Thank you nomoretears00 for your encouragement in writing this piece & being my sounding board.
Thank you Talismania for editing this story for me. Your insight is invaluable & words alone cannot tell how much I cherish our friendship.
This submission is for the Earth Day contest so please don't forget to vote/leave feedback, all are appreciated. I hope you enjoy this short story.
Agonized screams and wails of despair sang through the night air. Smoke billowed, encompassing everything until it was difficult to see. All around, trees were succumbed to the blaze raging out of control. What looked to be balls of fire seemed to be falling from the sky with violent fury.
The forest floor looked to be a river of molten lava, destroying everything it touched. Hacking coughs wracked Alec's slender frame as he gazed around frantically at the sight of hundreds of bodies burning, both animals and campers.
The scent of the ocean drifted on the night breeze, cooling and bringing a slight measure of relief from the intense heat. Alec frowned in confusion— he lived in the forest, and there was no ocean close by. He turned his head when he heard a dull rumble over the tormented screams and roaring inferno. His eyes widened in shock as he saw a great river of water rise up out of the earth.
A devastating path of destruction lay in its wake and Alec trembled in fear as realization swept through him. The path of the colossal wave was headed straight for him. Turning, Alec ran and stumbled to a halt, a wall of fire blocking his flight.
Time slowed and came to a halt as a thinly veiled death-mask visage peered through the fire. Alec backed away, head shaking in denial and heart pounding a frantic beat as a skeletal hand slowly emerged and reached toward him. An icy chill slowly spread through his body, freezing major organs. Alec's eyes bulged in trepidation as his airway snapped closed. His heartbeat stuttered, missed a beat and stilled. Eyelids fluttered closed and a ghostly voice filled with malevolence invaded his fading conscious.
Your soul will belong to me!
Alec came awake with a shout. Wheezing, he fought for breath as frantic unseeing eyes gazed around his bedroom. His heart pounded so hard Alec feared it would burst out of his chest.
A comforting palm was laid against his forehead, instantly calming turbulent emotions. Alec looked up and let out a shuddering breath at the vision before him. Relief swept through him and for the first time Alec realized his nightshirt was soaked in sweat. Grimacing in disgust, Alec plucked at it wondering if it would be considered rude to undress in front of a goddess.
A soft chuckle wrapped tendrils of warmth around Alec's still chilled heart, cleansing the wisps of darkness that remained. "I've known you since you were a youngling and have seen you in all states of undress. Go. Do what you must and I will be in the kitchen fixing us a cup of hot chocolate."
Alec chuckled at the thought of the earth goddess Gaia doing something as mundane as making hot chocolate. As he made his way to the shower, Alec's mind wandered to the nightmare. Was it just a dream or a vision of things to come?
Shower and then I will tell you all, Gaia whispered in his mind.
Even though she couldn't see him, Alec nodded and stepped into the shower. As he showered he remembered their first meeting. Alec had been playing in the forest near his grandmother's home when She had come to him. She'd looked both ethereal and beautiful with her lissome figure and long auburn hair. Her hair had swayed gently in the wind and the sunlight had kissed its blessing upon it, making the flowing mane shimmer in the glow.
Alec had been mesmerized as he watched her. Previously deadened grass and flowers had bloomed under her feet and animals flocked to her, paying homage. Alec himself had felt as if he should kneel in her presence, the overwhelming feeling of love radiated from her and enveloped him in a warm cocoon and Alec had fallen as madly in love as any five-year-old heart could.
The forest denizens had parted, allowing her to pass but had followed behind her. Kneeling before him, she'd placed a hand on his cheek and smiled at him. Awestruck Alec had asked if she was an angel. She'd laughed and the sound had been soft, melodious. She'd told him she was something more... she was the Earth Goddess Gaia and that the two of them were a lot alike. She'd said they shared the same powers and were protectors of Earth and had promised to teach him how to control his powers. She'd also promised to always watch over him and she'd always been true to her word.
Unlike his mother who had abandoned him when he was five years old because she'd found him in the backyard surrounded by animals. She hadn't been able to handle it, too worried about what her friends and neighbors would think. So she shipped him off to a grandmother he'd never met and that was the last he'd heard from her.
