Trial by Fire

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Zombie Hospitality

Xe briefly stared at xyr hands before giving the order. Nike knew exactly what xe would do. Xyr band of loyal friends and confidants of the late Tulip awaited xyr word. It was quiet, save for a gale that swept between the gate and the groan of almost dead soldiers. The Nami were just now moving from their hiding spots and rushing to retrieve their wounded when xe spoke.

“Riven, secure Astora, your garrison there needs your guidance. After we are done with Kilo we will join you. Luko and Boreit, gather a small detachment of soldiers within Astora helping Riven secure the area. Afterwards, route the enemy wreaking havoc in the immediate outskirts of Corinth. They should flee quickly, their main forces wait outside the broken remains of Glyph. Onyx, stay here with Nemaak, it seems he wants to talk with you. The rest of you come with me.”

Luko eyed Nike a perplexed look on his angular face.

“Xueen, with all due respect, how are you making plans without surveying the field. Two-spirits are gifted, but this seems to be beyond even their capabilities. How are we to have faith in this mission when it sounds vague and doomed to failure?”

Nike nodded in his direction.

“Good point. I can give you nothing more than ‘trust me.’ I can feel it, everyone, the living, the wounded, their families, their memories. I can see it, it was overwhelming at first but now it is clear.”

Riven joined her brother in dissent.

“Xueen, what purpose does it make to leave you? Without a Xueen we have no chance at survival even if we won the war. An illegitimate heir. This would have all been for naught.”

Nike nodded once again, this time xyr voice sounded desperate.

“You will have to trust me. I can feel it in my sap. Nightfall will be in hours, most of their forces will be well beyond Glyph by now, the rest of looters, humans. Our forces are protecting the elites in Astora while the common folk in Corinth that have escaped capture during the razing of Glyph are currently threatened. Move fast, we do not have time to waste.”

Boreit chimed in.

“You heard xyr. Let us be off.”

Nike eyed them as they took off running, “Thank you.” xe whispered.

Onyx started to turn as he moved towards where Nemaak had decided to sit. Nike stopped him before he left.

“Wait!” Xe said as xe jogged towards him. He turned around, his big green eyes looking down at the small graceful figure below him. The one he admired, loved.

“Come down here, please.” Xe said. Onyx obliged, leaning down low enough so xe could reach his head.

Xe touched his head with xyr palm and whispered something to him. His eyes briefly lit red before going green again, then he stood to his full height and continued walking.

Xilo, Poppy, Tootsie, and the rest of Nike’s warriors were eager to move. With fire in xyr eyes xe clutched on xyr blades. Poppy eyed Nike curiously as Xilo smiled.

“Hey, I know that look. So, what’s the plan?”

Nike returned Xilo’s smile then addressed the group.

“We have some frightened traitors in the throne room and I can’t wait to warm that seat up.”

Xilo scoffed as she unsheathed her blade taking point in their formation.

“Tough talk for a leader who’s hardly six feet.”

Nike giggled as xe gave the signal to move.

“If only you let me meditate more, I surely would have grown!”

The group then took off in the direction of the throne room, revenge on their minds.

________________________________________

Onyx laid down as the sun beat on his metaled body. With his newfound power also came for the desire to be heated as the cold iron stung his sap when in the shade. This was a rare moment of calm for him, he knew it would not last. Nemaak had headed over in his direction and stood over him blocking his sunlight. Onyx grunted as he got into a sitting position and looked behind him. Nemaak threw a large mangled animal at his foot, it was still warm and bleeding.

“Eat. You’ll need the energy.”

Onyx stared at the animal then grabbed it and began crunching it’s flesh and bones with his iron jaws. It squelched and popped as he ate. Nemaak sat down next to his fellow titan and chewed on his own meal. They sat for a few minutes enjoying their meals and the sun’s rays.

“The Great Star provides.” Nemaak stated.

Onyx nodded. “That it does.”

A few moments went by until Nemaak spoke again.

“So, not exactly the meeting we had in mind is it?”

Onyx gave Nemaak a dull look.

“I do not know what to expect these days. It seems like yesterday we were in college and now we’re fighting for our lives. I have come to expect nothing, wish for nothing, perhaps, just a little peace.”

Nemaak took a closer look at Onyx’s body studying the swirls and whirls of the silvered metal throughout his body.

“How deep does that go? The etchings, you made them?”

Onyx nodded. “Yes. A while ago I started carving my bark, it kept my mind off of reality.”

“What is reality, to you?”

Onyx’s eyes went blue as he fiddled with grass between two massive fingers.

“Death, dying, and pain. Loneliness.”

Nemaak gave a furious nod.

“This I know about. In six hundred years, I have yet to find a mate, yet to even meet my birth-kin. I was an outcast before I was chief. Now I have led my people to extinction. A first. We can only go forward, there is no time to think about failures.”

Onyx adjusted his neck, the metal between his shoulders seemed like liquid moving like it was his skin.

“Mmm.” was all he said as he continued to play in the grass.

Nemaak smiled showing his large array of stone teeth.

“You never told me how you ended up encased in iron, do you think I came all the way over here to hear about your sob stories?” Nemaak said while pointing at a spot incredibly close. After he’d finished talking he’d laughed a bit until he realized Onyx wasn’t reciprocating his energy.

Onyx sighed then began to speak.

“They call me iron-borne or iron-blood, because of my father. He was never made of metal, but it meant he had tough bark. I inherited his bark, but this metal is something else. Before I left for the meadow, I grabbed a piece of metal and stored it in one of the etchings on my body. With everything going on I had forgotten to take it out.”

Nemaak’s eyes went a bright green.

“Oh! So when you touched the heart it swelled in your body. Is that how you survived?”

Onyx shrugged.

“I don’t know. It was painful, like my body was being replaced, filled. Next thing I knew I was snapped out of this trance and fighting you.”

Nemaak nodded.

“I see, it is the two-spirit. Xe has you binded, young one. Xe unwound the trance my best shamans had put you in with a look. Surely the making of a powerful spirit-wielder. Are you xyr thrall?”

Onyx shook his head.

“I don’t think so.”

Nemaak narrowed his gaze.

“Or, you do not know?”

Onyx pondered the idea for a minute, then he’d come up with an answer.

“No. Not xyr thrall. Thralls cannot break the will of their master, yet I am free to leave, to act. Xe has the spirit sense, something I lack. I promised to follow xyr and I trust xyr judgement over all else. The fact I can have doubt suggests I am not a thrall, does it not?”

Nemaak nodded.

“Yes. A thrall has no will, it is bound to the master. So, this is your spirit-kin, is xe?”

Onyx stared at the Great Star.

“I feel that xe feels that way. We haven’t had the time to speak about it, but I sense it in my soul.”

Nemaak smiled as he slapped Onyx on his back.

“That’s all that matters! Now, Onyx, would you care to meet my kin? They have been dying to see who the other titan is.”

Onyx finally smiled and let loose a small chuckle.

“That was a dark joke, Nemaak.”

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