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View Full Version : Walden (The Strongest) vs Karal (Tantalum)



Tantalum
07-29-2013, 06:45 PM
Here it is, the showdown that you were eagerly awaiting! (if you're clicking this then it must be true! =o )
Tantalum faces off against The Strongest in pursuit of your votes and reading pleasure.

Walden (The Strongest's wRHG) (http://forums.stickpage.com/showthread.php?73106-Walden) - Spectral wolves, Binds Spirits, Werewolf Transformation

Karal (Tantalum's wRHG) (http://forums.stickpage.com/showthread.php?73961-Karal) - Metal coat, Enhanced Strength, Electric Projection



One moment, Walden had been looking up at the sky, pondering the nature of the tournament he had entered himself in. The next, he found himself in darkness again. All it had taken was the blink of an eye, and when he felt them open again, he saw nothing. At first, Walden panicked, but the most recent teleportation he had experienced soon came to the front of his mind, and that fear subsided, replacing itself with curiosity. Last time, this time in darkness had ended with Walden's arrival at a place in which he was expected to do battle. It seemed reasonable to expect the same, now.

Darkness, still, was not a particularly easy thing to stay aware in, especially one such as this. It was completely devoid of sensation. At least a natural night had sounds, even if the only sound was one's own breathing. Why Walden was conscious for such a transit, he began to question. Or was he truly conscious? His mind began to slow, returning to that question time and time again, until it finally began to consume all of his thoughts, until he no longer heard them.

When Walden next opened his eyes, he could see again. Above him there was nothing but blue sky with a few mixed white clouds. Walden began to stand, but the feeling of the ground shifting beneath him turned his effort into a stagger. Looking down, he found himself at the top of a spire of metal and glass. Across from him, there was another such spire, and below it seemed a bridge of glass existed. It all seemed so fragile, yet there it was, somehow existing. Disconcertingly, the blue sky didn't just extend upwards in a horizon. As Walden looked down, there was more blue sky to be seen. In fact, the whole structure seemed to exist in some sort of limbo. A glass bridge spanning nothing.

Down below, Walden could make out the forms of several vehicles traveling, and above the four lanes of swift traffic there was a wide walkway, apparently intended for pedestrians, of which there were none to be seen. Except for one, as Walden saw, walking casually along it.

From where he was, Walden couldn't distinguish any real features. There was a lot of red, so she stood out against the glass, but her head seemed to be covered by some sort of a metal helmet. It was an odd juxtaposition, the highly casual attire cutting away into the serious combat gear. Still, it meant that this would likely turn out to be a fight where he would have to be the faster of the two, for any number of reasons.

Walden considered the myriad of possibilities as he navigated his way down from the tower, really it was just a support for the ladder leading to the walkway, that the spire rested atop. Maybe she was lightly armored because she valued agility over anything else. Or perhaps she wasn't heavily armored because her entire suite of abilities focused on death from afar. Or maybe she was some sort of an area of effect fighter.

Or maybe it was because she herself was already quite armored, just not in the way Walden had expected.

As Walden got closer, he began to perceive what he could only describe as a metal mask, the likes of which he had never seen before. It seemed to cover the figure's face entirely, save for three holes along the left cheek. Aside from those three holes, and a single protrusion where a nose would be, the mask was smooth like the glass structure they were walking towards each other on.

Well, Walden was doing something more akin to a stride, as he closed in on the one he expected to be his next opponent in this tournament. The other occupant of the glass walkway was doing something that seemed more like plodding. The slow and rather heavy way of moving gave Walden the impression that that armor didn't just cover her face, after all. It looked effective, too, not a scratch on it.

Or maybe it was something new, something that she was unused to. That would explain the condition, as well. The clunky way of moving also seemed to support that theory, that his opponent didn't know how to fight effectively while in that suit. That was fine by Walden.

Walden came to a stop, and the other did the same.

With a flourish, Walden drew his blade and declared, “My name is Walden. I trust that you are my opponent. Here, on this glass construct, we shall do battle. An endeavor which we shall both keep up until the other is rendered unable to battle, or forfeits.”

Walden waited for confirmation, or for any response, but one did not immediately present itself. Slightly put off, Walden continued.

“The rules of engagement, I propose, shall include no shooting to the back. No sand in the eyes. No hidden blades or weapons.”

As Walden finished his statement, he withdrew the pistol from his jacket and spun it once in his hand. He followed that with a dramatic wave of his arm. Just beyond the reach of his fingertips, a tear opened up in the air, and Walden's pack poured out behind him.

“You have focused yourself, it seems, on armor. If you shall be a fortress, then I shall be the water running between your stones. Prepare yourself, I have calculated your strength and I shall defeat you at its level!”

With another dramatic gesture, Walden commanded several of his wolves to disintegrate and fuel his fight. This reinvigorated Walden stretched his back once, before turning again to face his opponent.

“Before we begin, I should like to know the name of the one I shall be facing.” Walden said.

The other figured stood stock still, and Walden believed for a moment that she was, in fact, deaf, when suddenly he saw sparks dancing in front of her. At first, Walden expected an attack, but that expectation was disappointed, as the sparks danced faster, forming words with their glowing trails.

