Nightshades

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Greg leaned against the bars of his mental prison and tried to look down the hallway. He couldn’t figure out how he had wound up in a jail cell. One minute he was fully conscious watching the female nightshade’s fighting in the open arena… the next he was transported here. It had all happened in the blink of an eye. The only good part about this strange displacement from reality was that Greg look like a human being again. He never thought in a million years he would be happy to see his albino skin. He smiled at the translucent hairs springing up from the pale flesh of his arm. He took comfort in the thought that at least in his own mind he was still human. The crazy nightshade magic couldn’t touch this aspect of him.

“I am 100% human on the inside,” said Greg with pride as he look down at his orange prison jumpsuit. The thing wasn’t at all flattering on him; but that didn’t matter. What really mattered was there was no long thick tail or cumbersome wings sticking out. Greg smiled at this return to normal. “I am just 100% human on the inside.”

Greg turned around in his cell and studied the room. Everything around him looked and felt so real. He wasn’t quite sure what the “inside” was exactly. Sure he was human while in the grand index of his own mind; but what did that actually mean? Greg’s new living conditions raised a lot of challenging questions that needed answering. One of them being that if he were here, in this tiny little jail cell, then who was controlling his body? He looked up at the stone ceiling; from somewhere beyond the brink and mortar the sound of the nightshade crowd could still be heard. These voices were not figments of his own imagination. Greg somehow knew that these things were actual events happening beyond the borders of his own subconscious.

“What is this place?” ask Greg in confusion.

Greg looked down at his new jumpsuit again and pulled on the fabric. His name was written on the top left corner. His hands and feet were chained together. There had to be some kind of mistake in the programming. Bethesda had never mentioned any of this during their long discussions of their future together. The data disc on the back of his neck was probably malfunctioning in some way. Greg needed to speak to someone and get all this worked out. He approached the prison bars and gripped them tightly. Greg forced his face into the steel and shouted down the hallway as loud as he could, “Hello! Is anyone there? I believe there had been some kind of mistake… I don’t belong here! Hello!?”

His voice reverberated off the stone walls as he waited for a response. The sound of a steel door opening and then closing was heard at the other end of the hallway. Greg held his breath as he watched a black cat, in a prison guard uniform, walk into view. The little creature had on dark aviator sunglasses and was holding a book in it’s mouth. Greg recognized him instantly.

“Gregory the 3rd of Canterbury… Is that you?!” shouted Greg with excitement. He felt like crying he was so happy. So much had happened to him since he had last seen his cat. It had felt like a century had passed away. Greg dropped to his knees and shook his head in disbelief at the little creature. “Boy, do I have a story for you Gregory. I have really gone through some changes recently and I am hoping that you can accept the new me.”

The cat dropped the book in his mouth and meowed.

Greg ignored the blatant sass in Gregory the 3rd’s voice. He tried to reach through the prison bars and pick up the little furry creature with both hands. He couldn’t quite get to the feline because of the chains around his wrists and ankles. They were getting stick on the thick bars. Greg strained as he continued to reach for the cat anyway. “I see you have found a new job. You’ll have to tell me more about it when I get out of here.”

The cat pushed the book towards his extended fingers and retreated backwards. It sat down next to the cement wall and yawned. The end of its long tail was whipping back and forth as it patiently waited for Greg to give up.

Greg could see this was a losing battle. The cat was content with watching him struggle to get free from the cell. Greg finally gave up trying to reach the furry creature and turned his attention to the book on the ground. It seemed like Gregory the 3rd of Canterbury wanted him to look at something. Greg sighed in defeat.

“What you got there Gregory the 3rd,” said Greg as he managed to get his hands on the cover of the book and pull it toward him. He flipped the thing over and read the title page in his head. He was familiar with the story but couldn’t quite figure out why Gregory the 3rd of Canterbury would want him to read such a title. Greg had always assumed that his cat had been a prodigious atheist… mainly because he had been neutered.

