Tournament Armoured Hero #8

Her tears stained the sand, her daughter standing at her side, trembling, unable to fully comprehend the breakdown of the adult world before her.

Upon the ground, bodies stained by blood and dirt, lay two men, one whom she had known but briefly, another who she felt had known for far longer than she actually had.

Both were motionless, equal in the death.

Convulsing with silent sobs, Taryse shook her head from side to side, struggling to hold herself together, to regain her dignity, to not let her daughter see her so weak; struggling… and failing.

Inwardly, she cursed herself for being so weak.

If only she could lift her head, if only she could find the strength to turn this sorrow into anger, to turn back towards their ruined home and take revenge.

She dug in the dirt with her hands, grains of sand leaving black stains beneath her nails. There was a weight upon her shoulders, a black presence that bore down upon her, that pushed her face closer towards the dirt, towards the dead.

Abruptly, the sensation dissipated, a sudden light spilling out over the fallen forms of the deceased.

Instinctively, she turned her head away, thinking it to be the glare of a motorcycle’s headlight.

Yet the light did not fade or advance, nor was it accompanied by the roar of an engine.

Instead, she felt a presence like no other she had ever felt; a warming of her heart and a soothing of her fears.

“Rise up, lady,” a soft voice from the heart of the emanation called out to her. “Rise up, lady, for whom the veil has been parted to permit such intercession as my presence might represent.”

She shook her head again, refusing to look at the voice’s owner despite the radiance that fell over her.

Gently, she felt her daughter at her side, her tiny hands grasping Taryse’s own.

“Mommy,” the child whispered softly at her side, “Mommy, there’s an angel here for your friends.”

Despite herself, Taryse found a smile touching her lips.

“Mommy!” the girl insisted once more, shaking her hand vigorously.

Slowly, Taryse Leiter lifted her tear-stained face from the sight of the fallen body and the sand before her and found herself confronted by a youth in plate armour, the metal radiant, his helm absent, revealing a long, pale face and a head full of dark brown curls.

She stared up at him, dumbfounded by his appearance.

“See, mommy! He’s an angel!” the young girl protested.

The young man smiled politely, gently shaking his head.

“I fear that I cannot claim such an honour, child. I am no more than a servant; a little trick made from folded paper and fabricated soul. I am but a messenger, come to deliver you tidings of both comfort and joy… as well as… a warning, mayhaps.”

“Comfort and joy?” Taryse questioned, smiling as she struggled to recall an aged tune, one that went around her head, summoning images of warmth and reassurance.

The saint in plate armour nodded, his pale features seeming to colour, as if he had been outside for the longest time and only now had stepped within.

He inclined his head, his smile unfading.

There was silence between them, the desert wind no longer beating against their backs.

“H-Have you come for…?” she asked at last.

The boy shook his head.

“None so great a task, though if it were in my power to grant peace to those who have fallen then with all my might, I would not shirk such a duty.

“Yet I am no psychopomp, madam, no guide for the dead. I am, in my humble way, but a warning.”

Instantly, Taryse seemed to shake free her reverie, at once assuming again the same defensiveness that had kept her alive as a tournament fighter.

The pain in her useless arm intensified; a reminder that she no longer had the abilities of the borrowed armour to force the limb once more into movement.

“What kind of warning?” she demanded, her tone firm.

Instinctively, Amelia, tears still in her eyes, stepped behind her mother.

“There are those who would wish to see you separated from that which is most precious to you. I bring you a warning of old friends with self-serving agendas.”

Bitterly, Taryse looked down at the fallen body of Chazz once more, tears stirring in her eyes, her teeth grinding together.

“It’s a little late for that,” she snapped.

“Forget not that I come bringing also hope as well as caution,” the youth chastised, his expression suddenly creasing in a frown as his eyes moved from Taryse to the cowering form of Amelia at her back.

Following the movement of his eyes, Taryse instantly felt a sense of fear rising within her. Slowly, she began to shake her head.

“No,” she whispered. “Whatever it is, whatever it means, you leave Amelia out of this!”

The ethereal saint continued to smile, his eyes twinkling.

“Your daughter is the Grail, my lady!”

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Tournament Armoured Hero #7

“Hey, it’s me,” he said calmly, surveying the wreckage of the room about him. “Listen, I’m afraid things didn’t really go according to plan.”

