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From the Valley

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"Darius!" Darius watched Meru run towards him. The panic in the face of the grizzled old tree god told him something was very wrong.

"Armendus is coming I heard tales from the goddess of the west wind, that he is coming to the valley within two months his flood will have destroyed everything here," blurted Meru. Darius nodded. They had been waiting for this. They had thought he might come to the valley, but now they knew for sure.

"Has everyone prayed to Petra?" Asked Darius. Meru nodded.

"Yes, but she has rejected us."

Darius knew that his only course of action was to go and find her himself.

"I will bring our saviour to the valley. I will have her judge us and I will show her we are worthy," he said. Meru took his hand.

"You understand the consequences if she decides not to help us?" He asked. Darius nodded. They both knew that since Armendus went mad, he would come back to the valley he was born in. Meru sighed and handed him the bag that he had over his shoulder.

"What's this?" Asked Darius. Meru laughed.

"I knew you would try and go. Good luck my friend," whispered Meru.

Darius had been trudging through the woods for weeks. He had run into animals, and while he didn't need to eat, animals still did. So far, a bear and a mountain lion had tried to eat him. The worst part was that Darius had no idea where he was going.

He walked through the forest an wondered if he would find Petra. Since Armendus had begun to storm the land many people had wondered why Petra hadn't stopped him. The goddess could have cut off his water supply. She had created the elements. Elemental gods and goddesses had no power before she was born. He had been a child. Saladin had made her to create purpose for the gods. Saladin was all powerful and have power to everyone and before Petra, those who could do nothing after being touched by Saladin had been thought to be rejects.

Finally Darius saw smoke in the distance. He followed it and eventually he came to a small hut. A young girl sat on the porch. She glared at him.

"So you've come for my services?" She asked. Darius nodded.

"Look me in the eye and say you need my help and I will judge you. Tell me you will prove that you and your friends are worth of my help. It's quite hard for me to destroy the elements I create. Especially water."

Her words hung in the air. He thought of his friends back in the valley. They would all be drowned by Armendus' water within two months. He had that time to convince the goddess to help him.

"I need your help. I will prove we are worthy," he said. His pale blue eyes locked with her golden ones. He bowed before her. Everyone knew the power that lurked behind her eyes. She was the goddess of elemental power. She created the elements that other gods harnessed. Without her no elemental god would have any power. Including me, he thought.

"How old are you Darius?" She asked.

"Eight thousand nine hundred and seventeen."

She sighed. He sat down at the small table. He looked at her.

"You?" He asked.

"Eight thousand nine hundred and sixteen," she replied.

How could she be younger than him? Of course she looked her age. A golden haired fourteen year old was her chosen form. Most gods only wished to appear their last two digits. The god and goddess of vanity were never older than twenty six.
She looked out the window and stirred her drink mindlessly.

"You've just forced me into a service contract- what do you want me to do first? I'm only a sky god. Give me some orders anyways?" He asked.
Petra glared at him.

"Only lowly gods use 'service' contracts. It's more for- observation."

He banged his head against the table. Petra simply tilted her chair back to get a better look out the window. The sun went down.
She stood up, stretched her arms and sat back down. Her hair had turned red. When Darius looked up from the table, he took a double take.

"Do you want some tea?" She asked. Darius nodded silently.

"How did you do that?"

"Every night I undergo a simple morphic change. How do you think I can fund the efforts of every elemental god and goddess? I'm like a coin. While I'm always aware of what's going on, I have one side of my consciousness deal with them and the other deal with daily living. I switch over every twelve hours. It's quite simple really," Petra replied.

However, it wasn't simple. The one thing that gods couldn't change about themselves was the colour of their hair. Morphic changing was something that not even Saladin had mastered. Darius was in awe of her.

Petra busied herself with making a pot of tea. Darius just sat and watched. Petra hummed as she put the kettle on to boil. Darius thought she seemed a little bit more hospitable in this form. As though this was somehow an alter ego.

"Are you just going to sit there? Tell me something interesting about your friends in the valley," said Petra.

"Well, some of us are sky gods, but most of us control emotions."
Petra nodded. She poured the water over tea leaves into two cups. The smell of it filled the room.

"I have only ever mastered anger and hatred. Other emotions I guess just don't interest me as much," she said. Darius was amazed. She spoke of simply learning to control things whereas everyone else had to live with the power they were born with.

