Smack Talk: "There's a chain of command here, Kelesk. An order. Without order we'd be nothing more than mere beasts tearing chunks of meat off the bones of our kill. And those who.. oppose that order, the bits of grit in the cogs of existence, will not be tolerated.
You will fight to the best of three rounds. The venue is a small village in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust. The survivors are seeking water any which way they can, and the powerful walk over the weak. Will you be their savior, or are you there to jack their water?
This one was a long time coming. Many reasons, Uni-Work and such, but mostly it comes down to one thing. Giving you a challenge, Kelesk. I've done my very best.
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A night unlike any in the age of men has fallen. With it comes dark - a dark so consistent, so visceral, that it clings to the land like treacle. Dripping down the walls of those few buildings that remain standing. Watch. Watch as it slips inside a window, creeping across a child's discarded blanket, reaching out to one solitary lamp.
The lamp flickers - once, twice, thrice - then fails. Darkness attacks!
In the air above a battle rages. Strands of energy, miles in length and no wider than a hair, dash against each other in a rising mushroom of cloud. Winds, both natural and unnatural, bring odd shapes to the air. Somewhere, lurking, the moon casts a malevolent glow. A broken, sickly moon leering upon the battle-field.
A change of the wind. A flash of crimson. Two shapes streaming in opposite directions from the tower of cloud and energy, leaving tails of broken air behind them. The shapes slow, hesitating as twin auras - one twisted and unreal, one brilliant and purple - flare into existence. The world pauses as two figures - so much like men, but so much more - regard each other.
A moment where fate hangs.
They move. They burn. They meet.
The cloud, the energy, the night is ripped asunder. Evil shapes appear in the light that rises between them. The two figures become one grappling form, for a moment, then a cry fills the dead night. And one figure is falling. Failing. Losing the fight.
The figure lands, the cracked earth of Mount Noobus giving way around him, and one bloody arm rises up from the darkness. All the strength is gone. All the determination has fled. He is a boy once more, a boy who fears the dark, and before him, landing with a muted cl-click the dark arrives.
The End draws near. A thousand little wounds smoking across dead skin, eyes rolled back to infinite white, the twisted metal of a broken bike gripping to the worn, creaking leather of his jacket. Creaking like a crypt door. Around his fists, fists great enough to hold the world in all its splendor, the dead collect. And scream for release.
And, before the Reaper, crouches a boy. Once a warrior. Once a Knight. He whimpers and cringes, the bruises and wounds that twist as he shuffles further backwards into the dirt, bringing new relief to the terror that possesses him. He has forgotten his teacher. Forgotten his friends. Let everything of meaning slip away in the face of.. inevitability.
The boy holds up his weapon, in weak protest - he could no more wield the blade than turn back time or breath the ocean depths - rather than defiance, and pleads. Pleads with the coming end.
"Not me.. Please, not yet.."
The monster closes a hand over his and, with infinite compassion, cripples the hand and shatters the weapon clutched within it. Dark, sombre, lifeless eyes compel the man through his pain and, as the Reaper draws him close, become the man's everything.
Two words it whispers into his ear. Two words that he repeats, his voice twisted between shame and relief, as the dark takes him.
"Not yet," spoke Engar, then he was gone.
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Starting, body bounced from side to side as his ride trundled along the broken road, Engar sat up straight and breathed deep on that arid, tasteless air. Dead air. Everything was dead in the Gap. He settled back into his seat without another word, shielding his eyes under his broad-brimmed hat, hunched up under a thick poncho, and tried to find that calm.
"You say some'et?!"
Tilting his head to the side, Engar allowed an eye to peer under the brim of his hat and study his companion for a moment. Not that he needed to look. The old man, his over-weight body crammed into a mesh-vest and brown shorts, a peaked cap tucked down to protect him from the glare, staring intently along the road as though he could will his journey shorter, was familiar.
"'Nother bad dream, eh?!"
Engar settled back without answering. Very familiar.
"You know what? No, course you don't! You don't know nought, not one damn thing!"
Oakley, Marvin Oakley, slipped gears with practised ease as a rise came into view. Everything was in view in the Gap. Nothing but cracked and useless plains as far as the eye could see. Nothing would grow there, not for the past ten years, and still you'd find the occasional coot who was sure he'd get his crop in.
They had a lot of hope in the Gap. Hopes a great thing when you've got nothing else.
"Five years we're doin' this run, every damned year He sends - may his pickled arse rot off with sores - and you ain't never said five words! Five blessed words! We drive. They come. You fight. We drive. They come. You fight! And nothin'!"
Ride with a man for five years, you end up being able to read him with nothing more than the suggestion of sounds. The rustle of his shorts as he sits straighter. The pop of an arm rising from the sticky leather of its rest. The swish of a display panel popping up. Oakley checked on the condition of the five tankers we were dragging - special care to the temperature in this hot July day - then snapped the display back in place and grunted, slipping back into a routine almost as familiar as his pudgy face.
"Don't think I don't hear things, Mud! Heh, those slime-balls 've been makin' offers to you since the first week! Big offers! Big bucks! And what've I got to give you? The scant little I skim off the top of all our losses? That I'm skimmin' off the 'piss in the wind' the town gives me?!"
He started it the first ride after he heard about the offers. Quietly. Ready to die, if that's what Engar had decided, but not cowed. He'd make that run with me or without me but he stopped for no man on Forumscant.
"I got me a daughter growin' up there! I got me a family to look out for! You ain't got nothin', not love nor money, bindin' yah to this hell-hole!"
And then again, the next week. Again and again. The mantra of their travel. As reliable as the attacks.
"Why, Mud?" 'My name is Mud, I said, and so it was.' "Why do this? What've you got to prove? What do you want?!"
Engar tipped his hat back and, beneath Oakley's startled glance, breathed deeply. Without even turning he gripped the door handle on his side.
He opened the door, streams of dead air bringing a temporary cool to the sweltering cab, and, gripping a rung on the back of the truck, was half way out the door when Oakley spoke up.
"You usually say "I'll be back-"
Pausing, eyes narrowed against the wind, Engar met his employers gaze for a moment. There was an odd taste to the world that day. An odd feel to reality. As though it were stretched taught, no thicker than a membrane, and any jolt would tear through. Into the void beyond. He could still remember the void. He could still here it tolling in the dark chambers of memory.
Oakley turned back to the road. His voice was level, no quaver betraying whatever emotion he held inside.
"But you won't.. Not today. You won't."
Engar started to speak.. then paused and, in one slight twist, felt a smile strain across an unshaven jaw.
Then he was gone, swinging by his one arm, out of the cabin and into the brilliant light of seemingly perpetual day.
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Hat wedged tight across his brow, Engar swung upwards with practised ease and wary eyes fixed on the land behind them. Releasing the rung he allowed himself to soar, for a moment, then twisted into a neat little somersault. He landed hard on the roof of the truck's cabin, one hand placed against the near-blistering metal, and grinned against the pain.
