Call to Greatness
Sotea felt like her world had come to an end.
It was often this feeling that loomed over the children of her tribe on their Passing Celebration. Every year, the tribe would choose one child among those who were on their last year as a child and would take him or her away from the tribe, and into the Jade Forest.
Legends said that the Guardians of the tribe fought their last battle in this forest, and that their willpower was so strong that, rather than pass on into the afterlife, they stayed behind, becoming part of the Forest's spirit. However, as the battle took place hundreds of years ago, no one remembered who or what the Guardians were.
It was said that the spirit of a child could sense the true essence of the Guardians, but only an adult's body could accept them. No one was sure what this truly meant, but the ritual became the Passing Celebration the day where the last Guardian became part of the Forest's spirit.
However, it had been years since the Passing Celebration's final ritual was complete. This specific ritual was said to prove to the tribe that the Guardians were still looking onto them. It was believed that the Guardians brought peace, protection and prosperity to the tribe.
Yet, ever since the last successful Passing, the tribe had lost one of its greatest conjurers, and the crop production had started to decrease. Even as the ritual had been completed, the chosen child had not come back.
Sotea (pronounced 'Sophia') had always been a bright child. Her father had been one of the few tale-spinners remaining of the tribe, while her mother was born in a warrior's family. It was probably due to an ill wind that Sotea was born without her mother's power, which was matched by her beauty. The poor girl was now of age to be chosen for the Passing Celebration, yet nature had only been kind to her in mind, rather than in body. She had sad grey eyes that lacked the power of her mother's powerful, sky blue eyes, and muddy blonde hair, which seemed to shame her. She was born small, and was still so, even after sixteen years of growth: small in every way, as she was almost a head shorter than her father, who was said to be an average man, and was almost too thin to show any of a woman's gifts.
As the last child of a proud family, Sotea was to honour her own kin. Although she was not physically strong, she showed incredible wisdom for a young age. She was taken by her father's tales, and so spun her own legends, even though she had never left her tribe lands. Tales of far-away lands and people, stories of monsters and magic... everyone who listened to her tales were in awe.
It all changed seven nights ago.
Sotea was washing her muddied skirt at the river, making sure that no one was there to see her. For women, it was custom to be seen washing clothes near the riverbank, and some even washed themselves in the crystal-clear waters. However, Sotea had often been mocked by her childish frame, even when doing minute tasks. At first, it made her cry, which increased the mockeries. Now, it infuriated her to no end.
The ill-fortuned girl took time to rest on the river bed as her clothes dried in the warm night air, when she noticed someone walking towards her. The man was dressed in a wool robe and wore a plumed hat. The man limped forward, holding onto his staff on which hung two talismans, representing the sun and the moon.
" Sotea said, covering the meager garments with a poncho while she still waited for the rest of her clothes to dry.
The oracle walked over to her and sat down, laying his staff on his legs, the two talismans almost touching the girl. "Sotea, I was wondering where you were. I was so looking forward to one of your tales." he said, showing a worn smile on his tanned face, his long, graying hair held aside by his hat and a leather strap that tied it back.
Sotea let out a sigh. "I do not have any tales to spin tonight, Oracle."
The old man placed a weathered hand on her shoulder. "Nonsense." he said. "Your mind seems to be linked to Mother Earth herself. I may not know if some of your stories are true, but you spin tales with so much heart that it makes younglings long for more."
Sotea understood that the old man was trying to comfort her, but she didn't feel any better. "You aren't here just for a story, are you?"
It was the Oracle's turn to sigh. "I'm afraid that you are right
" he said, taking a silver feather from his hat and place it in her hands. "I have consulted with the spirits. I believe it is time for you to undertake the Passing."
Sotea's heart sank. "So
so, I'm the next one to disappear, is it?" she said, struggling to keep her eyes from welling up, her hands gripping the feather tightly, as if a twig.
The Oracle grabbed his staff and got up. "Still, it was quite strange. Most spirits were silent to my questions but one, and she spoke your name."
Sotea let the words sink in before she felt the meaning of the words. How was it possible that the world of the spirits knew her name? Before she could get up and ask the Oracle what he meant, the elderly man was already gone.
"I can't believe this is happening to me
" she said, pacing near her tent. "Why me? Tens of children became of age each this season
It was three days before the Ceremony, and ever since the Oracle told her that it was her fate to pass the ritual, she had been inconsolable. Although her parents knew, there was little they could do to help her.
Throughout the days, Sotea ate less and less, became less involved in her tribe's activities and could not find the inspiration to spin any more stories. Even the children of the tribe were becoming worried, as she was wavering between anger and despair.
The Oracle's news hissed in her ears like a rattlesnake. It was becoming more and more difficult for her to accept it. She knew that she was unable to fight the spirits, as their judgment was adamant, but she wanted nothing of this.