I guess we are all going through some changes in life, thought Greg as he ran his finger down the spin of the book. He read the title out loud this time.

“-The Lion, The Which, and The Wardrobe-

By C.S. Lewis”

“Okay, okay, I get the hint…” said Greg as he looked back over to the black cat and smiled. The little furry creature was purring softly now. Gregory the 3rd of Canterbury had always loved listening to him read downstairs in the basement of their home. Some of Greg’s fondest memories had come from the little recording studio... All that seemed so far away now. It felt like a waking dream he had once had.

Greg frowned slightly as he thought about the past. He doubted that he would ever see his home again considering the circumstances. He picked up the book and fanned through the pages with his right thumb. He looked back down the prison hallway and sighed in defeat. To Greg, it didn’t feel like he would be rescued any time soon. Bethesda was off securing their weird future together. Greg cleared his throat. “I suppose I have the time to read this to you…”

The black cat meowed and rested on its haunches. The dark aviator sun glasses fell off his face revealing his deep yellow eyes. They seemed happy and content with the decision.

Greg slid across the cement floor and leaned against the cold wall of his own subconscious. He did some quick voice warmups before heading into the story. Greg had done this warmup routine hundreds of times before in the past. He had been the voice for many audiobook on the present market. He knew his reading rate like the back of his pale white hands. He would have this book read in about 3 hours straight. He looked over to the black cat and smiled habitually before beginning. Regardless of the circumstances, something about the whole thing felt right. “I shall do all the voices for you Gregory the 3rd…”

The cat closed its eyes and started purring.

Greg’s speech echoed softly against the walls as he narrated the story to his friend. His body relaxed significantly as his imagination took control and constructed the magical world of Narnia. Joyful minutes turned into joyful hours of exposition… before Greg could even comprehend what was happening to himself; his mind went blank like a piece of paper. The book in his hands dropped away like a cloud of smoke and the real world opened up to him like a hidden door. The transition was instantaneous!

***

Greg was suddenly kneeling on the gilded platform in the 5th dimension. The nightshade arena unfolded before him like the shattering of a dark glass. His deep red eyes adjusted to the gloom of The Black Forest. The night sky flickered softly above with the light of a million stars. Greg’s enhanced senses took over as he breathed in the fresh mountain air and growled. The sweet smell of human fear had dissipated into something different. It was a strange flavored that tasted of freedom and unity. Greg’s pointed ears twitched at the noises of the 5th dimension. The sound of empty cages could be heard swinging back and forth in the darkness of the treetops. The humans had officially been set free by The Daughters of The Black Forest.

Will the dreaded hunt begin now? Thought Greg as he shifted his gaze to the ghostly throng. He shivered inside at the sight of his new kindred spirits. There was a terrible beauty in their pale appearance that shocked him to the core. The nightshades had shown how they could bring a whole world into subjection through deception. In just a few short years they had completely gaslighted the whole human race and enslaved them.

Greg absolutely hated how things would never be the same again! He had been thrust back into the harsh reality of his new existence as a male nightshade; only this time… there was something different about the whole atmosphere. Something had changed that he just couldn’t explain. For one thing, his thoughts felt more like his own. Greg felt like the mental cloud inside his brain had dissipated completely. Bethesda’s influence had lifted from him like a heavy stone. He flexed his muscle and stood up to his full height. His long thick tail whipped back and forth as he opened his pale wings slightly. The resolution inside him came swiftly and ignited his citrine stone with fire. He didn’t care what the consequences would be for his actions. He would not participate in the hunt for humans… He would not eat their flesh!

The nightshade throng bowed and extended their right hands in respect to his grandeur. Their voice chanted as the mist on the ground came to life and started to glow softly. A feeling of energy surged up from the earth and filled Greg’s frame like a bonfire. The sensation was rejuvenating and powerful. His pale white skin started to glow as his vascular marks shifted in elegant patterns across his flesh. He could feel an odd connection forming between himself and the Daughters of the Black Forest. They were all connected somehow by this energy. His will would become their will from here on out.