The truck was a behemoth in its own right. Twenty feet long, with a triple-plated hull coated in old dents and nicks, the greater part of its mass was taken up by a massive engine rigged up between the cabin and the cargo.
The cargo. They called that sort of rig a 'Road-Train', back in the day, but even Oakley conceded that no one ever thought there'd be a train like they ran through the Gap. Eight trailers long, each one thirty feet in length and cylindrical up to a flat top, riding on great obsidian wheels that brought up clouds of tainted earth and dust.
They were not the only clouds on the horizon.
In the distance, rising up from both sides of rig, they came. Nothing but clouds from where Engar rested, crouched against the wind, but growing closer. The gleam of broken headlights and rising antenna. The attack was nearing.
Still, there was that taste to the air. Something was different.
Engar shook it off. And fell down to his haunches.
'Belts', he thought as he pressed his hand against a panel built into the cabin roof, 'No one ever tells you about the belts..'
The panel slid open and from it he drew his weaponry. One, dancing lethally in the breeze, clipped into a holster he slipped over his head and under his poncho, letting it swing against his back with the blades pointing away. A belt, custom built, was pulled out and, with a deft flick, snapped around his waist - he caught the buckle with the other end of the belt and clipped it together. His second weapon was pulled free and slid into place.
For years he had toyed with the idea of a gun. A pistol. A revolver. Hell, a grenade launcher. It wasn't just Oakley's concerns over the cargo that held him back, Engar was at least that confident of his abilities, but something else in the recess of memory. As though surrendering to that impulse would forever separate the man he was from the boy he had been. The chasm between the two was large enough already.
So Engar stood up and waited. But not for long.
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Steaming, putrid, wrecks of machinery. Jeeps and Pick-ups and Convertibles, four on one side, five on the other, with only a vague resemblance to their original design. Brown and black, from rust and fire, with dents and holes that Engar looked upon with not a little pride. No hood, no window, no scrap of metal remained unbroken or secure.
And from every place they could stand and find grip, a mercenary screamed.
There was no point trying to out-run them, there never was. The rig could pull fifty safely and would probably run up to seventy whenever they felt like a quick death. The mercs could reach a hundred, though the plains were unreliable for driving so they rarely peaked sixty, and none of them were dragging a train. So they didn't bother trying.
The cars came within range and, without any discernible signal from where Engar stood, they fired. On each car there was a cannon with which they fired their only projectile weapon; grappling hooks. They soared for a moment, triangular plates leading sleek steel rope, then magnetic hooks were latching onto the trailers from every side.
The ropes were fastened to the cars and, brandishing their varied weaponry, the first wave snapped hand-held engines across those ropes. With the press of a button they were drawn up the ropes, soaring through the air, and, as they reached the trailers, flicked themselves around the rope, swinging above them and letting the engines go in order to land securely along all eight trailers.
Nine men but Engar was only looking at one of them, rising in the centre. The others were holding axes, machetes, and, in one notable exception, a katar. This one held a sabre and, as Engar knew only too well, he knew how to use it. One gruesome scar ran down the side of his face, partly hidden behind an old, bloodstained bandanna that covered an empty eye-socket, and it was not without irony that he considered his enemy, the one-eyed bandit, set against him, the one-armed stranger.
"Dale," offered Engar, crouching slightly as he drew a long, sharp rapier and extended it towards his enemies. "You're late."
"Mudd," returned Dale with a curt nod, "Didn't mean to keep you waiting."
Engar shrugged and smiled. Dale spat off to the side and, taking that as a single the eight others moved as one, rushing up towards him.
The trailers were a bad place to fight. Only three men could stand abreast, much less run, and the trailers were always shuddering. The wind was constant, but twisting, and any miss-step would send them over the side. A landing at fifty miles an hour could kill a man right out and, over the years, it often had.
But the mercenaries didn't have much of a choice. They couldn't stop the truck without risking the cargo. They couldn't threaten Engar or Oakley with fire-arms without risking the cargo. Transporting such valuable goods was its own defence.
So they came. The first three arrived, half-stumbling as their weapons came down, and you had to laugh. Rookies. Engar stepped back sharply, two axes and one large knife hacking through thin air, then leaned forwards and stabbed. He caught one merc, the furthermost on the right, in the tendon of his left leg, just below the thigh, and he stumbled, axe falling away. The other two hadn't completed another step before Engar drew the blade back and, rising from a crouch, sliced the middle merc across the face. Even as he cried out Engar spun, twirling through the air once before planting a foot in the chest of the merc on the left, sending him reeling backwards into next row of three.
Moving closer as he landed, Engar kicked down on the head of the first fallen and, as he was thrown over the side, smashed the hilt of his rapier into the blinded other who tumbled over the opposite side. Only one of the second row managed to pull himself free in time to meet Engar, gripping in his hand the dual bladed katar with which he parried Engar's rapier, and came within a hair of landing a punch. Engar ducked the blow and, without missing a step, smashed his rising head into the mercenary's neck, sending him gagging towards the plains.
Even as the man he had kicked cried out, his ribs bruised or broken, Engar turned upon him and the two he had bowled over. They took one look at him, grinning, hat tilted forwards, poncho flapping in the wind, and as one man staggered off the trailer. He snorted and, glancing to his right, raised an eyebrow at his three remaining opponents.
"So hard to find good help," murmured Dale over the gale, with a slight shrug.
The last three darted forwards, Dale just a step behind the other two, and as they brought their axes around from both sides, he stabbed forwards with his sabre. Two axes coming down. One sword rising up. Time.. slowed.
'No' came the answer, from the boy of before the Fall. 'You're picking up speed'
With a snap the rapier was flicked into the air and, feeling something crackle through his fingertips that he had almost forgotten, Engar moved. He ducked flat, twirling with his right leg sweeping the first two into the air, then, as both spun upwards and Dale started, his one eye beginning to widen, Engar rose. Moving on an instinct so old it was ingrained he launched himself upwards, a foot catching one in the stomach and, launching of him, flipped into a backwards somersault to smash his other foot into the other merc.
He landed stumbling, two trailers behind Dale, and his one hand extended to catch the rapier by the hilt. Dale turned slowly, and now he knew that it was real time, and shuddered as both men landed in his view, crumpled garbage in the plains.
"Where the hell did that come from?"
Engar tried to shrug. How long had it been since he had done anything like that? How long had it been since he dared? What the hell was happening to him? What was it about today? Something was in the air. But he couldn't stop yet.
So he slid the sword into its sheath with a click and slipped a hand behind his back.
"Just a minute.."
From there he drew, spinning already, the three-pronged, bladed boomerang. One slight hole at its very centre, just big enough for his hand, gave him a hold as it moved faster and faster. Lethal blades sparkling in the sunlight. Dale glanced away, disgusted, and then he let it fly. Straight and true, it sliced through rope after rope like cutting through butter - tw-tw-tw-twang - then the boomerang twisted sideways and.. on an impulse, Engar extended his hand. The boomerang span and, instead of arcing back towards him, slipped around Dale and - tw-tw-tw-tw-twang - cut through the rest.
