Sam had barely become airborne when his world went dark and something huge slammed into him. He let out a gasp, trying to escape as fingers his size coiled around him and held tight.
His mind started to catch up as he realized it was Dean above him, sweeping his huge jacket through the torrent of fire that wanted to consume them both. Dean sprang back a few feet, giving them space from the counter even as he peered down at his hand. "You alright?" he asked, out of breath from his rush to catch Sam in time.
"I'm fi-- Dean, LOOK OUT!" Sam cried out as he spotted more girls just like the one that had tried to kill him suddenly circling Dean like sharks in the water.
Dean dove backwards, his hand flattening Sam against his stomach while he tried to block the flames from them both. He almostsucceeded. The problem was, there was a lot more of Dean to protect than there was of Sam. His leg caught fire, hungry red tongues of flame licking up his side. With a hissed growl, Dean smothered the fire with his jacket before it could spread further.
Sam wriggled in Dean's grasp, trying to get his attention. He had an idea. It came to him as his satchel dug into his side, compressed into him by his huge brother's grip. A voice came to him, from so many months ago... his very first case... If you are ever in dire need, break this and I or a sister of mine will come to you... the orb itself dug into Sam's side, calling his attention down on it.
"Dean!" he shouted, desperate. If they had ever been in dire need, this was it.
Dean jumped out of the way of another fireball as he heard Sam's voice, almost too soft to make out over the raging torrent of fire. The entire house was up in flame now, fire spreading to all the rooms. In a few seconds, they wouldn't need to hit him with fire. The brothers would suffocate or die in the flames regardless.
Pulling his hand away, Dean spared Sam a second's glance in the brief lull between fireballs. "What?" he hissed, his eyes back on the fiery antagonists. A fireball hit against his arm from his seconds of inattention, singing the bracelet from his wrist. It dropped to the ground, still aflame.
Sam pulled himself up, legs wobbly as he tried to recover from being crushed against Dean. "This!" he called up, pulling out the shining blue orb. "We need to break it!"
Dean twisted out of the way of another fireball, waving his jacket to ward it off. He could feel the flames licking at his back now, closing in on him. "Do it!" he cried out, his voice hoarse with pain.
Sam held up the orb, then slammed it straight down at the floor. It plummeted off the side of Dean's hand, then smashed into a thousand fragments.
The world went white.
Morning dew glistened on the soft petals of the flowers, drawn to open by the gentle rays of the sun. A beautiful field stretched in all directions, leading to the edge of the lush, thriving forest. Small birds called out, mating cries filling the air even as other birds foraged for seed to feed their young. An idyllic, deceptive peace filled the land.
The gently waving grass was disturbed for a moment as two small, blue figures streaked through it, wings buzzing in their hurry. The birds took no notice, more interested in a small cloud of flies disturbed by the small sprites passage.
Nixie, her heart full of worry, pushed herself to the limit of her flying ability. Her sister Aretha was hard pressed to keep up, her smaller wings straining at the air.
"Nixie, this is foolishness!" Aretha called out breathlessly as she pushed herself to the limit. "We are not welcome with the others."
Nixie flipped over onto her back. "How can you say that? There is no reason for this to have happened, sister. The others must be warned."
Her movement slowed her down, allowing the smaller sprite to catch up. "The others have no wish for our warning. They only wish to be left alone."
Nixie's blue eyes flashed at this. "They wish to be left alone. Yes. But when almost all of the earth sprites vanish, followed by nearly all of the air sprites seven days later, questions must be asked. And answered. There is no other way."
Aretha sighed, dropping a few feet down in the air to brush over the tall grass. They were fast closing on the edge of the meadow, towards the rocky lands of the others sprites. "The earth sprites will not answer, and you know how air sprites can be. This is a futile quest."
Nixie's lip twitched into a smile. "Yes. I know, as do we all. But the effort must be put forth. And did you not hear of what happened with the fire sprites?"
Aretha's blue eyes widened. Her colors were a far lighter sky blue than Nixie's, born of her love of rain, the freedom of the clouds. Nixie herself spent most of her time in the deep springs and ponds in their lush forest, spending her days coaxing the plants to their full growth. "This has spread to the fire sprites?"
"Yes. They have vanished, leaving only those in the volcano. I must find out why. If the human world has been put at risk because of our sisters, we must stop it. That is our purpose, after all."
Aretha arched her eyebrow at Nixie. "One could argue our purpose is at an end with our brother imprisoned."