Tears burned his eyes and he blinked, holding them in. Sometimes life just threw you in the shit pile and there was nothing you could do but play the hand you were dealt.
But everything wasn't all bad. Because he'd had Gaia and she made sure he'd never wanted for anything. There were days he'd gotten melancholy because he'd missed his parents, and she'd come to spend time with him, cuddling him at night until he'd fallen asleep. She was the mother he'd never had and for that alone she'd earned his undying loyalty. Sometimes Alec wondered what it was about him that made her notice and care for him. But whatever it was, Alec was grateful because she'd shown him what love was and that not everything in the world was bad.
The smell of hot chocolate teased his nostrils as Alec made his way into the kitchen. The hot shower and warm memories had erased the lingering effects of the nightmare. Happy and relaxed, Alec hugged and kissed Gaia before sitting at the table and taking a sip of the delicious drink.
Glancing up, Alec gazed into kind, honey-colored eyes. Gaia hadn't aged; she looked the same as the first day he'd met her, nineteen years ago. If Alec hadn't known her for most of his life he'd think she was no more than twenty years old, instead of um, well he didn't know how old she was, but he figured she had at least ten thousand years or more under her belt.
Gaia looked as if she wanted to laugh and Alec knew she was reading his thoughts but he didn't mind. She'd been doing it for as long as he could remember and most of the time she'd been able to help him when he'd had problems putting his feelings into words.
"Why did you choose me?" Alec asked quietly.
Gaia's hand circled the rim of her cup, gaze serious as she watched him. "You were lonely, your little heart crying out for love. How could I not answer its call? You made it so very easy." Gaia's tone held all the love and warmth she'd always shown him.
"Thank you," Alec said quietly. Not just for the kind words, but for... everything.
Gaia inclined her head in acknowledgment and watched him solemnly for a moment and before she reached out to take his hand. Gazing into his eyes, she confirmed his suspicions. "Your life is in danger. There is... an ancient demon that's been freed from Down Below. His name is Kestro and its plan is to gather enough power to kill me and destroy all living creatures of the Earth."
Alec gasped in shock. "We won't let that happen!"
"And we won't. I've battled this creature once before, long ago before the beginning of civilization. It was a fierce battle, the greatest I've ever fought, but in the end I prevailed and vanquished him Down Below. Unfortunately this time, his plan is much more sinister than challenging me directly and if Kestro succeeds then I'm afraid all is lost."
"You've discovered his plans? How can we stop him?"
"He will try and kill Earth's strongest Earth, Air, Fire and Water witches and consume their living essence. He has already obtained the Water and Air elements. It is imperative Kestro not be allowed to obtain Fire and Earth elements. As the earth element, you can stop him by living, you must live."
Gaia's hand tightened its grip. The air shimmered with her power and Alec felt little bolts of electricity dancing in his palm where their hands met. Alec met her gaze and vowed, "I will!"
Gaia nodded in satisfaction. "Return to the place where we first met. Trust the warrior I send, with him by your side you cannot lose."
Alec nodded, his trust implicit. "You said he hasn't obtained the Fire element, should I search for them?"
"No. I have dispatched help for him as well. Your job is to remain alive so that all does not perish and we may once again walk among the creatures in the forest." Gaia gave Alec's hand one last squeeze and disappeared in a flash of golden light.
Alec sat in the clearing awaiting the help Gaia promised to send. As he sat, curious minds probed and he allowed his mind to open in invitation. Within moments, squirrels, rabbits, birds and other types of predator and prey came into the clearing to surround and welcome him.
Alec smiled as the feeling of being home settled warmly into his spirit. This was the only time Alec could relax and simply be himself. He didn't have to hide who he was or pretend to be someone else when he was with forest denizens because they didn't care and accepted him as he was. While he couldn't speak in words to the animals, they could exchange mental pictures and broadcast feelings to one another.
Having this ability was both a blessing and a curse. It was a blessing because Alec felt honored to be able to communicate with the earth itself and all of its creatures and on the other hand, he felt extremely isolated and lonely. He'd never met anyone who could do the things he could. He knew there were others like him out there; he'd just never run across anyone who was like him.