Then Engar caught it and, with an old smirk, gave it a spin and slipped it back underneath his poncho.
He drew his sword and, moving slowly, walked towards Dale.
"I thought it'd be nice," spoke Engar, feeling his voice break and croak, "For us to finish this by our lonesome."
"You know, that's the longest sentence I've ever heard come out of your mouth."
"And this," said Engar, "Is the last."
The two met, swords clashing and sparking, bodies spinning and twisting, and striving to survive. Dale was good. Quick, intelligent, with a talent for the sword. But Engar was Engar, and that was something not even a decade could change. Dale made a miss-step and, blade skittering away as Engar parried, glanced up at his opponent. Seeing him, for the first time, as he might have been without the years and the clothes and the dirt. Seeing the warrior within.
Dale had time to sigh, then Engar brought his hand around and sent him spiralling backwards to the harsh ground below. He spun his rapier lazily, then slid it back into its sheath and turned back towards the cab. Already the cars were falling back. They'd pick Dale up, and anyone else who survived the fall, and regroup for next months little trip.
They'd never taken a beating like that, though. He hadn't pushed himself in years, hadn't let the power within show, and up until the fight began he had been all but sure that it had dwindled. Along with the abilities of his arm and his control of the Force.
'What is it about today?'
He looked past the trailers. Past the cabin. Past the glare of the sun. And saw what it was.
No time to warn Oakley. No time to reach the emergency break. He could only act.
So he reached out, his mind once again accustoming itself to that inner ability, and found a special handle enclosed beneath the panel that held his weapons. A very special handle. The emergency break. He felt it, picturing an innumerable collection of spectral fingers closing around it, hooking his mind to it, feeling the spirit of the metal touch the spirit of his mind.. and.. pulled!
For so long - at least a second - it didn't move. Then it did. As the release was opened an electrical current snapped through the truck and into every trailer faster than even Engar could travel. The one command. Stop. From fifty the road train ground to a halt and, caught off guard, Engar was thrown off his feet.
He landed sprawled at the end of his trailer, wrapped around the ladder that led down between them, and, as every breath of air left his lungs, two things began to happen. His sword began to slide out of its sheath and his hat began to slip off its head.
Being one-handed could be a pain.
He pressed his hat back against his head but, even with his reflexes, the sword was gone. It landed directly under the trailers wheels and, for a split-second, held all that weight. He didn't need to see it to know his weapon was gone.
After a minute of the squealing and grinding the entire train came to a grudging halt and then, still groggy, Engar managed to find his way back to the cabin. Quick enough to hear the full force of Oakley's cursing and swearing on the matter of one-armed bruisers. He opened the door and, leaning inside as he balanced on the step, wasted no time.
Oakley's rant tapered out, after a moment, then Engar continued.
"We've got problems. Look ahead."
So Oakley did and there, as the dust clouds began to settle, the old man made out something not more than twenty feet in front of them. It could have been five miles in front of them before they started to slow.
Here, with no warning, the landscape changed. Pillars and spires of rock lunged out where the road should have been. Boulders of twisted and unnatural formation spread out across the road. It was impossible to see past it as, in places, it blocked out the horizon. It was..
"Chaos," muttered the old man, not appearing to notice Engar's shock. "What is it?"
"Trouble," Engar spat against the tainted earth. It spread amongst the dust where it landed, blood red. "And in our road."
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Leaving Oakley by the rig, working feverishly to hook Doris in place, Engar moved into the chaos. There was a path, of sorts, amongst the rising pillars. Narrow, jagged, but a path nonetheless. He didn't trust it, of course. He knew when he was being herded. Moving slowly, his lone hand extending before him, Engar slipped momentarily into the shadow and - time
- for a moment. Just a moment. A rock above him slipped and, ricocheting harmlessly between the rock walls, made the sound of thunder. As though a storm was brewing somewhere.
On the other side of a breath.
'No,' Engar shook it off. He'd had those dreams for ten years, every so often, but they never hung around like this. He could taste the battle field. The ache in the remains of his right arm, bound in a knotted sleeve as it was, flared as he moved. 'It's been ten damned years..'
Damned years. Couldn't say it better than that.
And then the walls fell away. Blinded, momentarily, Engar turned his head down and, under the shadow of his broad hat, saw the remains of the road. Heard the slight crunch of dead earth move under booted foot.
It wasn't just time. His hearing had always been good. The air in front of his chest whistled and, with a startled grunt, Engar twisted sideways. Two sparks sliced by on either side of his torso, gouging perfect holes in his flapping poncho, the dead remains of two glaives shattered on the wall behind him.
Engar watched them fall.
That old familiar feeling of standing in a pressure cooker. Standing next to a blazing fire. Sparring with an old friend. A former friend.
Engar didn't even speak. He didn't even look but he knew, out of the corner of his eyes, that the figure stood across a perfect octagon of flat ground - perhaps thirty feet across at the widest point - with one hand extended. He had caught that even as he turned. And that was all Engar needed.
He crossed the space between them in less than ten seconds, running flat out while weaving from side to side to dodge the glaives tossed his way, then kicked off into a twirling succession of downward roundhouse kicks. Landing four blows before his enemy could even mount a defence, Engar came to ground crouched before the figure and kicked upwards sharply, foot catching him under the chin and sending him soaring.
That familiar burst running through his veins, Engar kept his hand pressed against his hat and ran forwards, up the wall, following his rising foe. Only after passing him did he launch himself from the cliff-face. He turned, beneath the brilliant sunlight, into a backwards somersault before driving both feet into the rising warrior's upturned face and riding him all the way back down, twisting his feet as he drove his enemy's skull into the cracking earth.
Then, from a crouch, Engar kicked himself backwards into the air and landed skidding, one hand tracing his fingers across the ground as he came to a halt, and stood slowly. Wearily. Sweat dripping down across his forehead.
He could taste the salt of sweat. And blood.
"Get up," Engar straightened, keeping his breathing regular while his heart raced.
The figure brought both hands down and, with a clap that shattered the rock beneath him, flicked himself onto his feet. The cloak of a Modiwan flapping around his body. The hood hanging limp, like loose skin, to reveal a face that was marked and scarred and older but, from the shine of the eyes to the shape of an old smile, it was him.
Kelesk opened his hands at his sides, showing himself to be unarmed, and shrugged, face apparently undamaged by Engar's attack.
"Long time no see."
"I wish I could say they've been kind but, well," Kelesk grinned, "You know all about that."
How much had changed? Kelesk barely look five years older, let alone ten, and there was power there, buzzing under the surface, but it was impossible to tell how much. The Fall had changed people. Engar doubted that Kelesk had been broken but, then, he hadn't been there.
