September 27th, 2013
Somewhere in the woods in the Midwestern United States
Dave and Violet wound through a barely worn path. Sunlight shafts danced as the canopy crashed and roared above. The ceiling of green waved angrily like choppy seas. Still, they picked their way across the forest floor, following a river of flattened leaves with gaps with the earth could be seen.
Dave was a pale young man with dirty blond hair and a red hoodie. Violet was a dark young woman with a skeptical scowl and purple jacket that nearly matched the dye in her hair. She followed at a hesitant distance. The day had been unusual in more ways than was comforting. It was only an hour ago that she’d found a nearly entirely grey cat that led her to Dave. On a whim, she opened up about what she was truly searching for, not expecting him to take her seriously. Instead, he said, ‘I might be able to help.’
So, she kept her distance. Ordinarily, wandering into the woods alone would be unheard of but Violet was fairly confident in her training. Plus, Dave looked a bit like if Pinocchio had become a real boy so she liked her odds.
“It’s just beyond here,” Dave called back as he gestured through a final line of trees. Just beyond and down a small ridge was a winding creek. With the gap in the trees, the sun shown down unobstructed and shimmered welcomingly off the water.
“Why don’t you just tell me where we’re going?” Violet groaned. She didn’t hide any of the doubt in her voice but Dave responded warmly.
“Well, strictly speaking, I’m not supposed to know about it.”
Then why show me? Violet thought. At this point there was no reason not to see this through.
“Is it a witch’s house?” Violet asked.
Dave replied, “No.”
Dave looked back at her with a raised eyebrow.
“What?” Violet said.
“You’re never going to guess it,” Dave said honestly.
“Well, I don’t see you sparking brilliant conversations,” Violet snapped.
Dave suddenly halted and Violet skidded slightly and was surprised to find that Dave had his face scrunched in concentration. He suddenly opened his eyes and looked at her.
“What’s your favorite color?” He finally asked.
“Blue,” Violet said sarcastically. “Are we there yet?”
Dave smiled and instead of responding, marched across the creak, splashing water out theatrically. Violet followed.
They crested a small hill and just as the trees began to grow thickest, they spaced back out into a clearing. In the center of the clearing was—
“Ta-da!” Dave said with his arms out to the side. In the center of a ring of trees was an archway made of roughly hewn stone stacked in an inverted centenary.
“What is this?” Violet asked as they approached. It seemed like the arch would topple at any moment but the amount of moss grown up the side and the smoothness of the stone suggested that it had been there an impossibly long time.
“I think it’s a door,” Dave said as he walked through the opening. “I’ve never figured out how to open it.”
“How did you find this?”
“My— uh— friends use it a lot.”
“They never let you use it?”
“They’re the ones that don’t want me to know about it.”
Violet circled the arch, hesitant to get too close in case the stones suddenly decided that falling sounded like a good idea.
“I don’t see any markings or signs of man-made tools. Do you know who built this?”
Violet narrowed her eyes at Dave.
“Why bring me here if all you have no real information?”
“I’m sorry, it’s all I could think to do,” Dave confessed. “You asked about all that strange stuff and this is the strangest thing I’ve seen. My friends will come out here and I’ll follow them to this clearing but by the time I catch up, they vanish.”
Violet let her attention return to the arch. She didn’t know what to make of Dave or this stone construct. What did she expect? They didn’t know each other.
“What do your ‘friends’ do?” Violet asked, a thought suddenly occurring to her. “Are they in a cult of some kind?”
Dave’s mouth thinned to a line and his brow furrowed.
“That’s actually a very good question,” He said.
A sound like an iron bell shattered the peace of the clearing. Dave jumped and turn to find the arch vibrating slightly. From bases of the arch, a glowing energy seeped from the earth and began to fill the cracks and seams between the stones. It rose until the light met in the center and began leaking out towards the open center. It was almost fluid as the light spiraled to the approximate center, forming a vertical eddy that filled the entire archway.
“I think it’s open,” Violet mused.
“But, how? Did we do anything special?”
“Or say anything unusual?” Violet added.
They slowly circled the arch looking for any hints. Dave was just considering touching the spiraling energy when a massive, clawed hand burst from the light.
Dave yelped and fell backward. Violet, seeing what caused Dave’s sudden surprise, leapt away from the arch and rounded it to help Dave up.
The claws looked like carved stone jutting from a paw made of dirt and soil. In fact, that’s exactly—
The claw grabbed the edge of the archway as a second claw burst out on the other on the adjacent side. The, with surprising effort, a monstrous face pulled itself through.