"What do you define yourself as?" Asked Darius.

"I would define myself as a judgement goddess," she replied.

He looked at her, puzzled.

"Where does judgement come into play?" He asked. Petra raised an eyebrow.

" I travel to the realm of mortals and I destroy those who displease me. Killers, sinners, those who abuse the elements, it just kind of comes naturally to me. It was my second given power- my father gave me judgement and let me create the elements."

Darius was perplexed- as the first daughter of Saladin, she had two powers? How many things could this goddess do?

"That reminds me, I make my monthly trip in about five minutes, so stay here. There's a bed in the back room you can sleep on," said Petra.

"Thank you Petra."

Petra moved from the table and walked out the door. Before she closed it, however, she said

"Don't mess up the weather while I'm gone."

Darius laughed. His small thunder storms would be nothing to her. She could destroy him in the blink of an eye. Darius sat down in the chair and fell asleep.

He awoke a few hours later, when Petra came crashing through the door. Her hair had turned gold again and the sun was high in the sky. Petra staggered across the room and collapsed into the chair across from Darius.

"Are you alright?" Asked Darius. He received no response. Petra was definitely wounded. He got up and examined her more carefully. She was unconscious, something almost impossible for a goddess.

Her breathing was rapid, but that didn't matter as gods had no need for breathing. Her hands were covered in the blood of mortals, while a trickle of her own golden blood was dribbling from her mouth.

Gently, Darius picked her up and carried her to the bed in the back room. She didn't stir as he lay her down. He went back to the little kitchen and living area to try and find a towel. When he did find one, he wet it with water from the tap in the bathroom and wiped the blood from Petra's mouth and hands. He sat down next to her and wondered what she did when no one was around to take care of her and whether or not that sort of thing happened often. She was very weak in this state. She looked so small and vulnerable when she was asleep.

Four hours later, Petra coughed and woke up. She tried to sit up, but Darius gently pushed her back down. She looked confused.

"What are you doing?" She asked.

"You walked in and collapsed and there was blood all over you. I just mopped you up a bit," Darius replied. She laughed a little bit, but stopped because it seemed to hurt her.

"You didn't need to do that. I would have been fine. That's funny. That's very funny. A sky god was looking after me! I think that's hilarious. Thank you, though. It does hurt, but I will be fine," said Petra. She didn't say it in a mean way. He looked down at her. Her golden hair was tangled, messy and full of knots.

"What happened?" He asked. Petra sighed.

"The mortals thought they could take me. They didn't know who I was. They don't pray anymore, and no one but other gods pray directly to me. Anyways, They took a hit at me (which was harmless) but when I used fire and anger to destroy them, the building collapsed on me when I was in the middle of a morphic change AND using my core energy."

Darius nodded silently. She seemed to be wounded quite badly for a goddess of her magnitude.

"I'll leave you to it then," said Darius. Petra grabbed his arm. For a girl so small and who had been so vulnerable only minutes before, she had an iron grip. Her eyes locked with his. He thought she was angry, but her eyes were soft.

"I do appreciate it, Darius, thank you." He nodded at her. She let go of him and settled under the covers. Darius went and sat down at the table again. He didn't know what to do with Petra. One moment she was mocking him and judging his every move and the next she was exceedingly kind. He sighed and put his forehead in his hands.

The next day Petra was unresponsive again and diligently, Darius tended to her. He simply watched her and when he was bored he made soup and fed it to her. Neither of them needed to eat, but it passed the time. She woke up and was confused and then slept, and every time she thanked him. Darius grew very fond of her in spite of her laughing at him upon his explanation of things. They laughed together and became very close. He seemed to put the fate of the valley into the back of his mind and focused on Petra. If she was to judge them, at least she was fair. He really started to enjoy her, even if she was unconscious half of the time.

After awhile, Petra awoke and stayed awake. She stayed in bed, but she seemed much better.

"I can only remember snippets of the last few weeks. I remember eating something really good. I've never eaten before. I liked it, though," said Petra.

"That was my soup," laughed Darius. They both laughed. Petra smiled. So did Darius.

"I'm going to get changed now. It's about time for me to get up," said Petra.

"Alright," replied Darius.

Petra went into the bathroom. She saw how tangled her long hair was. She closed her eyes and it was fixed. She willed it to be a little bit shorter and wavy before putting on a pale blue dress.

