The forest spirit, Oxylos, padded gently through his domain. Emerald shrubs and flowers blossomed beneath each footstep. He ambled along the track until he reached a smooth flat rock that
offered him a platform to survey the mountain below. Scattered amongst the wooded mountain face, beside the region's only river, was the fledgling town of Holt. Primitive humans lived there
residing in huts on the trees. Oxylos puffed out his chest with pride. He had raised them from mere apes, and they now were able to feed themselves and live in independence under his
He leapt from his podium and galloped down the slope. Hind legs stretching out behind him as he left the ground, front legs digging into the dirt as he returned. In seconds he was among them. They left their miniature homes and bowed before him. He glowed from their faith. Oxylos collapsed onto his belly, and rested amid the men and women of Holt. Children clambered over his giant paws and played in his fur.
On a ledge, near the edge of the forest, a hideous creature observed the half deer, half leopard playing with its followers. It was an enormous salamander with a tail covered in barbs and a long jaw that would engulf an elephant in a single bite. Pyros, a fire demon, had been wandering in the region and happened upon the forest spirit's peaceful haven. His slitted eyes contracted as he spied upon Oxylos. As the sun began to sink in the sky, Pyros curled up in a ball and debated his next course of action. He wanted the mountain, he wanted Holt.
Oxylos lay asleep on his favourite perch, the flat rock overlooking Holt. All was still but a menacing glow began to pass through the tight corridor of trees and smoke began to fill the air. His eyes flickered open. He was unusually warm. A screech sounded overhead, and looking up he saw flocks of birds fleeing the forest. In a panic he rubbed his eyes and clambered up. All around him a sea of fire burned away his kingdom. Flame ridden trees fell passing the infernal infection to the next. Oxylos' glow had begun to fade, and he buckled, nearly falling over. The forest spirit spun around and looked to Holt. His beloved town was ablaze. He jumped from his ledge and glided down to his village. The flowers that grew beneath his feet were immediately burnt to brown and he began to choke on the foul air.
Oxylos reached the smouldering village. All the humans had fled but for one trapped in a hut, it was a young woman who screamed for help; however, he was too large and cumbersome to rescue her. The spirit placed a large paw upon the ground and focused hard. Seconds later the soil bubbled into a mound and a tree shot up and extended a branch to the woman. She grabbed hold and lifted herself along the branch, which had already started to catch fire. He then knelt beside the tree and let the woman jump down onto his back. When she was secure he bounded off, down to the river.
At the riverbank, Oxylos rolled onto his side then let the women climb down and clamber onto one of the rafts which floated to the centre of the vast river for safety. The villagers waved and cheered their protector. He smiled at their warmth but didn't realise until it was too late, that they weren't cheering him but attempting to warn him. A giant set of teeth clamped down on his neck cleaving his weakened skin. Pyros thrashed his head left and right letting his serrated teeth sink deeply into Oxylos's neck, severing the spirit's major artery. Warm blood flooded Pyros's mouth and drenched the sand below. Pyros stared coldly into Oxylos's eyes, he watched as they twitched in panic and then the black of death smothered them. The creature's eyes rolled up inside his head and his heart stopped. Pyros's insides fluttered with joy as he let go of the forest spirits neck and watched him collapse. The humans sat horrified as Pyros gorged on Oxylos's flesh to the backdrop of the forest consumed in flames.
The humans weren't the only witnesses to the salamander's savagery. From behind a rock, Nixie, the protector of the river, which ran alongside Holt, had watched her friend's murder. She wanted to stand up to Pyros and save Oxylos but had been consumed by fear and could only hide behind the boulder, frozen. Filled with hatred, Nixie drifted downstream until she was safe from the monster. She floated on the waters surface staring up at the sparkling sky trying to gather her thoughts. She closed her liquid eyelids and bathed beneath the moonlight.
'Did you see what happened?' said a voice that came from the river bank. Nixie rose above the water, on top of a fountain that lifted her until she was upright and opened her eyes. A naked female gnome with a skin of gravel rested upon a rock and gazed at her.
'Of course I saw, Terra! I saw Oxylos' murder at the hands of that filthy, reptilian demon and did nothing.' The river began to churn and froth around Nixies feet.
