Whoever wishes to take on this weekly challenge is welcome to grab the banner and use it on their blog. It is a testament to stay in the constant writing mode, no matter what setbacks jump in your way. Writing is a healing process for me today and it began as such. Anyone who uses it as a similar tool, I invite you on this journey.
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“The age of the Elves in this ancient forest is coming to an end,” said another male. “Our tribes are more united than they. When the war comes, we will crush them.”
Valence swallowed back his next response and gawked on the court of Trapos. “You cannot be planning an assault on their city. What is your reason?”
“We of the Mookla Clan have been given proof that the Elves are no more protected from the infection than any.” It was an older female who spoke now. Her arms were long and thin. She kept them folded and rest her head on her fingers.
Valence took his eyes off her, realizing her breasts hung in the open in a proud display of her matronly power.
“When it corrupts them, they will expand and you can be certain it will not be our land they take.”
“You are putting your people in a very bad position,” he said, but the old woman spat at his words almost immediately. “Instead of readying your men and women for war against your neighbors, you should be seeking diplomacy in their ranks before the infection can reach either of your sides.”
“A demon who speaks on its master’s behalf can be given no reconciliation,” said another lord. “But, we wise-thinking Gunroe offer a proposition.”
His Trapos captor wheeled around at those words and marched to the dais. He went to the ground, his four arms spread to the stairs, before looking at the leaders.
“Lord Do’nak, you cannot be so level headed. Not now.” The warrior pointed back at Valence, all of his certain judgement that he was a demon in the firm set on his finger. “He is not a Moonwalker, but he wears the skin.” Those words seethed on the snake’s lips as he turned back. “Such rationality will bring the demon souls to our own people and it is they who will walk among us corrupted. They will bring their knives behind their backs, we thinking they are friend, and we will trust their masks. Please, reconsider.”
Do’nak reclined back a moment and leaned in his throne to speak with the Trapos matron that had also accused Valence. He saw her nod, her hanging breasts jiggling with her adornments. She, too, leaned to the next chair seating the A'opei Lord, as Do’nak spread his word to the far end of the dais. It continued for a long moment, each passing hiss a bead of sweat tumbling on his forehead. A drop passed down his eye and caught his lip. When the word had traveled through the ten leaders, Do’nak sat up and gave his attention to the leader sitting to his right.
The leader did not speak so Valence could understand, but rather put out a response made from a series of hisses and clicks on his tongue. The next leader also responded, and the next until the Mookla matron and the A’opei Lord stood up.
“He will be tested,” said the lord.
Valence released a breath that he had held for seconds too long. The pressure that tingled along his face spread out and relief washed over him.
The matron took the stairs down, her breasts wiggling as she sinuously moved toward him with careful side steps. A large curved knife appeared in her hand.
“Your hands, demon,” she said. The warrior was at her back, an empty sheath on his belt showing where the blade had come from. The slits in his eyes were the girth of a coin set on its edge. They didn’t care to see him set free, nor alive.
“My name’s Valence,” he said quickly, “if you care enough to stop calling me that.” He looked on her, but the set of her eyes declined that offer. As she reached out with the knife, the tanglelock moved more as one force, reaching higher up his legs and near his waist. She spat quick vicious words, and the weeds crawled back down until his boots were free from their hold. The matron returned the blade and the warrior spun it back into his sheath after a last, careful look on Valence.
“So, what’s this test?” he asked, rubbing his wrists.
“We’ve come to the sanctuary for a reason,” the matron said. “It is very protected. The spirits of our deceased shield the arena and the surrounding grounds.”
“What are they protecting?”
“From our own people,” she said after a moment of thought. “The kind we think you to be. Corrupt, infected, evil: whatever the word is this day. Something has changed them and they are more deadly now than we know how to deal with.”
The A’opei Lord joined the matron at her side, arriving in sheer silence that made Valence quiver. He had not seen him leave the dais.
“They are holding a group of our people at the grounds we once occupied.” He turned Valence to face the thicket of trees a that twisted into a cage of bark and branches. “Those grounds are not a day’s walk from the sanctuary. There was a dozen unaccounted for, but we do not know how many they have killed.”
“Going by myself, am I?”
“That is the test,” the lord said. “If you can break the hold of the demons living in our people, we will consider your freedom.”
“Consider? Nothing more than that?”
Are you hearing this, he thought to Mefist, but the Demi was not a quick to respond as normal. Nothing came, not even an itch on his head. He glanced down at his waist to the empty spot where his sword should have been hanging.
“I’ll need my sword,” he said, and then remembered the Pearls, “and anything else you took off me.”
The lord snapped his fingers and a warrior bearing a bundle of his cloak, scabbard and other belongings came to him. His possessions were given back, the sword the last piece for a measure of their own safety. When they had given the blade to him, two other warriors were at his back, spears targeting him. He ignored it this time and finished the straps along the scabbard.
“You leave tonight,” the matron said. “Gather your wits, boy. You’ll need them.”
Valence breathed and walked off, naturally avoiding the mess of weeds at his feet. The spear-bearing warriors followed him.
“Valence,” came the lord’s voice.
He turned back, taking both the scrutiny of the A’opei Lord and Mookla matron in one lethal dose. The other leaders had convened around their equals in the short moment, also silent in their approach.
“Don’t think of running off into the forest. I’ll have an arrow in your back quicker than you can blink.”