Quod Qualitas de PurgatorioIgnis lay still, holding her breath, afraid to open her eyes. Her death had been quick, painless compared to all the fighting that preceded it. The enlil wouldn't have chosen this end for herself; it was far too plain to be a nameless casualty even in a war. She would have gone out in a blaze, so to speak. It took her a few moments to take note of the uncomfortable heat licking at her skin and feathers. When it clicked, the enlil animated with a lively squawk as she leapt like a scalded cat.
After rolling profusely, Ignis determined that she was no longer burning nor was she in Krevati. Still in motion, Ignis found her feet and began to run through the unfamiliar greenery. The air was humid and smelled like dirt, leaves, and various plants and flowers, reminiscent of Amicus. She weaved around tall, thick, trees coated with moss and sporting plants that grew from the trunk and climbed up them from the ground. The heat lessened as she managed to put distance between herself and the flames, but the enlil tripped and fell, tumbling painfully down stone stairs wedged into a steep hill. The moss and dirt coating the uneven ledges did little to cushion her descent. The world was spinning and rapidly growing darker. The avian struggled to stay awake, but failed in the end.
Why are you in this place? A voice sounded out, invading Ignis’ thoughts.
With a groan, the avian flopped over in a heap of bruises, burns, and blood. “I have no idea, I thought I was dead.”
You are not dead, bird-kin.
“Then where am I?”
A forest child sent you here. He begged us to protect you.
“Amicus?” Ignis wondered aloud.
Yes. That is how he is called.
“I think he meant to keep me from burning alive again.”
A heavy weight landed on the enlil’s stomach, forcing out a strangled cry followed by a sound of joy and relief. “Amicus!” Her arms clamped around the bushy, albeit slightly singed mons infans, crushing him against her aching ribs.
Amicus pressed himself against his partner, shaking, his branchy hands grasping the torn remains of her clothing. His feelings were nearly tangible, not only for Ignis, but for Nature itself.
You should not be here, the ethereal voice sounded again, but, you have come, sent by one of the forest’s own children. You have won his trust and are deeply connected, not only with your companion, but with this place --with me. You may rest, but you cannot spend long here.
Ignis nodded, tears making wet tracks on her cheeks. “Thank you,” she sobbed, body heaving. “Thank you so much, thank the gods.”
This is not entirely a gift; you must stop the flames that followed you here. You must heal the ones you’ve hurt by coming here. This you owe.
“Anything,” the enlil gasped through her tears, “I’ll do anything for you if I live.”
We shall see.
Leaves cascaded down onto Ignis and Amicus, tickling the pair as they brushed past softly. Green faded into black as both lost consciousness.
The presence retreated from the two, leaving them to a healing rest.
The next time Ignis gained consciousness, her eyelids felt sticky and heavy. She rubbed at them a bit before opening her eyes slowly.
Amicus’ blurry face came into view, bringing the avian’s attention to the weight on her chest. The mons infans patted her face and scooted backwards to allow her to sit up.
Ignis groaned, using a hand splayed on the mossy ground behind her to support her weight. A glance around her revealed that several palm trees towered over her with sunlight filtering through weakly. The rows of trees seemed endless, various piles of shed fronds between them. In the distance, the enlil could hear moving water, a river perhaps?
Branchy hands patting her arms, neck, legs, and torso brought the avian woman’s attention back to Amicus. She watched idly as he checked her over, finding no serious injuries. Half healed burns and bruises littered her body, but the worst of the damage she had suffered had vanished. Gently, Ignis caressed Amicus’ leafy form to soothe him.
“I’m alright.” Her voice was hoarse and her throat dry.
Sensing her intention to move, the woodland spirit clambered onto her shoulder.
Ignis carefully pushed herself onto her feet. She began to walk towards the water, stepping around tree trunks and climbing over piles of leaves. The relative silence was calming, albeit unnerving. Still, the enlil continued, gently pushing aside any fronds at face level.
The river was a little too wide to jump over, but shallow. Green tinted water flowed in both directions perpendicular to Ignis’ path with no end in sight.
