The Legacy of Sage

Submitted into Contest #143 in response to: Set your story in the woods or on a campground. ... view prompt

4 comments

Fantasy Fiction

Not even the birds, squirrels, nor deers had woken up so early in that morning as Leo did. The sun was barely doing it’s morning streches, and he had woken up his wife and eight-year-old daughter, put them in the car with their luggage and tent, and drove seventy kilometres to the forest. Their electric, quiet SUV didn't bother a fly.

The dew layed on the barely reborn green leaves, and the half-bald trees swayed with the wind. Nature was steadily waking up after the winter slumber. It seemed she tapped the snooze button and turned to the other side of the bed, as would their daughter, Hazel, have wanted, who was dozing in the back seat.

“How long until we arrive?” asked Ashe, his wife, sipping from her cup of coffee.

“A little more and we’ll reach the lake. It's an open area in which we can make a campfire.”

Ashe turned to check on Hazel, who was fast asleep. The forest road swayed everyone and almost put her mother to sleep as well, who was also slightly annoyed with Leo's scheduling.

After a few minutes, a clearing had opened up in front of them. Hidden by large trees was a lake the size of a football field surrounded by majestic willows. Leo parked so that the car's solar panel could benefit from all the goodness of the sun’s rays. The brake woke little Hazel, who yawned and rubbed her eyes.

“Are we there, Daddy?” said the little girl.

“Yes, dear. "We’ve arrived," he replied.

Hazel and Ashe got out of the car, both amazed at the beauty in front of them. The lake shone as if sprinkled with emeralds and sapphires. A few ducks were swimming around. You could also see shoals of small fish swimming. The birds had begun their merrily chirping, and in the distance, among the trees, deers could be seen eating breakfast.

As the girls admired the view, Leo began to pitch the tent.

“Do you like it, Hazel?” he asked.

Yeeees, it’s super excellent,” the girl shouted as she approached the lake and tried to feed some grass to a curious duck.

“Hazel, please put on your jacket. It's chilly,” Ashe said to the little girl, who was having a great time with her new feathered friend, ignoring her mother's request.

With the skill of a scout, Leo set up the tent in the blink of an eye, and his wife prepared the table, the camping chairs, and breakfast.

“Mom,” Hazel said, prolonging the vowel, “I think the duck talked to me.”

Leo laughed lightly from inside the tent.

“Oh, really?” said Ashe. “And what did it tell you?”

“She said ‘Come with me’ and then put her head in the water and ran away.”

The parents got into the girl’s game.

"I don't think ducks know you can't swim," Leo said, panting from inflating the mattress on which they were going to sleep.

The girl glanced at the lake again, but did not dwell on the mystery of the talking duck because her attention was caught by the milk and cereal prepared by her mother. The three enjoyed a good and peaceful meal in the nature.

"What's the plan for today, darling?" Ashe said to Leo, who was sitting with one arm on the back of his chair and enjoying his coffee.

“Well, not far from here is a nice waterfall we can check out. Then we can continue on the trail and reach a cave and, if we want, we can climb to the peak from where we can see the whole valley up to tens of kilometres away. It's a bit steep, but I packed the trail poles. What do you say, Hazel?”

"Okeeeee," the girl said in a monotone voice as she played on the phone.

“When we return,” Leo continued, “we’ll make the campfire, fry marshmallows on a stick and tell ghost stories.”

"Sounds good," Ashe said. “I'll make some sandwiches.”

They packed water bottles, snacks and lunch and set off. Little Hazel kept running around, occasionally stopping to shout at the adults to hurry up.

Once at the waterfall, the girl was in awe.

“Do you want to go behind the waterfall?” said the father.

“Yeeeeah!” she yelled.

"Be careful, you two, not to slip," Ashe said.

The father and daughter jumped carefully from one stone to another, he in front, she behind. They were keeping close to the cliff from which the waterfall flowed. Courageously, Hazel followed Leo, who was reaching out to help.

Arriving behind the waterfall, the little girl put her hand into the falling water and laughed out loud. Leo was catching the moment with his phone as Ashe sat down on a fallen log admiring the view.

"Daaaaady," she said with a serious face, "the water is talking to me."

Leo put his phone in his pocket and looked around for other people.

“There's no one around here, my dear. You are probably imagining it.”

"But I'm sure I heard it," said the little girl. “Right down here where the water is! She said, ‘Come with me.’

Hazel pointed to the spot where the water hit the ground. To please her, Leo sat on his stomach, rolled up his sleeve, and dipped his arm in the water. He gritted his teeth because of the temperature, but he wanted to calm her down.

