War of the Elements
Pip peeled a pile of Snapping Mushrooms over a wooden bowl in the kitchen. Their teeth chomped viciously under their hoods, just missing Pip’s nimble fingers. Most people boiled them before preparing them but she enjoyed a challenge.
Pip lived in one of many tree-houses within the Giggle Trees, some of the tallest, tamest plants in the jungle. They grew thousands of metres high and had a healthy sense of humour.
Everyone in Pip’s village built their homes in these kind of trees as they were so easy to manoeuvre. All you had to do was tickle them or whisper a joke to them, they’d curl over laughing and then you could bend them into a structure.
The winding, chuckling branches would occasionally wiggle or move when they heard something that amused them, but generally they were quite sturdy, obedient structures.
Pip’s father, Arfillius Pick, known as ‘Arf’ to his friends, climbed through a trapdoor of leaves in the floor which closed behind him as he stepped through. He had a worried look on his face.
“Something’s wrong today.” He said, in a muffled voice “I can feel it.”
He was dressed from head to toe in furs and animal skins, only his eyes were peeking out from all his layers.
“Is the ice trying to attack again?” Asked Pip.
“No, something bigger than that.” Said Arf, pulling off his fur hat “I just don’t know what.”
“Probably just some kind of element disruption.” Said Pip “Nothing you can’t deal with, right Dad?”
“That’s exactly the kind of complacency that has killed many good slayers before you, Pip.” He replied firmly “Don’t ever underestimate the elements.”
Pip’s father was an Ice Slayer, most the people in Pip’s village were a slayer of one of the elements. Keraseya, the planet that Pip lived in, was unlike any of the surrounding ones, every fibre of its land and skies was a predator.
This meant the people of Keraseya were constantly fighting off invading fire, imposing ice or lashing wind. The only benefit of living in there was that no other planet bothered invading as no one else wanted to live there.
“What’s this I hear about you throwing a Jelly Crawler at a Fire-Soldier’s boy?” Her father said, suddenly.
“How do you know about that?” Replied Pip.
She imagined him bragging to his friends about saving some helpless girl. She hated him more every time she thought about him.
“Doesn’t matter how.” Said Pip’s father, pulling off his white bat-skin gloves “What do you have to say for yourself?”
“I’m not saying sorry, if that’s what you’re asking.” Said Pip, continuing to peel the wriggling mushrooms “He was a cocky idiot.”
“No.” Said her father calmly “That’s not what I’m asking at all. I’m asking why is it that that cocky idiot didn’t almost get killed by a Camomoss plant and my skilled, fighting-trained daughter did?”
“I did not almost get killed.” Growled Pip, anger building.
“No?” Questioned her father “Well, that’s not what the boy’s father’s been saying.”
“What?” Snapped Pip, her anger beginning to show “He wasn’t even there! He’s probably just as cocky as his pompous son.”
“He is.” Said her father quietly.
“You know him?”
He pulled off his fur-lined boots and slapped the soles on a chair loudly, knocking the ice off. Pip recognised this as one of her father’s signs for ending a conversation.
“More training after dinner.” He continued before he disappeared behind one of the wooden doors “You know what your problem is, Pip?” He shouted from the room “You don’t pay attention, you don’t see what’s right in front of your eyes.”
Pip sighed, not because she didn’t enjoy training, she loved training with her father, but because he thought that she needed more training. Pip prided herself on being one of the strongest, bravest fighters in her class. Only a pair of muscular, blood-thirsty twins rivalled her; Fee Pulvoe and Kalid Pulvoe. They had muscles up to their foreheads that Pip suspected had replaced some of their brains.
“How long will dinner be, Pip?” He father called out.
Pip threw some water in a metal pan, lit a small hob and put the pan on top. The water started boiling almost immediately. Pip thought nothing of it but then the water began splashing upwards out of the pan.
“Dad?” Called Pip “Something strange is happening.”
“What is it?” He shouted back.
“The water,” Said Pip “it’s acting weird.”
One of the branches of the bedroom wall giggled and shifted to the left, leaving a gap in the bedroom wall. Pip’s father’s head popped through and stared at the pan intently. He watched the water dive out of the pan as if it were alive and his eyes became wide.
“Get your climbing boots and your fur jacket.” He said sternly.
He tickled the branch, it giggled and moved back into its original position. Pip could hear him rushing around inside his room.
“What’s happening?” She asked.
“Now, Pip! Get your stuff now!”
Pip left the pan on the hob which now had water flying out and hitting the ceiling. She grabbed her climbing boots and pulled one of them on, they were white mole-skin with Snapping Mushroom teeth spikes on the soles. She heard her father climbing out the roof of their house, on to the main branch of the tree. A whining alarm began to sound above the treehouse and her father’s voice rang out in a loud, stern tone.
“The ice is coming!” Shouted her father “Protect yourselves! The ice is coming!”
Voices rang out between the trees, other sirens started and voices began shouting the same warning. Pip pulled on her left boot and ran to a gap in the Giggle Trees. There were men and women hanging from trees, pulling their protective clothing on as they climbed. Pip tickled one of the branches to get a better look but it didn’t move, it didn’t even laugh. Something dangerous was happening.
“Get out here Pip!” Shouted her father from the roof “Get out!”
Pip stabbed one of her climbing boots into the branches and began climbing the walls of the treehouse. Her father never raised his voice but he was shouting louder than she’d ever heard anyone shout now. Pip scrambled to the ceiling and squeezed out of a gap in the branches. She climbed on to the roof where her father was tying ropes to shaking Giggle Tree branches and moving them like reluctant horses.
“Ya!” He shouted, as he tugged them up “Come on, you can do it. Ya!”
The branches were reluctantly winding themselves out of their house structures. Pip’s treehouse was at least 100 metres high and all the way down the main branch she saw other houses morphing and winding into different shapes. Pip grabbed some rope and started tying it around some of the branches herself.
“Ya!” She shouted, following her father.
“What are you doing?” Said her father, sternly.
“I’m helping.” Said Pip as she failed to budge the trees.
“You need to climb up to the top of the trees. You’re not safe here.”
“I’m fine!” She shouted back.
Pip’s father suddenly went very quiet. She turned around to see if she’d persuaded him to let her stay but he wasn’t even looking at her. He was looking straight down through the trees in horror.
“Everyone to the top!” He shouted “Trees in formation now!!!”
Pip looked around to see hundreds of other ice slayers dragging the branches by ropes, heaving them with all their might. The branches were reluctantly moving and winding together, they looked as if they were becoming shields from the ground. Everyone else was scrambling up the trees to the top, many of them were already hundreds of metres high, climbing into the clouds, higher than they’d ever been allowed to climb before.
“Go, Pip!” Shouted her father.
He grabbed her hand and started dragging her up the tree. Pip’s father never ran away from anything, she had to know what it was. She looked down as she climbed, she regretted it immediately. Through the slowly morphing Giggle Trees were pointed shards of ice flying up towards them. It was as if splinters of glass were hailing upwards, hurtling towards their feet.