“Sit down children, it is time that I teach you the story of the Bantraa, the mighty beasts we live upon.” Sinad said as she sat down, her old bones already tired at noon. She put her long stave over her lap, the metal rings that went through the top knob clinking and clanking. “But Sinad, we already know of the Bantraa. We grew up on them, our mums and dads already told us about them!” One of the more extroverted younglings said as she stood up, her colourful dress swaying in the gentle breeze.
Sinad chuckled. “No child. You know of the Bantraa, but you do not know their story. Or why we live on them. So Sit down and listen to old Sinad will you?” Her voice was warm and sweet. The little girl giggled and did as Sinad told her too, sitting back down between the other children. Sinad took a sip from a small bowl filled with tea. As she did that a few men walked by, all wearing colourful skirts and vests. One of them waved at the children. The kids all waved back, wishing the luck on their Virru ride. Especially the boys cheered loudly when one of the men held his Cycler rifle above his head, showing it off to the youths.
“Hush children, let the men go tend to their Virru and sit down. I have a tale to tell.” It took a few moments for the children to calm down again, but once they did Sinad enjoyed their undivided attention. “As you all probably already know” Sinad started. “the Bantraa or different then us. Not only are they made of both flesh and plant where we only are made of flesh. They also experience the world much slower then we do.” All the kids sat quietly, listening to Sinad with big eyes. “They grow old, very old indeed. They can outlive entire bloodlines even. But they die as we die in the end.” Sinad said, making the symbol with her hands of death. A few off the kids aww’ed and ooh’ed. “The Bantraa are also strong, for their backs can hold our cities and homes. For their legs carry us forth. For their muscles make our machines work.” Sinad made the symbols of strength, imitating the stamping of the large legs of the Bantraa. Many of the kids laughed at this and a few started imitating her. Then a few of the kids screamed, hailing the others to come look over the edge of the wooden parapet. Sinad laughed and let them have their moment. She too fondly remembered the days when she was young, watching the Virru riders climb down the tall legs of the Bantraa. How it filled her with excitement and awe. And dreams for the future.
As the riders disappeared from sight in the foot hamlets, she ushered the kids back. “Because the Bantraa are made of plant as well, they grow forests and jungles on their backs. This helps us as well, for they provide us with resources and food. They give us the chance to cultivate food. They allow us to survive. In turn we keep the Bantraa’s back clean. We exterminate the vermin and we keep away the parasites.” Sinad enjoyed the children’s undivided attention once more. “Yet the Bantraa don’t realise we are here most of the time. We are to them as a fly is to a cow. Unaware most of the time. But we need to take more care then a fly, for when a cow is annoyed of a fly, it will swath it with its tail. And the fly will fly away. Should we hinder the Bantara as well, then the Bantraa too will try to swath us away. But unlike the fly, we can not quickly fly away. And so hindering the Bantraa would mean our own end.” Sinad took one iron ring from her stave and clicked it open, removing it and holding it up for all the children to see. “This is the ring of Hiq Balaam. The city that did not heed the words of the Elder. The city that grew decadent and arrogant. The city that treated their Bantraa ill.The city that now exists no more.” Sinad spoke the last sentence with a gloomy, dark voice and many of the children shivered in fear. “But worry not children. We should not hear their tale with fear and worry. No, we should hear their tale with curiosity and eagerness to learn. For their mistake is our step forwards. The ultimate proof that one should always treat their Bantraa with respect. For they do not need us, but we do need them.” Sinad smiled at the children and clicked the ring back in its place.
“So children, always remind to Respect the Bantraa you live on. For it is the soil you cultivate and the blood that keeps you alive. But there is another reason children. The most important reason to always respect the Bantraa. You are old enough to know the full truth and so I will now tell you the tale of before people lived on the Bantraa.” Many of the kids looked at Sinad in wonder now, with big eyes and open mouths. “We all know that the Gods created the world and everything on it. Us, the Bantraa, the Virru and even the vile Vesnik. But not all gods where kind gods. No, some of them were evil gods. Even more vile then the Vesnik. A thousandfold more vile. As our gods created the world and all things beautiful, the vile ones tried to make it ugly and destroy it. They hated that such a beautiful world was created and wanted to change that. But our gods were stronger, and they protected us from most harm. And for a long time everything was good. But then the vile gods pulled a trick. A trick so foul that most don’t speak about it.” Sinad was playing her small crowd with her fingers, enjoying the attention she got from them. “A trick that took away half the beauty that our gods created.”
