Ogres and Ogresses Ch. 07bystubborn_dreamer©
Chapter 7: Tested
When night began to fall they still hadn't found shelter. It seemed that no matter how far they walked, the forest was as sparse as before. There was nowhere to hide. Zyra was sure that was the intention.
They walked a bit farther until their exhaustion and hunger settled in. The fruit on the trees became thicker the closer to the center they ventured. Some dripped with succulent juices that smelt so enticing Zyra had accidentally bit the inside of her cheek and made herself bleed.
She could tell the others were also affected. Enui and Gharla chewed a single piece of root between them and Rell bit his nails. When the time came for them to make camp they were unsure whether they should make a campfire or not. It wasn't cold and they had no food to cook.
Generally fires were also good because they kept away animals. In such a strange land for all they knew the fire might draw the animals to them. With much debate it was decided that they would tie themselves into the trees, Rovian style. They would each get a separate tree so that they could fit comfortably without having to disturb what lay inside it. After finding the trees to be relatively safe, they strapped themselves in and tried to sleep.
Sleep took her companions quicker than Zyra expected. As she felt her eyes preparing to close she heard a strange sound coming from the ground. Her eyes narrowed and she untied herself quickly. Slipping her spear into her hand, she slid down the tree trunk. She landed silently, crouched close by the ground.
All she saw was the empty darkness.
The sound came again, almost in her ear. It seemed to be on the other side of the tree. Then she heard it differently. It was a whisper, no, a hiss.Apparently Hanto had been right, the basilisk had come back. She thought about how large he had been, how easily he could snatch them out of the tree. Was he coming specifically for her? She had been the one to put his asleep. He could probably smell her scent best since she had been the one to climb over him. Calling her friends would likely pull them to danger.
Gritting her teeth she charged behind the tree only to see a strange creature yards away. It hissed, the same low rumble the basilisk had made, yet softer. It carried over to her like he had hissed it in her ear. It wasn't the basilisk, it was humanoid with arms and legs.The creature before her was light green and glowed clearly in the dark. Truthfully she wondered if it was a ghost.
It was naked but appeared to have no genitalia. He was bald and had pointed ears that blended into the light green scales that covered his entire body. The most disturbing feature was his face, how humanly shaped it was, yet how inhuman his gaze appeared. He had a chiseled face, angular features, and full lips. His green eyes pierced through her and his mouth was raised in amusement.
He tilted his head at her curiously and put his hands behind his back. Standing, he stalked up towards her. When he stopped he was right outside of her attack zone, standing at least a head and shoulders taller than her.
"What do you intennndd on doing with that?"
His human speech made her start, but she recovered quickly.
"It depends on what you came here for."
His eyes held childish laughter as he regarded her.
"You know you're not ssssupposssed to be here, humannn..."
The way he looked at her with familiarity gave her pause.
"It's you. You're the basilisk aren't you?"
He blinked and took a step forward. He had a light swaying in his step reminiscent of his true nature.
Zyra flipped the point of the spear towards him in warning and he let out a big sigh.
"Give it a ressssstt human," he growled pushing the spear away.You are no match for meee..."
He held the top of the wood and gave it a light tug. It jolted in her hands but she held onto it. Still, she had no doubt that he could take it from her. Even so, she didn't care.
"Answer me," she snapped pulling the spear back. She put her spear behind her, knowing it would be too obvious a choice. She had other weapons hidden on her person.
"A form of the basssilisssk," he lulled."That sssstill bringsss to quesssstion...how did you know the trick to putting me assssleep?"
She grimaced, looking at him suspiciously.
He grinned, all lips and came closer, but she retreated effectively backing into the tree.
"Oh? And where doessss your family hail from?"
She glared at him, balling her fists.
"Why? Intending to make a visit?"
He gave her a cocky smirk and slid a hand to rest beside her head. She frowned at him.He seemed to be toying with her.
She turned her knee to get a better position for sliding off a knife strapped to her thigh.
Then he shrugged.
"Well, I sssuppossse one kindnesssss deservessss another."
He grabbed her too quickly for her to move away and cupped her face in his hands.