\/\= Karal. =\/\

The idea that it was her name that would begin the fight was taken literally, it seemed, as Karal began to move forwards. Walden surmised that she was effectively a heavily armored taser, and that made fighting her theoretically difficult.

Still, Walden took a quick step forwards as Karal got close enough for him to attempt such and made a testing lunge. It wasn't strong enough to be effective in that moment as a real attack, but if it would definitely confirm or reject Walden's theory that he was in for a very bad time with a fight such as this.

Without flinching, Karal continued forwards, reaching down as if to grab the blade as it glanced off her armor, though the clothing above it was cut. Seeing, through the cut, that same shiny surface made Walden realize how much of a problem this fight actually was.

It didn't much matter what Karal seemed to be capable of doing in retaliation if Walden couldn't present anything for Karal to even consider a threat. At his strength, Walden didn't think that he could so much as dent that armor.

So Walden decided to rely on a different entity's strength. Raising his pistol, Walden took a moment to steady himself before he pulled the trigger. There was a flash of smoke and flame, and the distinct sound of the bullet rebounding off the metal alloy that covered Karal. Sparks, too. More sparks than there ought to have been.

Walden leaped backwards as the immediate area in front of Karal seemed to erupt into sparks. An incandescent display of power that Walden was struggling to find a way to overcome. Walden lacked the firepower to do anything to her, it seemed. That pistol had been fired practically at point blank range, but from the time it took for her counterattack to materialize, it had been about as effective as his earlier lunge. Even though she seemed slow enough that Walden could easily reload for a second shot, the effort struck him as entirely pointless.

The heavy sound of Karal's footstep made him realize that she was still coming for him. Another footstep, and it was at that moment that Walden realized that her footfalls were punctuated by another sound. As Walden looked down, just at the point where Karal's foot came down, he saw the formation of several small cracks.

On her own, perhaps, Karal wasn't enough to break the structure. But if she were to receive some aid in that pursuit...

Walden ordered the remaining wolves to attack. He knew that they wouldn't be effective in the slightest against her, but the goal was to keep her in one place long enough to maximize the damage that she could do to the walkway in one place. Since any damage she did to them was temporary at best, the distraction would, hopefully, be enough for Walden's plan to come to fruition. That plan seemed to be working alright. If a wolf attacked from behind, then Karal seemed at least more inclined to turn to knock it to the side than to simply use her static in a burst again. It must not be the kind of attack that she can use wantonly.

Even so, its existence was enough that Walden was willing to rely on his tactic of overwhelming spirits do its job, allowing Karal to defeat herself, as each heavy step she took to brace herself to knock the next wolf away further weakened the ground that she stood on. The threat of the wolves was enough to keep Karal from paying too much attention to that, it seemed.

Well, that lack of attention would turn out to be her undoing, or so Walden thought. Although Karal didn't show it by turning her head, Walden had the eerie sensation that he was being watched. Then Karal turned away from the wolf she had just knocked to the side and began moving towards Walden at a jog. The move was significantly faster than anything he had been expecting, and Walden's surprise lasted long enough that she was able to get much closer than Walden was comfortable with.

A solid punch found itself in his gut, and the reeling Walden felt a surge of electricity run through his body, then. Just past the veil of sudden pain, Walden found one thought that he was able to grab hold of, and that was that she was much stronger than he had first anticipated. Walden closed his eyes, trying to blink away the pain. Somewhere, he heard a voice screaming. Something about...coming back. Maybe that wasn't such a bad idea. Maybe he should just go back to wherever it was he had come from. Through the haze in his mind, he couldn't quite remember where that was. He remembered there being a void, but that was as far back as he was able to think.

He was so intent on finding what was past that void in his memory, that when he realized that the electricity had ceased, it came as a second, much less literal, shock to his system. There were no more wolves, either, all of them were within Walden. Karal, it seemed, had interpreted that as Walden's defeat. Her mistake.

Walden looked around with his eyes, and saw just how close he was to salvaging this situation, as the glass continued to crack. Karal, it seemed, had noted this as well, as her footfalls were made with a definite care. A lot of focus went into that. Too much focus. It gave Walden enough of a blind spot for him to struggle up onto his knees again.

Looking around, with his whole pack inside him, Walden saw the only way to continue forwards clear as crystal before him.

“Karal.” Walden called, struggling to his feet as he did such. “I can't defeat you. But if I know one thing, it's that you'll be fine.”

Walden looked down at the cracks in the glass and stomped as hard as he could. Spirits in his blood, in his bones, in his muscles, in all of his body brought strength to the action, and the cracks spread in all directions. Karal had turned to look at him, and knew immediately what he was doing. She started her jog again. Heavy footfalls. More cracks.

Walden brought his foot up, and then down again. Karal was still coming. The cracks were spreading further. Again. A greater spread than previously. The reflection off Karal's coating getting closer. Stamp. Crack. Thud, thud. Crack. Stamp. And the walkway gives way. In that moment, one thing becomes absolutely crucial: running away.

The damage from the structure extended far in both directions, and all that damaged glass was coming down. Walden turned, and called several of his wolves out from him as he began to run. The sudden drop in his physical capabilities was twice the blow to him, as the remnants of the brief agony he had experienced before coursed through his nerves.

