Indrani had known no other life. The scorching sun, the ever-shifting sands, the shivering cold nights… All of it might have sounded awful to the rest of Valcrest, but to her brethren; to her, the desert felt just like home. It wasn’t an easy life, but it was a free life, their life. It was something no one could ever take away. At least, that’s what the Crimson Shadows believed. They wholeheartedly believed they should all live, die, and scatter their ashes in that inhospitable ground as many others had done for generations before them.
And where others might consider that sacrifice, Indrani thought of it as an honor. Every grain of sand, every gentle breeze, the whole of the desert carried a part of who they were, almost as much so as the blood coursing through their veins. To abandon their home was to leave a part of themselves behind and so, when those foreigners came; whoever they were, and muscled the Crimson out of the desert, they had wounded every single one of them more deeply than they ever thought possible. Beyond all the lives lost trying, and failing, to fight them off, those who remained now felt homeless, lost, and consequently defeated.
It’s not that the clan wasn’t grateful they were allowed a place in the forest with the Wolves, but… The forest was damp, dark, and claustrophobic compared to home. Indrani was used to seeing as far as her eyes could reach. She was used to seeing every star in the sky, of feeling the warmth of the sun at all hours of the day and falling asleep to the sound of a flowing unhindered breeze.
“Commander…” Indrani’s thoughts were interrupted by one of the youngest trainees, the boy staring at her with curiosity. “I was wondering, have you ever been to the mountains?”
Indrani sighed, a bittersweet smile spreading across her features. “No, I haven’t. My father once promised to take me, to see Effort at least once; or what remains of it, but he died before we could take the trip. I may never go now.”
“Because, Austin, it’s a long and dangerous trip to the ruins. It wouldn’t be right of me to abandon the clan for so long, or risk not coming back at all.”
“You should get to see it, though.” The boy argued.
Indrani sighed, shaking her head. “Do you know how Effort and Brightvale came to be, Austin?”
Austin shook his head.
“It’s said that when the Twins still walked the land, Water and Fire were looking for a place to settle and form their own city; much like Sun and Moon had formed Newhaven. At the same time, so were Earth and Air. Both pairs of Twins seemed to be having trouble compromising on what they wanted their city to be. Earth wanted to build a fortress made of rock, imponent and powerful, while Air wanted a home stripped of walls and gates, free and open. Fire had grown fond of the harsh desert lands, meanwhile Water had set her sights in the snowy mountain caps. The Twins argued for what felt like an eternity, until it became clear they would not be able to form any sort of compromise, and they chose to separate. Fire and Air remained in the desert, while Eart and Water headed further South to the mountains. Effort was said to have been carved into the heart of the mountains, built from the stone itself, near impenetrable walls only permeated by threads of sunlight and water cascading down from the peaks above. With Earth and Water’s combined abilities, plant life and even trees were said to grown in the sunny patches within the mountain city, filling with with beauty and life.”
While Indrani spoke she noticed several of her fellow Crimson interrupting their work in setting up camp to listen to her little story instead. They had so much left to do if they planned to settle in and, usually, Indrani would have rushed them back to it, but this time, she honestly couldn’t fault them for procrastinating.She heaved a deep breath, her golden eyes closing as images seemed to form in her mind, images that were pure inventions within her mind, fabrications based on tellings and retellings of stories that took place long before any of them were born. “Brightvale was a city created from rock and sandstone, permanently illuminated by either the sun or the lights of the moon and a million stars, a huge open market, small houses and infinite space. Children played in the sun by day and music filled the air at night. And even though nothing grew in the desert soil, the people there were resilient and resourceful, they roamed far and wide to find what was needed and trade for their livelihood. In time, both cities grew beyond what even the Twins had envisioned. Brightvale had open trading routes outside of Valcrest, gaining knowledge of other cultures and mapping the outside lands. Meanwhile, Effort had explored the natural resources discovered withing the stone itself, new metals, explosives, and they learned to make use of them for building and crafting. Both cities had learned the value of cooperation as well, Effort providing materials and Brightvale knowledge of many things previously unknown to Valcrest. They relied on one another even then.”
Indrani fell silent, her smile fading and her eyes opening. She looked up the sky, barely making out the stars amongst the thick cover of trees, a single tear rolled down her face as she fought back the thought of never going home. This was temporary, only temporary, she needed to believe that. “Then the War began,” she continued. “It started, I believe, between Newhaven and Blackpond; although after all this time it’s hard to know for sure, and at first, both cities were adamant in not taking part in it. They had no interest in whatever had caused the fighting, they only wanted to go about their business. In time, however, tensions began to rise. After Blackhurst fell, Brightvale and Effort found themselves in opposing sides of the conflict, the animosity escalating to the point where both cities were slowly being torn apart. People were dying, but not only that, they were losing their will to fight, their faith in their leaders; their spirits were dying. What annihilates an entire people, aren’t crumbled building, or even genocide, it’s when those who remain truly wish to forsake who and what they are that a civilization truly becomes lost to history. We were well on our way. Brightvale and Effort were fading out of existence. It’s believed that this fact was what provoke the Twins’ wrath. Even though they were no longer in this world, it seemed that the cities’ assured mutual destruction caused nature in itself to rebel and punish both cities for their carelessness. Vicious windstorms swept across the desert sands, earthquakes cracked the earth; shattering was still left standing of Effort’s walls, closing off mines… Finally, fire rose from deep within the mountains, melting the ice and causing a flood that invaded the only building still left standing in Brightvale.”
“The fire temple,” Austin chimed in.
“Yes. Inside the temple, it is said, burned a flame that Fire himself had lit the day the city was finally complete. The flood claimed no lives, it caused the building no harm, but it extinguished that flame. The ruler of Brightvale saw that as a sign and reached out to Effort, offering to end the fighting. For many weeks there was no answer, but eventually those who had survived Effort’s destruction came down from the mountains and joined the people of Brightvale. They camped out amongst the city’s ruins, shared their stories and songs, and in time; over generations, merged together into one single clan. They became the Crimson Shadows.”
“Is that story true, Commander?” One of the clan children asked, the boy staring at her wide-eyed.
Indrani snickered. “Honestly? It’s the story I know, the one my parents knew, their parents before them and their parents before them. When I hear it, I think of them; all of them, so I don’t know how much of it is actual fact, but I say it’s true enough to me.”
“We are going home, aren’t we?” Austin asked. “This… This place… It’s just temporary, isn’t it?”
“One way or another, little brother, we’ll all go home.” Was the Commander’s only response.
Guys, I wrote so much more than I intended, I’m sorry, it was a one word prompt, I don’t know what happened omg. >.>
Written in response to The Daily Post’s prompt The Desert.
I wanted to write more Indrani and this prompt was just a great excuse. This scene takes place in between SOE and SOP when the Crimson Shadows are taking refuge in the forest after being cast out from their camp in the desert. They’re a tiny bit broken up about it.