Ch.1

On Juniper all was calm. Summer's stillness in the high mountains of Rourk brought with it the cool kiss of rain, and the deep sigh of an ever moving wind. Here at the base of the jagged peaks, the thick forests of pine would breach from the carpeted plateaus that lulled as waves lapping against the mountain's side. The air was chilled in the early mornings, the clouds like sleeping giants crept their way once more down the rocky spine to settle in the fields and forests. Gentle rains masked in fog left a permanent damp to veil the land. Sweet morning dew would grace every tree branch and spin itself through the rushing webs of ferns and tall grasses that dotted the hillside. And in the later afternoon the sun would rise, often emerging from its cloudy hiding place to bring with it the most welcoming warmth. Soft breezes chased the chill back into the hills and brought life back to the plains as rolling fields of brush and barley chased each other in endless waves that never seemed to tapper.

Here was a place that was known to all for its calm atmosphere; that seemed to surge with life and energy and often relieved the mind of all burdens and trespasses. From the beginning the first people of this land had recognized it and came to settle in the bosom of this comforting landscape, tucked away in the embrace of the mountains and content to explore all the territory had to offer.

Their home was bountiful and brought them much prosperity. From such surroundings the people had built up their towns and farms, and to the south there was even a small city. One large estate was built, nestled between the mountain's forests and the slopping skirts of the plains. It stood on the central road, tall and bearing equal strength to the impressive forces around it. This they called Ironwood, and it was seen as the center point of the territory and could be reached by walking in any direction. One family lived there who served as Regent, a sort of aid to anyone in the land who needed guidance or sought the security of an authoritative title. But there were no real conflicts in the area, and no taxes nor laws were needed for protection for there was not to be protected from. And so it stood merely as a title, honored in the graces of tradition and routine. To the people the estate was a symbol, a rock placed atop an already steadfast mountain. And so the area remained, unchanged for hundreds of years in its content and calming state.

That day had begun with the usual rain. The solemn silence that hung between dripping branches and empty foothills awaited the cautious return of the land's largest inhabitants. Slowly, with their meticulous graces, the great beasts emerged from the fog of the forests. Striding on powerful legs, their flanks twitched against every brush of the wind, their large ears turned to every echoing drip of water. But the air was clear and the world sat silent and waiting.

The Mountains of Rourk held the largest population of poplar stags in all of Juniper. These mighty herds would migrate down from the mountain forests in the cool shade of morning to graze in the fern covered hills. Despite their impressive size, the stags were timid creatures, and moments of fear could bring about one of the most spectacular displays of power this side of the northern ridgeline. Massive congregations of poplar stags charging their way across the green and gold hillsides would stir up such an intense tremble that it could be felt even in the streets of the distant city. When the beasts moved as one, it seemed as if the world would know.

And even with such displays of awesome force, the stags were like phantoms. Coming in with the same silence of the fog and returning to their mountainous sanctuary before the morning dew had time to dry. They were very silent, and very discrete, and save for those who lived in the village closest to Ironwood, they were rarely seen.

In silent trails they walked, single file down the mountain, and through the pines, and toward the mossy clearings. As they began to graze one of the largest of the beasts stood solemn watch, his hooves planted firmly on the ground feeling for any tremor that might suggest panic in the group or the approach of heavy stalking footfalls. Three pairs of large black eyes scanned the open wondering of his herd, and from where he stood, it seemed that all was calm.

Content that current conditions were clear, he stepped back from the overlooking ledge and returned to his own grazing. But the sudden change of the swaying ferns stopped him, and with curious caution he raised his nose to the wind. From over the rising ridge something was lurking, a heavy presence that unsettled the stag, but at the same time confused him. It felt too… consuming, like a great rolling cloud but much less familiar.

Looking down slowly he noticed how intensely the brush swayed against him, and he stepped back hesitantly. What he sensed he could not see, and what he felt he could not understand. To raise a warning for a stampede without certain cause would be unwise, and could potentially endanger the herd. And so with cautious steps, the great stag moved closer to the crest of the ridge, his head bent low, his many eyes held intently on nearing horizon.

His ascent halted as the distance grew suddenly silent, pausing for a frightening moment before it was viciously torn apart with the uproar of cawing and rasping cries. From the trees and hollows, every branch was emptied as the forest birds took to the sky, scrambling upward with a flurry of black wings their forms seeming to collide into one another in their attempt to get away, forming one ominous shadow that spread itself out across the blistery sky. The stag's fears were confirmed as nature's commotion was gradually drowned out, lost in the growing rumble of whatever impending presence rolled forward through the forest. A trembling bellow was heard from over the ridgeline as a great creaking giant thrust itself brutally into the open. Rigid, black and choking with terrible gasps against its own black fumes, the slits in its monstrous face leaked the embers of a burning hell fire that blazed just beyond.

The stag bolted, turning on its hooves and digging them aggressively into the ground as he ran in leaps and bounds through the tall mountain ferns. Out over the ledge he went, the looming machine was soon to follow, and with great impact he struck the ground sending out an alarming tremor that instantly alerted the others. The herd was on the move. Hundreds of poplar stags charging chaotically as one, feeding off each other's fear and crashing their bodies together in a mad getaway to escape the roaring and burning beast. But as they ran and the landscape stretched before them, the heavens behind them seem to shutter and shrink as over the hillsides and the points of the tallest trees the air was crowding with more and more of the terrible metal beasts. They dropped in one after the other from the foggy sky, their exhaust churning up the clouds in their quivering wake, and casting them into an ashen haze.

Trees of the mighty forest moaned and cracked under their approach as lower and lower they came. The mighty vessels swooped in over the mountain and crashed through the trees. Many stuck to the air, heaving down toward the new landscape and then glowing hot as they seemed to grab hold of the clouds themselves, hanging ominously above the planet as if only to scrutinize the trembling paradise they had found.

The world shook both above and below as the stags continued to charge. Forced out of the familiar security of the hills they thundered into the adjacent valleys. The flat surroundings were unfamiliar to them but they took to it with desperate speed. Now their legs could simply run and so they did, spreading out over farm fields and plateaus that brought them a more exposed view off the world then any they had ever seen.

In this vast openness the herds dispersed and eventually slowed their violent flee. Still their hearts thundered with unfamiliar fear as they gazed back from their new surroundings. The mountains of Rourk towered above them, but their home was now framed by a heavy and intimidating sky. Hundreds of metal ships hung in burning suspension, the light of their furnace's blaze met harshly in the middle by the competing blue glow that hummed from back engines that shone with more modern intensity. The suffocating masses cast the clouds from sight, and dotted the horizon with their scattered and threatening shapes as if to smother the world.

Just as soon as it all began, so too did it seem to suddenly stop. The air shuddered as if awaiting the next abusive blow, but none came. These fearsome giants hovered together in their stoic formation, the whir and hum of their calming engines washing out over the skies. But even that came to pass and soon the cowering landscape was left to look up through the silence at its new looming arrival and wait in wonder to see whether its hesitant fear would be brutally justified.


A/N: volia! and thus the peace was disturbed and chaos came to Juniper. Oooo! lol ;P

A fun bonus for this story is that there are Illustrations for each chapter. on Deviantart they are posted with the text but here i'll have to post the links below.

So for chapter one i give you the Poplar Stag: devilsdaydream. tumblr image / 40949904194 (remove spaces for accurate link activation)

enjoy! and please let me know what you think! on the art and the writing ^^ i'd be happy to hear about both.