“See? There is nothing here. Let's go back to mommy.”

He took her in his arms, and Hazel looked slightly frightened towards the place where she heard the call for the second time.

After a few hours of walking, they reached the cave where they had lunch. Regaining their strength, they continued on their way to the top. Hazel seemed to be made of pure energy because she was running in front of them, being stopped only by the panting cries of the adults.

Once at the peak, they could breathe a sigh of relief that they could finally rest.

“Mommy, I'm tired.”

"We’ll rest a little and head back to the tent, my dear. It’ll be easier than climbing up here and then we will fry the marshmallows”

"I can't wait," said the girl and smiled.

Leo took a beer from his bag. It was a tradition of his to enjoy an IPA on every peak he climbs. Ashe changed Hazel's sweaty T-shirt and sat down next to Leo to sip from his drink.

The three of them admired the wonderful view. There was no sign of anything man-made. The road was hidden by trees, the mountain peaks rose majestically, a river flowed through the valley digging incessantly into the defenceless mountain. The wind blew pleasantly, and the sun was steadily preparing to go to bed.

After a while, they set off. The rest of the evening they had dinner, told stories and played games. The long and exhausting walk as well as the mountain air made the three of them go to bed early. They put out the fire, lay down in their sleeping bags - Hazel in the middle and her parents at the edges - and fell into a deep sleep.

It was a complete silence. The nocturnal animals went hunting, but did not approach the family campsite. Everything was calm until Hazel heard it again.

“Come with us,” said the clear, melodious voice of a fairy-tale princess.

Hazel slightly opened her eyes and sat up. Normally, the tent would be pitch-dark, but something lit up their shelter. In front of her was an entity that seemed out of this world. It looked like a fluffy dandelion, but it was as big as the girl and emerald green. It emitted a pleasant yellow light and floated like a leaf in the wind. From what seemed to be the core of this entity came pleasant sounds like ocean waves.

“Come with us” she repeated in a whisper, stretching out a thin vine-like arm.

As if bewitched, Hazel stepped out of the bag and grabbed the vine. She opened the tent and walked out like in a trance. She was not afraid, but curious. Hazel wasn't sure if she was dreaming or not, but she didn't care. The voice mesmerised and calmed her.

The girl walked barefoot on the damp grass in her Disney pyjamas. She was not cold because her new friend gave off a pleasant warmth, like a fireplace on a cold winter's day.

Hazel was enchanted by the beautiful light and had been guided into the unknown. She didn't think about her mother or father, friends, school or her toys. Her whole universe now was this wonderful green entity.

Suddenly, it stopped. The bewitching sound stopped. Hazel looked around and began to realise where she was. The cold started to grab hold of her and gradually the horror crept into her heart.

The entity had suddenly pulled its vine inside of herself and whispered.

“Extinction!” and then disappeared.

Hazel froze. She was alone, scared and helpless, surrounded by a cold void. The bright moonlight was obscured by dark clouds.

Suddenly, another entity appeared out of nowhere, but it was black and three times larger. With a monstrous noise like a wild beast, it turned into a giant bear with claws as big as Hazel and sharp as swords.

The little girl shouted as loud as she could and tried to run away, but her legs were tangled in some roots. She fell and hit her face. The bear, sitting on two legs, prepared to strike fatally. 

The girl had closed her eyes and was crying waiting for the blow, but the bear's attack was stopped by the sudden appearance of another red entity, slightly larger than the green one.

“Hazel!” it shouted in a familiar voice.

“Da-daddy?” she said between sobs.

"Traitors," said the bear, which turned back into the black entity.

Without hezitation, Leo let out a bright red light, and the black entity disappeared with a cry of pain. He didn't have time to rejoice, because out of the darkness appeared five more green entities, and a bright yellow one like the sun.

"Hazel, honey, I got you," said another red entity.

”Mo-mommy,” said the little girl, and embraced the red dandelion that spoke in Ashe's voice.

"Go to the tent! I’ll take care of them,” Leo shouted and grew twice as big and became brighter.

Hazel was picked up by her mother and they flew with dizzying speed into the darkness of the night.

"Traitor!" said the other entities in unison, and floated toward him. “You sided with the Pests.

"I will not partake in the extinction of a species!"

"Then you will be wiped out with them," said the yellow entity, and launched a wave of arrows of light at Leo.

He easily dodged and counterattacked. He jumped into the air up to the top of the trees and turned into a disk. He rotated at high speed causing the trees to sway. A ray of light came out of him, rushing at the enemies and hitting three of them, causing them to evaporate. A small crater remained at the site of the impact.

“Fratricide!” said the remaining enemies.

