"The Trouble with Magical Beings" (A Fantasy) Chapter 11
What do you think that snake meant about watch where you step?” Shale asked, his yellow eyes blinking rapidly with worry.
“I’m not sure,” Naia shook her head, “but I don’t see any difference in the ground ahead of us.
“Let’s get going then, whatever is out there we’ll find out soon enough,” Boots said stepping lightly forward and finding no problem with those first steps he began walking further ahead.
“Maybe just to be safe, we should fly above this ground?” Daniel said and the Stallion wholeheartedly agreed with him.
“Yes, great idea!” The Stallion said leaping into the air but, although his size had been restored by the kind trees earlier, his flying ability was still stunted. He could only fly a few inches off the ground, but at least he wasn’t stepping on it.
The ponies too found they were only able to fly just above the ground but they were happy just to be flying, it was, after all, their natural way to move.
Boots thought they were being too cautious but his opinion changed when the ground beneath his paws began to fall away.
“Boots, look out!” Daniel yelled.
Luckily for Boots and Jenny, the mist of magic that Naia had created kept the lion and the child above the ground and Boots was able to fly upwards, as upwards as he could fly, which, like the others, was only a few inches above the rapidly sinking ground.
Jenny didn’t scream because, from the second Boots had stepped a paw into this new jungle, her eyes had been tightly shut.
“What’s going on?’ she asked fearfully, her eyes still closed.
“It’s okay, we’re just going to fly instead of walk through this land,” Boots told Jenny.
“Tell me when we get somewhere nice,” Jenny, with her eyes still closed, smiled a five year old trusting smile and laid her head against her lion’s thick fur. She began to hum a song her mother sometimes sang to her to help her go to sleep. It comforted her and she felt calm, but then she didn’t know that the whole landscape beneath them had become rock slides and raging waterfalls.
“Where do you think we are now?” Daniel whispered to Naia.
“I’ve never been in the lost jungle so I really can’t say,” Naia admitted as her eyes took in the changing world they hovered over.
The ground had completely fallen away to reveal tall cascading waterfalls below them, and those waterfalls went down hundreds of feet crashing angrily into rock strewn valley beds below. Beyond the waterfalls was rugged terrain, unfit for anything to walk upon and thick with trees in a vertical landscape.
Naia stared at those mountains and noticed something small and colorful flying within the trees.
“Look, over there, I think there are birds flying up and down the sides of those mountains.” Naia pointed out to Daniel.
Sure enough Daniel too could see a beautiful red color moving over the mountains landscape.
“Let’s fly over and see if there’s somewhere we can land safely.” Daniel said.
“Follow me,” Boots said, still in the lead.
“Do we have to?” Shale said pitifully his little metal body shaking with fear.
"Stay close," Daniel told Shale as they flew across the top of the massive waterfall.
No one looked down until they were safely across it and now they could see those colorful dots really were tiny birds. They were colorful native birds fluttering through the trees, happily drinking from exotic plants that grew along the mountainside.
Daniel stared at the red birds with black wing tips and knew he'd seen them before.
“Wait, I know these birds,” Daniel said as he thought and thought about where he'd seen them until he remembered, and then he smiled. “They’re called I’iwi or Hawaiian Honeycreeper. My Dad and Mom went to Hawaii and they have and album with pictures of birds like that one,” he said pointing to one of the birds closest to them with its curved beak drinking the nectar from one of the large blooming flowers growing there.
Jenny peeked open her eyes, curious to see the bird her brother was describing and when she did see it, she exclaimed, “Oh they’re beautiful can we take one home?”
Suddenly the mountain began to split apart and the birds flew away to safety.
Daniel feared the large robots had decided to come into the jungle to find them or maybe to find Shale, and he braced for a fight but to his surprise and fear, it was not a robot that appeared from the mountain, it was much worse.
“Oh what have you done,” Naia said to Jenny knowing exactly who was before them and knowing the words that had provoked this goddess’s anger.
“What?” Jenny asked truly afraid of whatever it was coming out of that mountain.
“You’ve woken Pele,” Naia told her.
Now all of their eyes were lit with fear.
