The spirits are older and bigger than the gods in many cases. The elements, the world itself, this was here before anyone arrived from elsewhere.
Though the spirits were the first beings humanity reached out to for help, they are not ones we know how to trust easily. They are the Wild Things. They hurt as often as they help. Like nature herself, they are often unaware or uninterested in their effects on us. Earthquake, exposure, tsunami, forest fires, typhoons, these do not act with malice.
We can learn to understand the elements. We can use science or magic to bend them. But there is nothing to gain in trying to reason with them. They simply are as they are. They act according to their nature.
The skygods tried to bend the spirits to their will when they first arrived, but they spirits fought them tooth and nail. The small ones died. The large ones could not be contained by the skygods.
The first mortal to channel a spirit met the Dragon not long after it and the Firebird first battled Chenek and the other skygods.
The battle came to us despite my father's faith in his generals. I began to wnder if I wouldn't have to worry about inheriting. The general of Wao's army was a foreigner from the south. I found myself wondering if he knew the place my mother came from even as the alarms sounded.
We all ran out to fight with the army, even my younger brothers and sisters. We had to do something, anything we could.
The invading general was doing magic I didn't recognize. People were being thrown about and cut down by sharp metal knives from the sky. I got separated from my brothers and found myself confronted by a minor general. I tripped and fell backwards, jarring my knees as I fell to the ground. I stumbled back to my feet.
He lunged at me, but I fell back and dashed up the ridge to get away from him. As I ran, he shouted after me and called me a coward. When I didn't stop, I heard him follow. I'd just topped the ridge when the ground shook and we both stumbled back.
I can help you.
I started, trying to find the source of the voice. The man who had attacked me was in my line of sight, but the voice was behind me.
Let me help you.
The ground shook again and split beneath my feet. A dragon rose up above me, slender and serpentine, and now the voice had a direction. The other man ran.
"Why would you help me?" I asked.
"Your enemy is my enemy," the dragon spoke plainly.
"Will you fight for us?"
"I can't fight directly. I've been weakened by Chenek. You don't have much time, but if you let me use you, you will be able to stop him."
I bit my lip, fighting back a hundred questions. The only one that mattered in the moment was whether I should take him up on his offer or not. If this was a trick, I reasoned, he would have gone for my oldest brother or my father.
There was screaming on the other side of the ridge. I had to do something.
"If it will help my father, you may do with me as you will."
"Raise your sword. Call on the powers."
I did as I was told, and then the world spun. everything went black.