One step, two steps, three steps, four...Walden was moving at what might as well have been a jog. As the nature of the fight had changed, Walden had changed as well. Karal was following behind him, attempting the same thing as he was, but it didn't seem to be fast enough. Self doubt was beginning to cloud his mind, in the same way that the pain had just before. Would it be better to turn and face the fall?

No, that kind of thinking wasn't what he'd forged himself into. Walden turned that thought into inspiration. The inspiration became fuel, and Walden pushed his natural muscles to triumph over this scenario. Every moment, the walkway beneath his feet began to feel less stable. But at the same time, every moment seemed to bring the safety of more stable ground closer. It was a sight, if there were any to spectate it. Two gladiators moving at a snail's pace to escape a fall to their defeat.

Walden saw the safe ground just ahead. Three steps away. Two steps. That safe ground was suddenly rising. Walden didn't have to look down to realize that he might just not make it. That thought didn't stop him from trying, though. Walden put what energy he had into a leap forwards to get himself firmly on the safety that he was so close to. Even as the he felt the glass fall away beneath his feet, Walden also felt his body moving through the air towards the still wholly solid glass. He landed, and he felt the security of the structure beneath his body, and he let a half-sob, half-sigh exhalation escape. The tremendous crash, then, as all that glass and one gladiator impacted onto the lanes below was the only sound that Walden needed to know that the fight was over. The old man closed his eyes. When he opened them next, there was only darkness. And that sight was beginning to feel startlingly familiar.



-01


A clouded sky hung low, curtaining an expanse of untouched land and sea. Humid air and shallow waves sifted through a desolate shore. A northern lighthouse flickered dimly, no longer paying mind to the rocky peaks littering the sea. This particular coast was one of the more quiet outskirts to be found, but there still lived a few individuals who acknowledged the beach's existence.

Walden did not know whose footsteps he was following. Irregular, deep-printed marks through pebble-ridden sands, revealed as his cane swept past. The puzzle was somewhat distracting from the peaceful walk he intended for; but at the same time welcoming. Normally confined to the city walls, it was a rare sight to see those who could still appreciate the world's smaller wonders, and such persons would surely make for better conversation than the typical share of combatants.

The stranger's steps led him to a moss-coated dock, and his own broad paces brought him atop the aged, moss-laced path. Ahead of him was sighted a ship of modest size, resembling an 18th century brig; weathered from decades of rain and tides, yet its hull and masts held perfectly intact. The figurehead of a gryphon adorned beneath its bow, the mark of a forgotten flag crowned both of the ship’s masts, and its hand-decorated rails and woodwork remained as fine as the day they were scored.
No mark foretold of the shipwrights responsible for such timeless craftsmanship, nor the sailors skilled enough to leave it unscathed amongst the jagged rocks of the shore. Unable to be restored nor navigated by any other, it remained in port to the present day, an anchored landmark of a rarely-visited land.

Given the quietness of the area, it was not unusual for tourists to board the vessel. The individual sat restfully upon the far rail, their back turned to the sandless beach. Walden picked up on their extreme hairstyle and bright clothing, determining them to be of younger age.

The boat swayed no less as he took hold of the ladder, and he confidently drew himself over the starboard rail. As if having expected his arrival, the figure turned around from their spot, waving in his direction.
And nothing more.
No reaction, no expression, not a word said in response.

Rather, Walden was the one to stiffen his gestures, upon the realisation of his fellow tourist having no face. The sheen of a steel-like substance smoothed and melded the decals of an otherwise feminine figure, even as much as to bind the digits of her outstretched hand. Waiting impatiently, said hand was then drawn back against her cheek as she ‘watched’ the man's hesitant actions.

"...My apologies," Walden quickly composed himself, not one to settle for rudeness. As alien as she looked, she acted as a person would all the same. Walden had encountered true, otherworldly horrors many a time before, and her passive gestures were far from comparable to that of any fiend he had met.

"It is rare to find others so far out of the city," he explained his surprise. “I am curious to know what draws you here."

Her ‘eye’ contact turned off-center for a second, suggesting a moment of thought; but when it returned, still no answer was given.

"Something you are looking for?" Walden suggested, a studious expression across his face. Inconvenient as it was, charades still made for easier communication than what many of his spirit encounters were able - but thankfully, it would not need to persist.

With some thought and shrugging, she raised the same hand again, aiding to focus her inherent ability. The flicker of an electric spark ran through her palm, then encircled it. More followed in an erratic stream, and their cyan paths conjoined in the air to form recognisable shapes.

\/\= Fear. =\/\ Four letters and appropriate punctuation floated before her, then dissipated to nothingness.



-02


"...Fear?" Walden took a cautious step forwards, hoping she could elaborate. With some patience, four more rows articulated the being’s thoughts.
\/\= The water below me is twenty metres deep. =\/\= Were I to fall, I would not surface. =\/\
\/\= I feel I should be frightened of being here. =\/\= I might have forgotten how to be. =\/\

Her head raised as if to sigh, and she swivelled herself back inside the ship rails. Bared metal feet fell heavily as she slipped back on board, the aged wood groaning beneath her weight.

