Fungal Halo

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A Forest's Welcome

One last step, and the broken creature who was once a demon arrives at their destination.

It must be so much easier, they think, for an angel to simply fall. A demon’s slow trudge upward from the Infernal Demesnes is a rather more manual process.

Horns broken off, games of status and power left behind, they set foot in a new plane altogether.

Not the pits of black shadow and red hot blood below, not the white and gold of the realms above, this place of blue and green evokes a kindness unknown in heaven and hell.

It’s a good place to rest, they think, for perhaps a few decades.

Afterward, they’ll have to consider where they can go and what people will accept a deeply fractured ex-demon among them. But for now, peaceful rest will suffice.

They lie down beneath the branches of an ancient oak, and they fall asleep, assuming the forest condones their presence.

They never asked the forest, of course, nor would they know how if the thought occurred to them first.

It is not a place known to countenance outsiders, but its guardians have been known to make the occasional exception.

One in particular sees something of a kindred spirit in this exile.

The sensation of being watched awakens the ex-demon early with an anxious prickle at the spine. They find they are trapped in place, unable to move a limb, as a tangle of vines wraps them tightly.

A tall figure looms above, wings and halo limned by a beam of bright sunlight.

An angel? Blinking until their eyes adjust to the glare, they see… No. There’s something wrong with it.

A wreath of mushrooms growing from a mossy halo; thin, insectoid wings; four dark eyes; and far too many teeth—this thing is more an oversized fairy than a kind of angel.

Its smaller (more appropriately sized) forest fairy kindred flutter in a chaotic cloud of activity, peering at the ex-demon with the same curious fascination as the large one while they gather small sticks and flowers and leaves and other treasures in the area.

A demon should struggle, should fight, should rage at the very thought of being bound and helpless and under the power of creatures so beautiful and alien, but…

They aren’t a demon, are they? Not anymore.

Manually, they unclench their muscles from their reactive tension. They stare into the warm embers hidden deeply in the large fairy’s black eyes, and they do their best to wordlessly articulate a pathetic lifetime of lonely dissatisfaction.

Somehow, it seems to understand.

The creatures collaborate, playfully decorating their captive—modest branches tied to horn-stubs, leaves woven into hair, flowers tucked beneath claws, seeds fed into a hungry mouth, lines drawn in strange inks—for hours that bleed into days.

Roots sink into infernal flesh, a pressure that builds into bloody pain and sharp delirium, twisting their senses and demanding incoherent bursts of babbled language, but it’s ultimately a kind of pain that lulls the mind into rest.

When they awaken, the seasons have shifted, the sun’s angle has moved. They feel in their bones that it’s early spring, a season of awakening, filling them with…

No, they don’t have the language.Language itself was built by a people who never knew these bright new senses.

The vines respond to a gentle request for release, unwinding with a courteous twist. The forest’s fairy guardians watch in rapt attention as the former demon stirs, as wooden limbs help them rise to greet their new family and sing with them in celebration.

The other trees also sing in joyous celebration of the season, and there are no longer any outsiders present in these woods.