"Let me get a good look at you," he mused, his eyes carving paths along her body.
She gasped and scrambled at his hands but couldn't pull them from her. She could feel his breath on her face and tried to control the panic that was fighting to surface inside her.
"Don't worry," he whispered. He traced a finger lazily over her lips."I won't hurt you."
She froze, refusing to acknowledge his presence. His head moved side to side in a hypnotizing motion before he grinned again.
"Sssssssssss...such a pretty little thing aren't you?"
He examined her lips with his finger again, his green eyes swimming. Then abruptly he released her, walking back a considerable distance to perch again.
"And what a lovely pair of eyessss you have...yessssss...I like them very much."
He had left her lips buzzing and she nibbled at her bottom lip to refocus her mind.
How dare he?
He must have sensed her indignation because he laughed, but the look he was giving her was remorseless. It told her he was in full control. This was his domain, she was an intruder.
"I will tell you thisssss Green Eyessss. You and your ssslavesss are being tessssted."
She crossed her arms. "They're not my slaves, they're my friends."
He scoffed. Tilting his head he rolled onto his back."Realllyy? Evvveryone is your friend?Evennn...the dark male?"
He let out a raspy laugh. "You didn't ssseeem to be friendssss to me."His eyes glinted dangerously,"But he wantsss you, doessn't he?"
Her eyes narrowed. "Why are you here?"
He rolled back onto his stomach and his eyes became predatory. In one slither he closed the distance between them and was back in front of her, pressing his hands into her face.
"Why did you sssspare me?"
She was beginning to wish she hadn't. "I had to."
"I-I don't know."
His fingers dug deeper as his face lost all traces of humanity."Answer me!"
She shook her head vainly as his touch became uncomfortable. "I just didn't want to kill anyone."
He tilted his head again and opened his mouth. Four sharp fangs protruded from his jaw and he gave her his own strange version of a smile.
"But you kill for a living don't you human? I can ssmeell their blood on your ssskkinnn."
She had had enough. Grabbing her knife she kneed him in the stomach. He bent fluidly back with a rough hiss but she was ready. Pointing the knife in front of her she waited until he looked up to see it at his eye level.
"You're about to smell your blood. Now leave. Now, and don't come back."
He backed up, still grinning eerily amused.
"Does that mean you won't accept my thanks?"
She didn't answer him. He coiled around himself spontaneously making a slow turn, a fang poking out in his grin.
"It'll help you ssssurvive pretty human. You musssst be hungry right?"
She hadn't blinked but suddenly he had a small pouch. He threw it to her and she caught it without taking her eyes off of him.
"Those ssseedsss will give your sslavess...friendsss energy."
She nodded putting them in her skirt. "How many can we eat at one..."
"Not you," he corrected. "Jusssss your friendsss. There are only four in the bag."
She glared at him angrily. "Very well, what about me?"
A mischievous glint shone in his eyes and he reach up to picked off a red fruit from the tree.
"You can eat thisss."
She paused for a moment in speculation then reached for it but he snatched it back.
"Patienceesssss..." he chuckled."You can eat thisss,...only, if I feed it to you."
She let out a frustrated sigh. "Why? This is ridiculous!"
"I can nullify the fruitssss poisonousss affectsss on humanssss. Otherwisssse, if you ssssimply eat it, you will die."
With that he bit off a chunk of the fruit and began chewing. When he stopped she extended a hand, her face twisted in disgust. Ignoring her intentions, he grabbed her and pulled her in. Then rather roughly he used his tongue to pry her lips apart and pushed the food into her mouth. She choked trying to orient herself but he held her fast.
"Ssswallow," he commanded against her lips.
She braced her hands on his naked arms, grunting in protest. She couldn't breathe. It could be poisonous. He could be killing her, but she couldn't breathe. She'd either die a slow death of suffocation or this death now. She swallowed and waited for his to pull back. He did so, slowly, his moist lips pulling apart from hers with deliberate sensuality. He seemed darkly satisfied. She was not amused.
"Good," he praised. He released her to take another bite. "How doess it feel?"
