"She was a prodigy, the day she, was born…"

Z

"Zakura," She heard her name from behind her and turned to see her friend coming towards her. She turned back to where she was looking out into the desert, sharp eyes searching for movement. Her friend sat next to her in the sheltered thicket and began to stare with her. "What are you looking for?"

"For a sign of life," She answered quietly, knowing her friend would understand her. Since she'd been little, probably from before her birth, she'd learned to hate the desert. It took her father way, its people captivated the art of war, and it also isolated her from all other forests. She'd been told that the people that lived in the dead land were dead as well; merely spirits surviving on Earth. She was older now, and did not believe in such tales, but she'd always wondered.

Aly, her friend, turned to stare at her with blue eyes framed with brown hair. She was short for the tallness that resided in this forest, where most held a dancers lithe, long body. "Your mother was looking for you earlier,"

"She can wait, she's always looking for me these days," Zakura said impatiently, her irritation with her mother growing since their last argument only a few days prier.

"You are old enough to marry," Aly said, poking Zakura's stomach. She slapped her friends hand away laughing.

"I don't care, some part of me doesn't feel the need to love," She smiled as her friend snorted at the declaration of independence. "No seriously! I think I was made for more than that!"

"Sure, sure, whatever you say, now come on. Syril is going to tell a story in the village tonight." With that she stood up staring once more into the ever empty desert. "Do you really think that living beings can survive out there?"

Zakura turned her emerald green eyes back to the scene before her, taking in all her possible answers before giving a simple, "We'll never know."

Z

Her forest was the smallest of the seven that existed on her world. All connected on a single island that stretched thousands of miles apart with only four land areas: the Seven Forests; Spider Web Desert; Raging Cliffs; and the Deep Sea. She lived in the last of the forests, Syril: the dancer's forest.

Her people had long ago separated from the rest of the sister forests who chose to teach their people the way of war. They moved into the once vacant forest, devoid of humans, but still filled with ancient gods. It was there that her people became dancers and to this day continue in peace with the other nations.

The desert was the most vicious of all the worlds, for there was a land high above the earth, the neutral race that lives in the Sky Kingdom. No one has seen them for hundreds of years so they were thought to have died out.

In her forest, there were few murders, few fights, and few painful memories, but it was not the same elsewhere. Zakura knew it, her father had been killed for it, and her mother had suffered for it. It seems that even her people had attained peace finally, it would never be true. It was not in their nature to not feel the need for others to suffer and she feared the feeling.

Zakura had always stood out against her people, some, when she was born, claimed that she was a demon born in human form; others claimed that she was an omen. Her hair, unlike the common brown, was a blue color that could grow twice the speed most others could grow and stopped growing at a point that rested just above her knees, around mid-thigh. Her eyes, unlike the common blue of her people, was an emerald green so pure in color that people got scared if she stared too long. She was an outcast.

She hugged Syril as she entered her forest, breathing in his natural smell of strange herbs. He was the oldest man to live in their village. His hair was white streaked with gray, long and braided over his shoulder, his face old and cracked. She'd never been able to tell what color his eyes were and she thought that it'd be rude to ask.

"How have you been, my dear one," He asked her in his voice, raspy from old age.

"I've been good, thank you. I'm sixteen now," She told him smiling and he looked at her with pride.

"Congratulations, I bet many a young men will soon come to take you away." She mentally snorted at his words, for he did not know that the boys thought her a strange witch, but merely thanked him.

"What story are you going to tell tonight, Wiseman?" She said, calling him his nickname.

"A legend tonight," He told her with a smile. "One of the Forest Guardian, Tiga,"

Zakura felt herself become excited, to hear of Tiga would be a great treat. She wanted to ask him which battle, what story, what adventure? Would it be of love, or hate, or war? But she'd known him long enough that she knew he'd never tell her.

"That sounds excellent, Syril," her mother's voice said from behind her. Zakura closed her eyes and groaned inwardly.

