Goddesses of Grace
The branches frisked their leaves together above Morgaine's head as she patrolled the forest in search of her youngest sister. The sun had begun to set. As she took every step forward, the forest seemed to grow darker. Morgaine knew Mother would not be pleased if she arrived with Keira after dark. Her sister, of course, did not concern herself with this. They both knew the eldest would get the blame. Morgaine sometimes felt her mother truly despised her.
"Keira!" Morgaine tried again with more strength in her tone. "Where are you?"
"I am here, sister!" Her voice came from behind a group of trees.
Moments, Keira appeared, pulling leaves out of her light brown curly hair.
"Where have you been, Keira?" Morgaine demanded, running her fingers through her blonde hair in exasperation.
Keira looked down, twirling her hair. "Just keeping an eye on the forest as we are supposed to."
Morgaine did not buy this. Keira never actually cared for the forest in a tender way. Rather, she chose to explore it. Mother did not even bother to enforce this responsibility on her. Lately, young Keira has found a new obsession.
"You have been spying on that hunter again, have you not?" Morgaine accused. "You know Mother would not approve."
"She likely has not even noticed," Keira retorted.
"She will sooner or later." With a sigh, Morgaine grabbed her sister's hand to take her home. "Have you even talked to him yet?"
Still twisting her hair around her finger, Keira shook her head. "No, but I plan to do so. He seems different from the others. I wonder why he always alone." She turned her head to look at her sister. "Where is Alayna?"
"Probably with Mother," Morgaine responded, trying to conceal her pique.
Alayna was her younger sister by just a year and their mother's favorite. In time, Mother would retire from the forest and exceed to Olympus to live with the other gods. Then, one of her daughters would succeed her as the next Mother Nature, Goddess of the Forest. Zeus intended her to choose her eldest daughter, but Morgaine had a strong feeling Mother would pick Alayna instead. Despite this, Morgaine still had a strong relationship with her sister. Alayna had a kind, loving nature that Morgaine could never hate. She would be a fair Mother Nature, but she lacked the strength Morgaine had.
The four lived in a home that consisted of trees. Mother had made it so they would grow in a rectangular shape where they could live inside. Morgaine pushed up the branch that covered the entrance and found her mother and sister sitting at the wooden table sorting berries they must have collected. They both had dark thick curls that they wore down. Alayna did appear the most like their mother of the three, but she always wore softer facial expressions than Mother.
"Well, it is about time," Mother said, sternly. "Morgaine, I would have expected you to have your sister home sooner."
"It only grew dark just moments ago," Morgaine replied in exasperation. "Caring for the forest takes time."
Alayna smiled at her as Mother answered, sternly, "Do not think I do not know what goes on in my own forest." She twisted her head to Keira. "I know about the hunter…"
"She has never even spoken to him, Mother," Morgaine interrupted.
"And I will assure she does not," Mother retorted. "I do not want any more hunters in my forest. I plan to get rid of them."
Keira did not look at Mother when she shook her head, but instead me.
I argued. "You cannot do that, Mother. Mankind is one of Zeus's creations too. You cannot banish them from the forest."
Mother pounded her hand on the table. "They have caused nothing but destruction in my forest. I cannot allow this."
"They have their right," Morgaine debated. "Hunting is how they survive. It is a part of nature. Surely you would understand this more than anyone."
This argument lasted for the rest of the evening before they all went to sleep. Morgaine had grown accustomed to this. She and her mother seemed to cross paths on just about every topic.
Morgaine rested her head on her petal made pillow until she felt the warmth of a presence behind her followed by a tap on her shoulder. She lifted her head to see her sister, Alayna hovering over her. Morgaine managed a small smile as she sat up. Alayna knelt down beside her.
"I just wanted you to know that I thought you were right earlier about the hunters," she confessed, looking down shamefully, her brown curls falling over her shoulders. "I'm sorry I did not speak up earlier."
Morgaine sighed as she hugged her knees to her chest. "It is fine. Your disagreement would have only infuriated our Mother even more."
Alayna, too, let out a breath, resting her cheek against her hand. "Well, at least when you become Mother Nature you can do things your way. She will not be able to do anything about it up in Olympus."
Morgaine looked at her sister, curiously. "I would have thought Mother told you she wishes to name you the next Mother Nature instead of me."
Alayna shook her head and shrugged. "She never spoke anything of the sort to me. Besides, Zeus would never allow it."
"Sometimes I think Mother's will may be strong enough to overpower even Zeus," Morgaine muttered. "I would not be surprised to see you as Mother's successor."
Alayna laughed and then looked into her sister's eyes. "Well, even so, I have no intention of expelling humans from our forest. I promise."
The sun peaked in through the tree spaces. Morgaine rubbed her eyes as she sat up. Of her sisters, she would always sleep the latest. Morgaine pushed the braches up and walked outside to find Mother and Alayna sorting berries.
"Zeus will be along shortly," Mother announced, abruptly. "He wants to see for himself which one of you will make the best Goddess of the Forest."
Morgaine knew just what this meant. Mother confessed her desire to make Alayna the next Mother Nature.
Mother continued, "He will go by duty, nurture, strength, and grace. Whichever one of you demonstrates these qualities the most to his satisfaction will be chosen."
Morgaine thought if this was indeed true she would still be chosen. Her mother would just have to accept that.
"Now Morgaine," Mother looked at her directly, "I want you to go find your sister so she can be present as well."
"Yes Mother," Morgaine agreed as she turned around.
"Wait!" Alayna stood up and followed. "I want to go with you."