“A strange desire,” commented Walden, not a trace of condescension in his voice. “Fear is an unwelcome feeling for most.”
\/\= I am told it is also common. =\/\ She replied, teetering on the spot.
“Our fears can adapt, like any other emotion. If you struggle to find it, perhaps you have already attuned to your share of fearful experiences.”
Talking from experience, and guessing by her lack of response, Walden could assume his guess was fairly accurate. It was an unusual dilemma, that much was for certain - but maybe, just possibly, he would be able to assist in her troubles.

"Say.” he prompted the girl. “Are you perchance a gladiator?"
Karal stood attentively, surprised to hear the mention. \/\= Yes sir. =\/\= Recently. =\/\
"Then, will you let me challenge you to a duel?"
She staggered back quite suddenly at the proposal, with arms raised and audible static coursing through her body.

"A friendly spar," Walden elaborated quickly, "We may agree to no mercilessness or fatality." In a beat, Karal's hostile posture swiftly changed to one of questioning.
"Consider it an aiding gesture," he added, his tone showing his "It may not invoke what you are looking for, but I have found civilised combat to grant ample peace of mind."
\/\= Really? =\/\ Karal parted from the rail behind her, greatly intrigued by his words. Walden responded with the slightest of nods.

\/\= Then, =\/\= I thank you for your advice! =\/\ she raised both arms to cheer. \/\= I challenge you, =\/\= . . . =\/\
Her text gradually slowed to a halt, noticing a crucial point she had forgotten to ask already.

\/\= Ahem =\/\= Do you have a name, sir? =\/\ The girl’s words could be read clearly across the divide.


“You may call me Walden”, the swordsman replied, with notable modesty for someone of his age and stature.
Karal paused solemnly for a second, turning towards the floor and back.
\/\= Wolden? =\/\= Woldan? =\/\= Walden? =\/\= Waldan? =\/\ Requesting affirmation, she proposed written variants as a floating list.

"The third will suffice," Walden smiled in thought of the nicety. The false names disappeared, and the word \/\= Greetings =\/\ was rendered beside the remainder.
"And may I ask yours?" the question was returned.
\/\= Karal. =\/\

The irony sank in deep, and Walden could not help but pass a chuckle. Could her name be derived from Carol, or Karla, or was in fact the latter half dominant?
"...A pleasure meeting you," he instead replied, tactfully skipping the subject. Karal’s social cues were inherently difficult to read, making it hard to tell if his avoidance had been picked up on, but perhaps in this instance it was for the best.
“Then, shall we begin?”



-03


The two fighters stood thirteen yards apart, at opposite sides upon the ship’s deck. Light gales had picked up from the east, and sharp headwinds rattled the decaying sails overhead.

"Before we start,” Walden continued, “It is worth noting I am a swordsman by specialty, and you are... exoskeletal, in nature.” With cane poised before him he asked, “Will my blade pose a threat to you?"

Karal took two hops forward. A louder static sounded, but this time audible from all directions. Tiny glimmers encompassed where Walden stood, and he felt the finest of his hair strands drawn on end.

\/\= It is a nice blade. =\/\ she complimented with half-certainty, her words readable across the divide. As her head tilted, a following line added, \/\= I have never seen a gun like yours, however. =\/\

Walden had yet to actually reveal the sword hidden in his cane, and the holster for his antique pistol was hidden beneath his cloak. Although his chosen foe had no eyes, her sense of perception seemed to far surpass the need for them, which came as a relief.

“I shall begin. Remember, all attacks to the front, and no killing. Defeat shall only be through forfeit or surrender.”

=\/\ Understood, =\/\ Karal agreed without question. \/\= Catch me out any way you like. =\/\









“Prepare yourself!” Walden leapt enthusiastically, drawing his sword from its sheath. The gap between them was closed in mere moments, as he slashed forwards with the physique of a man in his prime.
Karal was prepared, and her right forearm raised to deflect the blow. The blade connected solidly with impressive speed - yet it was barely enough to leave a nick in her metallic coat.
=\/\ A very nice blade. =\/\= I feared it would have shattered. =\/\ her comments were written behind herself, as to not distract from the fray.
“Already it has come back to you?” Walden gave a knowing smile at her suggested emotion.
=\/\ It is easier to fear for others. \/\= Unphased, Karal stepped inwards with her full weight - double that of Walden’s own - to which he stepped back, pulling his blade for a second strike.
“Never truer words...” Walden swung vertically, and Karal sidestepped to her right, raising her other forearm such that the blade would deflect to the left. With his guard lowered, she threw a right hook at Walden’s chest - but her movement was too slow to keep up, and Walden had paced back to dodge the blow.

Karal was not about to let up on pressuring him. A forceful pace turned into a steady approach, nearing as quickly as her body allowed. A left fist was drawn, and Walden stood ready with blade before him, raised to parry the incoming blow.

But, the punch was never thrown. Merely faking the act, she took advantage of Walden’s retaliation; her drawn hand clasped over Walden’s opposite, and her right elbow defended her from the rest of the blade as she pushed forward. Forced to skid back, Walden was left in an awkward position to counteract - but Karal picked up on that he was not moving as far as he did on their first clash.

