“The war started well before any human living can remember—the war between freedom and control. It has always been fought in secret, the speaking animals and spirits of the land taking sides and embracing one or the other. The forces of Order came out strong, and the forces of freedom came back stronger.
“There were those who wished to be left alone, but in time, no one could go without a side for protection. Those in the cracks were ground into dust. And so, the world of spirits was split between ideals on how to rule the world. But it took time to reach the point of ideological differences seen today. The war did not start here, for before the war, all divergent attitudes had a place.
“How did the war start? Some said with a baby’s first cry. Others said there was a monster—the Monster. It killed whomever it wished and did whatever it wanted. It was ruled by no kingdom, held back by no borders. No one could stop the Monster’s gleeful rampage of vivacious life. It lived a life of excess that few others had ever experienced. And it struck fear and envy in the hearts of all who perceived it.
“But there were those who did not fear the Monster. One day, in the open seas, the Queen of Order was enraged by its uncouth actions and so confronted it. It is said she did not wish to, but then who would? It was the Monster. In her anger, she drove it from the sea, but she could not kill it. The Queen, fearing what would come from the altercation, built her army, picked her Champions. But with all her power, even she could not defeat the Monster. It lived, so she built and prepared.
“The four gods dedicated to freedom, known as Tricksters, traveled the world. They found themselves worried by the growing army of Order. The Tricksters feared that the force would be used to cut back on their whimsical lifestyle. It is no small discomfort when those that disagree with you build an army, regardless of its intended use. Spider, Raven, Coyote, and Fox agreed that each would create their bands of Chosen, and with them, weapons to be used. Even through their fear of the Monster, the aligned forces eyed each other askew. The cold war of the Monster began.
“But it would not last even the length of a single human pregnancy. Spider’s Chosen were slaughtered by the Monster in combat. Spider was furious, and violently so. The Monster, in all its glory, had done her wrong. She chained it and buried it deep within history, succeeding through her sheer maliciousness where all others had failed. Spider had long been feared for her whimsically malicious nature, and with the Monster’s defeat, that fear grew.
“The Queen and Spider argued over the Monster and what to do with the chained beast. The other Gods came to Spider’s defense. Without the Monster to unite them all, the armies of Order were free to do battle with the Chosen of the Gods. The Queen determined that the Gods and their whimsies had become as dangerous as the Monster had been, so she sought to control them. The Queen knew that the Tricksters, especially, would never bow to the rule of Order without being forced, so she commanded her Champions to lead her armies against them. She believed that without the Tricksters, the other Gods would step in line.
“The armies of Order came at the Tricksters strongly. And freedom came back stronger. The cold war had grown hot. Nobody wished the world to die, so they fought in secret. Champions fought Chosen on battlefields hidden from the view of the masses. Humans were left out of it, and only the spirits of the land and talking animals took part.
“The other Tricksters feared the Spider’s legendary maliciousness, so they begged her not to join the fight. The Monster had killed her Chosen, and they asked her not to create more to replace them. She accepted their demands and merely watched. The war waged, with her on the sidelines.
“The war was mostly balanced, until Order came into the possession of key Champions tempted from their families. They killed the Chosen of Raven down to one and took the great Raven Sword. They decimated the warriors of freedom, one by one. Coyote fought a guerilla war against a great black snake upon the land. Fox had disappeared into the shadows, the fate of her and her Chosen unknown. Raven and Coyote knew their loss was coming if they did not act. So they approached Spider and begged her to help.
“She had come now from the shadows and picked her Chosen.
“The Chosen of Spider were gathered, and they took on the forces of Order in skirmishes and battles. They were a band of teens trained by one creature that pretended to be a man, along with the last of Raven’s Chosen. They brought a new viciousness to the war, unseen before, and began the push back against the forces of the Queen. They grew into their power, and the world wept.
“One traitor was killed, and another was born. Uazit’s child of ivory joined the armies of Order. The Raven Sword was returned, and with it the Clans of Raven came together to find the path their god had chosen.”
Free short story Monster’s Offer