Suddenly she felt the sharp pain of fire eating away into her flesh. Cauterized but gaping she felt a wound in her side. Panic in her eyes she turned to see Gulius loweing his hand and then turning to run to the border. Fighting against the physical pain as well as the emotional one, she pressed on. Only over time did she realize what he had done. While fighting her way through the underbrush she was certain that he had taken the insignia of both of the dead. What for she couldn’t tell, but it would surely ease his escape.

Resting underneath a large mushroom she inhaled the sweet perfume that was the spores. She had to both conserve her strength and wait out as long as she could. So Gulius could make it across the border before patrols are alerted that both Halus and Frydo were in fact dead and thus couldn’t travel across the country or the border. The sky that was visible through the mushroom caps and tree branches around her was a peaceful blue.

She stared at it.

Her love for Gulius would live on forever if the Fungus would reawaken during her lifetime and reabsorb her and the others into the fungal collective. All experiences would be shared and all thought would pool together into one single consciousness. Peacefully sighing she found the strength in that vision to get back up and continue on.

 

The clapping hooves of oxen made Eidoma quicken her pace, as it meant there had to be a road nearby. After a soft hilltop a clearing in the dense forest opened up, there were several small houses, but also many rows of racks facing the sun. Eidoma stopped dead in her tracks, she wanted to shout out for aid, but the racks were filled with people.

Half naked women, by the appearance of their skin and hair she deducted it must be floral women. Fungal growths had infected their breasts, forming a funnel that opened into a hose leading to a bottle on the ground behind them. They were all tied tightly to the rack, arms stretched to the sides, feets planted firmly into a nutrient water basin. Only after a few moments did she realize that their hands had been chopped off!

Reports by the general had told that their hands were deadly weapons, they had the strength to kill bears, or a fungal guard if the caught them off guard. Although she was too far off to see, she could tell that the stumps had been cauterized to prevent regrowth. Slowly twitching the fungi on the breasts of the captured floral women milked them of the nectar. Eidoma felt suddenly ill, but not from exhaustion or pain. She turned away in disgust. Hoping to catch a glimps of Gulius in the distance, hoping she could turn to him and tell him he was right about the florals, and that the empire had to seek other ways to secure their supply of nectar. Perhaps even hoping to set the place a blaze and run. But the forest behind her was empty. All the trees and many mushrooms provided no halt, nothing to cling her hope onto. Suddenly the sweet fumes of the spores had turned to foul stench, her back against a mushroom she slid down on the side of a mushroom. “Bring her.” the deep booming voice of a man echoed over the clearing, reaching her ears, for a moment she thought it was her he talked about, but immediately following to his command she heard the struggling screams of another woman. Still in shock and terrified Eidoma was incapable of turning away as she witnessed a floral woman being dragged before the man. He dipped his hands into a bucket. After his men had torn off the garments of the woman he smeared the contents of the bucket on her breasts, his dirty smirk would haunt Eidomas dreams for the rest of her life. “In a few days the growth will have covered them.” he explained, still shouting, probably to further intimidate her. “Place her on the scaffold inside to support optimal growth, and don’t forget the hands!” there was a lusty, dirty tone in his voice that made Eidoma sick in her stomach. She felt immensely glad she had not to drink nectar at all, diluted or otherwise.

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