Trial by Fire

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A Much Needed Excursion

Not knowing exactly what to train frustrated Onyx. As he sat on the porch of their new home he watched Nike show Tootsie how to use a sling. When they were smaller, at around twelve, xe and other children from the wood would clunk seeds and other debris at his head. He had always been at least two heads taller than the largest in his class, making him an anomaly. Until, of course, everyone grew up and forgot about the significance of being giant.

Nike struck a stance as xe pulled back xyr sling. With a palm under his chin, Onyx admired Nike’s slender frame and colorful energy. Xe let the sling go with a thwap as a rock went shooting across the old sparring grounds. It was but a circle of dirt, the only remarkable thing about it was that Tootsie kept the grass from growing in the area just in case they would use it for its intended purpose.

Again, Nike struck a stance and let another rock fly. This time, xe looked sharply at Onyx sending his heart beating as he awkwardly smiled in xyr direction.

“So you’re just going to look at us all day? We’re supposed to be training.” Xe said.

Onyx got up slowly, groaning as he stood.

“I shape, I’m big. What could I be of use, stoneslinger.”

Nike picked up a rock and let it fly from xyr sling hitting Onyx square in the head. It clunked off sending the tiniest sliver of bark wafting off in the wind. Onyx, Nike, and Tootsie laughed at the silliness of their training. As Onyx joined them Nike put xyr sling to the side in a makeshift holster and put xyr hands behind xyr head.

“I’m bored, let’s go to the town square or something. There is a market, right?”

Tootsie nodded. “Yes, of sorts. Astora has the best markets but we aren’t allowed there. Glyph is still nice.”

Nike smiled in Tootsie’s direction.

“Well, what are you waiting for? Let’s go!”

Tootsie led the way to the market as they passed by many Houses, most of them simple in construction. There was a path of sorts, but it funneled in every which way either towards a dense collection of Houses, or a public sparring area.

“It’s a bit bare bones out here. Is this because of the war?” Nike said.

Tootsie shook his head. “No. Glyph, for as long as anyone can remember, has always been a transitional area. Many people here are refugees, the afflicted, or younglings eager to prove their worthiness and enter Corinth.”

“Mmmph.” Onyx mumbled as a few passersby stared in his direction curious as to who the large Erodesean was. They whispered to each other once they were out of earshot not knowing that Nike could still hear. Xe shouted back to them while walking backwards.

“He’s not my brother!”

Onyx and Tootsie laughed as they continued to walk. The multitude of paths now all snaked towards one main road. It was covered in multicolored rocks and smooth stones resembling a riverbed. Many Erodeseans walked back and forth, a large space allowed for traffic in both directions. Some carried goods and others were stopped to hold conversations. Some stared at Tootsie in disgust recognizing the coward wherever he went. Others remarked on Nike’s beauty and Onyx’s stature, the former quite cheerful and the latter quiet with nervous stares.

The main road ended with the entrance to the town square which was surprisingly dense. Erodeseans moved in every direction, kids, parents running after their kids, teenagers messing around, adults perusing goods, and the odd soldier or two clad in light armor with a spear muscling their way through the crowd. Before they were lost in the sea of living wood Tootsie turned around and nudged Nike and Onyx. He spoke loudly so they could hear him over the ruckus in the background.

“Okay, so how about we meet each other at the crossroads we came in right as the sun sets. That’ll give us about four hours. How’s that sound?”

Onyx nodded and Nike gave an enthusiastic “Yea!” then Tootsie bolted off into the crowd.

Onyx chuckled. “Well, that was fast.”

Nike shook xyr head. “He’s so awkward, like someone else I know.”

Onyx narrowed his gaze at xyr. “And, who might that be?”

Nike shrugged, then grabbed his hand as xe walked towards a vendor who sold shells. They stopped to look at the wares Onyx almost knocking over a large green shell. There were all sorts of shapes and sizes, every single one a different hue or color. The male, a short Erodesean with moss growing on one side of his face yelled at Onyx from behind the counter.

