Trial by Fire

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New Blood

Nemaak, the largest of all erodeseans, a towering behemoth of gnarled wood. His bark was a light grey, moss and lichens grew on his high sitting shoulders. His teeth were five inch daggers that could sever the limbs of the massive animals he hunted in the wilderness with ease. His arms were enormous, the muscles themselves the size of humans. His bark spiked in odd places, sharp and jagged like rock and as hard and tough as iron. He had set his sights on Boreit, picking him up by his neck.

Boreit was tossed thirty meters across the meadow, the force crushing his bark and rendering him unconscious. Nemaak then turned to face Luko, who, along with the rest of the scouts, were bearing down on him. Luko Launched into the air striking down on Nemaak’s shoulder with incredible speed. Bark flew in every direction as there was a loud clang and Luko’s sword split in two as it met his body. Luko grappled the head of Nemaak trying to skewer his eyes and managed to topple him as he pulled his head back. Nemaak got to his feet almost immediately as scouts began slashing at his legs and hopping onto his body trying to find a weak point. Nothing seemed to do any damage and soon most of the scouts had been crushed, bludgeoned, or put out of commission.

Luko again grappled with the titan, only to end up on the floor seconds from being pummeled to death. Boreit slammed into Nemaak with such force it sent a wave of explosive energy killing a few rogue Lunu who had ventured onto the battlefield. Flying in opposite directions, Nemaak got to his feet around twenty meters from Boreit and Luko who were both still recovering from being battered.

Instead of focusing his energy on the two erodeseans in front of him, Nemaak eyed Nike, perplexed by what was happening in the grove. Xe had not only done a sizable amount of damage to the Nami, but had routed them and now walked back toward the large crater in the floor where Onyx was. He got on all fours and charged in xyr direction, probably an attempt to eliminate the bigger threat. Luko and Boreit were powerless to stop him as they fought off tens of Lunu who had begun to surround them.

Nike, sensing Nemaak’s presence, casually turned to meet his advance. Once he was upon xyr, xe deftly slid to the left, evading his charge sending him barreling into the earth. Nemaak shrugged off the dirt and turned around to meet the tiny menace that had seemingly defeated most of his forces. Only meters apart he pointed with one gargantuan arm at Nike. His voice boomed with authority.

“You did this?”

Nike smiled and closed xyr eyes.

With uncanny speed he lunged at Nike, missing by inches. Xe slashed with Tulip’s dagger as it bit deep into his bark drawing sap. Nemaak recoiled and attempted to smash xyr. Again he missed, but the sheer force of the blow made the ground uneven. Nike could see only one way out of this encounter. He was too fast, too big, and too aggressive for xyr to use any tricks on him. So xe stopped moving.

Nemaak grabbed Nike and looked at his prize with curiosity. He wondered how one tiny warrior could have destroyed his forces. Though, it was the curiosity that got the better of him.

Nike suddenly opened xyr eyes as Onyx planted a deadly hook to the side of Nemaak’s head, his arm just barely coming up enough to stop the punch from knocking the bark off his head. He released Nike and turned to confront whatever had hit him. Nike hit the ground and ran towards where Boreit and Luko were fighting, erodeseans climbing over the two large combatants as they fought for their lives.

Nemaak was in for quite a surprise. Not only was there an erodesean capable of turning his forces against each other, there was one who rivaled his strength. Onyx, like a rabid beast roared in Nemaak’s direction. He was somehow different. His eyes were yellow, and in every crevice of his etchings were what looked to be metal. His black bark contrasted with the silvery metal that adorned his body. Nemaak roared back as the two circled each other.

Boreit, Luko, and three of the scouts were being overwhelmed by the mass of lunu that came pouring in from the forest. Because they were much smaller, the Lunu sliced and cut from all sides of them, lunging in like wolves drawing blood then retreating and repeating. Another scout fell to their onslaught as the remaining four hunkered down with their sap covered backs to each other. Boreit was flagging, as was Luko. Before them were a mess of bodies, possibly a hundred dead Lunu and stray Nami. It meant nothing, they would keep coming. Boreit could hardly see because his eyes were covered in sap, but the small frame of Nike sprinting towards them gave him renewed fervor.

“Luko, Iopus, Dryden. Hold fast, our Xueen is here.”

Lunu went to intercept Nike but were cut down like sickle to wheat. Xe then joined their formation, clean lines of stress were evident on xyr entire body. Nike’s arms shook and xyr eyes were duller than before. Seeing this, Luko, with sap dripping down his neck, offered advice.

“Don’t give them the satisfaction, shape up!”

Nike readjusted xyr grip on xyr blade preparing for a final stand. The Lunu circled cautiously, knowing the damage xe had already wrought. Boreit fell to one knee, the exhaustion too much for his body to bear. Luko looked at his comrade, staring around them in indignation.

