The four great civilizations of antiquity

There fell upon the land a star from the sky. Where the star fell a tree grew. People gathered around it and basked in its life and warmth. Its light banished sorrow and regret, so that all the world seemed like a dark curtain around it. They collected its fallen leaves which they clothed themselves in and drank the water of the pool at its roots. But the tree outlived those who saw the falling star and the children of their children no longer honored it. They coveted its silvery bark and its wonderful sap.

One day a limb from the tree was cut, and then another. Its living leaves were taken. Its bark was stripped. And soon all could see that the tree would die.

The ones who chose to cleave the tree made staves of its wood as symbols of their kingship. They each gathered their people and argued at the fault of the other kings. And soon the division of the people became evident in their features as if the symbols and laws each king chose split one people into four.

Finally in the night one person snuck out to the tree and took a seedling, intending to leave with it and start over somewhere else. The kings found out about this and each went down to the tree to take his share. There was fighting, and the tree was finally destroyed in the conflict. There was nothing left worth staying for. The light was gone. And so four kings blazed four trails away from that sorrowful place each carrying a seedling.

These four kings settled the four great civilizations of antiquity. At the center of each a glimmering sapling growing, a shadow of what was lost. As time passed first one and then another young star-tree would fall to war or deceit. But scholars hold out hope for the first seedling taken which was spirited away where no king knew. Perhaps it yet grows in some forgotten glade and the beauty of the past can be regained.

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