"That is not true," Nixie argued back, falling into the familiar quarrel. "He may be a captive now, yes. But we were created for more than that, for keeping balance in the world. Have you forgotten this already? The human world cannot be put at risk because we want to sleep-the-eternal-sleep, or have you forgotten that you and I cannot die?"
Aretha snorted. "Just because we are lost to death does not mean we are to toil our lives away in service to those we have never seen."
Nixie flitted away, her wings on overdrive. Aretha continued to follow, not giving up her mission to talk Nixie out of her determined quest.
Nixie glanced back, taking a small amount of pride at the way she easily outdistanced her sister. "The humans deserve our help, sister! Or have you and the others forgotten why our dark brother is no longer a threat?"
"So you continually affirm!" Aretha shouted back breathlessly. "But how do you know this Sam-and-Dean that you speak so highly of were not just using you for their own gain? You said yourself that Lityerses put their world at risk by being there."
"You do not know of what you speak!" This statement came with assurance and rebuttal. Nixie gestured curtly with her arm. "Or have you forgotten the ability to read the hearts of others so soon?"
There was no reply. Aretha simply continued to follow with Nixie, dancing over the rocky lands between the forest and the great volcano, Dormit Flos.
After a time, Nixie became aware of a sight above her head. Two air sprites were dancing in the clouds, forming them into familiar shapes as they played a game together.
Changing her trajectory, Nixie shot into the sky. She lifted up far faster than her sister could follow, her path set on the closest air sprite, Cersei.
Cersei's golden eyes took in her older sister's arrival without surprise. She would have had to hide under a rock to avoid the knowledge that the water sprites were demanding answers. Beautiful white-feathered wings arched from her shoulders, flapping in the breeze as she considered her options. A single brown steak of feathers down each wing was all that separated her from the other playing in the clouds that day.
Nixie spread her wings, hovering as she tried to read the other sprite. Air sprites were fickle and capricious, very dangerous to approach at the best of times. She could get no read on Cersei, blocked as she was by a determined wall.
"Sister! I would speak with you!" Nixie called out.
Cersei snorted. "I would not speak with you or any other sprite. Leave us."
With that, a whirlwind twisted around the air sprite, carrying her away from the two water sprites even as Aretha caught up at last, smaller wings straining. A gust of wind buffeted them both, sending Aretha into a spiral and Nixie into a daze.
Coming out of it, she saw Aretha's plight and dove at the ground, catching the other woman smoothly. She glanced up at the sky as Aretha slipped from her arms to fly on her own again.
The air sprites were gone.
Nixie sighed. That left one option, the most undesirable option of all with the earth sprites out of reach in their underground caverns.
"Aretha, you must return home. I go to speak with the fire sprites in their volcano."
To say the look in Aretha's eyes was surprised would be putting it mildly. "You cannot take that risk on your own!" she exclaimed.
Nixie pushed her away. "I can ask no others to take this risk for me. Leave."
She darted off, leaving a surprised Aretha behind.
The rocky land changed below her swiftly. It darkened, the shrub brush barely clinging to life in the hostile environment. There was very little water to be found here in the land of the fire sprites.
Nixie carefully took a few moments to gather the drops from a small trickle down a cliff, imbuing the droplets of water in her hair. The small amount of water would strengthen her against the volcano, help her resist its flames. Water sprites, though immortal,could be hurt. And in this land of fire and rock, it would take time for her sisters to find her and heal her. She was not eager to be reduced to nothing more than a cloud of thought once more. The last few hundred years she'd spent like that because of Lityerses had been torture.
With that taken care of, Nixie shot towards the volcano.
The rocky outcroppings grew in size as the ground passed swiftly below her. She began to see small fire-drakes, little red wings stretched out for sunning in the brief break between clouds. The sun reflected off those wings as it was shattered into a thousand different colors.
Nixie smiled at the small fire-drakes, one of the few lifeforms that made their home with the fire sprites. The two lived in perfect harmony, driven by the sprites’ affinity with the small, frog-like dragons. As a fire sprite aged, she started to take on the features and forms of the little fire-drakes, down to the small scales that covered their bodies. Younger sprites would only have the glistening wings of a drake, while the older sprites would take on more, including the spikes, claws and even the tails. Nixie had once heard of a fire sprite that had chosen to take on the form of a fire-drake, exchanging her elemental bond for the peace of the drakes.
There were more and more of the little drakes around as she passed into the first tunnel of the volcano. Swift jets of magma shot up, spraying around burning lava. Nixie easily dodged around the sprays, allowing her natural affinity for flight to guide her.