He paused, listening intently to the voice on the other end of the phone and nodding his agreement.

“Yeah,” he murmured after a moment. “The clone didn’t make it, sorry about that. I think that kid our friends sent out bit the dust too, quite literally. It’s a shame but, you know, it’s a battlefield out there.”

There was another momentary pause and then, at last, Randall Kalish smiled warmly.

“Don’t panic so much. Taryse is fine, Amelia’s fine too. They’re just a little shaken up, all they need is for you to ride out there in the desert and…” he paused, the smile fading slightly. “Yeah, I understand that. Well, if you can’t go out there, I guess I’ll…”

He stopped again, suddenly agitated.

“You’re going to send Mitsukai?” he snapped impatiently.

At his side, Joe Hammel anxiously bit his nails, his round face drenched with sweat and his expression one of apprehension.

Kalish opened his mouth to decry the situation and then, apparently listening further to the voice on the other end of the phone, he nodded again, sighing sharply.

“I guess I see your point. Maybe I was a little heavy handed. Still, that kid really ticked me off, you know. Don’t worry, I won’t misbehave in future.”

The scowl turned into a smile.

“Besides, we’re bros, right? Everything’s cool.”

The voice on the other end of the phone seemed to acquiesce and  Kalish’s smile brightened.

“Listen, if you don’t need us out here anymore, then I’m going to lock this place down and head back to base. That cool?”

There came another pause and then Kalish nodded.

“Right. Take it easy, bro. See you when we get back.”

Without further comment, he snapped the phone shut and dropped it back into his pocket, turning once more to look in Hammel’s direction.

“Get your stuff together, Joe. We’re burning this place down.”

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Tournament Armoured Hero #2

Struggling, he lifted himself up from the foulness of the water, his armour rusted with the rot and sin of the world around him. What little of his face that could be seen behind the mass of tangled hair and the wiry curls of his beard was now spattered with filth and blood.

His sword lay he knew not where, lost within the undertow of those murky waters and, likewise, his strength had also deserted him. All that remained was his determination, his will to drag his battered and bruised body onward through the endless toil and achieve that for which they had been tasked with.

A blinding flash of light filled the dour skies above and Sir Bors, who once dwelt in riches in his own native land and now seemed consigned to rot with the foulest of sea creatures, lifted his head at last to catch a glimpse of the heavenly youth standing but a short way from him.

Time seemed fractured, the stream of filth momentarily like liquid metal, dragging him down beneath the surface, filling his eyes with images of a thousand other worlds before he broke free once again, clawing his way up through the roiling liquid and turning bloodshot eyes to where the youth remained.

A second flash of light filled the heavens and, on the horizon, he saw the immaculate young man in his spotless white armour reach up to the skies, drawing down something solid from those higher realms.

“Galahad,” he croaked, his voice little more than a dry whisper as he reached out for the figure in the distance, “Galahad!”

The heavens swelled and another burst of light broke against his tired eyes, momentarily burning the scene from his sight and filling him with an insurmountable dread.

He felt the waves of metal wash over his ruined armour once more and suddenly the world returned, that youthful figure, his head rich with curls of dark brown hair and his armour unhindered by the dirt of the world around, crouched down before him, reaching out and taking hold of his hands.

“Bors,” the youth said, his voice calm and patient, “I ask of you to take this to the King.”

The older man felt something rough and wooden pushed into his hands, a cup of some kind, a goblet, a grail!

“Take this to the King,” the boy commanded, “I go now to meet with my Father.”

“L-Lancelot?” Bors stammered in confusion, “Lancelot is with us?”

The boy shook his head and smiled sadly as if such understanding was beyond the older man.

“No, Bors, I go not to meet with my earthly father but rather my Father who waits in Heaven.”

Bors opened his mouth to protest but the younger man was already rising, his armour unstained despite contact with the filthy waters. Desperately, Bors reached out.

“Galahad,” he murmured again, his voice rising. “Galahad!”

There was another flash of light and once more, the beautiful youth was upon the horizon, an insurmountable distance from his fallen companion. He turned and spared Bors a faint, disinterested smile.

From above his head, the older knight imagined he heard the sound of chariot wheels and horses descending from on high…

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