It was well known that Alec was the most powerful of the handful of rare earth witches and that he was greatly favored by Gaia. That knowledge alone was enough for Kestro to target him but add in Alec's power and the heady combination was too great to pass up.
For several weeks now Alec had been uneasy, feeling as if he was being watched. Gaia had confirmed his suspicions last night when she had come to him and warned him of impending danger.
Apparently her idea of help came in the guise of a mouth-watering specimen striding determinedly through the legion of animals. Alec's brows rose and reluctant admiration for the heavily muscled stranger rose as he ignored the roar of challenge from a black bear. Not too many people would ignore a fully-grown angry bear.
Desire swept through Alec, making his body hum. Strength was a major turn on for Alec and the stranger exuded plenty. He finally stopped in front of Alec and the instant connection between them was electric. The force of his reaction startled him and Alec took a moment to study the mouth-watering male before him.
He had the body of a warrior, strong thighs and heavily muscled chest and arms shown off to perfection in fitted jeans and t-shirt. Moving his eyes upward, Alec stifled his sigh of appreciation. His facial features were arresting, high cheekbones and full lips that beckoned him closer for a taste.
But that wasn't what held Alec's attention— it was the long blue hair braided to his elbows and the lavender eyes that had a ring of silver around them. His hair was not a blue-black color; it was a deep blue with lighter and darker shades of the same color. Alec hadn't known purple and blue could go so well together, but this man made it perfection and invited Alec to look his fill.
So Alec did. Letting his gaze roam once more over the sinfully sexy body before him. Alec's eyes widened as they alighted on his shoulders. Was that a sword strapped to his back? Alec began to ask who carried a sword in this day and age when the man suddenly plunged his fingers through Alec's hair. He struggled to suppress the instinctive shiver of pleasure and to keep his eyes open when those clever fingers caressed his scalp.
Alec's reaction was noticed and the warm glint in the stranger's eyes blazed hotter, his expression changing from curiosity to predatory. Alec's hackles rose.
"Oh look, it's Snow White," Chrysander murmured in amusement as he watched the scene before him.
A slender redhead sat in the middle of the wooded clearing surrounded by every animal ever created. Chrysander rolled his eyes at the slight exaggeration, but still there were a lot of fucking animals. This was the first human he'd seen who could assemble both predator and prey in one place and not have a free-for-all buffet, so he must be a very powerful Earth Witch to be able to control them all at once.
Shouldering his way through the mass of bodies and ignoring the hisses, growls and every other agitated sounds of protest from the adoring audience, Chrysander stopped directly in front of the little witch. The redhead looked up and Chrysander's breath caught even as his cock hardened painfully. His eyes widened as recognition swept through him.
The witch was magnificent!
His curly hair was a myriad of colors ranging from light brown to blood red and the contrasting colors fascinated Chrysander. His hair looked so silky and soft, clearly an invitation for Chrysander to run his fingers through the mesmerizing curls.
Giving into the overwhelming feeling, Chrysander ran his fingers deeply in the riotous curls, sifting through the silky strands and learning their texture. The witch stilled at the first touch and raised his head to look at Chrysander. His eyes were molten amber and seemed to radiate strength and integrity. Chrysander felt his interest heighten further. As a Royal Warrior, strength and integrity were qualities he admired greatly and were cornerstones in his own life.
Chrysander smiled into those gorgeous eyes and tried not to look predatory but he guessed he failed when amber orbs widened briefly before narrowing in speculation. Had Chrysander known the male a little better he might have been a bit more wary.
Narrowed amber orbs glared into calculating lavender. "Remove your hand," Alec gritted through clenched teeth. Alec might be insanely attracted to the guy but he was not easy prey. He had not given the man permission to touch.
"You don't really want me to do that, do you love? Your body is practically begging for my touch." The sheer arrogance in his tone sent Alec's temper flaring. The forest creatures felt the change in Alec's mood and began moving restlessly, switching into protective mode. Alec broadcast a wave of warm reassurance; soothing ruffled feathers at the same time he knelt on one knee and dropped a hand onto the ground, mental picture already forming.