It wasn't long before she passed into the main cavern of the volcano. Deep crevices reached into the ground, a red glow spilling forth from them. Lava flowed in intricate patterns, formed by the sprites themselves into pleasing shapes. Nixie paused in midair once she reached the center of the cavern.
She called out to one of the sprites hanging around the edge of the room, watching the blue intruder in their sanctum of fire. "I would speak with my sister, child."
The young sprite blinked in surprise at the brash water sprite, caught off guard by her forthrightness. "I... I shall find her for you."
"Do so." Nixie settled in as the young sprite dove down into the deep cracks, diving deep into the lava. It rippled at her passage, showing her to move through the molten rock like a water sprite moved through water. Nixie took a moment to compose herself.
The lava rippled once more after the small, young sprite's passage. A clawed hand grabbed hold of the rock jutting over it, pulling out the most ancient of the fire sprites. Nixie waited patiently as the matriarch of their race brought herself to a stand.
Deep wrinkles lined her face, stretching over every instance of skin she had. Her arms had delicate scales stretching down each side, ending at the thick, black claws found on each finger. Blades jutted forth from each of her elbows, honed to a fine edge over the millennia. They matched the sharp claws on each of her ridged, powerful dragon wings that arched over her head, stiffening in the cooler air of the room. Deep, molten red eyes gazed out at the small water sprite that dared to enter her domain. A long, spiked tail curled around her clawed feet. Her hair was a fiery red, lightening to a color that was almost crystal clear at the ends with her age. Spikes rippled through her hair, intermixed with the stands to symbolize her age.
Facing the ancient one, Nixie crossed her arms. It was a pose she'd seen the small human Sam Winchester assume when facing down his brother, someone far stronger than him that he would have no control over if Dean didn't give the control over to him. An odd pair but a useful stance, especially when one was standing against those more powerful.
In this instance, Nixie understood that the fire sprite before her - the matriarch, oldest and first of the fire sprites - was not all she was facing down. The dweller-in-the-deep was powerful, almost as powerful as Nixie herself, unlike the majority of fire sprites, but if this went down the wrong way, Nixie would become beset by all fire sprites around and the power of Dormit Flos itself. No little water sprite, no matter how ancient she was, could stand against such power. After that attack, she would live on, but it would be a poor life, reduced to scattered water drops in the sky until she slowly reformed herself with the cleansing rain or a sister found her and healed her.
The lava surged, sparks and flashes of power shooting up to frame the matriarch of the fire sprites, the only fire sprite that had lived almost as long as Nixie herself.
Though for a water sprite it was normal to exist for an eternity, it was a near impossibility for a fire sprite to manage such a feat. They were tied to their element in much the same way as Nixie was herself. While the waters-of-the-world had been there since the beginning and would be there until the end, the fires that gave birth to the fire sprites were fleeting bursts of energy. In this same fashion, the life of a fire sprite was short and passionate, rarely lasting past a hundred years. Their existence was an eternity of death and rebirth, rising from the ashes when the next flame was born.
That was what made the matriarch so unique. As long as she remained where the lava flowed and their fires thrived, she would continue to exist. She drew her strength from the eternal energy of the volcano. It would be a harsh existence - to leave the volcano at her stage of life would be to court death, and all fire sprites were drawn to adventure and exploration - but it was an existence she had chosen, to pass down the stories and legends of the fire sprites, and ensure their past was not forgotten.
This was the reason Nixie had come. If anyone was to know what had happened to the other fire sprites, the matriarch would. If anyone was too understand why this had to be stopped, it would be the matriarch.
"Sister," she greeted.
The matriarch drew herself up. Long, powerful wings swept forward, disturbing the red sparks of the flames. "Child, why have you come to this place?"
Nixie allowed confidence to bathe her in its warm glow. Anything less than complete confidence would erode her cause. "Child. You call me this as though I am not the elder."
The matriarch frowned at her with a sigh of resignation. She wasn't use to being talked back to by anyone, and it was many decades since she'd talked with an equal like Nixie. "Nixie, why have you come? It has been a millennia since a water sprite has graced our volcano with her presence."
"That, my sister, is something you already know," Nixie said, unimpressed by the other's words. "It is unfortunate we do not visit often. You know, as well as I do, the reason for that."
The matriarch bared her fangs in anger. "It was not the doing of all of us, that attack."
"But the fact remains," Nixie gently reprimanded her, "that water sprites were attacked when they came in peace. My sisters have long memories, as you know all too well." She bowed her head, displaying regret with a flick of her bottommost wings. Long memories, and unbending pride.