"Hello mother," She said through clenched teeth. She turned to see her mother giving her a cheeky grin; honestly, it was like Zakura was the parent.

"Hello, daughter, where have you been all day?"

"By the border to the Web," Zakura told her straight out, not wanting to be caught lying to her mothers' face; Aly wasn't a very good confident when it came to lying to the medicine woman. Her mother had a tendency to extract revenge on anyone who did something wrong to her.

Her mother narrowed her eyes at her and Syril chuckled, turning towards Zakura, her pointed at her mom. "Wrong thing to say, dear one. I'll see you tonight."

He left leaving her to deal with her mother alone and also leaving her with two decisions: one was that she could stay and listen to her mother lecture her; the other, to run. She chose the latter. Walking quickly away she heard her mother groan and listened as her footsteps began to follow.

Zakura weaved gracefully through the crowds of people while her mother clumsily, muttering profanities when she ran into people.

"Why Zakura," Her mother yelled at her. "Why is it that you always have to run away, can't you take it in like a man?"

"Mother, I'm a girl, and I don't need you to tell me something that I've known for years," Zakura yelled back.

"And what would that be?" Her mother asked, cocking her eyebrow.

"'Stay away from the desert, Zakura.' and 'Hate the people that live in the Web'. I know mom, I know, so why do you always need to tell me?"

"Because you never listen! Do you remember the time the border patrol caught you sitting in the thicket that time and they almost killed you if they hadn't taken pity on you for being a child. You're too old for them to take pity on you, it does not matter if you are female or if you are a male; mother or father; daughter or son; they are at war with all the forest even if we don't fight them. They will kill, and they will not care."

Zakura turned to face her mom, seeing the tears that were in her eyes, and stopped to sigh. Today had been a drama day, she'd felt unusually sad, it was her birthday but for some reason it made her sad. It felt like time had stopped and that she would grow no older.

"Alright, I understand, can we please just forget it," Zakura said, one arm holding the other and looking at the ground.

Her mother gave her a smile and kissed her a forehead, "Now about being married-"

"MOM!"

"I was just wondering-"

"NO,"

Z

The fire was large this year, in the clearing where all the hundreds of the people sat on the grass or on logs. A stone stood two feet off the ground, the story-tellers rock, where Syril would tell the journey of Tiga, the last Forest Guardian.

Syril appeared from his hut at the edge of the clearing and the people began to anxiously await his story. Zakura sat in an old oak tree on one of its fat lower branches, newly green from the season of spring. Aly sat next to her and her mother was with a few of her apprentices at the other end of the clearing.

From where she sat she could see everything perfectly, the fire; the people; and the moon itself anxious for the tale as old as it was. She felt the wind ruffle her hair, whipped away with the sudden wind and laughed. It was nights like these that always made her giddy.

"It has been many a generation," Syril began, his old voice carrying in the silence, as mystic as the stories he told. "Since the land has been blessed with the walking of guardians, beings made of the lands they lived upon. The forest, strong and true; the desert, brave and cunning; the sky, wise and agile; and the sea itself with the gifts of faith and fierceness. The last Guardian that has ever lived went by the name of Tiga, and she was born in the forest of Kunyear, the largest of them all. She grew up with no parents, an din a time when woman were not allowed to fight in the wars. Still, despite those against her, she made sure all knew that she could fight.

Born naturally to her was the strength and speed of the wolf, our patron animal, and it was obvious that her talent surpassed all others. But it was not until her sixteenth birthday that the people of Kunyear realized what her talents truly were.

On the day of awakening, the day when the new warriors are chosen, something happened that was unexpected. During one of her first fights that she began to struggle against for the man was cheating, a vine suddenly shot from the earth and ripped him to the ground, trapping him there.

Now, many thought this weird for there was no one with the talents of Yore allowed to come and watch the battles. They brushed it off, thinking it a fluke of some odd happening. They were wrong.