"Maybe if I plead to the spirits, they will choose someone else
" Sotea thought, chewing on a piece of corn bread. "
but what about the rest of the tribe? Would that just make like the last ritual? It was already hard enough these past few moons
Sotea looked up as the shriek of an eagle echoed in the clearing. "What's it doing here? We haven't seen one of these in at least ten seasons
The eagle traced a circle around the tribe's camp before swooping down. Sotea didn't know what to do when it glided down
and landed on top of her tent.
Sotea examined the bird, but found it strange in many ways. It looked smaller than an adult eagle, but was nowhere near an eaglet. It had silvery white feathers, but lacked the black feathers of the last bird she saw.
" she tried to say before the eagle let out a quiet chirp.
Sotea looked at her piece of bread. "I don't know if you like it, but that's all I have for now." she told the bird before opening her hand, outreaching her arm.
The bird flapped its wings then swooped in low, scaring Sotea for a moment as it swiped the bread out of her hand. She was about to protest when she saw the eagle picking up pieces of the bread with its beak and eating them.
"I guess you were hungry." the young woman said. "I just hope you don't end up hunted like your kin. You really have amazingly white feathers
Sotea looked at the feather she received from the Oracle. She had kept it as a memento, attached by a leather strap with a tiny pouch of flower petals.
"Maybe you could give this to the spirits." She said, a bit less worried, as she detached the talisman from around her neck. "They want me to be the one to undertake the Passing
and they even asked me for me
by my name!"
Sotea couldn't continue her plea as the bird took flight, swiping the talisman from her hand. It let out a single shriek and took off
only to be shot down by an arrow coming from behind her. The arrow struck the bird's flank and fell from the skies.
The girl felt like her hopes were being torn apart. She didn't dare look behind to see who shot the projectile; instead, she ran towards the falling bird, her eyes full of tears.
As she reached the place where the bird fell, her tears poured. The eagle was still clutching onto her talisman, and the arrowhead had wedged itself under its right wing.
The Oracle walked over to the still-crying girl. "Goodness, child
what happened?" he asked with trembling throat.
"I just wanted
" she couldn't bring herself to speak one more word, before clutching the bleeding bird tightly against her chest. "I can't let it die!"
The Oracle was surprised by Sotea's outburst as she ran past tents and people, crying all the tears that welled up. He let out a sigh and looked around.
"May the Spirits protect her
" he spoke as she rushed out of his sight, into the Jade Forest. "
for she may be the next Great Guardian
As Sotea raced on through the foliage of the forest, questions raced through her mind while guilt clouded her heart. She was holding onto the injured bird like a fleeing mother holding a crying baby, racing away from a pack of wolves.
"I'm so sorry
" she kept speaking out, her tears still dripping away, trickling onto the bird's wound. She knew that removing the arrow would only kill it, which added to her sense of urgency.
Running out of breath and disoriented, the girl didn't notice a root sticking out like a rabbit trap and her foot snagged against it, which made her trip. She extended her arms, not to stop the fall, but to keep the injured eagle from being wounded even further. She crashed onto the root-covered ground and let out a cry of pain.
As she looked at the bird, she was glad that it wasn't hurt more than needed, but now, she was hurting. She could feel the strain on her arms, and a throbbing heat from her snagged foot. Crawling out of her trap, dread struck her as she couldn't feel her foot.
Sotea gasped in pain, and then looked at the eagle. "Just my luck
I must've twisted my foot
" she said before trying her best to sit down on the hard ground. "I can't believe this. How could I be such an idiot?"
Sotea pulled out a small knife she kept in her boot the same one where her foot was hurt and took the bird close to her. It struggled weakly. "Easy
I think I can take the arrow out without hurting you
Taking the obsidian cutter, she gently grasped the arrow after freeing the bird and started working quickly to remove the leather strap. It took an exhausting moment for her to snap the hardened leather, which freed the arrow's body from its tip. The bird was almost immobile, but looked at Sotea without turning away. The tip, made of a shaped flint, was wedged loosely in the bird's flank.
"This might hurt, but if you stay still, it won't bleed too badly." she told the eagle before taking off the leather band on her forehead. Pressing around the arrowhead, she wrapped the band tightly around the bird to stop the bleeding before pulling the tip out.
Both the girl and the eagle let out a yelp of pain, which was soon followed by a sigh of relief. Sotea was holding on her left arm, which was throbbing as badly as her foot.
" Sotea said, looking at her arm. "I must have broken something
As she looked at her injuries, the eagle awkwardly waddled towards her, and then rested on her lap. She looked down and let out a sigh. "I guess I deserve all this for being so selfish, huh?"
She stroked the bird's back as if it was her pet. "I don't know what will become of me
but I'm glad I met you. If I meet the spirits today, I guess I'll have a fool's tale for them."
