In the time before the phoenix first spread its wings, the world lay divided among the creatures of
When Lahara created
Most creatures chose quickly, but Queen Alareab of the scorpions planned her wish carefully with the help of her brethren. They grew to be massive creatures and spent much of their time searching for water in the northern forests. Though Lahara blessed her continent with resources, she had forgotten the deep forests of the north, where no rivers flowed and no lakes captured the water. Thirst wracked the scorpions, and Queen Alareab saw the wish as a chance to save them.
When Lahara came to the creatures, many asked for simple gifts. The Deer Queen asked to be fleet and nimble, and the Wolf King asked to hunt silently and swiftly. The Scorpion Queen viewed these as foolish wishes, for the creatures gained nothing they could not achieve on their own. When Lahara came to the Scorpion Queen, her wish was clear: to be able to survive a week without water.
Her request silenced Lahara, then the goddess nodded.
“You shall have the ability to go for up to a week without taking a drink, and I shall never take that away from you.”
Queen Alareab and the scorpions rejoiced, and they expanded their territory deep into the northern forests, far from the coasts and rivers.
The hirim cared for the phoenixes throughout Tamarud, creating new eggs and spawning thousands of the fiery birds. Lahara saw that the birds were lonely, and touched several of the hirim to bond with the birds, making them
Again, Lahara went to her creatures to grant them one wish, provided it didn’t hurt the phoenixes or their new people.
Again, most creatures chose quickly, but Queen Alareab of the scorpions planned carefully. Though her people could go without water for long stretches of time now, they struggled to eat. In the depths of the northern forest, the prey grew even larger than the scorpion’s massive size. In order to feed, they snapped their tails to pierce the flesh of their prey, but many of the younger scorpions were too small for a kill. Hunger wracked her children, and Queen Alareab saw the wish as a chance to save them.
When Lahara came to the creatures, many asked for simple gifts. The Deer Queen asked to dance in the daylight, and the Wolf King asked to sing with the moon. The Scorpion Queen viewed these as foolish wishes, for the creatures gained nothing they could not achieve on their own. When Lahara came to the Scorpion Queen, her wish was clear: to have poison in their tails to kill their prey in a single blow as it burns them from the inside.
Her request silenced Lahara, and she thought for a very long time. This wish threatened the balance of life and death in Tamarud. When she remained silent, Alareab pleaded her case and summoned three young scorpions who couldn’t eat without the help of the larger adults. Moved by the display, the goddess Lahara nodded.
“You shall have poison in your tails with the power to burn and kill, and I shall never take that away from you.”
Queen Alareab and the scorpions rejoiced and began a reign of glory that lasted many years as they fed in peace and stretched their power over the north from the island of
The hirim and mara tayerna flourished during this time, but their numbers were too low to sustain a population. Soon, Lahara intervened and created
Queen Alareab spoke with the scorpions. They wanted their own people to serve them in the way that the hirim, mara tayerna, and bashira served the phoenix. They questioned what made the birds special, and why the other creatures were being neglected. Though they dominated the north, the creatures there feared them, and they wanted love. They thought long and hard about how to plead their case for a people of their own. The phoenixes disrupted the balance of life and were worshipped; the scorpions had nothing but a quenched thirst and poison.
When Lahara showed no signs of granting a third favor, the scorpions put their plan into action. Together, they injected their poison deep into the earth in the north. Slowly, all the heat from the south sucked into the northern region. The south became a vast tundra, and the rich islands tucked along the southern coast of
Meanwhile, the north became so hot that few could live there, and many creatures fled to the south. Soon, only a few animals joined the scorpions in the north, serving as their prey, and the scorpions rejoiced because they believed that Lahara would see their power and grant them a people to worship them.
Lahara was still absent, and the other creatures banded together to summon her. When she returned and saw what the scorpions had done, she went to Queen Alareab.
“What have you done to the balance of Tamarud?” she asked in dismay.
“We have done as you did, and created space for our own people,” Queen Alareab announced. “You may give us our own people to care for us and worship us in the north, and they shall be immune to its heat.”
Pity filled Lahara, and she saw that her neglect had led to resentment among her creatures. In honor of the scorpions, she gave the hirim and mara tayerna an immunity to heat so that they could live among the scorpions. They continued to serve the phoenix, however, and the scorpions were not satisfied. As their resentment grew and the land grew hotter, the other creatures again banded together and summoned Lahara.
They faced her and demanded that she restore the balance of the continent.
The Queen of the Deer said to Lahara, “It is far too hot for my young.”
The King of the Wolves pleaded with Lahara, “It is far too hot to hunt.”
And the bashira begged Lahara, “It is far too hot to survive.”
The goddess turned to Queen Alareab and knew she had to act to protect her other creatures. Because she had blessed the scorpions with the ability to survive without water, her influence over water waned and no amount of rivers and lakes could fully cool the north, and no amount of sun could melt the Icefield. Because she had given them poison, her influence over poison waned and no amount of cure could reverse the effects of their actions. Instead, she gave the creatures of the north skin capable of enduring the heat and a tolerance to the temperature. In the south, she gave the creatures warm fur and the ability to hibernate if they chose.
And when she faced her scorpions, she sighed with grief.
“I cannot take away your gifts,” she said. “But you must be punished.”
She banished the scorpions to the freezing south, strengthening their skin into a shell to protect them. And she shrunk them so that their poison could never again destroy her land.
The scorpions wept that their plan had failed, and Queen Alareab faced her people in disgrace. She stabbed herself with her own stinger, and enough of her potent poison remained to kill her. She is still remembered as the queen who led the scorpions to ruin.
As the scorpions learned to live without water in the tundra and with their poison in a land they despised, they nurtured their hatred for those who worshipped the phoenix.
Now, the scorpions hunt the people of the south, always seeking the warmth they lost, always keen to attack those who stole their home. For those who live in the south, it is a constant battle against the scorpions, who blame them for everything.
Published August 15th, 2022!
Rise of the Phoenix is a fantasy novel about a young woman who survived the execution of her family at the end of the war and now lives in an occupied continent. She’s always pretended to be obedient, but she has a secret: she’s created a phoenix egg.