For an old man, it had been a long walk. His destination was devoid of any trodden paths or roads. That was to be expected, he didn't have time to take a round-about way of getting there nor did he want to. Encountering other people on the road was not ideal. Especially for him. From outside perspective he looked just like an old man. He was using a big staff that looked like a cut off tree branch that reached from the ground to above his head as support. The truth of the matter is, he was no ordinary guy. He was a wizard.
Walking through a thick forest he reached an opening on top of a hill. Way ahead he saw a towering mountain shaped like a cone. His destination, he was almost there. Ever since he first heard the story, he had to verify it. A story of a god residing within the cone-shaped mountain. A story of sacrifices by the villages nearby to appease its hunger. He had to make sure it wasn't true. And if they were, he had to finish the mission he set for himself
What was his mission?
To battle with it and kill the god.
"Seems like the perfect idea, right?" Eliza said. With her short brown hair complimenting her brown eyes, she leaned towards her friend in a teasing manner. With her child-like personality, she was wearing her usual clothes normally worn by the boys in her village. She became known as the tomboy of the village and she loved to tease her friend.
"Are you guys quite done yet?" Replied Rebecca while flustered. With her light brown hair and blue eyes, she was without a doubt the most beautiful girl in the village. Her family were part of the elders and as such she was raised up with a more 'refined' manners from her mom. In start contrast against Eliza, she sometimes had a hard time keeping up with her more 'active' and playful attitudes.
It was a beautiful day in the village which was simple and humble. Sitting at the base of a cone-shaped mountain, the village was a few day ride from the nearest trading city. Still, the land was ripe and easy to grow wheat in and as such it had grown somewhat isolated. The two girls were standing on a road outside the main buildings near one of the farms. And standing in front of them were two boys.
"I agree," said Davis, one of the boys, "I mean it's only a dance, what's there to be embarrassed about?" He winked at Eliza as the two of them continued their ploy teasing the other two. Davis had black hair and his eyes were dark brown. He was the son of the blacksmith of the village. Since most of the villagers were farmers, his demeanour in comparison was kind of free spirited. As such, he and Eliza got along really well.
"I know what you guys are planning," said Robert, "and there won't be any of that." Even though he tried to act in a calm manner, the other two saw straight through it. Robert was the son of one of the bigger farms an as such, his family were one of the richer ones in the village. With his brown hair matching his eye color, he was considered really handsome by most. It is therefore a no-brainer that some might think he and Rebecca would end up together. And that was Davis's and Eliza's ploy.
"Us planning something?" Eliza said in faked shocked manner? "We were simply looking out for our friends. It's only a few days until harvest festival starts and we don't want our dear beloved friends to sit out on it now would we?" She hinted at her conspirator Davis as the two of them kept their teasing on. The two of them had partnered.
"Yeah, how could you ever think that we would have nefarious intent, I thought we were friends?" Davis continued on the bantering.
"Ahh, are you saying you don't wanna dance with Robert?" Eliza asked in exasperating manner to Rebecca.
Rebecca became flustered even more. She's always had a crush on Robert but she was always shy when it came to romantic things.
"O-Of course I wouldn't mind dancing with him..." she glanced away in attempts to hide her blushing face.
"Well aren't you the lucky boy" Davis elbowed his friend. "Looks like the two of you are gonna end up perfect for each other after all" he said grinning ear to ear.
"We'll only be dancing, you guys are jumping to conclusions." Robert retorted.
"Oh, of course, we know fully well what this is all about." Eliza continued.
Both of them laughed heartily as they enjoyed the scene that was progressing in front of them.
It was late evening and the sun was about to set. With the plans being agreed on, it was time for each one to head to their homes. It had been a beautiful warm fall day, warmer than usual and everyone was looking forward to enjoying the harvest festival. Everyone had been given a job for it and it had been a fun last few days.
Eliza was the last person to reach her home. Her home was a small cottage near the end of the village. She never knew her father and it was only her and her mother living in it. With only the two of them living there, the village had provided them with a small cottage home to live in. Her mom did her best to provide for them and work little jobs in the village but in this small village, not a lot of jobs were available for her and as such they struggled. Still, they managed to live a decent life. Most of their friends and villagers had provided them with food and clothing. Growing up in this environment had made Eliza very humble.
