Hearken, O mighty King, to my tale. Thou hast heard much regarding the ongoing struggle of the Phoenix ‘gainst the Kittyhawk, and the history thereof, even unto the story of How the Kitty Got her Wings. Yet, LO, O mighty King, there is in truth an even older tale; that of how the Phoenix one day Caught Fire, which we, in the modern tongue, do refer to as the Birdy Getting her Flame On. (1) In exchange for sparing my life I now reveal the ancient tale to thee, that Thou mayest stretch forth thy Royal Hand upon the Barony of the Sacred Stone, and encompass it with thy Favor.
Or, failing that, laugh thyself nigh unto death.
I begin in the misty times before the Mighty Kingdom of Atlantia, e’en before the land itself was named. So long ago, O Mighty King, that even the Phoenix and the Kittyhawk were but a chick and a kitten. Being young animals, they knew naught of their instinctive enmity for each other, and often played together in the sun-dappled fields, or chased each other round and round the hills till they grew sick with dizziness. Life was simpler then, O Mighty King.
Yet even in those simpler, more innocent times, there were vestiges of Darkness; greed, avarice, strife, MTV, early video games; the list goes on. One such bone of contention lay between the Chick and the Kitten, although they did not know it.
The land roundabouts was mostly farmland, but further into the mountains, a strange group of creatures lived. They wore green and yellow, and had deformed faces, and carried pick-axes, and they mined the surrounding land for gems and gold, and were thus known as Miners. (2) The local farmers grew a strange plant that the Chick found oddly pleasing, though it made her sick to smell it in quantity – yes, O Mighty King, I see you know of it. It grew so profusely back then that it was called Brown-weed (3), and the Miners discovered it, and coveted it, and traded the gems and gold they wrested from the earth for it. The farmers had use for the gold, but none for the gems, but they knew that a thing need only be difficult to attain to make it worthwhile to others, and so they hid the gems, mainly emeralds, in a spot which only they knew. When the Miners asked what had become of the emeralds, the crafty farmers replied “Hidden it.” (4)
This puzzled the Miners, but they merely went on with their digging and shoring and mining. And life proceeded apace, and time passed, as time does.
Am I boring you, O Mighty King? I crave pardon. Ofttimes it is meet that a story be told in its entirety, the better to understand the events of today.
Then one day, while the Chick and the Kitten romped and gamboled through the dew-heavy grass near a village of farmers, one of the very young children saw the twain, and scampered up to join them. Her name was Lilith (5), and her hair was black as coal. She had a simple robe on, tied at the waist with a scrap of rope, and tied to the belt was a pouch with her toys in it. The Kitten found the scrap of rope quite appealing, and Lilith took it off and began to play with the Kitten, who chased the rope to and fro with abandon, as kittens will do.
The Chick watched but soon grew bored, O Mighty King. Surely you encounter the same as you sit on your throne, from time to time? Boredom was a thing that the Chick avoided at all costs, and without any other source of distraction to hand, she began to peck through the things in Lilith’s pouch as a diversion. Innocently enough it began, as do many journeys down a dark path.
While rooting through Lilith’s pouch the Chick’s beak clicked against something small and hard. The Chick grasped it in her beak and pulled the thing out into the sunlight, where it glistened and gleamed greenly in the sunlight, as emeralds are wont to do. The Chick saw the light and was utterly entranced by it. She called to Lilith, who left the Kitten with the scrap of rope and came over to see what the Chick had found.
“And what is this, little girl?” chirped the Chick. “What a fascinating object this is! In truth I cannot take my eyes off of it.”
Lilith, being young, knew only that her parents had many of them and that they were apparently worth very little, since her parents had returned them to the hills from whence they came. She told the Chick as much. And over such a small thing did the Chick’s heart begin its slow downward spiral into avarice.
The Kitten, having tired of the fact that the rope merely lay in the grass and did nothing, came over to the Chick to see what interesting object she might find. The bright light of the emerald also entranced the Kitten, who began her own downward spiral into avarice at the sight of the green gleam. (However, Kittens, as everyone knows, are born into avarice, and thus the downward spiral of the Kitten was more of a downward lunge.)
The Chick knew that there were many more of these shiny rocks in another place, and made hasty excuse to the Kitten in order that she might sneak away and gather more of them to herself. The Kitten, knowing nothing of more shiny rocks, was content to play with the single emerald for the nonce. Lilith accompanied the Chick back to the village, the better to gather more shiny rocks.
The Chick arrived at the village just a bit too late; the farmers had already left the village with a shipment of emeralds to be hidden. After stripping the village of the few remaining emeralds the Chick asked Lilith where more of the shiny rocks might be found. Lilith knew naught of exactly where, but she was able to point the direction the farmers had taken, and so the two set off to the northwest.
