Thursday, March 6, 2008

Part 7: Relics of Nocturne

He was Aries Black. Alive.

“Venishaad deit gah!” Black demanded again.

“We're not one of you.” Court said, meeting the man's glare.

Aries Black cocked his head to the side a little, a cynical frown creasing over his face. He glanced up at the dome overhead to the rows of the deceased Garai soldiers, who remained silent and attentive. His eyes settled back down on Court, a sudden awareness sparking in his blue eyes. Court nodded to him slowly, with a grin he couldn't suppress. For now his greatest enemy understood who he was, and that despite the world itself having been split, the Garai were not all dead.

And then, in broken Anselm speech, Aries Black spoke.

“I'm the Guardian of this place, Heathen.”

“Aries Black, we meet at last.” Court said, reaching for his cutlass.

“Who are you?” Black asked in a steady, sinister voice.

“I am Court Beltain , the last of the Garai.”


“Yes, I survived, and I am here to seal the rift.” Court declared.

Aries Black paused for thought, and as he stepped towards Court said slowly, realizing at the same time, “So this is why my Gods have restored me to life. The old Gods of Nocturne still hunger for your blood, Court were foolish to come back here. We have unfinished business, the two of us. The Gods' vengeance must be put upon you.” Black's eyes bulged as he voiced his own thoughts, “Perhaps when I feed your body to the dark water, the Gods will raise my Armies once again.”

“Look around you, madman – look at what your Gods have wrought.” Court sneered, gesturing wide around them, “Whatever cause you once fought for is now dead, or drowning in this dark water you speak of. Tell me the source of the rift, so we can end this tonight.” Court said.

Court followed Black's intense gaze as it swept his ruined throne room. It ran over the cracked dome, and the grim black-cloaked ghosts waiting above them. His eyes settled at last upon the restless pool of water behind Court, and he seemed to be recalling something of immense sadness. Then rage welled up within those eyes as they focused on Court again. Court threw Adan and Cael a warning glance as Aries Black recomposed himself, and stepped nearer.

“Heathen fool, if the Gods had wanted the rift closed, it would have been done long ago. Yes, tonight, after a hundred years of war it ends,” Black bellowed, his voice echoing up so that the dead Garai Masters could hear, “Goodbye, Court Beltain, I send you now to join your Brethren!”

Black, in his gaunt mechanical armor moved much faster than Court could have imagined possible. It took only three strides to reach Court's position between the statues, and he had already torn his broadsword from off his back. Black slashed downwards with his great sword, hoping to end the battle with one swift stroke. However, he met only thin air as Court leapt to the side, spinning behind the tall female statue. Adan and Cael fled to either side, knowing full well when they were outmatched. The armor has doubled his strength and speed, Court noted, narrowly dodging another blow.

Court fiercely parried with his cutlass, their blades meeting with a shrill clang. In strength, both swords were equal. However, as Court slowly bent beneath the broadsword and brute strength of Aries Black, he realized his disadvantage in the shorter length of his blade. He took the defensive, and backed away towards the edge of the water. Again and again their blades met, the clamor echoing about the chamber. Using the basket hilt of his sword, Court managed to thrust aside Black's blade and strike at his undefended face. It left a bleeding streak across his right cheek, but Black’s tall neck guard had mostly deflected the blow. Well he's not disappointing me. Excellent fighter, possibly the best I've ever faced, Court thought.

And then he saw, rolling beneath another slash at his torso the whirling mechanisms and pistons fastened on Black's right arm. Just then a swift kick to Court's chest sent him flying backwards. Court's backwards fall was abruptly halted as he crashed against a pillar, bouncing off it only to lock blades with Black again. He desperately needed to get away from the punishing assault. Slipping between pillars, Court maneuvered to the opposite side of the chamber, carefully avoiding the crumbling ledges that fell down into the deep, watery crack. Court backed up against the tall marble throne, as Black steadily closed in.

In another five seconds, Black would be on him. Using his scarce few seconds, Court focused directly on the mechanisms of Black's right arm, and then leapt sideways just in time to dodge Black's sword. Black sliced a chunk of marble off the side of his throne, angering him further. However, some of the gears and gadgets began bursting off his arm, along with two pistons that popped out of place with a snap. It was obvious now that Black had lost mechanical power in his sword arm as it hung lower, and less steadily.

Aries Black gave Court a look of disgust and said, “Those demon ways of yours, Court Beltain. They are not how men do battle.”

Angered for the first time, Court smote the giant armored man backwards with a solid sword blow, until Black crashed with a tremendous clamor against his own throne. Pieces of his armor broke loose and rolled away, the heavy armor now burdening him as its helpful machinery ground to a halt. Black himself looked defiant, with smoldering eyes as he struggled to right himself. But now Court was nearly spent, drained to the brink of exhaustion. By the time Black could stand again, Court had already retreated again into the center of the chamber, and awaited him between the two statues.

Then the two stood facing each other, pistols drawn across the flooded ruin of the chamber. Court's eyes flickered over to his left, where Adan and Cael were huddled away from danger behind a broken pillar. They were safe, and soon Black would fall. A slight tensing of his trigger finger would finish it. Aries Black began taunting Court from across the water: “Despite whatever lies your Masters may have told you, this was never a war between men. We mortals are mere pawns in a timeless war between the Gods. I hope well they take pity on your soul, for soon the Garai will be gone forever...”

“Your time has already ended.” Court said firmly, finger on the trigger.

In mere seconds both men could have lay dead, had it not happened. For a moment time stood still. Anxiety had reached its peak, and so the Nocturne forces surrounding the chamber walls broke rank, and howling like the damned, started in towards Court. It was just then, as Adan and Cael cowered in the shadows, thinking that it couldn't get any worse, that it did. To the surprise of all, a large shadow fell over the floor of the dome. Overshadowed, all of them together looked above with gaping jaws to see what it was.

A Nocturne war machine had suddenly appeared above them. The machine was clearly unmanned, yet was animated by a will not of the natural world. The rounded mass of gears and engines rolled out of its secret, dark and dusty eyrie in the dome and plummeted downward. The Garai phantoms recoiled and were blown away like smoke as its twisted mechanical body tumbled past them, crashing with a fury not seen since the war, directly into the center of the chamber between the two poised men.
To be Concluded...

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