Injustice By Flames.

Mania ensued. Mass panic began. The inhabitants of the temple began to scream and shriek and run frantically about. They wanted nothing more than to escape. The fact that they had been mocking for so long in an effort to push it from their consciousness was being proven indisputably unquestionable before their eyes. Homura stood static. He would not believe his eyes. He who had been attempting to convince the others now wished with all of his might that he had been wrong and had been subjected to ridicule instead of this. He would have given anything right now to have been proven wrong. The others didn't seem in a fit state to apologise though. They headed for the old abandoned ritual room, the most defendable and reinforced room in the temple.

Homura unleashed a powerful cry of sorrow and hatred and pain and followed them inside just after another flaming bomb hit the archway in front of the door, causing it to collapse. The gargantuan stones fell in a ballast of sound, blocking the doorway. Homura was already drained from conducting the ritual. He didn't want to do this now. NOT NOW. He only just made it into the room before collapsing into it. The giant stone door shut behind him and he faced his cohorts, panting like never before. He forced himself, with what was left of his energy, to transform back into a humanoid form. He collapsed even more successfully upon the cold, unforgiving floor beneath him but left his eyes on his cohorts. He scanned them for injuries. They all seemed to be fine.  He twitched his left leg. His eyes diverted. Whereas he... 

"... You were right. I'm sorry that I doubted you. I think we were all just too terrified to accept such a thing. None of us know how to fight. None of us have any damn battle experience. We-" He sighed. "We need you to lead us. Let's just hope that your ability in battle isn't outshone by your lack of skill with motivational speeches. In that case, we're all doomed! Now get out there, Homura!" Homura couldn't believe his ears. Sluyitt was supporting him?! The creature usually known for being grouchy and pessimistic?! Sheesh. Perhaps he HAD hit his head. He decided to make a mental note of that just in case it backfired on him in the future. But he had heard what he needed to hear.

At that moment, the elder walked into the room, having thrown the door aside with astonishing ease and shutting it behind him. Perhaps more successfully than Homura had shut it. But, he had a bad leg. That didn't count. Right?! "Sluyitt is correct once again, Homura." Sheesh, talk about taking sides thought Homura. But was punished for this with a rather uncomfortable twinge in the leg. Wait. That's not a twinge! The pain exacerbated and it took everything he had not to cry out. "I've done the best I can do, Homura. You may now stand on that damaged leg of yours." Homura stood up. Slowly. His leg was nowhere near perfect. But it supported him. Huh. There was a splint in there aswell. He hadn't felt that addition at all. But he didn't let it bother him. Much.

It was at that moment that the ceiling shook. The walls of this temple were very strong. He was strangely sure that they wouldn't have broken through. Yet. But would be getting closer every minute. "I would ask that you now prepare the following arrangements. Have each attending worshiper take up arms. Arm the temple and raise the battlements when I command. We will need all that we can get." Ordered Homura. "We will need everything that could possibly be turned into a weapon to go through that transformation. I shall lead the charge. Here it is. This is it. THIS. IS THE DEPARTURE TO THE FRONT LINES! Today... We go to WAR." He grabbed the door and thrust it open. He grabbed a long, sharp piece of wood by breaking a large chunk from the wall. It had always been softer here. He had often wondered why. He now wondered whether this was why. It was considerably easier than it should have been to break off. He advance up the steps while the sounds of battle grew louder and louder. His heart beat against his chest and he thrust open the final door.

The torrent of blasts beat hard against his ears. He ran to the stairs that advanced up to the roof of the building. When he reached the zenith of the building's height, he noted the intoxicating smell of smog and the darkening skies. This was going to be serious. If he didn't put an end to it, the temple would be destroyed. He stoop atop it and announced himself to those providing the onslaught. "THIS IS THE NATION OF THE TREES. THIS IS ITS TEMPLE. THIS IS A BLACK DAY FOR YOU. THIS IS THE DAY YOU TURN TAIL AND RUN HOME IN FEAR." He raised his arms as great metal spikes arose around him that were covered in a strange liquid or wax. VENOMOUS MANTROGULA! He thought. One touch of that and nearly anything will burn. The onslaught exacerbated. They were rapid firing now. Blasts upon blasts of humongous flaming spheres were pummelling the walls. The flames came into contact with the Venomous Mantrogula and they set alight. GENIUS thought Homura. He knelt down and raised an item from a crevice in the roof. An item designed specifically to blow leaves away from the roof. It possessed an incredibly strong blowing force. Homura  could never quite keep a straight face when he heard that sentence. But this was not the time for that. He activated it and aimed its trajectory towards the burning venom. The venom instantly left its previous place of dwelling and launched itself at the enemy. Some ran around screaming as Homura changed the angle of the gale. A flame thrower. Yes. That seemed an apt name. At least, he'd never heard it anywhere before. They retaliated by launching pressurised water torrents at the venom. It managed to douse a portion of the flames. "Oh, no you don't!" Screamed Homura. He increased his reaction time and unmercifully increased his offense. He had managed to hit more of the enemy numbers with it. 

Menno stood beneath in the first room of the temple. He shivered and shuddered in fear. The doors smashed open and the light and stench of smog and smoke chased his senses instantaneously. A series of enemies ran into the temple and attempted to shove him to the ground. Menno had one last trick up his sleeve. He pulled a lever and the secondary gate rose from the ground. A series of statuesque figures that formed a gateway rose from the ground and stood in their path. The statues opened up their stone eyes and they were encapsulated by a series of glowing feathers also. The feathers linked with each other and formed a bubble thought to be impenetrable. Menno had succeeded in luring them into the exact spot necessary for this. The statues sunk back into the ground and left the small troop encircled by a glowing opalescent bubble, leaving Menno thankful for the mass of magickal potential on this planet. 

"It is senseless to think that you can hold us back. It is senseless to resist." Argued the opposition. 

"You have no concept of the strength of a man defending his only home!" Retaliated Menno. "Each of us would gladly give our lives rather than see our home in the hands of someone like you." 

"YOU have no concept of how incredibly corny you sound." This was the voice of mey'ello, another worshipper within the temple. He was often seen as the most enthusiastic worshipper within the circle but was not the type to open up about anything. He preferred to make a joke than to express himself. He had a muscled, multicoloured body and he often roamed shirtless. Like now. 

"Mey'ello! How nice of you to show up." Menno quipped. 

"Shutp, Menno! I'm only here 'cause I need to be... This is so troublesome. But, I must crush them now for disturbing my workout." 

"How typical of you, Mey'ello!" Laughed Menno as the bubble began to fracture. "It looks as if we have our work cut out for us here. Don't worry, you'll be back to your workout before you know it." They both raised their eyes as the bubble began to fracture again. 

Homura heard the panel behind him open up.  He quickly swivelled around to see a sect of the enemy's numbers pushing through! Somehow they had penetrated the temple!  By now, they would have started their internal destruction. He was blinded by a desire to exact their just desserts. He had to have faith in the others to have fought off those that were invading at present. The contraption could not rotate three hundred and sixty degrees... No, that'd be too damn convenient, wouldn't it?! He thought. He quickly retaliated by attempting to jump on the trapdoor and jamming their fingers but was thrown away when another much larger enemy appeared. This enemy was at least double the size of Homura and a considerably larger portion more callous. He launched a burly fist at Homura and it was barely dodged.  Homura could see no way out of this mess. The lumbering giant bore down on Homura and he could see that he was about to pummel him into the next dimension when the gargantuan enemy's six eyes widened and the films that covered them reeled back into the sides of the eyes. He fell forward and smashed his head onto one of the metal spikes. Homura took a sizeable jump and forced the monsters head down even further. He looked behind to check the identity of his saviour.

