"What story do you want me to tell you tonight?" the mother asked.
"The ancient Gods!" the son exclaimed, throwing his little fists in the air.
"The Goddess of Peace and the Goddess of Fire!" the daughter cheered excitedly.
"Alright then," the mother chuckled, "cuddle close."
Her children scooted closer, each one curling around one side of her body, settling in the warmth of her embrace. Once they had stopped moving, she started her tale.
"In ancient times, there were eleven Gods, each assigned to one task. Amongst them were Jemilla, the Goddess of Peace, and Zazzalil, the Goddess of Fire.
"Jemilla and Zazzalil didn't get along. Zazzalil was unruly, bold and uncontrolled, much like the fire she held. She provided comfort, joy and warmth, like the flames in the fireplace. But her fire could burn, wound and destroy. Zazzalil often forgot to think about the other Gods. She wanted progress and freedom.
"Jemilla was her complete opposite. She was calm, organized, and liked to think things through. She was in charge of peace, and peace can only come with communication and willingness. Her role was to sort out disagreements, make sure people listened to each other, and care for the wellbeing of all.
"They argued often, but Molag, the Goddess of War, ruled over all, and they all listened to her words above all else. However, one day, Molag left for a last mission around the world."
"The War Master's Great Quest!" the daughter exclaimed, remembering the tale she had heard many times.
"Yes," the mother answered, "but it is not the story I will tell you tonight."
The daughter clasped her hand on her month, a promise of silence, and the mother smiled at her.
"Jemilla was left as the leader, but Zazzalil disagreed. She said nothing at first, but with Molag gone, she decided to do the thing she had always wanted to do. One night, while Jemilla and the other Gods were asleep, she went down to the Earth and to the Men. In the dead of night, she gave them fire. She taught them how to harness it, how to control its power. With that, Zazzalil hoped that they would have a weapon to fight against the perils of their world.
"What she hadn't planed, was for the Men to use it against Nature. Warmth and light were not enough for them. Soon, they grew arrogant, and forgot to be good to Nature, who provided them all and asked for nothing in return. Instead of cutting down the trees they needed for shelter and bows, they burnt out forests and devastated the lands, pursuing their greed for space, raising giant buildings, wishing to reach the sky. Instead of hunting the animals they needed to eat, they burnt all that came along their paths, took their revenge against the predators that had killed so many of their kind, pursuing their greed for power. They lost themselves in the power they held, and Wars broke out amongst them, wars that lasted centuries and devastated the Earth.
"Jemilla was furious. She had known that Men could not be trusted with Godly instruments, but Zazzalil had once again acted before thinking. However, knowledge can not be unlearnt. Zazzalil had given Men a weapon that could not be taken away from them and, in her image, they had taken control over it without thinking of the consequences.
"The other Gods, however, only saw the progress. "There have been wars amongst Men before," one of them said, "they will settle eventually." Of the dying Earth, he said nothing. "They are no longer dying of cold or hunger," an other added, "would you rather they suffer?" Of the species that had been burnt through, she said nothing.
"Jemilla tried to reason with them, to make them hear the Earth's screams of pain and pleas for help, but none listened, drawn to the hypnotizing light of the all-consuming flames. Jemilla screamed and pleaded too, but in vain, for they had all turned to Zazzalil. The Men held great celebrations to honor the Firebringer, and the other Gods turned to her for guidance, unwilling to listen to Jemilla's lectures.
"So Jemilla left. She covered herself in a cloak that was once gifted to her by Molag, made from feathers of all the birds that ever were. With it she changed into a great bird of a deep blue, and she flew away from the other Gods, never to be seen again.
"With the Peacemaker gone, wars never ceased. Men's hunger for power grew stronger and their anger consumed everything that crossed their paths: Men, beasts, and all the wonders that Nature had benevolently given to them. Never were the lands free of fire. The Sky was red from the never ending flame, and the Earth grey with ashes. The air grew warm, and Winter stopped coming, its snow unable to reach the Earth.
"Little by little, the Gods came to see the damages that their negligence had brought, but it had gone beyond their control. Zazzalil was the only one who could bring an end to it, but she sat on her burning throne of glory, drunk on the Men's praise and the power she had, relishing in the progress and freedom that her decision had brought.
