From Dirt

Having infiltrated the outer defences and gardens that make up the outer section of the ancient Place Of The Hidden King, Narus who is looking down upon the courtyard filled with Veserhen. He can feel his enemy is close. He can’t say how it is that he can feel Scarius, but there is no doubting that that is what he is experiencing. It’s the first time in his life he can actually say that and had it happened before his time at Penseleg he might have considered himself going insane. But he knows better now. His mind so much broader and his skills far more advanced than they have ever been before. For that he will be eternally grateful to the Arci Order and yet he will never be able to repay them for saving his life. And all they asked for in return was for their secret to be upheld, their presence hidden from the world beyond the famed Penseleg borders. For anyone not from the mountain region the land behind those borders is believed to be filled with monsters and ghouls. Eron had admitted to him that the monsters from the tales, the very ones that keep people from daring to cross into the region are little more than illusions of light alongside some native species only found in the mountain ranges. Nothing that keeps those from outside away was created by the monks. They just make sure to utilise it to the best of their abilities, believing that nature will keep hidden what it does not want to see revealed to the world. However, the Arci do believe that one day such things will change and with it their presence will become known to the world. Narus hopes that by the time such things occur the world is not a bitter and brutal mess like it is now. Even if the blame for the current state that the lands of the continent are in rest solely on the shoulders of Scarius and his Veserhen.

They alone have managed to carve a swathe of destruction some two hundred miles beyond the borders of the Ikatanuan land. It’s impressive if only for its progress. Nothing else about what Scarius and his equally vile subordinates have managed should be considered the same way.

However, Narus is here now, watching from on high as the Veserhen warriors celebrate in the once wide courtyard of the Palace, which is now littered and chocked full of tents and the barbarians that inhabit them. Not that any of the warriors are resting. Instead, they are drinking and chanting in merriment no doubt in celebration of whatever tribe and land they have most recently turned to ash and decay. It sickens Narus, but for the moment the Ikatanuan must stay out of sight. Being spotted would result in almost certain doom and the once defeated warrior has no intention of falling before his goal is achieved. That is why he hops off his high perch onto a pitched roof of a tower and then while in a squat he slinks through the darkness to the shimmering sight of a cable that links across to another towering rooftop section of the palace. Ordinarily these wires would be decorated with colourful flags representing every tribe within nine hundred miles of this place. However, the Palace Of The Hidden King is not a central seat of power or anything similar. Instead, it is neutral ground for all the tribes and to bring violence or an army here is sacrosanct.

Coming here was stupid of the Veserhen but their presence in this place favours Narus as he creeps, carefully, across the wire high above the partying warriors below. The tribesman does not cross to the other rooftop tower however. Rather, part way along he swaps to a separate intersecting wire that takes him ever closer to the main structure that forms the bulk of the palace.

The Veserhen below are oblivious to his presence but even if any of them happen to look up they will see nothing for Narus is bathed in darkness. He wears it like a cloak over his brown robes. They are the kind that the Arci monks wear and were imparted to him as compensation for his thin armour having to be cut from his body so that his wounds could be treated when he was brought to Penseleg.

Narus remembers it all like it was yesterday, but does not pursue the thread of memory as he suddenly spots Scarius below him. The Ikatanuan had not been expecting the warlord to be amongst his men in the courtyard, but he would not say that it surprises him either. At one time it would have. Now however, Narus knows to accept such things without over thinking and looking into them as anything more than they are. This new way of thinking does not change how Narus reacts next as he races forward, leaping from wire to wire as he heads for his target.

Scarius is flanked by a pair of guards. They are brutes, massive in size and wrapped in thick plate. Narus, who is now directly above them and Scarius considers his options for a moment and then, without warning, leaps from the overhead wire, drawing his sword as he plummets.

Seconds later Narus lands silently and perfectly balanced on the hard worn stone bricks of the courtyard. A trio of swift swipes ends the lives of the two guards before they even have a chance to react. That is if they knew Narus was there to begin with, they did not.

Instinctively Scarius turns. He feels something is wrong, a presence that should not be present but is. To his utter shock the Veserhen leader finds that stood before him like some ghost that isn’t one is the Ikatanuan tribesman Narus. The warlord cannot believe his eyes and yet there is no reason for him to doubt them. Still, it does not make sense as the Ikatanuan, the last warrior of the tribe, died. The warlord saw it with his own eyes. The wound alone was fatal but compounded with the drop from the cliff there is no way that he can be stood here before him and yet here he is.