Lying down, she closed her eyes, trying to take her mind off the pain she was experiencing.
- Is she the one you summoned?
- Yes. She is the young tale-spinner of the tribe that lives on our border.
- She doesn't look like much. She's too skinny, and obviously, she doesn't seem to be sturdy enough.
- Yet her mind is as flourishing as her imagination, and her heart is clearing itself of doubt.
- She thinks she will die.
- It's true that she is injured, but I believe that she's the one.
- Mend her wounds. When she wakes up
I will lead her to the ritual site.
Sotea's dreams were filled with voices that she could not understand, and felt like her body was floating down a stream. As the sensation trickled over her, she felt the water's coolness flow into her. Burning pain soon dissipated as scars, broken bones and torn ligaments reshaped and rejuvenated. The sensation was soothing that she felt that waking up would tear her away from it.
A familiar shriek, followed by the flapping of wings, woke her. She looked towards the canopy and noticed the white eagle swooping above her, still holding the makeshift talisman.
and all better." she meekly said, then motioned her hand to cover her eyes. Surprise struck her when it was her injured hand that clouded the sun rays. "Am I
It can't be
She straightened up into sitting position and looked over her hands and arms. Somehow, during her dream, someone had come, placed cloth wrappings around her left arm and leg, and used some kind of magic to heal her. Not even the tribe's healer could do something this quickly without her feeling it.
She got up and tapped her foot on the root-covered ground. No pain came from her leg. Looking up, she noticed that the bird had stopped making circles over her and, after one last swoop, shrieked and flapped away.
"Wait!" Sotea shouted. "You shouldn't fly like that!" The eagle continued its flight deeper into the woods.
" she thought, then took a long breath and ran after the bird as best she could.
Even as the path twisted and turned, Sotea felt her energy and resolve grow, rather than wane. Wherever she was led to, something in the back of her mind told her that her wounded friend was egging her to follow.
After an hour of running, Sotea stopped as the eagle swooped down and landed on a stump in the middle of a small clearing. Surprisingly, the clearing was surrounded by small stones and the grass was short. The very wind seemed to be silent as a whispering breeze enveloped the area.
?" Sotea hesitantly spoke while catching her breath. It was strange that her breath had not become shallow during her race. She brushed the branches of a weeping willow that blocked her way, and was stunned to find that, in the middle of the clearing, there were seven statues. All seven statues were covered in bramble, moss and dirt, but they were displayed in a circle, with one as a centerpiece in the middle.
She looked towards the eagle. "This is the Ritual site, isn't it
" she asked the bird who responded with a short shriek and flapped in the air before landing on top of the centerpiece statue.
Sotea walked towards it and brushed a stray branch in her way. "So, what am I supposed to do now?" she wondered. "The Oracle didn't tell me what to do."
She looked at the statue for a moment before feeling something fall on her head. Pulling the object out of her hair, Sotea noticed that it was the talisman she made.
"I guess I won't need this anymore." she said, removing one of the cloths around her legs after she placed the object on the ground. Making crude cuts in the cloth with her obsidian blade, Sotea braided three lengths of cloth into a makeshift robe and attached it to the talisman, making a pendant of it.
She placed the pendant over the moss-covered statue and said, in a ceremonial tone, which seemed to be tainted with irony: "I, Sotea, make tribute of this offering to the Spirits, so that they may answer me."
The talisman landed against the statue's 'neck'. It was hard to make sense of what was what on it, as nature had reclaimed a large part of it.
As Sotea stepped back, a voice came from behind her. "Ask your question, child." She quickly turned around, but found no one else in the vicinity, except for the eagle.
Sotea looked at the bird. "Did you just
?" she hesitantly said.
The eagle looked at her without blinking, and fluttered its wings. "You stand present before the Spirits, child." the same voice spoke. "Speak your request."
Sotea gasped in surprise. The voice seemed to emanate from the eagle, like an echo in her mind. It spoke in a voice similar to hers, yet in a more mature and confident tone.
I just want to know
why me?" she nervously spoke.
The eagle let out a shriek, then fluttered around, soaring in circles above the statues.
"Your tales do not speak merely of places beyond your tribe lands, child." the voice said. "Your stories echo to and from the Spirits' world. You speak of worlds beyond sight, and of legends beyond life. Such knowledge is the Spirits' gift to you."
Sotea shook her head. "I still don't understand. Why was I chosen for this?"
"You have proven your greatness to us." the voice replied. "A true Guardian must know that to fight does not always end in victory
that courage and self-sacrifice are more important than one's needs
and that through obstacle, one can reach enlightenment. By saving this one being and protecting it rather than leaving it and tending to yourself, you have proven that within your heart lies a kind, generous and pure heart."
Sotea stood confusedly. "So, that means I passed, right? So
"Rest before the Spirits." the voice spoke softly. "When you awake, what was once your burden will become the path that will guide your tribe to a new era."
