Eustace watched the ocean waves splash against the supports of the oil rig in the growing light of dawn. She sipped her coffee and the steam rising from it swirled in the morning breeze coming in from the South Angle Sea.
One of the waves that splashed against the oil rig support did not retract in rhythm with the rest. It broke the metronome and while the rest continued on their merry way, this wave grew and grew and grew until it had disconnected from the water, and then the water began to climb up the oil rig.
The water splashed onto the deck near Eustace, and then transformed into the shape of a very pale man with a sickly blue hue, as if all of his veins were too close to the surface.
"Good morning, Hydram. I felt you flow out of bed last night to check the drilling. It's very sweet of you to go do the inspections for me. Is it progressing?" Eustace asked.
"Yep! You can keep your inspection gear dry for another month," the water demon said. "It would be silly for you to go down there with your air-breathing lungs. I love you very much, but that's quite the shitty setup that you have. Gas exchange is sooo inefficient."
"I'll keep them, thank you," Eustace said, wrapping her arms around her lover.
"Do you feel that?" Hydram asked.
"A vibration. I could sense it underwater, but up here it is even more pronounced. It feels like it is coming out of the sea floor."
"Probably faint seismic activity. You know how sensitive you are to that. A minor tremor and it sets your heart jiggling like a glass of water," Eustace said.
"It is more than that," Hydram said. He shook loose from Eustace's arms like she was hugging an armful of water, and crept to the edge of the platform.
"Hydram H. Hydrophile, you know how I hate it when you do that!"
"Shh," Hydram said, holding his finger up to his mouth. He listened.
Then he saw.
And what he saw were lumps of mud climbing the oil rig the same way that he had. Dozens of them lurching up the supports and climbing onto the platform, leaving trails of muck behind them.
Then the whole oil rig shuddered. Eustace could hear the warning beeps and could see the flashing red lights through the glass of the nearby control room. Something was wrong with the drill.
"Earth demons!" Hydram muttered as they resumed their boulder-like shapes.
"Thrrummm!" said one of the earth demons, smashing the platform.
"Thrrrumm! Thrrrummm! Thrrrrruuuuummmmmmmmm!" said the rest, doing likewise.
"What are these? What are they doing?" Eustace asked.
"They're earth demons, the stupidiest, most primitive of all demons. They were first. They are the drafts that led to the rest of us," Hydram said.
"Are they a threat?" Eustace asked. The earth demons had formed a ring around them, blocking their escape. Not that Eustace had anywhere to go - Hydram could flee into the water, but she could only retreat to the buildings on the rig.
A large lump of earth came over the edge of the platform and rolled between two of the earth demons in the circle. It cracked down the center and then deposited two women on the platform. The crack sealed, the ball rumbled a bit, and assumed the shape of all of the rest of the earth demons.
"Thanks, dad," said Missy. She elbowed her sister in the ribs, who appeared to have been much more upset by traveling through the ground encapsulated inside of a living lump of dirt.
"Thanks, Erdrem," repeated Nancy.
"Nancy! And...Missy?" Eustace said, confused.
"Hi!" Missy said. She related the story of how she'd been buried alive by their father and Erdrem had rescued and raised her.
"Thrrruummm!" said one of the earth demons.
"Oh, right," Missy said. "The earth demons are angry. You're drilling into one of their sacred caverns, the Great Lake of Thrum. You'll have to move it."
"We'll have to...move it? Move an oil rig and drill?" Eustace asked.
"You can't just pick up a platform like this and move it. There's a reason it is here. Lots of engineers made lots of plans and killed lots of trees in order to figure out that this was the best place to put it. Above and beyond that, the investors would never accept us moving it on the orders of some earth demons who crawled up out of their mucky holes to start issuing demands," Hydram said.
"Thhhrrruuumm!" said Erdrem, stepping forward. He hit the platform twice with his fist.
"Is that supposed to scare me?" Hydram asked.
"No," said Missy, "this is."
The platform shook and wobbled. Everybody except the earth demons could not keep their footing and fell over. Hydram turned into water and sloshed around for a moment. When the shaking stopped and everyone had stood back up, he resumed his shape.
"Is that supposed to scare me? I can dive into the ocean," Hydram said.
"Thrruumm," Erdrem said.
"But your mate cannot," Missy translated.
Hydram turned to look at Eustace. Tears were in her eyes from the unexpectd family reunion and the threat of imminent death. Then her eyes went wide.
"Hit the deck!" she yelled, throwing herself back onto the platform. An enormous wave, twice as tall as the platform, had emerged from the sea and was about to crash onto them. Everyone braced themselves. A few moments later, they all remained perfectly dry and alive. When they stood up, they saw dozens of men just as pale and blue as Hydram.
"My cousins and I are very close," Hydram said. "If you threaten one of us, you threaten all of us."
The earth demons and the water demons stared one another down. The three sisters were frozen. Nothing stirred but a small leaf, a stowaway buried in the skin of one of the earth demons that had been carried for thousands of miles to an oil rig in the middle of the South Angle Sea.
The leaf stirred, then swirled, and then finally blended as the breeze grew into a tempest. Dark storm clouds rolled over the horizon and overtook them in moments. Thunder rumbled and lightning crackled. The water demons, earth demons and the trio of sisters all held on to what they could - often each other - as the gale intensified. Even the water demons were worried that they would be pulverized if they fell into the sea that roiled below them, like how a drop of food coloring gets spread out very thinly in a blender.
A tornado emerged.
"No!" Eustace yelled. "Just after I got to know you, Missy, and see you again, Nancy! I don't want to die!"
"Don't worry, dear," said the fourth sister, Betsy, descending from the cumulonimbus clouds in a swirl of air. She lit upon the oil platform and smiled.
"Now are you all going to play nice, or do I have to have my wind demon friend blow you all to kingdom come?" she asked.
The demons, as much as they valued their ages-old rivalry, valued their skins more, be they water or earth.
"Well, I think we learned something today," said Hydram to Erdrem, as they stood off to one side while the sisters caught up with one another's lives.
"Thrrum?" Erdrem asked.
"Make sure to do battle away from these meddlesome humans."
"Thrrumm," Erdrem said in agreement.
The Moral: if there is a major fight brewing, always consider a wind demon as a conflict resolution technique