"Yes. On that we can agree." The matriarch drew herself up, straightening her wings. "So. You have come after the disappearances."
Nixie bowed, her wings outstretched in a sign of peace. Opening them this way displayed her one, true weakness, baring it to the world. "I have come to find out why, and if you know the source of the air and earth sprites disappearances as well."
"Of theirs I have no knowledge," the matriarch said disdainfully. "But of the fire sprites, it is because of young Ilyana. She was summoned."
Nixie cocked her head at this in confusion. "Ilyana? Is she not the youngest?" This fact, in turn, should make her also the weakest, as fire sprites grew in power over the years, unlike the water sprites.
To this there was a regal nod. "Yes. She is only two years in age as of this month. She was drawn to a summoning circle, and I have been told that the offer from beyond was quite... generous. Many have followed her past the gate, drawn by her magnetism. She controls them now, and harnesses the power of all."
Nixie scowled at that. "Control? As in...?"
"They are bound to her wishes, much as you yourself were once bound to guard the amulet. The bond is strong, and the one that has summoned Ilyana has a specific goal, one that was not shared with me." A deep frown dug rivets into her face. "I do not know what it is they plan, but I do know that it cannot be good to have placed other sprites under her direct control." The matriarch stared at Nixie steadily. "You cannot interfere, as you well know."
"I must make sure the human world is not threatened by us, sister. Forbidden or not, I must help."
"Nixie, do not be foolish. They will return just like the others. We can speak to them then and discover the reason for the vanishings." The ancient eyes stared out at Nixie from deep shadows. "Do not risk the balance for the human world."
"We need to..." Nixie trailed off from her attempt to convince her sister. "The human world must be prote--" A throbbing whiteness beat through her head. "We need to find... ah!" The whiteness started to take over, pushing away her vision as it consumed her mind.
"Nixie, what is w--" the sound faded away as her world reversed itself. Nixie doubled over in the pain, losing track of the fire sprite.
The volcano disappeared from around her as the whiteness consumed her vision.
A fire raged.
Nixie gasped as the spiraling world took shape around her. The fire was consuming the world, eating away at all the wood and furnishings she could see. An angry shout came from behind her as a huge mass of air knocked her off balance, causing her to fall a few feet in surprise before she could catch herself. Switching to a fast spiral, Nixie twirled over the head of the enormous human that stood below her, protecting himself and a far smaller human as much as he could with only a jacket for defense. It was painfully obvious he was losing the fight.
"Sam! Dean!" she cried out in surprise. They were the last people she had expected to see, yet in her heart she realized she had hoped to find them again.
The smaller human, his arms up protectively around his face, caught sight of her first. "Nixie! It worked!" Sam cried out in pain when a spark landed on his arm, singeing the jacket sleeve before Dean flicked it away with a finger. "Help us!"
And with those words, Nixie's fate was sealed.
The shattered remains of the summoning orb glowed white on the floor near Dean's immense boots, leaking into Nixie. The power took hold, binding her to the small human's wishes. Even her hair crackled around her at the sudden influx of energy, lifting away from her skin as it rose into the air.
Not even Nixie had understood the full implications of using the summoning orb when giving it to Sam.
Help us! he'd commanded. And that was what she did, without a second thought.
Without a choice.
An easy chant flowed from her lips, catching the essence of any water in the close vicinity. Her arms thrust outwards. To her water sprite eyes, the water glowed, making it easy to spot and find in the world around her. And control. Once under her control, it flowed to her, from the sinks, from the pipes, even drawn up from the ground and down from the sky and out of the air itself. With her command, all water obeyed. She could even see the after-image of Sam and Dean lit up, but was careful to leave the water in their bodies be.
An orb began to take form, closing her and the boys off from the power of the fire sprites. Blue rippled around them, starting near Dean's boots and increasing in strength and size quickly, fed by her constant stream. What words she chanted were known to the sprites as Words of Power and Words of Command. Each sprite in Aeternum had been born knowing those words, and no element would ever share their secret with the others.
Nixie's eyes darted from sprite to sprite, searching for the one in charge.
Dean drew Sam close to his chest, green eyes wide at the sight of the blue, protective barrier that wrapped around them in an orb and separated them both from the fiery blaze. Glimmering blue droplets hit the brothers with light splashes, helping to soothe the burns they'd acquired in the time they'd been under assault. Nixie did what she could, but none of the water was from a fresh spring, cutting down her ability to heal to almost nothing.