Greg roared and gripped his skull as the wisdom of the past Erlking’s filled his head like a lightning flash. Their deep voices were like familiar spirits to his thoughts and emotions. Untold knowledge of the nightshade race filled his thoughts and strengthened his determination. The nightshade throng stopped their chanting and gazed upon him like some holy sentinel.

“Kavala! Kavala! Kavala!” yelled the female nightshades all at once. Their voices vibrated the trees of the Black Forest and filled the mountainside. “Long live the Erlking! Long live the Erlqueen!”

They cheered and celebrated one with another! Torches were lit around the arena that cast multi-colored light on the ground. A gong sounded in the air like thunder. Its deep chimes relayed a message of time to all that could hear. Greg felt a warm hand in his. He looked down and studied the nightshade woman at his side. She looked wounded and exhausted; yet there was a firmness to her posture that commanded his attention.

“My Erlking!” She stuck her right foot out and bowed before him like royalty. Her moves were fluid and elegant like water. “I am known as Azoth Undrende… Daughter of The Black Forest.” She paused and directed Greg’s attention to Gwyneth Prime. The nightshade queen was glowing with the same strange energy from the earth. “…and this is your New Queen. Gwyneth Prime… Daughter of Jose Garcia.”

Greg was deeply confused by all these new names and faces. Where the heck was Bethesda hiding in all this chaos? She couldn’t have been defeated in the arena. She had promised Greg they would be together. This wasn’t part of the plan. Greg gazed suspiciously at Gwyneth Prime as Azoth pulled him toward her slowly. There was something oddly familiar about this Nightshade Queen that he just couldn’t quite figure out. If felt like he should know her from somewhere in his past… even her torn tactical outfit looked familiar. Had she escape Camp Snowflake? Had the humans kept her in the Garden of Eden as well?

Gwen caught Greg staring at her. She could see the wheels turning in his head. It was only a matter of seconds before he realized who she really was. A lot of Gwen’s physical features had still remained when she had transformed in the Electro Lab. The nightshade host had oddly adapted to her consciousness over time. Gwen could literally feel her new nightshade form making itself comfortable against her human soul. It was impossible to describe the experience… Gwen was still herself on the outside…she was only more pale and powerful now. She crossed her arms over her chest and hid her body from Greg’s searching gaze with one of her wings.

Gwen had never felt so self-conscious and embarrassed at the same time. She had treated Greg Cardoon like a piece of crap throughout the whole re-education process. She had seen him and all nightshades at Camp Snowflake as monsters… now she was one of them herself. How could she accurately explain everything that happened to her in the last 24 hours? It was unbelievable! A dialog of explanation formed habitually in her head:

Oh, hi Greg. Long time no see. It’s me Agent Garcia… you know the girl that brought you into Camp Snowflake and processed you for re-education. Well things have changed since we last talked. You see, I am actually a human on the inside and my body is stuck in a Lab somewhere…”

Gwen cringed at her own explanation. She reached over and gripped the dream walking prototype in her vest pocket. At least she had some evidence to help support the wild story. She couldn’t help that her own words sounded so crazy and misguided. With everything that had happened to her recently, she could write her own science fiction book. After all, she had all the source material right here in front of her. Gwen could even call it ‘NIGHTSHADES’ and sell the thing to her friends and family for five bucks a pop.

Gwen felt like throwing up at all the strange thoughts. There was no way in hell this was happening to her right now. All she ever wanted to do was end the nightshade uprising on humanity… but not like this. How on earth could she face her mother and father as a nightshade queen? How on earth could she face Dr. Howard and he General and not be laughed at like a fool? How on earth could she show herself in civilized society again?

I can’t stay like this, thought Gwen. She felt like she was going to start hyperventilating. Her citrine stone surged with power and sent a tingling sensation down her arms. Her claws retracted slightly as she suppressed a hiss forming in her throat. She could have transported all of Los Angeles to mars if she wanted. She blocked the massive portal from forming and tried to focus on her breathing!

