Chapter 1: Terra
“Ground yourself,” my mom instructed me as the vines crept upon me, “let it become part of you.”
I put my feet slightly apart feeling the earth beneath me and its vibration as well. Small vines were slowly creeping their way onto my feet and onto my legs.
"Remember to breathe," my mom continued.
I realized I was hyperventilating and I sighed heavily trying to remind myself to breathe in and out, focusing on becoming one with nature. I closed my eyes and let the vines enveloped me, I could feel them slithering against every part of me as they sought to protect me.
This was hardly the first time I had to create a shield out of vines, but it was the first time the vines had reached my face.
Push yourself, I thought to myself as the vines continued with its path.
“Terra,” my mom interrupted. “A sprite from Mother Nature is coming.”
I opened my eyes abruptly and the vines fell brusquely, disintegrating.
I went to my mom's side, looking as the petals flew into the wind as if it were dancing then made its way down slowly. I put my hands out and the sprite landed on them curtsying before she delivered her message.
“Terra,” the sprite began, imitating Mother Nature’s voice perfectly. “I need you to come urgently, alone.”
My heart jumped out of my chest as I took the news. “What happened?” I asked although I knew the sprite wouldn’t answer. She was here to deliver a message not to answer my questions regarding the matter.
"I will be there soon," I told the sprite and she repeated my message. Then with one small jump, the wind carried it back towards her destination.
My mom put both of her hands on my shoulders, her expression worried. “You don’t have to go alone if you don’t want to.”
I put my hands over hers and squeezes back to reassure her I was going to be ok, although the dreadful feeling in my chest was getting worse each second that passed.
We made our way towards our home quickly opened the door finding my father working on one of his swords. When he saw us he smiled and got up but his smile fell instantly when he looked at our aggravated expressions that we tried to hide in vain.
My mom walked towards him, holding one of his hands. “Mother Nature wants Terra to go to the Greenhouse alone, it seems crucial.”
He smirked looking towards me. “Isn’t that good news? Maybe she will continue training you.”
Mom sighed, relieved. “I never thought about that but your father is right, she probably feels better now.”
I nodded and smiled at them as I moved away and grabbed a satchel that has fruits in it.
The truth was that I was scared. The land had suffered the most changes in such a short amount of time and there wasn't anything that we could do at the moment.
As future successor from Mother Nature the right thing to do was to calm me down. If I didn't my energy would be felt by my parents and that would worry them even more and it could also contribute to affecting the land. I needed to be strong because that's what I was meant to be; protector of this realm.
I secured my satchel over my head and looked at both of my parents. "I will be back in no time."
"Strength daughter," my father told me.
I nodded. "Strength," I replied as I moved towards the door, my parents behind me.
"Be safe!" My mother shouted from a distance, waving her right hands.
I looked back and waved back and then I started to run making my way inside the forest.
Training sessions. I shook my head. No, this was something far important to be labeled as urgent. I knew Gaia, I had spent years under her training and she was like a second mother to me.
She made sure that I knew everything I needed in order for me to be her successor but things changed drastically a couple of months ago. Many elders claimed that demons were creating a new set of dark-magic wielders around the area and they couldn't be wrong, especially with all the proof we had from the moment rumors started and those rumors had been proven true.
When I finally arrived I knocked on the heavy-brown door three times before it opened letting me see a tiny brownie waiting for me. He looked nervous, which was unusual because brownies were cheery, “Tugainn,” he spoke, without saluting first.
He walked me for several halls until we arrived at Mother Nature’s garden. My eyes enlarged while at the same time my heart stopped for a millisecond at the sight. The grass was completely desiccated; flowers that once were vivid and dazzling were now withered and lifeless.
“Salve, Mother Nature,” My voice came more like a whisper. She was sitting in a little chair looking at the lifeless garden, her head bent in defeat and her expression full of sorrow.
