The Teacher by Devin Elle Kurtz
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Tamber Ella wrote:
In the ancient times, the gods came down from the stars. Pescadora the leopard, the child of two original star gods, was chosen as the protector of a massive and beautiful forest. She ate only fish and collected opalescent scales and shells in her hidden forest palace. Ancient people left her offerings of dried fish, shiny metal, and gemstones.
Thousands of years later, the gods had mostly been forgotten and the few who remained could be counted on a hand. Pescadora stayed hidden in her sprawling forest throughout history. She used her magic to confuse any visitors that meant harm, turning them around repeatedly until they no longer attempted to enter the forest. She disoriented armies, logging companies, kings and emperors. Over the millennia, her once strong body began to fail.
In a town by the edge of the forest, a woman gifted with magic, by the name of Maria, conceived a child. Maria has god’s blood in her veins, but humankind has all but lost any record of the gods by now. As a child she could re-animate dead birds and sprout trees from the ground. As an adult, her magic faded, but she never lost the sparkle in her eye and lives a joyful life with her husband, a professor at the local institute of higher education. On a sunny day, their daughter Mia arrived, and she grew into a shy, witty, and magical little toddler.
From the edge of the forest, Pescadora spied the girl with her failing eyes. Her bones creaked as she crept through the brush, and she knew she had few years left. Pescadora approached Maria at dusk and asked for her blessing to take Mia as an apprentice. Maria was enthralled by Pescadora and her heart was filled with awe and wonder. She could feel the magic hanging in the air around the leopard god and it took her back to her own days as a magical child. She brought Pescadora into her home and they sat with Mia together into the night. Maria’s husband, a man of science and knowledge, was difficult to convince and worried about his precious daughter’s safety. But Maria knew a chance like this could not be overlooked. It was what she had always dreamed of as a child: a way to preserve her magic and use it for the greater good.
Slowly at first, Pescadora brought Mia into the forest, teaching her to funnel magic into her hands and feet so she could climb through the branches with ease. She learned to walk across the lake, speak with the rabbits, and heal minor wounds. One day when she was four, she began to sprout peacock feathers in a crest along her forehead. This was the mark of Pescadora’s magic flowing through her veins. The townspeople were bemused at first, but slowly accepted the presence of magic in their town. Her father was finally fully convinced one afternoon when he watched Mia fall, scrape her knee, and then instantaneously close the wound.
As Mia grew up and learned more and more about the duties of a forest god, Pescadora grew blind and frail. As she taught Mia, she funneled her magic into the child, losing more and more each day until she was hardly more than a mortal. Mia spent much of her time by her teacher, always with a hand on Pescadora’s side so the god could feel the world around her using Mia’s magic. The two talked endlessly, and Mia relayed the stories to her father, who compiled the tales of the gods into books. Maria, endlessly proud of her daughter, illustrated the books and distributed them across the country. Although most who read the stories thought them only children’s tales and folklore, the books brought wealth to the town, and the town was able to petition the government for the forest’s preservation and protection for generations to come.