Azoth stared at Gwen’s right wing and rolled her eyes at the strange gesture. This Erlqueen still had a lot to learn about her new duties and responsibilities. She reached over and pushed the heavy winged appendage away from Gwen’s body. Azoth took Gwyneth Prime by the wrist and tried to pull the arm away from her chest. The thing wouldn’t budge an inch. Gwyneth Prime was way too strong for her to move by force.

“What are you doing?” asked Azoth. “We must show unification!”

“I can’t do this right now,” whispered Gwen to Azoth as she stole a glance at Greg. The big male nightshade was still looking at her. His expression had softened slightly; Greg had figured something out. Gwen felt like pushing Azoth over and making a run for it. “Things are just too complicated to explain right now. I need some time to think and gather my thoughts. I need to get back to the Electro Lab.”

“That time can come later when we are alone,” said Azoth as she indicated to Greg’s hand. “The ritual must be officially concluded with your union together. The Daughters of The Black Forest are watching you and the Erlking closely. They need unity in this triumph over the Giver of Knowledge. They need an Erlqueen and Erlking who can teach them correctly! If everything goes well... we may even mend some relationships with the humans in the 4th dimension. It will take decades to repair, but anything is possible now.”

Gwen stared at Azoth. Her new powers were telling her that the nightshade woman was being honest with her. The energy coming from the citrine stone in her chest was smooth and steady like a river. Gwen reluctantly let Azoth take her hand and place it in Greg’s. She flinched slightly as his palm and fingers wrapped around her hand. Infinite power surged through both of them as Azoth held up their combined hands in front of the Nightshade Crowd. Gwen had officially been given her prize for defeating Bethesda Prime!

“I can’t believe this is happening,” said Gwen as she looked over her nightshade subjects. “This will forever be the weirdest day of my life!”

Greg ignored the feeling of ultimate power surging through his massive frame. He finally recognized the voice of the nightshade queen. “Agent Garcia, is that you?!”

The nightshade crowd erupted in cheers before Gwyneth Prime could answer the question. The sound of cheerful woodwind music filled the air as nightshades danced and conversed about their bright new future. Portals from the 4th dimension opened up all around the arena. Nightshade’s from all over the human world stepped through and greeted their fellow sisters of the black forest. Their captivated minds had been delivered from bondage.

Gwen smiled awkwardly at Greg. “Yes, it’s me... well, almost me.”

“You were a nightshade all along?” asked Greg as he looked her up and down.

Gwen shook her head at this erroneous assessment. “It’s complicated, Greg. I’m really a human on the inside… Honestly! I can’t fully explain what happened to me. But during my fight with Bethesda Prime something important got damaged!”

Greg pounded on his chest. “Well, that makes both of us, Gwen! I can’t fully explain everything that happened to me… but I’m human on the inside. No one would listen to me!”

Greg felt like roaring with frustration!

Azoth directed the odd couple to their massive stone thrones on the gilded platform. They both reluctantly followed her lead, stumbling slightly as they went along.

Greg moved his tail out of the way as he sat down. The black claws in his feet dug into the platform as he leaned in and whispered. “I was change into a nightshade back in the Garden of Eden! I have always been a human from the beginning! There was some strange chemicals in the rain that caused all this weird transformation. I was told all this information by Bethesda when I became a Nightshade. This isn’t my true form!” Greg indicated to his bioluminescent body as evidence of his story. “The United States Government was literally changing its citizens into Nightshade’s without knowing it!”

“It was in the rain?’ said Gwen puzzled. This was the first time that she had heard such a theory. “Like, the rain of the terrarium?”

Greg nodded his head. “Yes! This Giver of Knowledge guy was tricking all the scientists into thinking that the rain would suppress the Nightshades ability to form portals. Instead the rain was causing the humans to change into Nightshade’s. It was all part of some crazy plan to produce male nightshades for the daughters of the black forest. We were all being played like fools. No one would believe me! Not even Dennis!”

