I wrote this short fictional fantasy piece a few years ago. It is meant for older children. It has a strong defense of nature theme, and was inspired by Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke.
In the farthest depths of the Forest World lived Princess Geraldina, Protector of the Forest and prime daughter of Gaia, goddess of the Forest and all things living.
The Princess loved to run through the Forest. So much that she ran nearly everywhere. With each long stride, her bare feet dug into the warm, soft earth and she felt the world breathe.
Sometimes, when the sun broke through the thick canopy of leaves hundreds of feet above the Forest floor, she would catch a fleeting glimpse of her shadow. The silhouette of her short, blond hair whipped back as though a gale were bearing down on her.
Of course, the Wind was never able to penetrate into the heart of the Forest, where ancient and wise trees protected all within like a castle wall, allowing only the smallest patches of light through—all of which Princess Geraldina knew where to find at any time of day.
Her clothes were gifts from the plants of the Forest and befitted a young Princess. Woven from the finest mosses and plant fibers, they kept her warm on cold days and cool on sunny days.
Strapped tight to her back, she always carried a quiver filled with arrows, which were gifts of the trees. Her bow she slung over one shoulder and under the other. Though the arrows came from the trees—and she was never in need of arrows for a tree was always nearby—the bow was a gift from another part of the Forest.
When Princess Geraldina was born into the Forest World, when she first opened her eyes and saw the Forest for the very first time, she was already a mature young girl. She awoke on a tiny island of moss and reeds. The island was not much larger than her body and was placed in the center of a meandering stream with a slow current. Her first sight was the canopy, where millions of leaves gently moved in an unseen and unfelt breeze. At her side was the bow. The bow was a gift from Gaia and a symbol of the great responsibility the Princess would carry. From that day forward she was Princess Geraldina, Protector of the Forest.
There was also something, or rather someone, resting beside the Princess on that first day. A large black wolf, many times larger than the Princess, starred into her eyes. The wolf spoke with a deep and calming voice that resonated through the Forest.
“I am Rammius,” the wolf said. “I am your protector.”
That was how the Princess’s life commenced. For many years Rammius and she roamed the Forest World, protecting it from the petty fiends that emerged from the fallen ashes of a strange species of bird that came from a mysterious land far outside the walls of the Forest.
While many young children dream of leaving home to lead adventurous lives in exotic lands, the Princess never thought of being anything else or anywhere else because she loved the Forest. She was a part of the Forest just as much as the plants and animals. Her life and their lives were one. Her survival depended on theirs and theirs on hers.
On cold nights, the Princess often would bury herself deep in the silken fur coat of Rammius, who kept a vigilant watch and could spring to action in a moment to protect his master.
On one such cold night the Princess awoke to a strange sound. It was unlike anything she had ever heard in her life. The noise was deep like a wolf’s growl, shrill like the cry of a hawk, and thunderous like the Great Waterfall.
“Do you hear it?” she asked her companion.
“What is it?”
The sounds were still distant, but grew closer with each moment.
“Ahh!” the Princess cried, clutching at her heart, “What is this pain? It’s horrible.”
“I feel it too,” Rammius said. “The pain comes from the wounds the Forest is suffering.”
“The wounds the Forest is suffering? No! We must stop it. Now!”
At that Rammius and the Princess ran toward the noise. They silently and quickly moved through the dark Forest, always side by side, each pushing the other to move faster.
The noise grew louder with each stride the Princess took. Before long the horrendous noise rose to a deafening volume, such that Rammius and the Princess could no longer hear each other speak. Instead, their eyes and bodies spoke for them.
Reaching a broad, boulder-strewn ridge, they paused to take in the fantastic sight unfolding before their eyes. No longer running, the Princess could feel vibrations shaking the ground, vibrations that caused boulders to tumble down the ridge and crash into trees.
Princess Geraldina fought to maintain her balance on the undulating Earth. Rammius, though on four legs, also had to take a broader stance to keep from being thrown to the ground. This was a new sensation for the Princess, but there was another sensation that was also new to her, and more frightening.
It was a fear that resided so deep within her that the hair on the back of her neck stiffened and goosebumps rose all over her body, sensations Princess Geraldina had never before known.
Whatever created the great noises and vibrations that tore through the Forest, the Princess knew that it was on the other side of the ridge.
She looked to Rammius, who in turn hunched his shoulders, pushed his nose toward the source of the commotion, and snarled his great fangs.
Seeing the resolve in her companion, the Princess tightened her muscles and sprung to action, leading the way up the ridge. She deftly dodged the massive boulders bouncing down the hillside. In one particularly narrow place, she neatly hopped onto one rolling stone then quickly leaped to another and then to another before returning to the ground.
