Their blades rang constantly in an argument of steel. Every thrust met a parry, every slash blocked or countered. The two combatants circled each other slowly, but their arms swung quicker than their thoughts could follow. Their eyes were perpetually locked, and their grins telling. Neither would lose, for pride would not allow it. After many moments, finally, one faltered just for an instant and the rival blade flashed down in the blink of an eye, splitting the skull down to the jawbone of… a fracturing magical image. An illusion.
“Not bad. I’ve never known a human to be so bald and bold.” The words were barely more than a whisper, but came right behind the human’s head. The human turned his left shoulder, shield swinging powerfully to bash his opponent sidelong. But that, too, was merely an illusion that shattered like glass.
“And I’ve never heard of a smug 3 year old plant.” The human retorted. Clad in scalemale, with a shining steel shield and matching sword grasped in iron gauntlets, the human looked the pinnacle of knighthood. Knives was an unforgettable soldier that fought with surprising grace considering the encumbering armor. Knives was a bit of a mystery, rumors were that he was a discharged seraph, other that he was a mercenary that served those who had quality of heart rather than a massive coin purse. Few people knew what gave him his nickname, and even his superiors rarely spoke his true name. On the battlefield, he was distinguishable from other soldiers by his uneven shoulder plates, the right pauldron was large and ornate, set in gold that seemed to both contrast and compliment the silver of the rest of his suit. Even more impressive was the beautifully designed greatsword strapped diagonally to his back, from right shoulder to left hip. He kept his stance wide, his shoulders squared, and his shield arm loose to intercept any forthcoming attack from his surprising opponent.
It wasn’t long until his opponent, a most unusual sylvari, seemed to materialize right in front of him. Aeoldyn stood a bit taller than Knives, but was much more slender. Unlike most sylvari, Aeoldyn did not have anything resembling hair, but grew a series of thorns in rows upon his head. His dark purple skin was more akin to the epidermis of a plant. He wielded a singular finely crafted longsword in his right hand, and his left a curious branch ringed with small but intricately-detailed chains. A finely carved wooden staff tipped with an ivory crystal rested comfortably strapped to his back. He had been born at the same time as his brother, Vaerdyn, though the two were nothing alike. Though Vaerdyn was a necromancer, it always seemed that Aeoldyn was only moments away from joining the Nightmare Court.
Reflex, instinct, and hours of training would determine the winner here. Knives stalked in, swinging with measured strikes as Aeoldyn continued to backstep just out of his blade’s range. Aeoldyn’s swordsmanship seemed more akin to fencing, requiring quick footwork and proper timing as with each swing, he would thrust his sword forward like a needle. And each thrust was deflected by a well-placed shield block. Knives closed in before Aeoldyn could shuffle away, the sound of metal rang through the air as both swords sliced right to left in a clash, and then again on the backhand swing. Aeoldyn feinted a stab to Knives’s face to raise his shield before deftly turning his wrist and thrusting for the human’s belly. Knives’ sword flashed down and across, catching the blade and turning it out wide. He was stronger than his sylvan opponent and the counter left Aeoldyn off-balance and open. Advantaged gained, Knives swung hard at Aeoldyn’s open chest.
His sword tore nothing but air.
Barely an inch before the blade struck, Aeoldyn seemed to shatter apart in an indigo flash. He reappeared an instant later several yards away. His sword was belted to his hip, replaced by his staff in his right hand. Not surprised, Knives carefully stalked forward, leveling his shield perfectly to guard his chest but at just the right height to raise it quick enough to defend his face or legs when needed. Aeoldyn pointed his left palm at Knives, firmly grasping his staff to channel the chaotic energy ambient both in the air and within him. From the staff, through his body, and out his raised hand he fired several crackling unstable-looking purple bolts at the Guardian. Knives rushed forward, twisting just past the nearest chaos bolt, ducking beneath the second and raising his now glowing shield to barrel through the third as he trucked towards Aeoldyn. Suddenly strange sting struck him between his shoulders. He glanced behind him and saw, to his great frustration, Aeoldyn firing at him from behind. While looking at the second Aeoldyn behind him, Knives caught sight of a purplish glimmer at the edges of his peripheral vision from the Aeoldyn in front of him. Suddenly directly infront of Knives, the sylvari’s longsword arched in for his neck, but the warrior swung his shield into the Mesmer’s wrist, turning with the swing to drive his sword through Aeoldyn’s stomach. He took another bolt in the back for the move, but surprisingly the blasts didn’t seem to do any more than sting him.
