Verse One: Chapter 12: Athine
I had never seen Ximira and often wondered what it was like. When I set foot on the island, its breathtaking beauty overcame me. There were waterfalls and lush fields full of crops. The sun was warm and golden. It was strikingly different from the mountainous ranges of Olympus.
We had to walk about three miles through this lovely landscape to arrive at the castle where the council was forming. The island hosted the M’yerter every year so both the Ximirian and Draosian councils could discuss important matters. This was something my mother never explained to me before or maybe she did and I had chosen to ignore her. At any rate, I would soon be in the presence of all the great immortal rulers. Rulers I had only ever heard about. This would also include my grandmother. The high, throne-like chairs and the beings that sat in them immediately set me on edge. Morrigan was even grander than I remembered. She was a stately woman with long red hair. She looked like she stood almost seven feet tall and had my mother’s green eyes. She was nothing short of beautiful.
“Welcome, Athine,” Morrigan spoke to me as if she had nothing but love for me. I had only heard my grandmother’s voice once before when I was very young. She had seemed to be a kind grandmother, but she had an air of fierceness I could not place back then. Now, looking at her on her council throne, I recognized the fierceness I sensed as a child. She was complete ruler of these walls. She commanded respect.
“I know you have traveled a long way to get here; however, since you have not yet had your initiation ceremony we cannot allow you to stay in the M’yerter at this time. Instead, On’ale will show you around Ximira so you can become acquainted with your motherland,” Morrigan instructed.
“Follow me, Athine, and I will show you the beauty of the land,” On’ale whispered to me as she passed. She was too small in stature to be a warrior. I had no idea why she would be in the great court of Morrigan other than to do her errands. Then again, perhaps I was just jealous of her delicate beauty. She was an immortal, but she did not seem like the rest of them. She seemed like a hummingbird in a field of hawks.
“On’ale, please don’t take this the wrong way, but what are you?”
She turned to me with a large grin and laughed, “I take it you have never seen a wood sprite before? I am a guardian of the wild woods. I am also a liaison between the land and Morrigan’s court. I guess you could say I am a representative of Ximira herself.”
“No, I don’t think we have anyone like you where I grew up. I could tell you were an immortal, but I knew you were not like the others in there. I didn’t think you were sturdy enough to be a warrior.”
“Ha! I should think not. Your grandmother’s sword is as large as my house. Although I am slightly larger than most sprites, I can safely say that I am no warrior. I took a vow not to hurt another living creature no matter what the circumstances. If I do Ximira will reclaim my spirit.”
“You mean you die?”
Her face paled at the question, “Yes, but that isn’t something I wish to discuss. I want to show you the beauty of the land that your mother’s people come from. I know just the place too. We can visit the grand grotto, the Eroik’e. It has some of the most incredible wildlife and waterfalls on Ximira.”
“Well then, I guess we should explore that. I would love to see some of the flora and fauna of this land. It is very different from dry, rocky Olympus. I would also like to learn any of the lore surrounding Ximira.”
“I have just the history lesson for you then. I will tell you about how the Eroik’e sprung. Long ago the great mother Sayel fought an evil demon spirit. It is said that the demon was injured in the grotto and her blood soaked the ground until the Eroik’e appeared.”
“Hmmm, that does not sound like a very beautiful or restful place.”
“No, it doesn’t, but I assure you once we get around this bend you will find the lushest and most beautiful place you have ever seen. It is the jewel of Ximira.”
We reached the bend that would lead us to this beautiful grotto, but when we got there, On’ale let out a scream. I ran to her side, weapon in hand, but all I saw were the beautiful gardens On’ale had described.
“On’ale, what is wrong?”
“You don’t see the death and destruction of this place? The grey of decay hanging in the trees or the blood in the water?”
I looked around. I was beginning to think On’ale was delirious. “What are you talking about? There are only the beautiful gardens and falls you were telling me about. It really is breathtaking.”
“Athine, I think we should leave immediately. I have a bad feeling.”
At that moment, something bubbled up out of the water. It took the form of a woman. The creature raised its arm and shot out bolts of magic imbued water from her hands. On’ale instinctively raised her arm to shield herself. The magic water bolts flew towards On’ale too quickly for me to stop. When they hit her, she collapsed to the ground. Then the woman began to speak.
“Athine, long have I awaited the day you would set foot on grotto land.”
“And you would be?”
“I am the messenger of a humble oracle back in your homeland. I have been tasked with telling you of a terrible evil that is upon your land. You are the only one that can stop it.” The strange woman informed me.
“Of what evil and what land do you speak?”
“Olympus, Draosia, and Ximira are all in trouble. You have been led astray for so long. The girl you call Harmonia has wanted you to believe many things that are not true. She has led your mother to believe things that are not true. She must be stopped or else the world will quake at her feet.”
Immediately I was on guard. Harmonia was my sister, not some evil sorceress. “What do you speak of water woman? Harmonia has no evil in her body. She is not even a warrior by trade and is only half-immortal. How could she possibly lead me astray?”
“Oh, Athine, do not take her lightly. She has been plotting since before you were born to take over Ximira, Draosia, and Olympus. She wants to rule all the corners of the world. She is, after all, a war god’s daughter. How could she not be bloodthirsty? Do you not thirst for more? Do you not hope for larger areas to conquer? Do you not seek adventure?”
“I see your point, but what am I to do about it? Surely the lands can protect themselves against one half-immortal.”
“No, she will become very powerful. She has tapped into a great power source and is learning how to use it to kill her opponents. She hopes to use her magic to overcome Sh’cersay. If she succeeds, there will be no stopping her. You must find a source of power greater than hers or even yours.”
“Where would I find such a power source?” I asked disbelievingly.
“In the stone golem that Harmonia has tried to unlock for years. If you awaken the queen imprisoned in the golem, she will help you defeat Harmonia and the other immortals that stand with her. But you must hurry and you must not tell anyone.”
“How do I awaken the sleeping queen?”
She reached under her watery cloak and produced a vial of liquid. As she handed it to me she said, “Take this vial of water, pour it on the stone golem then cast your magic on the figure. This will cause the stone to melt away and the queen will emerge. She will be eager to help you defeat the evil Harmonia in return for her freedom.”
“What about On’ale? I can’t just leave her here.”
“She is perfectly fine, just sleeping. I could not risk having her hear this conversation for she may be in league with Harmonia; she has spies everywhere. You must go now and act quickly if you are to save Olympus.”
“Very well, I will do as you ask. I cannot sit by and watch the destruction of my land. I am supposed to be the protector and it is my destiny to stop the fall of Olympus, Ximira, and Draosia.”