moved, but seemed obsessed with a small group of stars, and tried to figure out what each of these stars meant for their lives. The old celebrations continued, but the celebrations were more restrictive and less joyful, as the elders began to come up with rules about which stars should be celebrated and on what days.

One day a heated discussion broke out among the elders about which star was the brightest and most beautiful of them all. This matter was deemed so important to the elders and to the community, that each section of the village clung to their own version of stargazing, and to their own ideas of the brightest and most beautiful star in the sky.  However, unbeknownst to the villagers, the cleverest of elders held secret meetings with his own private group of stargazers. His exclusive group started out small, but soon it grew larger than the others. It was then that the cleverest of the elders devised a plan to kill the others.

And so after much plotting, the elder and his followers waited for nightfall as they hid from the others and silently watched them gaze at the wrong stars. The disgust that they felt at the other villager’s error made them all the more eager to end their lives, and so they snuck up behind each person, cupped their mouths, and slit their throats with sharp rocks. Their enemies would freely gaze at the skies no more.

From that moment onward, the village life began to change even more, for the elders told the rest of the people that the brightest star in the sky could speak to them, and had commanded special orders that must be obeyed for the good of the island. Transgressions against these orders were often met with violence, and in some cases, death.

However, in order to allay people’s fears and doubts about these new ways, the elders insisted that if the villagers were obedient, the brightest start in the sky had said that when they died they would rise up to the sky and become as bright and beautiful as He was – they had, of course, had given the star a male name to symbolize its seemingly infinite strength and power.

After years had passed, even the way the stargazers interacted with each other had changed. They no longer respected nature, but took what they wanted by order of His Brightness of the Holy Skies, wiping out whole forests and needlessly killing animals. No longer working alongside each other, the villagers insisted on working for themselves to ensure that when they died they would each become as bright and beautiful as possible. Even the act of stargazing – an activity which before had enraptured them for hours, was now done sparingly and was looked at as ordinary.

Soon enough good land became scarce, and resources were limited. Wars began breaking out among stargazers with each elder claiming to speak for His Brightness. People turned on their fathers, their brothers, and their cousins. There was a great bloodbath and much wailing, yet those who did the killing felt most justified because their beliefs were strongest. They were also promised by the elders that they would occupy the highest possible place in the sky if they died in battle.

The island, feeling the weight of the stargazer’s sins, grew angry with their constant carnage. Its emerald coasts had been replaced by rivers of red; its plentiful forests carved out for fallen bodies; its riches and wonders collected and abused for selfish gain. And so with a mighty roar of anguish and wrath, the heart of the island erupted, bringing fire down upon the villagers.

The elders and their followers were burned alive, as they saw their Star Temples collapse in ruin, their sacred Star Texts destroyed. Many lives were consumed that day in the lake of fire. It burned just as brightly and surely as their anger and conviction had, sharing in their destruction and lack of mercy. But not all lives were lost, for atop the high cliff that overlooked the island village, a humble and gentle family stood, free from greed, fervor, and bloodshed. They silently watched the village they once loved turned to ashes – its beauty and culture destroyed forever.

For a long while, they cried for the island and for the people they knew. And after they had buried their ashes, they saw that new trees had begun to grow where the bodies had fallen, covering the fallen Star Temples with lush forest once again. From these new trees, the family built new dwellings and found new fields untouched by the island’s fiery wrath and the blood of the past. At night, when they finished working, they all sat down together and looked up with wonder at the stars.

 

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