When Darius left the room, he went to the table. He saw the blue sky outside. He hadn't been outside in a long time. He hadn't played with the weather for a long time. He went outside.

The sky was soon filled with clouds. The air around Darius was charged with electric energy. It started to rain. The wind whipped his hair. Darius laughed- it felt good to be back in his element. He didn't hear Petra coming up behind him.

"Darius, stop screwing up my weather!" She cried. Darius couldn't hear her. She was still weak and thus was slow, but she knew what she wanted: the storm had to go. Petra was too tired to undo the weather herself. So she would make Darius do it.

Petra walked up behind Darius and spun him around. He didn't see her. He saw only the storm. She had to disrupt his concentration to make the storm dissipate if he wasn't going to do it of his own will.

Petra grabbed Darius' collar and pulled him towards her. She kissed him. His eyes went wide. Suddenly his storm disappeared and all he saw was Petra. The lightening was gone, but the air crackled with a different kind of energy. Just as he started to kiss her back, she pulled away.

"What did I tell you about screwing with the weather?" Said Petra. She seemed perfectly unaffected by the fact that she had just been all over Darius. Darius, however was not unaffected. His breath was rapid and shallow. Petra took no notice.

"Are you listening to me, Darius?" Petra said.

"Why did you do that?" Asked Darius. His voice was rough with emotion.

"Do what?" Replied Petra, somewhat taken aback.

"You just kissed me."
Suddenly Petra just stopped. She understood. She never thought that anyone would love her. Her hair turned red in the setting sun. He noticed it was shorter. He liked it.

"I- I didn't mean it, Darius. I only wanted to break your concentration," she explained. Darius' hope shattered and turned to anger.

"How could you possibly think that's okay? How could you ever do that after everything I've done for you? That's low. That's really low. You're so powerful, but in all that power there is nothing you can use to understand that you can't do that? Especially when I was using core energy. That's not fair. You just thrust yourself onto me when I'm completely open to the world and you think I'm just going to ignore that?" He said. Darius had felt her to the core. It didn't help that he was already starting to harbour deep feelings for her. He could still feel the warmth of her skin, though they no longer were touching. It was as though ah had left a part of herself in him. She was starting to get worked up as she replied

"I'm sorry. I didn't realize that-" He cut her off.

"That I love you? You didn't realize that what had started as kindness became care and affection? Oh Petra," said Darius. His brown hair fell over his eyes. He sat down on the ground in front of Petra's cabin. He put his forehead in his hands and started to cry. As his tears hit the dirt, the clouds returned and it started to rain. He sobbed and Petra just watched. She didn't know what to do. The rain started to soak through her clothes. She hated water. She could never remember why she made it in the first place. She looked at Darius. He was still crying. She closed her eyes and cut off his water supply. It stopped raining, but the clouds remained. Petra sat down next to Darius. The effort of undoing his use of an element was exhausting. Still, she was worried about what she had done.

"I'm sorry Darius, I'm sorry." She said it over and over, but he ignored her. She couldn't leave him in the mud. Petra gathered up the last of her strength. She stood up and put her arms under Darius' and dragged him back into the house. She dropped him into a chair. Petra dragged the chair next to the fire so that Darius' clothes would dry. The wet didn't bother him, but it seemed like the right thing to do. Petra sat down in the chair that was still at the table. She fell against the table, completely exhausted. Now that she had stopped holding Darius, it felt as though something was missing. She couldn't place it. Darius was still crying as he got up shakily and replaced his chair across from Petra. He watched the steady rise and fall of her breathing as she slept as she had for the last two weeks. He didn't even stop crying as he picked her up and carried her back to her bed. He went back to the fire and stretched out in front of it on top of a soft blanket.

Darius awoke to the smell of food. He sat up and rubbed his eyes. They were pink and puffy from crying. He blinked hard and his eyes returned to normal. He looked up at Petra and his heart ached. He just watched her bustle about the kitchen. He could feel a stir inside of him, a part of him was her. He wondered if she felt as though there was part of her inside of him.