Kelesk began to move left, pacing around their arena, and Engar echoed him, moving right.
"We wondered - when things got back to the stage where we had that luxury - what happened to you. You didn't die - Deverz lived long enough to tell us that. To tell us about the last stand. Wish I could have seen it. Deverz and Cucumba, Hibiki and Optimus Prime, all throwing themselves at the Reaper."
Old names. Old faces. Old.. disappointments.
"Of course, that didn't go down so great. Even Deverz had no idea where you ended up and considering all other witnesses - save for Cucumba - were dead long before any of us managed to find them, we had no way of knowing what happened."
They ended up standing at opposite positions from where they started. Engar feeling the beginning of a shake developing in his shoulders. Kelesk calm on the surface.
"So.. What happened?"
"Hem.." Engar shook his head as a series of images hit home, a wave of green, so many figures stretching across the infinite, "Covenant.."
Kelesk watched him for a moment, waiting for him to continue, then shrugged.
"Doesn't matter. Plenty of time for that once you're home."
The memories fell away, like scales from his eyes, and there was Kelesk. He only looked the same. Engar couldn't imagine the man he had known before the Fall would have consorted with mercenaries, but they had acted as decoys for Kelesk's trap. That wasn't coincidence. Kelesk had wanted the truck to crash, to be destroyed so utterly that only Engar was left. Clearly Kelesk hadn't cared to ask Dale just what Oakley and he were shipping.
"What do you want?"
Kelesk raised an eyebrow.
"Straight to business, eh? Fair enough."
He extended a hand and a brilliant orange glow spread out from his fingertips and appeared to grasp a chunk of rock, about four feet in diameter, and tear it from the wall. With a twist of his hand the rock was spinning, floating between the two of them, and changing. Reshaping itself into.. a world.
"Watch, you'll like this.."
Forumscant, more a caricature than an accurate picture, with tiny ships and figures thronging around its cities and above its oceans. The Admin Tower rose up on one side and, as the light intensified, Mount Noobus came into view.
Kelesk didn't appear to notice. The world flattened out under the manipulation of chaotic energies and became an arena. Two figures, small but recognisable, threw themselves at each other. Miniature fists and feet met. Engar looked down on himself and shook harder.
"Stop it, Kelesk."
Engar watched himself beaten down, watched four others appear and attack the Reaper, watched the picture morph back into a world, but not the haven it was before. A war-stricken world. Battles raged. Bombs dropped. Areas like the Gap were created in a matter of days. He watched the Admin Tower fall and, as it happened, Kelesk provided narration, choosing to be oblivious to his protests.
"After the power infected Pride there was no turning back. Everyone within ten miles of the Rumble was dead or dying within the hour and the mounting casualties only made him stronger. Cucumba went through epic transformations, just trying to keep up, while the rest of us stumbled around like ants. The defences fell. The hoards broke through."
He could remember thunder. Cries. So much was missing from those months, so much buried.
"We did what we could but in the end.. The Covenant saved us. Nothing short of that could have turned the tide. Cucumba was buried deep within the heart of Mount Noobus and he's still there, as far as I know, hibernating for one hell of a long winter. And so everything else.. slips."
"I know this story." Engar shifted his feet and began to turn away. "Didn't much like it the first time round."
For the first time Kelesk's appearance twisted. His lip curled and the facade cracked.
"Me neither. Of course, I didn't take quite the beating you did."
Engar paused. 'You weren't there' he thought, but couldn't say. Even after ten years he couldn't say it. Too much of his old self was left. Too much dignity.
"I just had to pick up the pieces, me and a few others. I made Modiwan," Kelesk nodded as Engar looked over his shoulder, "You proud of me?"
"Tell me what you want?" Engar stood facing away from him, "Now."
"I want you back. I want NOA back. I want the world back the way it was."
"NOA?" Engar snorted. "Offering me a partnership?"
"No, that was Cucumba's mistake. You aren't a leader, Engar, you never were. A lieutenant, a tutor, someone to fight by my side and instruct my followers."
"Sounds like you're building an army."
"That's the idea.."
Silence descended. Engar breathed in slowly and, on the edge of hearing, caught the toll of a bell. A memory? A premonition? Was it just Kelesk's presence that was bringing it on? Was he going mad?
"You didn't come all this way just to get turned down.. did you?"
There was a boulder jutting out of the wall above Kelesk's head. Stable but, ever so gently, Engar spread the fingers of the Force. Visualising a hand closing around it. Remembering those old tricks Cucumba had taught him, back when he was beginning his training. So many old memories.
"Well, now that you mention it.." Kelesk grinned. Engar wasn't looking but he knew all the same. "Symbols are the problem. Cucumba's first apprentice. The power house who went toe-to-toe against the Reaper. Oh, we could remind people of how you failed and caused the disintegration of Forumscant itself, but its the simple thoughts that they remember."
'Slowly. Don't let him know.'
"How can I know that you won't have a change of heart? How can I be sure that you'll stick to this little dust-bowl?"
"My solemn word?" 'Easy.'
Engar blinked. The boulder dropped. Kelesk grinned.
Orange light expanded out from his body and, as the little world shattered, it caught the boulder. Engar tried to extend his influence but it was already too late, it was beyond his reach. The boulder was bound in time and space, orange sparks dancing across its surface.
"Really, Engar." Kelesk cocked his head to the side. "You thought you could kill me with a rock?"
Ice began to spread down from the tips of his fingers and Engar moved, the warrior twisting around and kicking out only to have his blow absorbed by gleaming white hands. Spinning in the opposite direction he kicked out again, this time hitting Kelesk's stomach, and again striking nothing but impenetrable ice.
Kelesk skidded back a foot or two, laughing, but he was untouched.
Engar launched himself into the air and brought both feet up together as he spun into a backwards somersault, striking Kelesk under the chin, but the Modiwan barely shuddered now, his entire face held in ice. And, as Engar spun right round and began to come down, facing his opponent again, he felt time slow.
And not because he was speeding up or he was losing his mind.
Because Kelesk was slowing time down. Just for him.
He strolled forwards, and it was with not a little surprise that Engar discovered that he could think in normal time, just not act. He tried to bring his arm around, felt it moving, but not fast enough. Nowhere near enough. Kelesk paused to examine him, smiled, then punched him so hard in the stomach that blood spurted out between his lips, arcing in slow motion.
Two more ice-enriched fists pounded his chest, sending him coasting gently backwards through the air, then, as Kelesk leaned forwards and pressed an open, freezing palm against his solar plexus, everything twisted. Orange light, a feverishly bright tint, filled his body with pain unimaginable. The very cells in his body seemed to buckle, a barrage of chaotic energy picking at his skin, his bone, his muscle, his life. No time to scream. No time to breath.
Setting his feet, the ground shattering as he drew deeper on his inner strength, Kelesk pressed both hands against Engar and intensified the chaos. Behind the fallen warrior the rock wall he was forced against changed. Rock morphing - one moment solid, the next a mist, and diamond after that - as its very molecules were perverted..
