Trial by Fire

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“Faster!” Boreit yelled to Onyx as arrows rained from all sides. They weren’t strong enough to break through the bark of most, but for Nike and Slade they were life threatening.

Nike could sense where arrows would fall and deftly swiped the moment they would hit xyr or Slade. Onyx barrelled after Tulip on all fours knocking down countless small trees and shrubbery. The rest of the convey kept pace, only stopping briefly to evade hidden soldiers. They were the elite, trained for the most dangerous of missions, but even still this seemed to be insanity. There were possibly hundreds of Nami and Lunu lurking in the woods, many more could be awaiting them at the grove.

Tulip and Luko slashed left and right with their greatswords breaking a path for the rest to follow and maiming all in their way. They left a trail of death, cutting smaller Erodeseans in half and trampling their bodies as they moved forward. Arrows seemed to be nothing but a nuisance, many of them already embedded in their bark.

Boreit mostly protected the two main passengers, Slade and Nike. The bulk of his body shielded most of the arrows. However, he spent a good deal of time wrenching Erodeseans from Onyx’s legs tossing them into trees and foliage.

Nike crawled up Onyx’s back while slashing arrows out of the air. Xe put xyr mouth level to his head.

“It’s not much further! We’re okay over here!”

Onyx grumbled then Nike heard a voice in xyr head.

I can hear… here. Speak, here.”

Nike traveled back down to where Slade was grappling onto Onyx’s bark. As xe tried to make sense of the fact xe could speak to Onyx through a spirit channel, xe also noticed what had happened to Slade while xe was gone. He had taken an arrow to the ankle but instead of blood coming out and pain emanating from his mouth he mostly looked frustrated as he attempted to wiggle the arrow from his body. His flesh made a squelching sound as black mist spurted from his ankle with the release of the arrow. Xe watched, closely, still unconsciously slapping arrows to and fro. Slade could feel xyr eyes and turn to meet them. His cold stare was nonchalant, they both knew that nothing could be done or said about it in the moment.

“Onnie, we are here, Tulip has reached the grove.” Nike said.

“Onnie?” Was all Onyx said as he abruptly came to a halt within a meadow. It was the same grove that Tulip met Xilo and Poppy at over a year ago, except now it was full of chaos. Combatants were everywhere, Nami, and Humans fighting each other. As the full convoy descended on the grove it was clear that some were missing. Tulip and Luko sprinted to the large trunk where King Pirius rested. Boreit and Onyx bowled over anything unfortunate to get in their way as the rest of the scouts zeroed in and followed them. Once at the stump Luko detached from Tulip’s hip and slashed wildly in every direction, cleaving or scaring off all who were unwanted. He yelled to Boreit.

“Circle the trunk! We let no one in!”

Boreit nodded and ordered the scouts to guard Tulip. Noticing the gargantuan presence of Onyx and spiritual pressure of Nike most who were fighting had now stopped. A human commander could be heard gathering his forces to the west of the convoy while most Erodeseans retreated to the north. They remained there looking on as the small detachment of soldiers guarded the Princess. The human commander shouted something at the erodeseans to the north, pointing at the convoy. The erodeseans hunkered down with their shields, preparing to fight both the convoy and humans.

Tulip could see this all unfolding. Her master plan was coming to fruition. She had known that there was a spy in their midst, it mattered not who. She could sense their energy at their meeting at Kilo. Regardless of who would get the information first, she knew Nemaak would never let Piriu’s heart go to the Rema. He would send his own warriors to the grove to gather it and bring it back. Seeing Nami fighting humans would alert the Lunu, who would most likely only observe having not been given proper intel by both the humans or Nami. In the five days they had waited, Piriu’s tomb had been exhumed, presumably by the Nami. His remains were strewn across a large whole in the trunk, along with the bodies of several humans and Nami. He was massive in life, at least taller than Onyx who now stood at an imposing twelve feet.

The human commander had stopped shouting and instead ordered his men into a defensive formation. The grove was dead silent except for the rattle of arms against shields. Lunu could be seen hiding in the shadows in the outskirts, keen to observe. Tulip motioned for Nike and Onyx to come forward and kneel in front of her. She whispered to them.

“You will touch the heart, both of you. That is all.” She said.

Nike could sense a deep well of energy rise in Tulip. As they knelt on one knee xyr eyes went a bright orange. Slade appeared in the middle of them, standing with his hands in his pockets. He was silent, but smiled in Tulip’s direction.

