Act 2: A Daring Proposal
A year had passed since the incident with Juniper. They were no longer being punished for not keeping up and surprisingly, even Xilo and Poppy had backed off a bit. The two royals were still tenacious in their enforcement of decorum, discipline, and mental fortitude. At any sign of weakness they pounced, any chink in their armor they attacked, any guard they had up they destroyed. Nothing got past them, not even their thoughts.
Tulip cautiously eyed Denisun. She stalked around a map in her battle room, ignoring the words of her military advisors. It had been like this for weeks. She scanned the room looking for someone, anyone who would shed some light on the current issue. Alas, her answers were as bare as the spartan furnishings. It would be another day where they would get nowhere. Another day of turtling behind Kilo Castle. Another day closer to their reckoning.
Tulip had her back to the wall. In this instance she could only call upon her closest allies.
“Riven, Luko, Denisun, Boreit. Everyone else, please, leave us.”
Officers funneled out of the room murmuring amongst themselves. No one would say it to Tulip’s face, but behind closed doors most believed her gambit would ultimately fail. Onyx and Nike were special, but they had banked on having more time. At this rate, it would only be months until the many tribes of the Lunu descended upon Wenshe.
All that remained were the five royales. Luko erected seats for Riven and himself. He was a no-spirit, ancient and full of wisdom. Green vines grew around brown bark that covered his whole body. His green eyes glowed with life, much brighter than normal. Like Riven, he was just shy of nine feet, their height a testament of their longevity. Riven sighed as she bent her creaking knees. Long and lithe, Riven looked much like Tulip, just not as wild.
Denisun made seats for Boreit and Tulip, but elected to stand.
Tulip shook her head as she sat and pondered what to say.
“Princess?” Riven asked in a concerned tone.
Tulip pursed her lips. In times like these her father would have come up with something ingenuitive. While Luko flicked bark off of his fingers Boreit spoke.
“The situation is dire. I suggest we burn everything, leave, head for the plains. There are weaker tribes to the west we can take advantage of as we head to Colifer. There, we can set up base, trade with the local human tribes, and put enough distance between us and the Lunu. They have the numbers, but their supply chains would be stretched too thin.”
Denisun shook his head in disagreement.
“If we leave now, this will only happen again. We tried the same thing many years ago. With your plan we will soon end up in the same place, hunted yet again.”
“The Iron-blood and the two-spirit will have more time to develop. They may not be the saviors of today, but we may be able to-”
“No. I am sorry Light-bark. I have seen these two in action. I am impressed not only by their abilities but by your mentorship. Though, unless they can call upon the gifts of the Grand Tree and smite our enemies like a human God…”
Luko trailed off and just shrugged.
“They are powerful, but less so than anyone sitting here. If we cannot change the outcome of this war, what makes you think a pair of growthlings, however talented they are, could? No, another plan please.”
Boreit sat back in his chair staring at Luko, his grey eyes dull as ever. Luko stared back, finally looking away as he squinted his eyes. Riven crossed her arms in silence. Denisun moved his legs to a more comfortable position as he leaned against a pillar.
Tulip’s yellow eyes were low, her spirit portraying her frustration. The critters crawling on her body had retreated to the small holes where they lived making her just slightly easier to look at.
“Well then, we have no choice but to reinforce and hunker down. We cause as many casualties as we can, we force them to give up their siege. With enough willpower and effort we can outlast them.”
Luko objected once again.
“Princess, I disagree. They have the numbers to flood right over Wenshe and cover it in sap and fire.”
“And what must we do, Luko? Give up?”
Luko looked away without an answer. A couple awkward seconds went by, then Denisun spoke.
“Princess, if I may, I think I have a solution.”
“Please, enlighten us.”
Densiun moved from the wall and stood straight with his hands behind his back. His orange eyes illuminated his pitch black bark making him look like the glowing burned ornaments in many storefronts lining Asora.
“We must contact chieftain Nemaak, slay him, and adopt the remaining Nami into our nation.”