Engar's will strained - struggled - to hold the pattern of his being together. To resist chaos.
The original power. The final power. The dark between the candles. Chaos surged.
Kelesk turned upwards, momentarily caught off guard, to where Oakley perched atop the rockface, holding a careworn rifle that shone in endless light. The old man, the fat man, one eye tightened against the glare, smirked and pulled the trigger.
The modiwan began to pull away, his own reflexes faster than any bullet could travel, but one bruised arm caught him by the fabric of his cloak and held fast. He had time to catch Engar's sneer, then the bullet struck and he was sent spinning sideways. Engar, slumped backwards against the rock-face, watched ice crystals fill the air.
About the boy he once was.
With the man he had become.
For the first time in ten long years - ten years of tears and guilt and agony stretched to tearing point across a thousand bitter miles - Engar was angry. True anger. Righteous anger that flickered within like an Olympic torch. The sort of anger that could not be doused, only fed and channelled into the fight of a lifetime.
'Who do I want to be?' Muscles all across his body tightened just a little, stretched and enriched by rising power. Through his greasy black hair, between his clenched knuckles, sparks of old true power rising up from the pit of his soul. 'My name is not Mud!'
Engar stood straight and, hand rising swift and sure, caught Oakley within the grasp of the Force. The old man started, arms and legs flailing as he was lifted into the air, and only just managed to keep a hold of his rifle while cawing out in protest.
"Oakley," Engar didn't turn, "Get the truck started.. I'll be along in a minute."
"Hey, you damned fool! You let me-"
With one gesture the old man was gone, soaring backwards towards the train.
Before Engar, crouched with one hand pressed against his cheek, Kelesk snarled and began to rise. As his hand fell away a lone jagged crack was revealed, tracing from chin to forehead, from where Oakley had struck.
"Don't get cocky, Engar," Kelesk began to force a grin, "I haven't even-"
But by then Engar was moving too fast to hear anything but the wind.
Aura flaming into existence around his blurred feet, Engar crossed the distance between them like lightning itself. In his path, just a split-second behind, tarmac rose up in a wave where his feet touched down. Kelesk's eyes had nearly enough time to widen, then Engar was rising up and bringing his right foot around in a roundhouse that tore the sound barrier to shreds.
Kelesk's forearm was already there and, even from his rising position, with great bolts of energy rising from the blow and shattering whatever they touched, the blast of displaced air shifting all rock backwards, held the limb back. For one moment both hung still, reality twisting under the punishment, then the ice armour running across that arm fell away in shards.
The realisation of pain sped through Kelesk's body, nerves reporting faster than light, and still Engar had already spun around, leg whirring like a hurricane, air and rock and ice caught up in the blow, and smashed his left leg around against, again, Kelesk's rising forearm. The left one, this time, caught the full force of the blow - rock and jagged ice raining down upon Kelek's armour - and it was from the left that the ice fell, revealing a pale human hand.
Engar hung for that moment, eyes colder than any ice regarding Kelesk's pain, and was a sight to behold. Hair rising through momentum and power, ethereal fire crackling down his limbs, the flare of a purple aura, like the blade of rogue's sabre; it was not the Engar of the gap that Kelesk saw. That Engar, the old Engar, was nothing more than a pale, two-dimensional image. It was the creature beyond, to which that illusion had been fixed, the demon. That was what Kelesk saw.
Unchained. Unleashed. Unforgiving.
Then Engar was below, one arm pressed against that burning earth, both feet rising up with all the stopping power of a meteor. Kelesk was caught in the pit of the stomach and Engar could feel the powers of Chaos cut off in that instant. Purple erupted and his former friend was sent flying into the air.
The remainder of his armour flaked away, shattering against the unforgiving ground, and Kelesk was left to drop.
As Kelesk fell, Engar rose, launching himself towards an unforgiving sun. Before his eyes he held a hand that was. A hand that might again. He held the hand he hadn't got against the rays of the sun and struggled to remember one terrible day. A day when Gods and Ghosts walked together. A day that seemed so close that he could practically taste the bodies.
As he concentrated, throwing himself into that memory, he felt it rise to overwhelm him. The pain. The guilt. The blood dripping down his arm and making his eyes tear. A mouth too broken to form words. A body blackened and bruised. A hand ruined by surrender. Ruined forever. The memory rose up around him, wrapping to his pained body, gripping his hair, straining to cover his eyes but-
'Not yet, damn it! Not yet! Job's not finished!'
And there, between the light and his face, the hand that wasn't there.. was. In the shape of the air, in the twist in the light, he could see a better hand. A prouder hand. A hand he had given when the battle meant something. A reminder of what he meant. Engar smiled and felt power flood his rising body.
Energy fountained upwards from the stump of his right arm, the fabric of his knotted shirt-sleeve burning away as the power grew. Pulses of brilliant purple energy flowing up along that missing arm, bringing distinction and shape to the ghost. Engar held until he felt Kelesk begin to rise from the daze he had been forced into, then he turned and brought his ethereal hand around.
Engar considered saying something. Anything. It would only have been an excuse, though. And he didn't need one.
'What I do now.. I choose. With all my heart.'
Purple light erupted from his ghost-arm and filled his vision, raining down upon his opponent like the wrath of an angry god. Kelesk might have screamed, he might not, but Engar was already rising up on the tail of the purple beam. With a flick of his immaterial wrist he guided himself back.
Back to the train.
Before suddenly weary eyes the arena - the arena Kelesk had created for his final revenge, his retribution for having been too young to take Engar's place - was submerged in pure purple light.
[align=center]* * *[/align]
Oakley worked frantically, wrench in one hand, hope in the other. He had reprimed the brakes, oiled the engine, checked the wiring, nothing was wrong! Everything was the way it should be: which was, frankly speaking, held together by gum, spit, and prayer. Still, the bloody thing wouldn't go!
Sitting within the engine room, Oakley loosened and tightened and fidgeted with everything he could think of. Pressing buttons, sometimes with purpose, sometimes at random. He cursed and swore and damned his companion and his dangerous enemies. Damned everything, including the Great Pickle in his Bloody Mountain, and snarled at the cogs, daring them to fail him.
Which they did.
"You've got to work, you sons of mothers!" Oakley's snarl twisted into a plea, "Don't you know I've got a daughter to feed?! Don't you know I've got a job to do?!"
[align=center]* * *[/align]
Engar landed upon the cabin's hood, slumping backwards against the stained and dusty windscreen. All of a sudden those aches, those pains, the drain of wielding more power in ten minutes than he had in ten years, were burning into his psyche. A body full of cheques that he couldn't cash.
And the engine wasn't moving.
The former Modiwan pressed his hat tighter against his head and, with a sigh, rolled sideways off the bonnet. One hand caught the rear view mirror and, grunting from the exertion, heaved himself around the door and back into his seat.