Scarius growls angrily something that if it is a word or statement then it is completely unintelligible, but does so as he draws his own sword. Then he actually uses words that Narus understands.

“I promise this time you will not survive, Narus.”

Scarius’ words drip with bile and venom as they leak like poison might when being poured from a vial. The warlords words are meant to strike fear into Narus’ heart and soul but they do no such thing. Once they had, but the Ikatanuan is not the same now. It is clear however that the warlord is just as he was, except perhaps more arrogant and sure than ever.

Narus does not reply. Instead, he stays silent and stands at the ready. He has nothing to say. But even if he did he has learnt now that the talk is meant for his opponents gain. It’s a distraction and way for his adversary to build up their own confidence.

The silence from the Ikatanuan unnerves Scarius as he continues to blather on. “I do not know what trickery you used to survive after our last facing but it will not save you this time. There are no cliffs here over which you can escape. You are in the heart of my army and you will fall before them. They will watch as you beg and plead for mercy. But there will be none. And when your corpse is finally cold and lifeless we will cheer, drink and resume our march across this diseased land until all fools like you, Narus, have been wiped from existence.”

As the warlord speaks his Veserhen prepare themselves for battle, which in truth would be a slaughter. The warlord does not wish for their blades to be wielded against this invader which is why Scarius demands, “Stay your hands. This one is mine and mine alone.”

Immediately and without argument the Veserhen comply with their leaders order. Though, they do form a ring around Scarius and Narus. The best description of it would be that they are serving like a living boundary to the stage that will serve as the pair’s battleground.

Anyone else might be concerned about being so utterly outnumbered and surrounded, but Narus is not as he does not focus on it. To do so would only benefit his adversary. That is why the tribesman stands ready instead, while Scarius feels the need to utter yet more pointless words to further delay the fight as if the beast of a man is afraid, which he is.

“How is it that you live?”

“I am strong of will.” Narus replies giving a non answer from which the warlord will be able to gain no strength.

“I will test that.” Scarius says before a bellowing roar escapes his lips and he throws himself toward the Ikatanuan warrior.

A second before Scarius’ attack is about to deliver a hard blow to Narus, the tribesman deftly raises his weapon and blocks the strike. Then while the warlord is still recovering from the recoil, Narus spins away. The warlord, angered by the exchange that is not what he had hoped, growls.

Scarius turns, he seems much slower to Narus than he had the first time they’d fought, but still manages to erupt into a frenzy of angry swipes. The Ikatanuan blocks and dodges each and every one of them. That only helps to further fuel the warlords rage and recklessness until finally Scarius unleashes an overhead swing.

Unlike the last time they fought, Narus does not attempt to retreat from the strike. Rather, this time he stands his ground sure and strong. His sword rises up to meet with the heavier claymore. Their blades clash, a chime of metal on metal rings out, but to Scarius’ shock his blade has been stopped and try as he might with all his weight and strength he cannot bring his weapon down to break the guard of the Ikatanuan warrior facing him.

Narus smiles only to drive his horitzontally held blade back with all the force he can muster several seconds later.

The counter works and Scarius is forced backward as he is knocked completely off balance and forced to stagger about as he attempts to reclaim his footing. Before he can Narus rushes forward seeing a wide open opportunity to strike. And Narus does indeed strike by delivering a swift cut across the Veserhen leaders’ gut. Scarius’ eyes go wide in response not just because the Ikatanuan has managed to deliver a significant blow but also because the longsword has managed to tear through the warlords armour. Scarius doesn’t know how and for the first time since he was a child he feels fear seep into his conscious mind. It’s terrifying and results in him letting out a heavy breath as he staggers past Narus, clenching at his ruined abdomen.

The brute of a warlord manages six paces before pulling his free arm away from his gut to see his arm smeared with blood. He can scarcely believe what is happening. This is not how it was foretold to him by the Evergods. He was proclaimed to be a force of nature that like nature cannot be stopped and yet Narus has delivered a considerable blow. And this wound nothing like the duo of flesh wounds that the warlord received during their first battle. However, the warlords doubts do not last as he reminds himself that he has managed to prevail thus far and against all the odds stacked against him. He will do the same here too. This fight is his. This world will be shifted. That is his purpose and he will fulfil it, he is sure of that as he lets his anger claim him. The flood of rage is refreshing but foreign to the Veserhen leader who spins about to glare at the Ikatanuan in the seconds prior to him promising, “Fool. You think you can fell me. All you’ve achieved is to release my true POWER!”