\/\= You were not this strong a second ago. =\/\ She came to a stop, applying only enough pressure to keep her opponent fixed in position. \/\= With all respect, =\/\= are you going easy on me? =\/\

“An uncommon observation,” Walden answered indirectly - more wondering just how well the girl could read him.

\/\= Your sword is not cutting me, but you strike with it anyway. =\/\= Your movement and strategy are too straightforward. =\/\= And if you were allow me to take your collar... =\/\

Her hand reached out, and Walden eyed it curiously. His first reaction was to sidestep to the left - only to realise he no longer had the room to do so. He was standing helplessly at the bow, his back against a dead end which Karal had manipulated him to. Though he was several inches taller, she was still able to lift his feet off the ground, supporting him by the vest with a single arm.

\/\= ...It would appear you are letting me win. =\/\

“Hm.” Walden rested a hand on the wrist supporting him. Not to his surprise, her ‘skin’ was precisely as solid as it looked - and the force exerted behind her grasp was found to be a little jarring.
“I suppose I have grown transparent over the years,” he admitted, a satisfied grin spreading across his face. “You are more able than I anticipated you to be. Now, if you will, let me redeem myself to you.”



-04


The passing winds only heightened with his ending words, and the air seemed to densen around them. From behind Walden was brought forth a wide dimensional tear; its black, tendril-laced seams squirmed apart, spewing weightless fragments that flayed like firewood. From the depths of the spiritual realm emerged lupine ghosts, their forms but a wispy imitation of their previous earthly vessels.
#


One by one the wolves pounced, phasing through their master to reach the commanded prey. The first caught Karal’s shin between its maw, and the second latched to her shoulder. Two more, and she was dragged wildly back to the ship’s mainmast, relinquishing dominance over her opponent.

\/\= What =\/\= is this...? =\/\ The metal figure could but struggle from beneath the wraiths that pinned her. Her right arm broke loose - only for it to flail at the air in front of her, and subsequently be bitten down again.

“...Am I to assume you cannot see them?” asked a surprised Walden, who kept watch of his pack as he realigned his attire. Her ‘sight’ could perceive physical objects so well, yet the immaterial had been revealed to be a dire weakness.
“These are the spirits I have since binded under my control. You could call them the source of my ‘real’ strength, as it were.”
As he spoke, eight more of the spectrals stood in an arc behind himself, making for a total of twelve under his command.

\/\= But =\/\ the girl begged to interrupt, still fending the wolves to no avail. \/\=If you had stopped holding back, =\/\= you would have drawn- =\/\= ! =\/\
Her text trailed off as her attention returned to Walden, who had taken to loading his pistol with remarkable efficiency.

“I would rather go against my will than against my word. Still, I don’t expect this is enough for you to surrender.” the pack leader jested, cocking the barrel before pointing it towards her. He had no real intention to shoot just yet; however, he had yet to see just how fired up Karal could get.

Projecting her energy as much as possible, the tiny sparks which trickled off her body became full arcs of curving electricity, resounding like distant thunder. The wolves were quick to reel away from the victim, lest their forms be torn apart by the output.
Bursts of smoke and vapour rose as she stood, and several wide sears were left through her red jacket. Not only had she dispelled Walden’s trap, but the humidity allowed her to obscure herself within a cloud of blackened steam, deterring him from taking a shot.
“A sly move...” Walden bared teeth at the sight of Karal’s cloaking. It was a personal taboo, but given the situation of his own assault, it was not one he could call her out upon.

His pistol stayed held out in front of him, readied to fire, but not wishing to waste his advantage. Ears listened diligently for footsteps, but none could be heard. Indeed, his opponent was a clever one; her armor made her too heavy for stealth, and so attempting much movement would be meaningless.
Recognising this, the swordsman finally put away his pistol - and no sooner did Karal burst out from the clouds, determined to close the distance he had made.

Fully anticipating this, Walden readied his own precaution. By his orders, five of the spectral wolves loosened and deteriorated in form, their shadowy essence merging into their master’s body. Though taxing on the spirits that provided it, his strength was enhanced tenfold, his reflexes more responsive, his movements more refined.

His speed doubled that of his opponent’s as he charged at her - and in reaction, Karal stopped dead on the spot, immediately raising a defensive stance. The swordsman lunged, barely catching her torso as she stepped aside. She countered with a punch, stepping back to regain her position, but it served no threat to Walden who effortlessly avoided the strike.
Sidestepping to Karal’s left, he aimed another thrust at her upper. Set on keeping her ground, Karal ducked beneath, returning an uppercut to the same location.

But Walden had already drawn back, having caught a read on Karal’s attacks. Reaching around to her opposite side, he completed a powerful two-handed slash, the shriek of clashing metal blaring for miles.
Karal’s body held stiff - more so than the norm - as the blade parted from the inch-deep wound along her right arm. A vibrant red leaked from serrated grooves, further tainting her already-ruined garments.



Karal’s clothes were still singed, that was for sure, but his refined nose was not only sensing burned fabric. A mere downward glance revealed the offense; a charred black floorboard, beneath where Karal had stood so insistently for the past few trades.

