Trial by Light
Chapter 1: Fears and Frustrations
"Don't you walk away from me! We're not done talking!" Pyrus heard the Lady Zera shout. She was infuriated and blamed him for her father's choice to endure his planet's "Trial by Fire." In truth, he felt bad for Zera and could understand why she was upset. However, he felt that it was not his place to interfere with the Ice king's wishes to undergo the trial. After all, the Vizier was right: if Cryos and the miner truly desired Planet Fire's allegiance, then this trial would demonstrate how badly they wanted it. As much as Pyrus understood Zera's fury, he was growing irritated with her persistent nagging.
"Get off my bridge! You don't belong here!" he shouted back. Pyrus knew that it was not proper to raise his voice to a lady, but he was young and still prone to outbursts of his own. He was a royal teenager under stress.
"...and my father doesn't belong inside that volcano!" Zera countered.
Pyrus was exasperated. He tried explaining to her that it was her father's choice to enter the scalding place, but she was too emotional to be rational.
"You're starting to get on my nerves..." he growled. He didn't know what else to say to the princess of Ice.
"Just starting?" Zera harped in surprise. "I must be slipping."
Unlike the females on Planet Fire, the ladies from Planet Ice were known to speak their minds. This one, in particular, was a stubborn one, and Pyrus just wanted to get away from her as quickly as possible. Taking his staff, he abruptly turned to walk away. However, in his vexation, he was careless, and forgot his father's warning about always having control over one's weapon. As he turned, he accidentally knocked the Ice princess off balance. As he watched her teetering over the edge, the fear in the pit of his stomach gnarled at him. Although he was irritated with Zera, the last thing he wanted was to send her to her death.
Everything happened as if it were happening in slow motion. As Zera's toppled over, Pyrus' reflexes kicked in, and he sprung to her aid. Grabbing her hand, he held on for dear life, fighting against the sting that occurred from the two elements colliding. It hurt, but he did not care. He could not let Zera fall.
However, it appeared that it was more difficult for the Ice princess to hold on. Although she tried, the pain was substantial, and her hand became slippery due to Pyrus' melting touch.
Pyrus wanted to shout to her to hold on, but fear paralyzed his lips. He was losing her. As she slipped from his right hand, he reached out with his left and grabbed her once more.
'Almost,' he thought. 'I've almost got her...'
He pulled, desperately trying to bring her back to safety. However, just as she almost reached the top, her hand slipped. He heard the princess cry in fear.
"No!" he shouted. However, it was too late. Lady Zera slipped through his fingers and fell towards the magma below. He watched in slow motion as she screamed and fell to her death.
"Zera!" Pyrus screamed. He could not believe that he had dropped her. It was his fault. He had knocked her off the bridge and failed to save her. As tears stung his face and evaporated from his fiery skin, he witnessed a darkness envelop his world. As he looked upward, he was shocked to see a behemoth of a planet engulf his world. The Beast Planet was here, and it was too late.
As the claw collided with the fiery world, explosions surrounded Pyrus, and he felt his body begin to disintegrate. He screamed in agony as his very being was engulfed in null matter...
Pyrus gasped as he shot up from his bed. He looked around to find himself within one of the more spacious rooms of the Aurora. He sighed in relief. It was just a dream.
He decided to get up and get a hot drink to calm his nerves. The dream was very realistic, and Pyrus was disturbed by the images he saw.
As he entered the ship's galley, he heard some noise from the nearby training facilities. Out of curiosity, Pyrus decided to see who was up so late. He was surprised to see none other than Lady Zera practicing with her staff and trying to strike the training bots that Tekla had made for her. It looked like Zera was struggling a bit; Pyrus knew why.
It was only six months ago that they had their final confrontation with the Beast Planet. When Blokk had them imprisoned within a cell on Rock, Pyrus and Zera provoked the Beast commander into slashing against the forcefield. The good news was that it had knocked Blokk out cold and released them from their prison. However, the bad news was that Zera was hurt badly. Even though Pyrus had taken the brunt of the blast, Zera was more susceptible to flame attacks. Her right leg was horribly injured and affected her balance quite a bit. Pyrus could see that it was this injury that was hindering her training.
