This story is by Cindy Trinh and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Theresia returned from the River Goddess’ abode, her stature upright as she moved with confident steps. In her arm was a crystal jar containing a clear liquid. To say she was pleased was an understatement. After a tense battle of words with the River Goddess, she finally acquired the Rejuvenation Dew that was needed for the Jade Tree.
A completely different sight greeted Theresia as soon as she stepped into her domain. It was a dome-shaped greenhouse. Varieties of flora made this place their home from lilies to bell flowers, palms to stalks. She breathed deeply, the cool air tickling her nose.
Her golden hair fluttered as she strode towards the center of the glasshouse, where the stain-glass ceiling would cast the sun’s golden glow. There laid her proudest achievement. Theresia smiled as she thought about how Jade Tree’s leaves were red.
Red, red, red. Her breath hitched as she questioned herself. Why, why were the leaves red? Theresia’s hastened her pace, pinching her nose as she got closer. A pungent smell emanated from the tree, each leaf coated in a deep, crimson liquid, that was still dripping. She bit her lip as she wondered.
Any more speculation on her part was interrupted by a roguish laugh. Theresia turned around, her olive eyes narrowed into a glare at who she found. A robust man sat on a moss rock, one leg crossed over the other. Theresia blanched, recognizing his silver armor coupled with the trademark black great sword holstered on his side.
“How do you like my masterpiece?”
She grounded her teeth as she spat out his name.
Harailt chuckled, not deterred by the goddess’ anger.
“And here I thought you’d like it… you have no idea how much trouble I went through to get the blood of an Earth Dragon.”
The goddess huffed, wishing to tear his limbs and toss the god’s bones into the ocean. She could forgive the crime of killing a dragon on a whim. But dyeing the Jade Tree with its blood? That was tampering with the flow of nature. The mortal realm wasn’t to be played with. She was about to welcome summer, and this bastard pulled such a prank at a time like this?
Who does he think he is?
Theresia was careful to keep her composure as she neatened her long dress. She hissed softly.
“And splashing it all over my things…”
The man smirked, brushing his wild hair back and leaning his head on his hand.
“I didn’t splash it. Didn’t you see how much care I put into painting every part?”
Theresia gave him a no-nonsense look, the latter resignedly lifted his arms up in surrender.
“Earth Dragons live close to ley lines, so their bodies have plenty of earth’s energy within them.”
Theresia stilled. The natural energy of the earth would indeed help her projects flourish, but did he really think that such a crude method would help them grow?
She let out a breath and closed her eyes. This was the War God they were talking about so of course, he wouldn’t know how to raise a plant.
On the other hand, Earth Dragons were hard to find so if Harailt went out of his way to find one… She reopened her eyes, Theresia’s gaze stuck on him as she asked.
“So… you really got it for me?”
“Anything for the Harvest Goddess.”
The man said with a teasing tone. Theresia thought she saw a sliver of fondness in his grey eyes. It was almost enough to convince her that the god had no ill intentions. Almost. She crossed her arms, her foot repeatedly tapped the floor.
“What do you want?”
“Say it. Clearly, there’s something you desire.”
Killing a dragon was no easy feat, even for the War God. It had to take some effort on his part. Theresia was willing to let his mischief slide, with his intents considered. Her heart softened.
As long as it’s reasonable
The god gaped at her in wonder. Theresia surmised that he didn’t think that she would comply. Harailt opened his mouth.
He paused, quietly contemplating. Theresia raised an eyebrow. Harailt was unafraid of offending others with his blunt words. The War God, infamous for attacking others who irked him the slightest with no hesitation, was wavering. Her lips curled upwards at the scene.
This is new.
The goddess reigned in the giggles threatening to spill out as she prompted him.
Harailt shook his head to collect himself. He fixed his sight on her as he began.
“I wanted to ask…”
The noise of glass shattering rang out.
The two deities halted and peered to the sound’s origin. Many of the Jade Tree’s gem-like leaves were falling like raindrops. They smashed into the ground, the pieces scattering everywhere. Then they sunk into the ground, absorbed by quicksand. Theresia’s face darkened.
Harailt would be dead ten times over if cursing could kill. The Jade Tree was shedding, and that wasn’t good. Not now that is. Theresia scowled, staring daggers at the god.
“Now the mortals will see an early fall!”
Harailt casually shrugged, watching her fuming display.
“I don’t see the problem with that.”
The sudden appearance of autumn would throw the mortal realm into chaos. No plant, animal nor mortal would be prepared for this change. Seeing his carefree demeanor, all of Theresia’s goodwill vanished, a puff of smoke drifted in the wind. She stomped towards him.
“Since you put so much care into your… masterpiece,” she plastered a grim smile, “how about I show you some care myself?”
The world rumbled and swayed. Thick, green vines erupted from the ground, tottering as they awaited orders. Harailt leapt off the rock, backtracking as he said.
“As flattered as I am by your advances, I’m not in the mood.”
The Harvest Goddess’ face reddened.
Theresia let out a shrill scream, the vines shot at him. The god easily deflected her attempts, dancing around the plant ropes. Harailt’s posture was relaxed while sporting a playful grin.
“You’ll have to do better than that.”
He taunted, running out of the vines’ reach and left the scene. No longer with grace, Theresia quickly pursued the man, her howls echoed in the domain.
“I’ll kill you!”
The footsteps and the voices faded away, silence eventually taking its place. The branches of the Jade Tree shivered. Not a minute passed before a soft, willowy voice resounded.
“Sir Harailt’s approach in these matters are… lacking.”
An odd slurping sound came from the Jade Tree. If one were to examine closer, the blood was gradually becoming shades lighter.
“Too much on the leaves.”
The Jade Tree’s limbs shook heavily, flicking off excess amounts of liquid. The amount of earth energy that prospered within the blood was rich, but all life forms have their limits in how much nourishment they can take. Many leaves fell off, splintering into parts as they crashed onto the floor.
More leaves molted and disappeared into the earth. The Jade Tree stilled, its sigh tinged with helplessness.
“Hopefully the mortals can prepare for their harvest.”