Her foot slammed down, and Walden had no time to react. The full plank gave way, throwing Walden off-balance and into Karal’s arms. Caught into a headlock, the remainder of his body was lifted up and over, crashing into the deck behind in a brutal vertical suplex.

He groaned and spluttered on impact, left disoriented for several seconds. By the time his wits returned, his opponent was above him, and his right arm was locked loosely beneath her twenty-stone mass. A warm metal hand held down his forehead, and her left fist was poised to rupture any part of his body as she desired.

\/\= Do I win? =\/\ the girl asked innocently, despite her clear wavering threat. Walden only glared back at the empty face before him, fists clenched and eyes angered.

\/\= ? =\/\= ...Walden? =\/\



-05


Walden was not going to stand for a second ploy. Two of the wolves dived at her, pulling her away from her vantage point- before a third tackled her in midair, sending her crashing into the far rail.
\/\= !!░ =\/\
“Can you still stand?” Walden asked, his voice undertoned with enragement, and the other spectrals growling alongside him. A couple seconds later, and Karal had managed to right herself, relying on the rail’s support as she recovered.

“Not that it matters.”
A silver-coated bullet flew before Karal could even stand, ricocheting off her stomach with unexpected force. her knees gave way instantly, leaving only her left arm to support herself as her right clenched her indented stomach -- and even this was relieved soon after, as two of Walden’s wolves carried her body back towards him.

“This has been a most interesting bout.” Walden’s pistol was placed back in his holster, and his silver-coated sword was held at Karal’s neck.

\/\= N░ =\/\= ░░ . . . =\/\ the dazed teenager all but struggled to express her thoughts.
“Is that a surrender?” the swordsman’s voice raised. Hesitantly, Karal shook her head, printing words a second time in a much slower fashion.
\/\= No merciles░sness =\/\= or░ fatality =\/\= . . . =\/\

The swordsman looked thoroughly confused - almost insulted by Karal feeling the need to remind him of his own conduct. The point of his blade pressed firmer against her armored vitals, faintly scoring beneath her jaw with pure malicious intent...

“...What /am/ I doing?”
In a flash, his rising anger turned to utmost shock and humility - yet his body stayed put, not lifting the blade an inch from where it was placed.
“I... I cannot apologise nor compensate enough,” the flustering in his tone was evident, “But I must insist we end this duel here.”
\/\= … With yourself being the winner? =\/\
“Never would I accept such a lawless victory as my own,” Walden’s pride spoke for him.
\/\= Then let us continue. =\/\ Karal sat up, as much as her opponent’s sword would let her.

\/\= You said I would discover fear. =\/\
Walden found himself speechless at the comment. He had not said anything to that effect at all - was Karal truly this driven over such a disdainful emotion?
\/\= You are fearful of something. =\/\
“Karal, I ask only this of you.” her name was spoken subconsciously, and there was no time to fuss over proper pronunciation. “W

\/\= … I am sorry. =\/\= I wish to find out. =\/\

She took a firm grasp of the blade, swiping it to her left. Walden pulled back in alarm - only to find Karal’s grip was in fact stronger than his own. The sword was cast from silver-plated steel, and so an unexpected, electromagnetic pull gave her a swift advantage.

She stood up, flexing both arms as she approached a now-retreating Walden. The cut on her right had still had yet to seal, the outward red channels still trickling to the ground.
“Y- You’re going to attack me while unarmed??” Walden stammered, his face showing more worry than distraught.
=\/\ You are not defenseless without it. =\/\ Karal’s reasoning held to be correct. Nearing within range, her left arm threw a clean jab; Walden caught the fist in his left, but was still overpowered by the weight behind it, throwing him back several paces.
Karal followed inwards - and ducked instinctively to her left, narrowly escaping the claws of a pouncing wolf. The spectrals were still hazy to her vision, but with heightened effort she could guess out their general positions.
No time was given for a recovery. Two of them flanked from opposite sides; an electric-charged overhand disbanded one with ease, but left the other to gouge three superficial scars across her back. Meanwhile, the remaining wolves were seen to fade out of existence - their particles becoming one with their leader, identical to the first time he had used this ability. A glimmer of red hovered before his dilated eyes, unwavering before the single target ahead.

“Graaargh!!!” Nothing could have prepared Karal for this second raise in sheer power, for this time she was not tackled by the wolves but Walden himself, whose elbow sent her rolling back to the same starboard rail. His sword was retrieved mid-dash, and another ground-shaking leap was paired with a direct thrust, his aim set explicitly at Karal’s upper torso.

Having no choice, the teenager leaned in, her right hand reaching out to meet the attack. The blade ran right through her palm with excruciating pain - however, this action slowed the blade’s travel, enough to shift it aside from her few vitals.
A crazed Walden was left in point-blank range, and Karal knew perfectly how to . She reached further, her hand grating further down the blade to take hold of Walden’s own. Her free hand had taken hold of a belaying pin, which was smashed across the swordsman’s face in a spray of splinters. Both her arms caught him by the waist before he fell, flipping his body above her shoulders, and then melding his back to the deck with a perfectly-executed powerbomb.

Left to buckle and splutter, the old man found himself unable to raise a limb - and by the time his eyelids were responsive, no words could describe the audacity of the youth before him.

