Trial by Fire

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Spring Cleaning

A day had passed since Nemaak solidified his presence in Kilo. The titan walked around his camp centered in the courtyard of Kilo’s impressive walls. Once the Lunu were done with the Rema, this would be their new home. He knew that Cassius had reason to kill them, he betrayed their cause for power. It was selfish, dishonorable, but most of all, he had let his people down. Tired, worn down, and scared, the Nami were a shell of their once proud kingdom. They used to rule the northern forests, humans fearing to set foot in the forest for if they did, they would surely become dinner. But with the nomadic tribes joining the Easterners, Nemaak’s people lost their main food source. Striking a deal with the Lunu and Easterners, they were given human slaves for food, something that bothered him.

It wasn’t that Nemaak felt for the humans, it was that there was no hunt. They were being fed like domesticated animals, hardly better than the slaves they were eating. But they were powerless. The agreement was cooperation or annihilation. He thought with the power of the heart he could take his people away from the forest, feed on the humans and great herds to the west until they found a place to settle. That dream was shattered when Tulip foiled his plans.

His plan now was strategic. With Glyph razed, Corinth and Astora under siege, he would wait out the conflict until his one time allies inevitably won the war. Kilo would pose a strategic nightmare for any force, the Easterners would want to collect their wood and leave, and the Lunu would have no reason to waste more lives on his small band of soldiers. He would negotiate a surrender wherein his people peacefully leave the forest and disappear from Eromosa completely.

Easier said than done. Just as he finished pondering their plight, soldiers started running towards the inner gate. A small squad of officers surrounded Nemaak, one, a nine foot slim female named Sliph addressed him.

“Mak! They are attacking from the gate.”

Nemaak looked at Onyx then to the gate and roared.

“Don’t let them touch him! We haven’t figured out a way to extract the heart yet.”

Sliph nodded.

“What will we do about the intruders?”

Nemaak groaned as he saw a few of his soldiers alreadying routing and the large bodies of the ancients carving them up. One of his officers yelled to the rest.

“It is the ancients! They are back and the two-spirit.”

Nemaak shook his head and ordered the officers to follow him to the gate. He whispered to himself.

“Time for plan B.”

Nike’s party carved through the Nami with ease. Luko, Riven, and Boreit crushed their shieldwall, tossing them tens of feet in the air as they landed crushed in the grass. Xilo, Poppy, and Tootsie held their own as Tootsie slashed at their exposed knees and ankles. The rest consisted of four from the scout regiment, Geralt, Conifer, Iopus, Dryden, and Tulip’s two former royal guards, Borick and Lance. Combat veterans and filled with energy from Nike and Juniper’s energy transfer they were beyond a match for the relatively small Nami.

Despite being the current strongest of the group, Riven realized first hand why Tulip had chosen Nike. Xe was untouchable. Xe whisked in and out of the flow of battle as if xe knew every move. Riven knew xe did. But what she saw was beyond that of pure mastery or skill, it was desperation, anger, and sadness all bottled up exploding in exciting flair. Her foes were no match and soon they had routed all but the most stout of warriors from the inner gate.

As Nike effortlessly sliced the back of the neck of the last soldier, xe recovered xyr sword and stared beyond the gate. In their way was the daunting figure of Nemaak surrounded by about ten large Nami. They were in a defensive formation around their leader and looked prepared to make the fight as bloody as possible. Beyond them, about a thousand Nami stood huddled together, some weeping as the injured and lame stood in front ready to fight to their last for the young and unable. If they defeated Nemaak, it was highly probable this would be the last of the Nami.

“Xueen! Behind us.”

The largest members of the group, Luko, Riven, Borick, Lance, and Boreit set up a defensive perimeter around Nike as the rest covered the flanks. Nemaak walked forward, gently nudging aside his guard and standing around thirty meters from Nike’s party.

“I wish to speak with the two-spirit. It is important.”

Luko yelled in Nemaak’s direction.

“Treachery! You weaklings think we would give you mercy?”

Riven gently put a sword hand on Luko’s shoulder.

“Brother, it is not our choice.”

