By Justin Goldsmith
In a distant and majestic land, it is said that there is a river made of tears. These tears were shed by those who had suffered from the pain of loss. When violence and death first introduced themselves to the great land, a single tear was shed for each soul that was lost. Soon, there was enough death, enough suffering, and enough tears to produce a river that flowed elegantly through the great world. None visited this river because they feared its contents would bring about their own suffering.
However, one man sought aid from the river, aid for the thoughts that he had. His thoughts troubled his mind. He felt as though the world was too dark. He felt as though there was not enough beauty. And he felt as though he had no purpose. These feelings had cursed him with suffering, and he traveled to the river to find a way to end this suffering.
As he stepped within the river’s waters, he heard the echoing voices of those who had contributed to the river’s formation. The man wished to turn back; he felt the pain of the voices that were calling out to him. The pain was too great, each word that was whispered pierced the flesh of the man, and he felt the power of the words shake his very soul. But these voices, they begged the man to continue, they needed him to continue into the waters. The man listened, and with each step he took into the river, he sank deeper, and his pain grew larger. He felt as if he would collapse from sorrow and pity, but he continued. Until his head was completely covered within the waters of the river, the man stepped forward.
But then, the man emerged from the depths of the river, and in his hand he held the Bloodmask, a gift to him from those who cried the river’s contents. The voices told him that if he wanted to justify the pain of death, if he wanted to end the suffering that he felt for the spirits he must wear the mask forever. The man put on the mask and felt the suffering lift from his body. The voices told the man in the Bloodmask that he must unite his people under one empire, so that they all feel the same suffering, and the same happiness.
The man, who now called himself Bloodmask, began his campaign across his great homeland. His people sensed his power and will to unite them, and most accepted this emotion and followed Bloodmask’s lead. His ambition first attracted the fiercest of warriors, and then the sharpest of scholars. Those who defied him were soon made to follow, but then experienced peace under his leadership. From his rule, the suffering of his people was discontinued, and Bloodmask assured his people that they would never suffer alone again. No one person was hampered with the pain of loss alone. Emperor Bloodmask taught his people to look past the severity of death, pain and suffering. He showed them that together, the problems of one were overshadowed by the presence of many.
At the peak of his rule, the emperor looked upon his newly united world. Bloodmask’s mortal concerns were fulfilled. The smiles from the people’s happiness caused the sun and the stars to shine brighter, and he no longer felt the world was too dark. When the sun and stars shined brighter the trees grew more splendid and fruitful, and he no longer felt there was a lack of beauty. And with the new beauty of the land, Bloodmask felt accomplished and content. He cherished all of this.
Until one day, upon his travels, Bloodmask came across a great dragon sitting beneath a dead tree. The tree cast a colossal shadow that hid the dragon’s features. Bloodmask could only see the dragon’s dark silhouette and his marvelous red eyes. The dragon looked tired and angry and Bloodmask felt the dragon’s suffering.
“What bothers you, dragon? That you would sit and suffer alone? The very tree you sit beneath looks as if it has seen a dreadful winter. Its leaves are dead and gone; its once-great trunk now glows with the greyness of death,” Bloodmask said.
“I cannot preserve the sanctity of this tree any longer. I suffer,” The dragon said. “You must step forward, beneath the shadow of this great tree if you wish to help.”
Bloodmask looked at the shadow that the great tree cast and felt its eeriness. He stood but three feet away from its influence.
“I will not step beneath that shadow,” Bloodmask said.
“But the rays of the great stars that illuminate this world are too boundless. It is too hot to stand under them any longer. And the heat is tiring,” The dragon told the emperor.
“You are right, dragon. The heat does exhaust me and the bright lights strain my gaze. The rays are too great, and they bring me suffering,” Bloodmask said as he took one step closer to the shadow. He was now but two feet away from its influence.
“And the beauty of the trees in bloom, do their leaves, fruits, and blossoms all not tire your eyes as well? The colors of the world ask too much, they ask for us to see and love too much. The leaves provide air, the fruits are good, and the blossoms show life, but do they not also bring about complexity? Is complexity not suffering?” The dragon asked.
“You are right, dragon. The shade of a dead tree seems very artless. Beauty is pleasing, but also dependent on judgment and it brings me suffering,” Bloodmask then took one step closer to the shadow. He was now but one foot away from its influence.
“But emperor, will you not take the last step into the shadow, to be shaded from the light and heat, and to be struck with the joy of its simplicity?”
“I am still unsure,” Bloodmask said, “If I join you beneath this tree, I will be away from my people. I will be shaded from the light and its heat, and I will find joy in its simplicity, but I will be absent from the people that need me. I will no longer be able to heal their suffering.”
“But emperor,” the great dragon said. “If you step beneath the shade and away from all others, you will no longer need to fight their suffering. You fight to unite this great world, so that none would suffer alone, but has that caused you to forget the suffering that these heroic acts bring about to yourself? Your magnificent mask allows you to hide your own suffering, and absorb the pain of others and feel nothing, but does this not all make you weary? You suffer for so many. You must be tired. If you come within the shade, you indeed will be away from others, and they will suffer without you. But under the shade’s influence, you will be able to rest, unburdened by the burdens of others. You will not suffer.”
“You are right, dragon. I am weary from relieving my people’s suffering, and I would like to rest and be away from it.” Bloodmask said.
“So do you suffer? Do you suffer beneath the Bloodmask?” The dragon called out to the emperor, who was ready to take the final step.
“I do,” Bloodmask answered. “I suffer from the light of the hot suns. I suffer from the beauty, succulence, and purity of life. I suffer from being tired of purpose, tired of the weight of thousands of souls dragging on my shoulders.’
“Then remove your mask and forget all of that. Beneath the shadow of this tree, its influence will bring you respite from your suffering,” The great dragon said.
The emperor removed the Bloodmask and placed it on the ground. He took one more step into the shadow, and its power spilled over him in the form of blackness. None know if his pains were relieved, because he had vanished under the shadow of the dead tree forever.