Thursday, August 29, 2013
D.S. Brown - KNIGHT OF THE OLD CODE
William Bennett held his staff close. The Violators had been joined by accomplices. They were five in all. The odds were not at all in his favor. In such a situation, and given the heinous nature of their enterprise, he would have been fully justified in the use of deadly force. He would have been justified in pulling the blade free from its scabbard. But he was only an Andrun, an acolyte initiate.
The puzzle on his short staff was locked. He could not pull the sword it contained free no matter the circumstance. It was made such that he would require industrial equipment to break it open, and break is the operative word. He would never be able to open it without the right, as the challenge was meant to be. No matter how hard he tried he could not use the fullness of the weapon until he was considered worthy, until through honorable word and deed he attained the rank of Knight.
He had what was in his hand, pulled from his inner coat pocket the moment he realized his mistake.
In truth, he should not even be in this position. He was still in training. He was supposed to observe, not act. However, his master was taking care of the other matter. They had divided their force, one for each target. His master was going to observe as well, and then shut down his quarry. The two men William had originally been tracking were thought to be headed to the location of their hideout. Gaining this knowledge would put them on the cusp of settling the matter, and shutting down their outfit. Unfortunately, the Order was clearly lacking some information. This apartment building was no hideout, and the men that were about to engage him were hardened warriors. This was clearly a killing squad. William was honor-bound. He had no choice but to face them.
The man in front, a hard faced brownish Nordic looking man with short cropped blonde hair smiled, as he slowly pulled his gun. “You clearly have a lot to learn. We’ve known you were there from the moment we left the airport.”
“Then why did you wait?” Asked William, stalling for time. “Doesn’t make sense for you to lead me here.”
“Us,” corrected the man. “Your partner is going to … what? Stop payment for services rendered?”
“Depends on whose there,” said William. He moved further into the room. There was no retreat. The other men had drawn their guns. There was no way around it. He was going to catch a bullet. He would have to rely on all his skill in order to not only win, but just survive.
“Why don’t you just stand still,” said the killer. “What’s your name? I have some idea of what you are. Be interested in knowing the name of the Tolomanian Knight I’ve killed. You’ll be my first.”
“I’m not a knight,” said William.
The man laughed. “Could have fooled me. Flowing black coat. Gold buttons. Pretty snazzy that coat you all wear. Shirt, jacket, slacks, all very expensively made. The gloves, the metal on your wrists. That’s not a watch you know?”
“Oh, but it does tell time,” said William, he took two more steps to the left.
“Stand still!” The killer yelled. “And while you’re at it drop that damn staff.”
The others raised their weapons.
“I’ll tell you my name,” said William. “But first tell me why the Darasim are working for Benjamin Crassus? Just my curiosity, you know? After all, I’m going to be dead any minute, right?”
The killer laughed, “You people. You think we’re working for that crotchety old fool? You need better intelligence young man.” He chuckled, shaking his head. He sighed and leaned back just a bit … and blinked.
That was all the moment William needed, and for sure would be all the moment he would get. The conversation was rapidly coming to an end.
These men had killed and killed and killed again. They were leaving a bloody trail of unsolvable murders in pursuit of a prize of inestimable value, a prize that theoretically could save Benjamin Crassus’s life. He had focused his considerable wealth, and the vast resources of the Crassus Corporation on this one enterprise. It was a puzzle that was not meant to be solved. It was the Order’s duty to ensure it remained that way.
In his right hand he held his staff still, slightly in front of him. He moved it a bit to the right, a distraction, as he was trained. The killers focused on it. His left hand he moved slightly, giving the tiny balls in his hand a slight shove. They silently floated across the room and landed at the feet of the blonde killer.
One of the men yelled, “Watch out!” But it was too late.
William’s heart was beating fast, despite his effort at control. The seconds slowed down as his mind concentrated on his training. He forced himself to consider this to be nothing more than intense exercise, another training session. He tried to not grind his teeth, but the pressure was great. He was not prepared to face such opposition. Of course, if he was to become a knight, facing surprising and inhuman opposition was to become a way of life.
He didn’t look at the balls as they hit the ground, but he measured the count in his mind. He had started to move forward slightly as they left his hand. By the time they had landed on the floor he was in a full sprint. Milliseconds passed, milliseconds that his mind counted. Muscle memory and mental mastery was in total control of both mind and body as his Andrun training took hold.
Didactic memory can be cultivated. It is not a secret. Rather what the knights do are things either forgotten or simply no longer pursued. There is a manner in which to perfect strength within an individual. There is a manner in which to perfect speed and dexterity. There is a manner in which to hone the inner self, harnessing the power of one’s soul in order to magnify both the mental and the physical. These are old skills, learned at different times and in different places all over the world.
The Knights of Avros Tolomain are an order as old as civilization, so say the elders. The skills of the Knights were well known when almost two thousand years ago Avros Tolomain took up the mantle of something that was fading , and forged the Order. Today the Tolomain Knights are the line that holds order against the chaos at the fringes of civilization. They live to protect humanity when and where they can from those things bent on denying humanity a destiny unhindered by the darkness, and those who serve it.
William closed his eyes and concentrated shutting down his ability to discern light, forcing his brain to not acknowledge the input into his visual cortex through will power alone. He did the same for his auditory senses. Since he didn’t have earlids like he had eyelids it would be difficult. There would still be a great deal of pain, but he would force himself to fight through it.
The little balls where called crucious, the order’s version of flash-bang grenades. They were an order of magnitude more powerful and directed. Their force exploded in the direction thrown, saving the person throwing them from the worst of the effects, but still they would suffer if they did not wear protection. William had no protection.