Meanwhile, the Kitten had tired of the shiny rock, and left it where it last fell, and with the attention span typical of a Kitten wandered to the East. As luck would have it, a group of farmers wandered the same direction as the Kitten, as they had decided that they were overfarming the local land. The shiny rock, having served its fell purpose, was left where it had fallen. Many of the locals began to worship this rock, and as time passed, they became both possessive and protective of it, and allowed the forest to grow around it, that it might be better hidden from prying eyes. And they ever after called themselves Guardians of the Sacred Stone.
[at the time this writing was discovered the Guardians had not yet changed their name to reflect the truly amazing amount of money they had lost betting on horse races. –ed.] (6)
The story reaches its peak, O Mighty King, in more ways than one. When the Chick and Lilith had wandered for what seemed an eternity, they came to a place high in the mountains where the farmers had concealed their vast store of emeralds, and the Chick dug her way into the earth to find them. When she broke through into the chamber in which the gems were kept, she could do nothing but stand in awe of the massive store of brightly gleaming emeralds. Lacking hands, she began to gobble up the emeralds and store them in her crop, planning to hide them somewhere else.
Lilith followed the Chick into the cave, saw what the Chick was doing, and begged her to stop. “For,” she cried to the Chick, “surely the gems are safe where they are, and there is no need for you to covet them so in their shiny gleaming.”
The words “shiny gleaming” got the Chick’s attention back on the emeralds, and she went back to plucking them from the earth. Lilith begged her again and again, and then pleaded with the Chick to at least limit her gobbling to what she had already taken. “For,” she cried to the Chick, “surely you would not be so covetous as to take every single gem from these farmers that have worked so hard to gain them in their shiny gleaming.”
Again, the words “shiny gleaming” set the Chick off, and she redoubled her efforts to pick up the remaining emeralds. As she plucked the last emerald from the ground, she turned to go, and saw Lilith watching her with an evil smile on her face. And the Chick was mightily confused. At the same time she noticed that she was growing warm.
Lilith gazed upon the Chick, O Mighty King, saying, “thrice, you were warned that these gems were hazardous to your health. Three times you ignored the warning. Now you will pay for your greed and avarice with your life. The emeralds will shortly reach critical mass, burst into flame, and burn you to a cinder.” And she began to laugh evilly.
Finding herself growing uncomfortably warm, the Chick grew afraid. Surely, O Mighty King, you do the same from time to time? No? I grovel in apology. Surely I am not worthy. There is no need to summon the executioner, O Mighty King. Truly there is not. For if you did, there would be no way for me to finish the most excellent tale I relate to you today.
Ah, yes, the tale. The Chick grew afraid while Lilith laughed evilly. Suddenly the Chick looked hard at Lilith, who continued to laugh as she watched the Chick’s growing discomfort.
“THRICE?” Said the Chick.
“Thrice,” said Lilith.
“THAT’S ODD…I COULD HAVE SWORN YOU SAID THRICE.” said the Chick.
“I did, not that it’s any of your business,” said Lilith.
“I KNOW THAT, IT’S JUST…” the Chick muttered.
Finally Lilith could stand it no longer. “Just WHAT?” she screamed. “You’re not going to try to worm your way out of this, are you? You’re DEAD. Give it UP.”
“DID YOU MEAN TO SAY THRICE? OR TWICE?” said the Chick.
“I SAID THRICE AND I MEANT THRICE!” screamed Lilith.
“BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, YOU REALLY ONLY WARNED ME TWICE.” said the Chick.
Lilith counted on her fingers for a moment, muttering under her breath. Then she began screaming at the top of her lungs in incoherent rage. When that finally ran its course, she snarled at the Chick, “FINE! You won’t die. But you’ll BURN FOREVER IN AGONY!”
And the Chick burst into flames. Lilith watched in glee as the Chick was enveloped in a cheerful yellow-orange glow.
“PRETTY COOL,” said the Chick.
“I don’t understand…you should be writhing in pain!” yelled Lilith.
“OH, THAT.” said the Chick. “MY MOM AND DAD CAME FROM SOMEWHERE OUT WEST WHERE IT’S HOT ALL THE TIME. THEY ADAPTED. IT’S GENETIC NOW. SORRY TO RUIN YOUR FUN.”
Screaming wordlessly, Lilith ran off in a generally easterly direction.
The Chick yelled after her. “DON’T YOU WANT TO KNOW WHERE THEY’RE FROM? SOME PLACE CALLED PHOENIX.”
But Lilith was too far gone to care.
As you apparently also are, O Mighty King. Sweet dreams.
- “Flame on” being a reference to either the Fantastic Four movie, or the entire phrase “How the Birdy Got her Flame On” being a knockoff of the movie “How Stella Got Her Groove Back.”
- The University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC)’s mascot is the 49er and is depicted as a green-and-gold dwarf with a miner’s pick.
- Any resemblance to pipe-weed from The Hobbit and The War of the Rings is purely intentional.
- The town of Hiddenite, NC is one of the few places in the US where emeralds may be mined.
- Any resemblance to Lilith (mythological first wife of Adam) is tangential only; Lilith Fair appeared in Charlotte NC in 1996.
- Charlesbury Crossing’s device bears a horse.