Light broke the sky as dawn broke, bathing both living and dead in its shining rays. Tulip suddenly held up her hands, her voice echoing loudly into the grove. She held a small dagger out towards the two Erodeseans as she spoke.

“To the Humans who have joined us on this fateful morning, I am Princess Tulip, of the Rema, the vampires. To the cowardly Nami and the vengeful Lunu, I am the end. To my people, I am the genesis. The Old Ways are over! The Rema will reclaim their right as the rulers of Eromosa, through blood and iron! And so-”

Tulip abruptly ended as she wrenched her heart from her chest. Her eyes flickered, the smile on her face never leaving. Slowly, she started to crumble as she turned to dust. With one final blink to Nike and Onyx, she faded away, forever. Slade grabbed her massive heart in his hands as it hummed with energy. It seared his arms, but it didn’t seem to bother him.

“Both of you, touch the heart, at the same time.” Slade said, his voice sounding exasperated.

Nike looked to Onyx. He would touch the heart if xe would. But he could sense xyr spirit in doubt. With big blue eyes he turned his neck towards xyr, then spoke, aloud.

“We knew it would come to this. I told you, I go where you go.”

Already, the horde of humans and Nami were descending on them rapidly. Boreit and Luko looked back at Nike. With the fate of the nation on xyr shoulders xe knew xe would have to make a decision and fast.

So xe did what xe knew would be best. Onyx felt a force that compelled him to grab the heart. Despite Slade backing up and protesting, he wrenched it from him. The second he grabbed it it vibrated in his palm, the energy screamed loudly from the object as it blinded everyone except for Nike. Instead of touching the heart, xe picked up Tulip’s ceremonial dagger and along with her own sword she faced the hundreds of enemy combatants despite the yells from both Luko and Boreit. As xe did, Onyx shrieked in pain, his voice filling up the entirety of the vale stunning everyone in or around it. He pounded the ground in pain forcing pieces of trunk, Tulip’s ash, and Piriu’s desiccated body flying in every direction. He grabbed earth, hurling it skyward until he’d dug a hole tens of feet deep in mere seconds. The destructive nature of his breakdown pushed the convoy away as they faced down certain death in the horde or Onyx’s fallout.

Stationary in an organized group, the humans were much slower than the Erodeseans and as a result, mostly observed the Nami’s charge towards their and the enemies ranks. Boreit and Luko were too far from Nike to offer help, but nonetheless sprinted with the rest of the scouts to support xyr.

Seconds from impact with the unorganized mob of Nami, Nike closed xyr eyes. Before making Onyx grab the heart, xe had realized something. Xe didn’t need the power, only the control. Control over the flow of energy, the power, the spirits. In that very moment, xe felt the pressure of every living spirit near xyr, and let loose the full extent of xyr power.

Boreit’s grey eyes glowed as he saw Nike meet the enemy. He thought for sure xe would perish and all would be lost. Instead, he witnessed something that should be impossible. He yelled to Luko and the rest of the scouts to halt.

“Stop! Look!”

Eyes closed and dual wielding Tulip’s enormous dagger Nike calmly killed ten Erodeseans in rapid succession. It was so quick and brutal that many hadn’t noticed their fallen comrades until it was too late. Bouncing off a shoulder Nike simultaneously stabbed into the eye of one Nami while pushing the spear of another into two more then wiggling xyr body to cause one more to cross their legs falling on their own sword and killing themselves. Xyr body contorted in ways that shouldn’t have been possible, shifting with momentum as xe was pushed to cause death, chaos, and erupting violence with no warning. The feats of athletic ability surpassed swordsmanship, strength, finesse and bordered on the impossible.

Nike could see everything now. Their families. The lives that xe snuffed from existence. Xe contorted and folded xyr body to mimic their friends and family. A male Erodesean paused as he was about to split his mother’s skull only for her to cut into his head sending sap spraying as his eyes went dark. Another female Nami intended to use her shield to bash Nike when she noticed her sister coming towards her, a moment’s hesitation and she was crushed with her own shield now a broken mess in the grass. Two brothers launched themselves in the direction of an enemy only to realize it was their mentor, one stopped in his tracks holding his neck as it burst with sap, the other looked to his brother in fright and was then bludgeoned by another Nami who mistook them for a human.

Luko with greatsword in hand turned towards Boreit and the rest of the scouts.

“Boreit! What the fuck is going on! Boreit! Boreit-!”

Luko stopped as he saw Boreit’s eyes. In the three hundred years he had known him, he had never seen them change color and now he could see their blue tinge. Then, Luko saw what he had been staring at.

The hulking mass of Nemaak.

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