Gwen was going to respond but was stopped by Azoth.

“We were all fooled by The Giver of Knowledge. So much has been neglected here in our own lands. I shall arrange a meeting with the three kingdoms of Nord Kentre… beyond the Black Mountains where the hills glow like fire,” said Azoth quietly so that only the three of them could hear her voice. She didn’t want to cause a panic among her sisters. She opened a small portal that they could gaze through while she talked. A volcanic landscape could be seen beyond the cosmic hole. Demon like creatures roamed through the ash and heat. Their bright red skins reflected the flames of their hellish environment. Azoth pointed to them all. “The Lineal of the Hellraiser’s must be informed that our people are not destitute! We ultimately want peace with them… but if they provoke us, we will strike at the heart of their nation!”

Gwen and Greg looked up from the portal that Azoth had formed. It was hard for their narrow minds to shift gears like this. They had only been the rulers of the Nightshade race for five minute and things were already getting more complicated. They had no clue what Azoth was talking about and it showed on their features. Who the hell were the Hellraiser’s?

Azoth hissed slightly at the thought of war in the 5th dimension. She turned her gaze from the open portal and looked at the faces of her Erlking and Erlqueen. They looked dumbfounded at the news of the Hellraiser’s. It was clear that this information was a little overwhelming. She closed the cosmic hole quickly and smiled back at them.

“All this will be explained after the festivities,” said Azoth as comfortingly as she could muster. She kept forgetting that these glorified Nightshade’s were human on the inside. So much needed to happen before negotiations could take place between the other nations. “We will also need to recall all our sisters back to the black forest and number them again… We cannot occupy the 4th dimension any longer without full cooperation with the human race. The goal from here on out is to build unity and trust with the kingdoms of Earth. They have resources that our race needs to survive in the 5th dimension. We will negotiate with their leaders and immigrate into their societies the proper way. We will educated them on our ways of life.”

“I like the sound of this legal immigration,” said Greg openly. “No more deception among the Nightshade’s! If they want to live in the 4th dimension, they need to have permission!”

“What resources do we have on earth that you can’t get here in the 5th dimension?” asked Gwen curiously. It seemed like the Black Forest would have everything needed to survive.

“Human souls; among other things,” said Azoth bluntly. She opened another portal and showed a big cemetery to the Erlking and Erlqueen. The tombstones stuck out of the earth by the thousands. “As you can plainly see they are going to waste in the 4th dimension. We can help protract the longevity of life for humanity.”

Gwen was taken aback by this strange answer. She was going to respond when four Nightshade women from the throng came onto the gilded platform. They quickly set up two small stone tables before Greg and Gwen. They filled the stone tables with strange dishes from the 5th dimension. Small creatures had been shrunk to the size of a walnut and were currently trying to escape their platters. Gwen watched as they clawed over each other for freedom. They were being held in funny shaped bowls that kept the creatures in the center of the dish. She had never seen anything like it before.

“I think I’ll take a miss,” said Gwen politely.

Greg nodded his head and pushed the table away. “I’m with her on this one…”

The Nightshade women bowed at their responses and presented two big circles of woven sticks to them. The black branches were decorated with multicolored flowers of the forest. The floral displays were bright and beautiful. The fragrance with intoxicating.

“They wish to crown the both of you,” said Azoth with annoyance. She hated being interrupted. “Please bow your heads and let them.”

Greg and Gwen bowed their heads to the Nightshade women. The four Nightshade’s placed the elegant wooden crowns around their black horns and adjusted them carefully. Once everything was situated right, they retreated back into the crowd. All the daughters of the black forest were wearing this wooden headdress now. The bright colors of the flowers seemed only to compliment the pale flesh of the nightshades. The atmosphere felt magical and friendly.