"Oakley!" Engar leant back and, with a yawn, pulled his hat down across his eyes. "Why aren't we moving?"
"Technical god-damned difficulties!" came the reply from the hatch in the back of the cabin. "Don't like it, fix it your damned self!"
Engar rolled his eyes and, with a gesture, did.
[align=center]* * *[/align]
Oakley fell back against the wall and, tears of relief dancing from his eyes, crowed with delight. Suddenly, as if by magic, the wheels were turning, the pistons juddering, the engine thrumming into glorious life. It was working. By gods, it was working!
The grizzled trucker drew a deep breath of relief and called, over his shoulder, that he'd fixed the engine. He got nothing but a grunt in reply, but that didn't matter much.
All that mattered was that the engine worked. They were going home.
"Thanks for that.." Oakley murmured, maybe to himself, maybe to someone else, "You and your great pickled arse."
[align=center]* * *[/align]
The road train flickered to life. Great wheels strained against gravity and weight, the ground creaking as the strain grew and grew, but it was an old battle that they were used to winning. Eventually, irresistibly, the wheels turned and the train moved. Before them the chaos rose, spires of sheer impassible rock.
And, before the truck, Doris flickered into brilliant life. A plough created from blazing refocussed light, so intense that even Engar would have doubted his chances of survival. A rockery was no match. The chaos fell to order, and so the journey continued.
Oakley was too elated, and Engar too exhausted, so it should be of no surprise that they missed the stowaway. One hand caught the very last wheel of the very last trailer and rode it up to grip a searing hot railing. It should be of no surprise that that stowaway was grinning.
Not a happy grin.
It should be of no surprise.
And so the train trundled onwards. Trundled home.
With one trucker, one outcast, and one angry Modiwan. And innumerable tonnes of chilled, liquid hydrogen for cargo.
Bruised skies, heavy rain - Thunder, lightning. . All had been a cliche sight in the movies they showed in the real world. They stood for destruction, ruin, peril and fear amongst other object scenarios, however, whether this was truth in the real world or not . . Who really wants to know . . .
Death, destruction, anarchy - No mortal eyes; young or old should have to bear witness to these events at their brunt however at times it is unavoidable. Such proceedings happen at times without warning, notice, or preparation . . . and this is the true face of Chaos.
. . .
January 7, 2007.
Dear Diary . . The Forumscant rumble is still going on up in the mountains, I can hear it from my house and when I look up to the mountains I can see dark clouds. When daddy left to referee the fight he said things would be fine, I believed him at first but now I am scared. I keep hearing loud noises and people have come running back to the city scared of things inside. I hope daddy is okay.
. . .
January 10 2007.
Some army men came to the house today saying that we should pack our clothes and leave town in two days. Daddy still hasn't come home but the sounds have stopped from the mountain. Mommy says we need to leave without daddy but I don't want to leave until he comes home so he can leave with us.
. . .
January 12 2007.
Mommy and I are leaving home today without daddy. Mommy says that he will find us when he's done at the rumble. I hope that's soon because I miss him very much. We are in a place with a lot of the city people now. Everyone seems very scared and mommy doesn't think we will be able to leave until tonight or maybe even tomorrow.
. . .
January 13 2007.
Mommy and I are finally next in line to get on a bus. Mommy says we will go to Grandma's house and stay for a while. I like grandma!
[A large gap between this and the next entry was left, the writing nearly unreadable scrawl. No date was given.]
The warning sirens are going off. Mommy told me what to do when they did so I am hiding. I can see something in the sky which is getting closer every time I look at it. It is almost her-
[The writing stops, a pen line scratched across half the page, the rest is blank.]
Kelesk closed the diary and looked at the front of it as if expecting it to speak to him, but it didn't.
The name on the front of the diary was one he'd heard of a lot from someone, thinking back he remembered . . It was Cucumba's daughter. It was unbeknown to him whether or not she had died in this desolate place or if she had somehow survived and the diary had ended up here. Kelesk looked around with empty eyes at the wreckage of the city . . Who would know?
He gently placed the diary back down on the maple wood desk he had found it on in a bunker on the edge of the city. The solid concrete bunker was dark, the small desk lamp was the only light within the bunker and it no longer worked, the only light source was the steps down from the world above; a world that could very be defined as hell on earth. Kelesk turned to face the exit to the bunker, watching the rain fall into the entrance of the concrete hole that the steps inside lead out to.
Outside was the world of nightmares and movies. Destruction in every direction you could look and above was no different. Remnants of the nuclear fallout still hovered in the bruised skies that scarred the once placid sky which existed before that day which seemed so long ago to anyone who had survived it. The day Pride's power fell out of the control of the modiwans and had left everyone involved in the rumble on the brink of their death beds, though, fate had intervened and Cucumba had stepped into try and stop him, however, that had only been temporary and even he had been overwhelmed in a short period of time. Little could have been done before the army stepped in and they did with force. A force that no mortal could have survived and most didn't.
It was a day Kelesk, amongst others, had tried to forget but just looking around the immediate area was an instant reminder of events past.
Engar had taken up residence in a valley nearby ground zero which had escaped the blast, nothing had been effected however even now, nearly two months after the bombs had been dropped, the town's folk needed to use breathing masks to shelter their lungs from the radiation that infected the air.
The town consisted of a small population considering how close it was to what remained of the major cities. Sick and injured constantly poured in from the outside world to the valley, most dying as soon as they reached the first green blades of grass which had been sheltered from holocaust exposure.
Whilst none of the animals seemed to be effected by the rain of nuclear weapons there was one large problem in this part of paradise, or what was left of it. The village's water supply came from a dam to the west of the valley, about a kilometer away. The Forumscant was advanced enough to purify the water, however, the purifier was another one kilometer south of the dam, which was a chore on its own when you're trying to supply an entire town with fresh water. Amongst other problems was the fact that the purifier had become a hotspot for new-age bandits and 'water thieves'.
Usually Enger made the trip to refill the town's water reserves, to save the townsfolk the trouble of unnecessary deaths, but recently the bandits had become far more aggressive and had started attacking the valley. Realising he couldn't be in two places at once, Enger had been struggling to find the right time to leave the village to get more water. It was a complex situation.
Kelesk stepped out of the concrete bunker and started to wade his way through the rubble that littered the city. Houses lay in pieces blackened and scorched and drowning in the down pour of toxic rain. Some were lucky enough to have survived the shockwave and still stood in one piece but looked as if they may collapse at any second under the weight of the rain.
It was like a scene from a war movie, rain falling into puddles left from falling debris and explosions. The city itself was littered with rubble, broken glass and melted plastic. Throughout the minefield of scattered rubble and debris scorched and dismembered corpses lay in various puddles of mud or half buried under destroyed buildings, left for the Ravens to peck at and violently fight over.
