Act 1: Good-Bye Eromosa
In the sprawling maze-like Osk University sat a towering nine foot growthling. Onyx was special, but managed to be rather unremarkable throughout his school tenure. As he answered a question posed by his mentor, Tulip, no one sighed from a long-winded and intellectual response. No one laughed at the idiocy of the statement, nor were they bored or entertained. It seemed as if Onyx, a giant, had mastered invisibility.
Though, there was one thing Onyx had going for him: Save for the Circle (the elites who govern all of Eromosa) he was one of the few members in this coalition of nations to be able to manipulate appearances. This of course made him a commodity, but nothing more than for aesthetic appeal. His potential as a common-blood was limited and it didn’t help that he was growing from infertile soil.
Onyx scanned the room after answering the question. It was unusually large for the small group of 40, and featured all assortments of magical ornaments hanging about. Most of them were easily identified as an animal, plant, or one of the massive trees that make up the Crystal Forest. Desks were made from wood; they weren’t identical like in grade school, rather they were a part of the gargantuan tree system that comprised the entirety of the university.
Onyx wondered, how, with all the spirit and talent available in Eromosa, that his people would be more preoccupied with shaping trees and bodies instead of building defenses? Afterall, his current course was about the Battle of Twisted Horns where mercenaries from the East hired by wealthy merchants sought to wipe them off the map. If not for the forest and its protection, they would be all but slaves and their land raped for its resources. There was no denying their own abilities to manipulate nature saved their people, if not for the ineptitude of humankind as well.
As Tulip continued her lecture by showing the students how to speed the growth of various species of plant, Onyx felt a tap on his hard wooden frame. The knock was unusually loud, but lucky for both parties, Tulip was too preoccupied to look up from her incantation. Onyx turned his head round and met Nike’s green eyes. He took note that his latest alterations to xyr facial features were exceptional and the clearance he was given by xyr parents meant one thing: they would offer their two-spirited child for a life-bond.
This was beyond an honor. Two-spirited people are born with an innate gift and often serve as spiritual advisors, and almost always end up in Osa’s Circle. Though, it was obvious their family wanted his skills for their own, in addition to their child’s own abilities. He did not see the drawbacks. He liked Nike, and really, that is all that mattered to him. Plus he was an orphan, his parents having sacrificed their lives in the very battle he now studied. He needed a family and he was passing that cute stage rather quickly.
Nike leaned in to whisper in his short brown ears. As xe spoke, Onyx’s normally green eyes turned a fiery red, a signal he was blushing. Nike, knowing full well xe was spelling doom for the two, continued in earnest.
Suddenly, a silence enveloped the class and all that could be heard were the sweet whispers of Nike’s honeyed voice. Xe lapped word upon word in Onyx’s ear, his eyes flashing bright enough to cinder his sockets. Unbeknownst to the pair, the entire class had halted to hear. Tulip stood perplexed by the exchange, her eyes orange. A few more seconds went by until one of the students screamed: “Busted!”
The entire classroom burst into a raucous laughter, the eyes of Nike bright red with desire and that of Onyx’s, not used to the attention, a deep tepid blue. Tulip calmed the class down until finally, the last few murmurs had bounced off the walls and dissipated. Once everyone was quiet she exclaimed: “Class Dismissed!”
And, just like that, all 40 growthlings sprang to their feet and made their way out of the classroom… except for two of course. They stayed seated, knowing that their fate was in the hands of a woman who held a seat in the Circle. Both of their eyes now a deep blue, they now regretted their involvement. Though, Nike’s portrayed a slight yellowish tinge, suggesting xe was trying to feign xyr self-disappointment.
Tulip walked around her desk and erected a new seat directly in front of the troublemakers. She motioned for Nike to sit in a seat to the right of Onyx.