In all the battles she faced, the forest helped her, tearing her victims down, tripping them, slicing them with thorns so sharp that to touch them was a threat. They tore easily through wooden shields and weapons that were not easily broken.

It was then that all realized that she was someone special, she was a Guardian.

That is the beginning of her adventure, but there are many stories to tell and there are not enough full moon nights to tell them all. So I shall tell you a favorite of mine, the story of the Sea, when Tiga traveled deep into the heart of Atlantis, the capital of the sea.

You see it was after she'd defeated the demon boar Zaltzer, who raged chaos in the Raging Cliffs, that she decided she wanted to visit the sea. She was so close, a mere days journey, and decided that curiosity was more important than home.

So when she reached the sea she realized that she had a problem: there was no way for her to get to the city of Atlantis for she knew not where it lay. The desert nomads told her of a spirit that lived in water that would come to her and take her there if she answered a question correctly. Tiga, of course, took up the challenge.

For three days she waited, wading in the shallows of the water, waiting for this supposed spirit to appear. On the third day, just before sunset, she appeared. The spirit was a little girl with blonde hair and blue eyes, bluer than the sky.

'Are you the heart that has been calling me?' The spirit asked her to which Tiga answered quickly 'Yes'.

The spirit smiled at her and beckoned her. 'First, I have a question for you.'

'I'm ready,' Tiga replied.

'There are many things in this world unknown to the eyes of those that are closed. What is it that none shall see, and none shall know, but you shall rule them all?' The spirit asked her with eyes that shone like sun.

Tiga found this question rather odd and took a moment to reply. Then she realized something that was significant in each of the three parts of the question.

None shall see, none shall know, but I shall rule them all, She thought. She turned to the spirit and answered, 'My destiny,'

The spirit stared at her before shaking her head, 'No, but for you truly thought, I shall take you to Atlantis as a reward for your honesty. Refreshing, human, for it has been years since I have seen minds like yours.'

The spirit took her to Atlantis soon after-"

Z

Somewhere, deep in the heart of the forest, a giant wolf walked through the shadows towards the place where he had come from. Out of the ground, vines and plants growing all over, the top of a golden pyramid, a golden eye looking out, rested. The door way large enough for a wolf the size of a large horse. As he walked he was well aware of the footsteps, light and quick, behind him.

In the moonlight, his fur was an eerie white, eyes normally gold, turned a light honey color. He sighed heavily and turned and stared directly into the shadows. He could see the woman in the blackness, how her face turned into a Cheshire cats grin.

"Yamu," She said in a soft voice. He hated that voice, he hated that he was dragged into this. He was the last of his kind, and his life had known nothing but war.

"What do you want?" He asked tiredly.

"Is it starting?"

"Yes,"

"Excellent,"

"Is this what you want," He asked suddenly, staring at her with eyes filled with wisdom and exhaustion.

"It's not like we're killing anyone, we're just waking her up. Don't tell me you don't miss her, Yamu, you two were so close." She said in a voice that reminded him of a snake.

"I have seen many futures promised of happiness, and I'm too old to believe in them anymore," He told her.

"What a shame," She said uncaringly. "We're not killing anyone; we're just waking someone up."

"You've said that already," He told her critically. He turned his head and looked into the moon and from where he stood he could see the column of fire shooting out of the edge of the forest. From where he stood he could have sworn he saw her, sitting in a tree, but she was miles away. "A life is a life,"

"But not when that life belongs to another,"

"In the end," He said turning to her, baring his fangs. "It will not matter, what you believe in, it will not matter the words you say, all that will matter is the damage that you will cause."

"I will cause nothing that's already destined to happen,"

"You are naïve, you are talking to a god," He growled and saw her shrink back slightly. "Deal whatever hand you will into this war of yours, but you better be able to give up all that you say you will."

-sL-

Thanks to Golden Archer who reviewed. That poem at the end, I wrote that a while ago and it just seemed to fit this story. You'll see it again towards the end for a more specific reason. Thanks for reviewing.

Review please, it makes my day, lol!

Solisluna