Stunned silence enveloped the group. Riven was the first to speak. Her low raspy voice was as hard as her gnarly bark.
“You must be insane, or stupid and the Denisun I know is not stupid. The Nami will never submit to the Rema. The Lunu may be the enemy, but there will be no peace, let alone assimilation.”
Denison nodded in acknowledgement.
“Of course, General Riven. I think I have a solution to that issue.”
Luko, clearly annoyed, motioned to Denisun with his hands to speed up.
“Out with it, Denisun.”
Denisun cleared his throat.
“There is a blood-tradition that has not been witnessed for hundreds of years. The only two that were alive the last time it had commenced was Nemaak.”
Tulip’s eyes brightened.
“The law is no longer written in Rema documents, but alas, Nemaak would never forget. It is called the Trial of Sap. Two combatants duel for the unification of both Rema and Nami. The challenger must be of common birth and under one hundred years of age. Leader of the nation who is challenged must fight, if challenged, a maximum of once per ten years. An agreed upon tribute is made before fighting. If the challenger is slain, their nation must give up this tribute. If the challenged is slain, their nation becomes equal and one with the other.”
Luko shook his head vigorously.
“Nemaak is nearly fourteen feet tall. He is as durable as Boreit, swift as Riven, and as mean as Tulip. What force of nature will you throw at him and how fast does Nemaak crush it?”
Luko paused, then laughed hysterically.
“Boreit, are you considering sending that soft-hearted giant who hasn’t killed anything but a deer for dinner to fight Nemaak? I’ll elect myself to get torn limb from limb in Kilo’s dungeon before I witness that disaster.”
“Despite your objections, the power lurking within that Erodesean is something I have never seen before. He is too young to be able to fully activate it, but I think, with a little push we can hasten the process.”
Riven looked up inquisitively.
“Is this Denisun’s, or your plan Boreit? What scheming have you two been up to?”
Denisun looked sharply in Riven’s direction.
“We need only convince one in this room of our plans.”
Tulip, seeing the energy shift in the room put two large seven fingered hands out to each side.
“Riven is right, but I do not have time to test the loyalty of my kin tonight. Please, Boreit, what do you have in mind?”
Boreit shifted in his seat.
“The iron-blood will consume King Piriu’s heart. He will inherit a fraction of his power, which is all he needs.”
Riven crossed her arms again as Luko spoke.
“The heart of the King cannot be harnessed by a commoner. Denisun says that Onyx must defeat Nemaak. The challenger must be of commoner blood. You say that Onyx must consume the heart of King Piriu, but one must be of divine blood to do so. Which one is it?”
Boreit put his thick hands together to form a pyramid as he said his next words.
“He is a commoner, but the two-spirit, Nike, is of divine blood. If xe cleanses the heart, Onyx can consume it without dying in the process-”
Luko finished Boreits words.
“Thus, being able to challenge Nemaak on semi-even terms.”
All eyes turned to Tulip as she sat in her chair.
“We do not know for absolute certainty that Nike is of divine blood. If xe is, the next question is will xe have enough spiritual power to cleanse the heart. If Nike cleanses the heart, Onyx will inherit the divine blood of King Piriu, thus making him divine in the process. Though, one has to be divine in origin to be disqualified from competing in the Trial of Sap. Even with King Piriu’s heart, Onyx fights an uphill battle against Nemaak. The abilities Onyx inherits from Piriu will undoubtedly be the determining factor of success, given that all aligns. That only leaves one issue.”
All five members nodded in unison.
Tulip said with finality.
“We will depart in a week. Boreit, notify Xilo and Poppy.” Then to the four present. “No one is to know of this conversation. We go alone.”
As the five left the war chamber a tiny Erodesean slinked out of the room, a smirk on it’s mischievous little face. Skittering on the ceiling, dropping down a parapet, scaling down a wall, then plopping on the floor, it ran on all fours back into the darkness that was the Crystal Forest.