The impaled clone shattered like hollow glass. And Knives could hear Aeoldyn’s mocking laughter behind him. He took a step, and grimaced in pain. He hadn’t noticed before, but he could feel now that he was bleeding. The minor wounds he had taken, some not even of this very battle, were tearing themselves open. Chaos magic at its finest.
This wasn’t going to work, Knives knew. He needed to try something different.
“Sparkling pink energy, huh? Very masculine.”
“Its shimmering and its purple!” A flummoxed Aeoldyn replied.
“Right,” Knives said dryly. “Much better.” The pause was all he needed. While he had spoken, he also fell into a deep focus. The Guardian was not without magical abilities of his own, and while he bantered with Aeoldyn, he was picturing a man-sized blue blade. His imagination sculpted a large, ethereal cerulean longsword with a small chain dangling from the hilt. In his mind, he could feel the sword swinging to his subconscious command as if the six-foot blade was a simple dagger. With a bit of magic, he pushed his imagination into reality, and the spirit sword formed directly behind the Mesmer right as Aeoldyn had said the word ‘purple’.
“It’s blue, actually.” Knives began to charge.
Aeoldyn quirked an eyebrow. Blue? His abilities were most certainly not blue. The SWOOSH of something sharp slicing the air behind him had the sylvari spinning on his heels. Aeoldyn quickly dropped his staff as he raised his blade to defend against –The Mesmer’s eyes went wide- a massive blade descending onto him. Sparks flew as Aeoldyn barely deflected the blow, the impact sending shivers of numbness down his arm, but the summoned sword would not relent. Aeoldyn ducked a horizontal swing for his head and spun while he turned to evade the vicious vertical chop that followed. His slight shift allowed him to keep an eye on Knives and the Mesmer scrambled backwards, trying to defeat the weapon before its creator approached. He swung down to deflect the spirit sword’s prod at his stomach, and while he turned the weapon aside, he swiftly retracted his arm, quick-stepped backwards, and jousted his sword hard to skewer the spirit weapon at its cross-piece in an attempt to dispel the conjuration.
Aeoldyn would’ve had better luck trying to cut down a cloud.
The moment his blade passed through the eidolon sword, Aeoldyn retracted from it and cast a quick glance at Knives. The warrior was still at least ten strides away, which was a small blessing since Aeoldyn knew the powerful magic sword would not tire. Needing time to think, Aeoldyn maneuvered around the swinging weapon to keep it in between himself and the charging Guardian. He retreated with disjointed hops and sidesteps at seemingly random angles, never giving the blade an easy target. A smile crept on his face as an idea formed. The sylvari kept himself out of the phantom sword’s range as he concentrated to connect his mind and his spirit. He channeled the phantasmal magic within him down to his legs and out through his feet, and as the sword came in…
Knives came in faster.
From more than fifteen paces away, the Guardian suddenly lunged in front of Aeoldyn in a heartbeat. He seemed to leap, seemed to fly, and barreled straight through his spirit sword with his greatsword clutched in both hands above his head. All of his muscles snapped in accord as he brought the weapon down in a devastating overhead chop that Aeoldyn couldn’t have anticipated. This one was no illusion, and Aeoldyn’s swift turn was the only thing that kept him from being cleaved in half. The movement wasn’t perfect, he simply didn’t have enough time, and the greatsword slashed a gash down his left side from shoulder to hip before a yelping Aeoldyn vanished in a burst of purple light.
The Mesmer reappeared in front of Knives. The Mesmer reappeared behind Knives. Both Aeoldyns simultaneously came in hard at the soldier. Cursing under his breath, Knives threw himself backwards before either of the two could pierce him. He could tell that these were illusions; his spirit sword was not attacking them, instead it seemed to be drifting off in the direction that the soldier had come from. Even more telling, these two phantasms were transparent and one of them wielded twin war axes. Knives tightened his grip on his greatsword, knowing he didn’t have time to draw his sword and shield, a much preferred weapon against two opponents. He reminded himself that staying mobile was the only way to keep from being overwhelmed, and steeled himself as the two phantasms rushed in.
