For as long as anyone could remember, the river and the sea had been at war. Both would fight and argue over who was greater, mightier, more powerful, and both were far too proud to ever back down. The sea god was Miur, a great grey stag with seaweed in his mane and barnacles on his pelt, eyes wild like stormy waves. He was forever flying into a rage with foam at his mouth, coral antlers lowered as he battered cliffs and coastlines, his hulking form recognisable to all who saw him - the commander of the waves.
The river god Sruth was a more refined creature; rich deep bay with bony scales running along his back, metallic green and gold that matched his eyes. He was lither, swifter, with a single gold-touched horn upon his head. It was said that Sruth was cunning, while Miur was the brawn of the two. In combat they were equally matched; Sruth’s mind combatting Miur’s might so that none might best the other. Their clashes were frequent and violent, leaving the two gods exhausted and bloody at the end of them. When the conflicts occurred the lands flooded and there were great storms from the sea, and the mortal fawns were afraid. Many children perished in the floods and storms, and they prayed to Adhar to save them from the water gods’ wrath.
Adhar mourned for his people, welcoming each of the dead into his kingdom with much sadness. The earth was not his domain, the sky was, and he could not fight the warring gods nor make them see reason. And so he was forced to watch on in pain as the two gods beat each other senselessly, and the land suffered.
The fawnlings of the southern coast fled north to the hills, where they found small bands of other fawnlings who knew the forests, and how to survive the predators within. It was here that lived the sun goddess Grian’s children, fiery and golden of pelt as she was. Adhar’s blessing flowed through their veins, as did their mother’s vital life force, and when the water gods strayed too close to the mountains in one of their battles, these descendants of Grian stood heads raised at the edge of the fray, defiant.
The two gods stopped their fighting and looked in astonishment at the small band of mortals that stood in their way. And then the two gods laughed. Who were these fawns, thinking they could stand up to not one god, but two? Sruth and Miur walked towards them, intending to rain their wrath upon them, however these gods were on land, and there was no water here. It was Miur who charged first, intending to knock them down but he instead found he could not harm them, and there was a hiss in the air as they collided. It was the sea god who fell back, astonished as steam billowed about from their contact. Grian’s children were born of fire, though none of the gold coats could wield it. Together, they forced the gods back to the coast, and sent Miur back to the waves and Sruth to his rivers.
This defeat at the hands of mortals - empowered mortals but mortals no less - made the gods angry, angrier than they were even at each other. They set out to seek their revenge on Grian’s children, however they found once more that they could not harm them. They sought the help of a witch, an ancient old fawn with cobwebs for hair, to punish these mortals who might defy them. The witch broke off the two gods’ horns as payment for her services, before informing them she could not kill them. Before Miur or Sruth could fly into another rage at her trickery, she informed the pair that these were the children of the Sun, and carried the blessings of the sky, and no manner of dark magic could harm them, nor could their powers. However she produced a deep burgundy flower from the wisps of her mane and told the two gods, “This is a bloodflower, and a drop of its nectar will send each of the fire-children into a deep slumber, from which they will not wake.”
One by one, Grian’s children fell victim to the witch’s sorcery, never waking from their sleep, nor slipping away to the sky-kingdom, suspended in a half life. The gods were satisfied their might could not be defied, and that the sun’s children would be example for any who thought to doubt their powers. They continued to ravage the land without hindrance, and once more the fawnlings were afraid.
The herds retreated further and further into their mountain haunts, cowering in the foothills above the great lake which fed the great plain. Their territories by the sea lay in ruin, with the plain the last great refuge. Seeing the tell tale signs of the two warring gods approaching, the herds wondered whether they should risk tooth, wind and starvation in crossing the mighty mountain ranges, however all knew it was a suicide mission in winter. The lowlands by the coast got very little of the winter weather, however it was evident that a storm was brewing, a storm to end all storms.
The dark clouds boiled on the horizon, and the water gods continued their approach, battering and ramming and charging each other, the earth turning to mud beneath their hooves. As the mortal fawns gazed out from the treeline above the lake at their encroaching doom, it was a doe stepped out from their midst to look out upon the lake from an outcrop. She was as black as the night is dark, with the rising wind tearing at her mane and tail. Her single horn was touched with glowing embers and smoke wafted from delicate nostrils. The doe was small, the forgotten last-born daughter of Grian, and while her brothers and sisters displayed their fire in their coats, her fire was within. She was Aeveen, the dark flame.