Narus says nothing in reply. He doesn’t need to. Doing so would serve no purpose. What he does do is throw himself into a spin. It’s perfectly timed as Scarius having rushed forward hoping to deliver a fatal blow is left confronted with a whirling mass. The warlord attempts to slab his heavy blade into the rotating blur but it seems at whatever interval he attempts his blade glances off its target. How that is possible Scarius cannot surmise. It shouldn’t be. It can’t be and yet somehow it is.

The warlord is left to continue to ponder this until suddenly and without warning Narus stops spinning, blocks a rash and frenzied blow from his enemy that the tribesman sees coming a mile off and then using the larger man’s own strength against him manages to bend the sword and the hand gripping it to an unnatural angle and then with a backward pull of his own sword rip the heavy weapon from Scarius’ grip.

The warlord is shocked but hides his astonishment with a quick snarl. Meanwhile, Narus stands with the tip of his longsword pointed at Scarius’ face. He caught the brief flash of surprise but ignores it for it serves no purpose.

“If you surrender I will show you true mercy Scarius.” Narus offers with an even tone that is devoid of the rage he felt when he had first faced this beast before him. He hadn’t been willing to admit it then but he is now. To not do so would be foolish and the Ikatanuan sees no reason to nurture foolishness.

“Never!” Scarius spits as he pulls a dagger that he always keeps concealed about his person and rushes Narus. The warlord hopes to plunge the short serrated blade into his enemy so that he might still be victorious against this Ikatanuan tribesman.

However, Narus expecting the unexpected, seeing as he no longer believes that fights are ever fair and should ever be mistakenly confused as such, leaps back avoiding the incoming attack. As he does so he strikes out with a swift flick of his sword. The black as night blade with the white glow effortlessly slices through Scarius’ wrist severing his hand from the rest of his hulking frame.

The warlord roars a bloodcurdling cry that escapes his lips as his wraps his one remaining hand around the edge of the stump where his other had been attached seconds prior.

But Narus does not stop there. The time for mercy has passed. Scarius did not take the offer when it was presented and so it no longer exists. That is why the Ikatanuan warrior completes an airbourne spin, the force of which slams Scarius down to his knees as the blade of the longsword cleaves the Veserhen leader from shoulder down to almost the middle of his chest with a single strike and seemingly almost no effort.

The eyes of the Veserhen all around Narus go wide. Each and every one of them takes a step back. However, that is not where they stay as Narus rips his sword from Scarius’ body only for the response to be for all those around to take a second step back almost simultaneously. The looks on the gathered warriors faces is that of unbridled fear. But Narus pays no mind to them as he turns his back on Scarius and begins to walk away.

The Ikatanuan manages two paces before Scarius begins to bellow with laughter. The cackle is haunting as it fills the air and only makes what he says next sound all the more terrifying.

“The end of the tribes is near Narus. And a force much stronger than you or I is on the horizon. Once that force arrives it will wash away all those that insist on adhering to the ways of old. You included. You cannot stop it, even if you have stopped me. It is inevitable. It is assured. You are a fool for conforming to the past when the Evergods are so near.”

The warlord resumes his laughter, but as he continues Narus, who paused as soon as Scarius’ laugh began to fill the otherwise still air, spins around. The Ikatanuan leads with his sword, unbeknownst to Scarius. The blade, which Scarius can do nothing about, cleaves the warlords head from his body.

It came so fast that even if the Veserhen leader were able to resist he could not have done anything in time to save his own life. And so Scarius’ head, no longer attached to his body, bounces off the hard stone bricks of the courtyard before it loses enough momentum that it is left to roll slowly about in a zigging pattern. The headless body meanwhile slumps now that life has been cut from it. After that it falls backward to an unnatural angle where it remains still and lifeless.

The Veserhen however do not dare to move. Instead, they stay rooted to where they stand terrified by the might that they have born witness too. But as Narus hefts his sword onto his shoulder and then turns many of the Veserhen drop to their knees and begin to plead for mercy. As they do so a smile appears across Narus’ face.

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