Amicus slid down from his perch on Ignis’ shoulder and waddled towards the river, sticking his hands in without hesitation.
Ignis followed suit, kneeling at the river bank and dipping her hands into the cool liquid. She scooped water into her hands and splashed her face, emitting a quiet sigh. The enlil cupped more water in her palms to rinse her arms, neck, chest. After a few moments, she stripped off her torn robes and dropped them on the ground. Water streamed from between her fingers and claws onto her feathers. Ashes, dust, and dried blood turned the river a darker color with hints of red and brown as Ignis preened in the water.
Beside her, Amicus splashed around and scrubbed at his leaves. He hopped out of the water and shook himself off, not unlike a dog. Satisfied and damp, the mons infans wandered towards a nearby frond pile and picked off a few pieces to feed on.
Meanwhile, Ignis rinsed off what remained of her robe and wrung it out. She laid the fabric out in a spot where the dappled sunlight filtered through a bit more before joining Amicus. The enlil sat and continued to preen, straightening her feathers --or what remained of them. With care, the woman fluffed her down, straightened her feathers and interlocked the barbs. After restoring her feathers’ insulation to the best of her ability, Ignis felt better.
She spent the next stretch of time holding Amicus and stroking him as she reordered his leaves and branches, similar to how her mother would preen her as a chick. The woodland spirit in her lap relaxed and sighed under her ministrations, rustling contentedly. Her fingers paused when they brushed against something softer and smoother than her companion’s leaves.
Amicus shifted his leaves and twigs to allow Ignis to extract a strange looking clipping. Her eyes widened in recognition of the red-gold leaves.
The mons infans placed a hand over Ignis’ while he explained the plant to the best of his ability. It didn’t burn, and was a result of the bloodshed and fire that occured in their second to last battle.
Ignis nodded and stood, holding the small twig and her familiar. She wandered further through the palm trees, in search of something. Half following Amicus’ senses, half navigating by memory, she picked her way through the forest until the trees thinned. She stepped out of the palm forest and approached a hill with a steep incline. Sharp blades of grass and short shrubs protruded from the red soil except for areas where the hill seemed to jut upwards at a ninety degree angle, exposing the rich clay and soil beneath.
Amicus crafted a platform of vines and leaves beneath their feet and used it to lift them, flying upwards at a steady pace. At the precipice, stood thick copses of trees with wiry branches that tangled together. The clusters of trees and vegetation sat at somewhat odd intervals, creating several small clearings. The mons infans dissolved the platform to allow Ignis to walk through the forest, penetrating the tangle of sparse branches and sturdy trunks.
Ignis continued, drawn by a subtle force towards her point of entry to the Natural Plane. The trees progressively grew with more space in between them and with more leaves. Ferns began to crop up and ficuses climbed down the trunks of impossibly large trees. They were much taller than even those of Boreas, having been spared the Cataclysm of the Mortal plane. Eventually, Ignis encountered the stoney staircase she had tumbled down before. She climbed upwards, breathing heavily. The enlil had to stop to catch her breath and ease her sore muscles several times. Nevertheless, she neared the top. Even from several feet down, Ignis could feel the heat of the infernal planes.
The fire had consumed some of the foliage as it ate through fallen logs and twisted branches on the ground. Blackened moss and dying embers framed the growing flames.
As if on instinct, Ignis set the twig she had recovered from the battlefield at the edge of the flames and then backed away.
Very good. You are quite attuned to the forest already.
Ignis jumped and squawked.
A chuckle rustled through the forest, seeming to come from everywhere and nowhere.
However, you have reached the end of your welcome. I will call you when it is time to heal what has been hurt. You need to grow before you are ready to help tend this new garden.
“But what about--”
Ignis and Amicus were pulled into a portal of swirling fire and vines before the enlil could finish her question.
Ignis felt hot, unbearably so, as if she were burning again. Pressure crushed her from all sides.
Amicus hissed and rustled at the painful sensation.
The heat and pressure built until Ignis and Amicus were ejected in a burst of flames into the Mortal Plane once more. They landed in a sooty heap, coughing.