All Herah could do was lay on the ground barely able to form a thought and completely unable to see, while a feeling of confusion began to join her shame and helplessness. Her confusion was only multiplied when the sound of someone running into the clearing greeted her ears.
“Finally I made it here!” Max’s voice blessed Herah’s ears as the youngling began to cry harder with an even greater sense of shame building up, “What the fuck was that shouting abo- Herah! What the fuck happened to yo-” Max paused as if noticing something before speaking in a sickly tone, “Are those your breast? Mmmph! BLEEEHHH!”
Herah could only let out another whimper as the sound of Max emptying her stomach somewhere on the ground entered her ears. This was soon followed up by the sound of Max dry heaving reaching Herah which also made the youngling feel even more ashamed. Herah’s shame pretty much tripled when her ears picked up on the sound of someone burrowing up from the ground a few feet away from her. A second later, the sound of burrowing became the sound of the ground breaking open which was immediately followed up by the sound of a soft, childlike voice.
“Hey Alex, I finished making the tunnels and- OH MY GODS! What happened to you Herah!?” Owen paused, Herah knowing where his focus most likely went, before continuing sounding much sicker. “Are those your- Mmmph! BLEEEHHH!”
Herah once again whimpered and began to cry harder as Owen retched onto the ground near her before joining Max in her dry heaving.
“Great. Just fucking great.” Herah heard Alex say, clearly irritated, “Everyone is here now. Somehow.”
Herah then felt herself become encased within Jeffery’s Presence, a soothing feeling overcoming all of her physical pain which restored Herah’s connection to her flame, allowed for the youngling to finally collect her thoughts, and for her vision to return to normal.
The first thing to greet Herah’s sights was the cloudless sky and the red star that bore down on Bizzare in the dead center of it. Herah then forced herself up into a sitting position so as to look down at herself and see the damage.
Herah couldn’t help but wince at the sight that greeted her.
The entire top outer layer of Herah’s torso had melted away, leaving the inside organs exposed to the environment. Herah’s three-chambered heart was beating seemingly without a care, and her flame was red and burning strongly while her lungs took in air without too much of an issue. Taking in a deep breath, Herah flared her flame and turned it violet before her entire body was engulfed in the same colored fire. A few seconds later, Herah’s breast were restored and all pain that had been felt was completely gone.
Now done with the observation of her own body, Herah looked around herself. A sense of revulsion filled her as her eyes went to an area a few inches to her left. Her original breast were there and made for a grotesque sight. Both had merged into a single disgusting, gooey mess that was steadily losing its shape and still giving off steam. Not too far away from her breast were her shirt and bra, now stained with liquefied flesh and magma. Herah frowned at the pounds of fat, bemoaning their condition in her mind. Within about a foot radius around Herah was a small pool of magma that was burning away at the grass and ground it touched. Making a note to clean that up, Herah then directed her attention to the others in the clearing.
First, Herah’s eyes landed on Owen. The blue tunic and hat wearing gnome was standing, as Herah had figured, a few feet to her left with a freshly dug up hole that had just recently had vomit deposited into it. Wrinkling her nose at the twin smells, Herah noted that Owen had finished dry heaving at this point and now gave her both an extremely worried and confused stare.
“What happened to you? And,” Owen subtly pointed towards Max, “Is she okay now?”
Herah took a deep breath before letting out a sigh and allowing for a saddened look to come across her face. Looking down and away from Owen, Herah somberly answered his question.
“Max is better now, and… Alex happened, is all I will say.”
Looking back up at Owen, Herah found the gnome frowning for a second before taking his hat off of his head and depositing a piece of platinum the size of his fist onto the ground. Grabbing the metal in both of his hands, Owen tossed the platinum to Herah and tossed his hat back on. Herah gave Owen a muted thanks before chewing on her new snack and turning to find Max. Herah found Max standing of a couple feet behind Owen, still dry heaving over her pool of vomit.
“Are you okay Max?”
Herah watched as Max suddenly stopped mid heave before turning towards her with a disbelieving look on her face. Max raised a finger to her chest, and begin to speak sounding absolutely aghast at Herah’s question.
“Am I ok? Am I OK!? Herah I should be asking you that! I’m perfectly fucking fine, minus the even emptier stomach than earlier. Please don’t ask how I feel, I’m not going to even verbalize it to you right now. You can check for yourself.” Max turned to her brother with the same wide smile that was on his face earlier upon hers, “Somebody else, however, I feel needs to hear my words to get how I’m feeling.”
Before Herah could say another word to Max, the human wiped her mouth and stomped over to her twin. Herah mentally called forward her emotional link to Max which had been pushed to the back of her mind.
‘Oh shit! That’s how you feel. What- What do I even call this?’
‘No, that’s too weak.’
‘Nah, still lacks strength’
‘Mmmhh? How to describe it, how to describe i- Wait a minute.’
Herah pondered the word for a second before coming to a conclusion.
‘That’ll do. That’s the perfect word to use.’
With those finishing thoughts, Herah settled on how to describe Max’s current feelings at the moment.
An overwhelming feeling of wrath was what Herah felt from Max, the emotion was so potent, in fact, that Herah was unable to pick up even the tiniest hint of any other feelings through their connection with each other.
“What. The. Fuck. Is wrong with you?” Herah heard Max say, sounding nowhere close to as angry as her feelings clearly showed her to be.
Herah’s head whipped towards her right where Jeffery, Alex, and now Max were situated. Herah’s eyes first landed on Jeffery, who was floating just in front of Max while rotating at such a high speed that their image appeared static in Herah’s eyes. Herah quickly averted her attention away from Jeffery, however, as her shame increased ten fold and her pride took a devastating blow. Herah’s eyes landed on Max, who had lost her smile and replaced it with a contempt riddled frown.
“Nothing much,” Alex replied nonchalantly, his previous annoyance nowhere to be found, “Just a broken arm, a few broken ribs, and some bruises.”
Herah looked towards Alex and felt the tiniest fractions of satisfaction at his condition. Alex now laid against a redwood tree that was marked by an almost human-sized crater, sitting just beneath it. Alex was cradling his right arm with his left, which was the sight that drew Herah’s eyes first. Alex’s right arm was now bent in the wrong direction and was wrangled to the point that much of its flesh was marred by the many shards of bone that jutted out of it every which way. Even with the bones disfiguring the skin so severely, Herah was able to see that much of it now looked blue and dark purple. Herah moved her eyes to his head and found the same colors around his left eye which had now swollen shut. A bit of blood trickled from the left corner of his mouth and down his chin. Yet even with all of this damage, Alex looked more annoyed, if anything else, by his current circumstance.
“That’s is not what I meant,” Max told Alex through gritted teeth, her frown having turned into a scowl.
“Then what do you mean, dear sister?”
“I mean why would you do that to Herah?”
“I wanted to get a point across.” Alex laid his gaze upon Herah with a wide smile on his face, causing the youngling to unconsciously flinch which elicited a chuckle from Alex, “I think the message got through.”
Max looked back at Herah, surely having felt her spike of fear, before turning back to her brother and kicking him in the throat.
“AACK! Dammit Max! I more hurt by the sight of your uncovered crotch than I am by your kick.”
Max kicked Alex in the throat again.
“Oh god. That image will stay with me forever.”
“What did you do to her!?”
“I used the magma in her tits to melt them and then gave her a few choice words.”
“Why did I feel such a sudden spike of fear from Herah when you smiled at her?!”
“Because she now understands that going against me in any form or shape will end with her as she was not too long ago. Helpless and ashamed.”
Max’s wrath spike tremendously through her link with Herah before the human grabbed her brother by the scruff of his jacket and lifted him up into a standing position. Once there, Max brought her head back and slammed it into her brothers face.
Herah felt a tiny bit of delight as the sound of Alex’s nose breaking filled the clearing.
“Max please stop, you sh-”
Max turned towards Owen with a fierce glare and snarl, immediately shutting the gnome up. Turning back to Alex, Max found her brother giving her a slightly annoyed glare. Alex reached up to poke his nose with his left hand and winced slightly before speaking in a slightly nasally voice.
“I don’t think the damage to my nose is that bad.”
Max headbutted her brother again.
“Nevermind, it’s destroyed.”
“Dammit Alex! Why the hell would you do something like this to Herah!?”
“I already answered that one sis, try again.”
“Alex, me and you both know that you only do shit like this when you believe a problem to be too big to be left festering. Simply showing Herah her place wouldn’t ever get this type of reaction from you.”
Alex’s annoyed glare changed into a more redrawn and serious expression as his gaze shifted away from his sister. When Alex spoke next, his words came out cold and harsh.
“What makes you think that putting someone as problematic as Herah in their place wouldn’t solicit such a response from me?” Alex turned to look at Herah and glared straight through her, “I merely intended to make sure history didn’t repeat itself.”
“What do you mean history repeats itse-”
Herah watched Max pause mid-sentence as a feeling of realization flowed through their link together. This realization then morphed into a deluge of emotions as feelings of guilt, disbelief, disgust, and pain became all Herah could feel from Max.
That was until all these emotions were overtaken by a single new one, one Herah never expected could be directed at Alex from Max.
‘Malice. Such strong and earnest malice. What the ash is Alex talking about? And why does it piss you off that much Max?’
Max didn’t say another word, instead, Max allowed her brother to stand on his own before turning away from him and walking a fair distance away. Drawing her deck of cards from her pocket, Max tossed them high into the air.
All 52 cards became suspended in the air, before suddenly zooming towards Alex. Once the cards reached Alex, they began encircling his body at high speeds just far enough away to not cut him. Max turned back to face her brother with a cold and haughty look on her face that caused him to flinch much like Herah had earlier. In fact, pretty much everyone in the clearing had flinched when Max had turned back to face Alex.
“Alex,” Max began, her malice poisoning the words that left her mouth, “Are you telling me that the reason that you did such a horrid, disgusting, downright sadistic thing to someone who is supposed to be our ally, someone who just finished doing us both a big favor, my friend, is because you didn’t want to take any chance of Herah ending up like Artemis, Isis, or Hel?”
Max’s eyes narrowed at Alex, who returned her stare with an apathetic one.
“You don’t even sound like you regret what you did.”
“Because I don’t.”
Herah watched in complete and total silence as Max nodded at her brother’s words. Max then made all 52 cards rotating Alex freeze before closing her eyes.
Alex let out a pained grunt as his body was slammed and pinned to the damaged tree behind him by four cards through each of his pants legs and by the sides of his jacket.
Alex closed an eye in pain as three cards struck either of his legs, soaking his jeans in blood.
Alex coughed up a bit of blood as three cards burrowed into his right arm and a single one struck him in his liver.
“SON OF A BITCH!”
Herah actually winced again, when one more card shot through Alex’s right eye while also making note of a thud made by Owen.
With the last hit, Max marched up to her now pinned brother and began shouting at him even more.
“HAVE YOU LOST YOUR GODDAMN MIND!?”
“Will you stop with the smartassery and just give me a straight answer!?”
Alex gave his sister a one-eyed glare before scoffing and looking away, which caused Max to punch him in the stomach.
“ANSWER ME GODDAMMIT!
Herah suddenly felt a fur covered appear on her back and wrap its long legs and arms around her torso. Herah bristled at the feeling of the fur on her sensitive nerves and growled slightly at the feeling of the creature’s breath touching her left cheek.
“It’s Norwedammit, when will my creations call me th-”
Max turned away from her brother and towards Herah and Norwe the Sloth with a murderous look on her face.
“SHUT THE FUCK UP NORWE! I DON’T FEEL LIKE DEALING WITH YOUR BULLSHIT RIGHT NOW!”
“Fufufufufufufu,” Norwe the Sloth moved one of his arms to tap at his mouth, “I just love it when my creations talk dirty to me.”
“Norwe, get the fuck off of me,” Herah told the Maker Sloth, wide eyed and feeling quite a bit disturbed.
“Ok, I’ll leave you guys to it.” And with those words, Norwe the Sloth disappeared from the clearing.
With that distraction now gone, Herah redirected her attention to Max and Alex. Max now had the rest of her cards floating behind her, looking like they were standby, while glaring at her brother with an expectant expression upon her face. Alex just stared back at Max with what a defiant glint to his eye. After a few seconds of the two just staring at each other, Max impaled Alex through his left hand with a card which got another groan of pain from him.
“What you did was completely unacceptable!”
“I disagree,” Alex’s sole eye narrowed, “We can’t afford to have any dissonance within our group. And Herah has shown she doesn’t exactly care for me being the leader.”
“I wonder why she might feel that way!?” Max asked her brother in faux confusion, “I see no reason at all for Herah to not want you as our leader!”
“Sarcasm is unbefitting of you, sis.”
“Leadership is unbefitting of you, bro!”