These ghost warriors did not fear death or pain, and came at Knives with little regard to their own safety. The spectral swordsman came in first, running directly towards the Guardian even as the greatsword swung in. It stopped and dropped down to its chest to let the massive blade pass over it, but Knives hadn’t fully committed to his swing and brought his sword up above his head. He inverted his grip and plunged the blade down on top of the ghost. An intercepting axe smashed along the side of the heavy blade as the second warrior stood in place of the first –his legs phasing through the prone clone as if it were not even there- chopping at the diving sword once, twice, thrice in its descent to deflect it before swinging out his right arm to rip open Knives’s belly. The guardian threw his hips back to avoid the swing, and blinked several times to sort the odd image of the prone phantasm standing up exactly where the first one stood. The ghost swordsman rushed in with a diagonal swipe, and Knives tucked his shoulders and rushed in, taking a hit along his shoulder plate and turning to gash the leg of the illusion. He hopped away as the illusion, unconcerned with the wound, continued to try and decapitate him. The second phantasm ran in through the first, twin axes swinging wildly. Arms pumping, breath coming heavier, Knives worked his greatsword at every angle he could to deflect many, but not all, of the axe slices. The soldier, finally finding an opening, swung his sword upwards to slash the second phantasm up it’s chest. He knew he hit it solidly, but that proved little comfort as the phantasm seemed entirely unbothered by the slice and reached out, grabbing Knives by the elbows to hold him firm. The spectral swordsman came up behind the first illusion, stuck his blade through its back, and stabbed Knives in the chest.
They continued to press him, their cuts wounding him, and his blows only tearing at the magical essence that held them together. They struck him a dozen times, the axe wielder constantly defending the aggressive swordsman, easily phasing in and out of each other’s bodies as if intangible yet their blades cut at Knives with all of the ferocity of real warriors. Each time he tried to make for his shield, one of the phantasms would assault him. They forced him to block and dodge constantly, and his swings were beginning to slow. Knives narrowed his eyes in frustration, knowing he couldn’t last like this.
Aeoldyn knew that he couldn’t last like this. He knelt leaned against a tree cradling his wounded arm. Waves of pain rolled through the sylvari as he clenched and unclenched his left hand, and it hurt almost as bad to breathe normally with the gash Knives carved into him. As he watched his translucent purplish blood drop down the side of his body, he had to admit that his respect for humans, and for the Paragon teachings that Guardian’s learned their abilities from, was growing. He glanced over his shoulder around the tree at the site where Knives fought a desperate battle with his two phantasms, and nodded with a slight smile.
It was short lived.
Had he been standing, Aeoldyn would’ve been impaled. The massive blade of the spirit sword suddenly spiked into the tree, easily piercing through its 3 foot width to puncture just above the hiding Sylvari. The ethereal weapon retracted and swung around the trunk, and Aeoldyn rolled with a grimace to get away from it. He ducked a swing with gritted teeth, and it took all of his will to keep from yelling out when he had to jump away from the sword that swung at him like a pendulum of death. Aeoldyn saw that his phantasms were bearing Knives down, but something else caught his eye as well.
The sword assaulted the fleeing Sylvari relentlessly, but Aeoldyn’s concentration was inward. He refocused himself, and yet again channeled energy through his legs and into the ground. A light emerged beneath him, humming with energy. Aeoldyn narrowed his eyes, knowing he could not block another slice from the six foot conjured blade, and as it came down, he dropped to his knees on top of the light platform.
He was gone from there. Back to where he had first imbued energy into the floor. He watched the sword hover around the tree and begin to head for him, over his shoulder, he saw Knives down to one knee trying to defend against the two phantasms. He could finish him now, he believed, before the sword caught up to him. He quickly drew his staff and thrust his open palm towards the Guardian. The air around the human began to crackle; purplish electrical filaments started leaping wildly around Knives in a sporadic dance. Aeoldyn needed only a moment more to complete his storm of chaotic energy, but the sword chopped down like an executioner’s axe.
The portal rang once more as the Mesmer reappeared behind the tree, barely escaping death. The sword whirled around yet again. Aeoldyn closed his eyes, and Knives’s sudden yell sounded like sweet music to the sylvari. With a mental command, the Mesmer had detonated his clones. Right in front of Knives, they had exploded in a burst of painful light. Aeoldyn reached down and grabbed his sword, measuring the distance his portal was from the Guardian. The timing had to be perfect, just long enough so that the magic sword would be too far to intercept him, and just soon enough to strike before the Guardian recovered...
Aeoldyn leapt as he reappeared near Knives, his sword raised for a killing thrust for the man’s face while the summoned sword was back at the tree near his exit portal. Knives, while down to his knee, glared at Aeoldyn in defiance.
Knives yelled out in the face of death.
