The Founders Scroll
As with all renowned legends, our city will be founded on an immortal dream. That fateful night when I received the vision was nothing extraordinary – it was plagued by the same dull drudgery of daily life. The air felt stagnant as I headed to bed, weighed down by the mindless rat race that shackled everyone around me. I could hardly judge them – the same cold metal chains imprisoned my soul too. Monotonous darkness enveloped me as soon as my head hit the soft pillow. My heart uttered a silent cry, longing for a better life, a different life, but I barely had enough energy left to breathe.
No sooner had I fallen asleep than I felt myself being jolted awake, but somewhere deep in my consciousness, I knew I was still asleep. A cacophony of rainbows zoomed past me, forming a vortex of swirling bright light. I looked around me and I was sure I was witnessing the birth of every colour in the universe – dazzlingly beautiful but mind-boggling all the same. I tried to raise my arms but I couldn’t feel them, tried to walk but my legs were numb – did I even have legs?
Helpless, all I could do was watch the vortex swirl around me.
The rainbows danced, jittered, split, and collided, all within the span of a few seconds, until nothing but a blinding white light remained. Had I died and woken up in heaven? I could barely think before the solid white light cracked and broke into fragments, and from behind them emerged the most mesmerising sight I had ever seen.
I saw the Elder Tree in honour of which our glorious city will be built. It looked like a cross between an oak and a cypress, but its majesty far exceeded that of any ordinary tree. It was humongous, towering over the mighty mountains that surrounded me on all sides. When I looked up, the Tree seemed to almost touch the sun, even swallow it whole. It shone with a subtle golden light that, after the chaos of the vortex, calmed my nerves.
I felt a strange sense of peace as I watched as the shards of light come to life and ascend upwards, taking the shape of smaller trees with what seemed to be silhouettes of cities stretching out upside down from their roots. These, I later realized, were the Elder Tree Souls. Almost all of them began fluttering like fairies around the Tree, but thousands of them floated towards me. As they circled me, I could hear a soft humming sound emanating from them, almost like the sound of innumerable voices singing in harmony, but perplexingly quiet and subdued all the same. All but one of the souls flitted back to the Tree, but it hovered tantalizingly before me.
Before I could touch it, though, the dream broke, and I found myself back in my bed. Try as hard as I did, I couldn’t get the image of that majesty out of my head. I felt as if the moment I started walking, my feet would guide me to the roots of that sacred being. I was sure of it, my blood pumping with an unshakable sense of hope. It was still dark outside, but I couldn’t wait for daybreak. With barely a sliver of moon to keep me company, I put my shoes on and, still in my pyjamas, stepped out into the city.
The souls were calling for their owners – I couldn’t deny it as surely as I knew one called for me. I had to look for them and in finding the Souls, I knew it would lead to those who wanted to lead a different life. A better life, whatever that term meant to each of them. Perhaps they sought wisdom, or perhaps it was community. Perhaps they longed for prosperity, or perhaps they simply wished for peace. Whatever it was, I had to find them.
For months, I hiked my way over hundreds, maybe thousands of miles of woods and nature trails. I struck up conversations with people in the great outdoors. I asked them what they did, why they were away from their work and their cities, and if they were seeking a better way of life. Strangely, I seemed to have an instant connection with many of them and we continued our journey across states together, but some didn’t want to leave their lives behind. I understood, and was grateful that they had been a part of my life for a few brief moments.
All I had to do now was find the Elder Tree.
In the end, there were 13 of us who were making our way through a dark patch of woods when we stumbled across our vision. We’d been walking continuously for at least a week at that point, stopping only to eat and sleep. Tired, we emerged into a clearing to rest, but a gigantic shadow fell across our faces. I looked up.
The sight I saw left me awestruck.
The Elder Tree, the sacred Tree that gave rise to our beautiful village and will be the foundation of our city, stood before me. I couldn’t believe I was the first human that had had the privilege of witnessing this spectacle. Lively meadows stretched out from its thick roots, and mountains shrank around it, almost as if they were bowing to its majesty. I was compelled to walk forth – it was as if my soul itself was calling out to me. Hypnotized, I obeyed the Tree’s call and stepped towards it, enchanted. I watched as the leaves filtered the rays of the sun and the mountains receded around me.
As soon as I laid my hand on the rough wood, a fragment of light shot out of the Tree and seamlessly entered my heart – the first Elder Tree Soul. I couldn’t help but shudder as I felt my body fill with the warmth of hope and the coolness of relief simultaneously. I had no words to express my gratitude, so I simply sighed and stood still, my hand still touching the trunk, less than the size of an ant compared to that being.
I turned around to look at my friends who were equally mesmerized by the unbelievable sight in front of us. Till a few months ago, they’d been strangers to me, but I now felt I had known them for years already. Instinctively, I smiled, and they walked towards the Tree, traversing the same path I had. As each of them laid hands on the Tree, 13 bright fragments shot out and entered their chests. A collective sigh of hope echoed across the crowd.
In the distance, I could make out the cliff our city is now built on, with the vast ocean serving as the backdrop. Even from that distance, we could make out the ripple of the waves as they crashed into the cliff and the waterfall that flows from the top, giving back to the ocean what it gives to us every day.
“Should we head towards that cliff?” I asked the newly rejuvenated people who still had their hands glued to the Tree, basking in its unearthly glow. A woman nodded her head, and a few others followed.
“Let’s do it!” one of the younger men in the group exclaimed, and we began to walk towards the cliff where we live today.