Gwen let go of Greg’s hand and leaned in. The flowery crown shifted slightly as she spoke. “You said we need human souls from the 4th dimension?! I thought we are done eating humans from here on out. I have placed it into the will of the Nightshade’s not to do it anymore.”

Greg could also feel the change that Gwen had made in the nightshades. He didn’t know quite how he knew it… but he did.

“Yes my Erlqueen. I know what you have done to me and the daughters of the black forest… and it is a good thing. But that change may need to be looked at again and tweaked slightly in the future. You see, our people need human souls to perpetuate the nightshade race,” said Azoth firmly. She wasn’t going to apologize for their way of life. “The Giver of Knowledge has perverted our ways of life in the eyes of the human race. He took what should have been a sacred thing and perverted it to accomplish his evil purposes. We needed to work with humanity in the 4th dimension to mitigate the damage he has caused. We need to show the humans the symbiotic nature of our abilities. We can help them and they can help us. ”

Greg shook his head at all this nonsense. “I’m a little confused, Azoth… How are we going to work with humanity in this matter? I need some clarification. How is eating humans and digesting them going to keep them from death? Isn’t that death?”

Gwen folded her arms over her chest. Her citrine stone was pulsating with power and authority. She was not going to revoke the rules she had created for the Nightshade race. Eating humans was bad no matter how you looked at it.

“I understand the confusion, my Erlking. We are not forcing the humans to do anything against their will in this matter. We will not consume them unless they choose to be consumed. We will provide them a choice besides death,” said Azoth as she studied Gwyneth Prime’s hard expression. She could feel her Erlqueen’s influence upon her mind and Citrine Stone like a lead weight. She was not convinced. Azoth cleared her throat and pushed through the emotions forming in her chest. “As you already know, when a daughter of the black forest eats a human alive they are transformed into a green Onyx Orb. That Onyx Orb has the potential to turn into a Daughter of the Black Forest. We can offer the humans a way to become like us instead of dying. We can offer them a life in our society instead of a life in the grave.”

Azoth pointed to the tombstones in the portal.

“Onyx Orbs?!” said Gwen loudly. Her thoughts turned to her sister at Prewitt Labs. “Is that why Prewitt Labs was collecting them? Because they have the potential to become Daughters of the Black Forest?”

Azoth nodded her head and paused to collect her thoughts on the matter. The heavy influence that Gwyneth Prime had on her eased slightly. “I believe so, but I am not entirely sure... The Giver of Knowledge never intended for our Onyx Orbs to be used for repopulation of the Nightshade race. He had something else in mind for humanity in that dormant state. Something that Sam and I never quite figured out. He was gathering them into Prewitt Labs for a reason. It couldn’t have been good.”

“I am not so convinced on the eating of humans Azoth; but I do think it is important to gather the Onyx Orb for the 4th dimension. It would be a waste of human life if they all went missing. Will we be able to retrieve these Onyx Orbs from Prewitt Labs without incident?” asked Gwen impatiently. “Will I get to hold my sisters Orb in my hand?”

“We are gathering in the Onyx Orbs as we speak,” said Azoth. She created another portal and showed Prewitt Labs to the both of them. She looked at Gwen and studied her expression. She could see that this Erlqueen was passionate about doing the right thing for the Nightshades. “You will get to hold your sisters Onyx Orb in your hand… and if you so choose… you can make her a Princess of the Black Forest. You can speak to her again…face to face. That power lies with you and the Erlking now.”

Gwen was shocked by this revelation of seeing her sister face to face. “What do you mean by that Azoth…How can I speak to her face to face again? How does the Onyx Orb change everything like you say it does?”

“The Onyx Orb must be placed in a Baba-Baelg,” said Azoth as she looked over to Greg. It was the job of the Erlking to produce the seed pod. “No Nightshade in our society can create a Baba-Baelg but the Erlking himself… It was the reason why our society was going extinct to begin with; for hundreds of years, we lacked the ability to grow these pods ourselves. All the females could produce Onyx Orbs… but not a Baba-Baelg.”