Tulip was slender and lithe. She was hyper intelligent, and had taught nonstop classes for the last fifty years. She was a staunch supporter of non-violence and was one of the few elder writers who were tasked with preserving their history. Though, to the two teenagers in front of her she was an Eastern Mercenary who was ready to chop their bodies into splinters.
Tulip sighed, “Look into my eyes when I speak to you. You will face judgement, but you will do so with the knowledge and understanding of what you have done.”
Tulip, with little emotion on her face save for her deep grey eyes, began a speech.
“At nineteen years old, a growthling’s first priority is to learn, to nurture their bodies, and to grow into intelligent, empathetic young adults. Because you two disrupted my class, I will take the time that was taken from myself to put this all in perspective.”
Tulip looked in Onyx’s direction. “You, my child, are the sapling of two notable heroes. They laid down their lives for our nation and made it possible for people like yourself to even have a classroom. They made it possible to nod away in a class that is teaching about the very battle where they, and many others, made the ultimate sacrifice. Imagine what they would think about your gift? How you selfishly give your talents to the Jule family’s spoiled two-spirited child in exchange for… I could only guess what a 19 year old male growthling would want.”
Onyx was incredibly embarrassed. His eyes rapidly flittered between blue and pink. His dark bark made an audible sound as it grinded on his legs. He didn’t like feeling vulnerable, or nervous.
Nike, xyr eyes a golden yellow, yelled from xyr seat “And so! Who cares about your opinion? You’re smarter than we are. You have a seat on the Circle. Yet you belittle us for no reason. What are you getting out of this?”
Tulip’s eyes flashed red, the danger making Onyx want to cower at the sight. He had never seen anyone talk like that to an Elder, much less a growthling. She growled the next words out as they slammed into the walls, the venomous response drawing the attention of a few students passing by in the hallway.
“Nike, the petulant only child of the Jule family. If it wasn’t for your high grades and outstanding abilities you would be cast aside! Back to your village to grow shrubs, never to be permitted the knowledge to serve any meaningful purpose. You squander your gift with an ill temper and mismanaged spirit. Your parents are failures, and it is no secret the Circle has always wondered about the competency of those two cowards.”
Nike, now fully unhinged let Tulip have it.
“And you can do nothing about it! Nothing! I don’t care that you have always had it out for me. I’m tired of your hate for my family affecting how you treat me and everyone I talk to. You can’t do that, you know it’s wrong. You have the power, but you’re sick. Your move, weirdo!”
“You two are dismissed.”
Nike rolled xyr eyes and grabbed Onyx’s hand “Hurry up let’s get out of here.”
As they made ready to leave the room Tulip shouted out with a smirk on her face “6 months in the wild, both of you. The judgement is final. Perhaps the time spent away from academia will accelerate your maturity?”
As Onyx was being dragged by Nike he panicked. 6 months in the wild? Tulip was insane, all he did was get distracted. Why him? He had gone his entire life without being noticed, now, he was being punished by the Circle. It wasn’t fair, he thought. It had to be Nike’s fault. Xe knew what xe was doing and Onyx could see the yellow mischief in xyr eyes.
He was angry, and mortified. Thousands of students from surrounding villages stopped in the massive hallways of Osk University to jeer and throw bark at the two criminals. Their sentence was immediate and within moments they were accosted by several officers who guided them to the wilds.
Nike screamed and writhed until they muzzled xyr mouth and tied xyr up. Onyx was gently led with the bounded body of Nike down a latticework of hallways and stairs. All the while people looked on with blue, green, and red eyes. The condemnation and pity were evident. Many members of Osk showed their level of agreeance or unease with the situation. Being that Onyx and Nike were well known and the sentence so long; news passed like wildfire.
After thirty agonizing minutes of public embarrassment, Onyx found himself outside the confines of civilization. He looked around and could see nothing but trees and brush. Then, he looked at the floor.
On the ground was a still writhing figure of Nike. Xyr eyes glaring in Onyx’s direction.Great. Onyx thought. Now how do you undo xylotwine?