Trial by Fire

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Six Feet Under

Onyx stared at his reflection in a puddle of water, his eyes a bold hunter-like yellow. He felt slightly different since touching the heart. He hoped it wasn’t the soul of Tulip vying for control over his spirit, but he felt Nike would have told him that if it was true.

A little over a year ago he was nine feet tall, certainly the largest within his age group. Now he was nearing fourteen. He was finding it difficult to navigate through the many tents that the Nami had built out of animal skins. He didn’t want to cause an already ailing people any more pain.

Onyx was astonished at how quickly Nemaak had taken to him, given that he and Nike were responsible for his defeat. But he understood why. As much as he wanted to distance himself from them, these were his people too. He remembered the wise words of Boreit, the many lessons of culture and diversity just now making sense.

Walking around their encampment, he was met with adoration for his stature and aesthetic. Many stopped to talk to him, wish him well. He couldn’t understand how a people, on the brink of extinction and who were hunted by Rema and Lunu alike, would be so kind and open.

For the first time in his life he reveled in the company of others. The irony in that he had more in common with those who he had never met, than others he knew through and through.

________________________________________

Luko and Boreit had led a group of over a thousand hardened Rema and had successfully cleaned out the remains of the human occupation of what used to be Glyph. With their soldiers hollering and barking orders the two ancients surveyed the destruction.

While most had escaped, Glyph itself had been burned to the ground. Nothing remained but the strewn burnt logs of Houses and the rocky roads made of polished stones. Being so near to the market, Luko made a mention of it.

“Boreit. I remember going to these markets as a growthling. There was never a good thing to buy, but it had always been a hotbed for daily news and conversation.” Luko said as they walked towards the burnt remains of the market.

“Be honest. It was where you consumed the first of many victims.” Boreit said.

What he said had stung Luko, not because he had merely said it, but because he seemed to never be able to have a constructive conversation with him. Boreit had a clear disdain for him and it centered around being a no-spirit.

“Yes, humble beginnings I suppose. I didn’t understand the gift. I used to pray to the Great Star to forgive me, but then I felt that it too had stopped shining in my direction. Life was about shadows and survival, the markets were perfect for that.”

Boreit remained silent as they neared the entrance. Most of the stalls had either been ransacked or previously ditched by their owners. It was clear that the attack on Glyph has been meticulously planned and quickly orchestrated. Many erodeseans only had enough time to run before their homes were set fire to.

Boreit leaned down and picked up a shell from a broken stall. It was beautiful, the carvings on it intricate.

“Shells. They are a rarity in the Crystal Forest. They come from the Yellow Basin, an area not far from Wenshe. Many years ago, before our people even existed, it is rumored that a great lake existed there.”

Luko smiled displaying blunted teeth.

“Or perhaps those are land snails? It’s been a while since you were a full time scout, maybe you’re a little rusty?”

Boreit shook his head. “Are you attempting to befriend me, Champion Luko?”

Luko shrugged. “Befriend, woo you, become spirit kin? Anything is possible now that Tulip is dead.”

Boreit laughed at that. “There is only a half of a spirit between us both, as attractive as you are I doubt it would ever work.”

Luko held out his hands in protest. “I never said I was interested pale-bark, just making conversation.”

Boreit nodded. “Mhmm.”

Luko trailed off towards another end of the market as Boreit noticed something shift beneath the ashes of where he found the shell. He wiped away some broken wood and saw a hand poking out through the rubble, the fingers twitching.

“Luko! Come! There’s someone beneath the ash!”

Luko rushed over which drew the attention of a few soldiers as they crowded around Boreit. Boreit dug deep around the figure making sure not to clip them on accident. Once he had excavated enough of the wreckage a few soldiers helped dig around the body which was surprisingly in great shape. Finally, they got to the bottom where they all looked on in astonishment.

It was a female erodesean, she was almost completely consumed by what looked to be a shell that she clutched in her hand. It had cracked and formed a protective barrier around her, the only parts that were exposed were her left arm which was slightly singed and her mouth. A few of them tried to ask her questions, hoping she could answer them. She responded, only once.

“Amara, Onyx, taketo Onyx.” she said as she passed out, still alive but stuck within the molted shell.

Boreit spoke to the soldiers with bright grey eyes.

“Take this woman to Kilo. There are friendly Nami there, ask for Onyx, tell him to investigate this. Leave immediately afterwards and return to your duty officer.”

The soldiers nodded and gave a resounding “Yes, Sir Boreit!” then carted the female off and headed towards Kilo.

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