In a matter of seconds, the two loyal companions gained the top of the ridge. Below them was a beautiful forest valley. However, out of the West the grumbling, growling, grinding, and thundering noise grew nearer. Then, Rammius and the Princess watched in horror as great, wise, old trees of the Forest were toppled. The trees came smashing to the ground with such a fury that some shattered into splinters that shot like spears through the Forest. Their canopies exploded, launching clouds of leaves, branches, and dirt into the air.
Moonlight poured through the great gash ripped in the Forest’s canopy, and the Princess saw the light glint off something that moved behind the falling trees.
A new smell pierced the Princess’s senses, causing her to cover her nose in disgust.
“It’s horrible,” she cried.
Then, bursting through the Forest and fleeing toward Rammius and the Princess, countless animals of the Forest dashed forward. Fear flashed in their eyes—the same fear Princess Geraldina had felt earlier.
“What is it?” the Princess yelled as the animals ran past her. “What are you running from? What is doing this?”
But the Princess did not need an answer, for at that moment the source of all the fear, of all the pain, and of all the destruction emerged from the shadows that had concealed it.
It was a metal behemoth that belched black smoke. Grime, rust, and soot-stained its body green, red, and black.
The giant rolled forward on toothed tracks that pulverized anything unlucky enough to fall under the treads.
At the front of the metal menace was a gaping hole. It was yellow and jaundiced. Rows of razor sharp teeth lurched from the depths of the hole. They were made of polished metal. The teeth latched onto everything. Trees, plants, and rocks were pulled into the menace’s mouth and then disappeared into the behemoth’s belly.
As the terrible creature consumed all that lay in its path, flames erupted from the sides, torching anything the teeth missed. Ashes from burnt trees filled the air and rained down on the Princess and Rammius.
“Stop!” the Princess screamed at the creature. “Why are you doing this?”
Tears formed in her eyes and she asked Rammius, “What is it?”
“It is a machine from the West,” Rammius said. “It blindly consumes all before it. Its appetite will never be quenched. It will not stop.”
Then, the Princess saw that the machine devoured more than just trees, plants, and rocks. Animals too fell into its solid grasp and disappeared into the darkness. Upon seeing this, the Princess screamed, “No!”
She pulled an arrow from her quiver and leaped to action with such ferocity that the tears were blown from her cheeks. She launched arrow after arrow into the machine’s sides and into the gaping hole that consumed the Forest.
However, the arrows were no match for the metal machine and bounced off the sides or were eaten like everything else.
But the Princess was unceasing. She plucked more branches from the trees, placed them in her bow where they transformed into arrows, and continued her attack.
Rammius too joined in the fight and threw himself against the machine, over and over.
After shooting hundreds of arrows but seeing no effect, the Princess abandoned her bow. She jumped onto one of the rows of teeth and tried to pry it loose, but the metal was too strong. The machine continued its forward onslaught against the Forest.
“Rammius,” she screamed to her companion over the roar of the machine, “it’s too strong for us to defeat. Help me save what Forest we can!”
“Yes, Princess,” the wolf faithfully boomed.
At that, the two companions set about saving animals from the machine’s grasp and pulling trees and plants from its glimmering, taunting teeth.
They worked tirelessly for hours, saving what they could of the Forest, rescuing the animals too weak to escape the path of destruction. Yet, the machine continued forward at the same pace, never tiring, never showing signs of weakness.
However, Rammius and the Princess were not made of metal, they were flesh and blood, and soon their muscles began to tire.
And it was then that Princess Geraldina slipped while trying to pull a tree from the machine’s mouth. Her leg became trapped between the tree and one of its branches.
She was being pulled into the machine along with the tree. In a matter of seconds, she too would be devoured like much of Forest before her. Knowing and accepting of her fate, she turned to Rammius, and over the constant screech of the machine, she yelled, “Forget about me, Rammius. I am lost. Save the Forest.”
And as she disappeared into the smoke-filled darkness of the machine’s belly, she screamed again, “Save the Forest.”
The great black wolf Rammius had just watched the one he was created to protect, The Protector of the Forest and all its creatures, the fearless Princess Geraldina, disappear into the belly of the wretched yellow beast that was destroying the Forest World.
Upon this sight, a ferocity Rammius had never known overcame him. With new energy pulsing through his mighty legs, he jumped onto the great machine. His massive jaws and teeth bit the smokestacks jutting out of its roof. His long claws dug at the rivets holding the machine’s exterior together.
The machine, however, was too great a foe for Rammius. Its smokestacks could not be damaged, and its rivets could not be torn loose.
Black smoke belched out of the smokestack and a blast of fire exploded into Rammius, throwing him far from the machine and knocking him unconscious.