In a burst of adrenaline, in sheer defiance of the idea of losing to a smug plant, Knives dropped his greatsword as Aeoldyn’s blade drove in for his face and forced himself to his feet. He turned his head and leaned to his left as much as he could before the blade came in, taking a nasty gash along the side of his neck for the effort. Aeoldyn felt a gauntleted hang grab his leading wrist before he could finish the motion. He saw Knives reach with his left hand and draw his shield, eyes closed in focus the entire time, and in the heartbeat it took for the Mesmer to consider teleporting, that shield swung out and smashed into his face, jarring his head backwards and crunching his nose. Knives grimaced through the pain of his bleeding neck, willpower along keeping his legs from buckling, and with his eyes still closed and Aeoldyn still held, he placed his shield directly in between himself and the illusionist.
Aeoldyn suddenly found himself launched through the air, flying backwards a dozen feet to crash hard on his back. He was repelled by a dome of ethereal blue energy that erupted off the guardian’s shield. As the dome faded, Knives stood shakily with wisps of that same cerulean energy smoking from his buckler. His eyes finally opened, revealing a hint of a fading azure glow. He was back in his stance with sword and shield in hand, though he looked far more grim than before. Aeoldyn stood just as shakily, and grunted in frustration at the sight.
There was a large spectral bow revolving around the Guardian now. An arrow seemed to simply materialize and nock against its string as it drew back. But Knives didn’t see that his greatsword was no longer on the ground, a ghostly “Aeoldyn” had scooped it up and was rearing behind the guardian.
“So.. We finish this, then.” Aeoldyn said, trying hard to keep the stutter from his voice.
Knives didn’t respond. The soldier began to advance.
With a grunt and a grin, the Mesmer vanished. Knives brought his shield up before him just in time to block a killing thrust for his heart. He responded with his sword, a sidelong slash that Aeoldyn leaned away from and blocked on the backswing. He turned his blade underneath Knives’s and raised up his arm, turning with the movement to step further away from the Guardian’s shield and slash down at the man’s knee. Knives raised his foot in time and thrust out a powerful kick into Aeoldyn’s face, which shattered to pieces along with the rest of his body as if a sculpture.
The greatsword-wielding phantasm lunged in, sword swinging powerfully to decapitate the man. Knives didn’t even look, he felt the blade come within an inch of his neck but continued to fight a frustrated Aeoldyn as the Mesmer reappeared before him. The phantasm’s blade was stopped short by the spirit sword, and as the ghost warrior tried to realign the weapon and attack again and again, the ghost sword defeated each attack. Aeoldyn leapt backwards from a diagonal swipe at his collarbone and winced as the movement sent more blood spurting from his chest wound. He caught movement out the corner of his eye, and the bow suddenly fired an arrow from behind him. The Mesmer smirked at Knives and winked, vanishing and reappearing behind the fired arrow.
It struck Knives in the chest.
The guardian staggered backwards. Advantage gained, Aeoldyn once again thrust his sword for Knives’s face. The soldier’s shield intercepted surprisingly swiftly, and indeed it seemed as if Knives had seemed a bit more energetic than before the arrow struck him. Knives angled his shield to slide Aeoldyn’s sword over it, and raised his arm above his head to drive the Mesmer’s arm high. He chopped as if to cut the arm off, but stalled for a second.
Hearing the slightest crunch of grass to his left, Knives twisted and ducked, sweeping his blade out and slashing the midsection of a surprised, invisible Aeoldyn. The Mesmer yelled out and doubled over in pain, and Knives sprung to his feet and swung his shield in an upwards arc, catching the bending Aeoldyn and uppercutting him in the chin with the rim of the steel bulwark. The phantasmal berserker ran in, unconcerned for its own life, to skewer Knives as he rose, thrusting the sword into his vulnerable back as the Guardian leapt up above Aeoldyn with his sword facing downards, both hands grasping the hilt tightly as he drove his blade downwards onto the fallen Sylvari.
The spirit sword cut the phantasm in half, oblitering it.
Knives came down sword-first on top of Aeoldyn, who, dazed and disoriented, raised his arms up in a half hearted defense while his hands began to glow. The sword tip drove down through his still-glowing hand, and prodded his chest, but surprisingly did not sink into it.
For a Moa had no arms to complete the motion.
In his last burst of energy, despite his delirium, Aeoldyn had transmuted the soldier into one of the many docile flightless birds that populated Tyria. The Mesmer turned and sat up, grunting as he looked at his skewed hand, the slash across his stomach, and the gash in his side. He nodded to the squawking Moa with the utmost respect.
… And then he killed it.
Edited by Chaos Archangel, 26 August 2013 - 08:36 PM.