“It was always ten to one! Craven!” He shouted.

Iopus and Dryden pushed Boreit to the center and filled in the space. Locked in place, the Lunu were content to wait it out. Eventually, they would either bleed to death, or reinforcements would arrive. Either way, they seemed to be doomed.

Bark flew in every direction as the two colossuses collided sending earth and rock into the air. Nemaak bit deep into Onyx’s bark with his teeth sending sap spraying from his shoulder. Onyx grunted and kneed him in the midsection bowing him over. Nemaak pulled him down as they wrestled on the floor for supremacy. Onyx scored a glancing elbow while on top, the rest of the blow hit the ground rumbling the area. Nemaak kicked with both feet sending Onyx spiraling to the ground. They both got up and reset. Another roar from Onyx as they prepared to engage once again, then suddenly, the sound of horns broke through the air.

Luko could not believe what he was seeing. His sister had left Kilo in secret and now led a band of militia into the grove. The sizable force had surprised the humans and looked to soon route them. Riven could be seen skewering multiple humans with her spear causing fear and panic in their ranks. They melted like butter as Riven and her personal guard sprinted to relieve them. Seeing this, the Lunu retreated with haste back into the darkness of the forest.

Nemaak glanced behind himself. His warriors defeated, the Lunu and humans routed, he realized that this battle had been lost. He chuckled, the low rumble directed toward Onyx.

“Stand down, youngling.” he said as he held out his arm.

Onyx narrowed his gaze, curious as to what Nemaak had to say. Nemaak’s orange eyes were fixated on Onyx as he spoke.

“You fight well, the iron flows inside of you, I can feel it coursing through your body. Will it win you the war? Only time will tell. We will dance again, Iron-Borne.” He said then ran on all fours out of the meadow. Onyx ran back to Nike, who was recovering with what was left of their convoy.

Surrounded by her personal guard Riven addressed her brother as a detachment of soldiers hastily set a perimeter.

“Luko, was it successful and will he live?”

Luko nodded.

“Of sorts and yes. He’s a Lunu, sit him in grass long enough and he’ll survive.”

Riven nodded then turned to Nike who was looking at Boreit’s wounds.

“Xueen, what are your orders?”

Nike looked up, confused at what Riven was calling xyr. Then xe saw everyone who was capable get to one knee. Boreit’s eyes glowed for a moment as he looked up at Nike still unable to move. Onyx moved to one knee as well. Riven plunged her spear into the ground and twisted it, the embers of energy floated upwards. She too took a knee then looked straight into Nike’s purple eyes.

“As acting regent of the Rema, true rulers of Eromosa, I bestow the title of Xueen to Nike of the Jule family. Your servants await your leadership, my liege.”

Luko whispered to his sister, the sap slowly cascading down his back as he knelt.

“You saw.”

Riven nodded in response then refocused on Nike. Drained from the fighting xe could hardly muster the strength to stand anymore. Upon hearing xyr was Xueen xe quickly faded, passing out calmly as Onyx gently held xyr delicate body in his palms.

Riven grabbed her spear from the earth and addressed Onyx and her guard.

“Onyx. Carry xyr and Boreit to Kilo. There we will rendezvous and discuss our next plan of action.”

Onyx nodded and helped Boreit move himself onto his back as he carried Nike in his right arm and headed back towards Wenshe.

“Follow him.” Riven ordered her guard as they fell in with his pace immediately.

Riven ordered the rest of her detachment to assemble, gathering whatever scouts were still alive and wounded and headed back towards wenshe with haste.

Before leaving the grove, Luko looked back at the once pleasant meadow turned to graves for hundreds. He thought of their spirits, the restless souls that would never find peace. He vowed then to one day return and claim them.

____________________________________________________

As Tulip had promised, Slade was provided a secret escort of the meadow. He rode on the back of one erodesean while another ran alongside them. When they had reached the edge of the forest they slowed down until they came to a log with a horse and a small child waiting. With their duties done the two erodeseans sprinted off back into the forest without warning, leaving Slade alone with the child and horse. Slade, relieved that he made it all out in one piece sauntered over to where the horse and child stood.

“Poxis, did everything work out as promised, are they dead?”

Poxis nodded. “The rings have been deposited in Thrax’s possession. Our spies are now relaying the information back to the capital that you were abducted and captured as a diplomatic agent. You will do well to take your time in getting there, we do not want to raise suspicions.”

Slade smiled and sighed. “I didn’t think that would all play out in our favor.”

As Slade got on top of the horse Poxis seemed to disappear in thin air, but his voice was still very much audible.

“It hasn’t yet, you still have to fight a war… King.”

Slade furrowed his brow then set off in the direction of his homeland.

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