Story and pictures by Jackie Mondalimare
In the days long before buildings of stone ever found their way to Nu Orne, the land was thick jungle. Only few outside creatures ever found their way into the darkness that lay beneath the branches of the mighty trees. And within those shadows, secured by the treetops, there lived a tribe unknown to most – a tribe of bastets.
They found everything they needed within the borders of their home, they taught each other the tales of their fathers and fathers’ fathers, they hunted the smaller animals and gave back to their gods by sacrificing what they had. While their life was not what others might call luxurious, they were happy. They were satisfied with what they had and thrived on their daily quests for food and freedom.
Not many found their ways into their home as the natural maze of the trees and the protection of their gods brought them the best hiding place they could find. But it was only a matter of time until some made their way to the very core of the jungle, to the home of the tribe.
It started out as nothing dangerous, nothing to worry about, a few brave men found their way and found out about the bastets. They didn’t want to intrude, they respected the nature that let them through and learned from the tribe. The Elders, of course, were still suspicious. But they soon gave in to the younglings and let them teach how to hunt, how to read tracks and how to find their way through the lands.
As with every race and every time, not all people use what they learn for the good only. There are always those that strive for what they deem to be more, what they deem to be beneficial – at least for themselves. And thus slowly there were more visitors. Not the few stray adventurers finding their way to the heart of the lands but they came in groups, guided by those that had been taught the ways of the nature. They didn’t live with the bastets. They built their own homes, they cut down trees and piled stones on the lands. The bastets, still excited to learn about other races and cultures, accepted this as a drawback. The outsiders stopped hunting with the bastets. They set up traps that not only once were a danger to the tribe, and didn’t hunt the same amounts as the bastets, but killed everything they could find and used it for feasts instead of sacrificing.
The Elders, always having been suspicious of the intruders, held a council and sacrificed a big animal to gain the favor of the gods and ask for their guidance. After days of councelling, they came to the decision that the outsiders must leave so the jungle can heal and once again offer a secure home for them.
But it was too late. Already, the other races had made the lands their home, not caring about the surrounding nature but destroying it on their way. The bastets were outnumbered and when finally, the Elders made their way to the outsiders closest to them, they found one of their students, one of those that had lived among them, learned from them, to be their chosen leader. As best as they could, they tried to convince him to leave the jungle be, let it go back to what it was, but he was drunk by the power he had gained and, instead of obeying to the wisdom of the Elders, he got his followers ready to attack the tribe. Only one of the Elders returned from their visit, the others were maimed and left to die by the other races, and there was no time left to counter the attack.
The bastets were outnumbered. Too many outsiders had come in. Too much of their natural habitat, of their secure home, was destroyed, it couldn’t offer them any more protection. And so the bastets had to flee. They were scatttered across the jungle at first, hiding in the treetops, but it was not the life they used to have anymore. A few gathered in small groups and tried to attack, but they had no chance against the secured stone houses of the outsiders. And so, one after another, the tribe disbanded, died or searched for a home else where, searched for a place that once again could offer them the security they so desperately needed.
To this day, the outsiders have left Nu Orne, they have abused the natural resources to a point where life in the jungle became hard. There were no more feasts, no more animals and no more trees to protect them. And so, they left the lands once again. Now, Nu Orne starts to heal. The stone houses have started to be overgrown with the plants of the jungle, not all of them are still standing, and nature is starting to claim the lands back.
And to this day, one of the tribe has stayed, prayed and sacrificed to the Gods to finally get back what they had lost. To undo the mistake they had paid with so many lives. The Elder that survived, the Elder that stayed living in hiding places, watching the jungle being destroyed until finally, her prayers were heard.
Now she waits. She waits for nature to go its way and for the tribe to find their way back, back to their home she’s slowly rebuilding for them. The bastets are no longer the friendly tribe they used to be. A deep hatred has built up within their hearts and if they should ever be united within the borders of their lands again, Nu Orne will no longer be a welcoming place. The jungle displays the wounds that are deep in the tribe’s hearts and while nature can slowly heal those wounds, the bastets have learned from those they taught. They have learned things they will never forget – and they will never let any intruders forget that they don’t belong here.