\/\= Would you believe most of these things were left loaded? =\/\ asked Karal, standing proudly with none other than one of the ship’s cannons on her shoulder. A bluff or otherwise,
\/\= Were your wolves to still attack me =\/\= I do not think I would miss. =\/\= Is this enough to earn your surrender? =\/\

“...No...” Walden croaked monotonously, his unfocused eyes widening beyond his control..

\/\= . . . =\/\= What..? =\/\



-06


Darkening clouds had shifted to hide the sun, and the eastward gales had not let up on their course.
Walden’s utterance was not in response to her proposal, for his mind was too clouded to understand her words. It was a long time since he was last driven to fight so disorderly, or challenged by an individual so unbelievably lacking in common integrity. The anger he contained had been far more controllable a decade back, but age had since crept on him, and this time he was unable to refrain.

Against his dwindling will, the last of the spectral wolves were absorbed into his form - but no longer could their maddened fury be kept internal. Veiled by pulsing shadows, his limbs grew in size, his muscles rippling to twice, three times what could be kept beneath his garments. A dark coat of fur wrapped his monstrous body and giant claws adorned the end of his limbs.

It howled, a deafening, ear-puncturing howl that caused even Karal to stumble. Standing eight feet tall even as he hunched over

\/\= You =\/\= . . . =\/\= are not Walden, are you? =\/\ for once, Karal’s blank face aptly matched her given reaction.

The figure jumped, and Karal panicked, pacing back as she took aim with her held weapon. Surging sparks ran through the weighted cannon, and an expanse of gunpowder and wadding ignited before her -- the cannonball not included.
Unphased by mere dust, the ‘Wolfpack’s claw sliced deep her waist, effortlessly drawing blood and flesh. Twisting in pain, Karal slammed the blunt of the cannon into the werewolf’s head - who then shook off the injury, with no wound nor bruise to show for it.
Its left claw swung outwards, knocking Karal back and clipping the cannon’s barrel far out of her grasp. Falling to the floor, she struggled to edge herself away - only to be snatched back by the foot, its claws cutting into her heel, and then carried twenty feet into the air with an astounding leap.

Her first time so far above ground, the feeling of sheer disorientation almost drowned the aching of her body; but sadly, it was not to last. Moments after, she found herself thrown back-first through the opposite end of the ship, with force enough to crash straight through the upper deck. Fighting solely to keep herself conscious, she watched as Wolfpack leapt ravenously after her, nearing towards the hole she had fallen through.

Senses pulsed through her surroundings, absolutely desperate for a solution. Unbeknownst to herself, she had landed in the navigator’s room, the table of which had also served to break her fall. Not one item within the dusty cabin was especially ideal or out of place, but a certain furniture piece would make for a perfect stall.

Her right fist clenched and swelled with electricity, focusing an electromagnetic force in a single direction. Wolfpack dived in after her, flashing bared teeth - only to clench them through the blade of a broadsword, blood showering between the both of them. A sharp hook to his jaw threw the rest of him off from atop her, landing into the remainder of a wooden sword-rack. While strong, it did not appear Walden’s transformation caused him to gain weight - a notable weakness she would remember to take advantage of.

Another broadsword had been drawn in her left hand, and the cane-sword that was stuck through it prior was now wielded in her right. Karal had not the slightest idea how to use such weapons - let alone dual-wield them - but now that her coat was no longer a viable defense, the blades would serve as her last stand.
Limping, she managed to escape the room, slamming the door behind her - instants before Wolfpack dived back through, snapping it clean off its hinges. She swiped naively with both swords, dealing two deep cuts through Wolfpack’s arm, but in trade for a violent gash through her own collar.

She fell back against an empty barrel, watching in surprise as Wolfpack also took poorly to the injury. On further study, it appeared that the cut through its mouth had completely healed - and not only that, but one of its arm wounds were closing itself right in front of her. With this considered, the other, unhealed wound raised questions about the weapon she was borrowing; knowing he could transform into this monster, did Walden’s own sword double as a countermeasure?

The blood loss was catching up to her, but given the situation, not moving was tantamount to forfeiting her life. His vulnerabilities had been found, but she needed a plan, something that could stop the wolf without outright killing him.
Tipping the barrels behind her, she made a break for the staircase, pools of red ringing her footsteps. The cacophony of snapped wood signified it was not a substantial hindrance, but nothing was left to keep him subdued. Her arms barely reached through the trapdoor when Wolfpack caught up, collapsing the entire stairway. Adrenaline rushing through her, she found the strength to pull herself up, back into the winds of the open air.

As expected, Wolfpack jumped up blindly after her - to which she retaliated by pulling up his wrist, and tossing his body further down the ship. Aided greatly by the weather, he was left to catch onto the back rail, giving Karal the lead she desperately needed.
Opposed to Wolfpack’s lighter, larger form, Karal’s dense body let her move against the wind with little trouble. Her fists finally made contact with the mainmast, with literally no time to spare; quickly her hunter had adapted to moving on all fours, claws digging into the deck as he surely gained on her.

Energy rippled over her whole body, her desperate escape leading to this one moment. With a solid blow, thousands of electric volts were grounded into the mast’s base; detonating through its structure, and letting the gales do the rest. Wolfpack ravenously dove ahead, only for Karal to tumble aside, leaving the mast to collapse on her opponent’s possessed body.