"Can't sleep?" Pyrus asked, startling the Ice princess.
"Pyrus! I'm sorry... I didn't hear you come in. I guess I found myself distracted by these annoying training bots."
Pyrus gave a half-smile. Although the two were opposites in many ways, there were some similarities that they shared. For instance, when troubled, both had a tendency to get distracted and come up with excuses. He remembered when Graveheart caught him looking over the videos of the Beast Planet consuming Planet Fire.
"Don't get angry at the bots," he told her. "They're designed to help you improve."
Zera let out a frustrated sigh. "You're right. I guess I'm just frustrated by many things at the moment."
"Yeah? Like what?" Pyrus asked.
"Well, ever since Jade became the queen of Rock, I haven't had anyone to formally teach me, and my father no longer sees my training as being necessary, since we're no longer at war... but I love training. Nothing makes me feel more alive than practicing with this staff. All of my troubles disappear and I can just enjoy being free. You know what I mean?"
Pyrus did. This was another similarity that the two of them shared. Pyrus remembered training with his staff on his father's bridge. The Vizier thought it was a waste of time, but for Pyrus, it was one of his favourite pastimes. Zera understood this, and realized how special the place was to him.
"Yeah, I do," he responded.
"...and now..." Zera started. "Now I have this injury, which is slowing me down and making it very difficult to train."
Pyrus saw that Zera was not coping well with her injury. She was not used to being held back. Zera was always ambitious and determined. It was these two traits that both impressed and irritated Pyrus at the same time.
"It sounds to me like you could use a partner," Pyrus explained. "Training with technology will only take you so far. It doesn't understand your injury or your frustrations. I know you don't like hearing this, but it doesn't hurt to ask for help."
Zera looked down, feeling somewhat embarrassed. Apparently, Pyrus knew her quite well. She hated to be helpless, and she hated needing the help of others.
To relieve her of her embarrassment, Pyrus decided to share a story with the Ice princess.
"You know," he started. "I haven't told this to many people, but sometimes I feel very lost without the Vizier. Actually, I feel rather guilty."
Zera looked up, curious from Pyrus' admission.
"You see... there are time when I feel like I was a very spoiled prince. I used my royal status as a trump card to get what I wanted. The Vizier would always give me advice, and, sometimes, I spat in his face. Now that I am living without him... and without my family... I find myself desiring their help all the more... and now I don't have it."
Zera felt pangs of empathy for Pyrus, and saw the remorse embedded in his face. She hated seeing anyone suffer, especially her friends.
"...but sometimes you made the right decisions," she explained. "I mean, I know that the Vizier meant well, but if he had his way, there would have never been any Alliance."
Pyrus knew she was right, but he feared that she was missing his point.
"I know, I know..." he said. "...but what I'm trying to say is... you have help available to you. Take advantage of it while it's here. It's a blessing, and it will help you get stronger. Asking for help is not a weakness."
Zera smirked. "You're starting to sound like my father," she said.
Pyrus laughed. "Well, he knows what he's talking about," he explained. "King Cryos is one of the greatest men I've ever met."
Zera smiled at the response. She loved and respected her father greatly, and it was wonderful to hear others—especially those from other worlds—praise him so dearly.
"...and yes, I do need help," she admitted. "However, as I mentioned earlier, Jade is too busy now ruling Rock. Who is going to help me train now?"
Pyrus smirked, pulling out his own staff. "Mind if I join you?"
"Well, if you insist," Zera responded, smirking. Although she did not admit it, Pyrus could tell that she was grateful to have him as a partner. He was a talented staff fighter, and she knew that he would be able to assist her well in her training. Even more so, she knew that he was a loyal friend and would encourage her whenever she felt down, which had been quite often ever since her injury.
As they touched their staffs to begin the training, Pyrus thought about the disturbing dream that he had awoken from. He considered telling Zera, but knew that she had enough on her plate at the moment. He just hoped that there was nothing more to this dream.