"I made food!" She squealed. He assumed she had never done that before. He just kept looking at her. She turned away from the stove and looked back at him with a mixture of sorrow and pity. The fire on the stove extinguished itself and she sat down in front of him. They stared at each other for a long time. Darius looked at her. She no longer seemed tired and the shining glow had returned to her eyes. Her hair was golden again and there was a scar in the corner of her lip where she had been cut by the falling building. She had apparently not bothered to get rid of it. She felt the part of her that was gone inside of him. It made her want to reach out to him. She knit her fingers in her lap.

She looked at Darius. He had undone the red puffiness of his eyes, but there was still a deep sadness in them. His blue eyes filled with tears, but none spilled out. He blinked and willed the tears away. Petra was still confused about why he was so sad. He couldn't have loved her. It just didn't seem logical to her. However, deep down she knew it was true.

"I'm sorry Darius. Please forgive me."

Darius looked away from her. He knew that she was sorry. He could see it in her eyes. He also saw the tears that started to gather when he didn't reply. She took a deep breath.

"Fine. If you're going to stay mad at me I want a clear idea of for how long," she said. Darius looked at her. Petra had gone cold, but he could tell that she was still concerned.

"Do you still not understand why I'm upset with you?" He asked. She shook her head.

"Petra, I started to love you ages ago. When you kissed me, I was using core energy and my soul was open. I felt you all the way through. And I loved you, Petra. A part of me has been gone ever since that day when you woke up in bed. I feel that part of me is you. When you kissed me, I thought you loved me. How can you do that to me and then tell me it was all to make it stop raining?" He whispered. Petra only looked at him.

"I never imagined that. I could never believe that. I don't believe that. I'm sorry if I caused you grief. I am sorry. But I don't believe it," she replied. She denied that he in turn had stolen part of her heart.

Petra got up and walked back to the stove. She put the pancakes on the table. She got a fork and knife from the cupboard and set them on the plate. She placed the plate on the floor in front of Darius. She grabbed one of the cups of tea and set it down next to the plate. She grabbed the other cup of tea and leaned back against the counter.

Darius stared at her. How could she not see that he would do anything for her? He looked after her for weeks and weeks. He had even told her he loved her. He looked at her. Petra leaned against the counter and drank her tea with shaking hands.

"What do I have to do to make you forgive me?" She said between sips of tea.

"What do I have to do to convince you that I love you?" he replied. Her lip trembled.

"I can't!" She said. He stood up and faced her.

"Why not? What do I have to do to make you believe me?" Darius said.

"I want you to see what I do every month and then tell me you still love me. Because you won't anymore," said Petra. Darius looked at her in confusion.

"Take me with you then. Nothing you can do could ever change how I feel," said Darius. A single tear fell down Petra's face.

"Let's go then."

Darius followed Petra outside. She drew a circle with her fingers and the circle glowed gold. She gestured for him to step through. Darius walked through the circle and was thrust into a dark alleyway. Petra appeared beside him.

"You're invisible to everyone but me. You have no power here, so don't even try to intervene," she said. Darius nodded gravely.

Petra walked down the alley silently. Darius followed. He saw a dark figure standing in the corner of the alley.

"Anderson," said Petra. Her voice sounded like an oncoming storm. The figure turned so Darius could see his face. He was middle aged and quite innocent looking.

"Who's asking?" He said. Petra stepped into the light.

"You are to be punished for the murder of Daisy Hollander."

Anderson laughed. He flicked open a switch blade. Petra's hair turned red. The man blinked. In that split second, Petra knocked the blade from his hand. She stood above him and kicked in his chest. She smiled. He screamed in agony. Darius was terrified. This wasn't the tender person that he had come to know.
Petra looked down at Anderson.

"What are you?" He yelled. She laughed.

"I am justice."

Petra lit the man on fire. She snapped her fingers and the fire was gone. The man was gone as well. There were only ashes. She kicked at the dust and turned back to Darius.

"I told you, you wouldn't like what you saw."

Darius just stared. That was the most cruel thing he had ever seen.

"What did he do?" He asked.

"He tortured and killed a little girl and wasn't punished," she replied. She dreaded his expression.

"I guess he deserved it then," said Darius. He felt convinced, and he sounded convinced to Petra.

"You don't understand, Darius. This is part of who I am. This is something I enjoy! I told you- this is why it never occurred to me that someone would love me: all I do is destroy," she said. Darius only became more convinced.

