Myths come and then they go. Every time has its own set of myths. The names may change but the stories remain the same. Echoes of eternity. Waves on the sea of Time.
It was a time after the time of First Man
, and the world had become a much more crowded place. The tale of First Man, Goddess Fire and Mother Earth had passed into legend, and First Man himself had long since suffered the fate of all men. Goddess Fire and Mother Earth were seldom seen anymore by mortal men, though their abiding presences were frequently felt by many and hence, their existences were undeniable. Wisdom Tree stood somewhere in the dark forest, oldest and wisest of all living creatures, right where Grandfather Sky had put them in the very beginning.
Among the men who lived in this time, there was Explorer. Explorer was the seeker of answers and discoverer of places. He was known by many for his knowledge of things previously unknown. However, Explorer was discontented. In his youth, he had heard the tale of First Man, and he had never been satisfied with the ending. He wished to know the Choice. What Choice did First Man make? Did it affect mankind's present state? Explorer had found the truths to all the legends he had ever heard. All save one. The oldest legend of them all. The legend of First Man. He needed an answer to his question and he knew where to look for them.
In the deepest, darkest part of the deepest, darkest forest in the world, stood Wisdom Tree. Wisdom Tree would have the answer he sought.
And so it was that Explorer gathered his courage and set off on his journey into the wild lands unclaimed by man. He pushed ever deeper into the woods, and many were the dangers he braved. Yet the lands he ventured into were lands that even he had not been before. His knowledge availed him naught, and his courage was not sufficient. In the end, he did not even remember how to return to his home. He wandered the forest for two years, alone and naked, surviving like a beast of the woods, and eventually it seemed to him that he had always lived this way.
One day, he blundered into a section of the forest that was so thickly wooded that even in the noon, its canopy prevented all sunlight from reaching the forest floor. Blinded and lost, Explorer wandered on, fearing for his life. Suddenly, he emerged into a clearing, and he fell to his knees, weeping with relief at the sudden sunlight. Then, he saw them. Wisdom Tree. The ones he had been looking for.
He was amazed at their sheer size. Surely nothing living could be so big! The leaves of Wisdom Tree whispered in the unmoving air, and Explorer strained to hear what the leaves were saying.
"You have travelled far, O Explorer, and you desire to know the Choice made by First Man at the dawn of the world. That I may not tell to you, for Grandfather Sky himself has forbidden it. Instead, I shall give to you another tale of Goddess Fire to carry with you when you go. Listen well, O Explorer, for this is how the tale begins . . . "
All men worship Goddess Fire in varying degrees, save for those men whose spirits have died, for having no spirit, they need no inspiration.
In the cold mountains of the far north, an old man who had lost his wife lived alone in a house. When his wife had still been alive, his soul had burned for her and she had inspired every work in his life that he was proud of. His wife was thus a gift to him from Goddess Fire. Recognising that fact, the old man lit a candle in his house every night as an offering to Goddess Fire.
This tale is not about him, for legends need not only be about men. Men may worship Goddess Fire in varying degrees, but all moths worship Goddess Fire. Every night, when the candle was lit, Little Moth would join with the other moths to flutter around the Goddess and worship her. Though all the moths worshipped her, none dared to approach her. Some of the braver ones would flutter close enough to feel her consuming heat and then flutter away.
One night, as Little Moth fluttered around the Goddess with the other moths, there was a great rush of wind, and all the other moths scattered in alarm. It was Hawk Moth, the strongest and bravest of moths. Hawk Moth flew close to the beautiful Goddess Fire, closer than any other moth had ever dared, and it seemed to the other moths as if they spoke together. Finally, there was a great laugh from Hawk Moth. "So be it, then!" Hawk Moth exclaimed. "Five nights! In five nights I shall be worthy of your embrace!"
With that, Hawk Moth drove himself into the darkness with broad strokes of his great wings. Little Moth wondered a while at this strange event, then resumed worshipping Goddess Fire along with the other little moths.
Five nights later, as the little moths worshipped Goddess Fire, there was once again a great disturbance in the air, and in dove Hawk Moth, as huge and magnificent to the other moths as a falling star. Once more, he circled the Goddess, closer than any others had ever dared. However, it seemed that Hawk Moth seemed less joyous this time.
"Speak!" Hawk Moth shouted at the silent Goddess. "Why do you not speak to me? I have done all that you have asked!"
And still Goddess Fire burned silently. For another hour, Hawk Moth flew around her and beseeched her to speak to him, to no avail. At last, he drove himself high up into the air, and Little Moth thought that Hawk Moth would go. But then Hawk Moth dove like a stone, directly into the heart of the flaming Goddess. There was a great flash and a hiss, as Goddess Fire consumed Hawk Moth. All the other moths fluttered off a little way, aghast. His wings shrivelled, burning in the heat, and finally, Hawk Moth was no more, utterly consumed by Goddess Fire.
The other moths fearfully resumed their worship of the lethally beautiful Goddess. As Little Moth joined with them, he was thoughtful. Even as Hawk Moth was burning, it had seemed to Little Moth that Hawk Moth's limbs had curled to embrace the Goddess. Little Moth wondered if Hawk Moth had not, even in those last fatal moments, finally been happy, at one with his Goddess at last. Little Moth would never know, not unless he, too, embraced Goddess Fire without fear, whatever the cost.
Explorer, pitifully thin and starving, listened silently to the end of the tale Wisdom Tree had told him. He tried to pick himself off the ground, but was too weak.
"There is no return, O Explorer, not from here." Wisdom Tree told him.
Although Wisdom Tree was reputed to be without compassion, Explorer thought that Wisdom Tree's voices had sounded gentle. Explorer felt a searing heat and looked up to see her. Breathtakingly beautiful, her raiment aflame, she had come.
"Why have you come?" Explorer asked.
"I have come to claim my own, Son of Man," the Goddess replied with a smile. "Do you now understand the Choice?"
And in his final moment, Explorer smiled.