"Mom, I'm home!"
A sweet aroma smell greeted Eliza the moment she entered the building.
"Oh it smells good in here... wait, is this what I think it is?"
Her mom grinned from the corner of the kitchen. The entrance, living room and kitchen was all one big room. The kitchen was tucked in the corner with a simple wooden stove. On the other end was the fireplace and an old sofa that was given to them by their friends. The whole place looked poor on the inside with mismatched furniture but the two of them managed to do their best and make it nice. Even though most of it was one big room, thanks to the efforts of some of the builders, they had extended the house a few years back and made separate bedrooms for the two of them.
"Rebecca's father, Emil dropped by. He wanted to thank me for helping with making the banners for the festival so he gave us a little special gift."
She lifted the lid on the pot she was making and stuck in a big fork and pulled out a big piece of tender meat. Eliza could barely keep in her excitement.
"Meat stew? That's my favourite!"
Her mom giggled a little bit at her reaction. "I know. It's not many days until your birthday is up and I wanted to surprise you. After all, it is your sixteenth birthday, your coming-of-age and I thought we'd celebrate it."
Eliza was both happy but sad. The coming-of-age, sixteen, was the age where you would be considered adult. As such, it is expected of you to find a mate and settle down. Or pick up after your family business. But Eliza was not a super cute girl compared to her friend Rebecca and she didn't think anyone would really like her. Rebecca was beautiful and already had boys lined up to invite her to the dance. That was partly the reason she teased her earlier in the day, she was jealous a little bit. However, she had also come to terms with that maybe she didn't have much of a future. It is what her care-free attitude and playful personality hid. She was a little sad but also overall content about her situation.
"Oh, let me help you set up the dinner table. I think this calls for using our best plates."
Eliza took her shoes off and went into the kitchen corner. She opened one of the top cabinets and two dishes and glasses that were up there. Compared to most of their silverware which were worn down or hand-me-downs, the silverware in the top cabinets were special that both of them had saved up money to buy for special occasions.
Holding the dishes and the glasses, she set them on the plate. Since it was late fall and getting cold, she grabbed a few wooden logs and put them in the fireplace. With them celebrating her coming-of-age, it was worth it splurging a little bit on the wood to make it warm in their cottage for the day. With the fire going and the plates set, she waited by the fireplace while her mom finished cooking.
"That was great," Eliza said as she rubbed her tummy after having finished two full plates of stew. "I forgot how good your meat stew is."
Her mom smiled on the opposite side of the table. "Did you think I was gonna let you become an adult without at least your tummy full?"
"Tummy full? More like about to burst."
"About to burst? Is that how a lady talks like these days?" Her mom said in a teasing manner.
Eliza grinned back. "Of course they do. Didn't you know? I'm the most refined lady in these towns. In some circles I'm even known as... Lady Queen Eliza."
Her mm shrugged. "What a terrible kingdom that must be."
"Hey now, it's a wonderful kingdom. It's so amazing that all the princes from neighbouring countries came flocking in too see me," Eliza said while taking a dramatic pose with one hand on her hip and the other in the air as if she had become a goddess.
"Oh dear, your highness, I had no idea. I barely noticed at all, especially with your child-like personality it is incredible one's mother could mistake her like that," her mom said in a faked gasping voice.
The two of them were having fun teasing each other. It was easy to see where Eliza's got her jokes and playful attitude from.
"Of course, I just always fake around you because I wouldn't want you to feel overwhelmed you know?"
"Well I guess you're right. I'm sure someone of your stature would definitely not want a poor old stew made by a poor old woman from a village." Her fake acting was obvious from a mile away. She grabbed the meat stew pot by the handles on the table. "I guess I'll just have to take this away from your highness."
"No!" She grabbed it back. "High highness has stepped down and wants to have another bowl."
The two laughed. With the dinner's theatric out the way, Eliza finished her third bowl and her mother cleanup up afterwards.