The minute the fruit hit her empty stomach she felt rejuvenated, like she had just swam and drank water in the river.
"Good," she admitted.
"Then ssshall I continue?"
She paused, her pride going down a little harder than she'd hoped.
He grinned and pulled her down to sit in front of him. He sat cross legged and pulled her closer to his lap. Then he took a big bite of the strange red fruit. Juice ran down the corner of his mouth and his long tapered reptilian tongue swept it up. Then, he tilted her head back and closed his mouth over hers.
It was a strange act between them. She wasn't sure if it was like a kiss. His tongue would sweep into her mouth and she'd suck on his tongue trying to squeeze him for nourishment. The fruit was extremely sweet and combined with his hot mouth it jarred her senses. Her brain told her it was pleasurable as well as nutritious to continue, so, she did.
After he had gone through three fruits she was full and tired. She was somehow in his lap, his arms around her waist as he swayed gently like a raft.
She looked at him imploringly.
"Is there any way...you could just chew up a few more fruits so I can..."
"No," he snapped, narrowing his eyes. "Thisss isss my gift to you."
"But just one. For my..."
His eyes narrowed. "I do not owe your friendssss sssuch a kindnesssss."
With that he lifted up and pulled her to her feet. "The ssseedsss will do the trick. You will need to focussss the mossst anyway."
She accepted his stubbornness with a touch of bitter resolution.
"What will we face?"
He shook his head and began to back away."Green Eyessss, I do believe we're even."
On cue his color began to dim as he backed up into the night.
"Don't worry," he clucked innocently."If you fail, perhapsss I ssshall find you and make you my pet."
Then he was gone. The exhaustion had returned tenfold and she began to feel the weariness in her bones. Sighing she forced herself up the tree once more. As soon as she was in it, she fell into a deep dreamless sleep.
"Did you see that?"
Etaceh paced over the basin in shock. "Caligula did you see that?"
The purple eyed man nodded, weary amusement on his noble features. Currently only the moon or night witches were awake. They should have been resting, but Etaceh could not ignore the humans.
"It appears she had endeared the basilisk."
Etaceh bit her ruby lip, grinding it anxiously as she watched the young beauty slumber. "Could that be her power?"
"Perhaps," Caligula agreed. "Or Perhaps the basilisk is attracted by that which he has named her, by her 'green eyes.' Most snakes are horny narcissistic creatures."
Etaceh shook her head. "No, this human is special, I can feel it."
Caligula strode closer to the bowl to observe the woman Etaceh regarded so fiercely. In her sleep she looked little more than a child.
"What do you intend to do then? End the trials? Kill her?"
"No, I have a better idea." She strode over her a black vial and fingered it almost tenderly. She popped the cork and waved a hand to the ceiling. Like earlier it parted into a window.
A flutter of wings was heard in the distance before a large owl swept into the Marble Tree.
"Who!" It cooed, landing elegantly on the edge of the water basin.
She smiled and dropped a single drop of the black elixir on the owl. Immediately its unfocused eyes turned to her, bright, glowing and alert.
She chanted over it softly, waving her hands with calculated precision.
"Investigator of night, lend me your light. Show me desires that strengthen mine might. Unfold marked plans that heroes dare boast dredge up the demons they fear the most."
With that the owl tilted its head fluffing its feathers back like a dignified coat.
She smiled. "The humans."
With that he jumped up into the sky. A single feather shone black, drenched in the ink of memories. She studied the basin and watched him land in each of their trees. His big eyes dilated and he turned to stare at each of their sleeping faces. He started with the blonde man first.
The black feather pulsed as every detail she had requested was fished out of his head. His hopes and dreams, his feelings and encounters with the other members of the team, their mission, and of course, his fears and weaknesses. When the owl was done recording he moved on to the next one.
"Shall I leave them to you then?" Caligula asked with a raised brow.
It had been a while since Etaceh had felt the need to do such powerful magic. She didn't stir, too absorbed in the images before her.
Caligula shook his head and went to retire. She didn't notice, waiting for when the owl would finish. When he finally completed the girl she noticed she actually twitched a bit. She grasped the edge of the basin.