“I was merely quelling the ranks.”
“In one of the most ineffective ways possible! Do you want a self-fulfilling prophecy on your hands!?”
“The hell are you talking about?” Alex asked Max, a bit of anger finally being shown, “I’ve thoroughly crushed any chance of Herah purposely making trouble for you or me.”
Another of Max’s card burrowed into Alex, this time in one of his kidneys.
“Don’t you fucking dare act like that you were doing this for me! And just because you knock someone down, that doesn’t mean they won’t get back up” Max rubbed her head while letting out a sigh of frustration, “Alex, I can understand why you’re so hostile towards Herah, especially now. But that doesn’t change the fact that right now, we need to be a team. And that doesn’t just mean we have to grit our teeth and work together, we have to be able to treat each other with respect and some semblance of friendliness.”
“Fat chance of that occurring between me and her. We’ve been here before sis, and I’d rather not take the chance of another knife in my back. So I decided to make her unwilling to even pick it up.”
Herah watched as Max looked down and shoved both of her hands into her hair, making it an even bigger mess than before. Looking back up at her brother, Max let out another angry sigh before speaking.
“Fear is not the best method for preventing betrayal, especially with our current predicament! If you really want to avoid history repeating itself then why don’t you try to do something you’ve never done before with the other three?”
“Kill her before she tries to kill me? I’m looking to not die, sis, that’s is very much counterproductive.”
Max punched Alex in the throat.
“No asshole! I meant why don’t you try to befriend her.”
Herah felt a flash of surprise and Déjà Vu, as both herself and Alex gave Max bewildered stares.
‘Did- Did dad tell Max of my fears? Or did dad just mention something about becoming friends being the solution to both of our problems?’ Herah’s eyes looked to side as another thought came to her, ‘Or did Max just think of this on her own?’
“Sis, I’m pretty sure that bridge was burnt very, very recently.” Alex spoke while blinking at Max with a look of confusion still on his face.
“Why don’t we ask Herah?” Max responded before turning to Herah and winking at her.
‘That sadly confirms nothing.’
Alex turned to look at Herah as well and stared at her with an expression that just told Herah that the human thought there was no chance of her saying yes.
‘Well, Alex is pretty right to assume that I want nothing to do with him right now.’ Herah began to shake and felt rage come to her mind, before allowing it to fade and for a feeling of worry to appear, “But then again, Max did just hand me a golden opportunity to at least try to alleviate my now very much confirmed fears. But still,’ Herah reached up to her bare chest, ‘Am I just supposed to forgive and forget about what just happened?”
‘Bien sûr que pas mon enfant.’ A familiar harmonious, gentle voice rung throughout Herah’s head, as Herah began to feel heat in her throat that wasn’t from her fire.
Herah’s eyes widened in shock before the youngling quickly bowed and responded to the foreign thoughts with glee and zealousness.
‘Mistress you humble me with your contact, how may I help you?’
La Flamme, the mother of the Cendruex, Cendre, and Couver. The now mostly shunned goddess of the Cendruex. A direct descendant of Norwe. The being Herah considered her mistress.
They were now speaking to her.
‘Ne vous inquiétez pas de la façon dont vous pourriez m’aider, je cherche à vous conseiller.’
‘Well what should I do then?’
‘Je ne vous dirai pas quoi faire, mais je vais vous dire ceci Alex, l’homme, a agi plus de peur que de haine envers vous.’
‘I can see where you’re coming from on that front. Alex talks like I remind him of those three Max mentioned.’
‘Et tout en disant que oui ne soulagera pas ses soupçons, cela pourrait créer un sentiment de doute dans son esprit.’
‘True enough, I know what I will do. Thank you mistress, and may your flame ever burn eternally.’
‘Et que le vôtre.’
And with those words, Herah felt the presence of La Flamme leave her head and for her throat to cool down.
Herah then rose from her bow and turned a steely glare onto Alex, who now stared at her in confusion.
‘Probably because I bowed out of nowhere and for seemingly no reason.’
Herah then took a deep breath and spoke.
“I am willing to try if you are Alex.”
Herah felt a spike of happiness emitt from Max as a smile came to the human’s face. Turning back to her still pinned brother, Max began speaking to him cheerfully.
“See, the offer is there for you to take. So why don’t you just apologize for what you did and I’ll get you down from there and healed in a jiff-”