“You see children, when the gods finished their work, they made it so that our world drifts in the sea of stars. In a big circle around the great flame that warms us. But the world turned as well, on its own, like this.” Sinad had taken another ring, the world ring, and made it turn around an imaginary axis. “And as the world turned, we had cycli of light and darkness.” One of the kids raised his hand, Sinad recognised as a smart lad. One who could proof to be a great scholar later in his life. “Yes Mitz?” She said kindly. “What is darkness Sinad?” Sinad chuckled. “Darkness is the absence of light. Darkness is black, all around, all over. Hold your hands for your eyes and look into them. That is darkness.” And so the kids did as she told them too. A lot of them ooh’ed and aah’ed again. “But Sinad, how did people see then?” Again Sinad chuckled. “They did not little Mitz. For the night, which was how they called the dark cycle, was destined to sleep. At night everybody in a city slept. And the few who didn’t used fire to be able to see.” Sinad watched the kids for a moment longer, seeing how they covered their eyes and enjoyed learning a new concept.
“So, our world turned and drifted, creating darkness and light. But the cycli were fast. They followed each other in great succession. The darkness lasted only for ten hours, after which eighteen of light came.” Some of the kids had a puzzled look as they tried to get a sense of how long that actually was, calculating with their fingers. “But with their foul trick, the Vile ones slowed down the turn of the world. And the cycli became much much longer. And at first the people were happy, for they enjoyed light without darkness. And the people thought it was a gift of the gods instead of a curse of the Vile. The light stayed with us for a hundred years. But then came the darkness. And the darkness stayed as well.” Again the kids listened with terror. “At first people tried to live in the darkness, but those cities soon fell. For in the darkness live other things. Things made by the Vile. Things that thrive in the dark. Things that hate that what lives in the light.” Some of the children squealed as Sinad moved her hands like claws. “Then people tried to outrun the dark. Living like nomads. Moving from day to day. But eventually the darkness would catch up with them. The only way to be faster then the darkness was to continuously ride on the Virru. Which left no time to hunt, gather or craft. The only ones who could live like that were the ancestor of the Mercika.” At hearing the name of their sworn enemies a lot of children shuddered. They were little and innocent, but even them had heard the tales of their parents. About the Mercika wars.
“For years the people lived in despair, trying to outrun the darkness and forge a life. Until one day, they saw the first Bantraa. Their Viru riders went to inspect and found a great herd. They saw the kindness and greatness of the Bantraa and the most brave rider of them, Almic, climbed the first Bantraa. And on his back he found a small paradise. Fertile ground and fresh water. A place to live. Safe from the darkness. The riders returned home and with their news they brought hope. And with that hope the people all moved to the Bantra, climbing their tall legs and building their wooden cities on top of their backs.” Sinad had taken out another ring, the ring of construction, and showed it to the kids. “Of course it was not as easy as I make it sound. A lot of the Bantraa had beasts living on their backs. Giant leeches and insects. Wild predators. Even tribes of the Lizard folk. But we banished them all and claimed their backs for our own. And without their parasites the Bantraa thrived. They became stronger, bigger and faster. And before long the ever glooming darkness disappeared on the horizon. We adjusted to life on the Bantraa. We learned how to take care of them. How to threat them when they got ill or got scurvy. How to defend them. How to leave them on Virru rides and later trace them back. Even how we could steer them, even for the slightest bit.” Sinad clicked the ring back in its place and smiled at the children. “That is all for today children, you can go now. Go play or help your mothers!” She said. The girl from earlier stood up again. “No Sinad! Tell us more of the Bantraa!” Sinad chuckled. “No Ilya, more tomorrow. I’m an old lady and I need my rest now. Now go. Go enjoy your young lives!”
This is the first part of a short story series that were inspired by this reddit post. I hope you enjoyed it!