When Rammius awoke, the machine had disappeared deep into the Forest, blazing its deathly path away from the setting sun. In the distance, Rammius saw thin wisps of black smoke rising high into the sky, belched from the infernal great yellow beast that continued unceasingly forward to feed its insatiable appetite.
However, there was something new. Something Rammius did not notice during the heat of the earlier battle. A pipe.
A giant pipe now lay in the trail of destruction. It was made of polished steel and capable of holding everything the yellow beast consumed. In one direction, it continued toward the wisps of black smoke and the yellow beast. In the other direction, it went toward the setting sun—West—the origin of the creature. At once Rammius understood. The beast in the Forest laid the great pipe, pumping everything it grabbed to the West.
Rammius remembered the Princess’s words. Save the Forest. However, Rammius existed to protect the Princess, and the Princess lived to protect the Forest. To save the Forest, Rammius first had to save the Princess.
Rammius knew what had to be done. Follow the great pipe West. Find Princess Geraldina. And destroy whatever monstrosity had sent the yellow beast into the Forest.
The journey lasted longer than Rammius could have imagined. It started as hours. Then hours became days. And days became weeks.
As he traveled he saw what remained of beautiful forests, fields, and streams that had been brutally destroyed. The remains were ash, pulp, tufts of fur, and things too horrible for Rammius to look at for very long.
Everything was flattened and charred. The vibrant colors of life were gone, replaced by shades of gray. And the further West he traveled, the darker the sky became until the sun was just a dull, depressing speck.
He was deeply saddened. But the more profound the sadness, the deeper the anger became that festered and swelled inside his spirit.
At times, he heard noises come from the pipe. Scratching. Thuds. And soft, resigned whimpering. It was the whimpers that gave him hope. Hope that amongst all of the death being pumped through the pipe there were still glimmers of life. Hope that Princess Geraldina was among those glimmers.
The mixture of hope and anger kept the wolf going without rest. After a month’s travel, he arrived at the pipe’s destination.
The pipe entered into a strange type of village. The village was made entirely of metal. A maze of pipes ran between, through, and above everything. Large and small pipes jutted into the sky, emitting steam and smoke. Odd machines, large and small, toiled away at tasks Rammius did not understand. Some of the machines were fixed to pipes or buildings. Others roamed free, but moved with precision and confidence in their mysterious mission.
The machine village reminded Rammius of the Gep, a Forest people who built intricate and complex wooden communities high in the great trees. The Gep also liked to create trinkets that buzzed and walked and rolled through their homes.
However, the Gep were a peaceful people who lived in concert with the Forest. The machines were not.
This place was not a village, Rammius realized. A village is a place where children are raised, laughter is heard, stories are told, and lives are lived. No, this place smelled of death. It was a graveyard. A slaughterhouse. Rammius looked on in anger and disgust.
Through the piles of ash, a small blue machine rolled toward the wolf. Rammius lowered his broad shoulders and snarled, but the little machine paid no attention to the great wolf. It passed by without even pausing.
The machine did not care about the wolf. It was programmed to do a job, and that was all it would do. That was all it could do.
Rammius walked into the center of the activity and buildings, the machines hastily flying above him and running between his legs as they made their way to unseen errands.
Once at the center of the slaughterhouse, the sights and sounds quickly overwhelmed Rammius: the clanking of machines and the hiss of steam. The evil sounds bore through his ears and clawed at his spirit. The sight of metal everywhere filled his eyes and rushed into his mind where everything became confused. The anger grew until Rammius could no longer control himself. He let out a great howl that echoed off the metal walls. But the machines did not stop.
Then he heard it. Faint at first. Then growing louder.
“Yes, It is I,” the Princess said.
Rammius heard her voice, and it was the most beautiful thing he had heard since the yellow beast invaded the Forest, but he could not see her.
“Where are you?” he roared.
“I don’t know. I’m inside of some sort of building. I can’t get out, Rammius. I’m caged!”
“I’m coming,” Rammius roared.
He looked around, becoming more anxious with each passing moment.
Where is she
One building stood out from the rest because all of the pipes seemed to pass through it. That was the place where Princess Geraldina was imprisoned, Rammius knew with certainty.
The wolf ran to the building, quickly finding the only entrance—a large steel door. Rammius pushed the door, but it did not budge. It was locked.
Rammius stepped back and then rammed the door. This effort left a dent in the door, but still, it barred him from getting to the Princess. So again he rammed the door, but harder. The dent grew in size, but the door remained closed.
Again and again, Rammius crashed his body into the massive steel door. Each time he put more force and more muscle into the effort. And each time the dent grew and the lock and hinges weakened.
Finally, with all of his strength, Rammius ran at the door, leaping at the last moment. As he flew through the air at full speed, he angled his shoulder toward the door. Upon impact, the massive door broke from its hinges and shot into the building. The wolf and the door came crashing down on the floor.
