The eladrasi were revered by the outsiders for their reclusive nature, preferring their earthbound home rather than venturing to the great outside world, where they knew naught of its terrain nor its people. Many a man wouldn’t dare venture close to the forest of Arüindel, rumors of vicious, untame things dwelling within. Too many had braved entering, too few had returned.
Peridae took herself closer to the border than was wise, so close, in fact, that she could catch sight of its end and beyond. Young was she still, only having witnessed a century of blooming seasons, but long ago had they versed her in the ways of her people. The world was cruel beyond the forest; they did well to remain within, where it was safe.
Still her curiosity had never been truly sated, burning ever brighter.
“Are you sure this is wise?” Iri had always held more honor than she, more dedication to following the rules and keeping his curiosity to himself. Peridae had track record for getting the both of them in trouble. Today was no such exception.
“The elders are content with ignoring the forest’s pain, but I am not.” Fingers flexed over wooden shaft of spear, growing and weaving into roots to keep better grip of weapon as Peridae felt change shift beneath her feet. Evidence of the rot grew heavy here, wood and plant life consumed by sickness and grief. Iri laid hand against tree, its pain whispering through the leaves of the overhang. Dark tendrils webbed across its bark despite Iri’s best attempt at healing the plant of its sickness.
“It is much more than we feared Iri. Nesalia needs to hear of this. She cannot ignore it for much longer.” Peridae’s spear lowered to her side, brow furrowed, lips parted in ever the slightest manner as she knelt. She could still hear the trees singing to each other, a quiet caress of the whispering language sifting through the brush; they sang of hurt and darkness. Digits would go to press against the forest floor, brown tainted sap collecting upon her finger tips. “Tread carefully. This rot is strange, and I fear we may not be immune to its effects.” Gaze flickered to Iri, whose eyes locked with her before giving curt nod, hand drawing away from bark as Peridae stood, soft sigh escaping confines of her lips. The forest was quiet, eerily so, and no one was asking questions. She could feel the sap beginning to burn against her skin, and quick glance would determine that Iri had not seen. Hand would draw out of sight as she attempted to wipe sap from her fingers.
“Perhaps it’s time to report this, Peridae. We shouldn’t investigate anymore on our own. We’ve drawn too close to the border as is. We are in danger here----we are plants just as much as our home. If there is a rot we don’t know about, the elders will want to hear about it.” He paused. “Peridae?”
Head turned, lips pursed in silent contemplation. Peridae knew what he said was true, but part of her did not trust what was going on. The elders held only concern for the preservation of their home, of their Mother, the tree the first eladrasi had been nurtured from. Her people were plant by nature, held nature in highest regards. If the rot was returning, perhaps they were simply supposed to try and endure. Life could not survive without death, just the same if the roles were reversed.
“Come on Peridae,” Iri spoke, voice laced with quiet, hand resting against her shoulder, “regardless of what you decide, we must return.” Twirling spear around in grasp, her fingers retracted from roots, turning into normal fingers once more as she nodded in compliance, turning to follow Iri back into the heart of the forest.
Pain ruptured behind Peridae’s right knee cap, bringing her to ground, teeth grinding as yellow sap-like blood seeped out of wound. Reflexes kicked, Iri acted almost instinctively as dagger was drawn from hip, lips pulled back over teeth in wordless snarl as he rushed to defend fallen comrade. It was only then that Peridae glimpsed at what they dealt with.
This….creature was an abomination, an equivalent of the rot of the forest to her people. It shared similar appearance to eladrasi ------ minorly so; its eyes were long, almond shaped, iris darkest black. It took tall, lithe, like a tree, dead roots weaving in and out of each outer thigh. Sap, sickly yellow, thick, cascaded down the creature’s arms, pieces of flesh revealing anatomy underneath. Obvious it was, that the creature had perished some time ago, but never had Peridae heard of creatures of any kind able reanimate once their soul had passed on.
She did not have time to consider such.
Slow exhale would bring her attention to focus. The wind had stilled, a preparation for the magic that was about to be dealt as Peridae forced herself to stand, her flesh already beginning the process of threading back together. Assessment of the situation proved that there were at least a dozen of these creatures, all of which made no movement toward either her nor Iri, whom had successfully taken down the one whom had harmed Peridae.
One more inhale, and on the next exhale, Peridae bolted forward, her own dagger’s blade parallel to her arm as she moved towards first target. Clouds darkened overhead, whether from natural cause or strange magic of which Peridae could not tell. She could hear the whispered breath of Iri’s feet as he followed close behind, fingers on her free hand molding and forming into small, dagger-like roots which then expanded, shot forward, slipping through enemy midsection. She could feel the sap-like blood of her enemy collect around her fingers. Sharp unyielding pain gripped her fingers, causing her to jolt them back. The same rot of which plagued her home now withered away tips of her fingers, and she fell back, allowing Iri to take lead as her dagger went swift to cut hand from arm without any form of hesitation. “Do not let their blood touch you,” she said, tears slipping from corners of her eyes as she bit back pain. She pressed bleeding stump to chest of which was armoured by thick layer of bark, trying to gather bearing as Iri slipped dagger through the creature’s eye and shoved upwards. Two ways there were to kill an eladrasi: severing the head or stopping the heart. These creatures were obviously some form of their kin, and Iri’s guess was right; the enemy collapsed and Iri wasted no time, twirling and kneeling, shoving his hand into the ground while simultaneously stabbing his dagger into the heart of another enemy as they finally moved toward attack.
Peridae stepped back, avoiding swing of blade, hand darting out to pierce flesh. She miscalculated, dagger sliding across bark as Peridae twirled away, throwing her dagger with expert grace. It hit target this time, blade embedding itself within the enemy’s forehead, and her chest heaved as the pain from her stump throbbed. It would be hours yet before it even began to reform unless she sought somewhere where she could meditate.
The hand that Iri had shoved into the ground expanded, roots weaving through the soil of forest bed towards the rest of the enemy. Peridae watched as one of the enemy’s chest cavities twisted and opened, revealing rotting blackened heart as it beat the life force through its host. Spores were released, soft tangible glow of their form pulsating as they traveled through the air. It was a defense mechanism of her people; the spores were poisonous but did not affect her kind. Still, she would not draw near enough to test why it was the enemy eladrasi had released such.
Shrilled screams pierced the air as the roots from Iri pierced flesh, worming their way through each remaining enemy’s body and clamping around their hearts. No expression found it’s way onto Iri’s face as he murmured, roots tightening until the enemies collapsed, one by one.
The forest was eerily quiet once more as the remains of the enemy eladrasi seeped into the ground, their remains poisoning the greenery around them, rotting the plants and turning them brown. Peridae could feel the forest’s pain, brow drawn as the wind shrieked and the branches of the trees overhead shook.
“Iri ---- I think it’s time to see the elders. It is dire that they learn of this.”