The black doe with the flame licked horn stepped out onto the battlefield as the two gods clashed and the storm began to yield cutting blades of ice and snow from the south. The sun was obscured, and the and thrown into darkness as the clouds loomed overhead, and the fawns huddled closer to the trees, unable to tear their eyes away from the impending disaster. Grian’s daughter continued on as the ice cut at her hide and the wind howled and the gods roared. As she approached, unlike her siblings, she did not stand defiant, did not challenge the two fighting stags, but rather cried a keening lament for her sleeping brothers and sisters, for the loss of her mother dear, and the lives wasted by the gods’ selfishness and pride. Her voice was carried on the wind, a song of blood and pain and loss. And fire.
Her song was so haunting, so beautiful that even the gods ceased their battering and ramming to listen as the wind added its own harmony. Grian’s daughter cried again, and her voice sang of summer and heat and sunlight. At once, her ebony horn erupted in a burst of flame and light, blazing like a beacon of hope in the darkness that enveloped the landscape. Her eyes blazed like the sun as she reared, legs flailing and head held high before the gods. And then she returned to earth, and she ran. Dipping her horn to the golden grass that brushed against her knees, she danced a circle around the two stags, leaving a trail of gleaming stalks in her wake. The grass caught fire at the slightest touch and soon the stags were trapped within a wall of flame.
It was Sruth who recognised the danger first, golden-green eyes rolling as the light of the fire reflected his fear. Still the storm came, a rumbling, angry beast promising to devour all in its path. More snow, and wind-driven ice cut through the air, and on ran the daughter of the sun, horn still ablaze. Miur snorted and roared, trying to intimidate the hungry flames, only to flinch at their heat and kick out as an ember landed on his rump.
The black doe called to her brethren, fiery horn still alight as the flames continued to spread across the pale grasslands. Flee, she cried, to the sea! The inferno was quickly gathering momentum, and was advancing on the panicking gods. Charging through the flames, seemingly untouched by their burning embrace, she ran back to the treeline, calling desperately to lead the herds away to safety before the flames reached them, for while she could give birth to fire, she could not extinguish it. Half in a trance, half in blind panic, the mortal herds charged towards the coast, the black doe lighting the way as they galloped into the frigid winds.
Onward the herds raced, legs pounding and breath sobbing as the fire licked at their heels. Those who fell, perished, and none could look back lest they too be consumed. They ran and ran and ran for what felt like hours, as the elements tore at their resolve, and adrenaline willed them forward. Aeveen paused, untouched by the flames as she looked back upon the burning plain where she saw steam rising to meet the storm and the enraged screams of the gods. Then she joined her kind and dove over the shaly cliffs.
Even on the rocky sea shore, they were not safe from danger as the fire crackled angrily above them and the waves lashed the shore full of violence and the wind continued to batter them. Aeveen once more turned her gaze skyward, lament filled with frustration. “What is it you want of us, Sky Father?” she demanded of Adhar. “Will you not save your people?”
It was then the heavens opened, and a great torrent of rain hissed against the surface of the violent sea and hammered against their backs. The black doe’s horn returned to its smouldering state, hissing as water fell against it, her coat steaming. The herds took shelter against the cliffs, grateful for the freezing water to be falling against their hides and not flames. By dawn, the storm had broken, leaving behind a sky of brilliant blue. The waves were calm once more, and it was almost as if the previous day had been nothing more than a bad dream. However, when the herds ventured back up the cliffs, they were met with utter destruction. What had once been waves of soft grass was now charred and blackened, still smoking in places. The warring gods were nowhere to be seen, banished to their kingdoms by the flames.
The landscape had been reduced to ash and ember, the golden sea was no more. But from amidst this came golden shapes, glinting and shimmering in the morning light. Grian’s children, awakened by the flames, their curse lifted. Their return brought hope for life and rebirth.
The herds travelled for weeks, hungry, thirsty, and everywhere they went the fire had touched. They lived off seaweed on the coast, as more rain fell from the heavens, until spring dawned bright and clear. The earth had been cleansed, balance was restored and the land as it once was. Lush grasslands and woodlands returned as did the herds, ever thankful for the gift that Adhar and fire had bestowed upon their land. A kingdom reborn from ash and ember, the sea and river gods vanquished. Peace.