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Wrath of the Phoenix (Solnis' Ruins)

Legends of the lands
By: MidniteScy (2017 Legend Contest Winner)

There was once a beautiful, sprawling dessert city; far richer than the ones around it.
      The City of Solnis was rich, filled with lush orchards and colorful markets, where the scents of new imports and fresh spices wafted down the sandy streets. The marketplace was crammed full of tents and stalls, each vendor claiming better items than the last.
      “Dyed silks from Synara!”
      “Dragon fruit fresh from the best cacti!”
      The streets were lined with charming buildings, built of clay in every color, and the denizens of equal variety. From magis in Keep cloaks, to rich merchants in silk, Solnis was colorful in both riches, and people.
      The sound of rustling sand could be heard throughout the city, background noise to the laughter and chatter.
      Solnis was the envy of every village and town nearby.
     
      Some said it was because of the enchanted oasis at the city’s edge, where palm trees grew taller than the houses and the water tasted of sweet mountain dew, not that any of the other villagers got to try it.
      For not only was the City of Solnis rich and beautiful, but they were also incredibly selfish. Any attempts to trade within the desert were abruptly declined, and through the worst of times, when the other villages exchanged supplies and rations, to support each other through; Solnis refused to share its riches.
      As the other settlements struggled through droughts and heatwaves, and risked their men and camels to beg for help, Solnis turned them away with upturned noses. For they were too greedy to share.
      Their riches were never left without a guard. The orchards never without a watcher. Through the blazing hot afternoons, and the cold nights, there was always someone keeping an eye on the mounds of glittering gold and jewels. Even during the holidays, someone had to stand guard.
     
      Over time, the villages came to despise the infinitely rich, unbelievably greedy city. Rumors spread through hisses and frowns, about how Solnis had bribed a witch, or kept a magi prisoner to ensure their endless riches.
      There were whispers of its citizens, who were said to be mean and horrible, lazy folk who only liked to eat, gamble, or sleep.
      Children were told tales of their sloth, how they grew to be so lazy, that they were reduced to pudding, which their neighbors ate out of pure gluttony.
      Dirty looks were shot at them with every passerby, and children stared with wide disbelieving eyes, and skittered out of the way when they saw them.
     
      These whispers and rumors did not go unnoticed.
      The City of Solnis heard everything that was said about them. But instead of mending their ways, and sharing with the other villages, they only further tilted their noses. They locked their gates and entries, so that no citizen should leave the city without special permission, and no outsider come in.
      They stopped attending the annual desert festivities. The rain festivals, the autumn feasts, or the village gatherings.
      They dwelled within their safely sheltered, safely rich city. Eating their fine fruits, that no one but them knew how sweet. Spinning their fine silks, that no one but them knew how soft. And admiring the glint of their wealth of jewels and gold, that no one really knew the worth, only that it was plenty, and that the citizens were too greedy to share.
     
      All this, did not go unnoticed either.
      The phoenix had seen this all, too. Patiently observing the desert settlements. The watcher of the sandy dunes, the second set of eyes of the sun.
      She did not like what she had seen.
      The phoenix decided that this had gone on for far too long. The City of Solnis had ignored every warning she had given them. The droughts. The heat waves. When other settlements came for supplies and help, they turned them away without so much as batting an eye, much less glancing at their precious stores.
      She had no patience left. It was time the City of Solnis felt her wrath.
     
      Late the next day, as the sun began to dip past the Alasre mountains, a spark was lit in the midst of the market streets. No one noticed, until the usual smell of spices and fruits were smothered by the acrid scent of smoke, as flames burned through the colorful canopies.
      “Fire!” Someone shouted.
      The entire city erupted in panic. The fire spread through the streets, a wave of smouldering scarlet and crimson, consuming everything in its path. Everything the citizens had refused to share.
      Flames sprouted and appeared mysteriously, where there was no fuel for one, and caught onto the mass of cloth tarps and canvases, as the phoenix flew through; her wings blazing fire, her tail trailing smoke.
      Red flames merged into the setting sun, making it look as though the sun itself had melted onto the streets of Solnis; painting the sky beautiful shades of purple and red, masked behind the smoke.
      Screams sounded through the streets, loud even over the crackling fire. The shifting winds carried them far and wide, to where the other villages could hear. And when they saw the bright red of the flames, casting soot black smoke into the sunset sky, they ran to see what was going on. Mounting their mules and donkeys, their horses and camels, they rode to the City of Solnis.
      Alas, they were too late. All that was left was an ember among the ashes. Ashes of where the marketplace stood not long ago, of the clay buildings that had lined the streets, and the stash of jewels behind the guarded gates. There was nothing left.
      All the citizens had fled. And while the other settlers went searching for them, calling out to anyone from the City of Solnis. If any had survived, they were too ashamed to respond.
      Thus ended the prosperous City of Solnis. The villagers gazed at the ashes, now replacing the sound of shifting sands as the winds blew through; a sad, melancholy whisper as the sky glittered with tears.
      What was done had been done. What was deserved had been dealt.
     
      The only thing left were the fruit orchards. Growing at the very edges of the city, strong, healthy trees, heavy with fruit. Dates and figs, and dragon fruits on tall cacti, glinted under the moon; bright and sweet. The oasis, was also left untouched. Palm trees fanning to block the stars, and sun in the day, offering shade to passersby. The oasis still as sweet as the river in the Alastre Mountains.
      The phoenix had spared these places from her wrath. Untouched by the flames, the orchards and oasis are open to any who pass by. Tired travelers seeking shade and water. Merchants searching for fresh wares. Some claim to have found remnants of the riches Solnis once possessed, a gold coin glittering in the sand.
     
      And like that, justice has been served. What was once solely theirs, has become everyone’s.
      From here, magi and folks alike should learn from the greedy City of Solnis. Their sprawling orchards, and endless jewels and gold, and colorful wares, reduced to whispers of ash.
     
      That it is better to share your riches, than to have justice distribute them for you.