Every year on the second weekend of June, the town of Pebbleton declares a holiday for a three-day festival. The basis of the festival lies in a myth that involves its animal guardians and belies an ugly truth that few people, even Panzers, suspect to this day.
In The BeginningEdit
Millenia ago, when the seas were higher and the lands untamed, Pebbleton was an island disconnected from the mainland. It was split into two parts by a large river that had been warded and made uncrossable by the guardians of the island because the humans in the past had destroyed the southern part of the island with their rapid expansion. Thus the humans in the south lived a difficult life supplemented by their own technologies.
In the north, the animals lived in relative comfort in an idyllic eden of sorts. However, they looked down on the humans because of what they had done to the southern part of Pebbleton. A large tree also grew in the north, which was large enough for all the animals to live in, and on which grew beautiful fruits which had magical powers. However, the animals had been warned that if they ate all of the tree's fruits, the tree would die.
The Monkey's MistakeEdit
One night, a mischievous monkey found herself especially hungry, and, throwing caution to the wind, gorged herself on the delicious fruit. To everyone's horror, the tree had withered by the next day.
Almost immediately, dark clouds rolled over the island as storms began to brew. Without the magic of the tree and the guardians of the island, the island was now vulnerable to all the scary beasts, spirits and storms that lurked in the wild, untamed seas. The animals, deprived of their homes in the trees, resorted to living in uncomfortable, cold caves. They had never had to fight anything before, and were too scared to even try to stop the beasts which stalked the land.
The monkey, torn up with remorse over her selfish actions, decided to try to do something, and called a few of her closest friends, a hawk and a dog, to help her try to set things right. The monkey confessed that it had been she who had eaten the last fruit, and showed them a little bit of the uneaten core that she had left. Her friends scolded him, but knew that it was no time to be arguing, and agreed to help her. Thus the brave friends set out on their journey, hoping to save their families before everyone starved to death.
The hawk, with his good eyes, was able to see the humans on the other bank of the river. To his surprise, they were successfully fending off the evil beasts with their strange weapons and tall walls. As it was their only lead (and the safest place to be), the group decided to try to make their way across the river. However, the river was flooded at this point, and had become so choppy that it was difficult to cross.
In a small pool by the river, the animals encountered a fish. The hawk immediately felt like eating it, but the monkey stopped him. Grateful, the fish told them that the only way they could cross the river was by tricking the river into believing that they were humans.
As the closest animal to humans, the monkey alone knew of a forbidden magic that would allow the animals to turn to humans; however, the spell was irreversible, and a disruption of the natural order. Bravely, she offered to use it on herself and cross the river, but her friends refused to let her go alone, and willingly bore the sacrifice with him. When the four animals emerged from the spell's blinding light, they still retained their animalistic characteristics, but were undeniably and irrevocably human.
Making a PlanEdit
The four new animal-human hybrids were welcomed by the humans, who were only too happy to find allies to help them in the fight. Despite their ignorance of human customs in general, they proved more than adequate fighters against the monsters. In the few days spent with the locals fighting, the hybrids learned about human technology and got over their initial apprehensions of the human race. By chance, the fish, not needing to sleep for long, woke to find the farmers tilling the fields, cluing them in to the human practice of farming: it was armed with this knowledge that the monkey devised a plan to quell the monsters of the island.
At dawn of the third day, the hybrids finally revealed themselves to the humans, who were baffled and terrified, but had learnt to trust the strange beings. The hawk and fish, turning back into their animal forms, crossed the river and rallied the animals, while the monkey and dog stayed to coordiante the humans. At noon, the two forces rushed out at the same time, distracting and attracting the ire of the evil spirits.
In the meantime, after having already planted one of the seeds in the humans' camp, the monkey, dog and hawk spread out to plant the other three: the monkey climbed down the unnamed cliff and planted a seed on a ledge there; the dog raced to what is now Fukami mansion and dug a burrow under it, planting another seed; the hawk soared to the top of the hill overlooking the town, planting a third where the original tree once stood.
The New GuardiansEdit
As they listened to the roar of battle around them, the hybrids were aware that one more irregularity existed, preventing the restoration of the natural order: themselves. Their final act was to sacrifice themselves, and as they did, the seeds sprouted into large, beautiful trees.
The trees spread their branches, their leaves unfurling. A soothing scent seemed to fill the air as the evil spirits and storms were quelled; the seas and rivers died down and all at once there was peace again. For the first time, the tortured spirits could found peace, and many of them rose to the heavens. Spirits from around the world began to flock to the town, earning it the name The Town of Risen Spirits.