"Oh yeah, if you can go to the well and bring a few buckets of water, I'll heat it up and you can take a hot bath in the metal tub in your room."
The ultimate luxury, a hot bath. It wasn't often Eliza could take a bath and most of them happened to be cold. She liked the feel of hot water but it wasn't something they could do every time. Not to mention the amount of work that goes into it.
"Wow, thank you, I'll have the water in no time."
Excitedly she ran to the front door and threw her shoes on. Going back and forth, from the well, Eliza brought each bucket to their home while her mother heated it up by the fire. Through their co-ordinated efforts, they managed to fill the small tub her mom had placed in her room with hot water.
"I put the towel on your bed so you can dry afterwards. Enjoy your bath." And with that, her mom exited Eliza's room and closed the door.
Eliza got a little tense.
With small delicate movements she took each piece of clothing off one by one. From an outside perspective on her, Eliza's free spirit and tomboy personality made her seem like one of the boys and as such she got along well with most of them. However deep down she was still a little girl and having grown up mostly alone in their protected environment she had become shy about her own body. Even though she was alone in the room, it still made her shy and tense whenever she had to take her clothes off. For Eliza it felt like she was exposing herself to the outside world.
Closing her eyes from embarrassment of her own body, she took the final clothing piece out as she stood in front of the tub. She put one foot in the tub and then the other. As she slowly descended into the tub, the water reached up to her chin. The hot water warmed her, releasing any tension she had in her body. Even though she had taken baths many times and dealt with her own femininity every month, she could never get used to seeing her own naked body.
Time passed and the water became colder. Eliza's body was completely relaxed and tired after the long day. She stood up from the tub and probed with her hands for her towel while she still kept her eyes closed. Finding the towel, she used it to dry herself before wrapping it around her and opening her eyes. From the drawers she put on some fresh new clothes and crawled into bed.
The effects of the bath was taking its toll and she was slowly drifting asleep. Thoughts about her age and becoming an adult filled her head. As the sunset finally set and and darkness fell over the village, Eliza wished that something would somehow change her future and that she would find a different purpose to her life.
With that, she fell asleep.
The cone shaped mountain was not so steep and the old man made good headways reaching the top. With the sun having set the area was completely dark but it didn't stop her. Because the stories were right. He could feel it since he entered the valley. The presence of it was strong.
A monster lived in this mountain.
Finding a small flat area near the top he stopped his climb. Tapping the staff on to the ground, he could probe it. Cold shiver ran through him.
´This is bad´ he thought. The presence was big. It was almost on the realm of being a god. The entire area around the mountain belonged to this monster. He could control anything and everything in his realm. And it extended all the way to the base of the mountain and into the valley.
The old man sighed as he grabbed the staff and slammed it onto the ground, amplifying it, it send a shockwave deep into the mountain. To the very heart of it. Where the monster was sleeping, hiding.
Moments later, the wind picked up an eery tone. In front of him, pure black smoke started to appear. And from it, a dark deep voice echoed from it.
"How did you find me."
The old man sighed. "You hid well but your greedy days have caught up with you."
"I haven't gotten a sacrifices for few centuries. The villagers don't even know I exist here."
"That may be true but the lives of those you took back then are still lost. Besides, this world doesn't have a place for beings like us."
The old man's voice was resolved and sharp. The black smoke spread further around him and the old man took a defensive position. He readied himself against what might come.
"So what is your plan?" The voice continued, "are you going to kill me? This mountain is my dominion. I am this mountain. Only way to kill me would be to destroy this mountain. Such a thing is impossible and futile."
Those words were true. This monster and the mountain had become one. It's presence, it's spirit, had engulfed the entire body of the mountain. Killing it would mean having the power to destroy an entire mountain. But even though all of this was true and even though the powers of this monster were so great, facing the old man there was a definite slight quivering in the voice as it spoke. The monster knew what he was facing and he wasn't sure if he would be able to live.
"Vanity." The old man simply answered back. "The era of the gods is over. You may not have reached that stage but those times ended over a millennia ago. It's time for you to disappear along with them."
The monster changed his position to an attack position.
The smoke intensified and engulfed the old man. And the dark voice shouted out "I dare you to try."