The Lahar

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The monastic community at Holokee were accustomed to the rumbles and complaints of their namesake volcano. For millennia their prayers and offerings had kept the sleeping giant at bay. Whenever the mountain shook or smoke billowed from the caldera the oldest monks would take the youngest monks to the rim. There they would chant and offer boons of conciliation to their geothermal gods. They would toss in dried mountain lily and torpor herb; they would fling gold-flecked crackling powder into the rising air; they would chant for forty-two hours as the rituals mandated.

For thousands of years the monks kept the mountain calm and lived in harmony amongst their temples that lined the valleys. They lived a modest life, as monks are ought to do, taking only what was needed from the land and being ever cognizant of the past and future. They fished from the icy streams and gathered produce from the rich temperate woods of the lowlands. Pilgrims from the villages below often brought fresh harvest and roast beast to show their gratitude. It was a honourable order and great pride and duty came with their title. Hot steam rose from the depths, warming the temples during the cold alpine nights.

Smoke choked the morning sky and the baritone tolls of the bell roused the monks to their duty. They began their solemn march to the top of the volcano, chanting the ceremonial songs and placing their hands on the runes of sacrifice carved into rocks all along the path. The surviving records tell of the sudden appearance of lightning in the ash cloud and the tremors that began just as the procession rounded the final switchback to the top.

Whatever happened once the monks reached the top was lost in the fireball of the pyroclastic flow. Only the monks meditating on high ground, away from the temples survived the scalding slurry of ash, ice melt, sediment and boulders that raced down the mountain. The bridges over the valleys splintered and fell into the lahar and foundations were ripped out from under temples. The eruption trundled down the valleys, taking the villagers in the lowlands by surprise.

The forests recovered, regrowing thick and dense in the fertile ashen washouts. The alpine flowers bloomed in the spring, sprouting up from under their blanket of soot. The springs and streams began to flow once again, carving their channels through the loose sediment. The fauna emerged from their burrows and snow capped the giant once more as it resumed its slumber. The memory of the monks faded back into the landscape.

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