'And you were right to do so, Nixie,' said Terra, 'We all saw it, you, me… and Khaos.' The earth elf motioned to the opposite bank. The reeds began to bend and a wind rose behind them. A ghostly presence emerged behind the pair of conversing spirits. The apparition was difficult to perceive, as it was invisible but for a slight blur screening the scenery beyond.
'We all witnessed the foul deed, Nixie water-dweller; we all witnessed yet did nothing. We took that action because the creature was of fire and at full strength. To be afraid and to hide was both understandable and wise.'
'You speak only for yourself, Khaos of air. I was not afraid, I am not afraid of anything. I am simply not foolish enough to sacrifice myself.When the fire dies, so will he. I will kill him and you will aid me,' said Nixie.
'The gentle water spirit seeking bloody revenge, that sounds perfect to me,' said Terra, whose smile reached beyond her lengthy ears. 'When that fire is out we'll kill the fiend.'
The group waited downstream for many moons, building their power and watching the last of the forest disappear and the flames die. The ash left in the fires' wake had swelled Terra to the size of a bear; her stony skin was now a collage of flat-faced boulders. Nixie shimmered, the water of the river overflowed and dug away at the banks in anticipation. Khaos remained silent and unseen but his presence was so strong, that even a bloated Pyros could sense a disturbance in the air. After the last of the embers died the birds began to return, signalling to Khaos that now was the right moment to strike. He informed Terra and Nixie that the time had come, and the three spirits headed back upstream in search of their enemy.
Holt had been rebuilt beside the river and was now a large town bustling with people. Enormous bellows that stoked even vaster furnaces dotted the cityscape, and a great wall encircled the town lined with archers and other defences. Pyros had given them the gift of fire and fashioned them into a war ready tribe. A small memorial stood in the centre of the town, a bronze statue of the fallen Oxylos. Men watched as the three enraged spirits left the safety of the river and headed up the mountain in search of their enemy.
Pyros hobbled along the ashen mountainside. His skin throbbed with pain from the continuous exertions of the last few suns. There was nothing more that he could burn and it agitated him. Pyros had become accustom to destruction and craved it.
'Fowl creature halt and face me!' cried Nixie wielding a giant flowing ball of water, poised, ready to strike. 'State your name and your reason for murdering Oxylos, forest dweller!' In a crackling deep voice that twisted and grinded together like flint Pyros replied,
'Silence your wagging tongue whore. I am Pyros, and I will make this mountain a volcano and gorge upon its molten flesh.' Pyros opened up a lava geyser before him. Madness flashed across the surface of Nixies eyes. She catapulted the ball at the demon and then produced jets of water which she hurled swiftly at her target. Khaos soared in front of the projectiles and froze them to Stalagmites as they passed through him. The water splashed over Pyros, who reared up on his hind legs trying to shake it off. Several of the razor sharp stalagmites thudded into his exposed belly and sent him crashing backwards. As he fell, Terra parted the earth and let the creature fall into the shallow crevice. Terra then used all her might to pull the earth back together crushing the monster into pulp. Pyros' blood boiled up through the scar on the land and pooled there. Nixie stamped down on the geyser putting it out. She was satisfied with the manner of their revenge.
After killing Pyros, the three spirits looked down at the town of Holt, which grew more advanced with each passing sun. All three gazed upon it with longing eyes, Khaos however, had influence over many regions and decided his attentions were needed elsewhere. As a parting gift, he thickened the air that surrounded the mountain making it more suitable for wildlife so the humans could farm livestock. He then left the town to Terra and Nixie assured that together they would raise it as lovingly as Oxylos once had. That is what they did, at least in the begging,.
Terra sped up the fertilisation of the ash ridden soil so that seeds could be sewn, and Nixie allowed the humans to lay pipes for an aqueduct to irrigate the surrounding area. The humans took the gifts, after many suns, Holt became a city which grew across most of the mountain face. Yet still, the only statue that stood was of Oxylos. There was no tribute to Terra or to Nixie.
'Ungrateful vermin, I shall have nothing more to do with you or your stupid mountain. Pasture your own fields and mine your own minerals.' Terra stuck out her sandy tongue at the town and stormed back downstream. Nixie also became impatient and presented herself to the humans in an attempt for acknowledgement. They ignored her. She even wandered the city as a woman, made entirely of water and they didn't seem to notice. She decided that force would be necessary to earn the respect that even the tyrant, Pyros, once had.