Pele goddess of fire, wind, lightning and volcanoes rose from the depths of the mountain. Her dress a roaring fire that licked the air around her and in her hand she held a large magic stick that she pointed at them as she looked at the little human who had spoken of capturing one of her mountain’s creatures.
Pele knew the littlest human was protected by another god’s magic and if not for that protection all of these unwelcome travelers would be at the bottom of her favorite volcano right now. The small mist of half magic hovering over them was not a concern to her at all.
Pele addressed Jenny directly, her voice a strong wind ruffling over them and making the animals skittish.
“Little one you must know you can never put a bird in a cage, birds have been given the gift to fly, how sad to put them in a cage where they cannot.”
Jenny’s eyes widened in fear but she nodded and quickly apologized, “I’m sorry, I didn’t think about that, but I will never do that, ever,” Jenny promised with her lower lip trembling, she was ready to cry.
“Good, then your lesson has been learned but as to the rest of you,” Pele’s eyes burned into each of them, “Tell me why you are here?”
Daniel tried to fly to the front but the Stallion wasn’t having it, he wasn’t going any closer to that fire goddess so Daniel had to answer from where he was.
“It’s my fault oh great goddess,” Daniel said, not sure how to address a volcano god but since Pele didn’t correct him he continued, “I asked for a wish from a sea god named Kale and this is his daughter Naia,” Daniel pointed to Naia, “Kale turned her into a human and sent her with us on this challenge. We have to complete it so I can be granted my one wish.”
“Why would a god turn his daughter into such an awful thing as a human?” Pele pondered looking at Naia.
“To teach me a lesson,” Naia said bowing her head to the fire goddess.
“That is a lesson I would not want,” Pele admitted with a blast of gale force winds that pushed back the animals and riders several feet.
The Horses and Lion had to fight to keep upright.
When the wind died down again Daniel spoke up.
“What’s so terrible about being human?” Daniel really wanted to understand why all the creatures and gods he’d met so far did not like humans.
Pele strode closer to him and he felt a blast of heat, but he braced himself and did not flinch.
Pele moved around him and said, “You are young so maybe you can learn from your elder’s mistakes so I will ask you this, look around my world and tell me what you see.”
Daniel did as she asked, and he saw vibrant green grasses and trees of tall nobility, like the ones in the start of the jungle, he looked down and saw fresh water cascading from the tallest waterfalls, and he saw colorful flowering plants growing along the mountainside and all those amazing birds twittering within them.
Daniel smiled and told the goddess Pele, “It’s beautiful here; I’d like to live here.”
“You would, why?” Pele asked him slyly.
Daniel imagined all sorts of adventures could be had in this place so he told the goddess honestly, “It’d be fun to swim in that stream and to camp out at night under the stars and I bet there’s some real neat mountain trails too.”
“Ha! Well for your information, humans once had such a place as this to live in. We gave them a paradise but they did not appreciate the gift that was given to them. Instead of gratitude for the intricate workings of life in this paradise, they tore it down piece by piece and intruded on the balance of life there. All the creatures that had a right to live within their paradise were given no thought at all. They even tore down my thousand year old trees to make their own toys with. They did not protect their paradise and I will not let them in to destroy mine.”
Daniel would never destroy a paradise but he didn’t completely understand why anyone would and he'd be upset too if anyone tore down these trees. He’d made a promise to the ancient ones in the beginning of the jungle, and he meant to keep that promise.
“I will protect any tree I can,” he said with true nine year old conviction but he meant to keep it his whole life.
Pele’s fiery eyes narrowed on him, “Perhaps you will, so what do you want, safe passage from my world for your promise?”
“That would be nice,” Daniel said hopefully.
“I do not give safe passage but I will protect you from destructive lands as you travel through but, the protected occupants of my land, those you will have to navigate on your own.” Pele said as she raised her staff and calmed the violent winds and the raging waterfalls into soft breezes and rippling brooks.
“You are all free to go forward,” she said turning away and again becoming part of the mountain as it closed around her.
The mountain returned to just a mountain but the group of riders didn’t move forward right away, each one was wondering just what they’d have to navigate through? And what could be worse than a fiery, mythical goddess?
Mythical should have alerted them to what lie ahead but it did not as they flew closer to the friendlier landscape and unknown challenges, awaiting them below.