Battling Sisters by Obsess-Confess
Before she could discover which fire sprite was controlling the rest, one separated from the swift whirlwind of sprites. Red eyes glittering, the sultry young sprite glared at she who was interfering. "Nixie. This is interference. You must stop." She drifted over to the barrier, brushing her fingers against it. "You are bound as we all are to not interfere with other sprites. You must submit to me. My purpose is primary."
"Ilyana!" Nixie said, her voice full of natural command as she beheld her youngest sister. "You must cease this attack. These humans are the ones that stopped our dark brother at their own peril. They have earned our thanks, not our anger." She drew herself up in the air, hanging motionless with her wings spread. With the amount of magic she was channeling she had no need to flap her wings to remain suspended in midair.
She gave Ilyana her most confident stare. "I do not attack, and I do not submit. I stand in your way, sister."
Ilyana drifted closer to Nixie, a few lazy swipes of her wings sending sparks Sam and Dean's way. Making a point, in her own childish fashion. The barrier rippled, but stood firm around the humans. "That matters not. I have come for Sam Winchester, and he will be mine. This I know."
The constant thrum of the fire sounded around them, building in intensity while everyone's attention was focused on the two sprites. Nixie's own chant held during the standoff, the Words of Power and the Words of Command she had set up keeping a constant flow of water coming from all sources nearby to reinforce her protective barrier even as the fire sprites continued to attack it in the background of their argument.
Ilyana continued to grind in her point with relentless determination. "Nixie, you cannot hold. Submit now, before you are destroyed as well. I do not wish to harm a sister, but I am bound to this task and will not be stopped. Give yourself over, now! " Her last words were angry and impatient.
“Ah!” Nixie cried out. Each of Ilyana’s words sliced through her to her very core. Even though she did not act against her sister directly, she was interfering, and her very nature sought to punish her.
It was true - she was forbidden interference with any other sprite as they were forbidden interference with her. Her standing against Ilyana violated pacts that had stood firm since the beginning. Bonds that once broken could kill them all. Even the water sprites that had been attacked in the past had only been attacked to keep them away from the home of the other fire sprites. Only because they were 'protecting' their home had they been able to attack.
But right now, she was all that stood between her friends and a fiery death.
Dean and Sam didn’t deserve this fate - they were the only help Nixie had been given against her dark brother and the cursed amulet. Without the help of the brothers the human world would have been conquered, turned away from its true destiny. Her sisters hadn’t been able to help her that time - returning home she had discovered that her spell had sealed the portal behind her and Lityerses, cutting them off. Once she had come home the portal had returned to normal, throbbing with its steady, reassuring glow, allowing passage if desired.
Now all that stopped her from releasing her spells was the hold the summoning orb, even shattered and broken, had on her. In its summoning, it had bound her to Sam’s wishes, though he did not know it and she had not expected it. Without that hold she would have no choice but to stop and let the boys die.
But with that one plea… “Help us! ” ...he had given her the resistance she needed to endure. The resistance that prevented her from killing Dean and taking Sam, as Ilyana's subliminal commands told her to do, taking root in her very core and coiling inside every crack and crevice they could find in her.
Ilyana continued relentlessly on, repeating her commands and reinforcing her controlling power. “Release your magic, sister. Give yourself over to us, now.” Her power was increasing as the intensity of the firestorm grew and was beginning to take hold of Nixie's very thoughts. The seed had been planted and it could only grow.
A throaty scream escaped Nixie, her arms stretched to their limits. The torment of warring powers sliced through her.
Both equally powerful. Her protective barrier shrank under the sudden mental assault, the top of the rippling water sphere brushing against Dean’s spiky hair. The other sprites redoubled their efforts as they sensed her weakness. They shrieked out their incantations as they flew ever tighter circles around the three. The intensity of the firestorm outside the barrier increased, the pop and sizzle of burning wood audible over the flames. Only Ilyana remained motionless, her commands keeping the other fire sprites in line, and her mental assault preventing Nixie from strengthening the water barrier.
“Sam! I cannot hold!”
As a last ditch effort to stop from losing her hold on the magic, she gave herself over to the bond with Sam. Her eyes glowed with sudden power as the bond took over. Pure whiteness burned from them as her bond with water was sublimated into the bond with Sam, washing away every trace of blue compassion that had lurked in her face.
She was only vaguely aware of losing control of her flight. She crashed on the palm of Dean’s hand, next to Sam. She never felt his arms wrap around her shoulders, drawing her close in an embrace even as Dean closed his fist around them.
With the war inside her as vicious as the firestorm outside, she closed her eyes. Even as her spell continued on she lost her grip on the world, plunging into darkness.
Flesh was weak. The bond was all.