It was Menno... He was holding some sort of  projectile launcher he'd fashioned. "Before you say it, don't mention it. We save valuable time that way. They broke through a gateway in the back of the temple whilst we were focusing on the front. We used what we had but were seriously unprepared. We're going to need to do some serious repairs." Homura nodded and calculated a method of counter attack. "Menno, I need your projectile launcher and some ammunition. I have an idea. Also, do you possess anything that could be used as a rope?!" Homura asked hopefully. "I do, actually!" He produced a long, stringy vine that had been cut from the walls of the temple. Another plus for Homura was that this particular vine had been known to not burn. At all. "Alright, attach this to the ammunition for me. Cut it into sections and make sure it's attached well." Ordered Homura.

He then launched the remainder of the flames encompassing the roof of the temple at the enemy and ducked as a particularly low flying barrage was shot his way. It landed behind the temple and set the crops alight. Menno handed Homura the rigged ammunition and stood back as a miscellany of arrow shaped projectiles were leased from the slits in the temple's walls designed to allow light and fresh air to flow constantly. He took no time deliberating. He loaded the ammunition into the launcher and fired several shots. They landed on the ground a fair way away from his standpoint. As he'd hoped. He then set all of his hopes on a plausible possibility as another encroachment of missiles flew just over his head. He was forced to pause to douse his head. Once he had done this, he stood inbetween the metal spikes, a section solely supported by the front wall and planned his next move. Homura then winked at Menno, said "Thanks for all of the help" and swung down one of the vines. He moved inbetween each member of the opposition with a surprising stealth. Menno couldn't help but think that he must have done this somewhere before. 

"Hey, what are you do-" Shouted a member of the enemy force as he was shoved to the ground. Another of the opposition was attempting to sneak up from behind but was unsuccessful due to an extremely accurate shot by Menno. "There's going to be no end to how much I owe you by the time that this is done!" Joked Homura. He swivelled another of the enemy number around and punched him in the face. He successfully managed to break his jaw. He was about to drop this idiot and focus on the next one when he was lifted up and thrown at one of the fire launchers. He shouted out in pain and once he was able to open his eyes, blurry as his vision was, he saw something he never expected to see. Cy'riion, a creature that also served in the temple with a long, flowing hair do and a set of four antlers on his head had been capable of picking him up above his head and throwing him with velocity enough to break the contraption?! "Cy'riion, what the hell are you doing?!" Implored Homura. But he didn't have time to question this damn traitor for much longer as one of the number that he had not had the chance to personally pummel yet walked up to him, drew a blade from some concealed area in his improvised clothing and impaled Cy'riion with it, all the while muttering something into his ear.

Something large and poignant nearly smacked into his head, all but a few inches. THE TEMPLE WAS FINALLY FIGHTING BACK. They launched projectiles of relative size to the blasts used by the enemy force, forcing their already slightly dwindled numbers to decrease even more. "I've had enough of this!" "This wasn't in the plan!" "I'm sorry, I value my life too much for this!" These were the cries given by the enemy, who, He noticed, he still had no other way of referring to. He'd have to find out a collective term or something... These ballasts of hope began to crush the enemy. But more and more were invading the temple. The front door was open and He could only hope that they were being defeated somehow inside. It was then that a great torrent of Poison Tree Sap gushed out of the temple doors, drowning any of the opposing number that had made their way inside. He had no concept in his mind of how they were managing all of this but was euphoric that they were able to fight back. He stood up before he was burned by the sap anymore than he already had been. 

Menno, Sluyitt, Mey'ello, Froktar, Deryth and Pugitt were gathered together, holding between them a branch from a Bleeding Tree. The trees known to, once their bark had been compromised, propel their poisonous sap at anything within reach as a defence mechanism. "JUST A LITTLE MORE!" Menno shouted over the gushing sound of the absolutely astounding amount of sap that was available for launching. "Just shutup and lift you fair share of the branch! You're slacking again. I swear, you young worshippers are not disciplined-" Ranted Sluy'itt before he was interrupted by Froktar, Deryth and Pugitt who collaboratively came to the same conclusion that the following was necessary to shout: "SHUTUP, SLUYITT!" The temple was now capable of defending itself because of the loyalty of its attendees. Because this was more than a temple, it was a home and anyone would fight to the death to save their home. They had managed to drive all of the invaders from the inside, causing a large amount of Sap damage but justifying it with their strong urge to protect. 

 It was then that the wall gave way. The front wall collapsed inwards and the entirety of the inner sanctums of the temple lay exposed. Homura's last hopes died. The temple was vulnerable. It had taken a mind blowing and admirable multitude of onslaughts and had finally crashed beneath the pressure of both the enemy onslaughts-Seriously, he needed a better way of referring to them-and the pressure of the Sap. He fell forwards towards the ground as the temple gave way. He noticed that a fair number of his associates had been fighting on the ground nearer the doorway to the temple that had been reinforced and sealed. He had been paying no attention whatsoever to what his associates in arms were taking it onto their own shoulders to do just behind him or to the scale of their contributions. They had been slowly making their way towards him when the temple wall fell to pieces on top of them. He blamed himself.

Beneath the rocks lay broken bodies. They had been crushed beneath the tumult of the wooden mass that was the temple wall. He bellowed a cry of anguish to the skies above and watched as the last remainder of the enemy's ammunition destroyed what lay inside. The fire ignited a labyrinth of wax on the ground and this set the enemy alight. They screamed in terror and pain as they burned to death but Homura didn't hear it. He didn't know anything any more. He remembered the pain. His entire life... Governed by fire. He remembered his parents' untimely deaths as they slowly melted away beneath the incarceration they had placed themselves in to save him. He remembered the seemingly endless streams of tears that could not quench the flames. He knew them once more as they poured down his face again. Once again, he bellowed his pain unto the world. Broken bodies on both sides. All charred and mangled. So many that had given their lives for him and for their home in the end... He screamed through the crushing sensation of his tears and physical pain and his head collapsed atop of a final disfigured body. Menno lay there. His chest punctured. Dead. Possibly the sole remaining survivor of this obliteration approached him. He attempted to lift him away from the body he clung to, the one who had reciprocated for all the kindness Homura had supplied him by rescuing him. He cried out in refusal. "NO! NO! NOOOOOOOO! I WON'T LET GO OF HIM! I WON'T!" He felt a considerably stronger tug and his lamenting grip broke. Homura knew that he had no longer the strength nor the will to fight. He surrendered unto the will of his pursuer and passed out. Then, Homura knew only silence. 

Then, as if summoned from some existential realm thoroughly unknown to any mortal, to any being who may inhabit this plain of existence, they arose from the shrouded velvet veil of darkness. Illuminating beautifully the copse encompassing them. Garbed in purple attire that largely resembled a ball gown that began at the hooded head of the mysterious body and ended just before the fervent feet. A procession of Gothic grandeur enclosing and enveloping the area. They sung a haunting melody unto the listening ears of any who would receive their song. Capturing the attention of all. Black were the contents of their hoods - all that lay behind was hidden. The area was enshrouded in a sonorous song that embraced all in its soothing sound. The Lantern Folk had arrived. The animals echoing its velvet nuances in their own unique manner. Holding high their lanterns, they strolled into the vicinity. It is said that the Lantern Folk will arrive whenever the death of someone prominent beseeches them and they are required to guide them spiritually into the next realm. Outstretching a pallid hand unto the spirit yearning for guidance and grasping firmly the hand of the stoic spirit, they depart the world as equals. A procession of beatific song and luminescent beauty that reasserts through brevity of song a sense of calm that is no longer transient. A sense of propriety and euphoria that assists so absolutely. While this sensual ceremony is under way, a sect of highly trained and ritualistic Lantern Folk dance around the outside in intricate and articulate circles, encapsulating the deceased spirit and adding a sense of mysticism and sacredness to the event, only their lanterns visible, weaving sinuous circles and patterns to awe and amaze. To be guided into the next life by the Lantern Folk is to have lived a good life indeed. To have truly been a satyr of goodwill towards others. To be guided by the Lantern Folk is to ensure an easy transition from this life to the next and to be always protected. 

The End

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