"Jemilla, all alone, traveled an other path. In the shape of a majestic blue bird, she flew high in the sky, looking upon the damaged Earth and the folly of Men. All the while, she longed to be with the other Gods again. Their friendship might not have been perfect, but she had loved them like family. It didn't matter that different blood flowed in the veins, they were her family.
"The one she missed most was Zazzalil. Although their relationship had been tumultuous, and Zazzalil was bold, unpredictable, uncontrollable, and everything Jemilla would never be, Jemilla loved her. When she realized that she would never see the Goddess of Fire again, and that nothing could turn her away from her pedestal of flames, Jemilla wept. She rested her wings on the top of the highest tree on the highest mountain, the oldest tree deep in the deepest part of the woods, and wondered how long it would stand. These woods had used to be impenetrable by Men, but from where she stood, Jemilla could hear their clamor. She cried the loss of her family, the loss of the woman she loved, and the loss of the beauty of the world."
The daughter interrupted her mother again.
"Is Jemilla ever going to see Zazzalil again?" she asked in a little voice.
"Of course she will!" the son exclaimed, "Love always finds a way."
The mother brushed her hands through her children's hair, silent for a second. Then she resumed her tale.
"One day, when Zazzalil woke up and looked down upon the Earth, she saw only a raging fire. She sought the Men in the highest mountains and in the furthest caves. She called for them in the darkest forest and the deepest oceans. Nothing answer, and after ten days and ten nights of searching, when she had roamed all the lands, all the skies and all the seas, she understood that none was left alive. The land was nothing like it had once been. As the Men had gone uncontrolled in their greed, they had destroyed all the land, and as an answer, the land had destroyed the Men.
"Only one tree was left standing. The highest tree on the highest mountain, the oldest tree deep in the deepest part of the woods. All around it everything had been destroyed, and at its roots she could see the machines the Men had used to bring down the tree's siblings.
"Engulfed in sorrow and regret, she realized that Jemilla would have never let it happen. The Goddess of Peace would have known how to reason with the Men, and she would have saved the Earth. Zazzalil, knowing she would never be able to see her again, sat on the floor and covered herself with a cloak that had once been gifted to her by Molag, made of scales of all the reptiles that had ever been. With it she changed into a great snake of deep red, and went to the top of the tree, where she could weep in peace.
"At the top of the tree, she saw a great bird, and the bird looked at her with piercing eyes. It brushed the top of the snake's head with the end of its wing, and the softness of its touch reminded Zazzalil of someone long gone. She took back her human form, and in front of her the bird did too.
"In front of her stood Jemilla, on the top of the highest tree on the highest mountain, the oldest tree deep in the deepest part of the woods, in the middle of a destroyed world.
"Jemilla held out her hand and Zazzalil and took it. They wrapped both coast around both of their shoulders and slept.
"When morning came, they talked. Both narrated all of the events of their centuries apart, and Zazzalil apologized. Jemilla forgave her. Together, on the top of the highest tree on the highest mountain, the oldest tree deep in the deepest part of the woods, they called onto their powers the oceans to rise to the top of the tree, killing all of the fires in the land. Then they brought back the waters to their beds.
"They took the fruits in the tree, and planted them all across the lands, so that the forests could grow again. They took both of their cloaks, of feathers and scales, and spread them in the sky and on the Earth, so that all animals could live again. They called upon the Winter and pleaded for it to come back, with its children Spring and Autumn, and asked Summer to share the Earth with them again. When they were done, three hundred and sixty five days and three hundred and sixty five nights have passed, which is why the year lasts that long.
"When it was all done, they gave birth to new Men. They were strong, creative, bold and adventurous, like Zazzalil, but also thoughtful, prudent, smart and kind, like Jemilla. Zazzalil taught them how to harness fire, and control its power, but also how to protect the Earth and care for the world around them.
"Jemilla, Goddess of Peace, and Zazzalil, Goddess of Fire, looked down upon their creation and felt content. They held hands, and together, they sat on the top of the highest tree on the highest mountain, the oldest tree deep in the deepest part of the woods, the only relic of the old world, and watched over the Men."