“Hey. Hey. Hey! Back up!”

Onyx panicked and moved his arm to the side knocking over two shells that were placed at the corner of the table. They crashed to the floor, one breaking completely and the other cracking. Nike quickly tugged on Onyx knowing that they had better leave before they called the guards.

“Go away! Just go away!” The man shouted as they left.

They retreated towards a small canopy where trees obscured the sun. There were some people relaxing in the area and benches still unused. Nike instructed Onyx to sit down as xe sat in the grass beneath him. Xe looked up with red eyes, clearly angry at him.

“Two minutes into the market and you are already making enemies? Why are you so clumsy? We look like idiots now.”

Onyx shrugged, his eyes going blue with embarrassment. He hated it when he upset Nike. Xe instantly felt bad for berating him and got up and hugged the giant.

“But if I am being honest he was kind of rude to begin with, he had it coming. Come on, let’s go and check out a couple more stores.”

Onyx’s eyes flashed from pink to green as xe led him around the market. As they shopped around, Onyx mostly just floated behind Nike, keen not to knock over any stalls or upset anyone. He was clearly unmotivated to engage in conversation, avoiding it as much as possible. Nike on the other hand talked to whoever would listen, which happened to be almost anyone. When they asked about Onyx, xe would introduce them, which made him feel included.

He wondered if xe knew that, or if xe could read his emotions. He didn’t know if it was a worry as much as a curiosity. The fact xe was a two-spirit intimidated him. Afterall, he thought, how could he compete with all the attention xe received?

After the day waned on and the crowd thinned the Great Star was just beginning to set. Onyx and Nike could see Tootsie waiting patiently by the entrance they came through and walked over to join him.

“Have fun?” Tootsie asked?

Nike nodded. “Yes! It’s a lot smaller than Eromosa but the people are pretty friendly. I didn’t really have anything to trade, but I met a couple of others that might want to hangout later, that’s if you want?”

“Uh yea, yea. That would be nice.” Tootsie awkwardly answered.

Onyx had been lost in thought as Nike turned around and knocked his chest with xyr fist.

“Hey! Yea you big-stuff. You have fun?”

Onyx smiled. It wasn’t so much that he enjoyed the market, it was that he had some quality time with xyr, but something else bugged him.

“I did. I’ll be right back, just give me a moment.”

Onyx walked off back towards the market. Tootsie asked Nike why he was going back and Xe explained it to him.

“He’s going to go back to the shell guy.”

Onyx arrived at the first stall they had shopped at. The shopkeeper was gone and instead a much younger and taller young female erodesean was there cleaning up. He walked up towards the counter, the shells now gone.

“Stall’s closed, come back tomorrow.” She said as she wiped the top of the table.

“The man, I wanted to talk with him.”

She looked up at him, her purple eyes trying to read his intent.

“Why would you want to see my father?”

Onyx, still embarrassed from the incident, explained what happened and claimed he could mend the broken items.

“So you can ‘fix’ them? I want to see that, here,” she grabbed from underneath the stall “go ahead fix them.”

Onyx looked at her then the shells. She looked back at him confused, but as she looked back down the shells were mended, the cracks completely filled and broken pieces replaced. She grabbed the shells and inspected them, perplexed by how he had done it. He began to walk away as she shouted back to him.

“Thank you! Oh and my name is Anima! Come back anytime.”

But by then Onyx was already joining Nike and Tootsie. With bright green eyes nike asked Onyx, “Did you mend the shells?”

He nodded. For some reason he felt the need to crane his head down. It was as if he was compelled to do so and as he did Nike gave him a quick peck on the cheek.

“That was the right thing to do. Now come on, we should get back before nightfall.”

Nike held Onyx’s hand the whole way back. All Onyx could think of was xyr. He didn’t care about the market. He didn’t care to make friends. He only wanted two things: Nike and a means for revenge.

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