Would she wake? Did she...no, she turned back to sleep.
The owl flew back slower, now laden with five lives. She rewarded him with longevity and plucked the black feather from his back. She summoned a scroll, her lips twisted in glee. Then she released the feather over it.
It hung empty in the air before beginning to scratch words on the page. It touched the corner of the page and a picture of the young blonde man seeped out.
Rell of Ursie tribe. Age 22...adopted, birth parents unknown...son of the Chief.
She had a Chief's son in her grasp? How fortunate. The quill scribbled wildly writing random notes but connecting them with arrows and lines to the other humans.
"Beautiful," she breathed. "Their end shall be glorious."
She would know their all before day break.
Morning was no big affair. As soon as they felt dawn on their skin, they had awoken.
It was good if Nima could last the 6 days, but if she could only last the four...
Zyra shook her head. No, she would not think about it.
She watched her companions as they somberly trudged forward, hunger apparent in their gait. She was still full from that strange fruit exchange the basilisk had given to her.
The seeds! She had nearly forgotten.
Reaching into her sack she pulled them forward. How could she convince them to eat the strange seeds after she had said nothing here was safe? Maybe she could...oh goodness, she had no time! Striding towards Gharla she reached into her pouch.
"Open your mouth."
Gharla raised an eyebrow but obeyed. She put the milky white seed in her mouth and moved to Enui.
Enui frowned. "What is..."
She parted her lips and Zyra pushed it past her lips.
Then she threw the seeds into Rell and Hanto's puzzled mouths.
"They will give you energy," she reassured them, then started to set the pace.
It was grueling at first but slowly she could see her comrades coming back to life. They drank sparingly from the water skins as countless time passed by. The sun rose to the highest point in the sky sooner than they expected. Then the heat came. It began to scorch their skin, leaning on their backs as wet salty sweat poured out of them. Rell was a bright red, suffering in silence that even Gharla found noble. As soon as it began to hurt to move they could see shade in sight.
The first type of shade was a strange strip of forest. Directly beyond it was a barren field. In its center was the Marble Tree. They could see the top of it. It was covered with wet glistening white leaves, beautiful and inviting. Zyra had always thought the Marble Tree was actually made of marble.
They shuffled hurriedly to the promise of shade but the closer they got the more Zyra's senses went on alert.
It didn't feel right. There was something wrong with that forest.
Feeling a wave of heat behind her she stopped.
Looking back she saw the field and trees had caught on fire. She watched as the land seemed to consume itself. Pain jarred her and she saw that the corner of her skirt had actually caught on fire. She rolled to the ground and put it out as the others had to follow. There was no choice, they had to get in.
"Run!" she shouted.
She sprinted towards the forest, her companions keeping up beside her. Suddenly a wind blew from the forest knocking Gharla back.
The flames licked at her hair as she struggled to get to her knees. Zyra and Enui ran toward her but another wind blew and Enui was knocked into Hanto. He fell to the ground and Rell hesitated, torn. It didn't matter because a second later he was sucked into the forest, airborne by a wind drift.
Hanto rolled Enui off of his and charged towards Rell but he was somersaulted back. He and Enui were shoved into the far side of the trees. Zyra grabbed Gharla and hauled her up. She winced, limping from a burn on her calf.
"I've got you," Zyra panted helping her to the forest. She was wrong. A moment later a strong wind flew her up in the air, ripping her away from Gharla's hand.
"ZYRA!" Gharla screamed.
She saw herself get higher and higher in the unnatural wind as Gharla screamed for her, then there was darkness.
Her head was pounding, splitting as she tried to wake herself up. The effort brought about pain, but she knew she had to force herself. Finding strength she forced her eyes open. In front of her the light was blinding so she looked away.
Where was she?
Looking around she saw the forest was behind her. The draft had carried her over? Glaring into the light she saw that it shone because of the reflective surface of the stature.
The Marble Tree!
She had been carried over to the Marble Tree!
She stood shakily, hammering in her skull as she shook. She was suddenly ravenous. It was as though the basilisk's gift had been sucked out of her veins. She swallowed, trying to get moisture into her throat.