The hybrids, in their noble sacrifice, had become the new guardians of the town, and were celebrated by both the humans and the animals. Their first act as guardians had been to bring down the barrier separating the humans and animals, allowing the humans to live where they would, because the hybrids had gone among them and judged them worthy.
In tribute, on this day every year the humans dress up as animals and dress their pets up as humans. A procession is made at noon on the third day to each of the locations visited by the animals. For the length of the three days, the festival is held to give thanks for all that Pebbleton has, and special care is taken to keep all animals happy on the day, even strays. The celebrations often include shadow puppet theaters featuring the myth and robust sales of bonsai.
The Panzer VersionEdit
Most Panzers are familiar with the retelling of the myth by humans, but they understand that it is a mere metaphor for what they believe to be a true event that had happened millenia ago, and that has become a fairy tale among Panzers in their own right. Like most Panzer stories, the story is fairly militant in nature, which makes it less popular among the younger generation than the older.
The Panzers tell of a time, almost two thousand years ago, when Pebbleton itself was a major stronghold of the Panzers at a time when few were left. Within the fortress, the Panzers and their Crosser servants worked in harmony for centuries, the Panzers guiding the primitive humans and saving them from their own destructive ways.
However, the Reapers, angered by their union in the face of what they believed was "unnatural", attacked the fortress.The battle was led by four generals, consisting of both dog and hawk Panzers, both male, and their female counterparts, bonded with a fish and monkey respectively. The Panzers knew, though, that the situation was untenable: the Reapers had far too many resources at their disposal, and to push the situation any longer would have turned Pebbleton into a wasteland inhospitable to any living creature at all.
Instead, the Panzers and the Crossers under them fought to the death, allowing their brethren to escape back to headquarters, and forcing the Reapers into a truce. Where the generals fell, trees grew over them, as though sheltering them, and the Blights and Strays the Reapers had used against them were calmed by the auras these sacred trees exuded.
The festival, to the Panzers, is held in recognition of the brave sacrifices of the four generals in protecting Pebbleton and all of Panzerkind. The contributions of the human crossers is also acknowledged, although the consideration is secondary. Many Panzers with animal forms take advantage of the friendlier disposition of the townspeople towards animals during the festival, roaming the streets in their alternate forms when they would otherwise not.
In reality, the myth does have its basis in fact, but the truth is far less appealing.
Up until 100 AD, Pebbleton was a Panzer stronghold. At the time, the Panzers were already aware of the forces of nature known as Reapers, and many Panzer strongholds would take steps to defend themselves against their natural enemies.
Among the varied powers that Reapers had, there was a magic known as a Bond that had proven to be particularly powerful; after all, the Panzers had originally adapted their bodies based on the power of the ancient magic. Reapers, in their crusades against Panzers, were wont to use the power of a Crosser-Stray bond to hinder Panzers without having to engage them directly. The unscrupulous rulers of Pebbleton thus detained and enslaved all Crossers they could find, minimizing the risk of them finding Strays and bonding.
As a result, the only humans originally in Pebbleton were slaves to their Panzer masters. As time passed, they began to believe that such was their lot in life.
However, the Reapers could not stand by and watch such an event unfold. Utilizing all the resources at their disposal, they staged a siege on the fortress of Pebbleton, relying not just on their own power but on Contracts, rallying the Crossers they could find to aid their cause.
However, within the fortress, the Panzers had convinced their Crossers that the Reapers were threatening to destroy all of them, and both masters and slaves fought a long hard battle against the Reapers.
Eventually, however, the Panzers were forced to talk terms: they would cede Pebbleton to the humans and maintain only a minimal presence in the town if the Reapers would cease their assault. To the eyes of the humans, however, the end of the battle meant that they must have won. On cue, strange trees seemed to suddenly spring up across the island, somehow soothing and quelling the violent Strays that had been attacking.
Unbeknownst to the humans, the trees had been put in place by the reapers, ensuring that Pebbleton would consistently attract strong-willed Strays seeking release, thus deterring any Panzers that might think of retaking the Crosser-rich town of Pebbleton. Even millenia on, with the bloodlines of the original crossers weakened, Pebbleton still retains a relatively high Crosser density.
As the Panzers withdrew from most of the island, allowing the humans to repopulate it, they made it known that their ceding the land to the humans was in respect for their bravery and maturity: they had shown that they had the right to rule the island, now, and the Panzers would continue to watch over the town in their new capacity of unseen guardians.
Over the years, a few significant changes have occurred, although whether or not they were deliberate or not is up for debate. Such includes the destruction of the old graveyard and the tree which grew atop it to make way for Materion Square, a modern development. What this may mean for the future is uncertain, and few Panzers are even aware of Pebbleton's dark past. However, given that the trees have the ability to attract Strays and suppress Blights, the implications may indeed be serious.