Sotea, still unsure of what to do, gazed towards the horizon on at the last glimmer of light before night awakes. Her body felt heavy and tired and her eyes felt sleepy. There was no place to sleep around the ritual site, so she sat down against the centerpiece's stele. Just after she had let out a sleep-filled yawn, she noticed the eagle swoop down and land next to her.
"You tricked me here
but I guess it was for the best." she said, wrapping her arms around the eagle. "At least, the Passing will take place..."
She drifted off to sleep before she could finish her sentence.
As Sotea slept, the Spirits began chanting. Carried in the wind, the words of the forest whisked the talisman aloft, before making it land on the eagle's sleeping form.
As if new life had been given, the roots, branches and moss crept off the seven statues like muddied water and trickled down onto the sleeping pair. Nature itself gently graced the sleeping girl as the green, ink-like flow washed over both eagle and woman.
As Sotea's sleeping form sank into the puddle of nature's essence, the eagle itself slowly disappeared, as if but a wisp of dust in the blowing wind.
The cascading Mana of nature wrapped Sotea like a jade cocoon, which was soon wisped aloft, riding the night like a cloud in the sky.
Inside, Sotea's mind was seeing everything her tales once spun; worlds beyond worlds, heroes greater than the next, creatures as beautiful and dangerous as the morning sun and the darkness of night, legends weaving legends
her mind was ablaze with this new knowledge, and soon the blaze spread to her body.
Coursing through her veins like wildfire, every world's magic pulsed around her, shaping her. Twig-like legs toned and lengthened, gaining strength and grace, while the blaze spread through her skin, searing away every blemish and impurity, leaving behind skin as smooth as a pearl and as radiant as the dawn. Her legs crept and bulged under her skirt, which now seemed to inch close to her knees. Her boots reshaped themselves, lengthening to protect what new changes were made.
As grace befell onto her, her hips and buttocks flared, granting elegant grace and graceful elegance to her steps as she felt her body walking among the stars. Her waist toned and lifted her torso as she took a long breath. In her dream's eye, she felt the very wind brush against her arms, toning them and lengthening them ever slightly, making her hands so delicate to the touch, yet strong enough to wield the power needed to protect her tribe.
As the blaze flared through her torso, she felt her small chest tremble, as she felt the motherly needs and desires of the Earth course through her. Her breasts soon began burgeoning, growing full and plentiful like the fruit of nature.
The blade coursed upwards, lengthening her neck slightly and rushing over her face like a wave. Her plain features soon burned away like a leaf in a bonfire, revealing immeasurable beauty on her rejuvenated visage. Her lips rippled slightly as maturity and charm created a new portrait one befitting her mother's kind smile and her new eyes, which had changed from the taint of fresh soil to the green of a sapling's leaves.
The blaze faded into her hair, which burned away the muddy blonde color and cascaded down her back into a golden mane that would make the sun's aurora pale.
As her dreams continued, she saw her white friend fly in the clear sky. As she ran, her robe vanished in the wind, only to be replaced by a skirt that bore her tribe's colors and a leather top that left must of her shoulder blades uncovered while showing bounteous breasts.
The eagle swooped down, latching onto Sotea's back. The pain almost woke her up, until it was replaced by a burning, motherly desire. As she knelt down, the eagle disappeared into her, leaving silver wings that were now growing quicker than twigs and bigger than any bird her tribe knew, as well as a silvery-plumed headdress, resembling the eagle's head.
"Awake, Guardian Eatos
" a voice spoke, waking the new Guardian from her spiritual trance.
Sotea looked down at herself. What she now wore was the same as in her dream. She felt the cascade of her golden hair, the weight of her breasts, the sway of her hips and the flap of her wings as she woke up, lifting herself slightly above ground before touching the ground with her left hand and knee.
As she looked on, she saw the Oracle looking back at her before touching her face, painting grass-colored marks on her face, below her eyes.
" she said, her voice now ringing in her ears of which an earring bearing an eagle's feather resting around both lobes as much more mature, wise and alluring.
"I saw your destiny, child." the old man spoke. "You will guide our tribe and teach all the true meaning of the Guardians. As you will awaken the other Great Guardians, you will lead the tribe into a brighter era."
The new woman rose to meet the elder's eyes, who now seemed shorter than she was. "Yes
I understand now."
The Oracle closed his eyes and smiled with his wrinkled face. "Before that, I would like to hear more of your tales."
Sotea looked surprisingly at the old man and smiled gently, letting him sit down on the stump in the clearing. "I know just the tale. And it's one I will soon tell everyone
The Oracle listened on as the newly-reborn Eatos spun the tale of her dream beyond the stars.
This story was also requested, but the result is different than what I did before. I actually tried to give it a bit of a tribal feel, but if you check it a bit, you'll see some Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters influence.