“Terra, you can call me Gaia,” she muttered, smiling sadly at the dry grass that was on the floor.
A couple of months before when I was here, the greenhouse was beautiful. It was similar to walking inside a miniature terrarium. There were flowers, trees, and bushes of every kind adorning the space.
You could hear the voices of cheerful brownies, sprites, and even animals inside but now the cheers were gone and what remained was silence and the shadow of what once was this place.
The crown Gaia had over her head was a symbol of nurture and strength. Fresh leaves of Wipping Willows and small clear-quartz crystals would fall on Gaia's head and even hair decorating her and making her look like the deity she was. However, now the crown looked like a falling-abandoned nest and the crystals looked opaque, some of them missing.
Gaia moved her eyes towards mine. "Bad, isn't it?"
“I- I thought that..."
"You don't have to take care of what you want to say with me."
She got up from the chair as some of the dried up vines clinging to the chair started to snap. "Walk with me," Gaia ordered, moving her legs slowly.
"You canceled my lessons because you knew."
She nodded. "Once a part of your body has touched nature and this one dies in your hands, you know you can't possibly be part of it anymore."
I moved in front of her, my eyes filling with tears."I want to help you, Gaia, please let me."
She shook her head, “I’m beyond help," she stepped away from me and continued walking. "No one will help us, is only you and me Terra and you must carry on."
"The guardians will surely come if you send sprites their way and-"
She lifted her right hand so I could stop.“Everyone’s giving it too much thought to what's obvious. That’s why I summoned you,” she said, stopping on her tracks. “As my descendant, you must go find him.”
“Me? Find him,” I almost yelled taken aback by surprise. “Gaia, my parents will distress if they find I’m wandering into another realm.”
“It’s your destiny and burden as future Mother-Nature, Terra. You must not wait for others to make decisions about what you know it's right.”
“What if I cannot go back? What if he doesn’t want to come?”
She smiled, "Sometimes my little fern I forget how young you are."
I felt my cheeks and ears heat trying to remember if I had said something childish during our conversation. I shouldn't have asked her those things, I knew better.
"Now now," Gaia began taking a little hourglass out of her long-tunic pocket and putting it on my hands. "You must be strong and make him come to his land, even if you have to use your powers on him."
The hourglass was made out of crystal and inside there was silver and gold dust moving into a slow vortex.
"I was saving it for a special occasion like this. I knew the moment would come any second by now."
I took the hourglass feeling its energy so different from the Father Time that was struck by demons. I let my magic flow from within myself to generate a lace and put the hourglass around my neck.
"Where he is you will appear." Gaia declared.
“How do you know where he is?”
“All these months I was gathering information,” she told me without explaining in detail.
Question her wasn’t something I would do. She was the mother of this land, the protector of life. I trusted in her just like I would have trust the mother before her.
“Will he be recognizable?"
"It will be a feeling that only you will be able to tell," she moved towards the exit.“I have prepared Ailsa’s pine tree for you.”
Pine trees appeared when the first Mother Nature has been crowned. She was the most powerful and kind there ever was. She would walk barefoot and where she stepped flowers sprouted from her plants and although she had died at a young age, the few pines we had left still had her signature all over them.
"Safe travels little fern," Gaia smiled yet it didn't reach her eyes.
I frowned determined to accomplish this mission even if it meant I had to do the impossible. "I won't take long," I said with certainty and with that I started to walk to the closest Pine tree I could find.
"Terra," The Pine tree's sprite greeted me.
"Salve," I saluted putting my forehead on its bark feelings its presence and nervousness. "We'll be okay."
I felt the Pine's energy calm down giving me permission to climb it and I started to make my way to the higher branches. I looked below and there was only light and I knew right away it was working.
The tree's bark turned darker and its energy felt different from the previous one, it felt weaker and didn't know who I was. Then I heard voices all around me, coming from different places. I looked through some branches and I knew I wasn't in the land anymore; I had made it.