"You are not my brothers!" You are abject criminals! he shouted.

Leo was preparing to launch another attack, but a golden arrow struck him, causing him to fall to the ground and scream in pain.

"People are destroying our home, and you're defending them?" the yellow entity shouted. “With every forest cut down, our brothers and sisters disappear.”

Leo got up, grunted and took a defence stance, though he was wounded.

"They must be eradicated before we all disappear," the golden entity continued “and if you stand in our way, we won't forgive you.”

“There is a peaceful way to settle this, not just The Purification. Please listen to me! That's why Ashe and I went among them. We want to educate them.”

The yellow entity stopped and the noise coming from him softened slightly.

"You can't educate them," he said in a low voice. “Every day they destroy more forests and kill more creatures. They build more and more machines that poison us and pollute our waters. Spirits lose their lustre, go out and die.”

"We can educate them, Sage! We already see improvements, but we need time.”

The yellow entity gradually grew larger and prepared for a final attack.

“Time is what we have run out of.”

But when he was about to execute Leo, Ashe appeared out of nowhere and hit Sage as hard as she could, propelling him with a tree and causing it to break in half. Then she let out a bright light like a solar flare at the other enemies. The remaining two green entities instantly evaporated, and Sage cried out in pain and fell to the ground. He transformed into a puddle among the leaves. 

"You can't stop us!” shouted the dripping Sage. “The Nature Spirits will wipe out your beloved Pests. You can't stop the earthquakes we're going to set! You can't extinguish the volcanoes we're going to ignite. Purification is inevitable!”

Ashe floated near the defeated enemy. She formed a cloud of hard, fire-like red light with which she lifted the fallen tree trunk and lifted it over Sage.

"If you ever get close to my kid again, no member of the Council will save you from me!" and thrusted the tree into him. 

Sage howled in agony and disappeared into the ground.

Silence returned to the forest. The two transformed into humans again.

“Thanks, Ashe! You came just in time," said Leo, who was sitting on the ground and leaning against a tree.

She bandaged his leg wound and helped him to his feet, then they set off for the campsite.

"He'll be back, you know," Leo said in a low voice.

"He’ll get it worse than now," Ashe said in a voice that would have frozen the sun.

“How's Hazel?”

“She’s ok. I sang to her to sleep and put an aura of protection around the tent.” 

"We have to tell her the truth in the morning."

Ashe frowned and kicked a fallen tree.

"Goddam that Sage! She's too young, Leo! She is too young to be involved in the war,” Ashe said, and she increased her speed, making it difficult for her husband to keep up.

After a few minutes of walking through the darkness and stillness of the forest, Ashe stopped, stared at the ground, and a few tears ran down her cheeks.

“I'm going to kill him, Leo. I will find and destroy him. There are too many lives wasted because of Sage”.

Leo took her hands into his. 

"We are going to destroy him, Ashe, but not like that. All we will end up doing is making him a martyr. If Sage is killed, someone else will carry on his plan.”

Leo sat down on a log, pulled her close to him and continued.

“There are more and more spirits abandoning their war. With every green law passed by the humans, with every solar or wind power plant, Sage loses followers and the support of the Council.”

“I know, Leo,” Ashe bursted, “but it's all too slow! Sage went on a rampage with devastating fires and tornadoes. How long until earthquakes and concomitant volcanic eruptions will be approved by the Council?” 

Leo sighed, but did not lose hope.

“The council is not so reckless. That would mean The Sixth Extinction, and they know it.” 

He looked up at the sky where the full and bright moon was uncovered by the clouds.

“We and the other Nature Spirits that have chosen the peaceful path will succeed. Humanity has never been more attentive to our planet than it is now.”

Ashe smiled into the corner of her mouth, and Leo took her cheeks in his hands and kissed her.

“You're right, Leo. We're going to destroy Sage's plan and himself with it.”

He nodded.

“Now, let's go to Hazel,” she said. “We’ll have a difficult morning.”

They both emitted a pleasant reddish light and set off for the campsite, guided by the moonlight.

April 28, 2022 11:53

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

4 comments

19:59 Jun 07, 2022

Hello! I don't have any critiques but I love the worldbuilding here :)

Reply

Dragos Marcean
18:37 Jun 13, 2022

Thank you :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
11:37 May 05, 2022

Wow! This is really great! One small typo: “Yes, dear. "We’ve arrived," I think it's supposed to be: “Yes, dear. We’ve arrived," Just a little quotation mark in there :)

Reply

Dragos Marcean
12:27 May 05, 2022

No matter how many times I re-read, typos get in there somehow :)) Thanks :D

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply