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Ananassa's Rising

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Chapter 2 - Opportunity Knocks

Most know the virtue of Wrath is tied to violence. Some violence has a need to it; to slay your prey or defend yourself from predators and wrathful beings. This is not wrath, itself. Wrath is when violence is a fulfilled want or a falsely perceived need.

Wrath is so common in your world that many demons of wrath are born. Demons of wrath include very powerful beings. Our own Pitt, being tied to Warlords, had a very high wrathful population of both beasts and demons. It tends to manifest through physical change or harmful magical powers. These terrible beings can tear their non-wrathful peers with ease.

Wrath-spawn include both monsters and politicians. They feed by encouraging wanton violence from others. This can be gain, revenge, or hatred. A needles war leads to the biggest source of wrath around. Wrath is self-defeating, however, as the wrathful humans will destroy other wrathful humans. One type of demon gains while the other loses.

“Ananassa, rise. Cerux calls for you. Bring your heartpod.”

Our deep slumber was disturbed by the arrival of one of the Skraghi under Master Cerux’s command. Nassa was uncomfortable about the heartpod, but I did my best to assure her all was well. ’Most likely,” I thought, “he simply wants to relocate us to a safer location, or maybe even give us a rebirth location within the protective walls of his palace. Do not forget the high value placed upon us.”

While following the Skrag, my eyes fell upon signs of recent battle. The fallen lay, uneaten, all across the fields. The taste of the earth and air, what your kind calls scent, were wrong. We detected something we had never experienced before. It was a blood that came not of corruption. This was unusual, but the terrifying part was the taste of Fragar. For our Yarretan to fill the air and soil after a battle was common, sometimes even tenders and producers, but this was the taste of the true Fragar, like myself. As we approached the gates, a sense of dread swept over me, reinforcing my suspicions on the heartpod. I could taste the hatched heartpod of another. We completely lost at least one Fragar, maybe two.

The fields that were lost would have a large impact on Cerux. He was one of the most feared high-born demons in the Pitt. This made him one of the most challenged, as well. His garrison was large, and it needed to be. Defending against raids and attacks was common.

These warriors require food, and Fragar are food. Each Fragar is expected to feed forty warriors. Losing even one means his soldiers will be weakened by hunger. This weakness will result in further loss. If these continued losses include more Fragar, Cerux, himself, would be in very real danger.

I entered the gates feeling much less confident. The Nergali had suffered considerable losses, and many of the lesser and even greater fiends of Cerux’s command had physical wounds that were not regenerating. Our purpose here was no longer clear, as we realized it may be to help with recovery or devouring the dead. Uncertainty lead to anxious anticipation and nervousness. We knew change was coming, but we could not even guess as to what.

Cerux’s palace was undamaged and unbreached. The strong walls had done their job, and the ring of fire surrounding clearly had deterred the attackers. We did not know how to read all the signs then. The wounded demons often had small metal things sticking from them, but we had never seen a human before. We had no way of knowing this was a human attack, and figured one of the other highborne had become envious of our lord. After such an attack, I was summoned to the palace. A smug pride filled me as I was certain I was being promoted and moved to safety. I was, after all, incredibly valuable.

Cerux was in his usual regal, terrifying form. The tempters and consumers around him cowered and appeased him. I approached, assured in my presence. While I had walked on the journey here, I was no fool. We crouched our body, bending our knees and curling over them. The posture is not unlike that of your monkeys, and it prevents our head from standing higher than that of my greaters. Cerux looked at me and sneered.

“Anan. Nassa. We have suffered terrible losses. I can not feed my people without you.” The pride began to well up as we envisioned our place within the walls. We could offer both function and aesthetics, growing vines that bear fruit and flowers that can be eaten. “You will go to the shattered Fragar and absorb their knowledge, learn their plants that you have not already.” His command would make us even more valuable. We had no doubt to our fate. “You will split your colony; become Anan the Fragar and Nassa the Fragar. This way, you can feed us better.”

With those words, our vision shattered. This was not what we expected. The colony was in turmoil. If split, we could consume the waste of Nassa, but we hatched with her. We could not leave her like that. She kept us safe, and we needed her.

We curled our head low and raised an arm over it, showing our submission to his greatness. My voice, alone from within the colony, was a simpering plea. “Mighty One, honored lord. We admire him greatly and wish to do all he says. We listen to him, obey him.”

Cerux’s expression was not an amused one. He leaned forward in his seat. “You have not split yet, Anan and Nassa.”

“That is the thing, most noble and wise one. If we split the colony… it is bad. We can fail if we split, both halves can die. This could happen just because of the splitting. It is not that easy.” This cost us much. The words were true, as a Fragar can never lie, but we did not give all the information. It is also possible, probable, in fact, that the split colonies will do fine. Nassa is a devourer, and could infest our seeder colony during the split. We could then part ways. Because of our uniqueness, however, we knew how to suffer for a want. We wanted to keep our colony, even if doing so meant death for us all.

“You can’t do this? You refuse my command?”

“N-no, our esteemed lord. We would never refuse you, but if food is short, you must consider the risk. We can try harder, produce more. We can feed the other Fragar and help them grow. We only wish to serve you with the utmost of loyalty. Following blindly can lead to mistakes, as your wisdom is distracted on handling this attack.”

Cerux nodded and reclined in his throne. He looked at us, and we could see the doubt in his face. “Anan. You have value but believe your worth to be greater than it is. You may try to make up the shortage. When you fail, you will split your colony or your heartpod will be devoured. To be sure your simple mind grasps this, if even one of my servants hungers, and you have not split, you will be reminded. If even one hungers again, and you still have not, your heartpod will be devoured. Select your fields outside. Fill them. Be gone from my sight.”

We saw something in his gaze that we had never known of him. There was worry. As a demon of wrath and greed, his worry was not for his garrison, except in how they could serve him. He feared a personal loss.

We also saw the mercy. Any other demon in his entire realm to have questioned him as deeply as we had would have been fed to us that no others would think this path wise again. As Cerux’s attention fell from us, we could feel the bleak reality setting in. We were not being rewarded or recognized; we were in greater danger. If our heartpod is devoured, Anan is completely devoured with it, and this might also devour Nassa. We lowered ourself to the floor again, crawling backwards until we were beyond his sight.

Several fields had become open. We would need to find something beyond ordinary to make this happen in a way we could maintain. If we over-exerted ourself, we could accidentally self-devour. We thought over Cerux’s words, and the answer revealed itself to us.

“Anan… We are to pick our fields,” Nassa crackled from deep within.

“Yes, and so many are left open. The newly opened ones may be better than where we were. We must choose carefully.” My answer was amidst the distraction of my thoughts, trying to figure out how this would be possible.

“Anan, you always think like this! Weakness will be our death, and I will not have it. He commanded us to choose our field. He did not tell us we must choose an open one!”

“Nassa, no! We are not sacrificing someone else for our benefit. I don’t want our colony exposed, but it is just as wrong to make others suffer for us.”

“We suffer, Anan. We suffer every day. They eat us. We eat us. It is the way of things. If we find the best field, we can reduce Cerux’s need for them. He can demand less of them. Your pathetic mercy will reward their sacrifice this way.”

“Do you think we can really do that?”

“Anan, you are the queen of this colony. You must decide for us all. We have all seen what you can do. You have made us the strongest Fragar in the entire Pitt. Nobody doubts you except you. Quit your sniveling or step aside so I can find us our field.”

“Then, I will find a way. We will do this, we will make this happen. We may choose our fields. He said fields, not just one. We can arrange the other Fragar. We can! We will find a way to fill his command! We will make a way!”

Our return through the scene of the battle was terrifying and ominous. Most demons regarded Fragar as a prize to be won, and would avoid harming them at all costs. Plants do not just grow in the hells. Fragar grow them with their own bodies. To find the harvest destroyed is bad, like burnt fields in your world. A dead Fragar is like salting the earth. We found two.

“Poor sweet children,” I said to the shattered heart pods, “Come to us. We welcome you into our colony, that you not face this world alone.”

Many of the survivors listened, and our numbers grew. I went to meet them, turning direction of the colony to Nassa. I knew what must come next, and it was more than I could bare. It was what must be done, but my heart is a gentle one, and this is what we needed Nassa for.

As a devourer, she was more than happy to comply with the need. She release the plague of beetles to clear the dead from the fields, including eating the field itself down to the naked soil. The occupants of the colonies that were reluctant to join us were captured and consumed. We could feel their essence release for the last time. It was a horrible, terrible cycle that we knew we might one day face, ourselves.

From their essence and that of the heartpod, we learned to grow a few new spawn. We had already been one of the most widely prolific Fragar, knowing more than three quarters of all growth within the Pitt. The addition of their forms made us slightly more versatile. Oddly, during this feast of final death, our attention was demanded.

“Yes, Nassa?” My voice was weak and wavering, as the feeling of death opposed my very being. “Why do you call me to awareness now?”

Our hand lifted close to our face as I started to resume control. We held a piece of moss, alien to our Pitt. “What is it?” Nassa asked me.

I could feel the demonic essence within the bit of moss, but it must have come from deeper within the hells. It held a power that was alien but familiar, like a long forgotten memory. The intensity of the energy rivalled that of Cerux. This was clearly created by a high-born.

“I do not know,” I confessed, lifting it to our mouth. Nassa’s devourers went immediately to work breaking it down. The surge of energy was overwhelming, and more than we could contain.

We could feel the essence of other plant-types as they revealed themselves. Some came from the deeper hells, which we happily added to our spawn capacity. There were plants from the celestial realms; planes bound to the virtues that oppose our own. We integrated them, doubtful we could ever make them grow, but not wanting to discard them in case the need ever arose. Many plants were from your middle realm, where the humans live.

“It is of a plant demon who is not Fragar. Beyond this Pitt, there are highborn who govern over us. If we had this type here, a king or queen… we would not need to suffer the way we do.”

“Anan? Can we use this? We do not need hopeful thoughts, we need results we can use.”

“Yes, yes! There are things I can use. A pyrotrop, one that turns heat into matter. It can grow in the burning edges, where the blood of the earth flows. I am still… trying to figure out the more alien plants. I know we can use it but need to see what they all do.”

“Be swift, Anan. Cerux is not patient, and will offer us no more leniency.”

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