Our journey here wasn’t a very long one – we know the Elder Tree is about a 5-day journey on foot. It seemed shorter still as we were merry. We had plenty to eat as fruit, shrubs, and herbs grew all around us, and the best of nature’s delights blessed our eyes everywhere we looked. During the day, the sun gave us food and illuminated our content faces, and the moon soothed our bodies and coaxed us to sleep at night. I am used to this tranquil sleep now, but at the time, I felt the most rested and relaxed I’d felt since I was a child.
Since we were only 13 people, we built our houses out of mud and thatch. It was hard work, but the sound of the ocean as it lapped at our feet and the pleasant sea breeze made it worth it in the end. We felt a sense of community and bonded with each other as we built our houses, each person assisting their tired neighbours. Every morning, half of us would go to collect stones and half of us would go fishing in the sea with makeshift wooden fishing rods. We never had to cut down a tree – we found fallen branches at their roots every morning, making sure that we never went hungry even for a day.
After a few weeks, we had enough stone to make a furnace. We spent a few days constructing the furnace, taking turns to build and to feed. Once we had a furnace, we began to make bricks out of mud. One of the artists in our group created a mold out of wood, and the people who used to collect stone now spent their days baking bricks. We all came from different walks of life – some were engineers, some artists, and some cooks. Together, we taught each other and grew as people, forming mutually beneficial ties with each other.
Eventually, our mud houses were replaced with bricks, and we created a small, sturdy village. In those months, we taught and learnt and laughed and grew, and on the last day, as we stood atop the cliff and gazed at our houses spread across the cliff and the gently undulating ocean below, we realized our mission.
Our goal was to gather, to laugh, to teach, and to grow. That was our purpose as humans. At night, tired from the day’s work, we still felt the thousands of Elder Tree Souls calling out to us – to all of humanity – to find people worthy and driven enough to claim them. There were 8,000 of these unique souls that resided in the depths of the Tree. At night, if you climb to the highest hill that lies beside our scenic cliff, you can see the luminous Tree as it towers over mountains and shines subtly, still brighter than the distant moonlight. Sometimes, we could see the Souls erupt out of the Tree and circle the nearby plains, searching for people who would claim them, but they would seemingly retreat by the morning.
We decided it was not fair for us to neglect our life-giving Tree and become too comfortable in our idyllic village. We had settled not too far from the Tree so we could be blessed by the sight of it each day and could reach it by foot comfortably in about 5 nights, but still respect its dominion and not blemish its sacred roots and grounds. We couldn’t forget that the Tree had called out to us and transformed us into better people than we were before.
It was then that we determined to grow our small community. We began to build homes in preparation for those who would join our village. Houses were spread all the way from the top of the cliff to the beach, but there were vast swathes of land that lay empty. For over a year, The Elder Tree Souls had yearned for the hearts of their claimants, and we couldn’t just watch without doing something anymore.
As the days passed, we, the City Council, made it our mission to spread the word and all those that heard would come and see if they were chosen by The Elder Tree. Some were chosen and received their Soul and even those that were not were still stricken with amazement at the beauty of such a sight. Most of the time, these individuals decided to stay even if they were not a Founder, but we all had a common goal to strive for a better life in unity. As we grew, we knew we must set sail across the ocean so we could establish trade routes with the rest of the world. Though the ocean seemed endless, its waves were placid, and we eventually always reached the destination we were seeking. We established trade routes with port cities, acquiring metal wheels and oars and cloth to make sails. We bought books on sailing and navigating, acquired compasses and bottles of water which we filled from ponds in the woods beyond the cliff, and this process went on for some time. Years have gone by since we first came here. We’re sitting on the shore in admiration of the ships we’ve built – with multiple oars and enormous sails of countless patterns and colours, it can carry us anywhere in the world. Our hearts are heavy as we have to part from what we now consider our homeland for some time, but we know it’ll bring us closer to making a happy, bustling city that’s blessed by the Elder Tree. Once all the souls are gathered under it, who knows what kind of blessings will be inlaid upon this land?
We don’t know, but we were called and we must find out.
I’m writing this the night before we set sail. We do not seek war; however, our growing prosperity and routes of trade require us to conquer the open seas and we’ve quickly found ourselves seeking to go beyond that, which is rare. We are surrounded by so many of nature’s abundant resources that we have never wanted for anything in the many years– over a decade – we’ve been here, which is why we wish to give back to this land as well as to humanity. For that, we need diverse people from across the Earth who can share their knowledge, skills, emotions, and expertise with us and with each other.
As we establish more connections with the world, we’ll be able to build a more populous and advanced city. I shall leave this scroll so we can read it back upon our return, safe in my little brick home. Soon, I imagine our serene village will be transformed into a vibrant city of painted bungalows and buildings that can only wish to touch the clouds.
If you are reading this – are you one of our Founders? I wonder what place across the ocean you’re from. I wonder which Elder Soul took to you – or perhaps you possess more than one? That may be possible too.
Did you seek prosperity or peace? Were you simply curious to see how holding an Elder Soul would feel? What kind of ambition, what vision of life inspired you to journey to this place?
My only hope for our city is we continue to gather, grow, laugh, learn, and prosper. The 13 of us have formed the city council and we hope to do right by our people, this land, and even the world, leading us into a utopic future. As more and more of the Souls are re-united, the land will bless us with more numerous and splendid resources through the roots of our giving Tree. Perhaps some Souls could be passed on to our children once we are gone from this world, so this prosperous generation never comes to an end. Once all of us are reunited, I can feel an unimaginable favour and fortune materializing in our lives.
Founder, I hope you’ve claimed your Soul and found joy, peace, and community with us!