“Pods?” said Greg nervously. This whole conversation was making him feel uncomfortable. “I am supposed to produce some pods?”

“Yes, the Baba-Baelg are pods only you can form. They sprout up from the earth and take from the soil by your command. They help form the bodies of the Daughter of the Black Forest. That is why we are also called the Daughters of the Erlking,” said Azoth. She turned to Gwen motioned to her thin lips. “And only you can authorize the life to grow from the Onyx Orbs. If they don’t have your blessing… they cannot grow and become Daughters of the Black Forest! Not just any Nightshade can place an Onyx Orb into a Baba-Baelg… both of you hold the keys to the perpetuation of the Nightshade race.”

“You mean the green marble things?” said Greg bluntly. His mind was turning with confusion at all this strange Nightshade reproduction talk. He remembered how Dr. Banes had spewed the little round objects all over the floor during his government assessment. It was the most terrifying thing he had ever seen. All those green balls had been humans once. “Those things can make more Nightshades if Gwen here gives them the go-ahead?”

Azoth nodded her head. There was so much that needed to be taught to these two leaders. “Yes, the human marbles make the Nightshade’s if they are placed in a Baba-Baelg and given the breath of life from Gwyneth Prime.”

Gwen was silent for a moment. She was trying to internalize what all this meant. “What you’re saying is that my sister will be a Nightshade if I choose to do this pod thing. She will come out as a Nightshade in the end… she will look like this.” Gwen indicated to Greg and herself.

“Yes, my Erlqueen,” said Azoth firmly. She could feel the conflict in the new Erlqueen, “But she will also retain her characteristics… and if you so choose… her memories of human life.”

“She will remember everything,” said Gwen under her breath. She wanted to see her sister again, but could she bring her back to life as a Nightshade?

Greg laughed nervously. “Strange stuff.”

Azoth nodded. “I will warn you, it never ends well for the host to remember everything about their past life. We were encouraged through experience to limit the memory of the Daughters of the Black Forest. I suggest we continue to follow this tradition. I myself cannot remember everything of my former life… just a little here and there in dreams… but not all of it. When I emerged from the Baba-Baelg over a thousand years ago I was 100% Nightshade.”

Greg and Grew looked at Azoth dumbfounded.

“You were human once?’ asked Greg incredulously.

Azoth shook her head “no”. The 5th dimension had never had a race of humans in it. “I was something else that once lived here… But that is beside the point. When the Onyx Orbs come in from Prewitt Labs, I say we transform the orbs into Nightshades.”

“We would need the permission of the families to do the transformation first,” said Gwen softly. It felt wrong just to go ahead and make these orbs into Nightshades. “If the families agree that we can change them into Daughters of the Black Forest, then we change them. If they don’t want them changed… then they can keep the Onyx Orb for themselves.”

“I agree with Gwen,” said Greg quickly. He was drawing from his own experience in the matter. “I think the families should decide what happens with their loved ones. We should work with the governments of Earth and give them back the Onyx Orbs. The families can make the decision once they are informed what they are. I was changed into a Nightshade against my will and it was unpleasant. I think they should have a say.”

“It would help our association with the 4th dimension. We could slowly mend relationships and then explain what the Nightshade race can do for the humans. It will take decades, but the plan could definitely work.” said Azoth with a smile. She could feel that this problem had a long-term solution. “We can talk more about this later. For now, the Daughters of the Black Forest will want to see a dance from the both of you.”

Greg and Gwen shook their heads at this suggestion.

Azoth turned to the crowd and spoke into a portal she had formed. A larger portal appeared in the air above the gilded platform. Her voice was projected loudly over the arena. “We shall now have a dance from the Erlking and Erlqueen. Set the music and clear a path!”

The atmosphere went still as the Nightshades separated down the middle and looked over to their new monarchs.

Gwen hid her face…

Greg groaned inside. “Not again!”

“We start with the drums!” said Azoth as the arena filled with the rhythm of the dance.

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