“Sonofabitch!” The Nordic guy yelled. “Kill that—” was all he managed to get out, before William’s staff collided with the bridge of his nose.
He had memorized where each man was. The bullets started flying, but the flasbangs had exploded. They were blind and deaf. Any normal human being would have been brought to their knees, blind, disoriented, deaf, and in incredible pain.
However, the Darasims’ training was extensive. They were supposedly trained in such a manner as to directly oppose the skills of the Avros Knights. Each warrior was trying to telegraph William, trying to shoot where he would be. Luck, or blessings, they were too late. He was among them now, eyes shut, of terrifying speed, and they knew it. The firing stopped. They could not shoot amongst themselves.
All of them were warriors. They all were silent, fighting the effects of the Tolomainian flash bangs. The Violators tried to see. They tried to listen, and they were brought low in the brief seconds of hoped for recovery. William waded among them like a living typhoon. His staff struck again, and again, and again, head and body, head and body, missing only one, who had moved. He opened his eyes, adjusted, and brought his staff swiftly into the man’s temple. The Violator crumpled to the floor in a heap as the blow sent a shockwave through his head.
In the deafening silence, William stood alone. The Violators were scattered at his feet. He took several deep breaths as he concentrated on steadying himself. The flashbangs were directed away from him, but they were potent, and it took considerable mental will power to overcome their affects and fight effectively.
His vision steadied. It would still be awhile before his hearing returned fully. He looked back at the door. His master stood in the doorway. Master of the Order, Knight Jefferson Evans had the look of someone sorely vexed. He examined the men on the floor, then looked up at his young charge.
“Clearly, you have been paying attention,” said Jefferson. “Your training serves you well.”
William managed a smile. “I have an excellent teacher.”
“Did things go well with your quarry?”
“The same, a trap. We’ve clearly been compromised.”
Jefferson waved away the question. “In due time.”
Jefferson walked into the room, continuing to stare at the men on the floor. “Five men, warriors, in the midst of a crucious.” He arched an eyebrow in admiration. “Impressive.”
“It was the training master.”
“Of course, now step away from them.”
The Violators were starting to stir. “Shouldn’t we interrogate them?” He pointed his staff at the blonde man. “This one here is the leader.”
“Step away from them now!”
William recognized when his master was leaving no room for conjecture. This was a direct order, and he was honor bound to obey without a word. Jefferson stepped forward, producing a needle from his coat. He threw the needle at the blonde man’s neck. No sooner had the needle penetrated the man’s neck Jefferson was over him, stooping down to pick him. He threw the large man over his shoulder, and quickly stepped away from the others.
“What do we know about the Darasim?”
“They are worshipers of what they believe to be the Demiurge. They are also an ancient order not unlike our own.”
“They are nothing like us, Andrun. Clarity!”
William corrected. “They are said to trace their roots back to ancient times. Sumerian in origin, seeking the ultimate order from chaos through the elevation of chaos, a flawed premise on its basis but one they believe to be infallible. They have an almost blind worship, pursuing action and intent for the sole purpose of domination in worship of their god and the divine purpose, which to us is indistinguishable from evil.
“Evil is a matter of perspective for some, a fact that no knight must dismiss when dealing with the Darasim.”
“And not blind worship, they have been and will always be focused in their worship, and they see very clearly. They are as long as we are, perhaps longer given the way they perceive the world and its purpose.”
“Yes,” agreed William. “And in that purpose they value life differently, even their own.”
“Yes, and …?”
William understood. It was not a point he should have forgotten. “They are primary assassins and procurers, the Violators, they carry within them the means to die and kill in failure.”
“Exactly,” said Jefferson. “Now, let’s get out of here.”
As they walked out the door the Violators were waking. “For that which is supreme!” They yelled in unison.
“Move!” Jefferson yelled.
William glanced back for a brief second, and saw one of the Violators grab his left wrist with his right hand. How stupid of me, he thought. He was young, an acolyte, but the excitement of battle should not have dulled his senses to such a degree. He ran behind his master as fast as he could.
Suddenly, there was an explosion.
They fled down the stairs. His master moved with strength and precision, effortlessly carrying the weight of the man on his shoulders. Above them there was smoke. Flames would quickly follow. They reached the bottom level and exited out the front door.
“Keep moving,” said Jefferson. “We’re leaving.
William followed his master. He took a moment to look back at the building. A window on the third floor was blown out. Smoke was billowing out, and up, polluting the sky. Willowy wisps of green seemed to dance and tangle in the bitter black of the explosion. The poison.
Once, it was said the warriors of the Darasim spat poison in failure, a gas cloud that would kill those around them who had precipitated their failure. In modern times they were said to have added explosives to their lethal mix. When a Darasim falls, his or her sworn duty is to take their enemy into the afterlife with them. There is no other option.
William could not fathom such a purpose, insanity made to look like rational thought, no better than a common, petty, run-of-the mill terrorist. The Darasim sought unrivaled power in the dark byways and shadowy corners of the world just beneath the surface, the world where unnatural things held sway, and magic was not a marketing theme for Las Vegas. It was a world of stark and terrifying reality, a world in which he was sworn to wade in deep.
He thought about the abandoned building. It would probably burn to the ground before the fire department and police arrived. They would be long gone from this place where he had waged mortal combat with Violators, those who would risk all for a singular goal, a goal antithetical to harmony in life. He had fought them in the shadows and won. He would fight them again, for however long it might take, for he was one who stood firm, held the line, and pushed back against the darkness. He was honor bound by the old ways to uphold all that is best in humanity. He was William Bennett, Andrun Acolyte of the Knights of Avros Tolomain, a sworn Knight of the Old Code.