Kelesk was heading in a direction he neither knew nor cared about anymore, it had been forever since he had last seen a living soul, always in his ear the dead whispered to him, something he hadn't heard for a long time, at first it scared him and he had forgotten how to translate their low, pained rambling into something legible, but after a few hours of listening to it while he walked through the littered destruction Kelesk began to understand why they were all taking to him. They had wanted sanctuary from Pride and his corruption.
Kelesk put up with the voices in his head for hours before something out of the ordinary caught his attention on the horizon he saw bright flashes of light, two or three to be exact which flashed once or twice before remaining visible to him. The wind was picking up slightly, blowing in strong gusts every few minutes then subsiding for a while before returning. Kelesk stood still staring at the lights which seemed to be starring back.
A flash of lighting dashed through the clouds above as the rain poured down, then the thunder followed, shaking the earth as if it feared the skies wrath.
Nine men dressed in brown robes that were in no better condition than rags stared at a man perched atop the water purifier who was holding a pair of binoculars staring out into the wreckage of the city.
"I think I see someone boss!"
The man who responded was a solid man, one who would have been a good fighter in previous years but now relied on his weapons; a crude halberd made of make-shift materials and a sniper rifle which he kept wrapped in torn cloth similar to what he wore.
"Can you recognize him?" called back the 'boss'.
"Maybe it's that kid that does the water rounds for the village." Another called out, this man taller, not a lot of muscle but had a large scar across the left side of his face, an indication he had been involved in a brutal fight.
The man in the tower looked down at the thief who had just spoken and gave him a look which said outright 'that's very possible' before raising the binoculars back to his eyes.
The thief on look out stared back at the figure out in the middle of the wasteland, shook his head a few times and said something to himself before replying.
"Nah, it's definitely not the kid, this guy looks older, a lot more muscular too. He also has bright red hair."
Their leader stared at the stranger through the scope of his rifle, pondering the situation and wondering if he was an ally to the folk in the valley, though that didn't seem possible seeing as he carried no water drums, no weapons and his clothing looked as if it had seen better days.
"So what are we gunna do boss?" Said one of the smaller thieves, this one appeared a lot older than he was, his timid voice the only sign of his age.
The boss sat in thought for a moment, shuffling around on the metal gauze which made up the raised walkway around the purifier which he was sitting on as another crash of thunder shook the earth beneath their feet.
"Scarface!" he yelled suddenly.
The thief with the large scar across his face stood up grabbing his gun off a large slab of rubble beside him.
"Go out there with a few boys, surround him and find out who he is!"
Scarface nodded and beckoned a few men to follow him, all of them picking up their rifles and disappearing into the destruction and rain.
Kelesk watched intently as the lights that seemed to watch him moved around atop the purifier, disappearing and reappearing a few times before only one light stared back at him, glittering through rain drops.
Confused and curious, he took another step forward, below the light there was another light, or rather a
Kelesk dove sideways, the bullet appearing to clip his shoulder as he jerked in the air and landed on his back in a pool of mud. From the shadows came six armed figures all wearing the same brown cloaks with their hoods up, one of the figures stepped forward, a flash of lighting revealing a large scar on his face.
"By order of Jed you are to surrender any valuables you have on you and come with us"
Kelesk got to his feet despite having apparently been shot and having half a dozen rifles aimed at him.
"And if I choose not to. . ." Kelesk said it in a way that nerve rocked the younger man in the group and could never have been mistaken for a question.
Scarface swallowed hard and took a deep breath.
"You are injured and out manned, don't try to resist or we will finish you." None of the bandits had bothered to realize the bullet had never pierced the skin.
"Finish me?!" scoffed the specter, "who are you of all people to threaten me?"
'I am Scarface, second in command of the Water Thieves."
Chaos chuckled to himself before being abruptly interrupted.
"You dare mock me you red haired clown?"
Kelesk stopped laughing and glared at Scarface.
"Watch your words worm."
"You have mocked me for the last time, we offered you friendship and you declined."
Kelesk began laughing out loudly this time, raising his head back exposing his throat.
Scarface took his rifle by the barrel and swung it around like a baseball bat at the specter's neck.
The rifle hit it's mark with a loud 'smack' bouncing back off the muscle and leaving Kelesk silent with his head remaining lifted back. Slowly the group watched as Kelesk rolled his head around so it was cocked to the right so far his ear was nearly touching his shoulder.
"Scarface. . ." Kelesk said gently.
Scarface stared at Kelesk in awe, and nodded as if to say 'go on'.
"That scar on your face you got it from a run in with Engar, did you not?"
Scarface snapped out of his trance of disbelief and looked questioningly at the man before him.
"Who is this, Engar?"
Kelesk grinned, "Look into my eyes."
Scarface did as he was told and saw the image of Engar's face.
Startled, he jumped away from Kelesk.
"Yes the 'kid'. . He made that scar with a purple saber did he not?"
"How do you know?"
Scarface twitched as his thoughts gave way, looking around he saw the scenario where he and Engar, the kid, had had their duel, the vision faded to black and then there was only purple, rich violet streaks filled his darkened world. He felt the same pain he had felt as Engar's saber cut open the wound. A pain he had long since forgotten. He dropped to his knees, his arms outstretched and fists clenched in pain. Outside of his dream his allies watched as the scar opened up and began to bleed, small trails of blood cascading down his face and dripping to the ground from his chin.
Kelesk watched as Scarface writhed around on the ground, rolling through puddles on the ground clenching his face in a scream that wasn't meant to come from a human.
"Now," Kelesk spoke up after a minute of watching the crippled creature writhe on the ground before him, "Who are you all and what are you doing here?"
"We already told you."
Kelesk turned to the source of the voice, a young boy who had removed his hood.
"We settled around the water purifier stealing the water from travelers so we don't need to make the trip to the dam ourselves."
"Water Pirates. . ." Kelesk said under his breath with a hint of amusement.
"Only problem is the kid who comes up from the valley."
"Engar. ." Kelesk interrupted.
"Yes," the boy continued, "He comes along instead of the townsfolk, so the water can actually get back safely."
Kelesk made a quiet thinking noise and seemed to lose interest in the conversation.
"Plus he can walk without a mask like yourself and us."
"So why don't you need masks anyway?" Kelesk quickly replied
"I guess we just adapted to the air." the boy shrugged.
Kelesk made a 'well no ****' face and turned to face the purifier.
"So where is this valley you mentioned?"
The boy gave a strange glance as if it was a silly question but answered anyway, "About one and a half kilometers that way," the boy pointed to the northeast, "It's a big hole in the ground you really can't miss it."
"Thank you." There was something evil in how Kelesk said it, it was polite but was not at all humane.
Kelesk turned and started walking in the direction the boy had pointed to, leaving Scarface on the ground writhing and screaming in pain in a puddle of blood and mud.
A few steps into his journey, he stopped and turned towards a man who stood beside the boy who had been speaking with an evil look on his face.
"Oh. . And I need some of those rags."
