The Guardian Sprite

The days and nights took turns, never ending, always changing. No one ever counted. There were no humans yet for such a task. The elementals were all in place, having decided what and how much each would have in its domain. Air claimed the most, then water, earth, and fire the most feared. All else fell to sprites to decide and manage. They squabbled long among themselves, sorting out their smaller roles in magic.  

lcea, among the first of mother nature’s sprites, chose a place to be her own. She picked a meadow, high above the ocean near an outcrop of stone. She took a tree’s form with a trunk that stood thick and slightly twisted, strong enough to hold firm against the air elemental should he pout. Alcea loved her place in the world and spread her branches filling them with leaves that started green and changed colors with the seasons.  
Her meadow dressed itself in flowers with each turn of spring. Fragrant whips of perfumed air spread past the rocky point and floated out to sea. Her beautiful meadow became a playground for the fairies from the woods.  Fall was their favorite time. Alcea turned her leaves from green to red or gold and other colors that ranged yellow through deep orange and browns. She let them flutter down, landing in lacy patterns. In the dry fall air, the leaf edges curled, forming vessels for the fairies’ playtime. They valued leaves that drifted to the ocean making perfect tiny ships for them to sail on make-believe adventures. Alcea cautioned the fairies to stay close within her view and be wary of the strong currents stirred by the elemental of water or angry wisps of air.
One mid-autumn morn came a day she dread in her thoughts. It started calm, and she had spread many leafy ships for her friends. Hundreds of fairies soon floated on the sea and chased after sparkling sun-drops.  The sea began to swell as the master of the waters teased the rousing elemental sky. Teasing grew to more forceful tones and soon a battle of egos had begun. Water currents stretched and pulled. Wind blew hard, pushing back against the waves. Alcea screamed for her friends to return to her meadow, but the wind and water determined the course for the leafy boats.  Moving to the cliff’s edge, Alcea sent roots down, seeking out the smallest crevasse to further strengthen her grip. She used her magics against the water in vain. She called to the wind pleading with it to stop its foolishness and lashed out with her branches. The elemental of the air roared against Alcea, but her anchors through the stones held her fast. The wind could neither bend nor break her. Water beat against the cliff and rained down in torrents, trying to wash her away, but there she stayed. 
By eve, the elementals stilled, tired of their foolish rivalry. The air grew calm. The water barely showed its waves. The moon began its rise.  Her branches bare, Alcea cried beneath the nights golden light. She held her branches high once more. And on each branch where leaves once had grown, Alcea now pushed forth dark green needles that had their own scent, different from the meadow’s flowers. She vowed herself to be ever green and for ever after. She knew woodland fairies would return in time. In her meadow she formed flower slippers for her tiny friends. Now when they came, she would teach them to dance. She could watch them safe all summer long, both in sun and moonlight. She made the flowers blue and called them lady slipper orchids, giving them a fragrance all their own.  Now, still anchored on her cliff, Alcea could watch for wary travelers on the sea while she listened to the fairies dance and play. She would be the guardian.