Trial by Fire

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Dreams and Nightmares

After several hours of walking through the treacherous forest terrain, it had become clear to both youngsters that they were lost. Though, not lost in the manner of not knowing their way, but utterly and completely without answers as to why. The sentence of 6 months was only for the most egregious of crimes, and could only be instrumented through trial. What were they doing out here? They thought. After a few more minutes of silence between the pair, Onyx spoke.

“Hey… you think we can rest a little?” The unease in Onyx’s voice was apparent. His eyes were a dim white as he scanned their surroundings.

“Yea. Yea, I think that is a good idea.” Nike said. Xe knew that Onyx was prone to nervousness and anxiety, and the thought that xe should torment him ran through xyr head. Xe smiled but shrugged off the urge choosing instead to ask Onyx a question.

“How long do you think we have till we reach the Edge?”

Though, he was already in the midst of an attack. Onyx worriedly looked around himself. His head began to feel heavy and he was slowly losing feeling in his hands and feet. He stared with fright in every direction, his mouth agape with fear. He felt the millions of insects running about the forest floor, attacking and eating each other in a frenzy. He clutched his head in dismay as he saw an ever reaching expanse of vegetation in every direction, the trunks of trees dwarfing the landscape making everything look exactly the same. Vines, parasitic plants, buzzing of bugs, chirps of birds, shrieks of mammals, undulation of ground as the living flowed beneath him. Wind howled, trees spoke, the sap within himself churned and sought to leave his vessel. Then there was fire. It ate the chirps, the thundering sounds of insect legs, the water flowing within plants. It created silence. Demanded it.

Nike watched Onyx with a nervous gaze. In private, Onyx had many of these attacks. It’s something only Nike knew because xe always knew what went on in other’s heads. It was xyr talent. Calming and finding solutions to those various problems that people face… not so much.

As Onyx’s condition worsened Nike looked in fright as the plant matter around him slowly shriveled. This wasn’t normal. Xe sprang into action jumping over a fallen log and grabbing Onyx’s head as he sat.

Nike felt around his gnarled wooden skin. Xe focused xyr energy to discover the problem, but after a few seconds xe was forced out. This puzzled xyr. Why was he rejecting xyr healing?

Late at night, in a meditation room next to xyr own, Onyx would have the worst of his attacks. Nike would slink into his room through the vegetation using her powers to unbind the living limbs of the structure. There, xe would focus on calming energy to soothe his mind. His body would be writhing in the middle of the room as moonlight poured in through the window. Xe would kneel behind him, xyr chin on the top of his head, green energy slowly pulsing in a slow rhythmic sequence. Then, when his convulsions would stop and his night terrors cease, he would wake up.

Onyx always felt that despite the terrible nightmares that beset him, there was something watching over him. He knew this, because whenever he woke from his terrors there was a distinct smell… of lavender and vanilla.

It was oddly familiar.

Though, this dream was unlike the others. He hadn’t been meditating, nor was it night. As Nike focused again, this time she’d try to wake him up. It wasn’t the best decision, but xe felt xe had to do something.

Nothing xe did would stop the rapid decay. Onyx’s eyes had turned pure white, the vessels devoid of emotion. It wasn’t just the plants that had started to drain, the wildlife retreated, insects, mammals, birds, and everything in between ran and darted away from the miasma of death.

“Snap out of it! Onyx! Onyx! Stop!”

Onyx’s lips slowly curled into a smile. The smirk lasted no longer than a second, but it was enough to stop Nike from channeling energy completely. Xe released Onyx from xyr grip and backed away slowly. Xe looked as xyr bark began to crack and splinter. Panicking, xe rushed away before the dark energy consumed xyr as well. Xe peaked from around one of the tree trunks, horror on xyr face.

Onyx snapped from a trance, his eyes turned from white to green in an instant. As if nothing had happened, he began to answer Nike’s previous question.

“I think we ha-. Hey! Where are you… why is everything- Nike! Nike?”

Onyx yelled out Nike’s name several more times. With xyr bark split, sap oozed slowly out of xyr wounds. It would heal in minutes, but Nike was far from answering his calls. Xe was terrified from head to foot shaking violently and shuddering with pain. Nike tore off into a sprint in the opposite direction of Onyx. Xe wanted to put as much distance between them. Tears streamed down xyr beautiful wooden frame as xe ran.

After about half an hour Xe plopped down on a nearby tree trunk. The sap had stopped running from xyr bark but xe was still in shock. Why would he do that to xyr? It hurt like something xe had never felt before. Though, what made xyr turn and run wasn’t the physical damage. It was when xe held Onyx’s head that xe realized his spirit’s intent.

It was pure malice, evil, all consuming. It was uncompromisable, inconsolable, unconscionable. It wanted only one thing: to feed.

In clear distress Nike stood up, but before xe could figure out what xe would do next there was a sudden thud to the back of xyr neck, then, darkness enveloped xyr.

____________________________________________

Onyx looked about himself in fright. In every direction for 10 meters was nothing but shriveled dried remains of plants and animals. It was as if something had sucked the very substance of life and left nothing but soil and husks of creatures.

One last time, Onyx screamed Nike’s name, then defeated, he sat back down on the ground. Solemnly, he stared into the black void of death below him. He tried to regrow the portions of dead matter, but to no avail. Nothing would sprout in the darkness around him, and nothing, save for the wind, would go near.

He felt Nike had abandoned him in some way, just as his parents had years before. He’d always thought little of himself, and his lack of attachment to others didn’t help. Onyx’s only solace in his quiet life was his art. It was one of the only times people gave him any attention. The other was Nike. When he was with xyr, xe listened to him. Xe’d been his rock for many years, and he started to think that perhaps all this time and effort he put into being accepted by Nike and xyr family was truly just a selfish waste.

Though, as he sat in the corpses of the recently living dreading the next 6 months of isolation, something caught his ear. Onyx heard voices in the distance, the rustling of leaves, then a piercing thud. In bewilderment he looked behind himself, the last thing he would see was a figure cloaked in green and brown thumping him with an arrow.

Two female figures stood over the slumped body of Onyx as they argued between themselves.

The first said “How did you miss that! He was sitting right there!”

The second calmly stated through pursed lips “I said ‘Pop, I am not feeling well, take the shot’ and you said ‘Just do it I don’t have clear line of sight.’”

Poppy’s ethereal globular eyes bounced upwards in her sockets.

“ Xilo… Where is Boreit? He should have caught up to the other one.”

Right as Poppy finished her sentence a hulking figure came running through the foliage kicking up dirt and debris as it sprinted full speed in their direction. It carried what looked to be a small Erodesean under its arm.

A booming voice followed as the sheer mass of the giant destroyed small trees and brush with ease. “Grab and run! They’re here!”

Poppy and Xilo sprang into action quickly tying Onyx with xylotwine and carrying him off deeper into the wilds.

As Poppy, Xilo, and Boreit made off with Onyx and Nike a trio of darkly clad individuals inspected the blackened site. One, their leader, grabbed the remains of a small creature as it crumbled to dust in their hands. Putting it to their nose, they sniffed it.

With a face shrouded in darkness it said only one thing “Vampire.”

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