Engar stopped in his tracks towards the water purifier after hearing a blood curdling scream echo through the urban wasteland, deciding it would be best to return to the valley town incase something had gone horribly wrong.
Upon arriving at the valley though Engar saw something that made his heart skip a beat, a lone man wearing one of the Water thieves' robes, the hood up covering his head wandering down into the entrance of the valley at a slow, deliberate pace.
Kelesk turned to face Engar's voice, one he hadn't heard in ages and had almost forgotten.
"Ahh, Engar" Kelesk sighed, "It is good to see you again."
Engar stepped backwards without thinking.
"Kelesk! What are you doing here?"
"Nice to see you too Engar."
"I thought you had died after Pride beat me."
Kelesk laughed, "Far from that old friend," Kelesk smiled as if someone had told him a joke, "I was merely injured, not quite as badly as yourself, but bad enough."
Engar raised an eyebrow and gave a questioning look, "I don't see any scars on you. . ."
Kelesk's expression changed slowly, his happy smile turning into a pained frown as he opened the tattered robes and lifted his shirt revealing a huge cauterized wound on the right side of his chest.
"It was bad, but it's healing nicely."
Engar shuddered remembering the pain of losing his arm to pride in the rumble, holding onto the knot in his shirt which covered his shoulder.
"Yours on the other hand - "
"Enough Kelesk!" Interrupted Engar, looking Kelesk in the eyes as he made an angry grin.
"Why did you and Cucumba abandon me Engar?"
Engar stepped forward into the lush green grass of the valley, soaked by the rain which was still pouring down with no sign of ending.
"You don't understand Kelesk. . ." Engar replied softly as if the words would destroy Kelesk like a virus.
Thunder roared above causing the earth to tremble and lighting lit up the valley and creating shadows under everything.
Engar continued his story after the thunder ceased, "After Pride beat me Cucumba stepped in but was defeated, he hadn't prepared for Pride's dramatic change and although the Reaper had always lay dormant within him, none of us expected the events which unfolded to happen."
Engar lowered his head.
"Pride came after me after he beat Cucumba didn't he?"
Engar nodded, "Pride ignored everyone else who survived, he thought Cucumba was dead. . He was wrong."
"Cucumba feigned after he sensed me lose control, my power unleashed was too great to resist being attracted to."
Engar nodded again, "All of us felt it, we though you were trying to draw Pride to you, until you came across Pain that was."
Kelesk cringed remembering the sight through blood tinged eyes.
"You never had control of yourself so you never stood a chance against him, Pride tore you apart."
Engar rubbed away a tear from his eye with the back of his hand.
"We disbanded N.O.A. hoping Pride would submit for a while but then the army stepped in, plus we thought you were entirely destroyed."
Engar drew rogue from its holster and held it out from his body igniting both blades.
"Now Cucumba wants you dead Kelesk."
Kelesk backed up a few steps as the violet blades burst from the saber's hilt.
Kelesk lowered his head and exhaled deeply and quickly once which was intended as a sarcastic laugh.
"And for what reason Engar?" Kelesk quickly retorted.
"That is a secret that only the Old One himself knows."
Chaos chuckled to himself quietly again as if he'd seen it coming from the start, "So be it old friend. . so be it."
Engar lunged forward at Kelesk spinning himself clockwise through the air the gentle hum of Rogue deafening to the sound of a whirlwind. Kelesk barely finding the time to bring his own weapon to his defense and the gloom of the storm lit up in one sharp burst.
Turning against Engar's spinning motion Chaos pushed out of the attack with nothing more than a cauterized wound on his shoulder which blood slowly seeped from. Engar did not stand still for long obeying the will of his master and attacking Kelesk head on with all of Rogue’s ferocity. Violet blades twirled and sparked against an object unseen to the naked eye, the beauty of her blades only matched by a twilight sunset. Each majestic and precisely executed attack made by the young Warrior was blocked, ducked or otherwise dodged. Kelesk had been seeking answers. . Now he had someone to beat them out of.
Engar took one last aggressive swing at the specter aimed to decapitate him which was blocked, like the rest, with the Soul Scythe.
The young warrior let a low growl escape him, not even trying to force his weapon against his opponent's. He knew the Kelesk would rather die a second time than be dragged into what seemed like slavery under the Old One’s command.
Kelesk growled back, "Give up!" pushing his weapon against Engar's, igniting the teeth like blades of the Soul Scythe which cause Engar to jump.
The shock caused Engar to lose his footing, dropping to his knee and rolling to his left out of harms way. Chaos didn’t chase him, he knew Engar was after him not the other way around. In a technical sense, Kelesk had the advantage.
The young modiwan quickly pounced to his feet and began another frontal assault on the specter, sparks flying wildly amongst the wet grass and mud in which they fought, slowly the backed further and further into the valley without noticing, but before Engar had realized Kelesk had backed up into the first of the houses inside the valley.
Kelesk grinned at Engar with a cocky smile that screamed 'hit me if you can' as Engar swiped one of Rogue's blades in another decapitating blow which Kelesk fluently ducked, rogue's blade cutting open a gaping hole in the side of the house.
"Engar. ." Kelesk mocked, "You aren’t concentrating. You'll never be able to keep up with me if you keep mindlessly attacking me like a zombie."
Kelesk pushed himself forward off the house and into a pool on mud that may have once been a footpath, Engar turned in a crazed action and went to stab at Kelesk’s center. The specter saw it coming a mile off, this wasn't the Engar he had known. This one was desperate to finish things off quickly, plus with only one arm quickly wasn’t a happening thing.
Kelesk sidestepped the jab of the rogue saber, rolling around Engar’s body as if caught in dance, his entire body following through in a flow which could only be copied by the gentle flow of water. Kelesk eventually let Engar reach his most vulnerable point, and his gently motion turned into a strong torrent, ripping his elbow in behind Engar’s hand and knocking him to the ground in one clean motion.
At first Engar stayed down as he had landed, on all fours, hardly breathing as if in shock, but then slowly he pushed himself to his feet and turned to face Chaos eye to eye.
"Thank you Kelesk for that little wake up call. . ." Engar wiped a trickle of blood that had creeped out of the corner of his mouth onto his arm, "I had forgotten who trained you for a moment."
Kelesk's face lit up with an amused look, "So are you actually going to try now Engar, or would you rather me keep beating you to the ground without using any effort?"
Engar scoffed at the comment, "I wish there was another way Kelesk, but there simply is not."
Chaos shook his head as if he didn't want to hear it, but then Engar spoke out again in a quiet and serene voice.
"I am so sorry it had to come to this. . . Old friend. . . "
Engar, I saw your post and almost withdrew from the round. I knew you would give it your all but god damn man... You never make it easy for me.
Engar takes the first leg for a fantastic round. Kelesk, your round was your best one yet. Don't be impatient, fill, fill, and fill again until you have overabundance without repitition. I have no doubt you have the potential to win here, just don't be hasty.