"But think of everything else you do! How can you condemn yourself for your born power? It isn't your fault. If you weren't meant for this, Saladin wouldn't have made you. The point is, Petra- I... I love you. And you can't change that," said Darius, taking a step towards her. Petra drew a golden circle and stepped through. Darius followed her.

Petra sat on the ground in front of the cabin. She had her head in her hands. Darius sat next to her and put his hand around her shoulder. She violently thrust him away.

"You won't convince me! It's not real, you're lying to me!" She cried.
Darius looked at her. He moved closer to her. She was breathless. She just set her head on his shoulder. As he touched him, she felt the piece of her heart return to her. She felt whole.

"Petra, you're not going to get rid of me that easily," he said quietly.

Petra looked at him, still confused. Darius leant into her and kissed her gently. He put an arm around her, but very softly. Petra sat and did nothing. He felt whole again. The piece of him he had lost to her was in him again and it made him feel alive. Darius pulled away from her very slowly and rested his forehead against hers.

"Why?" Asked Petra.

"I had to kiss you once of my own will. Just one time. I love you, no matter what you believe or don't believe," replied Darius. Petra looked into his eyes. They showed only determination.

"I have never loved before. I don't know if I am able to," she whispered. Darius held her cheek in his hand.

"I can teach you," he said. Petra was silent. Darius pulled away from her. She was beautiful, powerful and smart, but in that moment Petra was scared. In all her years, she had never loved or been loved. She had only been used.

"I will save your people, if you promise to go back to your home in the valley after I am finished," Petra said. Darius looked at her with unparalleled sorrow.

"Is that what you want?" He asked. Petra nodded. She wanted the challenge of something new to be gone, and Darius was part of the problem.

"We will leave in the morning."

Petra went inside and Darius followed. He sat down at the table. Why couldn't she understand? Maybe she just couldn't love him. Petra went to bed. She stared at the ceiling for hours.

In the morning, Petra grabbed her sword. She slung her sheath around her hips and took a dagger from the shelf for Darius.

"Are you ready to go?" She asked, walking into the kitchen. Darius nodded. She handed him the dagger and walked outside without another word. Petra drew a golden circle and stepped through. Darius followed as he had the night before.

Petra came out into a massive green valley. In front of her, there was a wall of water being held back by a line of gods and goddesses. Petra stepped forward and put a hand on the wall.

"Stand back," she said. The gods and goddesses looked at Darius who nodded. Yes, this was their saviour.

Petra closed her eyes and smacked her right palm against the wave. All the water disappeared. She stepped back.

"Armendus! Come and face me!" Yelled Petra. A tall man with white hair appeared in front of her. Darius noticed his legendary demon sword.

"Ah, Petra. I was wondering if you would show up," he said. She thrust her hand forward and straight through Armendus. She pulled it back, a glowing pearl in her hand.

"How did you steal my power?" He asked, stunned.

"The power of Saladin, first god. He passed it to me on his dying breath. I will now hear yours," she whispered. Armendus drew his sword and threw it. It almost hit Petra, but the wind moved it just in time. Petra decapitated Armendus and he turned to dust. Without his power, he was mortal. There were a few cheers from behind Petra and one loud cry. She turned around.

"Darius!" She cried. He lay on the ground in a pool of golden blood. She rushed over to him and knelt on the ground.

"I love you, Petra," he said. He touched her cheek and then went limb. Armendus' demon blade lay wedged in his chest. Petra pulled out the sword, tears rushing down her face. Meru knelt down beside her.

"Darius pulled the blade to him on the breeze. He took the sword for you," he whispered. Petra started to cry openly. Suddenly, she stopped. She took the glowing pearl and thrust it into her mouth. The old man tried to stop her, but she had already swallowed it.

"You'll die with all that extra power!" He cried. Petra didn't hear him. Her golden eyes glowed and she put her hand on Darius' chest. She lifted the demon curse and healed his wounds. She collapsed on top of him.

"Petra? Petra?"

Petra opened her eyes. She was laying in a bed in a foreign place. Darius stood over her. She lept up and wrapped her hands around his neck.
"You're alive!" She whispered. He put his arms around her. She hugged him tight, but he pulled away.

"You're fine now. You can go back to your cabin in the woods. I won't stop you," he said, turning away from her. She blinked at him.

"I'm not going anywhere without you," said Petra. Darius looked at her. She smiled. He laughed and kissed her.




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