Clash of the Primal Gods

Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

The chanting was prolific, the elder of this deep jungle tribe had taken me by the hand at the word of a runner who came sprinting through the dense foliage. He held in his hands a stretched animal hide, with a blood red marking painted onto it.

I must confess, the marking boded of dread to my sheltered mind.

The people roared at its presentation – as far as I could tell from my limited understanding of their language, a rival tribe’s god had offended theirs. They took up their spears and torches and charged into the thick, humid undergrowth in the direction the runner had come from, accompanied by the beating of deep war drums.

The elder, a wry old lady perhaps three times my age, took me by the wrist as I lagged behind and led me after the raging mob. I believe she would have been at the head of the group if it were not for me slowing her down . . .

After a frenzied sprint the tribe emerged into pale sunlight upon a platform of stone. It rose upon cliffs high over the surf of a deadly, surging sea. And on the other side, my adoptive tribe was met by a rival war party from the distant beaches.

The parties encircled the platform, jeering and shaking their weapons at one another, and despite my best efforts I could not slink away to safety—so firm was the grip of the elder around my wrist.

I was about to be a very unfortunate casualty, collateral damage in some bitter feud.

But then, a thunder CRACK.

I flinched and looked to the heavens, but the skies were clear, pristine blue. And the crashing roar of the waves was too coarse and too rough to have made such an acute noise.

Another crack, and twist of snapping wood. Somewhere in the jungle, trees toppled in droves . . .

From the dense, gnarled treeline a creature emerged, and the tribe I had been studying erupted into a raucous cheer. The thing, the beast, was a hulking behemoth of warped trunk and branch, with shivering bushels that trembled with every hulking step. The thing stepped onto the platform of stone and roared, a stream of fire flies jettisoning from its yawning maw.

The beach tribe flinched back under the titanic noise, but quickly recovered.

In response to the roar, there was a BOOM. A large, rocky paw reached over the cliff edge, dripping with a constant torrent of sea and foam. A second creature – similar in stature to the first but composed of briny bedrock and a constant cascade of water – clambered into the ancient arena.

Both tribes roared, cheering and egging on their respective elemental warriors.

And with strange trepidation and glee, I realised that this was not a war between two tribes . . . but a duel between their gods. No, not a duel, a match . . .

The runner who issued the challenge started speaking, a guttural voice that somehow carried over the cheers and the crash of waves, announcing the battle to come, and the tribes quieted.

The runner dropped his hands, and the two titans slammed into each other. The jungle god shattered its bark fist against the stone maw of the sea god, and the rocky behemoth fumbled back, almost tipping over the cliff’s edge.

The crowds went silent in trepidation of their own, and cried out in excitement as the sea god recovered, wound up a savage blow, and slammed its stony paw into the jungle god’s gut.

A boy was working the sides of the arena, selling food and drink for the spectators. The elder woman let go of my wrist as she laughed and clapped her hands at the sea god’s riposte, and with my hand free, with a chance to flee . . . I hesitated.

Instead of running, I clapped the elder woman on the back and nodded my approval. The jungle god broke off its own arm by the shoulder and used it as a club to savage the sea god in the groin.

I cheered as loud as the two opposing crowds, ordering a skewer of meat from the merchant boy and settling in for a long, exciting contest – the Clash of the Primal Gods.

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