Chapter Two, part one The Grandeur of Zeah
His impatience growing, the spear-man peered around the glen, then took the archer’s arm. “Let her go to the elders, then. I have a family to feed, and a hunt to get on with.”
The archer got to his feet and gave Theron a hopeless look.
“Go ahead,” Jenh told them, much to their surprise, and without an ounce of malice in her tone. She held one hand out towards the eastern side of the glen, and it glowed faintly. “I keep my promise to you; feast well.”
Before the hunters could utter even one disparaging word, something rustled in the bushes. They looked at one another, wide-eyed and hardly able to remain silent, and then disappeared into the foliage. Shiir and his brother watched as the spears and arrows faded into the east, until they were out of sight, and then looked to the goddess.
“You… you can control animals, can you not?” Theron asked, uncertainty lining his voice as he considered the implications of such an ability.
“That would be a mis-use of my power,” Jenh replied as she floated back down onto the stag’s back. “I reserve my influence for those willing to give of themselves.”
“You mean an animal that is willing to die?”
“I understand that is sounds strange to you, Theron, but the animals of Lorata understand the cycles of life. Even though they cannot speak, they have thoughts, and I have taught them what is means to live and die.” She gestured towards where the hunters had gone and said, “That creature will give them chase, I assure you, but it knows that its death is serving a noble purpose.”
“What troubles you, dear boy?”
Theron sighed and looked up at the goddess. “We are grateful to have a meal, milady, but… is filling the belly of a village of elves really so noble a purpose?”
“You are my most beloved creatures, and you carry within you the destiny of Lorata. Caring for you is indeed a noble purpose. There is more to it, of course,” Jenh told them. “The creature will pass through your bodies, and once it leaves you, the cycle begins anew. You have learned to fertilize your land; I am sure you understand.”
“Of course we do,” Shiir replied. “Besides that. We use every part of the animal that we are able to for something.”
Jenh gave him a warm smile. “And for that you have my gratitude. I have always trusted your kind to do the right thing, Shiir, and you have never let me down. It is time that I give you a new blessing.”
“You have given us so much already…”
Holding out her palm, Jenh summoned to it a golden-green light. It flickered and coalesced into a circle of metallic green, the image of a white creature crouched in the middle of it. Shiir and his brother peered at the medallion, wondering at what kind of animal it represented. It looked something like a mouse, yet it had a broader head, larger hind legs that it sat up on, and a thicker tail.
“It is a very ancient life-form,” Jenh explained when she saw the expression on their faces. “One of the first that I tried to inspire to greatness, the jzyk’hé. There are not many still living on Lorata, and they are in a very distant land.”
“It reminds me of a small k’het,” Shiir noted, thinking of one of the large domestic animals that was harnessed to help plow the farms.
“More like a k’hiv,” his brother told him. “Look at the way it uses its back legs.”
“It is related to both,” Jenh agreed with a smile. “A ancient ancestor, so to speak. More importantly, all the animals of Lorata have a guardian elemental.”
She spoke a dozen ancient words, and moved her hand as though to drop the medallion. Before it had a chance to fall, a body formed around it, feminine and vaguely elf-like. She was taller that the goddess, and far leaner, with legs like that of the fastest animal, and skin covered in a soft sandy fur that broke into a pattern of darker spots that run down her shoulders and thighs. She hand a long tail with the same spots, which flared out at the end in thick fluff, and her cheeks were similarly patterned. The hair that flowed down her head was a dark color, a sort of brownish-green that reminded the elves of the forest where many animals hid. She had round doe-like eyes of sheer black and wide ears that stuck of from her head, edged in thick fur to keep them warm.
“This is Fah’Iira, guardian of animals,” Jenh explained as the elves stared in awe at the elemental who grasped the medallion in her paw-like hands. “I have chosen to share her gift with you first.”
“Gift?” Shiir finished for his brother.
Jenh nodded. “The magic that I possess is to be called Zeah. I will teach you want I can in good time, and you might one day be able to use each of the twelve elements. For now, I will grant you the ability to commune with the animals.”
Theron shook him head. “No, Shiir. Do not let her give you anything.”
Looking to his brother, Shiir raised a brow. “We have no reason to distrust her, Theron. She could have harmed us already if she wanted to.”
“Even so– she was supposed so visit our elders first. Is it right that you accept her gifts before any of them?”
Shiir glanced between him, the animal-like elemental, and the goddess. “She is offering this to us even without us asking for it. Would it not be unkind to refuse this power?”