Nixie stood as a giant overshadowing the city. Below hundreds of the antlike humans scurried away in terror as she raised the river upwards until it blocked out the sun then sent it crashing down on top of the citizens of Holt. However, as the wave hit the shore, Nixie instantly regretted her actions and couldn't bare watch as they drowned, many of them were children, their screams made her water ripple. Half the city lay in ruins and feeling stabbing pangs of guilt she submerged back into her river and retreated down stream where she waited, expecting some form of retaliation.
Many years passed. The river had faded, and its flow had lessened as time wore on until one day an extremely frail Nixie lay in the sand beside Terra.
'Nixie you look weak, what ails you?'
'I am not weak!' shouted Nixie who instantly softened, 'I apologise Earth-kin, Terra. My strength diminishes by the day. The current of my river no longer flows as it once did. Yet I am still so young. Am I to die?' Terra glanced over Nixies warped translucent form.
'You do seem to be sagging a bit my dear.' Angry, Nixie stood up and focused her energy to harden her appearance. 'I was only teasing. Save your strength.'
'It's Holt, Terra. This must be the manner of the human's revenge. I shall travel back upstream and investigate.' Before Terra could reply Nixie ran, jumped into the river and powered up towards Holt.
As she closed in on the city, swimming submerged, dead fish were displaced and day old sewage clung to her hair. Sickened by the quality of the water Nixie surfaced and cautiously continued onwards. On the horizon, stretching across the width of the river stood an enormous structure; a construction of stone arches that spanned the waters breadth, both siphoning off the water and constricting that which still flowed through. Beneath the waterline hundreds of pipes jutted into the river. Some sucked in her precious commodity and others pumped out raw sewage in its place. Near the stone atrocity was a dock harbouring hundreds of ships ranging from fishing boats to transport vessels.
Nixie was incensed by the humans that she had once helped, and she wanted to crush them once more. She rose above the water and tried to grow but she unable to draw enough strength. Feeling faint, she wobbled. A screeching siren sounded at the dock, moments later several large metal boxes in the shape of boats sailed towards her. She tried to sink the ships with waves, but the water merely splashed upon their metallic surfaces. With so little strength and water at her disposal Nixie struggled for ideas. The ships circled around her firing metal balls and sticks at her, all of which simply passed through her liquid form and polluted the river further. Nixie surged out from the water, and then elegantly dived beneath the surface. She span around in tight circles forming a large whirlpool dragging under a few of the boats, crushing them. The humans tried a new weapon. They dropped bombs into the water which exploded breaking off large chunks of her body. Next, they fired a jolt of lighting into which melting her insides. 'How could these humans possess the power of the elementals?' Nixie thought in panic. She was hit by another enormous jolt which made her dizzy, and she began to evaporate and shrink. Additional metal boxes hovered above her and joined in. They fired off more bombs and electricity until Nixie couldn't take anymore and surrendered herself to the river. Her form was now steam on the water's surface – a quickly, evaporating memory. Nixie's demise shrank the river to half its original depth.
Downstream, Terra saw the change in water level and knew what it meant. Wiping away the tears from her eyes, she stood up and stretched out her limbs. She had to act or would suffer the same fate. Unlike Nixie, she was still strong. She imbued herself with all the surrounding energy that she could draw, and transformed herself into a golem that towered above the trees, with a skin made from the thickest granite. Powered by an earth wave that whirled at her waist, she headed to Holt to enact a final revenge on the humans.
Holt was just beyond the ridge that stood on the horizon of Terra's vision. As she approached, she slowed and thought of Nixie, the power that she possessed and the manner of her defeat. Terra shrunk herself and cautiously peeked over the summit. A vast, sprawling metropolis lay before her. Covering the entire span of the mountainside once occupied by Oxylos' great forest, houses built from bricks and metal towered menacingly. The ground was covered in a thick layer of concrete. Great vehicles, exhausting terrible clouds of smoke, queued down busy streets, packed with thousands of people. Large factories dotted the landscape and defiled the air with their waste. To her right, a great aqueduct stood across the river and to her a left an immense mine bore into the mountain. The humans had adapted quicker than any animal Terra had ever seen and seemed to have even developed their own elements.Terra had no power here. She gulped and whispered a silent apology to Nixie before slinking back down the ridge. She would find a new land to rule and let the humans of Holt take care of their own.
© Copyright 2016 Alec Maynard. All rights reserved.
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