Violet’s assessment was correct. The creature, whatever it was, appeared to be comprised of earth, soil, and clay. It had stone teeth jutting from a wide maw but no eyes, ears, or nose as far as they could see. It walked on all fours and was shaped roughly like a gecko but five feet tall and forty feet long. A wild tangle of weeds grew along the top of the beast from it’s apparent head down to its tail.
The the earth-beast growled a rusty roar as it inched through the portal.
“Is that one of your friends?” Violet jabbed.
“Hah. Funny,” Dave said.
Together, they crawled behind a nearby tree. The creature moved its head around, clearly looking for something. A moment later, a second earth-beast crawled through the arch. Then a third.
“Maybe they’re friendly,” Dave suggested.
“The snarling would suggest otherwise,” Violet replied. “What do we do?
“Did you bring your sword?” Dave asked hopefully.
“Yeah, but it’s a prop.”
“Maybe they can’t tell the difference.”
“Maybe they don’t even know a sword is supposed to be a threat,” Violet countered but she aimed the handle towards him. Dave took it and nodded.
Then, he leapt from behind the tree, pointed it at the earth-beast and shouted, “Get back, you dirt demons!”
The earth-beast, unfazed by this, leant back on their hind legs and towered over Dave. With surprising accuracy, it slashed one massive claw at the blade and it instantly snapped in half.
“Oh, nice going!” Violet spat.
However they could hear, this was more than enough to draw the ire of the other two beasts who quickly crawled and surrounded Dave and Violet. They stood back to back with three stoney scowls leering hungrily at them.
“Any more plans?” Violet sneered.
“Not if you’re going to mock them,” Dave retorted.
One of the earth-beasts, finally convinced that Dave and Violet would be easy prey, leant back, ready to pounce when an solid wood arrow suddenly pierced it’s head. The creature instantly dissolved into a mound of weeds-covered earth and a quick flash of light shot from the debris into the sky.
Dave, Violet, and the other two earth-beasts turned towards the archway to find two silhouetted figures of a man and woman stood in the light. Together, they stepped forward.
The man had silvery hair but a young, pale face. His pants and jacket were scuffed and dirty in spots. His bright pink scarf had a rip down the center. The woman had vividly orange hair and a face somehow even more pale than the man’s but completely covered in freckles. Her sweater, skirt, leggings, and boots were in a similar state of filth as the man. In her hand she held a bow that appeared to be made from spiraling, hardened vines.
With a quick nod to each other they leapt forward. One of the earth-beasts reared up on hind legs to strike at the man who deftly dropped to one knee and slid, as if the forest floor were ice, beneath the creatures wild attacks. Once on the other side he leapt up, stumbled slightly, and whipped around. The creature turned it’s angry towards the man but he raised one finger and a torrent of icy wind shot forward. The creature’s earth and clay body quickly frosted over and in a moment the entire monster, plants included, was frozen solid.
The woman leapt to her own contest as she willed her vine bow to shift into a shape like a club. In one strong swing, she cleaved the earth-beast in half.
Pleased, the man and woman tapped their fists together. It was only then that they noticed Dave and Violet.
Dave held both arms out in a performative flourish.
“These are my friends,” he said warmly.
The woman stepped forward with a hand extended.
“Hello. I’m Autumn and this is Winter,” Autumn said as she nodded to Winter. He nodded but returned his attention to the glowing archway. Violet stepped forward and took Autumns hand. Bother were surprised by the firmness of the other’s grip.
“My name is Violet,” she said.
“Dave, you should probably get out of here. If Summer finds you—” Winter was interrupted two more figures emerging from the portal. A round-faced woman with short, wavy hair and a dark man with coiley, blue hair.
“Never mind,” Winter muttered.
“Hey, did you manage to stop the few that– WHAT IS DAVE DOING HERE?!” the woman bellowed. Winter thumbed over his shoulder.
“Summer,” Winter emphasized.
The man who arrived with Summer said, “He must have followed us. We weren’t that subtle about leaving.”
“Spring,” Winter said.
“I think I get it,” Violet smirked. Wintered nodded coolly.
“One of the Earthlings could have hurt him!” Summer barked. Dave punched his hand with his fist in revelation.
“Earthlings! That makes sense,” he said with satisfaction.
“Aren’t we Earthlings?” Violet asked.
“Common misconception,” Autumn said.
“He’s fine,” Spring groaned to Summer. “Look, he even found a new friend while we were out.” Spring glanced at Violet. “And she isn’t an animal this time,” he muttered.
Dave took this as his cue to interrupt.
“Everyone, this is Violet. Violet, these are the Four Seasons.”
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