Almost completely worn out, Karal sank to kneel before the werewolf, his jaws endlessly snapping and growling even while pinned to the spot. Limbs dented the floorboards in its crazed fit, the stimulus serving to heighten her sense of urgency.
His rage all but worsened as Karal struck the broadsword through his left hand - then subdued to a whimper as the cane-sword pierced his right.
\/\= Please, awaken. =\/\ Though without certainty, Karal began to exorcise the wolf spirits the only way she had proven how. Endless minutes of relentless, non-lethal electrocution followed, shocks circuiting through both impalements by their hilts. Uncounted moments passed, and everything fell to eerie silence.



-07


Walden’s eyes blinked open, and then again. His vision slowly came to focus, identifying a humanoid, reflective outline before him.
“...Treacherous child.” Still driven by anger, his bandaged hands stretched for the hilt of his sword. It clinked pitifully against Karal’s side, his body clearly lacking the strength to wield it any longer.

\/\= ? =\/\ her question was without need of elaboration. The floating character lacked the luminosity her texts once had, one of many signs that she too was truly exhausted.

“...Wait... You’re still alive. But that shouldn’t... That means...”

Slowly, the man came to his senses, taking in the changed surroundings; it did not take long to see the relic he had boarded upon was now little more than a wreck. Several tears were littered through the deck, the rails and woodwork tainted by their earlier combat, and his back was propped beside the broken mast. Lives had been spared, and it was a wonder how the ship still floated, but still the damaged memories caused him great resentment.
In front of himself, Karal sat entirely motionless, arms folded in front of her. He could have sworn her jeans used to be white. The entirety of her upper was no different, her arms and face scathed with blood.
The coat she once wore was simply too torn to keep, and he noticed its scraps tied around both of their wounds. She had the decency not to do the same to his cloak, but nonetheless it now held as a makeshift sling over his left arm.

\/\= . . . That I win? =\/\ Karal supposed, not at all sure what the man was getting at.
“There are things far more important!” Walden snapped, “Do you have any reverence for history or conduct?! Both of us could have lost our lives from your naivety! Do you even fear for your own-”
He cut himself off mid-sentence, remembering Karal’s first words all too clearly..

\/\= I only feared I would not be able to pull you back. =\/\= I do not think today has helped much. =\/\ Karal shook her head, as if disappointed with her own reasoning.

With a lengthy sigh, Walden’s tension finally eased. “Perhaps, this naivety is the reason you can keep such a pure heart. I would have good mind to be envious.” Karal was left to wonder whether this was a compliment, but did not find the words to answer regardless.
“We should get moving. The ship no longer has an owner, but it would do no good to be seen here.” Walden’s arms raised to lift himself off the ground - and Karal jumped to his assistance, supporting him on her good shoulder.

Gradually making their way down to the dock, the pair departed from the ruins of their bout, headed to return to the nearby city.
\/\= Walden? =\/\ Karal nudged her passenger, ensuring he was still awake enough to read. \/\= This ‘conduct’ you mentioned; how much would you be able to teach me? =\/\
“I don’t consider myself a teacher, but even without my debts to you, I could not refuse.”
\/\= You are a kind man. =\/\ Karal mimicked his use of compliments. \/\= . . . On the subject of debts, =\/\= Would you also be willing to buy me a new jacket? =\/\
“...Consider this example your first lesson.”


Is Tantalum in their element, or will The Strongest live up to their namesake? Will Karal come ahead of the pack, or is Walden made of tougher metal? *shot*

I was over a day late with my entry, so factor that into your votes if you will.

Be sure to leave C&C if you have the time, this is my first and The Strongest's second battle here =).

Nightlock
07-31-2013, 05:11 PM
Both of these reads were incredible. What The Strongest lacked in length, he made up in word usage and creative setting. And what Tantalum lacked in paragraph structures and a few typos, he made up in detailed interactions throughout the spar. This is a hard decision.

Honestly, Strongest, I can't think of anything that I can critique. Great use of vocabulary, original placement of the battle, and writing the fight from Walden's POV as a mistaken opponent in Hewitt's tournament really kept my interest. ^_^ Awesome entry.

Tantalum, the spacing between your paragraphs weren't consistent, and there were a few noticeable typos near the center of your piece. However, I think that between the two of you, you were able to portray the opponents wRHG better. Personality, speech, and fighting style were on cue. And the duration of the fight was much longer and more interesting in my opinion.

It was tough to decide, but my Vote has to go to Tantalum. I like a detailed piece of reading material, and I think that's what it came down to. Both were very good, and you guys are great writers. ^_^

Chamel
07-31-2013, 07:23 PM
Karal's got my vote as well. She lacked few things but her story was a bit more creative to me... I'll try and elaborate if I can get to a computer soon...

(SHIT~ Strongest, please don't write this well for the tourney ;A; ) ~♥

ErrorBlender
08-01-2013, 10:13 AM
I enjoyed both parts. Seriously, it was great.

Both had good vocabulary and showed creativity in their settings. Although it pains me to vote at all since both are good works, my vote leans on Tantalum.