Rammius lay on the door. Every muscle and tendon in his body was exhausted. His eyes were shut, and his breathing was heavy.
“Rammius,” the Princess whispered. “Rise. Rise, Rammius.” Tears rolled down her dirty cheeks. Her hands grasped the bars of the cage with grief, and with anger.
As Rammius lay motionless on the door and the Princess grieved, the sounds of machinery droned on inside the building. Gears ground against gears. Cla-clank. Cla-clank. Destroyed Forest pulsed through the pipes like blood in the ears. Sh-voom. Sh-voom. Steam presses came crashing down. Kaboom. Pssht. Kaboom. Pssht. And generators groaned at maximum output. Rrrrrrrrrr.
Slowly, the wolf’s eyes opened. His breathing became regular, and he lifted his head.
Seeing Princess Geraldina, the wolf said, “Princess,” his voice deep and guttural, almost joyful. “Are you well?”
“Yes, but I’m trapped in this terrible cage. Its bars are too thick to break.”
“Well,” huffed the wolf, “we’ll have to see about that.” And with that Rammius raised himself off the door and moved toward the cage.
“But Rammius, you are too weak. Don’t even try. It will only cause you more pain.”
“I am already recovered,” the wolf said. His mind had cleared and with it his mission.
Rammius was no ordinary creature, just as Princess Geraldina was no average girl. Gaia, the mother of all beings, had designed Rammius for the sole purpose of protecting the Princess. The closer the Princess came to danger, the more anger the wolf felt. As his anger grew so did his strength. It was without limit. At that moment the Princess was in extreme danger.
The sight of the Princess trapped behind steel bars allowed the wolf’s anger to grow to a new height. Never before had he felt so much rage and so much raw power.
Rammius bit into one of the steel bars and ripped it loose from the cage. With a snap of his neck, he flung the bar across the building where it stuck into a pipe like a hunter’s spear. Steam erupted from the pipe where the bar had become lodged. A pressure gauge dropped, sounding an alarm that would call machines to repair the damaged pipe. But Rammius ignored the sounds. His focus was singular. He ripped free another bar, sending it clattering across the floor. Finally, Princess Geraldina was freed from her prison.
The Princess leaped through the gap in the cage and latched onto Rammius. She hugged him with all the strength of a girl who thought she would never see her best friend again. But there he was! He had come for her. Deep in her spirit, she knew he would come. She felt Rammius moving toward her—this was the power of their bond.
“Oh, Rammius. Thank you. I knew you would come,” she said, tears falling from her eyes. “But now,” she said, her tears drying and a ferocity Rammius had never before seen coming over her face, “we must destroy this place.”
“Yes,” Rammius said, the rage in his voice a comforting sensation for the Princess.
“There!” the Princess said, pointing to a cluster of valves. “Close all of the valves. The yellow beast cannot survive with the valves closed.”
The Princess and Rammius closed every valve in the building, and there were many. As each valve was shut, the pressure in the pipes went higher. And the higher the pressure, the more the pipes shook.
When they closed the last valve, the entire building began to shake. The pressure gauges broke because the pressure in the pipes was too high to measure. The structure started to fall down around them as it rattled off the foundation.
“Get out!” the Wolf roared.
They burst out of the building and ran from the wicked place of machines, pipes, and smoke. As they escaped, machines were moving around with great speed trying to control the damage, trying to save the pipes. The machines swarmed into the building where Princess Geraldina had been imprisoned, but their futile efforts were too late. The damage had grown too severe for machines to repair.
The Princess and Rammius ran across the charred landscape, only stopping when the imminent collapse of the machine fortress became apparent.
A great rumbling shook the ground. Smoke and steam shot high into the sky. Rivets, blowing out of pipes, shot through the air like bullets, whistling past the Princess and the wolf.
Then, they watched as a giant explosion consumed the entire slaughterhouse fortress—all of the buildings, the pipes, and the machines.
When the commotion had settled, Rammius said, “We have done it, Princess. We have defeated those infernal machines.”
The Princess did not respond. She looked to the West. Rammius followed her gaze, seeing what she saw.
“No. We have not,” she said.
Stretching into the West, away from the destroyed machine buildings, was another pipe. However, this pipe was different from the one that had carried the Princess and guided the wolf to her location. This pipe was three times the size.
The Princess realized that the real problem was much larger than anything they could have imagined. The destroyed machine fortress was nothing but a minor skirmish in a much larger battle.
“We must go, Rammius. We must go West and end this, whatever it is,” the Princess said without breaking her Westward gaze.
“I shall follow wherever you lead,” the Wolf said.
At that, the Princess and Rammius set off to find the evil that was sending the machines to consume the Forest. They did not know why the Forest was being destroyed and sent to the West, but there was only one way to find an answer.