Everyone stared at Nike who nodded xyr head and stepped forward. Unafraid, xe could sense Nemaak did not want to fight. This was a negotiation. Xe kept walking, each step closer to Nemaak’s striking distance, each stride further away from help. Both sides barky knuckles clinged to their weapons nervously. Xe stopped only five meters from the giant, close enough so that xe could finally make out every gorey detail in Nemaak’s face.

“Bold of you, little one. I could strike you down where you stand.”

Nike laughed, xyr green eyes never leaving his.

“If you are the Nemaak they fear in legends you would have tried by now if you had wanted.”

Nemaak smiled showing an array of solid stone teeth sharpened to and jagged like obsidian.

“Your titan, he is under the trance of our greatest shamans. He will not wake unless we deem it so. We will wake him, but only if we can leave here peacefully. Those are our terms.”

Nike giggled once again as xe looked at Onyx. Xyr eyes went orange then back to green and suddenly Onyx snapped from his trance. Nemaak swiveled in panic as his guards raised their shields ready for Onyx to charge, but he never did. Instead, he walked from around the various tents, past Nemaak and his guards, and stood behind Nike. Not once did he look in anyone’s direction instead his blue eyes were focused in front of him, staring off into nothingness.

“Your thrall? What magic do you wield, I have not seen it?”

Nike shrugged then held out xyr hands.

“The negotiations have changed.”

Nemaak nodded.

“That they have, so, what is your move?”

Nike thought for a second, then spoke, xyr voice melodic and soft.

“I will only honor this agreement: You find refuge in Wenshe, your people settle here. You will fight against our enemies, shall we fail, you will as well. You and your people can consume all the flesh you want, we take the souls.”

Nemaak narrowed his eyes.

“You would honor such an agreement, but your rule is insignificant. Your court turned against you and your people are under siege. We find no solace in a drawn out death, no, you kill us now, or you allow us to leave in peace.”

Nike shook xyr head.

“Listen to me. We have allied ourselves with the Western peoples. They are already on their way. If we are successful in repelling this invasion, you and your people will not have to find refuge in the unforgiving grasslands. Glyph will be rebuilt with Nami hands.”

Nemaak smiled, his eyes turning purple.

“How do you know the status of the grasslands-. Ah. You are reading my thoughts. You two-spirits have always been clever. You might know our truths, but how can we know your’s?”

Nike pointed towards one of his officers, a large Nami who’s eyes blazed red in Nike’s direction.

“That one, he knows. He was there when the revenant held the heart. He knows I speak the truth.”

Nemaak looked down at his furious companion.

“Is this true, Weis?”

Weis nodded, not once taking his eye off of Nike.

“Yes, but it deserves to die. We can’t let it go, it took too many of our peo-”

Weis stopped short of what he was saying as Nemaak slammed his hammer with tremendous force into his skull. It popped his cranium with a crunch and crushed the rest of his body as he hit the floor with a thud.

“We accept your proposal. I only hope that you live up to your end of the bargain.”

Nike nodded. “We will. You are free to stay within Kilo for the time being, your presence is appreciated in case the enemy makes a surprise visit while we patch up the hole you made.”

Nemaak nodded. “We will keep in touch, two spirit. You too, Child of Iron.”

Onyx grunted as Nemaak and his officers retreated back to their tents ordering the rest to stand down and relax.

Nike and Onyx returned to where the rest were waiting and addressed the group.

“I am alright, it was just a trance. Their shamans spun a song as I fought them off.”

Boreit nodded. “Perhaps you don’t mind going for a run?”

They all shared a rare laugh. As the mirth subsided Riven addressed Nike.

“We still have to deal with the traitors in the throne room. They are holed up there.”

Onyx’s eyes went red.

“They were the ones who tricked me. They led me to Nemaak and his soldiers then disappeared.”

Nike thought for a second then spoke.

“Onnie, what is it humans call this time of year?”

Onyx shot a confused stare at Nike.

“You are speaking of Spring?”

Nike smiled.

“Yes, Spring. Let us do some Spring Cleaning.”

Off in the distance the revenant named Juniper, now in her benign child-like disguise, eyed the dead and dying voraciously. Their souls would never reach the river. Juniper would take care of them.

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