Morgaine did not answer her, but looked to her mother, who reluctantly nodded. She and Alayna then started the forest together.
"Why did you wish to come?" Morgaine inquired to her sister.
"I'm curious to see what this hunter looks like," Alayna replied with a giggle. "That is where our sister is, is it not?"
Morgaine let out an exasperated breath. "Most likely."
"You do not have to fear, you know," Alayna said more quietly, combing her hair behind her ears. "I am certain despite what Mother says, that Zeus will still want you to take over after her."
Morgaine turned her head to her sister and smiled. "Thank you, Alayna. I'm sure you would make a good Goddess of the Forest as well. Of the three of us, you do have the most grace."
Alayna smiled and opened her mouth to say something but other voices interrupted her.
"You are so beautiful," a male voice said. "Where do you come from?"
A familiar tone giggled and replied, "I come from the forest."
"That's Keira!" Morgaine said angrily. "She must have decided to talk to that hunter."
"Mother will be furious if she discovers this," Alayna added in a hushed voice.
The two peered through the tree and found their youngest sister by the river, talking with the man. Sometimes humans Zeus created were homely, rugged, and lesser in appearance compared to gods. This was not the case here. This man looked as though he could be a god himself with his wavy golden hair and abs like Ares, or at least how Morgaine imagined his abs. She had only seen the God of War once.
Keira caught sight of her siblings and waved. "Sisters come! Come meet this man. He calls himself…"
"Marcus," the hunter finished for her, and beamed at them. "There are more of you, I see."
"You are not supposed to see any of us," Morgaine gritted, and turned to her youngest sister. "Come Keira. Mother wants us all home now."
Keira opened her mouth to protest, but then decided against it. She turned to Marcus and asked, "Will you be here tomorrow?"
"No," Morgaine said before he could answer. "You are not supposed to make ties with him. Mother forbids it."
"Since when do you concern yourself with Mother's wishes?" Keira demanded.
"Maybe we can try talking to her about this later," Alayna suggested.
"Perhaps," Morgaine forced out, willing to say anything to get her sister to agree now.
Keira turned back to the hunter and touched his cheek. "I will be here tomorrow."
Just as he stroked her cheek, his eyes moved passed her in alarm. An arrow seared through the tree, directly at them. Marcus pushed Keira out of the way. The weapon slashed his right arm before hitting a tree nearby.
"What is going on?" Morgaine demanded to the hunter.
"It's the other hunters. I have angered them." Marcus's breath got shorter the more he spoke. "They want me dead."
Morgaine grabbed Alayna's hand and motioned for her other sister, urgently. "Come, we must go!"
"Wait!" Keira panted, shaking her head. "We cannot leave him! He lives in the forest."
"She's right," Alayna added. "If he lives here he is apart of the forest. We must protect him."
"We are not getting in the middle of this," Morgaine said, firmly. "Come on, Keira!"
But Keira had run off into the forest after the hunter, who was currently being pursued. Morgaine had no choice but to go after her.
"Wait here," Morgaine ordered her other sister, hoping she would obey.
Morgaine dashed into the forest. The arrows from the other hunters seemed to be coming from every direction. They must have spread in hopes of catching their target. If she had the time, Morgaine would have wondered what he did to anger them so. She spotted Keira hiding behind a tree.
As she ran to her and knelt beside her, she trembled. "They think we're helping him. They want us dead too."
"Come." Morgaine pulled her up. "Mother and Zeus will deal with the huntsmen."
Arrows were aimed at the two as they darted out. Morgaine caught one that would have pierced Keira's flesh and thrashed it through its owner's chest.
"Wait!" Keira stopped. "I think Marcus is over there."
She started to run off again.
"Keira, stop!" Morgaine ordered.
Morgaine then heard an arrow shot behind her. As she turned, a cry followed.
"Morgaine!" the voiced cried out.
Morgaine's eyes widened in horror as she turned to find Alayna had stopped the arrow, but it pierced through her heart instead.
"Alayna!" the eldest sister wailed, her heart dropping.
Morgaine rushed over to her side. She looked down at her sister with blurred vision. Never had she felt so helpless, so weak. Morgaine cradled Alayna in her arms but felt her body go limp. A coldness swept through Morgaine's spine as the tears dripped from her cheeks.
"Morgaine?" Keira's voice quivered from behind her. "Is she…"
The lump in Morgaine's throat would not let any words pass.
"What happened?" a harsh tone demanded.
Morgaine lifted her head up to see her mother. Mother Nature rushed over to her daughter as a river began to flow down her cheek as well.
"No, no," Nature choked, pushing Morgaine aside. "Not my baby!" She swung her head furiously towards her eldest. "You led her to her death!"
"No, Mother!" Morgaine begged. "Please, listen! I didn't mean…"
"No!" Mother rose, pointing her quivering finger dangerously at her daughters. "You will be punished for what happened! Zeus himself will see to that!"
And Zeus did just that. He not only punished the two sisters but the lands as well. In his fury, the King of the Gods separated the lands that were once one. He scattered mankind across the world rather than letting them live together peacefully as they failed to do. He burned parts of the land and merely took the trees from others. Mother still remained Goddess of the Forest and was not permitted to Olympus. Neither Morgaine nor Keira would ever succeed her or ever be allowed in the forest again. They were no longer goddesses of grace, but of shame. Keira was taken to the lands with no trees to live. She forever lingered in the prairies to care for. As for Morgaine, she received the burnt lands, the deserts. What was once whole became severed. This was how Zeus divided the earth.