Chrysander smiled down at the feisty witch, amber eyes shooting sparks of fury and indignation. He ignored the warning signs, certain the young witch wasn't serious and didn't really want him to stop touching. Chrysander stepped closer and inhaled deeply, drawing his woodsy scent deep into his lungs. The witch smelled of earth and something else that was unique only to him. Chrysander felt his body relaxing at the familiar scent. His grandmother, Gaia, had that same earthy scent and the reminder brought back the reason for their meeting.
Removing his fingers from the silky strands, Chrysander held out a hand for introductions when the witch suddenly went to one knee. His grin widened at the suggestive pose. A surprised grunt escaped when he suddenly found himself high in the air with thick tree branches roughly embracing him. He looked down and the little minx was standing there smirking. Chrysander threw back his head and laughed, a big, booming sound of genuine amusement.
"You're a feisty little thing aren't you?" he teased.
Uh-oh, the little guy really didn't like that. From the balled up fists and fury emanating from the slender figure, Chrysander figured he was lucky he was only dangling in the air and not, say... buried beneath the earth. Chrysander shivered at the memory of his grandmother's version of teaching him a lesson by burying him underground because he'd been too lazy to throw his trash away and had left it on the ground.
Sheesh! It seemed as if all earth elements were a bit temperamental.
"What did you just say?" Alec asked in a menacing tone, or it would have been considered menacing if Chrysander didn't find it so damn hot.
"I can't seem to recall," he hedged when the ground began gently rolling and the wild animals below began pacing and vocalizing their displeasure in response to Alec's agitation. The distinct possibility of being buried alive seemed extremely likely and infinitely preferable to being eaten alive by the hostile looking predators below.
"Did you just call me 'little'? Damn it, I'm not little! This is normal height!" Alec yelled, irate, face flushed a rosy pink.
Chrysander looked down at the witch dubiously. He couldn't have been more than five- seven and Chrysander figured he was being generous with that estimate. But as he had no desire to anger the little minx further, Chrysander decided to pacify him for now. "Of course, my mistake," he soothed.
"Don't you dare stand there and try to placate me!" Alec growled.
"I'm not exactly standing," Chrysander mused, "But in any case I wasn't trying to do anything, I'm here to help you. My grandmother sent me." Chrysander sincerely hoped that reminder would help alleviate some of the young witch's anger.
It did. Anger slowly drained from his expression. The tree limbs jerked violently once, threatening to crush his rib cage, before lowering him to the ground. "Sorry, but you shouldn't have made me angry," Alec muttered.
Chrysander's brows rose at that half-baked apology but the glare shot his way made him rethink objecting. Shrugging, he decided to let it go because he rather liked having both feet planted firmly on the ground.
Ignoring the mountain lion nudging his hand with its head, Chrysander extended his right for a firm shake. "Chrysander," he introduced.
The witch shook his hand and looked at him expectantly for a moment. Chrysander looked back and frowned in confusion. What the hell was he waiting for?
"Alec Wyeth," he introduced, shaking his head wryly.
Loud purring drew both Alec's and Chrysander's attention. A large cougar was persistently bumping his hand and he was doing his best to ignore the large cat, which made Alec's smile widen.
"I named him Rikki and it seems as if he's taken a fancy to you. He wants you to pet him," Alec advised.
Chrysander glared down at the persistent nuisance and shook his head in denial. "I hate cats," he muttered, and then louder, "Aren't mountain lions supposed to be solitary creatures and not want to hang around humans?"
"Apparently not as he's taken a shine to you."
"Of course he has," Chrysander grumbled.
Alec tilted his head to the side and turned a quizzical eye on his companion. "You know, with your size and the length of that sword you made me think you were a real bad-ass— but now I see you're just a pussy." Inclining his head toward the adoring cougar emphasized his taunt.
Chrysander's eyes widened, silver sparks shooting through the lavender and cheeks flushed a dull red in anger. "What did you call me?" Alec blinked and backed up a cautious step. Chrysander hadn't exactly shouted, but his voice rumbled and the power behind it intensified the sound. Apparently they hadn't gotten to the place where they could tease each other.